My Last Fun Weekend in 2020 Before the Pandemic

my last fun weekend in New York

New York City Here I Come

I flew on a crowded plane from Kansas City to New York City. I drank wine and enjoyed a massage in the Detroit airport terminal and sat in several restaurants and laughed with friends in person. My hotel was beautiful. It overlooked three bridges and had a balcony. Every night, I danced late into the night in packed rooftop bars, ate standing room only tacos and sat butt-cheek to butt-cheek in an Uber with people I had just met. I even shared my bed with a young lady I met earlier that day, so she didn’t have to travel to the Bronx after one of those late rooftop parties. It seems like all that happened a lifetime ago. But it was March 9th, and I am pretty sure that was my last fun weekend in 2020.

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  1. I Hope I’m Wrong
  2. Y-M-C-A
  3. The Plan for the Weekend
  4. And The Reality
  5. The Itinerary
  6. Chinatown
  7. Brooklyn Bridge
  8. Financial District
  9. The Bull and the Fearless Girl
  10. Where I Stayed– The Hotel on Rivington
  11. Final Thoughts

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Last Fun Weekend in 2020

I Hope I’m Wrong

Who knew that a weekend three months into the year would be the travel highlight for the entire year? I didn’t. I thought it was only the beginning. Since then, we’ve all been in some form of lockdown. My day includes working from home, Netflix, online shopping, puzzles, yoga, and meditation. And takeout and more Netflix on the weekends. Not so bad, but not so much fun either.

That trip to NYC was a homecoming for me. I a New Yorker. Although I was born in Maryland, married in Colorado, and I live in Kansas. New York is where my heart is– because that’s where my mom and dad. They live in Upstate New York— far from the maddening crowds of the city, and all the fun, I thought when I lived there too.

Soon afterward, I moved south into Manhattan for two years. It was the best and worst thing I’ve ever done.

I was young, and I partied a lot– was broke all the time, so I mostly hung out with friends, and most of them lived in the Bronx. Clubs had high cover charges, and excellent restaurants were out of my price range too. I moved there to live with my boyfriend, but we broke up after he pulled a gun on me. But even that didn’t discourage me from staying. So I moved into the YMCA on 46th Street on the East Side of Manhattan.

The YMCA

It wasn’t my first choice. But the Y has clean, cheap rooms you could rent by the week or the month. And the building had 24-hour security– aka, a poor person’s doorman that doesn’t open the door. He will, however, take the dead bot out of your door if you fail to pay your rent. Most of them were pretty nice guys, but one or two were skanks. If you slept with them, they might look the other way for a day or two. No, I didn’t know this from personal experience, but a few of my friends did. While there, I also witnessed a high profile crime– that shook me to my core.

I lived in the same room for almost two years until an ulcer changed everything. My mother flew down and dragged me back home, kicking and screaming. NYC= 1. Stacey= O.

I hadn’t stepped foot in the city until I visited Ground Zero a couple of years ago. During my long layover to Italy, I decided to spend the day like a tourist. Not much has changed in the last twenty years, except I have a little money. But that, my friend, makes all the difference. And it’s a big reason why this was the last fun weekend in 2020.

The Plan for the Weekend

I booked tickets to the Women’s Travel Fest more than six months ago. Initially, I cheaped out and bought coach tickets, but then I upgraded to Business class for the fun-filled weekend.

I needed a mental health break from Kansas. The plan was to go a few days early, see a show, go to a couple of museums, and attend an African dance class in Brooklyn. I wanted to eat a lot of great food, walk across Brooklyn Bridge, and then visit the conference. A whole week in the city by myself sounded like paradise.

I flew into Newark, rode the bus to Port Authority, and walked to the hotel.

The Reality that Weekend

I didn’t get to the African dance class, but I danced in my room at night and practice yoga in the most beautiful sunlight most mornings. If you are looking for a unique experience in New York, Google daybreaker NYC for a morning yoga workout from 6-7 am followed by a dance party from 7-9 am three times a month. The weather was terrific most of the week, and the last thing I wanted to do was spend it in a museum, so I squashed that too. I nixed the theater idea because I didn’t want to be inside that long. Who am I kidding those damn tickets were like $350 for a matinee. I did, however, enjoy three of my favorite foods that evening: Mexican, Korean, and Indian.

Like many other people, I had to decide whether or not to attend the Women’s Travel Fest in New York City amid whispers of this virus that was spreading across China. My mom called me the night before I left to tell me someone in my home state of New York tested positive for the virus.

That night, I watched the news and read a few articles online to determine if the threat was severe enough to cancel my travel plans the next day. Nothing I read or heard raised rose to a level high enough to cancel my plans. I continued to pack my bags, adding a bottle of Thieves Spray to carry-on alongside the Thieves Hand Sanitizer and the hand wipes I always carry. And although I traveled with heightened awareness, I did not bring or wear a mask that weekend. And no one else wore one either.

What I Did in New York That Weekend

So why am I calling this the last fun weekend? It’s only March.

I made a plan to see a lot of the things I didn’t notice when I lived here as a young adult. Not because I didn’t want to, of course, but because I was so busy hustling to pay my rent at the Y. It soon dawned on me that when I lived here, I didn’t leave my neighborhood much.

I decided not to ride the subway to limit my exposure to people and public surfaces. And since NYC is enormous, and I only had four days, excluding the conference, I limited my explorations to neighborhoods south of midtown– Lower Manhattan (where I stayed), Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Chinatown, Wall Street, and Soho/ Flat Iron Districts. There was something in each district, really wanted to experience over the three free days I had in the city.

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Day 1

My original plan for a fun-filled weekend was to see Hamilton. However, my flight arrived late in the afternoon, so I decide to book a hotel in the theater district. The Cambria Hotel New York- Times Square looked like a pretty boutique on W 46th Street. It was a beautiful place, but the room was dark and faced a brick wall. But since I was only there one night, it was convenient to the theater district and the place I wanted to eat.

I did not see Hamilton because I did not want to spend $300 for a matinee. So I decided to eat some good ethnic food– something I don’t get to do in Kansas.

First, I ate at Los Tacos No.1 because there was so much hype around it. Yo, the hype is real. Those were some boss tacos. They got my money twice. I walked down to Osamil on W 31st St in Koreatown. I ate bibimbap and kimchi pancakes while listening to a little old school R&B. My last stop was Zaika in Murray Hill, a Lassi, and some Punjabi Samosas. I ordered Vegetable Biryani to go and feasted on that in my dark, cave-like hotel room before calling it a night.

Day 2

I realized I was crazy for thinking I could hump my luggage from midtown to downtown. And I wasn’t taking the train, so I called an Uber. No, it was a Lyft because Uber wanted to charge me some outrageous price. My feet hurt from last night, so I wore sneakers instead of the wedge heeled boots that looked better with my outfit. F- that, I have already had a husband. Don’t hate it.

After checking into the Hotel on Rivington, I made my way from the hotel to Chelsea Market. The 2.5-mile walk took me through Little Italy, Greenwich Village, and the West Village neighborhoods. I enjoyed shopping for souvenirs and tasty treats– walking the entire length of Bleeker Street. And one of the most interesting shops was Tibet Jewel, where I bought some handmade carvings from the Himalayans.

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I had never been to Chelsea Markets, but I highly recommend it for the shops and the food stores. Afterward, I headed over to the High Line, an elevated park built on an abandoned train line. On the way back to the hotel, I stopped into a nail shop for a manicure. I was surprised to discover Koreans, mostly staff nail salons. It has been my experience that the Vietnamese community had that business locked down, but not in NYC.

Day 3

I woke early for yoga and meditation before grabbing coffee at Katz Deli. The plan was to walk through Chinatown and the Financial District and across the Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn.

Chinatown

On the way, I stopped to watch two groups of locals practice Tai Chi on a school playground. I’ve always loved the graceful dance, which serves as exercise and viral communal activity. I even got a chance to practice tai chi on the deck of a Vietnamese junk boat as the sun rose in Halong Bay a couple of years ago. It’s a very peaceful, meditative activity. I’d love to learn more.

It was early, and I enjoyed watching workers put out the daily produce, fish, and flowers. All of which created a thick, pungent cloud above me. But I’ll be back fro the shrimp dumplings at Nom Wah’s Tea Parlor later. They have some of the best dim sums in the city for almost 100 years.

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The Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is iconic. And in the two years, I lived in NYC, I never saw it from a pedestrian viewpoint. I juggled my coffee cup, Canon, and cell phone as I tried to document the experience. I took so many freaking pictures– propping my camera up on the rails to get a couple of good selfies.

The bridge is about 1.1 miles long. And there are a few places where you can sit and watch the car and boat traffic below. Police officers ride up and down the bridge in a scooter like cars. I walked over, turned around, and came right back. So that you know the view from the Brooklyn side into Manhattan is the best.

The Financial District

In the financial district, I stopped into the Thurgood Marshall building to see what it looked like inside. I spoke to the security guard and was surprised to find out the building and the court proceedings are entirely open to the public. However, it was far too lovely a day to sit inside a courthouse, no matter how beautiful. The couples waiting for the Justice of the Peace outside the courthouse buildings brought back beautiful memories of my wedding ceremony 25 years ago.

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I grabbed a croissant with jam before stopping into Trinity Church. And the juxtaposition of such a historic church against the neoclassic, yet modern skyscrapers behind it was striking. As I stood there taking pictures, I watched a steady stream of well-dressed men in suits come and go– which indicated it was not just a tourist attraction. I’ve been inside, and it’s beautiful, but not precisely weekend fun.

The Bull and the Fearless Girl

No trip is complete to the financial district with a visit to the infamous symbol of community: the bull and the fearless girl. However, the fearless girl has been moved from her post, staring down the charging bull. She is now in front of the stock exchange a few blocks away.

The bull sits in the convergence of two streets, thus creating a dangerous situation for enthusiastic tourists. Thankfully, they have a policeman there to usher stupid people out of the road. He said the artist moved the statue because the bull’s artist didn’t want her there. However, further research indicates the fearless girl statue was issued a temporary permit. That day I walked more than 15 miles, and I loved every moment of it.

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Hotel on Rivington

My initial impression of my digs wasn’t great. Yes, it had a doorman, but it was dark inside. It looked like a dingy, not so well maintained off-Broadway theater with dark red walls and oversize posters. It gave off less of a boutique and more of an “I should’ve done more research” vibe. Only one elevator functioned, and it took 15 minutes, which seemed like a lot longer because the wheels in my head spun out of control.

The second-floor lobby was much brighter. And I started to calm down. That’s also when I decided to upgrade my room– which turned out to be AMAZING!!!

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Upgrade to the Fun-filled Weekend

I also upgraded my hotel room at the Hotel on Rivington on the Lower East Side. For an extra $100, I ditched the standard room for one on the 17th floor with a view of three bridges, One World Trade and Wall Street. I drank wine on my balcony at night, listening to a playlist I made for the trip, constant, but distant horns of taxis and faint chatter below.

And every night, I lit a couple of candles (provided by the hotel) while I laid atop my turned-down bed, feasting on warm cookies delivered nightly and placed on my bedside table. The room also came with ceiling to floor windows on two sides, a fantastic rain shower head, and romantic recessed lighting.

A Little Perspective

Post-Pandemic

New York was amazing. But all the while, the virus was spreading across the world from Asia to Europe. And finally into the United States. However, I had no idea until I returned home to Kanas, and my boss “asked” me to work from home for 14 days. That was 70 days ago, and I’m still here.

Who knew a global viral pandemic called COVID-19 before my trip to New York City, and only three months into the year would lead to the last fun weekend in 2020?

I know I didn’t. And although I didn’t wear a mask when I arrived in NYC, I wore one when I left. I was hyper concerned with social distancing and touching public surfaces. I didn’t have a cute little Pez dispenser for my hand sanitizer, so I made one using a broad rubber band I attached to my purse. Towards the end of that weekend of fun, the reporting on the true nature of CORONA-19 dictated some precautions that will persist post-pandemic.

I titled this post, the last fun weekend of 2020, on purpose. No matter what happens for the rest of the year, that weekend was the last time I’ll approach leaving my home the same. Now, it’s impossible to imagine travel after the pandemic, crowds, or public events, will ever be the same. Here’s to a much better 2021!!

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