Friday, October 1, 2010

FAO Schwartz and Central Park: New York Travel Tips

The Apple Store between FAO Schwartz and The Plaza Hotel, 5th Ave just south of Central Park (photo by Luis Bastardo)

We didn't last long on our first day in New York. We had a very long flight from Buenos Aires and, as much as we wanted to see as much as possible of the city, our bodies finally gave out. We slept for about 16 hours, but started out the next day full (well, more or less) of energy. For Luis, who, if you haven't picked it up by now, is an incurable photography addict, NYC was heaven on earth. I seriously don't think we were able to walk more than 100 feet without him stopping to take a photo. Nothing was immune: buildings, street fairs, individual leaves on trees, squirrels, piles of garbage, you name it. I was beginning to think that it was going to be a very long ten days, but then something incredible happened. For me, a longtime resident (now expat) of New York, the uncoolest thing in the world is to act like a tourist. We New Yorkers are so very above that.

Simone hoping she doesn't run into any of her cool NYC friends, in front of toy store, FAO Schwartz (photo by Luis Bastardo)

Much to my jaded surprise, after a few days, I was beginning to enjoy seeing New York through the touristy eyes of Luis, a man who is completely unaware that his actions could ever be perceived as geeky. This is a man who, before a hike, wraps duct tape around his feet, including each individual toe, to avoid blisters and who ties knots into the corners of a handkerchief to use as a makeshift hat. It was liberating in a way to be able to drop the cooler-than-thou stance of New Yorkers and to just take in the action, beauty and excitement of the city from a tourist's point of view. When I lived in New York, I avoided the places we visited like the plague. I would no more have thought of visiting Times Square or the Statue of Liberty than the Black Hole of Calcutta. I had better things to do with my time than to hang out with pink-visored tourists in Wal-mart khaki capri pants and "I heart NY" t-shirts. Yet, here I was with Luis, happily perusing the jellybean display at the famous toy store, FAO Schwartz, and negotiating rates with Hansom cab drivers for carriage rides through Central Park.  

A family enjoys the giant musical piano from the Tom Hanks movie, "Big", FAO Schwartz (photo by Simone Cannon)  

After visiting FAO Schwartz, we walked through the shops of the Plaza Hotel, then strolled through the lower reaches of Central Park, hands down my favorite place in the city. The park is much too big to visit in one afternoon, but I told Luis that we would return on Sunday, the liveliest and most interesting day in the park, in my opinion. It was a lovely, warm autumn day and many of the flowers were still in bloom. We walked for hours within the park's boundaries, sampling hot dogs and warm, soft pretzels, watching street performers, children playing and impromptu baseball and Frisbee games. When I lived in the city, I was constantly working long and strenuous hours, trying to maintain a social life and generally hoping to keep up with the lightning pace of life, but that day with Luis I was able to slow down and really enjoy New York for the first time in years. It was nice to be from out of town. 

 Luis makes a new friend, The Alice in Wonderland sculpture, Central Park (photo by Simone Cannon)

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