A lot of people fall in love with New York, but, beware, New York is a wild woman who doesn’t give her heart to anyone. As Bob Dylan once said, “New York is a city where you could be frozen to death in the midst of a busy street and nobody would notice.” I suspect, however, that Dylan had it a little wrong, and once you have proven your devotion and commitment, the city gives you some sort of secret knowledge that must never be passed on to an outsider.
We’ve just spent an amazing couple of days in this exciting, crazy, vibrant, noisy city and reckon it’ll take at least a week to recover. Depending on your perspective, we’ve either seen it all, or seen nothing. We’ve also met true “New Yorkers” – both kinds.
The best way to give you a feel for our experience is probably to recount some little snippets of stories. Let’s start with breakfast (as you do). The Leon Hotel, recommended to us by Dianne, is small and comfortable, but doesn’t serve breakfast. So, each morning we make a little trek down Canal Street, past the park, past the queue of dejected looking people outside the bus station, past the place that says it’s a coffee shop but really fixes bicycles, and down to the Cup and Saucer diner. The diner isn’t much to look at, but the staff are really friendly and the two eggs, toast, fried potato and coffee breakfast special goes down great, then sticks with you for the rest of the morning.
Then, there’s the subway. We quickly discovered that the subway is not only the cheapest way to get around, it’s way faster than grinding along in the crazy, stop-start horn honking traffic that clogs every street. Our first challenge is to get from our hotel in Canal Street to 42nd Street. We walk to Grand Street. Down the steps into the subway. Luckily, find a guy in a booth. “Hi, we need to get to 42nd Street.” “Go through those turnstiles and take any train.” “Ah, how do we pay?” “Use your metro card” “Ah, what’s a metro card …..” Anyways, after a couple of false starts, we’re finally aboard a likely looking subway car zooming and rattling into the abyss. “Is this our stop? It says West 4th. Do you reckon that’s 42nd?” “No, (unnamed member of our group), the streets are numbered sequentially here, and 4 comes a little ways before 42, even in America.”
Then, there’s the age-old challenge of finding the things we want to see. No problem, we’ll just ask a few locals for directions. We have very mixed results. “Rockefeller Building?” (so we can see the view from the Top of the Rock) – Nice lady – “Sure, just go two blocks that way and ….” “Ground Zero memorial?” – ticket seller for the bus tours – “Go round to the right and keep walking …” “Copy of the declaration of independence that’s just gone on show as a special exhibit at the NYC Library” – Library security guy – “GG” – “ah, where’s that?” – grunt.
Still, we’ve seen Manhattan from the road, the water, the underground, and by foot. We’ve looked out from a high place, sailed past an iconic big green statue of a lady, eaten breakfast in a diner in Chinatown and dinner in Little Italy. We’ve stood at the site where too many lives were tragically ended and walked along the street where fortunes are made and lost in minutes. We’re saturated. It’s a good thing we have a relaxing ride to Boston on the Amtrak tomorrow, that is if the cab we’ve ordered can get us there in time. After all, it’s nearly three miles to the station, and we’ve only allowed an hour, and this is New York after all.