Living in a city is very different from visiting as a tourist. Tourists see the famous and crowded sites, they do as much as possible in a day and they have the luxury of avoiding their day-to-day life while traveling. I’ve spent the majority of my life living in two cities that are often tourist destinations for Americans and foreigners alike: Boston and New York City. So while I know these cities quite well, hosting visitors always seems to highlight that in fact I know quite little about what makes these places special enough to attract tourists. Being a tourist may seem cheesy and forced, but playing tourist can make you aware of how visitors perceive the place you call home!
This weekend I had the time to host my dad and his girlfriend, Linda, in NYC. They are quite low maintenance, but of course I wanted to show them a great time and make them appreciate all that NYC has to offer. The weather on Saturday didn’t cooporate, but we got to spend a fair amount of time walking around and exploring some stores that are uniquely New York. Take Kalustian’s for example. This specialty food store sells every imaginable spice from all corners of the earth. Linda had been searching back home for za’atar, a Middle Eastern herb necessary for a recipe she was dying to try. Not only did they have it, but they had FOUR varieties: Jordanian, Israeli, Syrian and Lebanese! We had no idea which to pick, but just the sheer volume of choice is something that NY’ers can take for granted but visitors can truly appreciate.
Saturday night was spent enjoying a fantastic seafood dinner at City Lobster in Rockefeller Center followed by a stroll through Times Square. Usually I avoid Times Square like the plague, but I actually had a lot of fun in the Hershey store and playing on the huge, interactive Forever 21 billboard. Throngs of onlookers had their eyes fixed to the screen just waiting to see themselves on a billboard in Times Square. I soon found myself waving to myself up there along with everyone else!
Attempting to break out of our Sunday routine of “sleeping in then getting lobster rolls”, we opted for a family brunch in SoHo followed by a walk on the High Line. First off, brunch at Cercle Rouge did not disappoint and had a very NY feel for a French bistro. Being a family place (at least for brunch), the restaurant employs a clown to walk from table to table making balloon animals for the kids and performing magic tricks for all. The clown was a wonder with all of the kids in the restaurant, both helping both the children and their parents enjoy brunch. What a fantastic idea! Later that evening, Dave looked for a balloon animal making class in the city, and sure enough found one for free once per month – who wants to come with me?!
Next stop the High Line. The High Line is a much publicized newly built park that runs along the West side of Manhattan. Unlike any other park in the city, it is actually built on an old, elevated railroad track! Being a few stories up affords you a glimpse of the Hudson River and nearby New Jersey, but more importantly it gives the unique perspective of walking among the buildings. The first section of the park (from the Meatpacking District to 20th street) opened in 2009, but the segment from 20th street up to 30th street just opened this year. I really don’t have an excuse at all for not visiting it since it opened other than, well, something else always seems to come up and I’d heard it was always SUPER crowded. The day was beautiful though and we had to take advantage before 3 feet of snow-covered the park and removed any desire to go outside. We started in Meatpacking, just south of the Standard Hotel. The path is wider at this end and its easier to see the water. The park itself is extremely well done and the construction mimics the feel of an old railroad, complete with the cement path often yielding to long grasses like those you’d find on any abandoned stretch of land. There are plenty of benches and lounge chairs, carefully positioned to take advantage of various vantage points. At 30th St, the park abruptly ends but the elevated platform does not. There are already plans in the works to extend the park North to the Javits Center and Eastward along the remainder of the elevated platform.
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