My journey to New York City

For Easter long weekend, Mr. Romantic and I took a trip to New York City. It was my first and his second time there.

My expectations
I have to admit that NYC wouldn't have been my first choice. I'm not quite sure what would have been, but Mr. Romantic was talking about going and I figured it would be nice to travel with him, especially for my first "real" trip. He took care of everything. All I had to do was follow and I was definitely willing!

My expectations were that NYC would probably be a very commercial looking/feeling city. Movies are filled with images of the exaggerated extravagant advertising in Time Square, super high rises, a plethora of stores and restaurants. I expected a lot of noise and pollution. Maybe a little chaos. And I expected Central Park would be a lovely little nature oasis in the middle of a busy city.

Overall, it didn't seem like the most appealing place for me. Although I thought it probably wouldn't be so far out of my comfort zone. It is in North America after all.

My packing list
This is the fun part of a minimalist's blog, right? What does a minimalist bring on a trip to NYC?

“Can you pack everything you need for 4 days into a carry-on bag, or will you need to check luggage?” Mr. Romantic asked me when he was booking our flight. “I’m a minimalist, I can do it! ;) ...... How big is a carry-on?...”

The day we left, I wore:
  1. blue jeans
  2. flowered top
  3. black cardigan
  4. light infinity scarf
  5. sports shoes
  6. winter jacket
  7. simple gold coloured hoop earrings
In my purse, I had my:
  1. wallet
  2. passport
  3. e-reader and charger
  4. cellphone charger
  5. clip-on sunglasses
  6. make-up (mascara, eye shadow, eyeliner and lipstick)
  7. apartment keys
  8. small notebook and pen (I didn’t want to bring my laptop with me, but I wanted to be sure to capture my thoughts during the trip.)
In my carry-on (which was a backpack), I brought:
  1. toothbrush and toothpaste
  2. deodorant
  3. make-up remover wipes
  4. pain relief ointment and over the counter pain relief medication (which I was grateful to have packed)
  5. 3 days-worth of underwear and socks
  6. nightgown
  7. slippers
  8. black jeans
  9. black t-shirt
  10. teal cardigan
  11. army-green sweater
  12. black skirt, pantyhose and “dressier” shoes (in case we did something fancy)
  13. rain jacket
  14. lighter jacket (because NYC is a little warmer than Ottawa)
The hotel provided shampoo, conditioner and soap, so I didn't bother packing those. I could live without my preferred brands for a weekend.

How we got there
This was my first plane trip ever. We woke up early and excited Friday morning. We grabbed our carry-ons and took the bus to the Ottawa/Macdonald–Cartier International Airport.

I wasn't particularly nervous about travelling by plane. I found that the take-offs weren't as intense as I expected and the turbulence didn't feel any worse than driving down some of our potholed filled streets around here. The landings, however, I didn't enjoy so much. They weren't that bad, but they made me a little nervous. I took four planes in total (two there and two back), and I would have to say that it was the third landing that bothered me the most. But hey! I survived and I'm writing this, so all in all, successful flights.

Were my expectations right?

As soon as we got out of Penn station to walk towards our hotel, I was shocked to see how colossal the buildings were. I mean, I expected big buildings, but I didn't expect them to be so humongous! Movies and TV shows and photos don't prepare you for the in person experience. I loved the mix of very modern buildings with the older more ornate ones. 

Central Park was as pretty as I expected, but it was way bigger than I thought it would be. It really was quite something to behold the colossal buildings surrounding the beautiful park. We saw dancers and singers, and beautiful architecture. Trees were already in bloom.

NYC is much cleaner than I expected for the amount of people there. It was also not as chaotic as I expected. There were many people and plenty of noise and visual distractions, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

I also felt as safe/unsafe as I do in my hometown. I never felt like I should be clutching my purse or feared for my life. However, we didn't go into the parts of NYC that are notorious for their crime and violence.

NYC is more beautiful than I thought it would be.

What we ate
Out of all the places we picked to eat, only two were actually very good. The other places, in my opinion, were mediocre to bad. I found it weird that you couldn't get yellow mustard at hot dog carts; only spicy brown mustard and ketchup were available. By the last night we were there, I was yearning for my mother's cooking.

Where we stayed
Mr. Romantic booked us a room in a beautiful hotel right on Broadway between Time Square and Central Park. In my opinion, it was a perfect location. We could see a sliver of the signs of Time Square from our bedroom window.

What we did
We walked. A lot! So I was happy that for the past month I've been walking pretty much every day. Mostly to relieve stress and get healthy, but I also did it so that I could train to better keep up with Mr. Romantic. He's an avid walker.

When I couldn't walk anymore, we'd either take the subway or a cab. It was a little tricky to navigate the subways because many lines were either cancelled or re-routed due to construction. But Mr. Romantic was pretty awesome at getting us to where we wanted to go.

We visited Central Park, Time Square, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grand Central station, SOHO, the Evolution Store, the 9/11 memorial (from the outside), the Empire State Building (from the outside and the lobby), the Chrysler building (from the outside) and Rockefeller Square. We walked the Brooklyn Bridge and took the Ellis Island ferry from where we saw the Statue of Liberty. 

What I wish I knew before
I wish I knew that most people wear running shoes in NYC. You just walk so much that you need to make sure your shoes are particularly comfortable. If I'd known that, I would have bought a good pair of running shoes. The ones I own are not especially comfortable so I ended up with sore feet and ankles before the end of the day. If it hadn't been for that, I could have kept going and seen more than I did (even though I was told that we crammed a lot in on our short trip).

I didn't use most of my make-up, my notebook, the light jacket, the "fancy" clothes or my e-reader. I could have left them at home to make for slightly lighter luggage. I could have done without my black t-shirt and teal cardigan, too.

What I would have done differently
Nothing really. My first experience of NYC was perfect! Great accommodations, great location, great travel companion. 

Final thoughts
Using money for experiences like this is way more meaningful to me than owning a bunch of stuff.

By the end of the first day, I could completely understand how people fall in love with NYC. I'm not quite sure I'd want to live there (though perhaps in SOHO), however I definitely would like to go back. There's still so much to see. Perhaps a longer trip would be better for me so that I don't get as tired. But in all fairness to myself, I did have a cold and my shoes weren't so great.

Even if I do go back for a longer stay I would probably bring the same amount of clothes (except for the things I said I could do without). The hotel where we stayed had a laundry facility. At worst, I could do a wash or two.

Mr. Romantic is definitely a very good travel companion! He's considerate and patient. He was up for anything I wanted to do and never made me feel like I was holding him back. He was calm (or at least looked calm) while he was navigating through the city and to and from the airports. That made for a more enjoyable trip for me.

In my opinion, the amount of money and stuff in NYC is somewhat obscene. I saw many homeless encampments along the streets. You know, the stereotypical people laying atop cardboard boxes in dirty sleeping bags eating their food in take-out containers on the street in front of these super expensive mammoth business towers. How can these extremes coexist? How can we let this happen? But perhaps this is too big a social problem for me to tackle on my journey to simplicity blog...

Anyway, I'd definitely do it all again!

A view from the Brooklyn Bridge
A view from our hotel room


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