The NYC I Remember

WTC

In observance of the horrific event that took place 12 years ago today, Gothamist compiled a gallery of photos of the Twin Towers. Most were taken from the 1970s and 80s.

While looking through them, I was struck not only by how iconic and imposing those towers were, but how much those images brought me back to my youth. This was the Manhattan skyline I grew up seeing, and the one that encompassed all the exciting possibilities in the borough I dreamed of living in.

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(Photo by Steven Siegel via Gothamist)

On Solo Travel

Over drinks last week, two of my girlfriends and I were discussing a travel phenomenon that we’d just recently noticed:В When you tell people where you’re going on vacation, the first thing they’ll ask is not, “What will you be doing there?” or “How did you decide on that place?” But “Who are you going with?”

Though I’m sure I’ve been guilty of that, myself, it strikes me as so odd! That instead of inquiring about the amazing experiences lying ahead—the restaurants you’ll eat at, the trails you’ll hike, the neighborhoods you’ll explore—most people first want to know who you’ll be with.

I suppose I’m especially attuned to this now, with my fall trip just a few weeks away. Because when I tell people I’m going to Buenos Aires by myself, unless they know me well or have traveled alone, themselves, their reactions tend to be similar: They look impressed. They look surprised. And sometimes, they look like they feel a little sorry for me.

To be completely honest, my solo trips haven’t stemmed from a burning desire to travel alone. It’s more that I have insatiable wanderlust—and if no one is available to join me when I’m ready to go somewhere, I’d much rather head out on my own than miss an opportunity to travel.

Last year, I took my first solo trip in six years. While I was considering it, I was a little nervous about traveling on my own, again. I wondered if I’d get bored and lonely being on my own for so many days. And I worried about my safety in a country with a high murder rate and a dubious public transportation record. Deciding to study Spanish through a school assuaged those fears. I knew I’d definitely meet people to spend time with, when I wanted company. And I’d have plenty of time to be on my own, as well.

I ended up having an amazing time. I met lots of smart, interesting people, climbed a volcano, ate mountains of tortillas, immersed myself in Guatemalan culture and history—and improved my Spanish a ton, too! And I relearned an important lesson I’d forgotten from my first solo travel experiences: That traveling alone is quite a luxury.

Because you can do whatever you want.

You can sleep as late as you choose, go to whatever restaurant you desire (even if it’s the same one a few nights in a row), hit whatever museum looks appealing, and then leave after a few minutes when you realize you’d rather not waste a sunny day inside. As a college kid, I got my first taste of doing things on my own: I went to anВ Australian music festival alone, and spent long days wandering around hip Sydney neighborhoods. On my last pre-Guatemala solo trip, when I was 23, I hit up Lan Kwai Fong bars by myself, and spent one night doing nothing but relaxing and staring out at the Hong Kong skyline for hours.

Those are the kinds of things I’m looking forward to doing in Buenos Aires. I’m excited to rent a studio apartment that’ll serve as my home base, and take my first ballet classes in Spanish. I’m eager to explore different neighborhoods and find a cute cafe where I can get coffee and medialunas every morning. I’ve found a few restaurants I want to try, and I’m seeking places to tango.

None of those activities are all that different from what I do every day in NYC—usually on my own, as well.

Earlier today, Peter sent me this.gif"http://nycexpeditionist.com/img/2013/09/4ngb7yr.gif">iguazu falls

That’s all I want to hear when I tell people about my upcoming trip—no awkward looks of surprise or awe or pity. Just excitement.

(Image via Reddit)

NYC Beach Day: Rockaway

For the past week, I’d kept my eye on Sunday’s weather. Each day, the forecast was holding steady at 80 degrees and sunny, and I figured it could be my last chance to hit the beach.

So I was thrilled, this morning, when I woke up to clear blue skies and sunshine. Even though I’d accidentally slept in (something I rarely do!) and wouldn’t get to the beach until nearly 1:30 p.m., I figured it would be worth it.

Rockaway is probably the nicest beach in the five boroughs. (Though, to be honest, that’s not saying much.) But it’s a trek for me—nearly two hours on the A train. I get on at one of the first stops in Manhattan and ride it through my entire borough, all of Brooklyn, and then, finally Queens.

By the time I arrive, I’m more than ready to get my toes in the sand. It helps that the stops near the shore are preceded by a “B”—for beach, of course. That always makes me smile.

b 90 street

I stopped byВ Rockaway Taco for an order of fish tacos, to go. Like me, they’re also in denial about the end of summer—until the end of the month.

summer's still here

I’m glad that the taco stand came back, this summer, and that Rockaway seems to be recovering, post-Sandy. Some houses near the water are still under construction, and portions of the boardwalk are being rebuilt. But the open concession stands and bathrooms along parts of the beach have allowed people to patronize the area all season long—which, hopefully, has helped the local economy, a bit.

we've some a long way

I got onto the beach on 95th Street and walked east until I found a decently empty, quiet spot.

rockaway beach

Then I happily tore into my fish tacos.

rockaway tacos

As I was eating, I realized I’d settled in a surfing section. Everyone around me had a board and everyone in the water was on one. (In fact, an NYC Parks department vehicle drove by about once an hour, telling non-surfers to get out of the water. I suppose the don’t want to worry about swimmers getting whacked by surfboards!)

rockaway surfersWatching the surfers made me want to learn how to do so. For most of my life, I’d been oblivious to the sport—I didn’t know any surfers, growing up, and it was something I associated with the west coast. But last year, when I was in Bocas del Toro,В Panama, I wanted to be one of the surfers who spent all day out in the middle of the ocean—they’d drag their boards into the little water taxis, then jump out when they saw a good spot. I realized that there’s a grace to riding the waves, which is appealing to me. Plus, as someone who’s afraid of the ocean (surprise—I’m a total beach girl who almost never goes into the water), I’m envious of the fearlessness surfers seem to possess!

rockaway surfers

Maybe I’ll add surfing to my list of goals…rockaway surferAnd speaking of surfing—I still find it odd that Rockaway has become the go-to beach for surfers, hipsters and twentysomethings! When I was growing up, “the Rockaways,” as we called it, was just a working class neighborhood on the edge of Queens.

I’d been to the boardwalk once or twice, back when the Parks department ran the concession stands (no saltenas or frozen bananas then!) and the sunbathers were all locals. At the time, the only beaches I’d been to were on Long Island and the Jersey shore, so I was surprised that one existed in my own borough.

I hadn’t realized how close the beach was to JFK, either—and that’s proven to be a nice surprise, this summer. As you’re lying on the beach, you’ll see dozens of planes flying overhead, so close that you can identify the airline—Virgin, Quantas, Delta, United.
plane over rockaway

Something about that just makes me happy. All those planes remind me of great trips I’ve been on, and ones I’ve yet to take. And I imagine that the airplanes are full of excited people going on vacation, or coming back with good memories from ones they’ve just taken.

airplane

airplane over rockaway

If there’s another warm, gorgeous weekend, this year, there’s a good chance I’ll be back in the Rockaways. For me, it’s worth the four hour, round-trip subway ride!

Subway Kitties Have a (Temporary) Home

Okay, this is really just an excuse to post cute cat photos—but there’s a legit NYC angle!

Last week, while I was sunning myself on the beach two kittens were spotted on the B/Q tracks near theВ Church Avenue stop in Brooklyn.

subway kitten

And then—in what I think was a pretty astounding move—the MTA shut down power to large swaths of the two lines as workers tried to catch the kitties. After an hour and a half of futile attempts, the MTA restored service to both lines. They eventuallyВ rounded up the catsВ later in the evening.

subway kitties 2

In the days that followed, numerousВ mayoral candidates weighed in on whether they would have shut the subway for the kitties. (Quinn, Thompson, Weiner, Catsimatidis, McDonald [who?]: Yes. Former MTA boss Lhota: No.)

And the cats, named August and Arthur, found themselves in comfy new digs. Bushwick resident Steven Liu, who regularly fosters cats, has taken them in.В Liu posted some photos of them on his Tumblr,В Scratching Pad, and they’re too cute!

subway kitties 3

subway kitties 4

subway kitties 5

(Top two photos by Marc A. Hermann/MTA via the Daily News; bottom three photos via Scratching Pad)

So Long, Summer

ocean city lifeguard stand

My favorite season always comes and goes so quickly. But this summer flew by especially fast.

Now that I’m already looking forward to future summers, I’ve come up with two goals:

  • Buy a beach house.
  • Re-learn how to drive. (To get myself to said beach house.)

Obviously, both goals won’t happen overnight. Especially the first one. But they’re doable!

Here’s the logic behind both:

Mal, Peter and I decided that we want to buy our own beach house in five years, or so. It would prevent us from dealing with the nutty summer rental market. And it would take me eons to save for a decent-sized apartment, here in NYC. So it makes sense to look for a house in an area where my money would go a lot further. And as much as I love NYC more than any place on Earth, even I need frequent escapes from the city, for my own sanity—especially during the summer.

We’re planning to spend the following summers doing a few weekend rentals in various east coast beach towns, to get a sense of their vibes. Hopefully we’ll find one that suits us, and has property within our budget.

As for driving…I am the world’s worst driver. I have a license, but I’m so bad that it’s been seven years since I’ve really been behind the wheel. But over the past few months, I’ve decided that it’s time to relearn. I want the freedom and ability to get around in areas that don’t have public transportation—without having to rely on other people.

I’m actually hoping to check off that goal by next summer—so I can drive myself to our rentals. I figure a few hours of driving a month might get me there?

I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

(Photo: Ocean City, MD lifeguard stand)

Summer Snapshots: Delaware and Maryland Beach Weekend, 2.0

I’m back from my long weekend on the Delaware/Maryland coast, and it was pretty much everything I wanted it to be: relaxing with tons of beach time with a few of my favorite people!

Mal, Peter, Paul and I rented a little bungalow in north Ocean City, a prime position close to all our favorite sandy spots—like the quiet beaches just a few blocks away. (The beaches farther south, near the boardwalk, are much more crowded.)
ocean city, md

The weather was chilly on our first afternoon, so we practically had the beach to ourselves. I was thrilled just to have my feet in the sand, once again.

sandy feet

We all ended up taking long afternoon naps—not a bad way to start a trip!

beach sleep

At sundown, everyone else ran sprints along the beach to warm up and get some exercise. I opted to stay on the blanket—only one vacation per year involves running, at least in my mind!

sunset sprints

The O.C. beach was so nice that we returned the following day. But after that, we decided to switch things up and go to Fenwick Island State Park, just over the border in Delaware. I’d forgotten how much I liked that beach. They only let in as many cars as can fit into the small lot.

walking to fenwick island

Which means that the beach never gets too crowded! Plus, the sand was soft and clean.

fenwick island

Also, unlike many other beaches along the east coast, there are no buildings or high rises adjacent to it. The view is just a little nicer that way, isn’t it?fenwick dunesOne of the reasons Mal, Peter, Paul and I travel so well together is that we all appreciate ridiculousness. That’s why we ended up at Seacrets, the spring break-esque beach bar, for a second year in a row. (Apologies about the slightly blurry pics—I took them through a waterproof bag.)
seacrets

We had a few drinks on the giant floats before the sun went down. Unlike last year, we didn’t end up dancing (and drinking) for eight hours.

mal and peter, seacrets heather, seacrets

Mal and I believe that you have to eat at two types of restaurants when you’re at the shore: an old school, red sauce, family-style Italian joint. And a blue crab place. (I know I’m stating the obvious with the latter!)

For this trip’s Italian, we went to Mancini’s, on Fenwick Island. They make an awesome marinara, whose scent hits you, upon walking in. I ordered the spaghetti and meatballs based on that, alone, and wasn’t disappointed. We ate in their small, outdoor area, which was much airier and brighter than the spartan indoor seating sections.

We also made two trips to Bethany Beach’s Blue Crab, our all-time favorite blue crab restaurant: once for the all-you-can-eat dinner, and a second time for our final lunch before heading back to NYC. During that last meal, I felt a little sad when I realized I was savoring my last crabs until next year. But it was a pretty perfect way to close the summer.

blue crabs

So Ready for Delmarvacation 2.0!

Speaking of favorite vacation spots—this pretty much sums up what I’ll be doing for the next few days:

delmarvacation

I’m going back to Delmarva for another long weekend. (The Delaware + Maryland + Virginia peninsula = Delmarva, according to the locals! Peter has dubbed trips down there “Delmarvacations,” and since this is our second of the year, we’re about to embark on Delmarvacation 2.0.)

We rented another house in Bethany BeachВ north Ocean City, this time, but with a much smaller group—just Mal, Peter, his brother Paul, and me. I’m looking forward to everything in the photo above: boardwalks, blue crabs, beer and especially long days at the beach! And maybe a few drinks at Seacrets

Enjoy your last summer weekend!