I’ll admit that I have been pretty bad about blogging. I started off strong in the Spring with my 40 days of New experiment. But as the summer of 2015 descended upon me, the frequency of my posts all but stopped. A big part of this is due to the fact that I didn’t have internet for a large chunk of July and August. But the summer of 2015 was been full of adventures, so I need to continue writing about my experiences outside my comfort zone.
Travel has always been one of my favorite methods of stepping outside this comfort zone. When I travel there are suddenly new places to take in and process, new people to meet, and new environments to explore and navigate. I can almost physically feel my brain stretching and growing as each trip somewhere new expands my perception of the world a bit more. All of my blog posts so far have involved either places I have visited near my hometown or various activities that I have tried close to home. So this will be my first real travel post!
I consider this trip to be my first time visiting to New York City, even though technically that isn’t true. I had gone to New York once when I was 3 years old as well. And while I do seem to have some vivid memories of that experience, we all know that traveling somewhere as an adult is a completely different experience. So for all intents and purposes, this was my first trip to The Big Apple. And what a trip it was!
My friend Omnia and I had spent years talking about how we should both go to NYC someday. We have both traveled around Europe a lot, and so we continually commented on how even though we had seen many European cities, there were a lot of key cities in our home country that we had never explored! Although we often talked about planning a trip there, it was starting to seem like one of those things that would get put off indefinitely in the “Someday” category of life. Fortunately for me, Omnia is really good at making things happen. By the time the Summer of 2015 had turned the corner, we had a trip booked for mid July to New York City! Yes! The adventure we had been talking about for years was about to become a reality!!!
The summer was incredibly busy, and before I even knew what happened, July had leapt forward and we were already on our way to the east coast. It was around midnight on a Thursday night (or Friday morning?) when our United flight landed at La Guardia Airport in New York. We shuffled out of the airport with our luggage in hand and out into the busy airport streets.
We still had to get to our hotel in Manhattan and the line for a taxi was long and daunting. Omnia decided to try to secure us an Uber ride to the hotel. This seemed like a great solution until our driver was almost impossible to find in the chaotic mess of honking cars, racing vans, and idling shuttles that flooded the noisy airport pickup area. Just as we were about to give up, Omnia spotted him amongst the vehicular chaos. Moments later we were secure in the car as we began our adventure towards the busy streets of New York City.
Initially the ride was unremarkable. Our plane flight hadn’t been terribly long, but it was past midnight now on a weekday. I had been up early, worked the entire day, spent the whole evening traveling. I was feeling tired. The Uber driver began to rapidly and aggresively take us forward through a maze of busy crowded streets that fed into the city. He drove fast and furiously. In fact, everyone did! I realized I would hate driving in this city. Possibly even more than I hate driving in Chicago. I sunk down into my seat and gazed out the window at the fast paced and almost reckless traffic that was racing all around us.
Then the car took a sudden turn, and then it happened. Through the window I glimpsed an incredible view of the New York City skyline looming above us in the distance. This unexpected and magnificent sight immediately took my breath away. Brightly lit skyscrapers grew out of the horizon, stretching high into the night sky. Off in the distance, the city dominated the horizon, alive and glowing with energy! I had been expecting NYC to be another Chicago, but one glimpse had immediately told me that New York City was a very different place than Chicago. In fact, it was already clear that New York City was a very different place than anywhere else in the world! The lethargy from the United Flight instantly evaporated, and now I was sitting upright in my seat, staring out the window, eagerly trying to get better glimpses of the city.
As we continued down loud crowded busy roads, I began to feed off the energy around us. I had gone from exhausted to excited in a matter of minutes. By the time our Uber driver had gotten us safely to our hotel, I was giddy and overflowing with energy. I could tell NYC was already having the same effect on Omnia as well! We quickly got into our hotel and put our bags down, eager to hit the streets and experience the summer night! It was probably 1 AM, but we had finally arrived and neither one of us was ready to go to sleep! Not when there was a great big city to explore!
The first thing we decided to do was go visit an Irish pub nearby called McGee’s. McGee’s was no ordinary Irish Pub. Omnia and I were fans of the TV show How I Met Your Mother. There is a bar in the show called McClarens which apparently was based off this bar McGees, and so it seemed the perfect destination for our first night in NYC. As we walked the streets, I gradually became aware of how incredibly busy and bustling the streets of Manhattan truly were. It was the middle of the night, but we were constantly maneuvering through loud and busy crowds. The area around Times Square was so brightly lit with billboards and signs that I could have sworn it was day time.
“Why are people shopping right now?” Omnia asked. “It’s 1AM!”
And I realized she was right. Stores were open, people were shopping, everything was crowded and chaotic. Everyone was loud and excited. I suddenly understood why New York was called “The City that Never Sleeps”. But even knowing the nickname, I still had trouble understanding how the streets were this packed at 1 AM. It wasn’t even a weekend, it was a Thursday night!!
After an interesting and visually overwhelming walk through the Times Square area, we made it to our destination. The McGee’s bar wasn’t quite what I expected. I guess I had an unrealistic expectation that McGee’s would be an identical version of the McClarens bar in the show. But we relaxed and began to take in the great atmosphere of the place. Then weird things started to happen. I was talking with Omnia when big chunks of plaster broke off from the ceiling and started falling to the ground. Shocked, we both looked at the large piece of the ceiling had just crashed down to the floor, mere feet from where people were sitting at the bar. It was stunning, but most of the people around us seemed relatively un-phased. Maybe they were just too drunk to appreciate their near brush with death? Ok i might be exaggerating a little bit but still…
Shortly after that ceiling caved in on us, a fight broke out and then the bar almost completely emptied. It was almost 3:30 by this point, so Omnia and I decided that perhaps it was time to leave. But as we were getting ready to, the awesome bartender returned, explaining he had to take care of the out of town drunks. The bartender was really great, he made it clear that we were welcome and encouraged to stay longer, and he eagerly served us again. I would go back there again just for the awesome bartender! In fact we tried the next night, but that is a different story…
We left the bar at 4 AM, and the walk back to the hotel should have been easy but it took us way too long to get back. For one thing, our hotel seemed camoflaged and I think we walked right by it without noticing. For another, I was having issues with the GPS on my phone, and sometimes the locations that it would show us in made no sense. This GPS issue would become a running theme through the rest of the trip. In the process of finding our hotel, we walked through some considerably sketchy looking areas. More than once a fleeting thought would occur to me about how safe we were in this area at 4:30 AM. But even then I was still too excited about being in New York to really care. Eventually we made it back to our hotel safe and sound. Satisfied with our first night in the big apple, we hit the hay and set our alarms for tomorrow.