After more than a decade, I finally made a trip back to New York City. The last time I was here, I was only in middle school. A typical cranky teenager, I complained nonstop about the sweltering summer heat and dragged my feet to every museum and monument my parents insisted we visit.
Now, at 24, I couldn’t wait to see the Big Apple with fresh eyes as a real adult. One who is finally appreciative of galleries and fine arts, who can stay up past midnight to enjoy the city night life, and who is only slightly less whiny about weather. Just kidding. Still a wimp when it comes to weather. But I purposely picked fall as the best time to visit since it would be right as summer was winding down, with milder temperatures and all the leaves changing color.
Friday morning I flew into Newark Airport in New Jersey, and it was cold. Way colder than I expected. To the point that I couldn’t stand outside like all the other travelers going to New York and had to huddle indoors while waiting for the train. When I arrived at Penn station, I was greeted by my friend J. who was hosting me for the weekend. I dragged my suitcase across the uneven concrete, still struggling to adjust to the cold, but having more trouble keeping up with J.’s quick pace.
“Walk with purpose!” he instructed. I quickly realized that New Yorkers walk faster than any pedestrians in the world, and I would have to practically run to keep up. We lugged my stuff up to J.’s luxury apartment in midtown, and my jaw dropped when I saw the gorgeous view from his 10th floor living room. Until I found out how much his rent was. Cue instant delay of any plan to move here in the near future. I would basically have to sell an arm and a leg to afford a place like this. All jokes aside, I was eager to start exploring the city and set out to make the most of my next four days with an ambitious itinerary:
As you can tell, a lot of my plans revolved around food. I pretty much ate my way through New York. And I have to admit: the restaurants are top-notch. Expensive, but definitely on another level in terms of quality. A few of my favorite spots were Her Name is Han, a cozy Korea-American fusion restaurant that serves bento-style meals and fills your heart and stomach with warmth. Another wonderful experience was Chikalicious, a fancy dessert bar where you get to watch the head chef herself (Chika) make beautiful pastries by hand. And last but not least: Joe’s Pizza. Ah. I still dream about Joe’s Pizza. It’s really the perfect slice because it’s nice and thin, not too heavy. The crust is just the right amount of crunchy and the cheese isn’t too overwhelming.
Besides food, the other highlights in New York were museums. I visited The Guggenheim, Cooper Hewitt, and The Metropolitan. I loved the Met the most and could’ve honestly spent a whole day inside. From the countless galleries and art styles to the architecture itself, the Met is quite unrivaled in its stature and vast collection. I was also lucky enough to have a personal tour guide because my friend took classes there for a whole quarter and retained a lot of the information he had learned. We stopped at all his favorite exhibits and he shared interesting tidbits and fun facts behind each piece. For someone who detested museums as a kid, I chuckle at myself for coming such a long way.
But this is where my commendation of New York comes to an unfortunate end. For all its glitz and glamour, all the bright lights and crowds of people — there’s something that just feels off for me. I’ve always considered myself a city girl, but New York is almost too city for me. It’s too fast-paced, too busy, too intense. Maybe I’ve stayed on the west coast (best coast) for too long, but I like to stop and take in my surroundings. I like to walk at my own pace and gaze at different sights. I like to enjoy every moment.
While I respect the hell out of the New York hustle, I could never see myself hustling the same way. There’s something about how gruff and curt New Yorkers are that just turns me off. Giving strangers no more than a pointed finger when they ask for directions, or yelling at people to get out of the subway. I know a lot of people appreciate this kind of bluntness and no-nonsense candor, but it is personally not my style. I think a smile goes a long way and being just a little friendlier can make someone’s day.
That said, New York City is still an amazing city, and I wouldn’t mind coming back for another visit. Though I’ll probably have to wait another year since there’s only one week in October where it’s a perfect 75 degrees. But you know a place that’s always 75 degrees and sunny? LA. 🙂