Travel Writing Awards Entry

By Jo-Anne Meichtry

At the age of 35 I have recently paid my first visit to the USA – New York to be exact.  It has been a country that I have been interested in visiting in the past but the so-called nature of the Americans and the way they have been stereotyped to us Brits has put me off.  When I was recently offered a trip to New York however I jumped at the chance – admittedly with shopping being at the fore-front of my mind – oh how wrong I was to think that this was all New York City had to offer.

4 girls aged 20 something to 30 something hit the road at 5am on a dull Thursday in April.  Arriving at JFK after some 10 hours later we were welcomed by glorious sunshine and warmth.  Making our way out of the terminal we headed to the cab queue for my first taste of a NYC yellow cab ride!

The ride wasn’t as hairy as I had expected, possibly due to the amount of traffic on the roads.  I was fascinated by the looming skyline and couldn’t get enough of the views as we drove through the suburbs towards Manhattan.

We were dropped at our hotel and tipped our cab driver – a custom that I was not used to but to which I very soon became accustomed.  I am not a tight Brit by any means, I certainly don’t have any qualms about paying for good service and always leave good tips in restaurants however, for some reason, I found it embarrassing to tip every person that did anything for me to begin with – this really isn’t the “British” way but, when in Rome…..I very soon got used to it.

Wanting to make the most of our limited time we headed straight out and stumbled upon the Rockefeller Centre and decided to go to the “Top of The Rock” there and then.  Wow – what a lift, what an experience and what sites! 

This was what I had been led to believe that New York was all about.  The view was just amazing – the whole of the city in panoramic.  Fabulous and something that I will never forget.  We took photos galore and have since bored our friends and family to death with naming all the prominent sites and buildings that are viewable.  This really was the top of the World.

It has to be said – if you don’t like noise, don’t go to New York.  The beeping of the yellow cabs is something that you can never escape and continues day and all through the night.  What I failed to understand however is just why the cab drivers found it so necessary to constantly beep their horns – when you’re in traffic that aint moving, no matter how loud you holler – you aint moving!!!

We couldn‘t have a trip to New York and not shop.  We paid our respects to the top stores, Bloomies, Macys, Nike Town, Toys ‘R’ Us, The Disney Store, Abercrombie and of course the most famous of all Tiffany‘s.  Being most keen on jewellery this was my personal favourite.  There wasn’t anything in any of the stores that sets them apart from shopping in any other city in the World, only the fact that everything is certainly on a much larger scale and of course, with the British Pound being very strong against the Dollar at the moment, some extremely good bargains are to be had.

One of our most exciting experiences had to be when we “rode the subway”.  To quash popular belief, this is by far a much safer and much more pleasant experience than the London Underground.  People actually acknowledge you on the subway, could quite possibly have had something to do with our English accents but even so, people were generally very pleasant and not only made the dreaded eye contact but even went so far as to offer a smile!!!

Of course we viewed all the main sites and scenes that New York had to offer including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Chinatown, Greenwich Village, the list goes on but I do have to make special reference to Ground Zero and Central Park. 

People had described the eeriness of Ground Zero and I couldn’t imagine this until I had witnessed it for myself.  Although work has now commenced on the site there is still a very definite silence and an indescribable feeling surrounding the area.  The impact of 9/11 certainly shook the World and I don’t believe that any New Yorker, young or old will ever forget.

Central Park – possibly one of the most stunning parks in the World – albeit man made.  The undulating landscape, the boating lake, the Audrey Hepburn Carousel, the John Lennon memorial, the Bronx Zoo, the Friends Fountain……..and many more.  Enjoyed by New Yorkers and the millions of visitors each year alike.  With the trees in blossom it is beautiful and amazingly you completely forget that you are in a busy metropolis.  With so much to see and discover you could never fail to grow tired of being in Central Park.

In fact, I think it would be quite difficult to tire of New York as a whole.  It is by no means as glitzy or glamorous as Las Vegas, the architecture, although stunning is not swamped in History like the European Cities that we all enjoy but, New York certainly has more than a little to offer.  Maybe it’s not actually the city at all but all the people that colour the streets day in day out and of course, its own inhabitants after all, a great atmosphere can be created in a cardboard box if you fill it with the right mix of personalities.

So, in answer to my original question – New York City – I love it!