by Vanessa, New York Guest Sales Associate
One glorious Saturday morning, I set course for Time Square where my trusty steed-the Gray Line Bus- awaited me. I anticipated the worst, enormous crowds, surly employees, and worst of all traffic. I was however, more than pleasantly surprised, so much so that I considered returning the next day. In a stealthy and lineless exchange at the Times Square Guest Center, I quickly made way across the street and to the roof of one of their many red buses for three hours of sight seeing and sun-tanning. Having recently moved to New York from California, my sense of a true metropolis has been embolden with single image of a subway map framed by an endless sea of yellow cabs. New York is a city that begs to be seen, and though I have made serious attempts to walk through each neighborhood I still find myself disoriented after having spent too much time in the subway or trapped in a crowd. Should there ever be a requirement for all New Yorkers and visitors alike, a Hop On Hop Off tour is certainly one. In the open air of a roof top bus you find yourself heads above the crowds and cabs for privileged views of the city. More importantly, for a new New Yorker like myself, the tour was a great to help me conceptualize the city’s layout.
Lasting nearly three hours, we wove our way through downtown via Broadway, pausing briefly at Battery Park, then cutting below the Brooklyn Bridge before snaking our way up through the nation’s largest Chinatown towards the United Nations, and then back to end at the Rockefeller Center. Passengers literally hopped on and off without fuss along 11 different stops clearly marked throughout downtown. While the city appeared to be posed for an endless series of glamour shots, the true star of the day was our tour guide Ahmed, whose love and admiration of the city, its architecture, and its inhabitants was palpable. However it was his particular sense of being both equal amounts Egyptian and New Yorker that not only inspire hope, but two very serious claims about New York.
Two Very Serious Claims:
1. New York is America. If ever there was a space that completely embodied the spirit of an American, NYC is that place. Restless, hopeful, cool, over the top, pragmatic in unexpected ways, nose grinding and boot strapping, where dreams come to be American. This is America.
2. New Yorkers love their city so much that they verge on being provincial. There are several elements to this equation, traffic being the common denominator.
Ask a Manhattanite about Brooklyn, and prepared for casual bewilderment, rather than cool nostalgia, “I never go there, but I hear it’s great”. Ask a Brooklyner and prepare for endless pontification on the brilliance of this ultra cool, vast, diverse, and evolving borough. More on this later.
Three hours flew by, and all at once we were saying goodbye as old friends do. After regaining my cement legs, I made my way toward Grand Central Station to return to Brooklyn, stopping along the way at my favorite café Gregory’s for a warm pumpkin beverage and to revel in my small sense of familiarity or more poignantly that I am not a tourist but a New Yorker, a once foreign feeling in this new city I now call home.