By Hannah Silverman
Do you remember when I told you about the 10 things I didn’t know about New York? Basically, I was banging on about how much we think we know about New York City thanks to its prominence in pop culture, but without having visited, I was just a Frank Sinatra reference away from making it there (or anywhere, if you believe the lyrics).
Last week I returned from New York with a bruised forearm thanks to all the pinching I had excitedly endured. They call it the city of dreams and the centre of the universe and all that jazz and these descriptions seem to poetically justify the hype, defying my initial scepticism that a single city could possibly capture so many ideals. It’s a feeling. It’s an energy. A helluva town.
I told you when I returned, I would revisit what I thought I knew about New York and update my list. I’ll be writing more on my favourite New York hotspots soon, but for now here are my revisions on what I now know about New York.
(Italics for the points from my previous post, by the way… but you would have figured that out).
What I imagined New York was like:
1. The movies, of course. My itinerary will start with breakfast at Tiffany’s followed by some Gatsby-esque pool party and a casual sighting of a giant gorilla atop the Empire State Building. Because. Hollywood.
Update: Absolutely. New York City feels like one giant island-shaped film set, but does that mean I was its star? No, but I was one of its many. Everyone is, as the city is so welcoming. I didn’t eat at Tiffany’s, it was far too cold to party with the Gatsby’s (also, I couldn’t find them) and the closest I got to King Kong was my souvenir shot glass. Still, much of the city had a feeling of familiarity and it was exciting.
2. If not the movies, at least the TV. And by TV I mean the quintessential New York programmes filled with sex, cities, friends and gossip.
Update: We talked about sex, I met up with friends, and there was plenty of gossip exchanged over cocktails. I’d say I definitely got this one right.
3. Everybody will say “like”, like a thousand times. Like.
Update: Like, I hardly noticed. But I did learn the difference between a New York City accent and a Long Island accent, and apparently that’s a much more useful observation.
4. New York is the capital of the world’s fattest country. The women are among the world’s thinnest. That’s something to ponder. Now pass me that bagel and hide the scales. In other words, delicious food, fast.
Update: Ooh yes and then some. I gave up on my morning exercise regime, substituting stomach crunches for stomach stuffing. Fast food is definitely available in a New York minute and I was on holiday, hence it was a good thing I hid the scales. Here are some of my naughtier choices… Ps, I don’t recommend the plastic cheddar stuffed pretzels from the food trucks. Sadly, such an anticlimax. These, however, were not.
5. Men and sex, on tap. I dated a New York man once. He didn’t earn the title of gentleman as he was arroguant, opiniated and, you know, a liar. But he was a fireman so I forgave him. Obviously all New York men are the same and will definitely know how to turn on the charm.
Update: I can’t say I met my Mr Big this time, or came close to a When Harry Met Sally moment, but I have to say the men seemed surprisingly very polite and charming. Not as well dressed as the British, they certainly love to chat.. But my spies tell me I don’t want a Wall Street banker … something about long hours and infidelity. Blah blah blah.
6. Yellow cabs and construction will be everywhere. Most of the unedited photos I’ve seen of someone who has visited New York capture one or both of these sights. There will just be non-stop activity.
Update: Yes! How I adore the site of a fleet of yellow cabs cruising along the avenues. There are so many you really do need to just whistle and one will pull up. Of course, when I whistled I think the driver just saw me throwing my arms around and was stopping anyway. Either way, something worked!
7. Staff will offer absolutely amazing service because we’re obligated to tip, something quite foreign to an Australian. I want an extra smile with my fries, thank you.
Update: Now this is a little trickier. You know it’s coming, but it still managed to surprise me. Service in general was fantastic, however, but I think that’s more reflective of the fabulously friendly New Yorkers than anything else. For example, the people who I stopped to speak to in the street were certainly not after any money… I think… and they were equally chatty. Everything needs a quick calculation though, or you’ll face a nasty financial surprise. Remember to tip for everything at the risk of insulting your new friend.
8. Most of the things I know about New York I learnt from Sex and the City. Brunch is the new breakfast, cosmos are drunk at lunch by professional women with 9-to-5 careers and there’s a new club opening every night. But the most important lesson, New Yorkers don’t wear scrunchies! New York will be all of the above.
Update: Brunch IS the new breakfast, and can include pizza if you sleep in and want to sign off a culture tick like the one I had for Two Boots pizza which featured in the series. I also enjoyed a cosmo at lunch and I’m a professional women with a 9-5-ish career <cough, on holiday>. There was no scrunchie wearing, either.
9. Celebrity spotting will be a regular occurrence. It’s America after all.
Update: Totally wrong here. Although I did chat to Bradley Cooper and Alessandro Nivola as they signed my programme for the brilliant Broadway production of ‘The Elephant Man’. That counts, right? Even if I waited for them like a groupie by the stage door?
10. Finally, the realisation that New York might just be the greatest city in the world. Maybe it’s the hype, maybe I should blame Frank Sinatra, but I’ve got high hopes for this city. After all, it’s up to you.
Update: You know what, it’s definitely up there. For me, New York is a melting pot of everything that is luxurious about life; from the theatre scene on Broadway to the cocktail culture to the parks and of course, the liberty that is at the heart of its national philosophy. I can tell dreams are made here, but you do need to inject your own personality to ensure they come true.
So there you have it. New York might be full of predictable cliches, but it’s the surprises that really colour your experience. There are so many pockets to explore, and then explore again, and for me, eight days wasn’t enough to tick all of my boxes. Guess I’ll just have to visit again soon.
And here’s a few bonus points…
- New York is so alive even the buildings are breathing.
- Carrie Bradshaw’s home in Sex and the City is actually just a few blocks away from the ‘Friends’ apartment, so they were practically neighbours (on completely different salaries).
- You’ll be tempted to climb every building, but the best of the tourist views are Rockerfeller by day, Empire State by night. That way you see Central Park and the Empire State in sunshine and the blanket of 360 degree twinkling lights at night.
- New Yorkers don’t date, there’s an app for that.
- You can pretty much walk everywhere in central Manhattan. We practically walked from the Financial District to Times Square and what a way to see the city.
- Central Park is quite possibly the most beautiful park in the world.
- New York City is a concrete jungle of Art Deco masterpieces, don’t shut your eyes for a second.
Over to you, what do you think? Is New York a city of your dreams, or just mine?