New York, New York
Ever been to New York? How did you find it? I consider myself a highly sensitive person with introvert tendencies. This is nothing to be ashamed of but means that I easily feel overwhelmed and need a lot of personal space to recover. How did I find it?
It took me a good three days to physically arrive in New York, my mind, however, didn’t seem to arrive at all. A week later I’m back again in my humble little home and as I look out over the soothingly green hills of the South Downs I wonder if this trip to the city that never sleeps was just a dream after all.
What started off with an equally humble little settlement on a hilly island in the middle of nowhere some 400 years ago has somehow morphed into something some might refer to as heaven and others as hell. History saw a competitive nation evolve, first fighting the natives then each other, while one sky scraper overtook another in the never tiring battle to stand out as the biggest, tallest, best.
Look at an image of the first settlement: Dutch Colonial New York
To be fair, today’s inhabitants are very kind and surprisingly calm, besides the occasional shootings and stabbings that go on largely unnoticed by the masses of people walking past shiny glass facades and grand flagship stores, distracted by the many things New York offers, lost in their own world, while yet another tower has just made it to the top. I listened to many free speeches while on the subway, at first with moderate unease, later with fascination for the light-heartedness of words of desolate individuals asking for money, yet with such humour in their voices. A living example for if you have nothing you have nothing to loose.
What does one expect when preparing for a week in famous New York, the base for many a movie location, the city of many possibilities? I made a list of all major and some lesser personal interests and spend the whole week ticking off that list without being able to properly arrive since the sheer vastness of the city was way too much to comprehend, especially for a highly sensitive or introvert person.
Though surprisingly quiet and clean, even the constant sound of the fire engines and police cars act more like a lullaby, it is strange to have a hotel room on the 10th floor and still not be able to see the top of the building opposite. Being swallowed up by the millions of lights when arriving from the airport at night, I’m being regurgitated the next morning feeling shattered and confused that it is light outside where my body thinks it should be the middle of the night.
I legged it mid-day and run away from a group of friends, whom I had followed totally disoriented from one road in this maze to the next, until fight or flight mode kicked in when, trying to please everyone, they were too polite to make a decision on where to go next, when all I needed was a bit of space to breathe. So, liberated by a 7-day travel card, I disappeared into the closest subway hole, jumped on the next train and figured I would go for a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge.
The fresh wind, water and plenty of open sky did help but even more so did the sight of the Statue of Liberty. In my early teens I was pretty obsessed with America and had painted the big sights onto the walls in my room. Now being here, gazing over to the real statue in the distance, I finally figured that I really must be in New York. Yet it still was so surreal, it was more like being in a miniature park, it didn’t look as grand as it does in the movies. I cried that day, simply because it was so overwhelming.
Standing on top of the Empire State Building, gazing at the lights stretching out into the distance all around me, it still didn’t feel like it was real. When would I finally feel it, I wondered. Our hotel was near Times Square so we naturally passed through often on our way through the city and the place I thought I might like least became a welcoming and trusted oasis of lights. I swear the Starbucks there made the best soya hot chocolate! And there really is a Starbucks on most corners, something I could permanently and fatally get used to. The nearly constant wi-fi it provided across the city was also most useful!
So what else did I discover? The rushing water at the World Trade Centre Memorial Site which drowns out most noise and creates a different atmosphere altogether. The first space orbiter “Enterprise” at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Taking Staten Island Ferry for a free ride past the Statue of Liberty. Bowling Green, the place where the Dutch bought Manhattan from the natives for $24 in 1626. The intricate Flatiron Building, awe inspiring Grand Central Terminal, neighbouring Chrysler Building, even more awe inspiring Public Library and simply stumbling over Wall Street. Rockefeller Centre Observation Deck for a great view of the Empire State Building and over Central Park by day, followed by a late “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (yes indeed, croissant and all) and a thorough exploration of Central Park including the Ramble, Reservoir and Bethesda Terrace and Fountain where scenes in One Fine Day and the Avengers where shot. But don’t trust those who want to charge you a hundred bucks to take you round central park in those beautiful horse drawn carriages and drop you into the biggest tourist trap ever: The Cherry Hill Fountain is not the one featured in the Friends’ opening sequence!
Then, once you’ve seen all the typical big sights you begin to see the real New York. While looking for the house that acted for the location of the “Friends” apartment and Carry Bradshaw’s flat from “Sex and the City”, we discovered the neighbourhoods of Greenwich and West Village, which had plenty of pretty individual little shops and alternative foods so that I was even able to have my first gluten free American burger.
However, the best diner of them all to recommend is Ellen’s Stardust Diner, where all staff sing! Unsure at first, dragged there by personal recommendation, I afterwards rated it better than being on top of the Empire State Building, purely for factors of fun, leaving you with a warm heart and a silly smile. A cheap option for those who can’t afford a ticket to a Broadway show. Also excellent home made New York cheesecake!
Toward the end of the week I longed for calm and quiet and the opportunity to process all these experiences and impressions. You just don’t have time to process while you’re there! A few days have gone by since I returned where I looked at all the photos, got all excited spotting Manhattan Bridge in the “Brooklyn 99” title sequence and can’t wait to watch every single movie we’ve got that has New York in it.
So do I regret flying out? Of course not! This was an amazing opportunity to step away from the screen and see it for yourself. It can be overwhelming and I realised once again that I’m not so good traveling with a group of people. I’m better left to my own, discovering the city the way my heart unfolds. If you know how you tick you will have a great time!
For those of you who are highly sensitive or introvert, just to stick a label on the box, or even those who have the stigma of depression attached to them and just can’t find any joy in what they see, make room to recover and tell your friends that you need your own space to discover and roam and enjoy the magic of the City of New York! 😉