New York City – Day One

So I’ve got to admit – this whole family holiday thing is a new, strange deal for me. Not that this trip to NYC is the first one or anything, but it is certainly the most destination-y one so far. You see, prior to actually being part of a family unit, all my travels have been taken up by activism, and hanging out. Which means that the New York I got to know ten years ago is a blur of lower east-side housing co-ops, activist gathering spaces and bars. Ditto DC. Ditto Seattle. Ditto pretty much every major city I’ve been to. Because I go to hang out with friends and that means I’m with people who know their cities and they wouldn’t be bothered to show me the tourist things right? Right.

This has its own cachet, of course, because you get to pretend that you aren’t just another tourist. But it also means that you never do the stuff that you might secretly want to do. Like ride bikes in Central Park or whatever. The family trip is another matter entirely, because if you don’t do the things everyone else does, your kid will think the whole episode is a major fail. And that’s great for me, because it’s forced me out of my “I’m too cool” box and we have a whole tourist itinerary for our five days in NYC.

For example today we:

  • Started out towards the High Line and along the way stumbled onto Left Bank Books which has a small but incredible selection of first and signed edition literary editions (lots of beats, and lot of contemporaries too) and a very friendly clerk. He gave us a copy of “Reading Hot Spots” – a tourist map of NYC with bookstore and library destinations marked on it. Awesome!
  • Strolled the High Line which has been constructed since my last trip here and is a work in progress. This is definitely one of the coolest parks/urban spaces I have seen – the reuse of an old train line which ran over the city into an elevated park. All native planted, and with some location-specific art and seating that is worth a look at for examples of what decent integrated design looks like. (As I type this I note that there has been a quiet proposal to turn the old Port Mann bridge into a park. From what I saw today – totally! Do it! Not only will locals love it but it will be a major tourism focal point.)
  • Dropped down from the High Line mid-way to stroll the Chelsea Market and have lunch. Also a redesigned space – a former biscuit factory which was launched in the 1890s – it now features market shops, restaurants, artisan clothiers and other odds and ends.
  • From there we walked the rest of the High Line and then took the subway up to Central Park where we rented sketchy bikes for cheap off a crew of Jamaican hustlers (not the official bike rental place that’s for sure) and rode the entire perimeter of the park (about 10 km), stopping off at park highlights and watching a brief acrobatics show along the way. Then we ate ice cream before heading back to Queens to get groceries for dinner.

All in all? A great day full of stuff – though my feet are a tad sore now from all the walking and biking and standing on the subway we did. And for tomorrow we’ve got a whole new set of plans to make.

Check out all my photos from today (well the decent ones anyhow) at my Flickr collection.

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