My wife, Natia, and I travel abroad quite frequently for work. For the past few months, we’ve been blessed with a miracle—Niko, the newest member of our family. Having come to a joint decision to keep the tradition alive, we began to plan our future trips—this time, as a group of three.
However, just like the absolute majority of the population, we were forced to reconsider our plans in the light of the ongoing pandemic.
Numerous business trips and an even greater number of exciting journeys were delayed as a result—including my trip to New York, postponement of which would certainly lead to a variety of unwanted issues. Luckily, I ended up not having to worry for too long: I accidentally learned about two flights from Georgia to New York—one via Poland and another via France. I looked into the details and hopped on the plane immediately.
It probably goes without saying that traveling amidst the pandemic is way different from what we are used to. Both the airport and the plane were half-empty. We were seated one seat apart from each other and forced to measure our temperature all the time. Considering the context, everyone seemed terrified and extremely cautious.
To my surprise, I managed to cross the border in New York without being asked for a PCR test resut or forced into mandatory quarantine. I’ve lived (on and off) in this city since 2008, and there is a single time I can remember it being this empty—during Hurricane Sandy. Due to the power outage at the time, the entire city of New York was blacked out, with the exception of Times Square. Only bars were operating—simply because they had managed to fire up vehicle generators. This time, everything was empty. Hotels and most bars and restaurants were closed down—not to mention all of the museums and a variety of other spaces…
On the other hand, New York had always been overcrowded, with endless queues and traffic jams making it virtually impossible to stop and appreciate the actual beauty around. And now, I could finally enjoy an opportunity to revisit my favorite places and observe them free of traffic and countless people. That is why I decided to reserve a few days for just walking around the city. I walked everywhere, observing all the places I had seen a countless number of times before in a new light:
The High Line
The west side of Manhattan, West Village and Chelsea, was once home to a number of factories, plants and warehouses. With time, plants and warehouses were moved to Brooklyn and New Jersey, and the remaining infrastructure was transformed into residences, multifunctional spaces and corporate offices.
This part of the city was connected to an overhead railway, which must have been used to supply local plants with freight. This elevated rail trail is now the High Line park, a 1.45-mile-long linear greenway, which is basically an open-air museum. Now a home to contemporary art and a variety of installations, the park is surrounded by peculiar architecture, with works of some of the most famous street artists across the walls.
This is a place where nature, trees, industrial architecture and contemporary art meet, giving birth to something truly unique and astonishing.
When hungry and exhausted from all the walking, you must swing by Lombardi’s Pizza, believed to be the first-ever pizzeria in New York City. Even though its first-ever status is questionable for many, virtually everyone agrees that the thin and crisp Pizza Napoletana from the signature wood-fired oven at Lombardi’s is truly extraordinary. This pizzeria, located in so-called Little Italy, certainly does not stand out with its design or service, and its superior rating is probably only indicative of its rich history, but the pizza here is definitely delicious.
Big aLICe Brewing
Long Island, the famous land of cocktails, has a lot to brag about—from rich neighborhoods to world-renowned vineyards. But it is a little known fact that the area is home to a number of local brewers, which is why beer lovers looking to taste genuine craft beer always come to Long Island. Big aLICe Brewing, one of the most popular destinations, brews about 40 different varieties of beer. The brewery has a small pub in the front. Unfortunately, the pub was closed due to the pandemic when I got there, but, luckily, they still kept a number of barrels outside to host their visitors.
Coney Island And Brighton Beach
When I first came to New York, this is where I lived, so the inevitable nostalgia brought me back. You probably know that Brighton is home to a sizeable community of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The neighborhood is quite far from Manhattan—about an hour and a half away by train and around forty minutes by car. But during rush hour, you might need up to three hours to get there. Locals were a lot more relaxed about the guidelines here: some think that the virus is artificial, while others do not even believe it is real at all. The majority of the population with the so-called BCG vaccine scar on their shoulders could not be bothered by the virus. Russian speakers are everywhere. Store owners and consultants might not even understand you if you speak to them in English.
Brighton has a beautiful golden beach, with the famous Dreamland amusement park located along the peninsula. The park is now closed, but it is a great place for a breezy evening walk. You may wander along the coast and even dip your toes in the water. The place was crowded when I got there, but people were still trying to maintain a safe distance.
Dumbo (short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) is a neighborhood in the borough of Brooklyn, under the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. Here, too, you will find a number of abandoned plants and factories, with surviving fragments of the bridge between the buildings, which is a truly breathtaking sight. You must come here during sunset to walk through the little streets towards the Hudson and enjoy the view of the Manhattan skyline. As the sun sets, Manhattan lights up gradually, and it is simply beautiful to watch.
If you end up in New York amidst the pandemic and, of course, the current guidelines allow you to experience the city, I highly recommend taking this route. And I promise you are bound to see New York City in a whole new light.
Author: Vako Kirkitadze