What follows is an account of the author’s jaunt to one of the world’s capitals… New York City. Having grown up a Country Mouse, the author hath heard tales aplenty of both visitors and residents of New York, and decided that, with naught else to do for her birthday, she would venture forth and see for herself. And she did. And it was most awesome.
Day 0 ~ Departure from Orlando, Arrival In Newark
Basically my trip was a long weekend during the days October 22nd through 25th. After a fairly rough year, I decided to do something by myself for my birthday and go on an adventure, so I started socking money away in my mattress eight months’ previous. I can’t lie – I read an interview with Richard Armitage where he raved about New York and its food and such. The trip gave me something to look forward to while I was plugging away at my novel all year.
While on the plane, I studied my maps and Lonely Planet guide to New York City. I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it really was an awesome resource. Some friends got it for me for my birthday and it was a GREAT gift! I realized having it out would make me look tragically uncool, so I took pictures of the maps so I could refer to them on my phone. I felt like a goddamned genius until I realized the rest of the world has already figured this out. In my defense I can say I haven’t been on a trip like this since before Hurricane Katrina, so I’m not exactly hip.
As we were passing over New Jersey, I had an awesome view of the Manhattan skyline out my window. A woman across from me was looking out her window with her small son, making a valiant effort to thrill him with descriptions of the land below. “Look Christopher! There’s a trainyard, and a construction site, and the Budweiser brewery, and… and another trainyard…”
Under the advice of a friend, I flew into Newark Liberty airport and took the train over to Penn Station. Coming up the stairs out of the darkened station into late-morning New York was a hell of a moment. I managed to NOT walk around with my mouth hanging open, but there were so many other tourists gawking at things that I didn’t feel too out of place or uncool. I walked from Penn over to the Empire State Building, then up 5th Avenue to the New York Public Library, learning how to move with the crowds as I went.
The iconic lions ‘Patience’ and ‘Fortitude’ guard the steps of the New York Public Library. I was not the only tourist taking pictures of them… and I have to be honest, I was introduced to them by Ghostbusters. But it was so neat seeing them! I love lion statues.
This was an amazing staircase. I mean the whole BUILDING, and so many others, are of real, solid marble. As a Floridian used to concrete with plastic facades over everything, I was enchanted. And the massive scale of these buildings doesn’t bear belief. I definitely got a sense of the grandeur that those architects of yore were attempting to capture – they really wanted American cities to be counted among the greats in the world, and for us to take our place on the world stage. Heh, if only they realized what that would mean when World War I rolled around…
Now THIS room got me REALLY excited! This was a locked study with a glass door – it contains some of the ACTUAL original printings of the English Romantics, namely Byron, Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and John Polidori! And there were even some of their notes from the party where they got together and had their story competition, from which sprang some of the greats of the romantic movement, like Frankenstein! I mean it was so humbling to be there, fogging up the glass a few yards away from pages that their hands had touched! There was a person in there, I could juuuuust see them in the reflection of a glass cabinet. He, she, or they were wearing a taupe-colored sweater and talking on the phone.
Back outside again. I was steadily working my way north, so I could see Central Park before it got too dark. I also had an idea about heading up to my Airbnb host’s place before it got too late, since I was a newbie and would have to ride the subway to get there. I was able to figure out the subway pretty easily, and I have to say it was BEYOND helpful to get around.
I hit Central Park and did a bit of wandering. It was so lovely, seeing all the people playing and jogging and skating and I almost got run over because the concept of a road through a park was totally foreign to me BUT STILL. It was wonderful! I climbed rocks with a group of French students, and bought a map. The trees hadn’t quite started turning yet, but they were on the cusp and so that was very exciting. I knew there was more stuff in Central Park I wanted to see, but I would wait and see it later.
At around this point I started getting antsy from all the excitement and socializing, so I decided I ought to try and head up to my Airbnb. It was waaaaay up on the northern tip of Manhattan by Dyckman street, but it was right near the subway and close to The Cloisters museum which was a ‘possible’ on my list of things to see.
I figured out the subway and that I wanted to go ‘uptown.’ I remember riding on the swaying car, hanging on to one of the poles and watching this man stand with his hands in his pockets, zoned out and totally unaffected by the tilts and bumps of the car. I was in awe of his ability to ride the waves. I was nervous that I would be hopelessly lost until I got close enough to the map to see the stops, and then I relaxed. This first ride was fortunate – the conductor’s voice came through loud and clear over the speaker. During several other rides the conductors sounded like someone yelling into a running dryer full of empty beer cans.
I went by my Airbnb room, but my host wasn’t there so I headed back out. I had everything in my backpack still and didn’t want to leave it until I met SOMEONE at the house. I knew The Cloisters was in Fort Tryon Park, so I headed there in search of it. It was a lovely park with a view of the Hudson, and there was this little garden loop that I found utterly lovely.
I got lost on my way to the museum, but managed to find it with plenty of time to walk around. I was in no rush, just enjoying the fall palette and the peaceful atmosphere of the park. There were a lot of people on the benches, families walking around, joggers, and just folks hanging out.
The Cloisters houses the Medieval collection of the Metropolitan Musuem of art, and is composed of several monasteries that Rockefellar basically bought, brought to the new world, and reassembled. It contains a wealth of European medieval religious artifacts, art, reliquaries, and stained glass. But with so much else to see in the city, I was iffy about seeing it until I realized what was housed there…
The Hunt of the Unicorn is one of the most famous and well-known medieval tapestries in the world. The panel above is one of six complete and one partial pieces of it that Rockefellar had literally hanging in his house. Told in seven installments, the tapestry details the discovery, pursuit, hunt, killing, and resurrection of a unicorn, and served as an allegory for Jesus Christ’s story.
I got chills standing in the room. I’m an atheist, but I’ve grown up with this image burned in my mind – I’ve loved unicorns since I was a little girl and being in the room with this particular piece of art, that has inspired so much fantasy writing and artwork and mythology… it was breathtaking, and humbling.
The sun was setting behind this beautiful stained glass array as I came into this room. I wish I could remember what it was or who it depicts. I just love how vibrant the colors are and how they glow in the darkness of these dim stone spaces. It’s easy to feel awe in the presence of stained glass, no matter what power or deity in which you believe. You can stand before it and admire the beauty, aware of that hundreds of thousands of others have stood in the same space and felt the same feelings.
I took dozens of photos in The Cloisters but I only wanted to mention the highlights. That can be said of just about everything I saw, really!
The area where I stayed had a lot of bodegas and shops. I never took Spanish in high school but I grew up in South Florida hearing it spoken quite a bit– it’s amazing how much comes back to you when you are trying to order food. I asked an older man behind the counter for ‘carnes y tostones,’ He prepared my meal by telling a much younger relative to come inside and cook it, which is also a popular southern method of cooking. When I apologized for my poor Spanish (I think I said ‘lo siento, se no habla espanol’) the cook knocked an extra dollar off the price for me, which was very courteous. The rest of my time there I would wave at them as I went by, and they always waved back.
By then it was getting dark. Having never stayed in an Airbnb before, in a strange city, without really knowing anyone or even having met my host, I was starting to feel a bit squirrely. So I went home and got myself organized, and wrote in my travel journal for a while. I went to bed until I heard my host come in, then I went out to introduce myself and we chatted for a little while. It was quite nice and I felt much better.
I texted my parents to let them know I was okay, as I would do upon waking and bedding down each day for the next few days, with the words ‘Still alive! City hasn’t killed me yet!’
Thanks for reading about my first day EVER in New York City! Please check back Thursday when I talk about seeing the American Museum of Natural History, and meeting one of my heroes (immortalized in bronze), Theodore Roosevelt!
Have a lovely day!
EDIT: Today Atlas Obscura has a feature about the American Plutocrats and their robber baron-ing of Europe’s Medieval history! Go read about how billionaires raided the history of Europe and brought pieces back for rubes like me to stare at! 😀
5 thoughts on “My New York City Trip ~ Day 0: Arrival”
What a lovely read, I so enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to my visit to NYC in a few week’s time!
Thank you! I have more coming – I hope you have a wonderful time there and you write about it when you go! 😀
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Aww, I wanna see the Ghostbusters lions!
They are HUGE in real life! And there are always lots of people hanging around them, some taking pictures, some just chilling.