I’m pretty sure it was Home Alone 2: Lost in New York that first spiked my fascination with the metropolitan city. I loved the hustle and bustle and the mecca of buildings. I remember seeing The Plaza Hotel and Duncan’s Toy Chest thinking that New York was all glamour and fun.
When I was a pre-teen, I discovered what was to be my favorite movie of all time: When Harry Met Sally. To this day, it is my favorite movie, and I can embarrassingly quote the entire thing for your audible pleasure. And over the years, I have fallen for other shows and films that show New York City in such a idealized and perfect light like Friends, Sex and the City, Seinfeld, You’ve Got Mail, Elf…the list goes on.
Now that we’ve settled back in the U.S., we are taking a greater interest in exploring our own backyard. Once 2016 wrapped up and flight prices calmed down, I hopped on a plane to visit my sister and explore New York in a day. We traveled from New Haven via the train and arrived in Grand Central Station just two hours later. Already, I was imagining the common commutes from 1960s, Mad Men era, workers as we passed the Connecticut wharfs and New York suburbs.
Grand Central Station is massive. For those of you who know New York inside and out, you must pardon me. All of these experiences in the chrome jungle were completely new to me, and I was wide-eyed and embarrassingly camera ready.
Now back to Grand Central Station. There were so many levels complete with trains, food, and stars. Looking straight up, you are faced with constellations and blinking lights. There are many stories as to why it’s the night sky, but I was more fascinated in the history of the careless rocket damage the ceiling sustained when they tried to stand the Mercury mission rocket inside the terminal.
After staring at the massive space for a bit, we loaded up our MetroCards and made our way to Bleecker Street. I had some bucket list items to check off, and I was determined to have what she had.
Through graffiti-tagged buildings and massive construction detours, we found Katz’s Delicatessen. I felt like we were tossed into a time capsule because most of the quirky restaurant seemed not updated but rather kept in its 1980s charm. There are a handful of lines that have a “Cutter” sign above where you go and hand over your pink ticket and ask for your sandwich of choice. Ranging from $18 to $20 per plate, I threw caution to the wind and said, “Pastrami on Rye.” Why mess with tradition, right?
Our Cutter flashed his light green eyes and smiled as he gave us a sample of the succulent meat, and he chopped away like he had been doing this all his life. We got our sandwich, our Katz’s Deli seltzer water, and sat at the table just behind the famous When Harry Met Sally table. A sign points down to where Harry met Sally, but unfortunately, another family had beat us to the spot.
I waited patiently as I watched them finish up so my sister could grab an embarrassing picture of me sitting where she sat, and my bucket list tick box was checked. We finished our sandwich, and off we went to our next New York City destination (by way of a delicious gluten-free brownie at Little Cupcake Bakeshop around the corner).
Back on the subway, we made our way further south to the new One World Trade Center building. Since we only had a day to roam the metropolis, we didn’t go inside the museum, but it is on my list for my return visit.
The new building by way of the gorgeous oculus, was stunning. At 1,792 feet tall, it’s the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. It was dizzying to look straight up, but it was truly beautiful. Then, with the two, side-by-side memorials adjacent to the tower, the grounds were breathtaking and heartbreaking.
The fountains were surrounded by a black border with the names of the fallen engraved, and every now and then, a white rose obscured the stone. Only one of the fountains was on, and we got to see the deep well that once represented the former Twin Towers.
We made our way back up north to Central Park by way of the Dakota Building where John Lennon was shot and killed in 1980. Just across the street and thoroughfare was a large mosaic design with IMAGINE in its center marking Strawberry Fields. A busker sang a beautiful rendition of Here Comes the Sun as we walked around, and I was humming the tune the rest of the day.
Meandering through the gorgeous Central Park, we stumbled upon the Alice and Wonderland statue. As I waited to take some pictures, I flashed back to finding the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens in London, but also reflected that so many of these massive cities like London or Tokyo, have a dedicated green space that is protected and sacred, and I was actually wondering if New York would ever yield to the real estate need and destroy the grounds.
The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art) wasn’t far, so it was a no-brainer to stumble inside to see the famous space. It is a suggested donation of $25 to get in, but a single dollar is enough to get a sticker and roam the halls. My sister had a very specific place to take me, though. In When Harry Met Sally, there is a scene where Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal are chatting about a comic strip character named Sphynxy. Well, that room in the stunning museum is at the Met, and I got to see it in the flesh. I was geeking out over my favorite movie, and I did not care.
We spent another hour walking in the beautiful halls and found the massive George Washington Crossing the Delaware, as well as other works that caught my eye like Tiffany glass installations, the ancient Book of the Dead, The Five Points painting depicting a famous neighborhood within New York.
I do believe that The Met needs to be a designated day trip to appreciate the magnitude of what you’re seeing not unlike the British Museum or Louvre, so while I’m glad I went, I know I will have to go back.
Our next stop on the When Harry Met Sally fandom tour was Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore. On 69th and Lexington, the storefront was much smaller than what was depicted in the 80s. Today, it’s barely a single room with a half-empty basement. Many books I was imagining purchasing were not on the walls, but it may be due to their famous Espresso Book Machine where you can print any book (okay, almost any book) you want, including your own work! I was fascinated by this process, but disenfranchised by the lack of 1980s glory.
As the sun set on our day in New York, we raced to the main reason for this whole trip: the famous Rockefeller Tree. When I planning this trip, I looked up when the tree would be taken down, and when I saw it stayed up until January 7th, I knew this was my chance to see New York in its pure Christmas glory without the insanity of before-Christmas and New Year’s madness. The time to go is definitely post-holidays because as we turned the corner of 49th street, I could hear the unmistakable soundtrack to Home Alone 2. I lit up like the famous tree inside, and my pace quickened.
And just like Ralphie in A Chrismas Story, I saw that the thing I wanted the most was right in front of me. Not the rifle, but the famous, Norwegian Spruce that is the model for all Christmas trees.
My eyes searched everything from the skaters in the ice rink below to the gold statue at the foot of the glorious Rockefeller building, but my eyes rarely strayed from the blue, white, green, and red lights that dotted the 94 foot tall tree.
When we walked down toward Saks Fifth Avenue to get the perfect shot of the white angels and storefronts, we heard the Home Alone 2 music coming from the famous department store. And then, within seconds, the light display erupted into a finale of lights, designs, and fun. I don’t think it could have been a better way to see and experience Christmas in New York City. I aimed my camera to take my last picture of the gorgeous tree that seemed so unreal to me for all my life, and then, my camera died.
While this entry was not so much a Things to do in New York City story but more than a My Bucket List blog, I just had to share my childlike fun of not caring what people thought of my incessant picture taking and complete fandom of idyllic New York movies. I cannot imagine a better way to bring in my thirtieth year and 2017.
Thank you, New York!