0 In Travel Stories

Scents and Sounds of New York City

“A hundred times have I thought New York is a catastrophe, and fifty times: It is a beautiful catastrophe.” 
Le Corbusier

New York City, on most occasions, is that place I’m not from when I say I come from New York. It seems to be common assumption that if you’re from New York, you’re from the city, which in reality is only a tiny speck of land space compared to the rest of the state.

magnets

Most new conversations start out something like this:

“So, where are you from?”
“New York, you?”
“Oh! You know xxxxx street in Manhattan? I love it there. And the last time I was in New York we went to xxxxx.” or “My sister/boss/dog is going to New York in September! Where should they stay? Where’s the best place for xxxxx?”

P1030331_2

And then they get a blank stare from me because I barely know NYC at all. Where I come from in New York is a six or seven hour drive diagonally across the whole state and about 10 minutes from the Canadian border.

P1030335_2

It’s another world.

P1030437_2

The first time I visited the city I was 18. I’ve been back a few times since and I’m getting to know Manhattan a bit better, but I’m still a complete stranger there.

P1030259

It’s a place I wish was more familiar to me.

P1030261_2

People ask me why I live in London if I’m from New York.

P1030267_2

The answer is partly because New York feels too claustrophobic, cold and unfamiliar at first glance.

P1030338_2

I think you have to embed yourself there for a while, wedge yourself in, choose a neighborhood and make it yours before it would feel like a decent place to live.

P1030268

Maybe that’s what I’ve managed to do in London and maybe that’s why the second part of my answer to that question is because I just love it here.

P1030269_2

The things I find I enjoy most about New York are actually the same things I enjoy most about London: The diversity and the people watching, the mixture of languages, the quirks of city life, the creativity, hidden gems, relaxing cafes, tiny streets to explore, green spaces and street art.

P1030271

Last October and this July, Jorge and I spent a bit of time in New York City.

P1030340_2

More about the October trip in another post.

P1030275

This time, in July, we arrived in the middle of a heatwave so hot that people we uncapping fire hydrants and playing in water in the streets to cool down.

P1030277

 

It reached up to a 41C / 106F real feel temperature.

P1030342_2

Shower in the morning, step outside and walk 10 feet and you need another.

P1030280_2

This was not the norm though and there are many great things about New York that I appreciate: rooftop gardens, the High Line, shopping, fascinating architecture and cheap taxis which we took everywhere on both trips.

P1030284

I love the warm Summer evenings of New York – both in the city and upstate.

P1030348_2

London cools down pretty quick.

P1030287_2

New York also gets a point for breakfast bagels.

P1030402_2

We perched on bar stools every morning enjoying ham, egg and cheese nicely layered and melted onto freshly toasted bagels. London has the Brick Lane bagel shops which definitely put up a fight, but there’s nothing like the bagel shops on every corner in New York City.

P1030315_2

Also on every corner, there seemed to be (super cheap!) nail salons (cue necessary manicure and pedicure to escape the heat), laundromats, dry cleaners and shoe repair shops.

P1030418_2

While all of these exist in London they are nowhere near as prevalent.

P1030298

What struck me most about New York City this time was just how loud it is.

P1030425

There’s constant traffic, honking horns, growling busses, motorcycle engines, sirens, music blaring from cars and shops. There’s construction, people yelling, metal clanging, garbage cans banging around. You walk into a shop and someone is instantly talking to you, greeting you, asking you if you need any help.

P1030426

The noise never ever stops.

P1030302

There’s silent noise too – the constant bombardment with advertisements.

P1030427

Also, the smells seem to linger in little pockets.

P1030451_2

There’s sweet flower shops with open doors, fresh fruit stands, last night’s 3am piss wafting from an alleyway, the chemical scent of a nail salon, a pile of rubbish leaking rotten food, an overdose of perfume from someone heading past in the opposite direction, cigarette smoke, Chinese food stalls, pizza joints and car exhaust.

P1030318_2

There’s pockets of hot air and pockets of cold from air conditioning shooting out of open shop doors, from vents in the pavement, the hot spurt of air from a bus engine and heat emanating from hot dog stands.

P1030322_2

Apart from the assault on the senses, there’s energy in the city. Plenty of it. Excitement. Things happening.

P1030431_2

It’s the least stagnant place I’ve visited in quite a while.

P1030326_2

Although oddly, there’s a distinct lack of wi-fi, which doesn’t matter to New Yorkers with American phones, but it makes life unnecessarily difficult for those of us who don’t have 3G and have to hunt down a Starbucks (ugh!) every time we need a map.

P1030329_2

It seems it would take a lifetime and then some to truly know the city inside and out.

P1030441_2

And that goes for Manhattan alone.

P1030449

One of my best friends lives in the city. She lives what appears to be the dream life you see on TV in a gorgeous apartment with exposed brick walls and a garden on the upper West side of Manhattan making her living full time now as a writer, telling stories of shoulder brushing with Sarah Jessica Parker, shopping and travelling in her free time. She also has a gigantic friendly cat who I envision likes to curl up in her office that overlooks the garden while she drinks her coffee in the morning.

P1030424_2

The first night, we visited her and her boyfriend.

P1030409_2

We sat in her back garden drinking homemade margaritas, eating fish tacos and an amazingly fresh, simple salad with mozzarella, tomato and basil from her herb garden.

P1030404_2

A few nights later, we met again at The Standard near the High Line for drinks. It was pretty empty when we arrived but filled up incredibly quickly with stylish people.

P1030406_2

We followed that up with pizza.

P1030411_2

 

Then we caught a glimpse of a beautiful sunset over the water.

P1030417_2

The best food, on both recent New York trips, was the chef’s taster menu at Sushi of Gari. It’s completely worth a bit of a splurge.

P1030292_2

Though we didn’t venture out to explore other boroughs on this short visit, we did take a train out to Long Island where my dad happened to have a job that week and met him for dinner.

P1030291_2

It was a far cry from the bustle of Manhattan!

P1030293_2

We also took a few hours to visit the 9/11 memorial garden which wasn’t really worth the trek, but it was free and we got to see a different part of the city.

P1030462_2

I’m sure we will be back before long. I had fun playing tourist and skimming but I’m ready to dig in and see more of the real New York.

P1030487_2

 

Despite a great few days, we were happy to leave the oppressive heat and be back home in comparatively quiet and chilled out streets of London!

P1030495_2

You Might Also Like

No Comments

The mic is yours...

"wp_footer()"