Sunday, 28 September 2014

Sunday Summary Special: An Introvert in New York

This week, I have mostly been...

Returning from a trip of a lifetime

Having counted down the months, weeks, days and hours until my trip to New York, my expectations were notoriously high.

I'd spent the last six months filling a Pinterest pinboard and Evernote notes with places to visit and sights to see.

{via Pinterest}

I'd sat in coffee shops plotting out the minutiae of my week with the aid of these two little books:


I had guidebooks and maps lent to me, and recommendations given, by friends and family.

And for some time I was determined to retrace all those steps, see all those sights, shop all those shops.


Then, as the Big Trip drew closer, I decided to throw out those plans and demonstrate uncharacteristic spontaneity.

As a textbook introvert I need my plans. I need to know where I'm going, when, and how I'm going to get there (so I can be there early).

{via Pinterest}

Spontaneity does not come easily to me. For this week, I knew I had to at least try a different way of being.

{via Pinterest}

Of course I realised, on my first full day in New York City, that if I wanted to check off every sight I intended to see, then I needed an agenda.

Every day I'd plot out a route in the trusty Moleskine, with Foursquare and Google Maps for assistance, and for the most part keep to it, though it was actually great fun to get ever so slightly 'off track' and make an unexpected discovery!

I woke ridiculously early on my first morning with the urge to carpe diem, despite knowing that at some point I'd probably crash and burn with exhaustion.

But that didn't happen.

The adrenalin kicked in and, give or take the odd refuelling break, I was able to walk for miles. For hours. For days.

(And I was sleeping no more than about four or five hours a night…)

{via Pinterest}

When I sat down to write this post I had every intention of giving you, my lovely readers, a full, verbal and visual account of my time in New York City. It would have been an inevitable approach to take.

But this is the Sunday Summary, and by definition a Summary can’t comprise every element of a story. Besides, I don’t think I can encompass my trip in summary form anyway. Just too much to capture.

{Central Park, from the Top of the Rock}

When I told people I was off to New York, on my own, for a week, there was considerable surprise at this announcement. The good kind of surprise, of course.

I think most people’s surprise was borne of a combination of knowing me, and knowing that bobbing off across the world, on my own, to a strange, busy city, quite happily, was very un-me.

This is why I wanted to take this particular trip: to take a snapshot of myself, safe, homely, not very worldly, and extract that person from her comfort zone.

To go against that introvert groove and shake things up a bit. To prove to myself, let alone anyone else, that I could do this.

And tick off at least one item on the Bucket List.

Mission: Accomplished.

Speaking of lists, it occurred to me that the best way to give an overview of my week was in list form. So here they are: my Essential New York City Lists!

1) The Chrysler Building

2) The Guggenheim Museum

3) The Flat Iron Building

4) The Empire State Building

5) Grand Central Terminal


1) The Empire State Building

2) FAO Schwarz

{I'm embarrassed to admit I've been
misspelling 'Schwarz' for days...}

3) Sesame Street exhibit at NYPL Lincoln Center

4) Top of the Rock

5) Metro Grill @ Hotel Metro

...where Alex the barman served me two delectable Cosmopolitans, and I got chatting (quite tipsily after the second Cosmo) to another fellow single gal, Hannah, who took the above photo for me. We then went up to the roof to clock this view:

Not bad for a last hurrah to the city!

You may be wondering why there are no shots of me with suspicious-looking Cowboy Woody/Hello Kitty characters under this category.

Given the characters seemed to demand a tip (which was actually optional according to the NYPD placards!) for letting you pass through the area and maybe getting a blurry photo, I didn't think they warranted a mention!


1) Resto, 111 E 29th St | a wonderful, quiet breakfast of Belgian waffles with mascarpone, vanilla ice cream and grilled peaches (complete with maple syrup as standard, and a hipster milk bottle for the excellent coffee!)

2) Serendipity III, 225 E 60th St | ordered the Famous Frrrozen Hot Chocolate (as featured in the film One Fine Day)!

3) Pizza Vinoteca, 15 Union Square W | ordered the eggplant pizza (the first time I visited!) and the tiramisu gelato sandwich (!!) the second time.

Menus and order functions are on iPad but staff are still present and very kind and helpful!

4) Ellen's Stardust Diner, 1650 Broadway | the waiters are rather lovely, plus they sing (some in alarmingly beautiful falsetto)

For the record I had a very delicious quiche with salad, here, and my first cocktail of the trip -- a Sex and the City no less:

5) Hot dog stand at entrance to Central Park (at Central Park South, near FAO Schwarz) | no photo but v. nice hawt dawg.

1) Even when you're lost, you're not | The grid system, even downtown, is ludicrously easy to navigate, and the key landmarks are relatively close together.

2) Walk/Don't Walk | Everything Sesame Street taught me about NY street etiquette went out of the window. The new rule is, cross when you can. NY drivers are considerably less gung-ho than London drivers. Friends, I became a certified jay-walker in New York. Me! The girl who runs, screaming, across suburban roads: "I'M GOING TO DIE!" even on pedestrian crossings. The city changes ya.

(This new skill also came in handy in hailing a cab back to JFK. Yep, look at me, standin' in the middle of the street. Totally safe.)

3) The architecture takes your breath away | especially if, like me, you were born 70 years too late and should have been a flapper. Everything is tall but not too oppressive. The detail in the brick and metalwork, the views from up high -- it's all too beautiful.

{Entrance to the Chrysler Building}

4) It's a safe place for a single girl | I never felt unsafe walking round New York. Even in the quieter streets towards W30th when I was hunting out the High Line, or after my friend Jenny had caught the bus and I was walking the last ten blocks back to the hotel the first night of my trip. I walk with purpose, which helps, but everyone was minding their own business. I was surprised, but pleased by this.

Times Square was hairier, but even then, there was a significant NYPD presence. And nothing I owned went missing all week. (OK, so I left my wallet in Wetherspoons at Gatwick. But that was my error, no one else's!)

5) The steam really does rise from the streets | I thought that was down to creative licence in films and TV. It's not. It's really real!


1) There is a lot of begging and homelessness still visible in the city | and a culture of people 'performing', bringing their craft (puppetry, maybe, or dressing up like a Power Ranger in Times Square) to the streets, but not for the pleasure of it. Oh, no. Y'don't bring the pleasure and not demand the payment. You learn who to tip and who not to tip after a while.

2) Reliance on phones | I think this was a tourist's perspective, and anyone visiting London from elsewhere might spy the same thing but everywhere I went, so many people walked by (largely the women) glued to their phones. Even in company, in a group of friends, everyone was on their phones.

At some point don't people want to unplug and really see the city? To actually check in with someone in person rather than check in online?

But then we probably behave the same way here in London, as natives!

3) Tourists and their selfie sticks | They. Were. Everywhere. After three days I realised that my attempts at selfies were heinous, making me look very old, very tired and with a very, very long camera-takin' arm, and for a moment I was tempted to invest in one. But then I realised how daft they looked (and borderline pretentious and very tourist-y!) so I stuck to asking discerning strangers to take my photo.

Alas some of them hadn't quite mastered focus or flattering shooting angles, but the thought was there. And I always did my best when returning the favour!

4) Other people's altercations should not touch you | I'm not saying NYC is perfect and placid. There are still issues. People drink and fall over in the street in the middle of the day. People shout threats to each other, and there was a lot of 'cussing'. 

Yo, Potty Mouth, zip it up already.

But I met a young British lad, Ricky, outside Carrie Bradshaw's apartment building (which is on Perry Street, by the way) who said it's impossible to take people's isolated shouting and fights seriously here, because they seem unreal, as if they're happening on screen. It's a good way to distance yourself from a potentially scary situation!

5) Friendliness, acceptance of the singleton abroad | People were, for the most part*, lovely. The morning I 'lost' Broadway (because it runs diagonally and suddenly segues into Fifth Avenue or Sixth Avenue -- and it's also a flippin' epic street), a man immediately stepped over to ask if I needed help and pointed me in the right direction. People offered to take my photo. Restaurant staff didn't bat an eyelid at my requests for a table for one and didn't always put me straight at the counter!

It's a single girl's city (with some beautiful men waiting tables, I should mention).

* There was a rude little upstart girl near Wall Street who barked at me as I walked down Water Street:
"Uh, excuse me? Are you with the production?" 
Me: "No..."
"You can't walk here! You need to go around. ...Uh, Mia! I could use some help! Someone just walked through here!"
Uh, no, you need to do your job and block off the area to the public, little girl! But otherwise people were polite, and lovely, and helpful.


1) Choosing My Own Adventure | Some days into my trip, I reconciled myself with the fact that I couldn't do everything. So many people had made so many suggestions for things to do, places to go, sights to see... But I couldn't do it all. And I have to admit I didn't want to (I now have lots of reasons to return!).

I appreciated all the fantastic ideas, but when it came to it, I wasn't worried about attending galleries, cinema viewings or Broadway shows.

I braved Century 21 where I picked up a very nifty turquoise cloche, but that was it. I'm not a big shopper (except for hats, books and stationery and even then...).

I needed to strut, Travolta-style, and just see places. The weather was so beautiful all week that I couldn't justify being indoors for long, or, indeed, taking the subway when I have two functioning legs!

So I chose my own routes, my own landmarks and sights. In the words of those delightful multiple choice novellas of the 1970s and 80s, I chose my own adventure. My own New York.

2) Architecture

I had no idea how much I loved it until NYC.

I tried taking more photos of people after a suggestion from a friend, but it was the buildings that grabbed me (especially at night -- I've had a thing for the Manhattan skyline since I was a teenager).

3) Selfie culture

Maybe it would have been easier for me to take an album full of I woz 'ere selfies. But part of the adventure, of the challenge to this little Introvert in New York, was to put myself out there and speak to people. So while I did attempt a selfie once or twice:

{Just... NO}
they were something of a #fail; besides, I was more gratified by asking other human-people-beings to take my photo.

And they were always happy to oblige, regardless of the quality of the outcome.

4) The Library | aka the introvert's sanctuary

A moment of silence in the city. I spent more time than was probably necessary in the NYPL, catching up with email (great free wifi there, fyi, and charging docks in many of the reading rooms), checking in on FB with the nearest and dearest, plotting my next route, writing up my diary or just being quiet. It's a beautiful building and I was extremely grateful for its 'otherworldliness'.

5) 9/11 Memorial

I had no idea how emotional the memorial would be until I found myself walking around the fountains in tears.

And that's all I'll say about that.

REGRETS (I have but two and they are tiny!)

...I packed too much that I didn't need!

..I didn't have ID on me when I tried to get into the Standard rooftop bar following my High Line walk.

Rookie error.

In summary?

I had an amazing trip. It exceeded all my expectations.

And I came back feeling different, buoyant and empowered; enlightened, ever so slightly more worldly, and slightly less introvert.

Which is nice.


  1. What an incredible Sunday Summary - so many elements here that not only gives great tips to people wanting to do the same thing as a single gal, but I love the little details. The steam in the streets, really? that's real - awesome! the calorific waffle breakfast (my waistline would scream at that) looked de-vine! You give a fabulous overview of the atmosphere, the people on phones, the hussle, the shouting in the streets like in every movie I've ever seen, the NYPD, grid systems and that fact that they do really ask for ID - love it thanks so much for sharing your experience. Where to next Quirky Bee?

    1. I'm torn between two 'lins, Mountain Girl – either Dublin or Berlin. Though, swaying towards Ireland purely because of that beautiful red-headed Irish waiter…