Usually it is like this: people love New York, they go there for one week, come back complaining about the jet lag and pretend how American they became in those few days. Well, my story was totally different. I’d never wanted to go there and New York definitely wasn’t love at first sight. I lived there for half a year and it took some time for me to love the city that never sleeps and where there is nothing that you cannot do.
But let me start from the beginning:
During my studies I made two USA exchanges programs. The first one took me to Colorado, the second one, because of a job offer, to New York. As I said, I never really wanted to go to New York. It was too popular, too cliché, too tacky, simply just ‘too’ and I really was not into things like this. But the job offer was in New York and I either had to go there or nowhere at all. So I went. I rented a room in Brooklyn, close to Subway Q, Avenue J station, in the Orthodox Jewish district. First thing I remember was that it stunk everywhere. My love to New York wasn’t getting any closer. At the beginning I worked at Coney Island, doing a typical students’ summer job, and for a few days, the subway, the Ocean and amusement parks were the only things I could cope with. Interestingly, I have noticed that I kind of like this mixture of everything you can imagine. I like seeing Orthodox Jews in my neighborhood dressed in traditional cloths. I like subway drivers who out of nothing start to rap the subway lines you can switch to. I like my new Haitian and Dominican friends, who so naturally start to dance and get pissed in such an honest way. New York started to have more and more flavor, and I wanted to taste it.
My affection got me to do things you don’t necessarily have on your to-do-list.
√ sleeping in a museum (don’t even ask)
√ making a tattoo
√ running from cockroaches in Harlem projects
√ becoming a member of an Haitian family
√ making friends with retired big fishes of CNN (sweet people)
√ meeting my future maid of honor
√ … (work your imagination, it is quite possible I did it too 😉 )
But if you are not staying in New York for half a year, what should be on your bucket list.
Visit true American icons such as:
– the Statue of Liberty,
– Wall Street,
– the Empire State Building
btw., I didn’t see any of them 😀 Next time, New York. What I saw though:
The green heart of the City. The Mall, fountains, Central Park Zoo, Rat Rock, lakes, playgrounds, you can find a lot here. But Central Park is not there to run through while checking all the attractions. Take your time and simply sit on a bench or take a walk. No pictures, no maps, no real destination point, enjoy being there. If you are visiting New York in winter, ice skating in Wollman Rink is a must. To get there enter the Park at 59th and 5th or 6th Avenues. For opening hours check: http://www.centralpark.com/guide/sports/central-park-ice-skating.html
Brooklyn Bridge – another legendary New York’s landmark. Enter the Bridge in Manhattan at Park Row and Center St. During the walk you can admire stunning views of Manhattan, East River and the Statue of Liberty. A walk along the Brooklyn Bridge takes you about 45 minutes. On the other side of the Bridge, to be specific under the Bridge, there is The River Café, one of New York’s most unique locations with breathtaking views of New York’s skyline and Lower Manhattan. If you are already on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge, continue your walk through Willow Street to admire Brooklyn Heights’ architecture and brownstone rowhouses. And don’t forget to add the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, the Brooklyn Museum, and shopping at Fulton Street to your list.
New York’s Museums
When I applied for the american visa, they asked me why I want to go to the States. My answer was: “to see what’s new in New York’s museums”. I got the visa, which during that time was not easy to get in Poland. But it just proves, that New York’s museums are even worth crossing the Ocean :). Start your museum day at the “Museum Mile” or 5th Avenue and visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim Museum, National Academy Museum, Museum of the City of New York, the El Museo Del Barrio and Whitneys Museum of American Art. Don’t miss MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art ) and one of the biggest museums in the world: The American Museum of Natural History. Ok, let me make it straight, it’s not a museum day, it’s a museum week 😀 Only in Metropolitan Museum of Art I’ve been twice, each time for 5 hours, and still haven’t managed to see it all.
When I was in NY, Harlem was totally underestimated. I remember calling my family while strolling through the streets and they almost got a heart attack. That time, whenever I talked about Harlem, I saw the look on people’s faces: “are you crazy?” But Harlem was my love at first sight. The center of African-American culture was a home to many of my friends and I was properly introduced to Harlem by insiders. 125th Street, also called Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, Apollo Theater and Marcus Garvey Park offer you an amazing atmosphere, but the real treasure of Harlem are its people. People living in the projects, often on the border of good and wrong, big families, small flats, piles of trash in front of the buildings. Those are not happy people wandering and smiling to everyone. But the moment you gain their trust, you’ll become one of them, and this no one can steal from you.
At the end, it’s true what they say about New York: once you visit it, you will always want to come back here. The City is the essence of the American Dream, sometimes a pain in the a***, still a huge inspiration. There is nothing you can’t find here.
New York, New York, you stole my heart, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
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