This time of year in New York is always refreshing after a long cold winter where we sometimes feel we’ve all been hibernating. This year the changes are magnified due to the relief we are beginning to feel as the world gets back to normal.
For the past 15 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has altered our way of life. Many people lost their jobs or began working from home. Going out in public was discouraged and wearing masks and cleaning hands and surfaces of items possibly contaminated made us fearful.
Fortunately, the vaccine to prevent COVID has become available and the numbers of cases are going down significantly here in New York. Just recently we have been given the OK to have 100 percent occupancy at some indoor museums, if people continue to wear masks. Some shops and restaurants ask that if you are not fully vaccinated, please wear a mask, which means that if you are vaccinated, you don’t have to!!
My son lived for the past 2 years in Manhattan and has noticed a big change in the last month or so. Residents had been walking the streets with masks on. Now, the streets are getting crowded again with tourists. Shops are opening, restaurants are continuing the outdoor seating and have opened indoor seating as well. Everyone is excited to get out and visit with friends and family again and New York City is a place to feel that energy.
I took the Long Island Railroad into Penn station for the first time in over a year and it was a bit different. Masks were worn on the train and I had a row to myself both traveling in and out of the city, so it was not crowded at all. I think many people still work from home. Once in Penn Station I climbed stairs and surprisingly found myself wandering around the AMTRAK station area. I have taken the train many times so I thought this was odd, but found my way to the steps on 32nd street and 7th avenue where I was meeting my son. It turns out that Penn Station is undergoing major renovations and all the restaurants and shops by the ticket booths are closed and hidden behind a makeshift wall which I noticed when I returned for the ride home.
I met my son and we walked the streets on one of the first sunny, fair weather days this spring. People were out in full force. A few individuals wore masks, but I would say that the majority did not have them on outside. I did notice more homeless people on the streets in midtown than I had seen in the past and that is always sad.
Bryant Park on 42nd Street was our first stop. The small kiosk shops that I thought were only set up at Christmas were open and thriving. Most did ask you to wear a mask as you shopped inside the stall. The food stands were open and people were sitting at small tables (some drinking tea from china tea cups) or laying on blankets on the grass in the sun. After some refreshing ice coffee and people watching we went to “Sushi Lab” for lunch.
Sushi Lab is located on the rooftop at the Sanctuary Hotel in midtown. Reservations are required for this intimate dining experience under hanging green ivy and flowers. We ordered the Omakase at a set price of $60 which included 10 signature sushi pieces that the chef chose as well as a hand roll. Delish!!
Our next stop was over to MoMA to look at modern art and the Alexander Calder collection of mobiles on display until August 7th. The classics like Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet and Warhol are impressive and I always see something new I didn’t notice on a previous visit.
Exiting the museum I was excited to feel the warm sun. It has been a long winter. So we headed up toward Central Park. Always something happening at the park. We entered from 59th street and the paved paths had horse and carriages waiting patiently for customers, people walking maskless with smiles and plenty of bicyclists (Citibikes are all over the city now). Music seemed to be coming from all angles as individual artists played tunes with their cases open hoping for a few dollars. As I strolled down the mall toward the huge fountain and pond packed with rowboats, I saw students in graduation gowns posing for photos, families with strollers, dogs of all types and even a bride and groom.
The energy was infectious and I felt happy to be alive in this great city that is coming back to life.
Since the day was so pleasant I walked back down to Penn station passing the store windows along 5th avenue. As I walked through Bryant Park I was amused to see the same group of folks sitting in chairs enjoying their tea from the fancy china tea cups. What a nice way to spend the afternoon.
My adventure back into NYC was a success and I started to make plans for the next excursion to New York on my Bucket List: The walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. That will be my next post. Stay tuned.