My visits to New York always take the form of a whirlwind. I get caught up in the energy of the bustling city: the limitless things to do, people to see, places to be. . . . I usually find the only thing moving faster than time is me: my feet marching along the busy sidewalks, my nose smelling the aroma of freshly roasted peanuts and my mind busily taking notes about where to eat on my next visit.
For the first time, however, I made a trip to the City without any sense of hurry or rush. I was able to relax and really soak in my surroundings; instead of feeling overwhelmed, I experienced a sense of appreciation, awe and content. And I believe I owe all of that to spending time with Ellen.
Ellen, better known as the accomplished playwright EM Lewis, is one of the warmest and gentlest people I know. Instead of making plans, she kindly reminded me that we had a beautiful day on our hands, so why not spend it outside in the glowing sunshine as much as possible? How could I argue? I knew she was right.
We found ourselves walking around Midtown, strolling along the world famous 5th Avenue. At West 55th, we turned a few blocks north and stumbled upon some great Japanese cuisine. It was lunch time, and a bowl of hot ramen noodles from Menchanko Tei seemed to call to us. After slurping up thick noodles soaked in savory broth with steamed vegetables, we headed back outside, towards Central Park.
Central Park may be filled with hundreds of visitors, but with so much greenspace, it’s actually quiet, peaceful and enjoyable. We were talking and walking in no particular direction, enjoying the sights of people, art, architecture and nature. Without noticing, time slipped quietly by.
Ready to leave the park, we headed south on 7th Avenue, into the Theater District. At the TKTS booth, Ellen pointed out a special line for those seeking straight plays, while longer lines were for the big musicals. Always good to know special secrets as such! We reviewed the plays offered and nothing seemed to call out to us. It’s not that we don’t enjoy the theater, we were simply enjoying our time outdoors!
In a moment of spontaneity, we purchased tickets on the Gray Line. In all my years of visiting New York City, I have never taken a tour on a double decker bus. I’m not sure why. Guided tours can be one of the best ways to explore a city, and I can’t come up with a good reason for skipping out. We found a ticket seller in the heart of Times Square (just look for someone in a red apron, they’re everywhere) and in minutes, we were climbing aboard a bus.
The City looks so different above a sidewalk. With a good tour guide narrating, you’ll find there are so many stories to be shared about Manhattan. I particularly enjoyed learning about the layout of the City, the planned districts and some of the random trivia shared. I also thought it was hysterical that at certain points, some of the taller passengers had to duck, lest they meet head on with a low hanging sign or traffic light!
As I look back on this visit, I’m struck by how much we experienced, just by slowing down and taking everything as it comes. Instead of packing the day with an amazing quantity of sights and goals, we spent the day experiencing quality time together — which is the only way to spend time with someone you care about.
Ellen, thank you for an amazing day, and most of all, for reminding me about the importance of slowing down and letting the day unfold. New York, thank you for being the City that never ceases to amaze. I can’t wait to visit again!