NYC, Travel

A Love Letter to New York: My Mentor in the Art of Solo Travel

March 10, 2014
Love Letter to New York - Sweet and Savoring

Midtown Manhattan on a particularly lovely spring day, 2010

Dear New York,

It’s been quite some time since we had a date, just the two of us.

Tonight was the perfect night for a joyful reunion. The weather was milder than it’s been all year. Spring-like air tickled my ears and lightened my step.

Our time together tonight made me realize that you trained me in the art of solo travel. Countless times in the early 2000s, it was Christy and New York, no exciting plans necessary. What better introduction to relying on myself in a big city, to the art of people watching, to the hobby of wandering for the sake of exploration and observation, than New York City?

Love Letter to New York - Sweet and Savoring

Some photos are all about timing! February 2009 in Lower Manhattan

How grateful I am to have lived less than as hour from you as I grew up, to learn early on to act like I knew where I was going at all times. You have all the diversity, food, culture, and night life anyone could ever dream of. Thank you for providing that blueprint.

Love Letter to New York - Sweet and Savoring

Community art project in the subway tunnel at 191st St and Saint Nicholas Avenue

You said to me, Here. Roam my streets and indulge your curiosity. Take in my museums, parks, cathedrals. Stroll my waterfronts, climb my towers. Each time, you will see something new, something inspiring. May you always seek out the unfamiliar and the exhilarating , and as you go far to tour foreign lands, you can always come back to me. I will be your solace and your muse, your travel destination in the comfort of home.

Tonight, oh the joy of tonight! As I began the trek toward Grand Central for my eventual train home, I recalled countless days and nights enjoying your company, particularly in the East Village.

Love Letter to New York - Sweet and Savoring

The best part of taking NYC photos at night: old school neon signs.

Love Letter to New York - Sweet and Savoring

Katz’s Delicatessen, famous for its longevity (125 years and going strong!), hot dogs and pastrami, and an unforgettable scene in “When Harry Met Sally”.

I found myself overcome with exhilaration, nostalgia and inspiration, perfectly happy to choose my old habit of walking 15-20 blocks over immediately hopping on the nearest subway. As I walked through Noho and headed north, I couldn’t help but pass so many memories. Landmark Sunshine Cinema on East Houston. Katz’s Deli, with its iconic neon sign. Along Second Avenue, there was the Boiler Room, where I played pool terribly and flirted shamelessly. Pommes Frites, the Belgian fry spot near St. Mark’s Place and one of my top destinations to take visitors in NYC.

Love Letter to New York - Sweet and Savoring

Pommes Frites, in business since 1997, has lines snaking around the corner every night. An East Village must for their crispy fries and imaginative sauces.

The whimsical, irreplaceable mosaics everywhere you look in the East Village: one of my favorite sights in the city. These pieces of art are pure delight. I see them and smile with love and appreciation. I want to grab everyone within reach on the sidewalk and say Just look at this! One man created each of these mosaics, solely to express his creativity and share his love of the city with us. They are SO BEAUTIFUL. (I imagine this scene would work better in a film than it would in real life.)

Love Letter to New York - Sweet and Savoring

Mosaics are all over the city. This Alice in Wonderland piece is in the 50th St A subway station.

A treasure unto itself, Village East Cinema is an urban landmark that I hope will be there forever. It was built in the 1920’s in the Moorish Revival style as a home for live Yiddish theater. From Village East’s website: “Its sprawling, ornate main auditorium features stadium and balcony seating as well as an oversized screen, and the theater remains one of New York City’s best places to see a film.” One heartbroken day in July 2004, I searched online for theaters within a 60 mile radius that were still playing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Village East was the one option I had. I took myself out on a date with you, to see my favorite movie for the third time and enjoy all you have to offer on a summer evening. Immediately, the theater enchanted me. Not only was I seeing Eternal Sunshine again, but I got to see it in this fancy historic building! I couldn’t have been more tickled or felt more privileged.

Love Letter to New York - Sweet and Savoring

Doesn’t look like much, right? The main auditorium of this theater on Second Avenue will leave you breathless.

A quick detour onto St. Mark’s Place confirmed that a wonderful Afghan restaurant, Khyber Pass, was thankfully still in business. I headed back toward 2nd and bought a perfect-for-early-spring green pashmina from the shop on the corner. Two years ago, Andy haggled the salesman down from $10 to $5 when we bought the golden yellow scarf I have worn several times a week since, and last night I paid the same price.

Love Letter to New York - Sweet and Savoring

I like you, I love you, I adore you, New York.

I turned west onto 14th Street and realized I had the perfect accompaniment of Van Morrison’s Crazy Love running through my head, and it’s true: I was falling in love with you all over again. Feeling rejuvenated as I haven’t in months, I passed the NYU dorms and paused to savor another favorite hang-out of my twenties, Union Square Park. The scene: scores of people hanging out on the steps, boys playing hacky sack, someone tracing his friend on the pavement in chalk, a message under my feet reading Something is starting. How perfect.

As I descended the steps into Union Square Station, I heard what sounded like a marching band causing an irresistible commotion. The sound pulled me in and I discovered that it was a ‘Beat n Brass Band’, called Drumadics. They played their horns and saxophones and drums with such joy and abandon; I smiled an unstoppable smile as I watched them perform. I loved the energy of their sound, and how big the crowd was surrounding them. It’s that kind of vitality and spectacle that I miss so much when I’m away from New York City.

I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect end to my night with you, the city of my heart.

Love Letter to New York - Sweet and Savoring [photo by Andy Milford]

I felt the exact same way during a two-day NYC visit with Andy last year.

New York, you have not disappointed me after all these years. After taking everything you taught me and flitting from place to place year after year, you remain the first love that retains its sweetness.

Thank you for letting me discover my independence. Thank you for planting the seeds of the traveler I would later become.

You Might Also Like

  • Deb Rothaug March 10, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    So glad to read your beautiful writing about the lovely day and evening you had. I didn’t realize there are mosaics all over NYC, but have enjoyed a few at subway stations. I love people-watchiing, too, and you make it all seem more special. Keep writing, and sharing, it’s a vicarious treat!

    • Christy March 10, 2014 at 6:53 pm

      Oh yes, it would be cool to do a post entirely on subway art! Thanks Mom!

  • Sue March 10, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    I felt a nod to “The Giving Tree” in the paragraph that began, “Here. Roam my streets and indulge your curiosity….” Nicely done.

    • Christy March 10, 2014 at 6:52 pm

      Ha smarty, I did just read that to Leo recently so it must have been lurking in the back of my consciousness.

  • Shana Norris March 10, 2014 at 2:05 pm

    Ahhhh … this was like a little visit via your words and photos, Christy. You’re so fortunate to live so close to the city, and good for you taking advantage of it!

    • Christy March 10, 2014 at 6:57 pm

      Thank you! I don’t take my proximity to the city for granted at all (at least I hope I don’t!). Glad you enjoyed the vicarious visit 🙂

  • Amber March 10, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    This makes me want to return to NYC. I was there a few years ago and loved it.
    Amber recently posted…My Daughter, The ChatterboxMy Profile

    • Christy March 10, 2014 at 7:02 pm

      What I love most is that there is an endless list of things to see and explore! All five boroughs, all the parks, all the tiny neighborhoods within Manhattan itself…so no matter how many times you visit, you never run out of things to see!

  • Kate March 10, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    I love traveling alone and NYC is a great place to do it! Love the East Village!!
    Kate recently posted…Books are my escapeMy Profile

    • Christy March 10, 2014 at 9:08 pm

      It’s seriously the best. The EV is unpretentious, quirky, and full of historic charm. Okay, I want to go back right now.

  • Kate March 11, 2014 at 9:35 am

    New York looks incredible, I want to visit so much! So. Much. Culture.
    Kate recently posted…This is NOT the dress I orderedMy Profile

    • Christy March 11, 2014 at 7:35 pm

      Yes, you must! Though of course I’d love to hop over all the European cities you’re close to 🙂

  • Tamara March 11, 2014 at 11:54 am

    Oh, Katz’s! A childhood favorite! I always got a knish and one of their famous root beers. And I don’t even like soda.
    That pigeon photo is WHOA. You’re right about the timing.
    And I grew up an hour from NYC so it was always “my city.” Me and a million others.
    And the last photo of you is so awesome.

    • Christy March 11, 2014 at 7:37 pm

      Yes, I love the knishes, too. I love that even though they’re famous for the meaty stuff, they’re working on becoming more vegetarian friendly.
      And thanks! Andy has a way of capturing me in the best moments.

  • Louida March 12, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    I really want to go to New York some day. It’s on my bucket list of To-Do’s.

    Showing SitsGirl love!
    Louida recently posted…How to Earn Extra Money and Get FreebiesMy Profile

    • Christy March 22, 2014 at 5:59 pm

      Appreciate your visit, Louida!

  • Pary Moppins March 14, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    I’ve been to NYC twice and neither time did I make it to the East Village. Next time… 🙂
    Pary Moppins recently posted…Menu PlanMy Profile

    • Christy March 22, 2014 at 6:01 pm

      Yes, next time! I like that it’s not really a touristy destination.

  • Erika March 17, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Aww, this is a really sweet love letter. New York City is such a special place and I can only imagine the exposure to the world one gets and inspiration, as well, living there (or near there)!

    • Christy March 22, 2014 at 6:03 pm

      Everywhere you turn in NY, there is inspiration. I love it.
      Thanks, Erika 🙂

  • Kellie The Shoe Diva April 4, 2014 at 10:32 am

    I love the fact that the pictures you used are not the typical tourist type photos. What a great letter & I can’t wait to visit your city again. Although all of my pictures would probably be of shopping spots 🙂 I really like the picture of the birds, that’s awesome for sure.
    Kellie The Shoe Diva recently posted…April Showers Bring May Spring ColorsMy Profile

    • Christy April 5, 2014 at 10:04 am

      Love that you pointed that out, Kellie- it was my goal to share other less-seen images of the city. There are just *so many* different sights in NYC and often we see the same photos over and over, you know?
      Thank you so much for stopping by; hope you’re having a good weekend!

    %d bloggers like this: