Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Walk This Way

…the one in which I come to terms with the fact that I am getting older….

In my defense, I’m only two months out of surgery. Yeah, I know – it was sinus surgery – not hip surgery, or knee surgery, or any sort of surgery that would normally affect my walking ability – but still. Surgery is surgery, right? It leaves you a bit weakened…a bit…out of shape….right?

Anyway. That’s my excuse. That’s why walking the streets of New York City – for ten days – left me near dead. At least breathless. The good news, though, is that I powered through it, and have declared that my legs are now in the best shape they’ve been in for well nigh five years. Seriously. Walking an average of 15,000 steps a day will do that, you know.

So, yes. This post is obviously about the walking that’s required in New York City. Unless you opt to cheat and take a cab. Hey – it’s Hubby that decided to label taking a cab “cheating” – and it was Hubby who declared we would either walk – or take a subway – to fully immerse ourselves in the NYC experience. This from the man who HADN’T had surgery just weeks ago. Gah.

The good news is that Manhattan is very easy to navigate…developed with an easy, grid-system, it’s a no-brainer on how to locate an address (with the exception of Greenwich Village and the Financial District, but we won’t talk about that now). It’s not the particular address that matters – it’s the cross streets that you need to know. For instance, our hotel was technically located at 150 E 50th Street – which means nothing. However, knowing that it was located at the cross streets of 50th Street and 3rd Avenue – well, that meant we could place it exactly on a map – and knew how to get there.

The numbered streets (i.e., 42nd Street, 50th Street, etc) run east to west – and you would have to walk twenty of them to equate to a mile. The avenues (i.e., 5th Avenue, Park Avenue, Madison Ave, etc) run north-south; they’re a bit spread further apart. Every intersection has a stoplight – with a “walk/don’t walk” signal. Most New Yorkers consider the walk/don’t walk signal suggestions only – so don’t be surprised if you see people disregarding the “hand.”

"Don't Walk?? Fuggedaboutit! I'm goin'!!!!"

A hidden NYC gem that I found are these Haiku poems – posted on signs – at various intersections in Manhattan:

I did some research when I got home and found that these signs (of which there are about twelve different designs) were posted in 2011 by the New York Department of Transportation, and is called, appropriately enough, "Curbside Haiku." It makes for a fun Scavenger Hunt - tracking down the various signs.

If I could give anyone a tip about visiting NYC, it would be to have good walking shoes. You’ll need them not only for traversing the streets, but you also need them for navigating the subways. Yes. You read that right. You need good walking shoes for the subways…as we discovered, when we would have to climb up – or go down – numerous flights of stairs to navigate the subway system. I learned – the hard way, no less – that the NYC subway system is not a perfect “one-flight down” below street level…no, there’s various levels below the ground, and you will go up – or go down – lots and lots and lots of stairs to catch the next train.

I took not one, but TWO pedometers with me to NYC, and wore them both the entire trip. On my waist, I had my favorite – my Fitbit – which almost died from overdosing on step counts…I swear I heard it say, “Are you SERIOUS??!! You’re not CHEATING, are you??” as my step count climbed higher and higher each day. Sadly, my Fitbit did not survive the trip – but that’s another story for another day. I also wore an Up by Jawbone bracelet each day, which wasn’t exactly stylish – but it gave good feedback.

Another tip for first-time visitors would be to have DIFFERENT shoes – so that you can switch out each day. This helped prevent the formation of blisters – although I did end up with one good blister, but some good blister band-aids helped alleviate the pain of it.

New Yorkers walk fast. Fortunately, so do we, so we blended right in with the locals while walking down the street. You can always tell the tourists; they’re the ones who stop dead in their tracks while walking down the street, usually to snap a photo of something or to check their map. That can pretty much get you killed in NYC; it’s the equivalent of stopping your car in its tracks while barreling down a highway at 70 mph. DON’T DO THAT!!!! The few times we had to stop on a public street, we would try to get over to a doorway and “pull in” for a quick stop – it’s like pulling over onto the shoulder, so to speak.

Let’s talk about subways….

We loved them. Absolutely loved them. Both Hubby and I had subway maps that we’d use to map out our route, and the maps were easy to figure out – stops, transfers, etc. It’s not all that complicated, once you get the hang of it.

The Green Line went right by our, we'd use it to start - and then transfer to another line, when needed....

The most important thing to note is which direction you're going: uptown or downtown. If you're going uptown, make sure you descend the steps that say "Uptown." And vice versa, if you're going downtown.

DON'T go down these stairs if you wanted to go "downtown"!

We used some apps on our iPhones which also helped us. Hop Stop was a great app that we used to navigate the Subway system. You can quickly type in where you want to go, and using GPS, it quickly comes back with the best subway route for you. Exit Strategy is for more experienced subway riders – it can tell you where to best exit a particular station so that you’re that much closer to your next connection.

As far as costs, it would normally cost $2.50 for each ride, per person. However, we ended up purchasing a 7-Day Unlimited Pass for $30 per person…and to say we got our money’s worth out of this is an understatement. We would ride the subway several times each day, so our Passes were a great investment.

Keep this card - you can re-load it at any time at one of the subway stations....

We found the subways easy, safe, convenient and most important, FAST. We could zip downtown in a matter of a few minutes, avoiding traffic and stoplights and pedestrians. Some subway lines were more crowded than others, but we could normally find a seat to sit down and relax….We usually never had to wait for a train, either; I think the longest we ever waited was five minutes – which seemed like forever, since normally a subway train would show up in 90 seconds after we’d arrive at a station.

We DID see two rats one day, playing along the subway tracks...they were chasing each other in a game of Tag, which was almost comical. I just told myself they were squirrels - with skinnier tails. Ugh.

They say that Americans are an obese nation, but honestly, we didn’t see any overweight people in Manhattan. Whether you’re walking, or riding the subway, the transportation system pretty much forces you to stay in shape…which is probably a good thing, since it also helped us work off all of the darned cupcakes we ate while we were there!


No comments: