The Big Apple. The City of Dreams. The City that never sleeps. Whatever you call it, New York’s reputation is as giant as the buildings which shape its skyline, so I headed there with nothing but great expectations.
Scenes of the city have dominated the TV programmes of my adolescence: Friends, Sex and the City, Gossip Girl; the list is endless. Images of iconic sights like The Empire State Building and Grand Central Station were ingrained in my mind, and I was excited to see them in real life. Undeniably they were impressive, as is most of the architecture of the city: The Flatiron building, The Chrysler Building, the new Freedom Tower. As standalone buildings I appreciated their magnificence, but rammed in amongst other brick and mortar giants, tens of storeys high? It made me feel woozy. New York turns you into a tiny ant in a city built for giants, and for me I couldn’t find inspiration in that. Artificial wind tunnels bellowing through the dense city, churning up dust and throwing it into the eyes of its residents didn’t get me leaping for joy. Nor did loss of light caused by looming skyscapers, relentlessly busy roads, motorists that honk at literally any excuse, and acrid smells steaming up through street vents. And don’t even get me started on the waiter that demanded an even bigger tip (and no, that’s not the Yorkshire in me.)
Don’t get me wrong it was good to make the trip, and there were great parts, the Meatpacking District was lovely – from Chelsea Market to the independent cafes and restaurants along Hudson Street - and the Highline is a perfect example of New York really getting it right. Bryant Park and Greenacre Park are peaceful nature spots, Soho and Brooklyn are undeniably great places for a wander, and the street art found in both is impressive. (You can find my recommendations in my upcoming blog ‘Eat, Walk, See – A snippet of New York’.)
You’ll probably look at my photos below and question my sanity - I’m lucky to have been able to go to NYC at all – but I’m sure I’m not the first or last person that the bright lights failed to woo. I had to smile in the cab on the way to JFK. ‘You are now leaving the city of dreams’ declared a billboard. That’s the thing with dreams though; rarely does reality live up to them.