Was this weekend even real?
The past four days have been a dream. And by a dream, I mean that in looking over the pictures from my trip to New York this weekend, it still doesn’t seem real. I had the most perfect first visit to NYC with my incredible best friend Danielle in celebration of her 21st birthday. I know that words and pictures won’t do this experience justice, but let me share with you some of the moments from this trip that were absolutely amazing.
Day 1: Manhattan and Sufjan Stevens
Our first morning in New York started bright and early with a quick walk down to St. John the Divine’s Cathedral. This huge Gothic Revival cathedral was nothing short of awe-inspiring. I felt so small under the high ceilings and stained glass window, and a choir singing classical hymns filled the space with an ethereal reverence. This panel in particular was my favorite because the early morning sun filled Jesus’s face with light.
Our next stop was Times Square, which also has a way of making one feel small. Being surrounded by gargantuan buildings and so many people was really overwhelming, but definitely what I expected of New York. I practically danced in the streets out of sheer joy.
Our adventures took us via subway (which is an experience in itself) to SoHo, where we had lunch at Lombardi’s, one of the oldest pizzerias in New York. Our pizza was loaded with mozzarella, romano, prosciutto, and arugula. It was very Italian and very tasty. We stopped for dessert at Big Booty Bakery and enjoyed some delicious cupcakes, then made our way to the High Line…but not before an impromptu photoshoot in a basketball court. When in New York…
The High Line is a park that was built on an elevated section of railroad in the west side of Manhattan. The walk was beautiful, and we even came across a random dance party (which we later learned was a late 20s-early 30s singles mixer) and were happy to crash. Everyone was super welcoming, and I was even a little reminded of Nashville’s hip and happy vibe.
After coming back and getting ready, we headed to the Beacon Theatre to see one of Danielle’s favorite artists, the incredibly talented Sufjan Stevens, who just came out with a new album, Carrie and Lowell. The album is a profound look at suffering—Stevens addresses his mother’s death with raw lyrics and a no-frills performance. Here’s a further look into C&L and Friday’s performance by Danielle, our resident Sufjan expert.
We ended the evening with a GIANT street hot dog, a walk around Times Square at night, and cheesecake, candles, and a bar full of people singing Danielle into her 21st year. It could not have been a more perfect first day.
Day Two: Brooklyn
Still not fully recovered from our Sufjan experience of the night previous, we ventured to his neighborhood in Brooklyn and enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Brooklyn Roasting Co. I don’t want to be lame and say this was my favorite part of the trip, but the blackberry-infused Ethiopian coffee and the Cafe Au Lait doughnut that woke my tastebuds up was an out of this world experience. If I was Sufjan Stevens, I would start every day like this. Even if I wasn’t Sufjan Stevens, I would probably still start every day like this. Carbs and caffeine are good for the soul.
If I could have titled Sunday, it would have been “Jen and Danielle Got Lost A Lot, But It Was Okay Because Even Being Lost In New York Is Still An Incredible Experience.” There was a lot of laughing, a lot of asking for directions, a lot of happy wandering with no place to be. Our wandering took us to a flea market, a farmers market, a few coffee shops, and finally the piers. And at those piers was the ridiculousness they call Smorgasburg.
Smorgasburg is basically a huge food festival. Having not eaten for the past several hours, this was a paradise in the middle of a desert. But, there were so. many. options. Every country and kind of food around the world was available at your fingertips. It was actual heaven. I spent at least an hour of indecision looking everything up and down, and finally just picked the place with the shortest line, delivering a burrito stuffed with carne asada, guacamole, sour cream, salsa fresca, and french fries into my waiting hands. Definitely a spur-of-the-minute choice, but still a good one.
We headed back to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge. My feet at this point were not a fan of walking, but I was able to make it with some fervent prayers and encouragement from my travel bud! It was a pretty cool way to get across the city and catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, too!
We ended the evening with a birthday dinner with Danielle’s family. I think there were supposed to be some more evening adventures, but I passed out around 9PM and didn’t wake up until 4 hours later (we were averaging about 10 miles a day, so I feel like this was a justified nap).
Our Brooklyn adventure, despite our wanderings, was still action-packed and full of fun. If I had a place to live, I’d definitely pick Brooklyn. It’s got its own unique personality with lots of hidden gems.
Unless, of course, I moved in with Taylor Swift.
Day 3: The Met, MoMa, Tribeca and TAYLOR. SWIFT.
Our final day of New York was a mixed bag of everything we didn’t get a chance to do during the past two days. After grabbing coffee and croissants at a little bakery, we headed down Central Park and enjoyed our breakfast on the steps of the Met, Gossip-Girl style.
Next, we headed down to the Museum of Modern Art. Thanks to some kind Germans, we scored some free tickets, and spent the next few hours going through various exhibits, including Björk, some conceptual pieces, and my favorite, an exhibit showing the disparity of wealth and displacement of lower-income populations in developing countries around the world (I’m a Social Entrepreneurship major, are you really surprised?)
I could have spent all day at the MoMa, but there were just a few things that we had left on our list of things to do. This brought us to Tribeca.
And Tribeca brought us to Taylor Swift.
Anybody who knows me knows that I am an unashamed fan of T.S. She’s been my role model since I was 14 and half of the reason that I moved to Nashville. And when she moved to New York, I knew there must have been something special there. Thanks to some help from my friend Katie, Danielle and I found her apartment, verified by some super-stalkery photos I’ve seen of her walking out of it. It’s old and cozy and so very Taylor.
I laughed, I cried, I pretended to be Taylor Swift walking out of her apartment. It was happy, free, confusing, and lonely in the best way.
We lunched at a delicious Indian restaurant a few blocks away (I wonder if Taylor ever eats there? She should) and before I knew it we were headed to the airport and ready to get back to Nashville.
So, what’s the deal with New York? It’s a city of dreams. It’s history is full of people trying new and bold things. But the cool thing about New York is it’s still that way. People are still trying in their own little ways to do something new and different.
I think that New York definitely has a place in my future. It made me want to dream bigger, and that is never a bad thing.
HUGE thanks to Danielle for letting me adventure with her and for being all around wonderful. There’s nobody I’d rather explore with. And to everyone who made it to the end of this post, thanks for letting me share my adventure with you!