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Randi Kreiss

Five-day tour of the Big Apple’s thrills and chills

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If you’re going to jump in, then jump. That was my thinking during these post-vaccine weeks when I suggested a five-day stay in Manhattan to my California kid and her kid. We hadn’t seen each other in many months. On one hand, it was counterintuitive to stay in the Big Apple amid reports of untidy streets, menacing street people and closed venues. It made sense, though, to throw support and money to the city we love, and also benefit from lower hotel rates.

We would pick a hotel and do all the sites we could fit in to the time we had. She would fly into JFK. A forever-suburbanite, I would actually sleep in the city that never sleeps, which makes sense because I never sleep anymore.

We did it, last week, and I’m here to tell you that we took a big bite of the Big Apple, and it is still delicious. We saw the city, not as longtime New Yorkers, or commuters, which we have always been, but as visitors. In midtown, the tourists were surging. The Empire State Building, which had a line around the block by day, looked brilliant at sundown, its spire blazing into the sky. Restaurants in Tribeca and Soho featured blocks and blocks of outdoor seating. The romance of the city felt real and familiar.

My main impression: It’s a dog’s life. Our four-legged friends are everywhere, from the Bowery to Brooklyn, on the streets, in restaurants and in our hotel. I expect every city across America is experiencing the all-dogs-all-the-time phenomenon following the worst of the pandemic, when we craved the comfort of fluffy fur and puppy breath. We stayed at Hotel 50 Bowery, with views of the Manhattan Bridge, and it was perfect, since we’re kind of downtown people.

I know the Chinese community suffered during Covid, but the area is surging back, street markets are open, with piles of mangoes and cherries and every variety of lichi and bok choy on display. Everyone wears masks, and although masks were optional in our hotel, most travelers chose to stay safer.

We walked many miles every day. We trekked over the Brooklyn Bridge to Dumbo, walked through Tribeca, strolled through Little Italy every night for dessert, and ate outside nearly every meal because we were blessed with early-June balmy days and nights.

We took the subway uptown to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, where people are coming back in droves. More than the art itself, being part of going to a museum, and sharing the viewing experience, was uplifting and restorative. This is who we are, I thought, not denizens of lonely and isolated places.

The city is coming alive again, but it isn’t there yet. All the boarded-up restaurants and stores, from downtown to uptown, offer testament to the suffering of this past year and a half. The eateries that have opened are packed, but most of them still have a way to go. Service is uneven, everyone is “newly hired” and most places still need more help. Many are only semi-open. But there’s a new and hopefully enduring spirit of generosity for those who are learning the business and those who are slowly bringing their businesses back to life.

We went to the immersive Van Gogh experience downtown on Vesey Street. It was stunning and dreamy and felt completely safe. We wore masks and lay on the floor and let the flickering projected images of Van Gogh’s paintings wash over us. The next day we saw “Starry Night” at MOMA. We walked around the Battery for hours, with thousands of other visitors. The Statue of Liberty and the Verrazzano and the sails of boats in the Hudson offered the perfect backdrop. The greenery of the Battery and the benches throughout the trails offer a peaceful place for a walk or a timeout.

Of course, it was a dog show as well, with every size and shape pup walking their humans along the paths.

Strolling toward our hotel from the Battery, we stopped at the 9/11 Memorial. It has been 19 years, and I have never been able to bring myself to the site. But something is changed now. We are emerging from a season of epic suffering, and it felt cathartic to honor the memory of others who were lost in our great city.

Copyright 2021 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at randik3@aol.com.