New York City Experienced
The city that never sleeps. The Big Apple. The capital of the world. The City. All of its names and monikers, New York City. It is fabulous and fast-paced, and after six years, I decided to revisit it. My friend Sara and I had a crazy, hilarious time as we walked Manhattan, fought for space among the NYC traffic, and visited friends. Here’s how it went.
The plan was to see Givers, one of my favorite bands, perform on the free Summerstage in Central Park. Fortunately, between Sara and me, we knew a lot of people, so we could visit all of them at the same time. Total trip time: 4 days.
One of the common misconceptions of people who do not live in the state of New York is that everyone is close to the City. Unfortunately, NYC is at the southeastern most tip of the entire state. There is a lot more to New York than just that little island down there. Whenever I tell people I am from New York, they assume the City. I learned to say Upstate New York, accepting that most would assume I lived on a farm in a podunk town. Sara and I left Rochester at 8:30am and drove in her silver Ford Fiesta dubbed “The Power.” The drive would take roughly six hours. After a quick trip to Dunkin’ Donuts for large coffees and bagels, I filled Sara’s tank to full, because that is what you do when someone is driving you someplace. Fill up their tank. All the way.
After driving through the Endless Mountain Region (its real name), listening to Donald Glover and Aziz Ansari, experiencing hilarity at various rest stops, and switching onto many different routes and highways, we saw the New York City skyline. So recognizable and enthralling. It screams “This is where everything happens!” “This is where you want to be!” It is the biggest and most populated city in the U.S. Because of its size, New York City has a huge impact on the worlds of commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and entertainment. Home to the United Nations, major financial corporations, New York University, and much more, New York is the “it” city.
We parked the car in Harlem, hopped on a train heading downtown, and started our city adventure. We roamed Times Square for hours, hitting up LUSH and Barnes & Noble to kill some time.We were offered free tickets to a comedy show that we meant to go to but skipped out on in the end. We had about five hours to waste away before we could get the car and move it to the Upper East Side to our friend’s apartment.
The sudden desire for pumpkin or squash ravioli enveloped us and we had to search for some to satisfy that need. We started down 3rd Ave to head to Bistango between 30th and 29th St. for their ravioli. But, the walk proved to be too much for our hunger, and we stopped a tad short at 3rd Ave and 31st at Moonstruck. Fortunately, this posh, little diner had ravioli on the menu, and it was delicious. Exactly what we were looking for. Try their homemade ravioli; it’s different each day.
The sun was getting lower in the sky, so we thought it would be good to go back to Harlem for the car. After somewhat of a harrowing walk, filled with cat calls and shouts of “Ooh honey I like your legs,” we made it to “The Power” and sped away. Our friend lived on the Upper East Side on E 82nd St. between York and East End Avenue. She, however, was babysitting until about 10:30pm, and by the time we parked the car it was 8:30pm. Two hours to kill. We hauled our bags into her building and hid them on the top floor. Our bladders were a little upset with both of us and both of our phones were about to die. We felt a little weary. We made a mad dash to a Starbucks around the corner, and set up there for about an hour before closing time. We managed to entertain ourselves with checkers made from a ripped up napkin, hangman, and tic tac toe, while our phones charged one at a time.
The East River flows right next to our friend’s apartment, so we walked along the East River Promenade. It was a balmy night, and there were a lot of people enjoying the view along the river. Finally, we got the call, and head upstairs into the apartment. After a long day of travelling and roaming about Manhattan, we were exhausted. We showered, and promptly passed out.
In the morning, Sara, our friend Alex, and I went to a small cafe around the corner, Gracie’s Cafe. Sitting outside offered great people watching and the coffee was excellent. Quick goodbyes to Alex, and Sara and I were off to 45 W. and 44th St. We lugged our bags around and got nice and sweaty before entering Hotel Sofitel. Walking into a hotel lobby is always so nice, but this was fantastic. Everyone who worked at the hotel said “Bonjour!” and “Bonjour mademoiselles!” as we walked by. The concierge had a thick, French accent as she gave us our room keys. Room 1408. We threw ourselves onto the bed, fawned over the bathroom, and stared out at the view from our window. It was amazing knowing that we definitely had a place to stay that night that was all our own and so nice. That day was going to be a good one.
We saw this little guy stamped onto one of the windows on a building in our view. We dubbed it the “Mario Party Office Hero.
We were thrilled about our hotel situation, obviously.
The concert would start at 3:00, with Alice Smith, Givers, and Gary Clark Jr. We were there to see Givers specifically. The walk from the hotel to Central Park would take about 30 minutes, so we went for it. The sky threatened to rain and let down a mist for a little while. We got to the Summerstage around 2:30pm and waited.
Alice Smith opened the whole show. She sings with a raspy, soulful voice that seems too large to come out of her thin frame. The music was jazzy and fun to sway to. Right after she finished her set, the sky opened up and it poured. I have never been outside for this kind of rain. Each raindrop felt like an entire bucket of water being dumped on my head.
Then, Givers came on stage and rocked it. They played effortlessly and the crowd went crazy. The rain added something special to the concert. There was a sense of camaraderie among the crowd as everyone danced completely soaked through, whipping their hair around and shimmying water off of their shoulders and hips. Every song Givers played was amazing, especially “Noche Nada,” my absolute favorite off their album In Light. The band has such a sunny, bright, summery sound, and even though the sun wasn’t shining during this concert, it was still absolutely awesome.
We walked back from Central Park, along 5th Ave., stopped in a bar for some grilled cheese and fries, then continued back to the hotel. Something interesting happened on the walk back. We had walked far enough away from the concert and for long enough that it had stopped raining and everyone around us was completely dry. People looked at us like we were crazy. Sara, with her long, reddish brown hair plastered to her neck and face and soaked shirt and shorts. Me, with a floppy frohawk and a dripping dress. Every step we took made a squishing noise. Back at the hotel, after peeling off our drenched clothing, we put on the complimentary Sofitel robes and sprawled onto the bed to relax.
Thirty minutes later, we were up again and out in the city. My friend Mike met up with us and we walked around Times Square and Bryant Park for a few hours before we caught up with our friend Ian and his girlfriend Elizabeth. We decided to head over to the West Village and then take a walk back to our hotels. It was a lovely evening of catching up and laughing the whole way back. Once we got back to our hotels, we fell asleep immediately.
The next day, Sara and I roamed until we found the Westway Diner a few blocks from our hotel. The restaurant, famous for being the #1 diner in Manhattan and for being the place where Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld decided on their “show about nothing,” has that “diner feel” to it. Everything is fast paced, it is completely packed, and the food is less than spectacular. But we were super hungry. We gobbled up some omelettes, paid the bill, and then head back to the Upper East Side to pick up Sara’s car. Then, we drove back to Hotel Sofitel, where we met Ian and Elizabeth to head to Providence, RI. After some harrowing driving next to the NYC taxi cabs, we made it out of the city.
Overall, the New York trip was complete success. We stayed with great people, saw an amazing show, and ate good food. We left NYC on a sunny afternoon and drove over to Providence, me, Sara, Ian, and Elizabeth. But that’s an entirely different story.