New York: Ever tasted the Big Apple? Trust me. It's delicious!
So far, the closest thing I had to New York City was my DKNY Be Delicious fragrance. But after so many movies, TV shows, articles and F.R.I.E.N.D.S. who’ve been there to share their awesome experience, I wanted to one day taste the BIG APPLE myself. Little did I know that 2019 would be the year that the stars would align for my wish to come true and I would fly from Greece, over the Atlantic, only to land straight in NYC.
Getting ready for New York City
Art, fashion, food, theatres, museums, sports, you name it. This city has it all. But, there are only so many things that one can fit in a week. The legendary Manhattan, the alternative Brooklyn, the diverse Queens, the overlooked Bronx and the unexpected Staten Island, are all crucial parts of New York. Like most people, I wanted to see it ALL.
I made an attempt to create a MUST-SEE list based on my time, taste, budget, location, and the weather. Therefore, I geographically restricted myself within Manhattan but thankfully, this city is perfectly structured (Downtown, Midtown, Uptown, and Harlem & the Heights). It is really easy to navigate and in desperate times you can count on your good friend, the metro.
The first bite
My first taste was from the Lower part of Manhattan in the Financial District. I started from the former Twin Towers square which for me, was a cocktail of mixed emotions with a bittersweet taste. In late November that I visited the city, the X-mas mode was already on which means that bright Xmas lights were decorating the surrounding area distracting you from what comes next.
At first, all you see is this open space, a rare finding among the area’s skyscrapers. It’s a beautifully designed square full of liveliness, happy people, taking their photos or rushing to their jobs to handle the world’s finances. But once you realize the ground you are standing on, it’s like a huge wave of contradictions hits you real hard.
On one hand, there is the 9/11 memorial. Designed with such simplicity and grace, this place gives you the chills as you walk around reading the names of all the souls lost there. And on the other hand, you have this powerful giant, the World Trade Centre, looking at you from above and inviting you to embrace a more powerful future. In the end, positivity overtakes and you carry on with your day believing that nothing bad can ever happen again.
Within 10 min from there, you can also visit the renowned Trinity Church and admire its architectural value combined with its amazing green gardens. But being there means you can walk on the most famous street in the Financial District and get to be the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ even for a minute. To be honest, if it was not for the signs, there is nothing that distinctive in Wall Street. For me, though it was worth walking till its endpoint and standing in front of the Hudson River with a majestic view to Brooklyn and its glorious bridge.
On the way back I wanted to meet the Charging Bull – a bronze beast that was dropped there in 1989 by its creator Arturo Di Modica. Ever since it’s supposed to bring good luck to those touching, myself included. Not far away, there is also the Battery Park. There, apart from the magnificent New Jersey view, you can get a boat and visit one of the most famous statues in the whole world. The Statue of Liberty that was initially supposed to be just a lighthouse stands there welcoming everyone and letting us live our American dream. Fun fact, the liberty goddess is supposed to be directed towards France where she was ‘born’ and therefore turns its back to NYC.
Concrete Jungle where dreams are made of
If it’s your first time visiting New York like me, staying in the midtown is a game-changer. It was a great way to explore key-attractions by foot and feel a bit local. What I wanted to do the most though, was to see New York from high above. Most people choose the Empire State Building to do that, but I went straight to the Rockefeller Centre. For me, Top of the Rock, as the terrace is called, was the spot where it finally hit me. I AM IN NEW YORK.
You can stand there and inhale the amazing fresh vibe of this unique city and let your gaze wander in this concrete jungle. The feeling is unforgettable. Your imagination comes to life and all those photos and movie scenes pass through your mind and make you feel like the protagonist of a Hollywood production. Up there, you are lucky to see both Central Park from the Northside and the Empire from the South. Of course, Empire is still worth visiting, as it has an extremely luxurious central hall and I suppose an amazing view, specifically to 5th Avenue.
The feeling of ‘heavenly goddess’ doesn’t last for long and after a while, you have to walk among mortals again. The New York Public Library, the 3rd largest in the world, was a marvelous place for me to land. Not only it’s amazing from the outside but the interior is just as intimidating. Especially the Rose Main Reading Room that kind of transfers you back in time and awakens this desire to sit there and read something really difficult, pretending that you totally get it! The library is located right next to Bryant Park, a cute site that turns your holiday’s mode on and helps you store more positive energy. It’s also the place for a beverage break and maybe even ice-skating.
If you are a fan of architecture or just a beauty admirer like me, then Grand Central Terminal is where you need to go next. It’s a stop for 20+ million visitors and I wanted to be one of them. It has earned the National Historic Landmark designation and for pretty obvious reasons. Apart from its exterior, what stands out the most is the main hall. It’s a timeless room with a classic design and the speed of modern times. Everybody is in rush but somehow, if you are not the one searching for your platform, you get good vibes.
Close enough, by walking towards Madison Square you will stumble upon another historic and unique place, the Flatiron Building. With only 20 floors, this triangular, steel-framed building, was once (1902) considered one of the tallest skyscrapers in the city. I had it in my mind in general but got to the place by chance. First I noticed the golden clock that stands across it and then the building itself. And although far from being the tallest today, it is the one that stood out in my eyes.
Modern, yet timeless
One of midtown’s treasures is also the Museum of Modern Art. If you, just like me, are not a huge fan of modern art and don’t always get a black square on a canvas as a form of art, still MoMA is a must. Located on the 53rd street this place accommodates modern art geniuses like Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, Monet, Warhol, etc. and exhibitions of aspiring new artists. The rooms seem endless and each floor has something different to offer. As I was passing from one room to the other, I was reading what each artist wanted to express with their work and how that was imprinted on their art. And although the designs for me were not that clear, in the end, I decided that modern art is not all about what you see and how realistic everything is. It’s all about the feeling you get from each artwork and the sense of inspiration to express yourself in your own way.
Staying in the same spirit of ‘seeing, yet not getting it’, I spent the rest of the day window-shopping in Soho. The area is beautiful with luxurious boutiques and countless brands that catch your eyes and attention. And as I never actually got why clothes and accessories should cost that much and my wallet is not that ‘fat’ (yet), I spent my time wandering in the neighborhood and getting gifts in the more affordable shops. The area has many great buildings to just admire as you are passing by or for photo shooting, cute restaurants, and lovely bars to enjoy.
Finally, you can call it a day after getting to the northeast part of the area in Washington Square Park. There is located New York’s famous Arch which is nice to see both during the day and at night. The park is full of people and street artists who all together create this unique chaos that I turned out to enjoy very much. Especially if the weather allows it you can sit there to absorb the sunlight while listening to the melodies of promising young musicians.
Big city lights
After the sun has fallen, big city lights take charge and there is no better place to be than Times Square. Although not literally a square, it’s home to the brightest ads which you can see even from a few blocks away. For some reason, once I set my foot there, I got adrenaline rush. Only standing there is enough to make your night. Funny enough during the day it’s almost like every other part of the city but at night it’s like Clark Kent taking off his glasses and turning into the superman.
In the square itself, there are not actually many things to do, apart from maybe shopping. But let’s not forget that the whole area surrounding it is full of Broadway shows. The choices are countless and top-class actors and directors are ready to impress you with their talents and the scenes they have prepared for you. I couldn’t resist and invest part of my budget for a Lion King Musical. Totally worth it! I was a child again, singing all the songs and experiencing the death of Mufasa literally in the sensitive age of 30 yrs old. Sad, yet highly suggested!
It’s not New York, without Central Park
Heading higher on the map, you cannot oversee this gigantic green area. Central Park works almost like a magnet. It’s huge, and if your time is limited, I suggest you walk strategically to see all the famous movie spots like the Belvedere Castle and the Bow Bridge. From the vibe I got, Central Park, is like a retreat for NewYorkers. It’s a getaway from all the noise and the craziness any big city has and therefore locals go there to escape for a bit by jogging, riding a bike, reading, picnic, etc. It’s a shame I didn’t have more time to spend there. If so, I would have relaxed on its green-green grass, enjoyed the liveliness of the squirrels, fed the geese and the swans in the lake, and definitely would have rented a bike to see every little corner of the park.
But Central Park’s location is not only convenient for the locals but tourists as well. You can combine your visit with the two most famous city’s museums. On the Upper Westside, you have the American Museum of Natural History and on the Upper Eastside, you have the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Unfortunately, I only made it to the later one but I think it was a great choice as I have previously visited a natural history museum in London.
So, back to the MET. I first have to say that the museum is huge. If you want to see it all it is extremely difficult to do so and have the will to live afterward. In the entrance, they offer you a map and based on your interests you can choose which sections interest you the most. There is Egypt, America, Greece, Asia etc. It’s amazing because you get to appreciate various cultures and civilizations, all in one place. The MET is famous worldwide and now I know why.
From theory to practice
In theory, it may sound easy to make a TO DO list for NYC, but in practice, it’s not. Staying in New York for only a week is like scratching the surface of what there is to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. But after my visit, I definitely got why the BIG APPLE is so delicious. The city has an amazing hospitable vibe, the food choices are various and super tasty, the people are polite, the attractions are endless and the nightlife is vivid.
If I had to plan this trip again, I wouldn’t change much of what I did. I’m sure it would be worth it standing by a dinosaur at the American Museum of Natural History, passing the Brooklyn Bridge, walking the High Line or visiting Columbia University. But for me, the most important part of my trip was casually exploring each corner of the city during both daylights and in the mysterious New York nights. So, it’s ok if you won’t see it all the first time. After all, you need an excuse to visit it again, don’t you?