Cultural Experience | New York

From Essex to Harlem: #UKLizi in NYC

Follow #UKLizi as she crosses the Atlantic, only to become lost in Central Park and people watch in Brooklyn.

By Lizi Woolgar
Follow me at #UKLizi

So, I’ve flown the nest. I’ve crossed the Atlantic. I took my first ever flight exceeding 4 hours in length and I gone and done it alone. Hardly impressive for a 21 year old, but I’m feeling pretty self-righteous about getting myself all the way to the big apple. So yes, after a delirious flight including a wave of nausea when THAT Bridesmaids scene onboard (free films, what a novelty!) unfortunately coincided with the most violent turbulence ever, I jumped in a NYC yellow cab and was on my merry way. Not quite so merry when I was charged $60 . First lesson kids; really, vigorously check the quote you get by the guys on the cab line is agreed by the guy inside the cab. Ouch. Also, learn how to speak ‘American streets’. Apparently mumbling West, 134, 522 doesn’t equal sensible address.

central park nyc student travel image

After a disorientated night’s sleep in Harlem and a few Hispanic heckles , I set off with my home pal for our first day of exploration; the Museum of Natural History. I’m really not one for museums, but this I rate. Perfectly balanced between wordy (boring) historical explanations and ‘cool nature stuff’ for simply gawping at, the museum actually held my attention for a good couple of hours. Afterwards, we headed to a nearby diner for an iced coffee, then spent the remainder of the day chilling in Central Park and dipping into thrift stores lining the local streets. So N3w ¥ork yah? That being said, I was a blatant tourist. with an involuntary screech of ‘OMG SNOWCONES!’ on entering the park; I totally lost my cool. Whilst at Central Park, if you visit any particular patch in there, it has got to be Strawberry Fields. It’s just a quant little memorial for John Lennon (as he was shot nearby) but it has this haunting presence about it. A busker singing the beatles and the beatles only, played the tune to a silence of mutual, unconditional respect.

times square student travel image

After an unbelievably lazy hungover saturday which I shall breeze past, Sunday saw us heading to Brooklyn. First, we checked out the Williamsberg flea market which was #amaze. Everything from hand-crafted cutoff shorts, quirky wood paintings to a delish selection of food was all plonked right next to a picturesque river view. Try People’s Pops strawberry and chi ice lolly if you get the chance; I had one of those I-don’t-want-this-to-end-but-cant-stop-myself moments. The huge buttery corn on the cobs looked mouthwateringly good too, but an unfortunate teenage accident where I whacked out both front teeth means I’m no longer allowed to bite into the corny goodness. Can’t eat apples either, in case you were wondering.

friends in brooklyn student travel image

Brooklyn is New York’s own personal Bristol or Brixton. Shameless hipsters sporting abundant facial hair and those kooky glasses (yeah, you know the ones). The downtown Soho area is similar, with relaxed ‘lets just grab a coffee vibes’ but with a slightly less dense population on the hipster scale. That being said, this makes people watching and outfit rating a pleasing pastime. And this is precisely what we did at Berry Park (Brooklyn) to round the day off. With a fairylit rooftop terrace and summer margharitas, this rooftop bar is a perfect hangspot as the dusk draws in. A couple of things to note at this point. Firstly, Sunday trains mess up just like the UK. The trains in general do, actually. Just when I thought the Subway and grid system were the best inventions ever (when I finally understood uptown vs. downtown, that is) we had to wait aaages for a train on Sunday evening. Luckily, we found a drunk busker and watched him dance like nobody was watching to many appreciative glances from passersby. This leads me to secondly; there are buskers everywhere! They have this sneaky trick where they jump on express trains (the ones that don’t stop as often as local trains) and sing in your face for the duration of the journey and gleefully collect cash from their forced audience after. Actually, it was pretty nice. I can imagine it would definitely cheer you up after a hard ole day at work – but only if you get lucky with the genre of said busker’s music! Anyway, the moral of the story is: delayed subway equals preying busker.

brooklyn market student travel image

For the next few days, I went sightseeing by my jack. A complete nightmare if you know me, my sense of direction and my incredibly shoddy map-reading abilities (Geography degree down the drain). I headed to the Met on day one and by ‘headed’ I mean walked for hours on end, annoying countless pedestrians for directions until I stumbled into the museum. I got so lost in Central Park that one of the park rangers (I like to call them park minions in my head) took me under his wing, thrust a map in my face and frog-marched me in the right direction. ‘Nope!’ I heard in an american twang after he sent me off on my own with strict instructions. I just wasnt getting it. Not only can I apparantly not read directions, I cannot comprehend spoken directions so good either. It goes without saying, as soon as you get to the city, grab yourself a decent map and let it be your bible. (Oops, accidental-on-purpose beatles quote mighta slipped in there). Once I got to the met I was too wound up to fully appreciate it’s beauty, but it really is an impressive building. There are so many rooms, wings and exhibitions I reckon you’d need pretty much an entire day if you were craycray enough to want to cover it all. I enjoyed the Ancient Egypt and North American Art sections, alongside these amazing iridescent glass window displays designed by Tiffany, I believe. Anyway, you’ll figure out what does it for you.

the met nyc student travel image

Prior to visiting, I had indeed been warned that a) that American citizens are fascinsted by UK citizens, and b) despite both speaking english, there is occasionally a minor language barrier. I witnessed both first hand. People genuinely shouted across Times Square at me: ‘oh my gaad are you from the ukayy, thats awesomeee!’. Pretty nice being immediately liked just for your nationality. Similarly, during a Starbucks coffee break, an eldery man with circular framed glasses – a remarkable resemblance to Dumbledore- approached me, evidently intregued. Once he had got my attention, he preceeded to ask me as many questions as possible in the time it could have reasonably taken to finish his drink. Bizarre. With regards to the language barrier, although most often it is just a case of Americanisations of English words, sometimes, apparantly, they really cannot work out some British phrases. For instance, for me, ‘lie-in’ only led to a reciprocal blank stare and ‘food shopping’ to racuous laughter (it’s grocery shopping appaz). Other words that may not translate include trousers, jumper and pavement, FYI.

 

But look, I bumbled along and got by fine, seeing what I wanted to see and really getting that local New Yorker experience. I didn’t bother with the Statue of Liberty or Empire State etc. because, let’s face it, I’m on a budget. But you know what? I don’t regret not bothering at all. The touristy spots were horifically rammed – particularly the met – and feeling caught in a crowd of urgency probably isn’t the way to make the most of your holiday. As I write this now, I’m currently on a plane to the one and only Las Vegas. After which I’m travelling all through California and am going to share my experiences with you lucky guys. So check in next week when I’ll tell you how to live like a local in Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Now, off for that all important pre-Vegas flight nap…zzz

Lizi Woolgar

University of Bristol | 40 stories

Graduate of University of Bristol. Having spent my first two years of University writing for the student newspaper, epigram and Brighton-based Spindle Magazine, I then went on to edit the Style section of Epigram 2012-2013. Now keen to pursue a career in journalism/editorial work, I look forward to writing my weekly column for The College Tourist, all the while seeing where my writing and travel will take me.


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