This week my parents are visiting New York. My dad has a “work thing” so mom is going along and they’re turning it into an impromptu vacation.
Initially when I heard this I was extremely bitter because A) they never came to visit me when I was there for 14 months but cool, thanks and B) I am jealous because I desperately miss New York.
Mostly, I wish I was there to show them around and bring them to all of my favorite places, regular spots and secret haunts. I wanted to show them where I lived and the offices and bars where I worked.
As much as they claim to love me living with them, I’m not sure tagging along on their cute couple's holiday would go down to well so I decided to map out their entire trip so that they could retrace my footsteps.
Because of the nature of work things they’re staying in a Midtown Manhattan hotel which is fine but as a Brooklynite, obviously wouldn’t have been my first choice, had I had a choice at all. They’ve both been to New York on vacation a bunch of times before and already done and seen all of the top tourist attractions – the Met, Times Square, Empire State, Central Park, etc.
Having consulted various friends and colleagues – my dad works in the travel industry – they were both keen to see what they called “The Skyline” which could be interpreted as the gorgeous views of the Manhattan Skyline but is actually, in fact, the High Line. This converted old over-ground subway track which is now a stunningly sleek art and plant-life architectural feast has become a huge attraction and was always a favorite place of mine to bring visitors, so this was the first port of call on MOM AND DAD’S HOLIDAY MAP OF NEW YORK. I made a scrapbook because I’m actually five years old.
From the High Line they are guided by my highly user-friendly map to take a turn in Chelsea Market and eat all of the delicious treats on offer. From there, they should float through the West Village soaking up the almost-Christmastime atmosphere and lusting after the gorgeous and entirely unaffordable property and matchy-matchy couples dressed in Kooples.
They are to visit SoHo and my favorite Manhattan area – NoLita. They are to stroll around Mulberry, Mott and Elizabeth streets pretending they’re back in the days of the mob while shopping in cute boutiques and bookshops. Spending money and eating food are the primary features of this trip.
Next stop is Washington Square Park, swinging by NYU and dipping down St. Mark’s before settling at McSorley’s Irish pub. WHAT? AN IRISH BAR? PLEASE GOD NO is what many Irish tourists say.
Irish bars that are not in Ireland are generally considered to be hell on earth. Great in a crisis if you need a friendly face but when generally aiming to immerse oneself in a new and exciting culture, an Irish bar just isn’t quite far enough from home.
But McSorley’s has a lot of family history for us. My dad’s two sisters left Ireland for America in their late teens. The youngest is still out there, now living in California and the eldest returned to Ireland only four or five years ago.
In the early days they both worked as nannies in New Jersey, illegally at first, but they got their green cards through the lottery and always tell the story of filling entire pillowcases with applications and pushing – even crawling – their way through the crowds to get their stuffed pillowcases into the right boxes at the post office.
On their nights off, they would get the train from New Jersey into Manhattan and hit McSorley’s. Religiously. In the 1980s, the queues for this place would be down the street and around the corner and around a couple more corners too, but their loyalty to the place meant they were pally with the “guy on the door” and he would let them skip the queue which they are still clearly delighted about.
Inside it hasn’t changed – sawdust on the floors, newspaper clippings smothering the walls and friendly cobwebs dangling overhead. They only serve dark beer and light beer and some good solid Irish pub-grub. It smells exactly like it should and is one of the most comforting places I frequented. It is essential that my dad now gets to see this place that his sisters frequented too.
My recommended paths throughout the rest of the city take them from the Irish Hunger Memorial and Freedom Tower through the Financial District, across the Brooklyn Bridge and into DUMBO. They have been instructed to get Grimaldi’s pizza as that was my brother’s absolute favorite when he visited. Then to walk through Brooklyn Heights, into Boerum Hill where I worked for a year and to “ask for Phil” in the bar where I worked.
Another day is to be spent in Williamsburg sampling all of the incredible coffees and beers and witnessing the outrageous levels of hipster-dom that have caused my automatic gag-reflex when I see men wearing top-knots or sporting a pair of dungarees. They are to go to thrift shops and record stores and have cocktails on the roof of the Wythe Hotel. They are to walk along the water and take photos of the Manhattan skyline – the actual skyline – and eat at one of the 400 restaurants I recommended.
They are not to venture too far into Bushwick, where I lived, because I never once saw a middle-aged white couple there and I think they would die of fright which I want to see first-hand, so they’re only allowed go when I can be there to capture the whole thing on camera.
They are to take the subway and not go everywhere in cabs. They are to ask strangers for directions because New Yorkers are a lot friendlier than everyone thinks they are.
They are not to eat or drink in any “chain” cafes or restaurants because there are too many amazing places there. They only have four days, but they are not to waste a second of it.
I only skimmed the surface in my little pocket book and as I was doing it, realized that for so many people visiting New York, a lot of it is about retracing footsteps. Whether it’s your baby sisters who moved there 35 years ago, your daughter who moved there two years ago or the recommendations of people you never met, everyone’s experiences combine to create your own.
One of the main things I realized was how little I have really seen. I never went to Harlem, barely saw Queens and there are so many more nooks and crannies that are yet to be discovered.
Making this Parents Guide to New York made me more excited to return to New York in 2016 than I have been yet. I cannot wait to retrace my own footsteps and to make some new ones too. Bring it on.