This is New York

I wake up in the morning to the song of sirens and the murmur of traffic, heartbeat of a city that has never gone to sleep. People are already talking loudly outside on the street, music blares from passing cars and children whoop and scream as they play baseball in the scrubby diamond in front of my apartment building. When I leave to launch myself out into this heaving metropolis, I become another cog in the wheel of a gargantuan piece of machinery that never stops whirring. Everywhere you go, footsteps pound, voices chatter, horns honk, lights twinkle, arms are raised, steam belches, people stream from every orifice, smells emanate from all manner of carts and grates and stores…the city is positively alive and moving, and you cannot help but be swept along with it.

This is a city where everyone is on the move and everyone is on the up; the buildings soar high into the sky and on grey days, they even pierce the clouds. New York is the city of dreams; everyone here has one they are trying to achieve. From the busboys in East Village restaurants to the girls working in midtown offices, they have all come here from somewhere else, looking to absorb the energy, the passion, and the sheer life of this throbbing city in order to make something of themselves. Some do, some don’t, but all are united by their belief that here, it is possible to be something more than what they are.

New York is a city of extremes; in the winter, the temperatures plummet to well below freezing, and in the summer, the heat regularly tops 100F. The homeless stand side by side with millionaires on the city streets. Being in the midst of it all can be overwhelmingly loud, but walk into the centre of Central Park and the silence is deafening. It’s not all excitement and glamour; alongside the glorious skyscrapers and magnificent riverside vistas are dingy tenements, ugly concrete office buildings, piles of rotting rubbish and tacky fast food shops. When your mood is low, walking around the ugliest and smelliest parts of midtown can be enough to make you question why you are here, and why exactly you thought this city had any more magic than anywhere else. It is at these moments, just when you think you’ve had enough of striving to make it work here, that New York shines its brightest, striking you afresh by how spectacular it is. It might be an unexpected glimpse of the glittering tip of the Empire State Building, or a midnight stroll through the pretty streets of the East Village; perhaps it’s sitting in Bryant Park watching the world go by, or eating brunch on a sunny sidewalk on a Saturday morning; whatever that moment might be, you’re suddenly reminded of what a magical, unique and truly extraordinary place you are lucky enough to live in, and the awe and affection come flooding back in. For New York may kick you down repeatedly, but it will always offer you the hand you need to pull yourself back up again.

New York is legendary for a reason. It really is a city of dreams. Anything and everything is accepted and acceptable here; no dream is too big, no mountain too high. The air vibrates with positive energy, its people are full of purpose and ambition, and even the highest stories of skyscrapers, virtually impossible to be seen with the naked eye, are lavishly decorated, encouraging you to look up, up, up, in the direction of infinite possibility. It’s not an easy place to call home, and it’s not always delightful, but somehow, it never quite ceases to be compelling, enchanting, addictive and exciting. There’s always something new to see, do, enjoy, and marvel at; there is never a dull moment, and never a pause. New York is not for the faint hearted. It’s for those who believe in the beauty of their dreams, who are determined to reach for the stars, and who aren’t afraid of a few knocks on their way to achieving their ambitions. New York hardens you, but it also opens your eyes to the magnificence of man, making you appreciate the sheer wonder of what we are capable of. This little marshy island, a mere speck in the Atlantic, has become the greatest city on earth. If New York can do it, then why can’t you? That question continues to draw hundreds of thousands of people here every year, seeking fame, fortune, fun and the opportunity to become the person they always thought they might be, given half the chance. New York doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and it chews up and spits out many of these wide eyed innocents who arrive on its hallowed streets with a sparkle in their eye and a suitcase in their hands, but for those it embraces….well. They’ll never be the same again. This is the magic of New York.


  1. Good evening! It is official! I have linked to your blog (the Austen post) in my giveaway.

    I shall read your NYC post with the respect it obviously deserves tomorrow after a hopefully good night’s sleep.

  2. Wherever you have written New York I think that one could easily substitute London and the same applies! Perhaps as a native Londoner its magic has lost its ability to enchant anymore but perhaps when you return it will cast its spell once more.

    I have dreamed of visiting New York since I was in single digits and reading all about it; your posts have served to deepen that desire and educate me more about what to see and do when I attain my dream.

    1. I think you’re right – I lost the magic because I had been there too long and got too used to it, but now I’ve been away I can’t wait to get back and rediscover my home town. London is a truly magical place and I do prefer it to New York, as much as wax lyrical about the latter, because it is my home and nothing will ever replace it in my heart.

      I am so glad to hear that Claire, and when you do get to visit New York, I hope it will be everything that you dreamed of. It has been for me!

  3. Oh, Rachel. Reading this absolutely incredible post has gotten me all weepy (in a good, healthy way, I mean) and nostalgic for home. You have, in no uncertain terms, perfectly described and captured in perfect words and sentences, everything that is New York City – the magic, the beauty, the appeal, the attraction, the intensity, as well as the darkness and the sadness that walks hand in hand sometimes with all that is brilliant and bright.

    There is nothing I could add to what you have written, above. So beautifully and poignantly expressed, might I add.

    I know it will be difficult for you to leave it, as it was for me when I did, 13 years ago. But trust me when I tell you this – assure you of this – that the adventures you’ve had, the experiences you’ve immersed yourself in, the amazing people you’ve met and have made friends with, the energy that this incredible, magical city has given you, will stay with you and live in your heart and your memories, for a lifetime.

    Thank you so very much for sharing this, Rachel. I will be going back to it again and again – these truly are beautiful sentiments, beautifully expressed.

    Lots of New York love to you from Ireland,

    ps – go to Eisenberg’s for an egg cream and bring home a t-shirt for yourself!

    1. Oh no June! I don’t want you to cry! Thank you for your lovely compliments – to perfectly capture New York is no mean fear!

      Oh yes – I am never going to forget this place. I have memories to last a lifetime and I am so thankful that I had the chance to live here!

      I will try my best! But time is running out!!

  4. I just love this post, it’s fantastic. You have captured the heart and soul of a magnificent often aggravating city!

  5. sounds utterly amazing. Beauty is everywhere. I can almost smell New York and all the places you describe yet i wake up every morning in the west of Ireland and sit up in bed and look out at the lake outside my window and see the mountain opposite and the clouds moving and the heron on the lakes edge and the trout jumping and the silence or the rain thundering down with mist disguising the mountain view ……………………. wherever you are Rachel, be it New York now or London , England soon, the beauty is still everywhere.
    will be joining you in Persuasion soon.

    1. Oh Nora, your home sounds breathtakingly beautiful…beauty is everywhere, and I think part of the challenge of life is learning to recognise and appreciate that. I certainly didn’t appreciate London enough when I was there and now I know I will be giving it the respect it deserves on my return!

      Great – I am getting really excited about Persuasion!

  6. You will have a lifetime of stories from this year-long adventure, Rachel. You have made a dream come true and it was a big one! And something tells me you’re one cog in the wheel who will have left a mark when you pack up…you did get a train to wait for you after all. Thanks for taking us along for the ride and best wishes for a fabulous week before you head back to England!

    1. I really will, Darlene – I’m going to be the best dinner party guest ever! ‘Oh, I can tell you about hurricanes..’ – basically I am going to drop the fact that I lived in New York into every conversation for the rest of my LIFE. Yes – that train will be my claim to fame forever more! I am so glad you’ve enjoyed the ride Darlene – thank you, I am busy with lots of plans – staving off the grief of leaving all this behind!

  7. Where in Sligo are you, Nora? I live in Sligo, too. Small world! Right near the foot of the Ox Mountains. Yes, you’re absolutely right and I agree with you completely. .beauty is everywhere. I was born in New York, and it is my first home, but Ireland has taken me into her arms and adopted me as one of her own, so I feel blessed that I have two places to truly call ‘home.’

  8. You’re such a good writer, Rachel! So talented. I could never feel like this about a city, I can’t even feel that a city is home, despite living in one for seven years – but I am a confirmed country-boy to the very depth of my soul. Maybe I should write a paean to Chiselborough!

    1. Oh Simon! I am blushing! Thank you. Well, you are a lover of rolling hills and fields of swaying rapeseed, while I see beauty in chimney pots! I often wish I was a country girl, but as much as I love the English countryside, nothing compares to city life for me. If I hadn’t grown up in London though, I think I’d feel very differently.

  9. Wow! What an amazing description, Rachel! I’m glad you survived the hurricane, and I hope you are enjoying your last days in New York City. Have a safe trip back home!

    1. Thanks Virginia – yes, hurricane Irene was successfully survived and I have lots planned for my last few days here, though I don’t finish work until Thursday! Thank you very much!

  10. Don’t worry, Rachel. You didn’t make me weep in a sad way. More like a nostalgic sort of way. Do you know that lovely Style Council song ‘A Paris Match,’ with the lyrics: ‘…I’m only sad in a natural way. And I enjoy sometimes feeling this way…’ That’s what I was feeling when I first read your post.

    I think it’s true and I agree with you, in that you sometimes need to leave your home (street, town, city, country) and move away (be it a long or short time) to truly and fully appreciate where you’re originally from. Having said that, I do love living here in Ireland so much – she has generously and lovingly adopted me and taken such wonderful care of me for so many years now, that I feel blessed, having both New York and Ireland as places that I can call ‘home.’

    Have a wonderful week, and safe journey back home.

    1. Good! I feel the same about London a lot…I have really missed it and can’t wait to be back.

      You’re lucky that you feel like you have two homes. As much as I love New York it will never truly feel like home – perhaps because I came alone and have no family ties here – but it’s been a wonderful place to live nonetheless.

      Thank you – it’s going to be jam packed and I will be in D.C. for half of it but I am looking forward to getting back to my own bed in my own house at the end of it, with a cup of tea ad some crumpets for breakfast to look forward to!

  11. Though I’ve had plenty of holidays in New York (from the early 1970’s), I’ve never had the opportunity to spend any length of time there. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading all of your “postcards” and learned so much as you explored your new home. I’m not going to say enjoy this last week because I know you will.

    1. I’m glad you’ve had the chance to enjoy New York for yourself…it’s been a fun ride, and I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to really experience life here for an extended time. I will indeed! Thank you.

  12. I love all of your posts, Rachel, but you have outdone yourself with this one! You’ve been through it all this year in New York and will have stories to last a lifetime. Wish we could have crossed paths, but we moved my oldest daughter out a couple of weeks ago. Came in late one evening, loaded her up by 6AM the next morning (before the street closed at 7 for City Streets), and headed home. Perhaps our next trip to London…

    1. Thank you JoAnn – how lovely of you to say so! I know, I am sad we didn’t get to meet either, but I know how busy life gets and it doesn’t always get fitted in! Next time either of us is across the pond, we’ll have to make sure we get that cup of tea in!

  13. Lovely post, Rachel. I have never been to New York City, but your descriptions have been amazing. I know you will be glad to be home, but New York will probably be your other home. We all hope after a time at home you will enjoy another trip to the good ol’ USA. You have experienced so much from weather drama to quiet, peaceful afternoons enjoying the scenery.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    1. Thank you so much Janet. I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed my stories of this wonderful city! Oh I will be back, that’s for sure – I’m already planning my next trip! I have had the best time and I am excited to see even more of this amazing country in the future. Thank you for coming along on the ride with me!

  14. This is a lovely essay and ode to New York. So much enjoyed your posts regarding London as was visiting London last fall and a lucky coincidence our holidays this year will be New York. Thank you for sharing your year in New York. I look forward to your British posts again.

    1. Thank you Bronwen – I’m so glad I’ve been of use to you in both of my settings!! Enjoy your holiday in New York – you will have a fabulous time, I am sure!

  15. Oh Rachel, I was so sad yesterday evening! I am sure New York will miss you too. Don’t forget to write your awesome book about all your travels. People are waiting for it still… 🙂

    1. I cried walking to the bus stop after I left you Jenny! I will, don’t worry. You’re going to be in it under a fake name – you’ll have to guess who you are!! 🙂

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