Friday, October 1, 2010

New York City: No Touristy Stuff

I recently shared my first visit to New York City with a new travel partner in my life, Scott. His directions about what I could and could not plan were very clear: "No touristy stuff." So I tried to sneak it in where I could... "Oh, you're hungry this late at night? Let's check out the street vendors in Times Square..." "Oh, your friends are at the Natural Museum of History? Let's meet them and walk through Central Park on the way..."

But I have to say, in the end, he was right. For the most significant adventure of the weekend was the day we spent, without any plans, moving from bar to bar, neighborhood to neighborhood, with two of our dear New Yorkers.

We started off at Lombardi's. The margherita pizza was pretty good, cheesy and thin crust and true to Napoli tomato sauce. Then we visited the oldest bar in Little Italy, adorned with sharks and weathered photos of patrons, drinking beers around a barrel... traveled through an Italian festival with canoli's and large, hairy Italian men... on to a cigar bar... wondering around the streets searching for perfume, frustrated with our google maps... marveling at small lockets and well woven scarves along the way... stopped to view a little bit of football... arriving at a dive in Greenwich Village where we met a friendly but diverse group... kicked out of a fine leather store and searching far and wide for the glassiest evil eye... finally ending up at the most lovely Italian dinner I have ever had.

You can see we left few casualties behind...

Fried zucchini flowers? Who knew you could eat such a thing? And after bottles of red wine, espresso, sambuki, tiramasu and lots of laughter... we found ourselves huddled around chalkboard tables, once again, enjoying some beer.

What did I learn about New York City? I learned that you understand more about the people who live there by talking to the waitors and hearing their stories, and poking around in dive bars and hustling through crowded festivals. I learned the food, language, and conversation varies by neighborhood but all seem to be binded together through pride of where they come from and pride for where they are.

I think Scott was right. Going forward, my new mantra is going to be, "No touristy stuff..."

But may I mention that I did really like Times Square and Central Park?

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