I must admit I wasn’t exactly captivated by New York on my first visit, well certainly not in the same way as Paris had me enthralled. It could have been that the expectation -built up so high from friends and acquaintances over the years all professing their grand love of the place and demanding that I simply go and fall similarly under its spell – just wasn’t able to possibly be met by reality. Although I dare say the fact that I had been run down by a motorbike in the street outside my apartment two days before jetting over, and subsequently being in quite a deal of pain and constantly popping pain medication, may have contributed to my lack of amazement.
Don’t get me wrong I am quite fond of the place. It looks, sounds and smells exactly how you’d expect from all the TV shows and films that have been set there over the years. There were oh so many things wonderful things to see and do. Walking the High Line, taking a harbour cruise all around Manhattan, seeing shows, trekking across the Brooklyn Bridge in hunt of the best pizza in the city. Not forgetting relaxing in Central Park, where one encounters many half naked and rather fit men glistening in the sun – it did help to be there in the peak of summer.
Speaking of boys there are a multitude of bars catering to gentlemen of a certain persuasion to be found in most areas of Manhattan. We had the most delightful time barhopping in Hell’s Kitchen, now a mostly gentrified area, with one of the highlights being the cowboy bar Flaming Saddles. Another favourite was The Cock in the East Village, with its talented and rather eager gogo boys ably dancing on the bar, and who get up to all manner of shenanigans after the addition of a few dollar bills into their jockstraps.
Then we had the pleasure of discovering all sorts of hidden gems, such as The Backroom – a delightful Speakeasy bar hidden away in a discreet alley, complete with cocktails in teacups. We were also fortunate enough to be there during the Fringe festival, which sated our theatrical urges. Seeing five performances would have bankrupted us had they all been Broadway shows.
One thing that did tend to grate on me, however, was the almost pathological need some of the inhabitants had of telling anyone who would listen – usually trapped tour groups – that theirs was ‘the best city in the world’. To which I cynically thought, that if this was indeed true then it should already be universally accepted and not needed to be expressed with such frequency, if at all.
There was also the matter of tipping. Living in a country that actually includes service in its bill – where one only tips if the service really merits it rather than being somewhat obligated each time – it was all a bit confronting at first. We soon adjusted and found ourselves leaving a rather generous 20%, but in all honestly the service was exceptional pretty much everywhere.
Overall, it is a magnificent vibrant city, full of all sorts of adventures and I would without doubt happily visit again – well we didn’t get to check Fire Island off our list after all.