The trip began with a stark contrast of fantasy and reality. As with most experiences, there is a built up expectation or belief of what will occur or be seen. Without even realizing it, in our minds we create an experience along with every feeling, smell and thought. To an even greater extent, we conjure up the people we should encounter and possibly the thoughts we will have. In my journey I found many of my thoughts to be disproved.
My first steps in the big apple were greeted by heat and a constant flow of people. It seems that the Atlanta heat followed us North. It just so happened that we encountered record high heat this summer, the few days we were in the city. Contrary to popular belief, when stepping onto the streets of Manhattan, The Cranberries do not begin singing, "Dreams" in fall weather. No, to be honest, when looking at eye level the city is nothing special. People rush by you going both ways and we learned the hard way that figuring out the direction we should be going is best when standing outside the line of motion. Navigation is key when living amongst natives. Not many have a minute to spare helping out lost tourists, or prospective "home away from home-ers." Growing up in Paris, Jason was able to catch onto the inner workings of the subway and map of Manhattan. It was an experience like no other starting our first subway ride from Grand Central station. Some places just have that charm that causes you to stop where you are and take it all in.
When one gets past the odor that rises from stagnant puddles on street corners and characters wearing an array of styles, you begin to develop a sweet spot for largest city in the states. I think the city changed for me when I saw it light up from the top of the empire state building after dusk. The beauty of a city is much different from that of the country, or more specifically suburbia. It is the architecture and well developed grid that amazed me. It all works. Everything from the tallest buildings to the acres of preserved foliage in the middle of a concrete jungle make the unique atmosphere that is called NYC.
Just a few steps into Central Park lowered the volume on the sounds of the city. The further we walked into the park, the less I could tell that I was still in the middle of a city. We sat on the grass and enjoyed a bagged lunch from Pret A Manger. Around us people were exercising, napping, and carrying on with their lives. This was normalcy. New York slowly became less daunting. A large section of the park is reserved for quiet relaxation. They refer to it as the Sheep's Meadow and restrict loud music or any organized play. Artists sat on their cots waiting for the peaked interest of a tourist to bring them some work.
We drank some of the best coffee and walked down some of the sweetest streets. Locals told us of their favorite spots and with the little time we had, our best efforts took us to Stumptown Coffee to enjoy some espresso. We dined at Lime Jungle with a couple of Jason's newlywed friends and tried some frozen yogurt from Pinkberry. No first trip to the city would be complete without food from a street vendor, so hot dogs and falafels were in tow soon after getting off of the bus the first day.
The last day we were in the city, I found the place I would love to live. An area in southwest Manhattan beginning near 16th street is called Chelsea. The buildings were much shorter, encompassing small apartments above mom and pop pizzerias and shops. Flower vendors were coupled on certain streets and the pace seemed to slow down. Instead of a few hundred people passing each minute, the number decreased to near twenty and we moseyed down the broken pavement. An older woman passed us on her way to work, dressed nicely in her business attire while riding her scooter to hasten her pace. Mom and I realized that most ladies had on flats or even tennis shoes with their skirts and dresses, saving their feet from the habitual walking that fills each day. We found Chelsea market and I believe that my heart swooned. A home of pretty things and coffee tends to welcome me warmly. I had thoughts of taking the subway there in winter months to warm my hands and heart on bitterly cold days.
"Free" was the name of the game. We tried to find the things we could do without spending a fortune. Someone mentioned the Staten Island Ferry to us and I am so glad they did. The subway took us down into the financial district and let us out at the Ground Zero memorial sight. Not without a detour, we found the ferry and floated across the river with others on their way home from work to catch a glimpse of the skyline and Lady Liberty. The statue sat right off the coast and welcomed all of the foreigners looking for a fresh start and new life. We remember the refuge we were and continue to be because of her. The ferry is a method of public transportation in New York. So as we used it to see a different part of the city, others rested their feet and eyes for the twenty minute ride.
It is a beautiful city. In a few short weeks I will call it home. Hopefully it will feel as though it is. I am not scared. Getting some time to be there made me settle into the idea of such a big move. It is an adventure. There will be much adjustment and a learning curve on how to live in a city. I have already seen the provision and the doors open for me to boldly walk into this season. My heart is preparing, but though it is, there will be hard moments, I am sure.
Currently Listening: "Fever Dream" by Iron & Wine