4:30 am. Wide awake and ready to get swallowed up by all of the motions.
No buzzing on my phone or alarm clock that set my senses off and up and running.
No. I was just laying there staring at the ceiling with all my thoughts jumbled up together in my head. I was jetlagged and there was no way I could force my mind body and soul to snooze a little more.
My sister woke up not too long after with the same exact symptoms I was having and together we prepped for the rest of the day as we watched the sunrise behind the skyscrapers of a New York sky. We waited for the gates to the complimentary breakfast to open and although it was nothing fancy, it was good enough to get you out of the hotel ready and energized for the day.
We bought tickets online for the hop-on, hop-off Big Bus Tours as we thought that might be a cool way to get around and see all the things we wanted to as it stopped at most of the notable tourist attractions. I also concluded that might be the most accessible option for getting to most places.
The sun was still out and hot just like the day before, so I wore my sister’s yellow t-shirt with my Pull & Bear denim dungaree dress, picked up the camera and my backpack then headed out into the Big Apple.
Getting to the bus station wasn’t as easy-breezy as we’d hoped it would be and we ended up stalling at a Starbucks for almost half an hour waiting for our Uber Driver, Cintya, to come pick us up. The bus stop was then found, and we got on the next one that rolled around a few minutes after. It took us round and round, passed 5th Avenue and Central Park Zoo. We ended up getting off the last stop which was about a 10-minute walk to Times Square, so we decided to take that on immediately.
Let’s talk about walking in New York City for a moment because I’m truly convinced that’s an art form of its own. It’s exactly how you picture it or what it looks like in the movies; the traffic light goes white and it’s time to cross over to the other side. You are immediately immersed into a sea of people coming and going both ways causing you to have to swim your way through the many other bodies. It feels like a music video moment where you’re singing about being alone in the crowd or the beginning of an overrated rom-com that starts off with the female lead actress being caught up in a daydream of her future-more-successful self in a slow-motion runway-type walk.
Do you know what else is just as they portray in the movies, though? The crazy road rage and the awful, but seriously, awful way New Yorkers drive. You know that crosswalk movie moment I just talked about? Well, if not careful that could easily turn into one being swept up their feet into air by a reckless driver and although that might be too dark a picture, it is in no way an exaggeration, unfortunately.
When I realised the white light stating my right to pass didn’t necessarily mean almost anything at all it became a whole new ballgame that consisted of me just trying not to die in general. It was strange that crossing the road could become such a stressful task. Seemingly unnecessary honking of car horns and vehicles moving when pedestrians are crossing, quickly became the norm. Oh, and cyclists? They don’t obey any rules either so keep your eyes peeled at all moments I’d suggest!
Times Square was a whole universe of its own.
Billboards, sky-touching buildings and cartoon characters coming to life. If you stood there just for a moment, you could feel the world just pass by so fast and effortlessly. You realise there’s so much more to the world than the one you live in and everyone is on a flash-paced journey to their own life. I guess, in other words, you realise there’s so much more out there, and although you probably already knew that, it’s so much bigger than you could ever imagine.
Times Square was as colourful as you’d imagine it to be. So many people from so many places standing on the same ground. I looked up at all the humongous billboards lit up and realised I’d never have to imagine what it would feel like to be there again because I’d have experienced that already, at least once.
We took pictures for the gram and walked around as far as we could to witness all the magic and secrets New York hid.
We stumbled upon The New York Times office buildings and the ‘just graduated journalism’ geek in me couldn’t help herself but take an awful load of pictures right there and then whilst attempting to not look like an obnoxious tourist/Instagram-obsessed-human. I was clearly both of those things and did a terrible job keeping it under wraps.
We had, or more like tasted, Chick-fil-A for a late lunch. I had a chicken sandwich, nuggets, waffle potato fries and a large Vanilla Milkshake that was honestly a major highlight for me. And yes, I did go back the next day for a second tasting session!
That night, after exploring as much as we could around Times Square, we decided to hop on another bus that went all around the city for about an hour. I climbed up the stairs to the top decker and little did I know that would be my favourite moment during the whole NYC trip.
It’s funny, you’d think the things that will make the most impact or change your life would be the bigger things; the super hyped-up experiences that people write about and the things that are valued over all else. For me, it was the bus that gave me a full realisation of all that had transpired. I’ve been on loads of buses over the last three years especially, but this one was a different kind of special.
The guy on the left sit in front of us laughed with us and made political jokes when a certain President was mentioned. The highly congested traffic by day was nowhere to be found and it genuinely felt like we were floating around the city – boundless, limitless and free.
Tour guides are rarely interesting, or maybe it’s just me who comes across the worst of them all, but the lady speaking in our ear through the headphones, let’s call her Linda (for no reason other than the fact that she looked like a Linda), actually made me feel like it was somehow worth to pay for those pricey tickets.
You might be wondering? Rachy, what is so special about riding on a tour bus anyway? It was just that: the simplicity of it all. It was the roaming around all of the lights that shined effortlessly in every corner of the city. It was the heavenly breeze that swept my hair up in a fairy-tale moment type way. It was looking at the skyscrapers reflect their many colours onto the waters from the top of a bridge whilst trying to hold on to every glimpse for as long as I could. Linda played Empire State Of Mind by Alicia Keys in our ears as we crossed the bridge and at that moment, it all clicked for me. All the pieces came together in the simplest of ways and I swear I feel like my words are doing no justice to how magical that moment felt.
My camera battery died while we were on that bus, and although I was a little sad that I wouldn’t be able to capture all of what I saw in its full glory, I was also weirdly a bit relieved in a sense. I could stare at what was in front of me without the pressure to snap or touch or click. All I was left with was the gorgeous view I seriously hoped I could takeaway to wherever I ended up next.
New York is beautiful – beautiful beyond words.
On that bus I felt peace, I felt like dreams could really come true, I felt all of the weight I had been carrying around for months go away with the breeze. I felt calm. There was a time when I used to dream I could travel to that city where the lights never go dark. Now, I wish I could dream about the time those same lights made my heart smile.
Your restless romantic roamer