Another Bite out of the Bittersweet Big Apple

It took me 35 years to get to New York City. I’ve seen the skyline countless times from the air, and my heart races every time that I lay eyes on it. However, I’ve only set foot in the city once.

NYC Skyline

In March of 2010, I made plans to visit Whitney, a friend from Texas perusing a career in photography in New York. She, along with her cousin Jessica, a Julliard-trained actress, had a three-story brownstone in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and there was plenty of room for me. The day I arrived it was miserably cold. Rain followed by sleet followed by snow couldn’t even extinguish my excitement.

Brooklyn Bridge 1

I had a distinct vision of what New York would be like. Given all the books, movies, and television shows set in Gotham, I couldn’t help but have the highest of expectations. I’d thought for years of what I would experience. My mom told me stories of when she’d visited New York on her senior trip. Even as a little girl in small-town Texas, I dreamed of setting my sights on Lady Liberty and the bright lights of Broadway, yet somehow New York had eluded me.

Even as a seasoned traveler, New York intimidated me. With mouth agape, I spent five days doing what tourists do, all the while trying not to freeze my ass off. I ruined a pair of boots and two umbrellas. One glove and nearly a toe was lost from frostbite. I kind of thought I might die.

Love

I ate delicious devils on horseback at the Spotted Pig and cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery. I drank too much wine in cozy bars in the Village and sipped on java in Brooklyn’s funky coffee shops.

French Wine

I went to a book reading at the Soho House and watched a Broadway musical. I saw where the World Trade Center once stood and window shopped along Madison Avenue.

TimesSquare

I wandered through the Whitney Museum and went to the top of the Empire State building. I had afternoon tea at the Russian Tea Room.

EmpireStateBuilding

I took advantage of a sunshine-filled morning and wandered around Central Park. I drank wine from a plastic cup while sitting on a park bench along the East River.

CentralPark

I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and somehow managed to bypass the long line at Grimaldi’s for a Margherita pizza. I randomly saw Milana, a former basketball player of mine, on the subway at 1:00 am. Little did I know that she’d just been named the winning model of Project Runway.

Millana

My time in New York City was all that I imagined, yet I had a heavy heart. Although I loved my time with Whitney, I wasn’t supposed to be with her. Over the course of the previous five years, my mother and I had talked about making the trip together. She again wanted to see the city that fascinated her and share it with me.

Brooklyn Bridge 2

There never seemed to be a time that worked for both of us. Then she got sick. She suffered through rounds of chemo and went into remission. We would start planning for New York, but the cancer would return. This happened at least three times. After that, Mother was simply too weak to make the trip.

About a month after she died, I boarded a plane in Houston and headed east. In an antique, amber-colored bottle, I carried a bit of my mother’s ashes. Perhaps it was simply for myself, but I was finally going with my mom to New York City. It was daunting and bittersweet.

wm_100320_leahnyc2

At sunset from atop the Empire State building, she floated out over the city. And from the Brooklyn Bridge, the wind carried her past the East River and into Lower East Side. My mom always tried to give me the world. The least I could do was give her New York City.

Brooklyn Bridge 3

After three years, I’m traveling to New York City for the second time in my life. Fortunately I don’t feel the sadness that I did on the first trip, although I am again going with a purpose. I’ll be attending the New York Times Travel Show with Lola where we plan on learning from industry experts and schmoozing tourist boards and brands alike. The trip won’t be all work and no play. I’ll get a chance to reconnect with friends that I’ve made over the last year and finally meet others in person.

wm_100320_leahnyc3

I will see New York City without a thick veil of sadness. Things will be much different this time around. I might not be carrying that little amber bottle, but I will carry my mother in my heart, just like always.

You can read the story behind this here: “Why I Travel: A Dedication”

All the really good pictures are from Whitney Martin, my talented friend and tour guide for NYC.

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30 Comments
  • Anita Mac
    January 16, 2013

    Touching post Leah! So wonderful that you were able to do that for your mom. A fitting tribute to a woman that left such a lasting impression in your life. She was a lucky lady. Looking forward to meeting in person – see you at the show!

    • Leah Travels
      January 20, 2013

      Thank you, Anita. It was wonderful meeting you and I look forward to the next time.

  • D.J. - The World of Deej
    January 16, 2013

    There are some posts that you just always remember. Your dedication a year or so ago is definitely one of them. Hopefully you’ll see a different New York this time around. Good luck at the show…

    • Leah Travels
      January 20, 2013

      Thanks, Deej. The show was good and NYC was great.

  • lola dimarco
    January 16, 2013

    see you tomorrow, my friend, when we take the BIG APPLE by storm! NYC is the kind of place for all kinds of memories. i’m happy we’ll be making some together this go round for you.

    love you – lola

    • Leah Travels
      January 20, 2013

      Another adventure in the books for L & L.

  • Richard
    January 16, 2013

    Have fun in NYC. Touching blog about my hometown…

    • Leah Travels
      January 20, 2013

      Thank you, Richard.

  • Asixpackofstories
    January 16, 2013

    Very touching–made me teary-eyed. I was 29 the first time I made it to NYC. Went to Europe before I even made it to the Big Apple! Can totally relate to the small town Texas dream. Best of luck in NYC! -Jess

    • Leah Travels
      January 20, 2013

      Me too! I traveled to China before I made it to New York. It worked out as it should, I suppose. Thank you.

  • tere
    January 16, 2013

    A beautifully written tribute. I feel certain your mom is smiling …maybe even dancing. Thanks for sharing.

    • Leah Travels
      January 20, 2013

      She never was the dancer, but she might be now. Thank you, Tere.

  • thelazytravelers
    January 17, 2013

    so touching, leah! so glad you shared. we’ll be sure to make plenty of happy (and maybe blurry) memories this time around, we promise! xo

    • Leah Travels
      January 20, 2013

      You certainly delivered with those memories made. Dinner was fabulous. Thank you for organizing it.

  • @mrsoaroundworld
    January 18, 2013

    So lovely – and so touching. Thank you for sharing this Leah. I hope this trip to NYC brings you good memories! xx

    • Leah Travels
      January 20, 2013

      More great memories were made this time, but a girl never forgets her first. 😉

  • Millana Snow
    January 18, 2013

    Wow that was a touching post. I remember hoping I would see you when you came, not knowing this story behind your journey… I see now even more how amazing it was to just randomly run into you while you were here. Thank you for sharing!

    • Leah Travels
      January 20, 2013

      It really was a shot in the dark that we would see each other in such a way, Millana. Even if it was just for a few stops, I was happy to get to see you. Makes me think some forces were at work there.

  • Francesca
    January 18, 2013

    Just as I did when I read your “dedication” post however long ago, I’m crying. The line that touched me most is, “My mom always tried to give me the world. The least I could do was give her New York City.” Beautiful.

    • Leah Travels
      January 20, 2013

      I’m so glad you enjoyed both, and that line was my favorite. It’s amazing what one can come up with when writing from the heart.

  • Fiona
    January 19, 2013

    I love how your writing always takes us with you on your journey Leah. Welling up reading this – very moving and so well written.

    • Leah Travels
      January 20, 2013

      You’re always so sweet to me when it comes to my writing, Fiona. Thank you once again.

  • Raul (@ilivetotravel in Twitter)
    January 19, 2013

    Lovely, as usual, when you talk about your Mom, Leah. She is with you in this second trip and always.

    • Leah Travels
      January 20, 2013

      Thank you, Raul. I like to think she is as well.

  • Traveling Ted
    January 20, 2013

    Very sweet way to memorialize your mom. Now you will have a nice sentimental feeling every time you visit the city.

    • Leah Travels
      January 20, 2013

      Exactly, Ted. That memory, although sad, will always be New York to me no matter how many times I return.

  • Pola (@jettingaround)
    January 20, 2013

    What can I say… bitter-sweet indeed… NYC is one of the most incredible places on the planet and I’m glad that this time you’re going back there with a different purpose. Have fun.

    • Leah Travels
      January 22, 2013

      It is incredible. That’s a perfect word for NYC. There’s just no other place like it in the world.

  • Jam @icoSnap
    January 28, 2013

    Looking at your photos, I kind of miss going to new york.

    • Leah Travels
      January 28, 2013

      I can’t wait to go back and I just returned.

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