I have a confession to make. Last year I had a love affair which has since led to a bit of an obssession. Not a day goes by when I don't think about her and read all her latest news. I have photos of her on my desk at work. Songs on the radio remind me of her. I spend happy moments reminicing about the time we spent together last November and making plans for things we can do together when we are eventually reunited. I get jealous of others who get to visit her in my absence and then claim they love her as much as I do. But how could they? Oh New York, I truly do "heart" thee!
It all started when I was planning our first ever trip to "The Big Apple" last year. My Google-fu had been strong and I had collated a whole lot of information about what to see, what to do, how to do it, where to eat, what to avoid, etc. The "NYC Trip Nov 2010" bookmarks folder on my Internet browser was full to bursting and yet kept on growing. During our precious time there we only got around to visiting a small number of these places, leaving the remainder for future trips. And then there are the places we did go last time but were so awesome that we want to visit again.
One of the main sources of valuable information for planning our trip was the New York City TripAdvisor forum. I love that place. The Destination Experts are wonderfully snarky (typical for New Yorkers, or so they tell anyone who complains!), especially when you ask vague questions or questions that reveal your thorough lack of research by yourself first, but that's one of the things I love about it. There's no messing around and no unnecessary niceties. These guys know their stuff and they're more than willing to share their wealth of knowledge with you, if only you put in a little of the grunt work yourself. If you ask me, that's fair enough.
You see people all the time who come on and leave their first ever post saying, "We're going to New York soon for the first time ever and we're so excited! What are the "must do/see" things in New York? Where should we stay that's close to everything and doesn't cost that much? Looking forward to all your suggestions!" Seriously people, those are some vague-ass questions. There is nothing that you must do except comply with the city's legal requirements and customs. What you inevitably see and do is is pretty much dependant on what your interests are - what's the sense in recommending the Guggenheim to someone who's more interested in Monster Trucks? Also, no hotel is "close to everything" - Manhattan is 13.4 miles long in itself, with the "must see" Statue of Liberty on an island off the South and "must see" Central Park in the North... and then there are the other boroughs of NYC like Brooklyn and Queens beyond that. As for accomodation that "doesn't cost too much", define "too much". I imagine a guy living behind a dumpster and Donald Trump would have very different ideas of what costs "too much". And also? If you'd read the frequently asked questions down the right-hand side of the forum or even searched through previous posts before you posted, you would probably have all the answers you're looking for.
It even makes my blood boil a little when people just want someone else to effectively plan their whole trip for them and I'm not even responsible for answering their inane questions. Instead I just lurk, even now, five months after our trip, in part to keep picking up more tips for our next visit to New York and in part to smirk at posts that will inevitably incur the wrath of the regular posters on the forum. It's a little schadenfreudian I grant you but it passes along my lunch break wonderfully.
Perhaps, though, it's really just a case of the green-eyed monster. These people are just starting out on learning about this wonderful city ahead of actually going there to experience it, while all I'm doing, for now at least, is reading about it wistfully and reminiscing. The Yorkshireman and I continue to save hard for another trip stateside but at the moment our bank balance is woefully deficient and so it looks like it will be the end of 2011/start of 2012 at the earliest. We could probably go a bit earlier if we wanted to live cheaply - after all, I've picked up a lot of tips on TripAdvisor about cheap places to stay and eat - but then we wouldn't get to experience half of our own little list of "must do/see" things and that would just seem like a wasted trip.
So for now I shall just keep sighing deeply at the photograph the Yorkshireman took of the Chrysler Building that I have on my desk, keep reading the posts on the TripAdvisor forum at least once a day, and keep adding to that bookmarks folder on my browser. It might take some time to get back there but when we do it's going to be one helluva trip in one helluva town!