[NYC Travels] PART 1: Hello Brooklyn!
Before I start going on about New York, I have to lay it down on the table that my idea of the city was very romanticized, in a sense where I thought that everyone lived in brownstone apartments, the people were eccentric, and everything was old but beautiful at the same time. I'm sure that people who aren't from New York City also only think of it as just Manhattan, completely disregarding all of the other boroughs like Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island, because of all of the movies we've grown up with like Home Alone and Elf.
The first few days in the city were very overwhelming. I kept thinking "Okay, maybe this place isn't for me." I find it to be true that the overall vibe is fast-paced and this environment can easily make the situation difficult for a foreigner trying to navigate oneself from point A to point B. Like my roommate for 11 days said, "I think that everything here is just a matter of getting used to," and I agree that eventually, you can adapt yourself to walking faster, seeing rats on the street or in the subway station, and many more unique New York traits.
DAY 4: August 25th - The city awaits.
In the morning, I finished packing up my things, thanked Nelia for being such a wonderful AirBnB host, and then she gave me one of the best hugs ever before I left Montreal in the late afternoon. You can read about my three days there right here.
I got to the airport early because I couldn't wait to be in New York City, the place I've been wanting to visit forever. Again, the workers there were super nice to me and even joked around with saying "We've got a V.I.P. coming through!" after getting my bags inspected. The smallest gestures gave me so much strength during this trip.
Anyways, words can't explain the joyous feeling which engulfed me when the plane was flying above the big city. I took my camera out of my bag and starting taking videos and photos of the view below. I couldn't believe it with my own eyes, that I'd made it and that I was seeing what I was seeing out the window.
When the plane landed at LaGuardia airport in Queens around 4:55PM, I purchased a metro card and loaded it with money so that I could take a bus and subway to the location of my AirBnB in Brooklyn. A woman who was working there saw that I was struggling with buying a card, and without even asking for help, she walked towards me and directed me what to do. She didn't even speak English, but I was appreciative of her gesture.
On the bus going to Jackson Heights station was when I first experienced the stereotypical New Yorker. Within a few minutes of getting on, a man standing at the back of the bus yelled "WHY AREN'T WE LEAVING YET? C'MON MAN, I'VE GOT PLACES TO BE," which immediately shook me to the core. My eyes popped, my heart stopped, my mind was thinking "Man, this dude is so impatient... we've literally been here for just a few minutes." Anyways, last week I came across this post on Tumblr which 100% supports the latter.
Once I took a seat on the F Train heading to Brooklyn for my hour long subway ride was when I started basking into the reality I was living.
I don't have to close my eyes anymore. The dream is now reality. ~ on F train.
I got off at 15 Street - Prospect Park in the slightly bougie neighborhood of Park Slope. If I were to compare it to a Vancouver hood, I'd say it's closest to Kitsilano in terms of price and the overall vibe of safety, but Main Street in terms of all the young families.
It was a few slightly terrifying minutes before I entered what would be my home for 11 days when I found out that I couldn't get into the apartment. I sat on the brownstone steps for a few moments and eventually crossed the street to speak with the old woman who was looking at me. As I was trying to communicate with her, I heard a voice behind me say "Lindsey! Is that you?" and sighed in relief that my key holder had finally arrived, learning that she was just taking a walk in the park.
(After some thinking, I've decided to use false names for most of the significant people that took part in this trip)
Gal opened the door to the apartment and I was blown away at how much bigger it looked on the inside than it did from the outside. I was given a mini tour of the place and was told about where I should buy groceries, how to lock the door, and all the more boring (but significant) information needed to survive. Since I had spent a hectic day of travelling and acquainting myself with the transit system In New York, my day ended with having tea, unpacking, getting ready early for bed, and writing in my travel journal.
DAY 5: August 26th - Prepared to be amazed.
Finding out that my room was right next to the windows satisfied my New York idealism and aesthetic that I didn't think I'd mind until I was woken up around two in the morning by young people who were chatting away. Even with the windows closed, the proximity between my tired self and this gang was so close that it was difficult to fall back to sleep. Thankfully, this was the only night that I was disturbed.
I wake up to birds chirping, a woman singing as she walks along the side street; waking up in the middle of the night to late night chats on the stairs of the apartment, rap music blasting from passing cars, and laughter from the nightlife. Is this Brooklyn?
Before I left Vancouver, I had a small list of must-visits and must-buys, so naturally, I left the apartment and headed to Greenwich Village in Manhattan to visit New York University (NYU). This school was my dream school for about a year until I found out how damn expensive it is to go there. I'm pretty sure I only really wished to study at this school, because of its name and location. My logic was "Okay, if I can't afford to go here, I do know that I can afford a sweater from here," so purchasing a black and purple NYU sweater not only fulfilled this dream of mine, but it will always serve as a reminder that I visited my dream school. I sometimes also wear it as form of motivation, because who knows, maybe I will get to be an actual student at this University one day.
After visiting the school bookstore, I continued exploring Greenwich Village and stopped by Washington Square Park. There, I encountered many people soaking in the sun, a piano player who wasn't looking too enthusiastic, and I even witnessed a fruit roll-up contest going on. After taking a few photos and embracing my surroundings, I made my way to the famous fashionista/bougie region they call SoHo, which stands for South of Houston Street.
Chobani, a brand of Greek yogurt that I love, has its own store in this neighborhood, so it was on my list of must-eats to visit its café. As my brunch, I ordered a mango Greek yogurt with oats and honey and it was delicious.
After indulging in my first bought meal in New York, I walked around the neighborhood and went into a few shops, like Happy Socks and Moleskin. I also stopped by two fair trade/ethical fashion stores of the names Everlane and Apolis. Thanks to creating a list of must-buys prior to departure, the folks at Apolis were kind enough to put aside a t-shirt for me months ago when I e-mailed them that I'd be going to New York in August (because who wants to pay x amount of money for U.S. shipping?!).
In the Apolis store, I was greeted by the manager who pointed out that I was the third person from Vancouver that stepped into the store. He asked me what my plans were for my trip and because my itinerary was very open, I was asking everyone I encountered for suggestions on where I should visit. Naturally, they all told me the same thing, which was "There's always something to do here, and you won't be able to do it all."
The manager told me about this hidden café nearby which serves as a quiet spot (those are hard to find in this city) and he also recommended that I head over to Chinatown to buy dumplings at Deluxe Green Bo. Since it was past lunch time and I did read a lot about famous dumplings in New York, I headed that way after I was given the manager's business card who told me not to hesitate if I wanted anymore suggestions (seriously, everyone has been so nice to me!!).
I walked a few blocks to Chinatown and ordered pork dumplings to go. Columbus Park was nearby and I thought that I'd settle down somewhere there to eat my food, but anxiety took over, and I ended up walking for a bit until I found a less populated series of benches near NYU.
Before heading Uptown, I made my way to Strand Bookstore (another must-visit on my list) to quickly check it out and then to Union Square Park. The bookstore was really busy, so I decided to visit another day, but my heart knew it was love at first sight when I first stepped in. Around dinner time, I took the subway to Times Square to meet my family for dinner. Yes. My family decided to coincidentally go on vacation in New York while I was there for half of my trip. I don't want to dwell too long in that salt mess, so I'll leave it at that, but later on, they play a pretty symbolic part in my journey. Anyways, after eating dinner at Bubba Gump with my family, we parted ways and I commuted back to Brooklyn, bought groceries, then headed home.
DAY 6: August 27th - A turn of events.
I expected surprises while travelling solo, but I never expected nor wanted this situation I'm about to explain. The evening I arrived at my AirBnB, I received nasty mosquito bites on my ankles that were so itchy, I remember them bothering me the first night I arrived. It's not like I haven't received bug bites before, but these ones were different and ended up turning into blisters.
The previous night, I talked to my roommate about my situation and she suggested that I go to a walk-in clinic to get it checked up. My Sunday was spent walking to CityMD, buying antibiotics that I'd have to take until the end of my trip, stalking up on comfort food, and staying home. The situation was not ideal at all, but on the bright side, I had time to plan, think, and relax. I think my journal entry of the night perfectly summarized the dark cloud that decided to join me in New York.
Yesterday evening was so terrible that I fell asleep listening to Jesus music.
Basically, my mosquito bites (maybe they weren't even mosquitos...) turned into blisters and I wept before bed. "This is so not ideal!!" This morning, the blister had gotten bigger and more small ones started to form (even on the right ankle). I had to walk to CityMD (a walk-in clinic) to get antibiotics that I have to take every 6 hours... fun!
After straightening out my travel insurance, picking up my medication (and buying some groceries) at CVS Pharm, treated myself to Thai iced tea and a shredded chicken viet sub from Hanco's -- those were good. At home all day, I ate my skittles, watched YouTube videos ("Just Another Nice Guy" -- so good!!), and kept staring at the bubble on my ankle.
The good news is that most of the itching has stopped and if I don't look down, I barely feel like it's there! The bad news is that I have to get up in the middle of the night to take pills... yay. Anyways, I will not let this ruin my trip! Bring it on (but don't... please...) New York!
I'm not gonna lie. This honestly sucked. One of the reasons I wanted to leave home was to prove to myself that I could live on my own, yet here I was, wounded with no one to lean on but my family, who has been on my back since I brought up this idea to travel by myself. To make matters worse, it wasn't cheap to pay for getting a check up by a doctor as a Canadian citizen, and I don't think I will end up getting reimbursed with my school's travel insurance.
When I landed in New York, I told myself that I wouldn't reach out to any friends back home for comfort, because I wanted to handle everything on my own. In dealing with my infection, the days got worse, but the growth gets better, and my family being there for the first half of my trip ended up being the helping hand I never wanted, but needed.
Stay tuned for the rest of the trip & after. Especially now, as I'm writing this in the present, I've learned more lessons that never stood out when I was away, but appeared when I came back.