The exploration commenced early the next morning. We fueled up on some coffee at a nearby cafe in Brooklyn by the name of Tar Pit. Funish Fact; the original singer of one of my favorite songs, “Sonsick” by San Fermin, actually works there! Yeah, I totally found her page on Instagram & realized she’s a barista there so I thought I’d check it out in hopes to meet her. She wasn’t working that day sadly, but I had an eggnog latte & it was delicious so I was satisfied either way.
The tricky part came next when we were figuring out the transportation methods for the week. We didn’t exactly feel like paying at least $50 for a cab every day so ultimately the $30 weekly Metro card was our go-to. Besides, it’s not the real I❤NY experience without seeing a subway rat the size of a possum lurking throughout the dark, underground tunnels that reek of urine. Now this isn’t to speak completely ill of subways. I experienced my very own “movie moment” on one as a matter of fact… but that’s a different story.
Our Airbnb was conveniently located about two blocks away from the L Train tunnel headed to 14 Street. That route took us directly into the city just a little ways away from Times Square. Of course, figuring out the routes didn’t come easy- we’re from southern California after all, where the main form of transportation is by car & using countless freeways. Plus, growing up in a generation that uses the internet as their primary source of direction thanks to the GPS -reading maps was just about as simple as understanding hieroglyphics. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but it definitely was confusing to say the least. I remember our first stop well. We were coming up the stairs of a subway pit to be exposed to the city for the first time. Skyscrapers everywhere like one would expect. It wasn’t long before we saw the Empire State Building in the distance. “oh my god. I think that’s the Empire State Building??” I said to Nicolette in slight disbelief. We both laughed. I think that was the moment it actually hit us that we were in New York.
We took about 12 different subways before we ended up in our first destination of choice; Central Park.
Do you ever imagine a place for exactly as it appears to be when you finally witness it in person? Seldom do our expectations correlate with reality, but just some times they do. When we explored Central Park this is exactly what took place for me. To my surprise, the unforgiving wintery cold that is December managed to spare the green grass throughout the park. There were trees EVERYWHERE. And boulders. And lakes. And lamp poles. And statues. And just about everything else you usually see in the movies set here. The other thing that surprised me was how huge the park was. I’m talking we couldn’t even walk around the whole place with several hours of time, huge. There were several baseball fields, and ice skating rinks within the area. There was even a castle! But I’ll get to that. Nikki & I decided to split at this point in the day. She wanted to check out a near museum which I had no interest in seeing. (I swear she’ll never forgive me for not visiting the MoMA hahaha)
I decided to explore more of the park & attempt to take some “candid” selfies via iphone camera timer. It was nice strolling the park. I saw so many people bundled in their peacoats and scarves walking throughout the trails. For a bit I just sat there & soaked up the moment. I tend to wander alone a lot. Most may find this a bit strange but to me it’s therapeutic. I love watching strangers going about their day. I love imagining what their life is like and why it is they are probably here. Especially in an unfamiliar setting like the one I was in. One of the greatest cities in the world and we were in it for reasons unknown. Maybe for some, a dream trip come true. Possibly for others, just their lunchtime getaway from the nearby office. At one point, I saw a man propose to his girlfriend there. Easily one of the most romantic settings I’d seen yet. Maybe because of this fantasy I conjured of one day being with my significant other on a wintery afternoon much like that one, & riding through the park in one of their infamous horse-drawn carriages. (A bit silly of me I confess, but what can I say? I’m a professional day dreamer.) I developed some mixed feelings about the horse-drawn carriages when I saw them in person. I was actually looking forward to riding in one but as soon as I witnessed the horses strapped up to these carts, surrounded by people & even cars when they went in the streets, I couldn’t help but imagine how miserable they probably were. There’s something about an animal’s lack of freedom in these kinds of enslaved conditions that always makes me so compelled to be against them. Especially when they are horses… animals meant to roam free. But I digress.
Several hours passed & Nicolette & I met up at the nearest Starbucks. I needed my coffee fix & wifi. Then we explored that castle I mentioned earlier. It wasn’t much of a castle like one might imagine, but the name fit. There were several levels to its structure & we went to the way top to get a good view of the city. We weren’t there long. By this time the sun was going down & we wanted to get the experience of ice skating in New York at night, so we made our way over to one of the park’s rinks. I mentioned this earlier, Central Park is huge. So the walk was of course long & by the time we got there it was completely dark. Perfect.
It was my first time ice skating so I was as equally excited as I was nervous. I mean talk about go big or go home… I was about to experience ice skating for the first time in freaking NYC where I imagined one of two things happening; 1. I actually do it well. It will begin to snow. The atmosphere reaches peak “Christmas cheer” & so do I or 2. I actually am incapable of ice skating because I’m Celena & I’m prone to clumsy instances like tripping & injuring myself in front of the public. Fortunately, the latter didn’t happen. Not more than once at least.
I’m a bit fuzzy on the rules of the venue but I’m pretty sure the routine was something like 45 minute intervals of skating with 15 minute breaks so that the Zamboni could repave the ice. We only stayed for one session.
It began to snow as we were leaving the park. The walk was too beautiful. You can probably picture how I reacted to getting to walk through an enchanting park as it was snowing. Excited is an understatement. We were on our way to see some more of The City That Never Sleeps.
Fortunately, the name held true… especially for our next destination. We were about 10 minutes away from Times Square by foot & the city was ALIVE. The buildings all started to look the same after a while & the excessive honking was barely noticeable. Oh yeah, that’s not just a movie myth, New Yorkers seriously have no remorse for their horns.
Our surroundings seemed to be getting brighter & the crowds, more excessive. It wasn’t long before we started seeing the marquees & commercial big screens. The bright yellow banner for “The Lion King on Broadway” lit up on several displays. Food vendors at nearly every corner. Yup, we were approaching the most famous intersection in Midtown Manhattan alright. We were consumed by a sea of colors & lights. My eyes were hungry for the Ball that would announce the transition to a new year when suddenly, I saw the faint numbers “2016” in the distance at the tower’s peak.
I couldn’t believe it. I was laying eyes on one of the things millions of people would be watching from their TV screens in a few days time. I really wanted to experience the essence of Times Square that night. I didn’t plan on actually being there for New Year’s Eve to wait for the countdown. Now, call me crazy but I wasn’t exactly down for lining up at about 11AM, standing in the same spot for hours upon hours to endure the freezing cold in a crowded space while probably being hungry & needing occasional bathroom breaks just for the sake of saying I was in Times Square to watch the ball drop. I mean I was there, just not there there. And you know what, it was my favorite New Year’s Eve yet, for several reasons… but I’ll get to that. I’m not saying I’ll always have this mindset, but I wanted to make sure I enjoyed my first time in the city. Maybe one day I’ll be up to the challenge -who knows »
Our night in the city ended with falafel sandwiches at the top of this building with a super neat view of the street. It had been an eventful day for sure but there was still so much to do & see. We were exhausted though so it only seemed appropriate to take the L train back to our temporary home in Brooklyn & yup, you guessed it… we went to a bar instead of going to bed. Sleep is for the weak. I should mention, I just turned 21 so finally legal. To my surprise that wasn’t a problem. I swear they wouldn’t have carded me anywhere. Nicolette also being an newly eager, 21 year old had encouraged me to go with her, so I did of course. I actually fell asleep in the bar that night which served as a signal that it was time to finally go home.
Day 2 was on its way.