By this time, I am afraid, NY chaos took over, and I realized on the subway that I had forgotten my camera. So I have exactly 0 pictures of this last day in New York which is extremely annoying, especially since I wanted to show you all Harlem. I remember, about 15 years ago, in my mind Harlem was probably the most dangerous place on earth (this is before 9/11, Syria and global warming ... yes, I am THAT old). It was definitely not a place for tourists. I am not sure if Harlem changed that much (I hear it DID change considerably though) or if my perception was only focused on one-sided media coverage, either way: the Harlem that I saw a few weeks ago, I love! It still doesn't strike me as a "white" neighborhood, but it was a friendly, vibrant neighborhood that reminded me a lot of South America. It was a completely different New York vibe that had nothing to do with what is going on in hip Brooklyn or chic Manhattan. First of all, it was noisy, in a very Latino way: people have conquered the streets in Harlem. This is where the locals hang out, dance, play music and chess, sell clothes/incense/pirate DVDs/food. This is also the place in New York where I have seen more cars than cabs, and 90% of them seem to be honking, which was actually very reminiscent of Lima, Peru to me. And this is also the place where old ladies ask you: "Quiere braidar su hair?" - which produced great nostalgia in me, and I was almost ready to say: Siii-po! (for all those who have never met a Chilean, this means: "Hell yeah!"). As far as food goes: If you like soul food, restaurants without AC blowing the next ice age at you, and Reggae music, this is your hood! Obviously, my snobbish guide book recommended the three most expensive restaurants in Harlem, which are right outside the metro station. This actually made me wonder if the author ever made it past that very street corner in Harlem ... but if you do walk a couple of blocks off 125th Street (the main drag in Harlem), you can find the most delicious soul food places, and actually pretty cheap, considering this is still NYC.
I am glad I got to see this site of the chameleon that is New York City, and I am already starting to plan what parts of the city I want to see next time!
A few final remarks:
- Take the Chinatown bus into the city: great prices, good drivers, comfortable seats (don´t believe people who want to tell you otherwise!)
- Was it just me, or do all males really look like hipsters?
- Make sure to get a guide book that has more than 10 pages total (!) on neighborhoods besides Manhattan
- If you're a tourist, New Yorkers are MUCH friendlier than their reputation
- Go, enjoy, immerse yourself in the craziness, leave, recuperate - and then go back!
If you want to know how this saga started, check it out here: http://wanderstrudel.blogspot.com/2013/09/new-york-new-york-part-i.html