“The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”
— F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
“Is that for here or to go, my love?” the barista asked this to a patron about her coffee, and there is something so warm about his question that I find it worth jotting down. As I write this, I’m in a cozy coffee shop across the street from my friend’s apartment in Williamsburg—a street lined with trees and coffee shops and one of my favorite Mexican restaurants, a neighborhood that is the closest thing to feeling at home that I’ve encountered in this whole expanse of a city.
When I was 15 years old, I came to New York City for the first time. In fact, it was my first time flying, and it was with my family, a gift to my brother for his high school graduation. I’m willing to bet cold, hard-earned hourly-wage CASH that my parents wished I would have never gone on that trip, because I ended up falling in love with travel and buying plane tickets and since then I’ve probably kept them up many a-nights worrying about what awful happenstances might befall me on my various travels (as my father once told me before I left for New Zealand, one of the safest countries on earth, “There is danger everywhere.”).
While I'd already been to NYC back in April, I returned again for my 25th birthday weekend in October; two of my best friends decided to become NYC expats, and though I low-key loathe this city for stealing them from me, I won’t complain about having a reason to frequently visit. If you asked that sweet baby 15-year-old me, the one who was next-level enthralled by the energy of this city and the buildings that you had to crane your neck to see, she had a clear picture of what 25 would look like: I’d be a successful ~young professional~ living in New York with a Burberry trench coat.
I’m now 25 and I am so far away from this 10-year vision that it’s straight-up laughable I thought I’d be able to afford a Burberry trench coat and cute NYC apartment at 25 years old. (Ask me my income, I dare you.)
But that’s okay. Because this city—what can I even say about this city? This lonely, invigorating, deadening, hopeful city. One minute you are admiring the changing leaves in Central Park against the backdrop of mid-century high-rises, moving to the pulse of a city alive with eight million heartbeats, while the next you are avoiding actual shit on the subway.
New York, really, is just a wider reflection of who we are as people, this juxtaposition of fickle feelings and wavering beliefs—souls that are lonely, invigorated, deadened, and hopeful, souls that are just looking for streets lined with trees and cozy coffee shops and Mexican restaurants, souls that want to be warmly addressed as “my love,” souls that simply want a place to call home.
New York City isn’t my home, and it likely never will be; my dreams have changed (minus that Burberry trench coat… one day). But I’m happy to return here again and again to see my people and appreciate the raw beauty of this island of concrete, this “wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”
DAY 1 // Bushwick & Williamsburg
I landed at JFK mid-morning on a Wednesday, which meant that both friends, Katie and Lane, were at work. But I love me a good solo-hang, so my day consisted of copious amounts of coffee, taking photos of Katie's TOO CUTE apartment, reading + journaling on Katie's rooftop, stopping in for (more) coffee at her local Variety coffee shop, and exploring her neighborhood of Bushwick with a playlist perfect for solo city wanders. That night Lane, Katie, and I had dinner at Santos Anne in Williamsburg; while the margs were satisfactory (and came in the same cactus glass as Nashville's iconic Cinco de Mayo) and the food not bad, the waitress had the most difficult time comprehending what gluten free meant. Real talk: I probably wouldn't return here.
>>> Sidenote: One of my flights to NYC was free. Here's a li'l post on how I've earned nearly $2,000 in free travel.
DAY 2 // Greenwich Village & Flat Iron District
- DŌ Cookie Dough Confections (Greenwich Village)
- Washington Square Park
- Union Square Park
- Rizzoli Bookstore (Flat Iron District, north-ish)
- Flat Iron District
- Bistango (East Village, north-ish)
On the second day, Katie and I adventured into the city for a day that was spent mostly eating and walking; I basically ate my way through the city (and my wallet) on this trip, and that's totally fine with me. Highlights were the gluten free chocolate chip cookie dough at DŌ Cookie Dough Confections, the discovery of the wonder that is iPhone 7+ depth effect, the shelves of books on books on books at Rizzoli Bookstore, and the almost-entirely gluten free menu at Bistango Italian restaurant. (DUDE. I was able to eat gluten free ravioli and it was delicious. THIS IS A BFD.)
DAY 3 // Midtown & Williamsburg
- FIKA Coffee
- Central Park
- Le Pain Quotidien (Bryant Park)
- Grand Central Station
- Sage Thai restaurant (Williamsburg)
Back again to Manhattan Katie and I ventured on Friday, this time sticking mostly to the Midtown area. We got coffees at FIKA Coffee before taking an un-rushed wander through Central Park, stopping on a quiet bench to read our respective Rupi Kaur books of poetry (me: Milk and Honey; Katie: The Sun and Her Flowers). Girl's words are FIRE so basically you should read her work if you haven't already. We walked around Midtown before stopping for a late lunch at Le Pain Quotidien (look, I know this place is a chain, but their g-free tartines are excellent) before heading back to Brooklyn. Dinner that night was at Sage with Lane and co. in Williamsburg; 10/10 Pad Thai, would recommend.
DAY 4 // Williamsburg
Saturday was spent entirely in Williamsburg, and again it mostly involved eating. Smorgasburg is an incredible food market on the river that takes place every Saturday, though now it's closed for the season. (However, its Manhattan location is still open every Friday - Sunday.) The nearby Artists & Fleas market was worth a look, as well. That night was a drink at Basik, a delightfully-cozy neighborhood bar, before the much-anticipated birthday dinner at Mesa Coyoacan (I ate here for the first time back in April), then a post-dinner drink a few blocks away at Extra Fancy. A day of food, well spent.
DAY 5 // Chelsea + Financial District
My final day in New York consisted of a mocha + journaling at Lane's local coffee shop, Charter Coffeehouse, before heading back into the city again that afternoon for a trip to Chelsea Market, a walk down the High Line, an obnoxious amount of photos taken with iPhone 7+ depth effect, and then a several-miles walk south through a truly unremarkable (read: kinda lame) part of Manhattan to the Financial District.
Last year, I bid adieu to 23 years old with a drive on the PCH and an overnight flight from LA to Nashville; this year I said goodbye to 24 with two of my best friends on a Brooklyn rooftop, Manhattan sparkling bright on a Sunday night as we sipped Prosecco, and it's exactly how I hoped it would be.
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While I didn't use Airbnb on this trip (thanks, friends who let me crash at their places), it's still my favorite way to stay in a city. Use my referral code to get $40 off your first stay!]
"Feeling Like A Stranger" // Midnight Faces
I first heard this song on Nashville's Lightning 100 where I then proceeded to stalk down the name of the song + the band so I could proceed to listen to "Feeling Like A Stranger" on repeat. It's the song of all my broody dreams, and therefore perfect for any sort of travel involving planes (because air travel invites introspection, right?). Midnight Faces is an LA-based band that "makes music built for those moments when your heart’s beating faster, the moments when you’re willing to drop your worries for at least the length of an LP and just ride out on the feeling." (Honestly, whoever wrote that bio deserves a high-five 'cuz that's good ish).
I've yet to listen to their full album, but if it's anything like this song, I'm confident that I will like it just as much.