Do we travel to lose ourselves or to find ourselves?
In 2014, the year my father passed away, I took an out of the blue solo trip to New Orleans. It was enchanting, exciting, liberating and re-kindled deep in my soul the need for adventure and exploration in my life.
Last January (2017) my mother unexpectedly passed away. The past year was filled with lots of memories, tears, family, and travel back and forth to Washington state to settle out her estate. In October, another week of unplanned vacation stared at me from my planner, much as it had three years prior, and a little voice inside me whispered 'it's time', 'now', 'live'.
I grabbed my laptop and credit card and began exploring. When I came across airline tickets for just over $300 from Great Falls to New York I did a double take. What? You can hardly drive across the state of Montana for $300 let alone fly out of it for that, let alone go all the way to the EAST COAST. Siena beckoned, as did Paris, and I've always wanted to see Stockholm . . .I've never been to Hawaii. . . .but I felt this was a 'sign' (I'm a huge believer in signs). I booked the tickets. Seven days in New York City in Autumn, over my birthday, and Halloween! To complement the tickets I also booked a room at an Air BnB on the Upper East Side. The place was reviewed as extremely clean and safe with courteous yet private hosts in an area close to restaurants and shopping. Perfect.
I'd been to New York before, back in 1991, on a trip to the Garment/Fashion District with my college class. I had thus seen many of the tourist attractions and wanted this trip to be more about immersing myself in the city. I wanted to feel like I lived there, if only for a week. Picture morning walks in Central Park, coffee at a local coffee shop, museum hopping, shopping, more dining, and of course people watching.
New York City, with a population of around 8.5 million people in an area that is just over 304 square miles is a far cry from Montana with a population that recently broke 1 million and over 147k square miles of land.
After landing, a short Uber ride to Yorkville (the area of the Upper East Side which would be my home for the week) from LaGuardia, and getting settled into my room in a beautiful old brownstone walk-up I set off to see my neighborhood.
Juxtaposition: if I had to choose one word to describe NYC this would be it. It's evident everywhere and in everything. Skyscrapers soar 1776 feet in the air (One World Trade Center) and subway stations plunge you 180 feet below ground (eeek!) Tiny privately owned boutiques sit next to giant flagship department stores. The richest of the 'one percent' residing at one end of Park Avenue prove a sharp contrast to the neighborhoods in the Bronx which represent the poorest voting district in the US. Shiny new architecture stands next to classical buildings hundreds of years old. You see nearly every ethnicity here, and hear many languages and accents.
Every city has a beat, a feel, of its own. Some are soft and gentle, almost merely a sigh. Some cities hum with activity. New York just rolls. Twenty four hours a day something is happening everywhere you look. Tearing down, building up, moving, moving, trains and cars and people and more people, it's like a living organism unto itself. It is staggering when you look around and see what we have created. So much of everything, everywhere you look. Sitting on a bench in Central Park and ruminating life I realized that if just for a moment, I was a part of it all. part of this glorious mess. I may not be a 'New Yorker' but for that bit of time I was a part of New York.
You could spend a lifetime here and not do/see/eat all that is available, that is the glory of the world though I suppose. It is finite and infinite all at once.
One afternoon was spent wandering the New York Botanical Gardens. It is a magical place filled with lovelies from all around the world. What initially drew me was the Chihuly exhibit that was on display there.
You can quickly get to the Gardens from the Metro North out of Grand Central Terminal. Grand Central is a sight to see in itself. If you want to learn about the 'secrets' of GCT go to this site among many that reveal fascinating facts about this Beaux Arts beauty.