This past summer I was living and working in New York, an adventure I decided to embark on by myself. Over the three months I was there, I grew an attachment to certain spots, like cafés, stores or nice areas, and these became places I knew I could go to if it was all getting a little too much and I was missing home. Having these places gave me a reason to feel happy I was in New York and reminded me I had the opportunity to see and do things I wouldn’t get to do at home.
There were a lot of places I visited over the three months that I enjoyed and considered including in this list, but in the end I went with the four that I always wanted to go back to, again and again.
Strand Book Store
12th Street & Broadway, Manhattan
Strand Bookstore was probably my favourite place in New York. The shelves were so high, from the floor to the ceiling making you feel completely surrounded by books. If the sheer volume of options on the shelves is a bit too overwhelming (like it was for me), there are tables and tables of books picked out by staff under different themes – Banned Books, Cheaper than the Kindle Price, books based in New York, award-winning novels or the new arrivals section, to name only a few. They also have a rare books section and buy & sell second-hand books. Whatever you are looking for, you should be able to find it in the Strand. This not only goes for books, but also art supplies, stationary, bags, hats, t-shirts, badges and even socks. I could spend hours browsing the shelves and tables, and I did once spend almost two hours walking around, and didn’t get bored at all.
The Sketchbook Project
Brooklyn Art Library, 28 Frost St., Brooklyn
This is something I’m really glad I found out about because I’ve never been to any place like it. The Sketchbook Project is essentially a library full of sketchbooks created by people across the world. There are thousands of themes that you can select a sketchbook from, with things as simple as ‘home’, or as strange as ‘from a worm’s point of view’ (that last one I actually selected a book from). Once you check out a book, a librarian will bring it to you along with a second random sketchbook and then you can sit down and flick through your books. Once you hand them back you can check out more, and it’s possible to spend a whole day browsing different sketchbooks. You never know what you’re going to find because there’s simply hundreds of sketchbooks made by hundreds of artists, all with different styles and influences, to choose from. One of my favourites was Places I Have Lived by Amy Lynch from Dublin.
9th Ave, Chelsea, Manhattan
Something about Chelsea Market always got me really excited but I’m not exactly sure what it was. I think I felt an atmosphere that was just generally nice to be in, and the small shops and food vendors, with every kind of food you could think of, were great to visit. There was also a very nice book shop towards the back. Every time I went I ended up buying a cupcake to eat while I wandered around, and I never got bored of going. At the very back there’s a flea market where local artists and vendors display their various products like art work, jewellery (including a design-your-own stand), clothes, records and more. Coming here was especially great when it was raining because it meant I was indoors and had plenty to do to keep me there for a while.
Irish Hunger Memorial
This might seem like a strange one, but this really is a special place to visit, especially as an Irish person away from home. This memorial remembers all the lives lost during the Great Famine and as you walk through you’re surrounded by stone walls like those you’d find in the West of Ireland, constructed using the remains of an old Irish cottage. You pass by stones embedded in grass with the names of the counties in each one and all the grass and plants are those you would find at home. The best part though is when you reach the top and can look out over the wall across to the New Jersey skyline. Two times I visited were around sunset and it’s a very peaceful place to stand and watch.