Thursday, June 2, 2011

The ABC's of NYC

Last weekend I went to New York City for the very first time. I've been wanting to go for a while now, and the right time/right place theory happened to pop into play for me.

It all started with a Waldorf Astoria hotel card I found years ago, one of the electric key card types. It was beautiful and elegant and seeing the card alone made me know I had to visit the world famous hotel sometime in my life. Very often the things that make me want to go someplace are small and inconsequential to most people, but stand out considerably to me. This is how most vacation locations are chosen.

From what I'm told, normally one night at the Waldorf will set you back considerably and since I am not secretly Paris Hilton, that was never really an option for me. In fact, I never stay at nice hotels. I don't do the hostel scene, but I do as close to that as possible most everywhere I go. Not this time though. Whether it be due to the economy or other circumstances, the prices now are in the more affordable range, (actually very affordable considering where you're staying) so I decided it was time to spend a weekend there.

The Waldorf is an amazing place. There is so much packed in there that on more than one occasion I got lost exploring it's vast hallways and floors. The Silver Corridor, in particular, was my favorite. A long hall filled with chandeliers and mirrors. There's also a museum section on the lobby floor, where you could see the history of the Waldorf, and on the night we checked in they were filming a movie at one of the restaurants.

Forget all of that though. What I loved were the pillows. Yes, the pillows. They were like magical fluff clouds from heaven. I don't know where one would purchase such pillows, but if I did I would have bought a dozen of them already and have created a pillow sanctuary in my home.

Justin and I did all of the touristy type things while we were there. We went to Times Square where we met a gentleman named Toast who wanted to sell us tickets to a comedy show. We were already planning on going so it was an easy sell, but the conversation with him all in itself was worth the purchase. I had never received so many compliments and threats in one conversation. Not real threats, but ones that included things such as "If you don't buy these tickets right now I'm going to bite your fine ass." Actually, he said some things along with that, that were far more inappropriate, which is why I can't even write it here. I was simultaneously flattered and terrified.

We went to Bloomingdale's, SoHo, NoHo, China Town, and Ground Zero. Ground Zero is much larger in real life and it hits home a little harder. We walked Central Park, attempted to go walk the Statue of Liberty, but opted for viewing it from a distance since the line was extra-specially long on our Memorial Day Weekend. We rode the Subway, took some cab rides, and talked to a lot of strangers who had moved to NY from various parts of Europe. Like our coach guy, Martin, who was from Ireland and a nice street vendor who was from Spain and was studying law at NYU. Even Ziggy, our hotel waiter, who was from Germany and told us all about NY and what it was like to work at the hotel.

View from the Top of the Rock
Photo Credit: Melia Metikos 2011
We went to Rockefeller and the Empire State building, and of course, Grand Central. Almost everywhere we were, I could see something that had been in a movie somewhere. What I didn't see, however, and was very much on the lookout for, were women in ridiculously tall high heels like in the HBO show, Sex and the City. I saw all of one woman who was rocking that style. Everyone else - flats. I knew that couldn't be real! We also went to this newer store called Limelight Marketplace. It's an old church renovated into a unique type of shopping plaza filled with one-of-a-kind stores, where the stained glass stands out amongst the the lights and goods. It was beautiful!

Mostly we walked and saw so much that I was pretty sure I would never be able to walk again. I am a very determined traveler and by that I mean that I want to see everything (EVERYTHING) and I will find a way to do so, somehow. In my world, there is no A or B option. There is a C, D, W, X, and Y as well. I'll find a way to make it all work.

We dug into the local cuisine as well. I don't limit myself to what I should and should not eat when I travel. Food is half the fun, it's part of experiencing the culture. It's one thing to get something you could at home, but it's a whole other thing to try authentic NYC pizza or have a freshly made macaron from the Macaron Cafe.  Food is as much a part of the place as the place itself and there's no room for regrets in my travel book, so I go for it. Plus, where am I going to find a spinach salad for breakfast? Nowhere, so no need to kill myself trying. A healthy and happy life is all about balance.

Anyway, at one point when we were in a cab, we passed a building that appeared to be covered in umbrellas. Umbrella's that were calling my name for a closer look. We get to China Town, head into a little restaurant, and sit down. This entire time I've been plotting how to convince Justin to go back to where we just came from, especially since I don't really know where it was. In addition to that, some of it looked a little sketchy. That doesn't bother me though. I tend to insanely believe that somewhere deep down my martial arts skills from high school will come back out, when needed, and I will be able to Walker Texas Ranger just about anyone if I really have to.

I pose the idea to him and I get a "no way" answer. We're both tired and again, I don't actually know where it is except for one sign I saw. I'm not a quitter though. I am equal parts stubborn and patient, and that combination alone means trouble. Also, I will regret it immensely if I don't go back so I then proceed to Google everything having to do with street art and umbrellas hanging from the side of a building in NYC. I find a lot of weird things, but stumble upon a picture of one of the graffiti paintings I saw and wham! I know where we need to go...mostly, anyway. I then give him The Look. You know, the one that says "pretty, pretty please" while I'm batting my eyelashes, as well as "I'm going to go with or without you, so you might as well just agree." That look. Eventually we hop in a cab and head back to the location that I've narrowed down and we find the umbrellas. I think I missed my calling as an investigator. Oh well. This moment made me as happy as I would have been had I received a pony all the countless times I asked for one as a child.

Photo Credit: Melia Metikos 2011
There were probably about two dozen or so umbrellas hanging from balconies. They were mostly all colors, with different shapes and patterns spray painted on them. Lovely, just lovely and unique and artistic. I took as many pictures as possible, although I don't really think any of them did it true justice.

After that we continued on down the sidewalk where I saw different chalk drawings on the cement, a fenced in weedy area where there were metal sculptures of a man, women, and a couple, and Nora the Explorer dolls in a tree. Interesting? Yes. Awesome? Absolutely. We kept going and came upon all kinds of graffiti art and more cement chalk art and the one picture I found on Google, which is apparently popular already. I honestly don't know anything about Alphabet City, but to me it's a magical place where artists go to showcase their work. I loved it.

For those of you interested in going, I highly recommend checking it out. Who knows what will be there when you go!

The graffiti that lead me to my umbrellas.
Photo Credit: Melia Metikos 2011

Do you have a favorite place in NYC? Or a city you dream of visiting?

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