I often travel through New York since the city has 3 major airports within a few kilometers of each other, offering an endless supply of travel opportunities. It also happens to be one of the cheapest cities to travel from, only a 4.5 hr direct flight away from Iceland (closer than west coast North America), and way cheaper and funner than London, the only other city i consider a major travel hub. I have been stalking flights to Cape Town, and often find flights with South African or British Airways that fly from New York, through London, and down to Cape Town, for cheaper than the exact same flight that just does the London to cape town segment. This time around, I made an actual visit to New York just to see New York, and spent 8 days in the city instead of 12 or 36 hrs like I usually do between flights enroute somewhere else.
I´m glad to have done that since New York City is an amazing vacation place. I arrived 10 days ago, last Thursday, via an overnight bus from Montreal that was scheduled to arrive at 6:15 am and rolled in at a cool 7:45 after my cousin had waited in downtown rushour for an hour and half. By absolute coincidence, my mother and uncle from Vancouver were flying to Iceland via JFK and had that Thursday morning from 7 am til 11am in New York to meet up with me and my 3 cousins (and their wife/baby/husband) and we had the most glorious goat curry breakfast complete with rice, roti and merlot at some ridiculous time like 9 am. Then, dropping my mom and uncle at JFK at noon also coincided perfectly with Jon Smari, my partner in crime from Iceland, arriving in JFK from Iceland. New York is such a big city but only in New York would all our paths be able to collide like that!
Me and Jon Smari spent the week in my cousins basement apartment (were talking absolutely underground, no way to see sunlight or predict the weather/temperature… a strange feeling) and were joined by Clio from Montreal the next morning. We walked the entire island of manhattan, all of downtown, midtown, and the 51 city blocks of Central Park starting at 110th in Harlem where Jon Smari was a strikingly white minority. We literally shopped til we dropped, our feet covered in blisters and dirt after 10 hrs of city walking in poor foot attire. It also rained a few days, keeping us sore, dirty and wet, but with enough $7 pitchers of beer (Rudy’s Bar and Grill on 44th… an amazing find), we hardly noticed and just did the exact same exhausting marathon the following days. One cloudy day the entire top half of the empire state building disappeared in the clouds, and it so happened to be the only day we planned to go up to the top… but of course there was no use, so at least there’s still one reason to go back.
Some of the highlights included seeing the typical sights: the world trade center site, the empire state, the flat iron building, rockafeller center, DUMBO and walking over the Brooklyn bridge. Other strange highlights included meeting the Naked Cowboy (NYC mayor hopeful) and running into a 60kg 3m long snake at battery park… a little out of place, but still a beautiful creature. We also got to see a free concert by the salsa singer Frankie Negron in battery park, a free orchestra performance in prospect park by the NY Philharmonic, 2 broadway shows and a carriage ride through central park in the same carriage that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Angelina Jolie had once graced (or so the Irish driver told us).
My personal highlight was getting to spend time with some of my closest friends, all those mentioned already plus Ursula, my old roommate from one of the most amazing times in my life, Semester at Sea. We got a blissful 3 hour reunion together after almost a year without contact, which surely wasn´t long enough, but since she’s in NYC for good now, then its just another great reason to make it back to New York a.s.a.p!