In the spring of 2007 when I was eight months married and four months pregnant (with Levi), I visited New York City for the first time. My brother and now sister in law were living in Harlem, finishing their first year of teaching in New York public schools after completing master’s degrees at Columbia Teacher’s College. I booked the trip not because I really wanted to see New York but instead because I just wanted to visit my brother and possibly to be a bright spot in a difficult year for him.
My brother and sister in law were going to be working while I was there, and I really didn’t want to travel around NYC for a week by myself, so I ended up buying a second plane ticket as a present for a good friend from college.
My friend and I flew overnight, arriving at JFK around 6 in the morning, and then we took a long shuttle ride to my brother’s apartment. Travel weary and starving, we set out on our own in Harlem, looking for something to eat. Within an hour, we had polished off the hugest and most delicious pizza I’ve ever eaten in my life from some totally unassuming kinda dive-y pizza place in the neighborhood. The rest of the trip consisted of a vast amount of walking and an equally vast amount of eating (which was completely guiltless because of all the walking and the fact that I was pregnant at the time). We saw some toursity/iconic NYC sights, but we also spent a fair bit of time people watching on the subway and pretending we were New Yorkers in Brooklyn coffee shops. We went out for almost every meal, but because the plane tickets were cheap, lodging was free, and we didn’t partake in too many paid activities, the trip overall was relatively inexpensive. My friend was the perfect travel partner, fun and funny and cheap with many of the same interests as me. I’m so thankful that I had someone to lean on for my first trip to the big city.
In my mind, that vacation has a golden glow around it. It seemed like all the stars aligned to make the week pretty much perfect. I’ve known that I’d never be able to recreate it exactly, but in the nearly six years since, I’ve had this subtle (or at times not-so-subtle) itch to go back. Posts like this one on Mae’s blog were driving me a little crazy (good crazy). I think the internet is partly to blame because it seems like NYC, mostly Brooklyn (and Portland), are so disproportionately represented in many of the best websites and my favorite blogs (Apt. 2B Baking Co. BigBANG studio, Hungry Ghost, La Buena Vida, Brooklyn to West, Reading My Tea Leaves, smitten kitchen, etc. — all of these bloggers are worth following on Instagram, too). I kept waiting for the perfect opportunity to go and the perfect person to go with, but life is complicated and free time doesn’t ever present itself unless I specifically carve it out. I kept hoping to go with my sister in law (who moved with my brother to Oregon a few years back), but she had a baby and a serious job like most of my other friends. I got pretty discouraged about actually making my dream trip a reality.
I should thank Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) for being the first one to plant the seed in my brain about traveling to NYC alone. I read the advice she gave to the 6th questioner in this post. I thought about it a little bit and then set the idea aside until I read this post (and a bunch of the comments) on A Cup of JO. I started daydreaming about the possibilities. I started checking on airline ticket prices. The more I considered it, the less crazy it seemed. I finally brought it up to Henry, and I was really surprised when he didn’t need any convincing at all. “You should do it,” he said.
And so I did it. Or at least I bought a ticket, and I’m planning on doing it. It’s quite a ways off still, but I can’t help but spend a lot of time studying NYC “favorites” lists here, here, and here.
My plane (hopefully) comes into JFK the morning of Saturday April 27, and I leave the night of Thursday May 2. I haven’t made lodging reservations yet, but I’m thinking I’ll pick out a Williamsburg, Brooklyn Airbnb (possibly this one, this one, this one, or this one) unless you have a better suggestion or specific recommendation. I already have tentative plans to meet up with Yossy, Lisa, Amy (and Anne from Portland), Ariele, and Amelie. I hope to make it to Brooklyn Flea, browse at least one of the Greenmarkets, walk the High Line, and take a tour of Etsy headquarters. I want to eat at Buvette, Vinegar Hill House, Marlow and Sons, Momofuku, and some of the other places I’ve seen and heard about on Instagram and blogs. I’ll also admit (reluctantly) that I’m really not a museum person, so with the power to set my own agenda, I think I’m gonna steer clear of the Met and MoMA. (I know that makes me a cultural backwater, but…sorry.) I’d like to hit a Broadway show, but it seems like the good shows often sell out (at pretty high prices), and they don’t start until late in the evening. I think after wandering the streets all day (still on Pacific Time), I’m going to be ready to curl up in bed before the NYC nightlife really gets going. We’ll see. This time around, I don’t really feel the need to do any stereotypically New York things just to say I’ve been there or seen that.
Unlike my first visit to NYC (when before I left I thought I was headed to a third-world country where I could be mugged or murdered at any moment), I’m not really worried about my safety at all. My biggest fears are of being lonely, feeling awkward sitting a restaurant by myself, or spending too much time staring at my iphone because it’s more familiar and comforting than just BEING in the city. Do you have any good tips on traveling alone? I am all ears cuz this is definitely a first for me.
So I’m hoping you, dear readers, will help me prepare for this adventure. Where should I stay? Where should I go? Where should I eat? What should I do? I’m feeling pretty open to anything (preferably not too wild or extraordinarily expensive) on this trip. And…um…do any of you New Yorkers want to go get a cup of coffee or somethin’?
I know some of you are gonna think it’s pretty strange that a major country bumpkin like myself is so in love with one of the biggest cities in the world, but it’s surprisingly true. New York is such a center of American culture (something I became much more aware of after I went the first time), and it was great to actually see some of the places I’ve been hearing about all my life. And the ENERGY…wow! You might also think it’s kinda stupid to be going BACK to a place that I’ve already been to when there are thousands of places in this country let alone the world that I’ve never been to. I think that’s fair criticism, and I’d love to go to Yellowstone or New Zealand someday (though not by myself), but I don’t feel like I’m done with New York, and I definitely haven’t seen it all (if that’s even possible). That city and I, well, I think we have the makings of a long-term relationship.
* The photo above has absolutely nothing to do with New York or traveling. I just thought the post deserved something pretty. Our iris reticulata are in full bloom, and the bees were crawling all over it during the sunny weather this afternoon.