“No, no, no don’t take the bus. Everything is close enough to ride the train or walk."
A native New Yorker dragged a nicotine-stained finger along our tourist map, pointing out his favourite restaurants and giving us tourism advice. We stood on the corner of Avenue A and 13th Street, surrounded by brightly coloured store fronts with obscure merchandise. For fifteen minutes my parents and I shared stories with him, and discussed the differences between our country of Canada and what we knew of America. We agreed on most things.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Culture saturated the gritty skyscrapers and neon billboards of Manhattan, its foundation created through years of immigration and settlement. It wasn’t until we were there that we also became aware of the amount of history that went along with such a modern city; from Macy’s humble beginnings, to the origins of the name Wall Street. This feeling of overwhelming information only revealed itself once I walked through the streets. Herald Square Hotel, where we stayed, was older than the city I grew up in. In fact, there had been a book published about a female hoarder that lived there in the 1800s.
We struggled to experience as much as we could in seven days, eventually realizing that most tourist attractions merely skimmed the surface of Manhattan’s potential. We pursued everyday activities that would be unique to the city –just like the people living there. My mother and I ate scones and hot chocolate in the Sak’s Fifth Avenue café and my father and I strolled through Central Park during the cherry blossom season. We attended a Broadway show featuring a favourite actor of mine, and had dinner in the restaurant Jerry always hung out in Seinfeld. I also just happened to stumble across a Jungian library, which is my main subject of study.
I began to understand why New York attracted so many people seeking their ‘big break’. Other cities may have huge cultures of their own; with artistic communities and privately owned businesses, but not many have entire avenues or sections dedicated mainly to one area of study or another. To be an artist with daily access to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim and The Museum of Modern Art would be enough incentive for me.
On the way back to the airport we commented to a taxi driver about how nice everyone had been compared to the stereotype of cranky commuters. He had explained that the citizens of New York had experienced true horrors from 9/11. With a city such as this, having gone through industrialization and other tragedies before it, the natural thing to do was to adapt as they always had. Although I would have rather it had happened differently, I am glad with how the city turned out, and I am hoping to visit again some day.
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