The City that Never Sleeps

For the past two weeks, between job applications, interviews, volleyball tournaments, travelling and a whole host of other activities, I haven`t had much time to put my thoughts together. But here I am now as I just came back from my own dream land – a second trip to Manhattan, New York within a span of only three months. I think I’ve fallen in love all over again.

It’s hard to describe New York with a few words; you really have to be there to appreciate all the things the city has to offer. There is so much going on within such a densely populated island that there are always new things to do and to see. If I had to sum up the enjoyment of living in Manhattan, I would say it is largely experiential and incredibly fast-paced. Much of what you see has somewhat of a shock value and everyone is lining up to get a glimpse of the next cool attraction.

And as always, what better way to describe my experience than via a top 10 list of thoughts and observations from my vacation?

1. In the words of Jay-Z, the city never sleeps. At any block or intersection, you will see the same amount of foot traffic during the day as you will at night. Businesses and customers alike thrive on this level of activity and it is always extremely bright in Times Square regardless of the time of day. Even the subway is operating 24 hours a day to cater to the busy city lifestyle.

2. Every other car on the street is a yellow cab. Obviously a pretty common form of transportation and you can see that most cabs generally look the same. And they’re all standardized with fancy touchscreens, payment systems and of course, bulletproof glass.

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But speaking of cabs…

3. Most drivers have little to no regard for pedestrians. If you think downtown Toronto is bad, wait until you see NYC. Cabs will weave in and out of lanes at ridiculous speeds and emergency vehicles have a hard time finding an open lane. I would not want to drive in NYC.

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But then again…

4. Pedestrians have little to no regard for safety either. You will rarely see them wait for the walking pedestrian signal before crossing the street. You end up just following the crowd thinking “well everyone else is crossing, I guess I can cross too.”

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5. The subway system is highly complex. Here in Toronto we basically have two main subway lines (four if you include the Sheppard and Scarborough RT lines). In NYC, there are well over 20 different subway lines that all bend and curve in unexpected directions. On top of that, subway delays and route changes due to construction are quite common, so planning your trip beforehand is a must.

6. Luxury brands for a luxurious lifestyle. Take a walk along 5th avenue and all you will see are stores, hotels, and ads for some of the most premium retail brands, many of which attract lineups that extend outside the store (e.g. Abercrombie & Fitch, Juicy Couture).

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7. Flagship store galore. Times Square is prime real estate for advertising and you will see a flagship store for just about every brand you could imagine from the Disney flagship store to the Hershey flagship store to the Toys’R’Us flagship store just to name a few. All such stores offer a grand in-store experience filled with company history, extensive merchandise and cute gimmicks. In many cases, you feel like a kid in a candy store.

A life-sized Mario Kart from one of my favourite flagship stores, Nintendo World.

A life-sized Mario Kart from one of my favourite flagship stores, Nintendo World.

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Just one section of NYC’s iconic FAO Schwarz.

8. The economy runs on Broadway. You can tell from the ticket prices, the billboards, the size of the secondary market, and the industry’s dependence on star power how significant the theatrical arts are in the city. And rightfully so – I had the chance to see Wicked and was thoroughly impressed with my first Broadway play. They really know how to manage talent on Broadway.

The stage of the Gershwin Theatre, venue for the award-winning play Wicked.

The stage of the Gershwin Theatre, venue for the award-winning play Wicked.

9. Food options aplenty. I made sure to try a wide range of cuisines and was not once disappointed: Shake Shack, Lombardi’s Pizza, Maze by Gordon Ramsay, Ippudo, Eataly, Carnegie Deli. These were just a few of the must-haves in Manhattan and each of them have their own devout fan following.

The original Shake Shack. Yes the line loops around, but it's well worth the wait.

The original Shake Shack. Yes the line loops around, but it’s well worth the wait.

10. An impossible standard of living. Between paying for rent, eating out, seeing Broadway plays, paying for transportation and spending time with friends, I can only imagine how difficult it is for residents to sustain such an expensive lifestyle. Prioritization would be crucial as there are endless spending temptations that one would have to avoid.

Bonus: Garbage on the streetsThere are no bins into which residents dump their garbage bags. They simply leave them on the sidewalks to be picked up. Apparently this is normal but it’s not very pleasant when you have to walk home along a street full of everyone’s stinky trash.

All in all, I think I would love to live in Manhattan for at least a few months at some point in my life. It’s a very different lifestyle and it’s great for energetic individuals like myself. It would certainly provide a brand new perspective. But for now, I will simply continue to enjoy my vacation. I will be heading to Chicago for the weekend and will have another list of observations for you all soon. Stay tuned!

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