A Traveler’s Tale: 20 Days in the Heart of New York

2023 will be a year I will always remember, thanks to my first trip to New York. Since the beginning of September, I have been lucky enough to spend almost 20 days immersed in the Big Apple, a city I have dreamed of for a long time, and I was finally able to realise this dream. This experience allowed me to experience New York in the way I have always wanted to: unhurried, savouring every moment and discovering every corner of the city at my own pace. During this unforgettable trip, I was able to admire Manhattan’s famous skyscrapers, stroll through the atmospheric Central Park and immerse myself in the vibrant atmosphere of neighbourhoods such as Brooklyn and Queens. All in all, this trip was much more than just sightseeing: it gave me deep emotions and indelible memories that I will carry in my heart forever.

The month of September proved to be the ideal time to visit New York. During this time, I was able to enjoy pleasant, sunny days that dragged with them the warm embraces of late summer. However, as is often the case, the weather can play tricks on you. In the last three days of my stay, I had to face incessant rain that made my walks less pleasant but did not stop me from continuing to explore this incredible metropolis.

Accommodation in the Multiethnic Heart of Queens

During my wonderful stay in Queens, I was lucky enough to be hosted by Jobin and his father, very nice people I met through friends. Their cozy home was equipped with every imaginable comfort and provided me with an ideal starting point for my urban explorations.

My neighbourhood, Jackson Heights, located between Roosevelt Avenue and Junction Boulevard, is a true melting pot of cultures, especially Latin American. Every time I walk through these streets, I feel like I’m in a vibrant Latin American city: the same frenetic chaos, the same spicy smells and addictive noises. It is truly amazing how this area manages to recreate such an authentic atmosphere despite the geographical distance from those faraway lands.

The Sociability of New Yorkers

Apart from the neighbourhood where I was staying, I was surprised that my main language of communication was Spanish. It was amazing to notice that every sign, document or instruction was also available in my native language, reflecting the large community of Spanish speakers residing in this cosmopolitan city.

Whenever I travelled to different places, I always had the pleasure of meeting people fluent in Spanish as their mother tongue. Furthermore, I noticed that many people, as soon as they saw me, made an effort to communicate with me in the best Spanish possible.

This linguistic inclusiveness facilitated my experience and made me feel comfortable communicating and navigating through the different everyday situations I encountered during my stay.

During my experience in New York, I noticed an interesting cultural contrast between the people here and those in Europe. I was pleasantly surprised that people in New York are generally more open and helpful. This welcoming mentality made it much easier for me, who is by nature introverted, to interact with others and approach new people. I have noticed a general openness to dialogue and help from the local community, which has helped enrich my experience in this vibrant cosmopolitan city.

Living New York: A Unique Experience

New York City has the power to move and inspire anyone who visits it. One of the most moving moments is when nature blends harmoniously with the urban environment, creating a unique spectacle.

I was deeply moved by the small garden in Dumbo, where the wonderful view of the city is bordered by two majestic bridges, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge.

Speaking precisely of the Brooklyn Bridge, I had the opportunity to admire probably the most impressive sunset observed right under this magnificent bridge, after a rain that had given way to an incredibly colourful sky. I stood there motionless for over an hour, completely captivated by so much natural beauty.

The magic of the sun disappearing over the horizon, while the city’s twinkling lights gradually came on, created a truly evocative and exciting atmosphere. New York is a city that manages to provide strong emotions thanks to the fusion of nature and urban architecture. Every corner reveals a different story to tell, one that can deeply touch the hearts of visitors like me.

The Little Italy neighbourhood in the Bronx is a hidden treasure that offers an authentic and fascinating experience, very different from Manhattan. Located in the heart of the Bronx, this neighbourhood is often overlooked by tourists but is definitely worth a careful and curious visit. Its back streets are filled with traditional shops, authentic restaurants and a vibrant Italian-American community that has kept its traditions alive.

Speaking of the Bronx district, I had the opportunity to explore it thoroughly during my walks. Although there is a certain reputation of being one of the ‘tough neighbourhoods’ that can be found in many big cities, I must say that it does not differ much from other similar areas. However, a heavy atmosphere can

be perceived in some areas: people who are drunk or in a state of mind close to depression may require extra attention. Having said that, I must admit that walking through the back streets of the Bronx was an interesting experience. You can discover hidden and quaint corners and breathe in an authentic and lively atmosphere. If you are looking for a good Italian pizza by the slice in the Bronx to satisfy your appetite, I suggest a stop at Full Moon Pizza on Arthur Avenue. This restaurant is renowned for its Italian pizza, prepared with fresh, quality ingredients.

Among the many places I had the opportunity to visit, I would highly recommend a stop at Coney Island. Despite its somewhat remote location, if the weather is clear it is absolutely worth it. Coney Island is a beach that equals the many beautiful beaches you can find in Spain or Italy, but with an added value: it is home to one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. My personal experience took me to visit Coney Island on a beautiful September morning. Although it was already autumn, the sun was still bringing warmth and brightness to the surroundings. This place is truly ideal for spending a relaxing day with friends or family.

This place has a long tradition and has witnessed the transformation of American popular culture over time. So, if you are looking for a special place to relax and have fun at the same time, I highly recommend putting Coney Island on your list of destinations to visit.

Cost of living considerations

I had a very positive experience in New York in every aspect. Despite my short stay, I tried to experience it as a real resident. The smells, the chaos, the smog and the large amount of people present fascinated me. Every aspect of the city exuded a vibrant energy that was impossible not to love. However, I must emphasise that living in New York as a resident can be very challenging. But the vitality found in this city, the overwhelming energy and the endless opportunities it can offer more than compensate for all the difficulties one can encounter in this great American metropolis.

Living in New York for several weeks can be expensive, but with good planning and a flexible attitude, you can enjoy all the wonders of the city without necessarily having to spend a fortune. If you don’t expect to necessarily stay in hotels in Manhattan and eat twice a day in a restaurant, there are numerous strategies you can adopt to optimise your budget and maximise your experience in the Big Apple.

First of all, it is advisable to look for affordable accommodation. Renting a flat in less central areas can greatly reduce your housing costs. As for food, make the most of local markets to cook at home. Alternatively, discovering the many cheap restaurants and street food that New York has to offer can be a tasty experience without necessarily having to spend exorbitant amounts of money.

Unexpected Encounters and Renewed Friendships

I was lucky enough to reunite with an old friend of mine from Washington DC, whom I hadn’t seen for a good seven years. Edgar has his own punk rock band covering the legendary 1960s Peruvian band Los Saicos. By pure chance, I discovered that his concert in Brooklyn coincided with the time I was in New York. I could not miss this opportunity and was pleasantly surprised by his performance and that of his band. It was really exciting to attend one of their concerts for the first time. The evening and night spent with Edgar and his bandmates were unforgettable, characterised by a pure and contagious fun energy that kept us all involved until the early morning. Who knows if I will visit him in Washington DC next time!

A photo of the Los Saicos Experience the group of my friend Edgar

Final Reflections

Although Barcelona remains my favourite city to live in, I must admit that New York has a special place in my heart, definitely in second place. This metropolis is a veritable concentration of vibrant energy and offers an infinity of unique experiences that will surely drive me to return in the future. Its vibrancy and vitality are palpable everywhere you go, from the bustling streets to famous landmarks such as Times Square and Central Park. I can’t wait to return to this wonderful city.

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Mauro Pedretti

Mauro Pedretti

Passionate about telling stories that inspire and entertain.
I live in London.

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