At the end of September, I had my first magical run in with the “Big Apple”. As I passed through the Holland Tunnel that connects Newark, New Jersey to New York City, I decided to celebrate the experience with the song “Welcome to New York” by Taylor Swift buzzing in my headphones (cheesy I know, but it made me happy). Not only would I be spending the next 6 days in this completely iconic city, but it would also be one of the few occasions when my two brothers and I would all be in one geographic location. As we have gotten older, this occurrence has become increasingly difficult, with all of us living in different parts of North America. My mom even flew in for the week so we would all get to celebrate her birthday with her while exploring the city.
After hopping off the express bus from the airport, I met up with my family and we all made our way to the subway to head back to my brother’s apartment in Brooklyn. Taking the New York City subway is an experience in itself. The New York subway is one of the oldest subway systems in the world. It was opened in 1904 and connects four out of the five boroughs. New York City is filled with one-way streets, lots of loud car horns honking, and fearless pedestrians, making the subway system one of the most convenient ways to get around quickly. I found it quite shocking that although the weather was beautiful and approximately 25–30 degrees Celsius above ground, in the subway stations it felt at least 10 degrees hotter and a bit suffocating. Luckily, the subway cars are air-conditioned these days and offer relief from the station heat.
After a half hour subway ride and a short walk, we finally made it to my brother’s Brooklyn apartment that offered a special treat: a rooftop patio that looked out at downtown Manhattan from one side and Downtown Brooklyn on the other.
Each day of my trip we would get up and explore the city. Although I really enjoyed wandering around, taking in all of the must-see location, one of my favourite moments occurred when I was walking through Union Square Park. One day after visiting the iconic Strands Book Store, I was walking through Union Square Park on my way to the subway and I was shocked at the amount of interesting things happening in a single city block. There were people laying out on the grass, reading books and sun bathing. There was a person with a microphone and a speaker, singing for anyone who wanted to listen. There was a person dressed up as a clown creating balloon animals for children, and all around the perimeter of the park were bustling people, on their way somewhere else. I felt like I should break into a real-life musical to complete the scene; it all just felt very surreal.
In New York, it feels like there is always something interesting waiting just around the next corner. This city truly has something for everyone. Performers flock to the city with hopes of scoring a role on Broadway. Writers come to experience the inspiration promised by this magical city. Foodies come to experience the joys of gastronomy on every corner and tourists fly in from all over the world to see a city block filled with lights and screens.
There is one more thing that really must be discussed in regards to New York, and that is its inhabitants. New Yorkers often get a bad rep for being rude or aggressive, and with any big city I’m sure there are some rude people. However, I never experienced this once while visiting. I experienced kind people who held doors open, who offered me direction when I was lost and who even gave up their seat in a busy burger joint because they saw me looking tired from carrying my luggage around the city before heading to the airport.
New York feels like a city where you can be whoever you want to be and it has a place for everyone. I know I will make it back before too long, so until then, stay magical New York.