Flying Solo in the Big Apple
Ever wondered what it might be like to spend a weekend in New York City as a single female traveler? Well I recently had that experience when, unable to find a traveler-friend, I set off for a mini-vacation in NYC. It wasn’t my first trip to this very amazing city, but on previous trips I had always been in the company of other people. After all, isn’t New York – the city that never sleeps – where you go with your partner, or with a group of girlfriends, or maybe your daughter for a bonding weekend? Would it feel kind of strange being there alone? Daytimes are relatively “easy” but would I stick out in evenings being on my own in a music club or a bar? I clearly would not spend evenings holed up in my hotel room. I shut out the negative self-talk and threw myself so out of my comfort zone. I set off to do something I felt was impossible – for me at least – and that was to take a bite out of the Big Apple by myself!
I booked into The Lexington Marriott, in the heart of Manhattan’s east side. Just off Lexington Avenue, it put me within minutes of the city’s most popular attractions: Central Park, Fifth Avenue, Times Square, and Grand Central Station. Six different subway stations were within a couple blocks, and the best part – Bloomingdales, a ten minute walk away! Once home to Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Munroe, The Lexington was smart, social and sophisticated. Recently redecorated with a theme from the age of Jazz, I felt it was meant to be as one of the objectives of my trip was to take in as much live Jazz and Blues as I could, which as you know New York is famous for.
I eased into my weekend groove with a little bit of shopping at Bloomingdales. But unable to shop on an empty stomach I made my first stop at one of Manhattan’s best kept secrets Le Train Bleu. Tucked away on the sixth floor of Bloomingdale’s Le Train Bleu is a quaint restaurant remodeled after the 19th-century luxury French train, the Calais-Mediterranée Express. The resto opened in 1979 but has managed to stay a hidden gem in the city for over 30 years. The menu is delightful, the service impeccable, and the ambiance elegant. The shopping at Bloomingdale’s was outstanding since winter clearance was on, and a tip – if you ever do go – be sure to drop by the Visitor’s Centre to a 10% Discount Card, if you can show proof you are from out of state. Needless to say, I did some damage at Bloomingdale’s and the weekend was off to an awesome start!
Shopping certainly builds an appetite so next stop was dinner. I wanted to eat out somewhere nice but wanted to avoid a dining room because the following Murphy’s Law always holds true: if you are a solo traveler, the likelihood of being seated at a table for two in the middle of the dining room is high, leaving everyone to wonder who stood you up! Here’s one way to avoid that . . . find a nice hotel, with a nice Lobby Bar. Shimmy up to the bar and get to know the bar tender (make sure he knows you’re alone), and you’ll be well taken care of! I ended up in “The National”, the lobby bar of the Benjamin Hotel, and met many other tourists over a scrumptious meal and drink. Everyone was super friendly – and why wouldn’t they be – we were all on vacation, and in NYC! By the time the evening came to a close, we felt like we had known each other for years. Evening Out #1 – a success, and good confidence builder too!
Next day it was off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the largest art museums in the world, with a permanent collection of about two million pieces. I wouldn’t do it justice that day, as I was headed there for the sole purpose of seeing a special exhibition “Jacqueline de Ribes: The Art of Style”. Here was a woman, well ahead of her time. Her originality and elegance established her as one of the most celebrated fashion personas of the twentieth century. Jacqueline de Ribes intrigued me both in her approach and her confidence, and I was inspired by her joie de vivre and disregard for the rulebook. That evening I threw out my rulebook as I set off for one of NYC’s premier live music venues and supperclubs. BB Kings has hosted the likes of Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Alicia Kyes, The Gypsy Kings, ZZ Top and Jay Z. It was a must-see destination! For the “Evening of Soul”, I ended up being seated with a schoolteacher from Germany who was on vacation in New York for the week. We enjoyed outstanding entertainment, a fabulous meal, and great conversation between sets. It was the end of Evening Out #2 – a complete success!
Last day, I made my way to the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side where I started to learn to appreciate the life of working class immigrants in New York City in the late 1800s. The Museum tells a compelling story of life at 97 Orchard Street, a tenement apartment building that was home to nearly 7000 working class immigrants. Through the interactive and interpretive tour, we began to understand the challenges these courageous individuals faced while making a new life for themselves and their families. It is a highly recommended stop on an NYC itinerary. I decided to spend my last evening at Birdland, an iconic jazz club whose history dates back to 1949. Many jazz greats played here: Oscar Peterson, Diana Krall, Dave Brubeck, John Pizzarelli, to mention only a few. The set for the evening was Broadway Tunes, sung by various Broadway actors and actresses. It was a privilege to be in such esteemed company, particularly when they mixed and mingled freely with the patrons. I sat up at the bar with a young woman from Brooklyn who was a self-declared “broadway junkie” and together we enjoyed the three sets. Evening Out #3 – a resounding success!
So if you’re ever thinking about a trip to the Big Apple, or any other big city for that matter, and feel you just couldn’t do it by yourself, know that you can. Studies show that trekking beyond the edge of our comfort zones gives confidence and perspective. Not only is it personal growth opportunity, but life will open up with new people and new experiences. And if you’ve been fortunate to already have had a solo travel experience in a big city, tell me about it!
Wishing you fabulous adventures!