Take a bite out of the Big Apple

Special guest blog by Ray Dorey

New York city skyline

I don’t really maintain a “bucket list,” although last fall I finally followed through on something I’ve always wanted to do–a trip to visit New York City.

The 4-day bus excursion was my first foreign departure since the beginning of the pandemic. My package included city tours, meals, and a Broadway play, along with other group activities. Perfect for a newbie like me. And the best part is that I didn’t have to worry about driving. 

We approached from New Jersey, through what I like to call “Sopranos territory,” thinking of the hit HBO show from a few years ago.

Though I’ve seen it countless times on television and in film, my first in-person view of the Manhattan skyline was truly breathtaking. We then dipped below the Hudson River into the darkness of the Lincoln Tunnel on our way to our hotel in the heart of Times Square.

When I wasn’t with my group, I ventured out on my own into the sea of tall buildings and bright lights. I wanted to take everything in while not standing out as an obvious tourist. And although not necessarily recommended, I even joined the locals and crossed intersections against the lights. Otherwise, I likely would have been trampled. 

As amazing as the experience was, it was difficult to walk very far without someone less fortunate asking for money. Heartbreaking poverty was abundantly evident and in stark contrast to the surrounding wealth. 

One evening, our group attended a Broadway performance of & Juliet. It was so well done–two hours of pure energy. And I learned the following day that comic actor Will Ferrell had been sitting just a few rows in front of me. Just imagine how much cowbell the two of us could muster together. 

Broadway production of Juliet

My personal highlight was the bus tours through Manhattan, each led by a local guide, whose knowledge and pride in their communities was clearly evident. 

The first tour was a fascinating journey which included a stop in Central Park to visit “Strawberry Fields,” an area dedicated in tribute to John Lennon, and concluded near the 9/11 Memorial and in between, countless stories of historical and pop culture significance. My only complaint was that it went by far too quickly. There was barely enough time to absorb one experience before you were on top of the next. 

Strawberry fields monument Imagine to John Lennon in Central Park

On the second tour, our guide led us through Harlem, while proudly discussing restoration efforts in her community. Our tour concluded with a unique experience where we briefly participated in a Baptist church service. 

Hopefully, sometime soon, I’ll get a chance to go back, perhaps during baseball season to take in a Yankees game. Though I was busy from dusk to dawn, I barely scratched the surface of everything that New York has to offer. My brief visit has stoked countless ideas to further experience the big apple to its core. 

Ed. note: Like Ray, I’ve only been to New York once. Our trip was cut short by Hurricane Irene. We packed as much as we could into our 36 hours before having to evacuate before the hurricane hit. It was still an amazing trip, and seeing downtown Manhatten shuttered up like a ghost town with sandbags in the store windows was an experience I’ll never forget. Guess I’ll need to go back to take a second bite out of the big apple.

New York city street
Manhattan skyscrapers

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