Being a Tourist in Your (Former) Town

[shareaholic app=”share_buttons” id=”20872686″]

SVV and I returned from a bit of an impromptu trip to New York at midnight last night. It’s weird because while I spent a couple years in the Big Apple, I feel like it’s slipping away from me. Sure, I navigate the city on auto-pilot, knowing exactly how to get from point A to point B on foot, but the little things—the subway routes, the names of my favorite bars—are starting to escape me entirely. And sometimes I don’t even feel like I ever lived there at all—like I was some extra in Inception and dreamed the whole thing.

I love Manhattan as a vacation destination; I’m not sure how anyone couldn’t. But the city and I were less compatible in terms of living. I like a lot of space; Manhattan afforded me a 10-square-meter room in a three-bedroom, 500-square-foot apartment (sans a floor, only plywood) with two others for a combined rent of $3600. I can’t handle noise; sirens and empty trucks, their empty beds clanging up and down on the pot hole outside my 10th Avenue bedroom, kept me up until all hours of the night. By the time I moved to California, I was over it. That’s why I like coming back so much: Because at the end of the day, I can enjoy being there, soaking up everything the city has to offer, and revel in the fact that I’ll be leaving again soon.

I spent five nights back with my other significant other, Lemon (she of High Priestess fame), and SVV joined us for a quick 48 hours at the end of the visit. While I scheduled a couple meetings on Thursday and Friday, this trip was solely meant to hang out with the A-Team: Lemon and her Boy, Anthony and Ryan (our wedding ushers), and Katy, former roommate and copy editor extraordinaire. Of course, this also meant cramming in as many decadent meals as we could.

Scott, Anthony and Ryan—they planned their outfits, of course.

Katy and me.

We had dinner at gastropub Brickyard in Hell’s Kitchen one night, dinner at Apizz in the Lower East Side another. We returned to my favorite brunch haunt, Stanton Social, for breakfast-y tapas. I didn’t get to have a burger and the mac and cheese at my previous local establishment, P.J. Clarke’s, nor did I have my favorite pizza from Patsy’s—but there’s always next time.

Of course, I spent an afternoon shopping—wandering from Union Square through Washington Square Park and down into SoHo. The weather was just so beautiful that after a summer of Arctic temps in San Francisco, I made the most of being outdoors in a sundress as best I could.

I didn’t buy anything—I know—but it was just nice having a few hours to myself, roaming solo through some of my favorite neighborhoods aimlessly.

I also had the pleasure of meeting a whole lot of awesome blogger chicks for dinner at Kuma Inn on Thursday night—where we almost got kicked out for being “too loud,” aka deigning to speak above the volume of the club-like music that drowned out our conversations—as well as various others (such as the delightful Annemarie, who has long been my Twitter travel soulmate, and former Lucky co-worker Lacey) for coffee and drink dates.

Lemon had a cocktail/housewarming/”Kristin and SVV are back in town!” party on Saturday, for which we baked four kinds of cookies and spent all day in the kitchen preparing. That girl does not take her KitchenAid mixer, nor her hostessing duties, lightly.

On Sunday, SVV and I met some other travel industry pals for brunch at the Tipsy Parson in Chelsea, where we were seated at a communal-style table right next to Project Runway contestant/designer Daniel Vosovic.

Then we spent an afternoon exploring an area where I spent very little time when I actually lived there (and just a couple dozen blocks north on the same side of town, at that). We went into Chelsea Market, overwhelmed by the stench of freshly-caught fish mingling with the aromas of a half dozen bakeries taunting us to come inside. (We didn’t. We still had sugar hangovers from the party the night before.)

We wandered down the High Line for a spell. For months, I’ve seen Tweets and blog posts mentioning the High Line, and to be honest, I had no idea what it was until we arrived. Then, I understood it truly is one of those things you have to see in order to conceptualize.

In a nutshell, the city took an elevated train track along the West side and turned it into a pedestrian parkway high above 10th Avenue.

The path goes around and through buildings and offers a whole new perspective of the city. There are even wooden chaises—that move back and forth on a rail, I might add—upon which to lounge. There’s also the iconic Standard Hotel, which towers above the trail and gives the occasional walker an unwanted (sometimes, wanted) peep show.

It’s also a bit surreal to be tickled by grass and foliage as you mosey through the professed concrete jungle (where dreams are made of). We walked the length of it and then headed uptown to our friends Suzanne’s and Evan’s Upper West Side abode for our last evening in the city before dinner with Lemon and the Boy.

All in all, it was a trip where I felt like I was constantly dashing from one meal to the next, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. (It’s why I wear dresses; they’re much more forgiving than fat pants.) Maybe I didn’t appreciate the city nearly as much as I should have when I lived in the 10019 zip code. I can count on one finger the number of times I went to a museum. I stepped foot in the Upper West Side all of twice. I never made it up to Columbia or into the Bronx or even over to Hoboken. But that’s what happens when you live in a place, right? You always think your time is unlimited, until one day it’s time to move on and you realize there are so many things you never got around to doing because of that very reason—you never thought of your days as numbered until it was too late. But that’s what vacations are for, I suppose.

We left the city, our pockets a little bit lighter and my heart significantly heavier. I’ve been back to visit four times since I moved almost three years ago, and each time it gets a little harder. I’m no longer a resident of this vibrant city, and it’s getting to the point where it’s harder and harder to say “I once lived here.” The city is an ever-evolving tapestry of sights, sounds, smells and inhabitants. People check in and out just as easily as they would a hotel, making it more unrecognizable each time I return. This saddens me to some extent, but for now, I’ll hold onto the sliver of a thread that keeps me connected to NYC and continue to return until my last friend has left the 212 and it becomes solely a place that I once knew very well, way back when.

  • September 28, 2010

    I feel the same way about the city… though the longer I’m away the more I want to return.

  • September 28, 2010

    I really need to get to NYC. Sigh.

  • September 28, 2010

    Awww you made me tear up!!! I feel the exact same way. And what makes me sad is knowing I will never live there again. But well I feel blessed to have had almost 4 years there. Looks like you had a fabulous time, how could you not! You look lovely as always. 🙂

  • September 28, 2010

    This is the best- the BEST- tribute to living in New York I’ve ever read. I know I’ll feel exactly the same way when I leave.

    Also, I work right by HK and haven’t even heard of Brickyard, so thank you for that!

  • September 28, 2010

    Lovely, lovely post. I sometimes wonder if that will happen to me, if/when we leave SF. It’s hard to even imagine.

    I tend not to do the fun, vacationy things in the Bay Area until someone comes to visit. Whenever I have friends in town, though, we go do all kinds of awesome things. I always wonder why I wait until I have visitors to enjoy this part of the world! I guess the thing about living in a place, though, is that you LIVE there. There are Real Life things that have to get done, and those take precedence over, say, biking through Napa.

  • September 28, 2010

    I swear, moving away from a city you love is like swearing you’ll keep in touch with an old friend and then slowly drifting apart. The sense of a relationship is always there, but the details just get fuzzier and fuzzier. Thanks for the inspiration to rekindle my long-distance relationship with Manhattan!

  • September 28, 2010

    Ah.. I know what you mean. Leaving Bangkok behind and recently visited the city, I am a real tourist in my own city. I agree with you.. I love to visit NYC but living there? Probably not.

  • September 28, 2010

    And yet no mention of the Fanette!?!?!?!

  • September 28, 2010

    Gorgeous writing and pictures. Also, I’m right there with you. Four years in to my SF adventure and I miss NYC to the moon and back.

  • September 28, 2010

    [single tear rolls down face…]

    I miss you already! And happy we finally have a photo of us that wasn’t taken with my Mac Photo Booth. 🙂 Eagerly awaiting your next jaunt to NYC/my next jaunt to SF! xo

  • September 28, 2010

    I need to go to NYC for a non-work reason one of these days. Your photos look way more fun than conference rooms and cab rides.

  • September 28, 2010

    That’s pretty much how I feel about the entire state of California. I feel like I don’t belong there anymore.

    As for NY, I have been once about 12 years ago, and am super excited for a trip I’m taking there in early December to do all things Christmas!

  • September 28, 2010

    Great post. I feel that everytime I go back to the Philippines. I always find myself looking up at new buildings, surprised at every new store and trend. I haven’t been to New York and with this post, I really love to see it one day.

  • September 29, 2010

    But isn’t that why people love the city? Because it’s constantly changing and evolving?

    I’m afraid I’ll never feel the same about the place I grew up, because it doesn’t change quite as fast as the city. While I’m sure things *have* changed, a lot of things haven’t. Most of my friends from high school still even live in the area. Of course, since my parents moved out of my childhood home to Pittsburgh I’m not sure if I’ll ever have occasion to be back, but I imagine I’ll be back eventually.

    Also, thanks for the ideas of places to go in the city! We’ve gone on a couple of day trips now, and once you get done with all the touristy stuff, you find yourself standing on the street, unable to see the awesome shit to do for the city.

  • September 29, 2010

    Looks like you had a fabulous time and you look just adorable in your cowboy boots!

  • September 29, 2010

    Great post, wonderful pictures. I took my first NYC trip last year to do the touristy stuff, but I’m hoping to get back this spring. I’m always looking for “insider” tips on what to do! I recently found this blog through The Everywherist, really love it!

  • September 29, 2010

    I miss NYC more and more every day. I’ll be back some day. By hook or by crook.

  • September 29, 2010

    Next time, let me know you’re coming. I live on the same block as P.J. Clarks (talk about daily temptation…) and totally would meet up!

  • September 29, 2010

    Awww! I know the sentiment very well.. i grew up in Hawaii and now when I go back I almost feel like a stranger there.. although here, in Arizona, where I now live, I’m fiercly protective of being ‘from’ Hawaii.

    After I started traveling I became pretty obsessed with the idea of ‘home.’ And now, since I’ve lived so many places, I think that ‘home’ can actually be based in many different places.
    For me, it’s Hawaii, New Zealand and Arizona.

  • September 29, 2010

    You really captured that feeling well — I feel the same way about visiting Nashville. It’s almost hard to go because you realize the city picks up and moves on without you all the while you struggle remember names of places.

    I walked the Highline while I was there in February, but it was under a couple of feet of snow. The views were still awesome, but I’d like to see it in better weather 🙂

  • September 29, 2010

    Fun post! I don’t know how anyone can live there…two of my best friends live in Manhattan so I try to go 1-2 times a year to see them, and I am always in awe of what tiny spaces people live in and for so much money. I couldn’t stand that, and where would I put all of my clothes, shoes, and DVDs!?!? And you’re right, it’s so noisy. I love visiting NYC, though–it is such a fun vacation spot. Loved your pics of the High Line–I was in NYC in June and meant to see it, but never got around to it. Next time!

  • September 29, 2010

    My favorite thing about Columbia are the penis shaped fountains. OH YES. Absolutely worth a trip.

    When I get back to New York I won’t have the slightest idea where to go any more. Especially since I was there, my budget was a lot more Greasy Slices of Discount Pizza than Snazzy Brunch. Whenever I plan a trip, I will beg for your recommendations.

  • September 29, 2010

    Yes I lucked out with that shot of the Eiffel Tower. I took one before and one after lights. It was with a crappy Kodak EasyShare too! I’ve upgraded since then.

  • September 30, 2010

    I love this post. I feel the same about Philly sometimes, it is always so strange going back to a place where you used to live, as time goes by you wonder how much longer you can claim it. Also, when will you make a sporadic Boston trip?

  • September 30, 2010

    I have never been to NYC but it is definitely on the list.

  • October 1, 2010

    Love the pics – totally homesick right now!

  • October 4, 2010

    I am very much looking forward to visiting London as a tourist… When you live in a city, you often use very little of it.

    And, crikey, it’s expensive!

  • October 8, 2010

    OMG, I have so much to say here. I swear I don’t even know if I should bother trying..But of course I will.


    2) Please tell you got to Sweet Revenge. I just know that you would go bananas over their cupcakes. And just that whole are is so much fun to walk cupcakes off in (dangling participle? Yeah, definitely.)

    3) Dude, I’m going for the holidays and I’m completely freaked out. In some ways, (most ways) I don’t miss it all. I left for a reason, ya’ know? New York is great, but it’s sooooo hard. But there are so many things about the lifestyle that I miss desperately. Do you know my flatmate this morning (yes, FLATmate) was totally shocked that I took toast out the door with me on my way to work? She thought it was hilarious that I would eat during my commute. Is there anything more New York’y than that? And of course as a New Yorker I just assumed that everyone does this.

    Oh lord. What is going to happen to me.


  • December 17, 2012

    I definitely agree with you that traveling to Manhattan is very much preferable to living there! It’s nice being a tourist in a city you know so well, and NYC is definitely a great regular tourist destination because there’s always something new every time you go.

Leave a Comment