So, my first taste of the US of A was the Big Apple, New York City. ‘Twas back 1999 at the end of my first round-the-world adventure, and I was tiring. Nevertheless, I definitely found New York City to be the highlight of my time in North America.
Let’s be honest though, New York City is almost a country to itself. It feels never ending when you walk around it, it stretches over multiple islands and into the sky as far as anyone might imagine it is possible to do! It’s built a reputation as a city of dreams, of excesses, of beauty, of craziness. On the other side of the coin (yes, I consider craziness to be a positive!), it has a reputation of a city that will eat you up and then spit you out on the sidewalk without a second’s thought.
As a wide-eyed backpacker who had been 2/3 of the way around the world when they stepped off the plane, to be in a city that is almost mythical was something indeed. There is only one New York City, and it doesn’t compare to any other city in the world. Nowhere else is like it – its stature, its vibe, its reputation.
No city in the world can make you feel so small. Yet, there is something so invigorating about NYC that it enlivens the visitor. So much history in a few hundred years, its reputation for theatre and arts, so how does it stack up as a first taste?
Well, you can’t start there expecting the rest of the US to be the same, because it isn’t. And that’s a good thing because New York is quite enough on its own. I personally found excitement on my first day walking down the street from my hostel with my washing to the laundromat. A real NEW YORK laundromat! It was honestly a thrill.
Transport in New York City is excellent, the subway is pretty comprehensive and very frequent. And the first few times you get a buzz. Well, I did. That’s what you get from growing up on American TV. And no matter how disenfranchised I feel from the USA, New York can transcend that.
Walking the streets is something else. Bustling Times Square (spoiler – not very squarish) with its illuminated screens and what not. Central Park is just brilliant to, you could while away days there. But I’ll tell you the main reason I loved New York on my first visit – people. And no, not New Yorkers! But the people I met in my hostel were brilliant, we did heaps of stuff together and we’d all just met.
I tell you why it was so brilliant – we were all tasting the big apple for the first time. We all got a buzz together when we actually went to a New York Night Club, got drunk and took the subway home at 7am. Now there’s something I’ll never do again in my life. Lining up for tickets to see David Letterman. No, they were all gone but standing in line at Rockefeller Place (I think that’s around where it was) was… a BUZZ.
So. If you go there by yourself on your first time in the USA and stay in a hotel and don’t meet people to share experiences with, well, it could be pretty daunting. There’s a lot to take in and you could quickly feel like a country kid in the middle of city when you’ve never seen a car before. But even then, take a deep breath, get your bearings and dive in. Take the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty. Go see a show, the Guggenheim Museum. Chill out in Central Park with a book for a few hours.
I think it’s a much better starting point than say, Los Angeles. It’s the perfect place to go in the US if you’re coming from Europe and only have a short time to fill and just want to do it in one city. Hey – Eddie and Patsy went there from London on a whim.
So take the plunge to the coolest city in the States. If not the world. May the Journey Never End.