Travelmag Banner

Winter in New York

New York, New York. The city that never sleeps, thrives, races and chugs into the night like an old steam train. Its tracks unforgivingly endless, its destination always changing. What does one think of when they think of the daddy of all cities? Dreams, possibilities, money, thrill? Look closely and you will see a couple of the cops on their nightly shift, slumped against the back alleys, kicking up the dirt, slurping down kwoffee and guzzling on donuts, just like you see in the movies. Watch the prickly business men on their way home from work as they weave through the incessant tourist throttle as it crawls down 5th avenue. Take a glance at the cabby who punches his horn with his fist as the traffic lumbers across 47th. These are the real new Yorkers. These are the Yankees that have seen it all before. They’ve climbed the empire state, they’ve taken a million and one photographs of the statue of liberty and they’ve smelt and eaten a pretzel from every god-forsaken hot dawg stand across that concrete jungle.

Yes, it appears there are two sides to every story. While I and many others simply love the entire impression it daily exhibits, there was a part of me which left baffled as to exactly how glamorous its reputation has become. I mean don’t get me wrong, its gotta generous dollop of character but I suspect their is a darker, more elusive side to the city.

Firstly, their attitude. Every morning came a “how ya doin!” accompanied by a friendly gesture and eager eyes from the doorman. Walking into a shop, sales assistants would practically fall over themselves to welcome me into the shop and assist me. Even the workmen would tip their hard hats, flashing their whiter than white gnashers in my direction as I passed on by. Yes, I felt very welcome. But it all came across as a tad counterfeit. They were all so animated that I felt as if I’d just stepped into the leading part of a New York musical. (Not at all like us reserved Brits). OK, so maybe you think I’m probably just a grumpy old sod but its true! I’m telling you they all go out of their way, each and every day in a bid to advertise their city to you. I mean how much of a tourist did I look exactly? However, patience on the other hand appears to be that of lacking virtue. Taxi cabs charge through traffic lights without any consideration for the mother of two, elderly couple and gaggle of handicaps that could have at that very point begun venturing across to the other side of the road. Infact, all the traffic lights might as well be torn down as they are so underused. And every time I turned my back, left a shop without purchasing or accidentally trod upon a closed off area of roadworks (theres a lot of them), they would make sweeping Oscar-winning performances, to display just how pissed off they all were. Absurd. Its as if they all have so much energy, they simply don’t know what to do with it unless its in the form of an opera starring a cast of extensive emotions.

Secondly its dirty. Really dirty. As if a great cloud of soot has showered all over every pot-holed street and crumbling building. It really is in desperate need of a facelift. Some might argue that that’s just part of its personality. But where’s the glamour in that? I’ve been to cities a thousand times more beautiful.

The homeless all shuffle up in doorways, masked by weathered blankets and sadness, while beggars roam the back alleys and garbage cans. Its pretty depressing.

But let us not rule out its beauty entirely. Those sooted buildings are catastrophically tall. A vision you can only imagine. The Empire State and Rockerfeller centre allow you to see the entire capital in all its gloom and glory, especially if you gaze by night. A network of a billion tiny lights busily flicker beneath you, as you transpose yourself into a more retrospective and peaceful place. Its quite magnificent, once you’ve blocked out the sqwarking babble of Japanese tourists standing right behind you with their disposable Kodaks.

And be sure to take a voyage to Straten Island on the ferry at sunset. The views of the harbour remain ruthlessly credible if you’ve only ever fantasized over that notorious city-scape. This short ride takes approximately 45 minutes, it’s almost free and you’ll be able to get a fantastic view of the Statue of Liberty for all you tourist junkies out there.

If it’s their portly cuisine your after, you’ll soon come to realize its simply just a fabrication of all food continental rather than just your average Maccy D (although there are about 300 of them). From Little Italy’s cheese drenched pizzas to every sugar-loaded pastry on Broadway there simply wont be enough time for a calorie to lose. Don’t worry, they will elucidate this to you after every meal printed in each menu across town with their calorific content (a very bad cover-up organized by the government to eradicate any possible notions of American ignorance when it comes to food). Oh and let us not forget the tipping! There’s a 20% charge for tax at the end of every bill, but, of course you are expected to pay a further 20% service charge minimum. Most certainly not where you would like to be within a starbucks scented whiff if you are currently suffering from the credit crunch.

This all sounds incredibly pessimistic and biased I know but hear me out. The atmosphere? Can’t beat it. 5th avenue comes alive at night with restaurants, performances and shops open till way past any normal person’s bed time…after all, this is the city that never sleeps were talking about. And if you go at Christmas, like I did, the Rockerfeller Centre has a fabulous snowflake light dancing display strapped across its great walls, sending music across the streets while their annual ice-rink attraction brings in hundreds of visitors a year.
Other than that I would highly recommended Central Park. Stroll across the acres as you fall upon various monuments and lakes. Or, for the more docile, theres a whole army of horse and carriages lining the parks edge just waiting for you to hop on in and take you round. The Guggenheim and Meteropolitan Museam of Art were also personal faves and should defiantly not be missed.

I left New York feeling more satisfied than I expected. During my stay, I had discovered the real Mc Coy and come to terms with its diverse character and endless possibilities it manifests. It lived up to everything it said it was. Not once was I bored or felt unwelcome. Infact, I was probably walking around in awe, purely at the good, the bad and the ugly. So was it brilliant? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes. Would I go again? I don’t think so. I’ve tasted New York and I felt as worthwhile as it was, one trip to the Big Apple was enough to satisfy my appetite.

   [Top of Page]  
 Latest Headlines