Sadly I’m now done with my week in New York and I’m leaving the big apple behind me as I head West (and then South). In my last post I talked about how for half the time I was here I was less than enthusiastic about the place. Then, capriciously, I fell in love with it. Now I keep wondering to myself… could I live here?
The last few days I’ve done some pretty cool things. I headed back to The Strand book store again because it really is a paradise. They have tables where titles are grouped by various themes; modern classics (my fav), banned books, staff picks, etc. Staying there was a little masochistic though because I’m not allowed to buy any of them due to the nomadic nature of my current lifestyle. If I indulged in every book that caught my eye I’d end up having to lug a small library around America with me; not sensible. But reading is actually one of the best hobbies to have when travelling in my opinion (particularly if you have a tablet, and particularly if you’re alone). It provides you countless hours of entertainment. You can learn a buttload about the culture of the place you’re visiting if you read the right books. And of course you don’t need to have anyone else around to enjoy them with.
Not that I’m advocating your only friends being Holly Golightly, Jay Gatsby and Esther Greenwood. Contrary to popular belief, I am a fan of human interaction, which is why I went along to the Couchsurfing NYC meet up last night. It actually turned out to be extremely fun. I met New Yorkers, travellers (with unbelievable stories to tell) and other visitors to the city. It was amazing to be in a room full of happy chatty people, who all had just one thing in common; they were in New York that evening. And there are a lot of reasons why people come to NYC. Of the >10 people I met, none of them were from the same countries, or had straightforward explanations for why they were here. New York is one of those places; a world city that attracts people from every corner of the globe. It’s impossible not to find that exciting, mysterious, romantic… right? So I would wholeheartedly recommend going along to any couchsurfing meet, even if you’re not actually travelling. Once I’m settled down in a city somewhere I’m still gonna go to them, it was so much fun!
Something you have to kind of get used to when travelling alone is going out for meals by yourself, surrounding by sickmakingly lovey-dovey couples, raucous groups of friends and loud annoying families. You don’t often see people eating alone. But I’d rather go alone than not at all (which also goes for travelling in general). I often grabbed fast food whilst in New York; the pizza here is reliably amazing (kicks Italy’s ass), but today I wanted to find some good brunch before I left – God how I love brunch. So I checked out the Clinton St. Baking Company. They were so busy I had to wait half an hour outside (it’s like 8°C here) which wasn’t too pleasant, but the blueberry pancakes were excellent, and I warmed up after a cup of tea =) I’m no gourmand, so I was perfectly happy eating burgers and pizza every day, so don’t hold your breath for any eloquent restaurant reviews cus that’s not really my scene.
If someone says New York and museums in the same sentence then either the MET Museum or the Museum of Natural History will likely come to mind. I’m a little embarrassed to admit I didn’t visit either. Whilst here I visited Ellis Island Immigration Museum, The New York Historical Society, and The Skyscraper Museum. Why? Obviously because I’m a weird nerd and I’m not very cool at all. I wanted to learn about the history of New York, not the history of old civilisations from the other side of the world or long extinct animals. I can do that in England. Also I love being the only person in a museum (you feel like running round and laughing and being weird cus there’s no one to judge you). Which was the case for the majority of the time I was in The Skyscraper Museum. It cost $5 and I learnt all about the World Trade Centres, the redesigning of Times Square, and a history of skyscraper construction around the world, which actually included a small section about my home county in rural England! About 14 miles from my house was where the Industrial Revolution started. The first bridge made entirely from iron was built nearby that spanned the River Severn which also runs through my hometown… such a thrill! Anyway, after leaving I was totally inspired to become an architect, wish I didn’t have such a useless degree in Biochemistry.
Another thing you can easily enjoy by yourself is nightlife. I’m not talking about creepily sitting on the end of a bar leering at people and whining at the bartender about your miserable life. I’m talking about shows – live music. One of the best things I did in New York was go to a jazz club, where I was sat next to a girl also by herself. So during the interval we got chatting. Not something you’re likely to do if you’re with friends! She had a very interesting story to tell, and now I have a contact in Guangzhou. Casually.
My couchsurfing host was amazing and I spent a lot of time hanging out with him. He was frustratingly generous – he wouldn’t let me pay for a thing! So all in all I made the best of being alone in the city. But actually I never felt lonely. In my next two destinations though I’m staying in hostels so will no doubt meet a lot of interesting people. Which will have its merits as well of course! But first I have to survive my journey on a Greyhound coach…