Memories of my first trip to NYC

When I say I am from New York, most people immediately think that I mean I am from New York City. When I first moved to Sanford in June of 1985, I soon learned to say “upstate NY”, not just NY. I actually lived in Western New York, which is technically different than Upstate, but for those outside NY State, anything outside the city is Upstate, so it is easier to describe it that way. Folks would say things like “wow, must be a big culture shock to come to such a small town after living in such a huge city”……and I would respond with “there is a whole big beautiful state outside ‘the city’ and I lived in a rural town with one stop light – this is a big city to me”.

So, no – I never lived in NYC, but I do have fond memories of the Big Apple. I LOVE NYC!!! Not sure I would want to actually live there, but I do so very much enjoy traveling there. Ironically, though, I only made it there once during the entire almost 29 years I lived in NY State! Most of my trips to NYC were long after I moved to NC! The articles on the front page of Section C in today’s Herald took me back to my first trip to NYC – it was many years ago and the city is very different now, but also in some ways very much the same! I sat for a while with the warm fuzzys taking over my thoughts and decided to do a blog about that first trip – an adventure, really – all those years ago!

My first trip to the city was in 1979 and I was just 22 years old. It was also my first trip on my own without my family. My best friend, at the time, and I decided to take a vacation and check out the city. Neither of us had ever been there before, but since we were fearless, we couldn’t understand why some of our family and friends made it their mission to provide us with cautions and advice – it seems they were concerned about two young country girls traveling by ourselves to NYC! We were warned to not talk to strangers, to not let the “street people” sucker us into giving them money, to walk like we know where we’re going and not look like “tourists”, don’t wander around the streets after dark, and to stay together at all times!!! Man, the doom and gloom was really casting a shadow over our trip — what did they think we were, stupid, naive, vulnerable, gullible??? ha-ha We surely weren’t!!! We had good heads on our shoulders and could tackle any situation and win — we were invincible!!!! Yeah, right – cough, cough…… Looking back, it was a combination of thinking we could do anything and keeping the warnings in the back of our head that helped us have a great vacation – with a couple hiccups along the way!

Keep in mind as I wander down memory lane that this was in 1979 – a long time before Rudy Giuliani became Mayor and “cleaned up” NYC, lowered the crime rate, and made it a safer place to vacation – it is still a big city with all the dangers that implies, but it was so much more dangerous for young girls to be wandering around alone back then. Our vacation lasted four exciting days from June 29th to July 2nd. We had it all planned out and were going to see all the important stuff……..I came across the “Diary of Events” I wrote each evening to capture what we did each day. In reading it, I find that I took a very “glass half full – all is peachy – we did great” approach to my accounting of the events, but that’s OK (and actually very typical of me). Here is what our adventure looked like!

We decided to take the train from Rochester to Grand Central Station in NYC. There were two reasons for our decision – 1) it was cheaper than flying and 2) we wanted to see more of NY but didn’t want to drive or be couped up on a bus. So, the train, it was. That was an experience in itself – we stopped in every little town with a train station all the way down! The scenery was magnificent, but the trip was supposed to take 7 hours and ended up taking 9 hours!!! I actually would do it again in a heart beat, but at the time, it was irritating to us because we wanted to get our adventure started!

When we got outside Grand Central Station, we suddenly knew we were in a different world! We were BEAMING and in total awe of everything we saw – we had arrived!! The hotel was just a few blocks away, so we decided to walk instead of take a cab…….right out of the gate, we started making questionable decisions……..the streets were crowded and we didn’t have wheels on our very large, heavy luggage – you can imagine the time we had! Not to mention the advice we were given to avoid looking like tourists……..hhhmmm! Our hotel was in the midst of the Theater district – Sharon and I were budding actresses and thought it was fitting that we park ourselves in the Theater district!!!! My notes for that first day include how we wandered around Times Square (in those days was commonly referred to as “Slim Square”) and a description of our dinner at “Joe’s Pier 52” – we had a combo meal of crab legs, baby lobster tail, crab cake, baked clams, and a shrimp cocktail and my comment was how surprised we were that our total bill was a whopping $48.00 — can you imagine what that would cost us today??? I also mention how cute the waiters were and that the two guys sitting next to us were fun to talk to (uumm – what happened to “don’t talk to strangers”?)…

I had to sleep in my clothes that first night cause I forgot to pack jammies – so our first order of business on day two was SHOPPING!!! We went to Central Park and my notes mention how funny it was to see people “sleeping on park benches” and how we dropped change in the hats for the street performers (more advice down the drain on the very first day) – ha-ha – and shopped at all the great NYC stores – Macy’s, Gimbles, Bloomingdales, and Alexander’s (I got a nightgown at Alexander’s to get me through the rest of the trip). We had an early “lite” dinner at Sardi’s and saw the musical “Chorus Line” on Broadway! My notes indicate that it was “the most fantastic thing I’ve ever seen!” and gushed on from there. It still is one of my favorite Broadway shows – I even saw it again in Toronto some years later!

Then, after the show, my notes recap “…our first and hopefully last mistake…”. The notes mention how the dinner was great, the atmosphere was fascinating, but that the Las Vegas type floor show “left a lot to be desired – and that’s as far as I go”. The real story is: We had coupons for dinner and a show at the Club Ibis as part of our package. It sounded so intriguing – Turkish style decor and cuisine and a Las Vegas Style floor show! WOW – we had to experience that! The meal was very good, as I recall. Then, the show started and the show girls came out in the scantily clad costumes and huge colorful head dresses – I took out my camera and took a couple shots when the waiter came over and angrily told me “no pictures!” – OK! Then, all of a sudden, some male dancers joined the show girls and they started some very “suggestive” dancing and began to undress each other! Sharon and I froze – our jaws dropped and our eyes widened!!! We starred for a few minutes at the performers becoming more and more naked and simulating doing things to each other that really shouldn’t be done in public – let alone set to music and done around people who were eating! ha-ha-ha We realized at that moment that we were not as worldly as we thought we were!!!! ha-ha We asked for the check, the bill was more than the coupon covered and in our haste we used cash instead of traveler’s checks and headed out to catch a cab! We got in the cab and caught our breathe and it hit us both at the same moment – OMG – did we have enough cash for the cab ride? We scrounged through our purses and put together a very small amount of cash and looked at the meter and saw that we were not going to have enough money to get us all the way back to the hotel!!! So – when the meter read just shy of what we had, we asked the driver to stop and let us out. We walked several blocks to the hotel – AFTER midnight (did I mention the advice to not wander around the streets after dark?) – we were TERRIFIED and made a pact to be more careful for the rest of the trip!!! That lasted until we got up the next morning and started on with a new day with refreshed confidence in ourselves – after all, if we survived the night before, we could surely survive anything!!!!

The next day was Sunday and we went to Central Park and took a horse and buggy tour through the park to “Tavern on the Green” for brunch! It was FABULOUS!!! We ate in the Crystal Room and it was more beautiful than you can imagine – looking out over Central Park! The food was amazing and, as per my notes, the waiters were “incredible looking in their black tuxedos”! We had strawberry dacaris and champagne and fresh fruit and omelets and felt like royalty!!! We then walked all through Central Park taking pictures, singing, dancing around, we bought helium balloons and used them to talk like munchkins, and acted like total idiots — we had such fun!!!! We rode the famous Central Park Carousel for 30 cents and took our pictures sitting on the benches at the ice rink in the exact spot Ryan O’Neill sat when he filmed “Love Story” (at the time both of our favorite book and movie of all time)!!!! It was incredible!

We spent the rest of the day sight seeing — we did the double decker bus tours, spent time in China Town, and taking in everything we could in a day! Due to a mis-communication and missed connection, we missed out on seeing the Statue of Liberty, though! That night, we had dinner at Mama Leone’s – a world famous Italian restaurant that is no longer in business. The food, again, was incredible and there were roaming Italian singers, musicians, clowns, and other performers — it was an amazing experience.

On the morning of our last day, we went to the Empire State Building, but it was foggy and the visibility was only 0-2 miles, so we didn’t get to see much! We wandered around some and got on the train to head home! Yeah – we were a little reckless at times and made some errors in judgement, but no harm was done – we got home safe and sound – and the experience was one we’ll never forget – especially the hiccups that made it so interesting!

Since then, I have been to the city many times – all for business travel, but I always spend my “down time” enjoying the city!!! And I do so very much enjoy the city!!! I’ve seen many Broadway shows – I never make a trip without getting tickets for at least one show – more if I have the time! I try to see something different and do something different each time I go! I was lucky enough to have one of my trips occur during baseball season and the Yankees were “home”, so I got to see the Yankees beat Toronto in Yankee Stadium – the thrill of a lifetime for me – and I took the ferry from the South Street Seaport up the river to the stadium on a warm night – it was incredible!!!! My absolutely favorite part of the city is the Financial district — rich in history and beauty, Battery Park, and the South Street Seaport. I stayed many times at the Marriott World Trade Center and spent a lot of time on the top of the WTC overlooking the city! Sadly, all that is gone and I haven’t been back since! Although the southern tip is my favorite, I also spend a lot of time in the theater district – my second favorite section!!! NYC is an amazing place — I adore it!!!! I’m hoping to go again sometime soon!!!

One Comment on “Memories of my first trip to NYC

  1. This was great! I love NYC, too. I went this winter on a school trip — it was amazing and I can’t wait to go back.

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