9 signs you’re back in NYC

Rueben Sandwich, Katz's Deli, NYC

There’s no homecoming like a NYC homecoming. You don’t just come home. You’re plugged in. Coming home to New York is remembering how damn cool this city is.


Source: 9 signs you’re back in NYC

1. You’re met with a stubborn, if endearing, rhetoric.

I had just flown into JFK from a trip that lasted a little over a year. My flight landed at around 11 p.m., and I walked over to one of the four customs officers before heading to baggage claim. The officers were trading jokes amongst each other between stamps.

“You’ve been gone a while. Where you been?” My assigned officer asked in that lovely Italian, New York accent.

“Oh, a few places,” I replied, already feeling my tongue start to pick up the familiar patterns of speech. “Started with Asia, then did a year in Australia, then Israel and some of Europe.”

“Australia! Why were you there a year?” He asked with a smirk as he flipped through the pages of my passport.

“I was on a working holiday visa–” I tried to explain.

“Hey,” he interrupted. “You’re in America now. It’s called a vacation.”

A final stamp and a “get outta here” and I was being ushered into baggage claim.

2. You switch seamlessly back into the slang.

The reversion usually begins when I go to my favorite deli/pizza place/bagel shop and begin my order with, “Hey, lemme get a…” Pretty soon I’m dead ass complaining that it’s brick outside and I’m mad cold, as I wonder aloud why that guy is grilling me as I try to eat my dumb good sandwich/slice/everything bagel.

3. You remember that it’s a bit tougher to crack that hard, New York exterior.

Travel makes you a more outgoing person. You really can’t get away with keeping to yourself because you constantly have to politely ask strangers for help, directions, suggestions, etc. Also, some cultures are just more friendly than others. Australia has a certain “mateship” going on that makes polite chit chat and cheeky jokes among strangers a totally common occurrence.

Not so much in NYC.

I had been trained for over a year to make passing jokes or comments to strangers as I held the door open for them or waited in line for a coffee or bought a ticket to a movie. When I tried similar behavioral tactics in New York, I was mostly met with surprise. Whether it’s because New York is a notoriously hard place to live or because there is simply so much stimulation that people need to find a comfortable happy place in a self-inflicted bubble, getting through that exterior to even make a joke to the average New Yorker could leave them stunned for a few seconds.

When you try to breach the wall that most New Yorkers build up, you’re met with an initial lack of attention, then surprise at being addressed, then awkwardness due to an absence of practice in the etiquette of casual jokes with strangers, then genuine warmth once they’re all caught up. Because the stereotypes that New Yorkers are mean are just not true. Blunt, jaded and self-involved, maybe, but good-hearted, helpful and real people to the absolute core.

4. You remember how damn cool this city is.

It’s one thing to remember that NYC offers infinite choices for lifestyle and entertainment. It’s quite another to be plugged into it. There’s an energy that takes over when you come home, a vibration from all the bodies that echoes under the surface of your skin. You walk the familiar streets that you spent years running away from, and suddenly you see them from the perspective of an outsider with the knowledge of an insider. You’re damn proud to be a part of the hustle and bustle, even if you’re just strutting your stuff down the street to get a slice of pizza. (Because you damn well know that nobody in the world does pizza like New York does pizza.)

When I was last home, my girls and I went out to one of our favorite bars in the East Village to dance to some hip hop. The music was on point and the crowd was right. At around 3 in the morning, we strolled to the car to head home. As one friend finished a cigarette, the other started bumping some Missy Elliott on the car speakers. Within minutes, a crowd of 15 or so had joined our little street dance party. Names were exchanged, song requests were made and joints were passed in a general spirit of youthful camaraderie and liveliness.

It was one of those moments that makes you remember that anything is possible in New York because the odds of something happening are seriously in your favor.

5. You easily reconcile the beautiful with the disgusting…

New York is a place that is at once stunning, nostalgic and kind of gross. You learn to deal with it. You automatically breathe through your mouth as you walk along the brownstones in the Upper West Side in an effort to filter out the smell of garbage cooking in the hot sun. You stroll through Central Park with a sense of whimsy as you shield your field of vision from the bum taking a dump on a rock. And you thank the hot dog or halal man kindly as you trust that their street meat is really a reflection of their Health Inspection grade.

6. You go into a pizza/bagel food coma.

Any New Yorker will tell you that when they travel, they miss “real pizza” and “real bagels.” I wholeheartedly back this up. Growing up, we’re taught that it’s the New York water that makes the difference.

Oh, the sheer wonder of entering a pizza place with 10, no, 20 pizza pies with all the different toppings awaiting the simple point of your finger. Chicken and broccoli, Grandma, Grandpa, Sicilian, Eggplant… Then, with practiced accuracy and swiftness, the angel behind the counter swoops up your choice and pops it into the oven to heat up.

When it’s bagel time, I won’t even look at anything besides an Everything Bagel. Toasted to perfection and topped with anything from in-house made scallion cream cheese to cold chicken salad. I’m not home until I’ve demolished both of these delicious carby treats and feel that loving pit in my stomach.

7. You jaywalk with abandon.

No matter how many countries I’ve traveled to, no matter how many cities I’ve lived in, I’ve never been able to purge my New York instinct to jaywalk. I simply do not see the logic in waiting for the light to flash in my favor before strolling across the street. Friends and other pedestrians would look at me as if I were some sort of maverick, at once awed and fearful of my rule-breaking and death-cheating. As if I didn’t have vision and reflexes that would prevent me from getting hit by a car.

New Yorkers literally stop traffic. We always have the right of way. The pedestrian is very much like the pigeon, in that we are aware of our surroundings but will only move out of your way if we really think you have the balls to hit us.

8. You keep hearing about some new viral culinary concoction.

From Red Velvet Cronuts to over the top Milkshakes to Rainbow Bagels, I simply can’t keep up with all the poor souls that wait in line for hours just to pay for an overpriced accost to their arteries. But even as I roll my eyes at their illogical patience, the FOMO kicks in and I schedule a time to see what the fuss is about

9. You’re entwined in the multiculturalism.

Other cities that describe themselves as multicultural are just dipping their toes in the water. There is always something so startling, yet so comfortable when I’m confronted again with the melting pot that is New York. When you travel in other countries, for the most part, you see a lot of the same type of person. Lots of Peruvians in Peru, lots of Swedes in Sweden. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just the way it is. I remember when I arrived in Sydney and commented on how white it was, friends were quick to defend themselves against being racist for some reason and say that their city was really very multicultural. Sure it is.

I feel at home in New York when I can weave in and out of languages and accents and ethnicities and food. It excites me to come home and feel comfortable conversing with someone who may look completely different to me, yet is not a stranger by virtue of being a New Yorker. New York is the most magnificent rainbow that embraces, accepts and is enhanced by cultural differences with a zest that I’ve never seen anywhere else in the world. Everybody is welcome. Everybody is home.


by Rebecca Bellan

A Day in New York City

New York City street, Freedom Tower

A day of unconventional sightseeing in New York City

Showing my friends around lower Manhattan and feeding them the best bagels, pizza and halal that the city has to offer.

My Australian friend, Greer, whom I met in Colombia, has been traveling around the States with her boyfriend Jeremy, aka “Jez,” and made a stop in my hometown. I had a day off work in Boston, so I decided to drive down to give them a glorious day in New York City that they couldn’t get from reading guidebooks. Most of it included food, but isn’t that the best part of traveling?


A trip to New York is not complete without trying a “real” bagel. The bagel, created in Krakow, Poland around the 15th century, came to the United States with immigrant Polish-Jews who created a thriving business of the delicious doughy circles in New York City. While it’s nearly impossible to get a bad bagel in New York, one of my favorite midtown haunts is Ess-a-Bagel, on the corner of 52nd street and 3rd avenue.

Ess-a-Bagel, New York
Ess-a-Bagel from the outside
Ess-A-Bagel from the inside, New York City
Ess-A-Bagel from the inside

Jez held down a table while Greer and I waited on the long, but fast moving, line. She exclaimed gleeful surprise at the amount of cheese selections at the deli and pointed to knishes asking if they were bagels, and then, asked what knishes are. I ordered three different bagel sandwiches for them to try- cinnamon raisin with Oreo cream cheese, an everything bagel with chicken salad, and a whole wheat everything with bacon, egg and cheese and salt, pepper, ketchup. Needless to say, they were impressed, and as we munched happily, I listened like a worried parent as they explained their desire to try crack while in the Big Apple, and I laughed at their astonishment at the idea of cheese in a can. I almost choked on my latté when Greer asked me quite seriously if I had ever had Snapple.

bagels and spreads at Ess-a-Bagel, New York
bagels and spreads at Ess-a-Bagel, New York
bagel sandwiches at Ess-a-Bagel, New York
bagel sandwiches of bacon-egg-and-cheese on a whole wheat everything, Oreo cream cheese on a cinnamon raisin, and chicken salad on an everything at Ess-a-Bagel, New York

Ess-a-Bagel831 3rd. Avenue, 212-980-1010

The High Line

high line in spring, nyc
The High Line in Spring

Unoriginal, I’m aware. Since the historic freight train site was converted into a park in 2009, the High Line has been added to the list of Manhattan must sees. I hadn’t seen it yet either, so I figured we’d mozy on over to the West Side to see what so many of my New York friends had been instagraming.

the High Line sign from the street, New York City
the High Line sign from the street, New York City

According to a sign at the site, the High Line, “was built by the New York Central Railroad between 1929 and 1934 to lift dangerous freight trains from Manhattan’s streets.”

old train tracks at the High Line, New York City
old train tracks at the High Line, New York City

It is now a public park that runs above the streets on the West Side overlooking the Hudson River.

tourists overlooking the Hudson River from the High Line in New York City
Greer and Jez overlooking the Hudson River from the High Line in New York City

The park is quite bare in the winter, so not the best for taking photos, but I have some photos from friends that show it is lovely and lush in the warmer seasons.

the High Line, New York City
the High Line, New York City
People lounging at the High Line, New York City
People lounging at the High Line, New York City
street performers at the High Line, New York City
street performers at the High Line, New York City

Despite the slight chill to the air, many New Yorkers were lounging on wooden benches and enjoying the sunlight. The Australians scavenged the melting snow banks to throw snow balls at each other like a couple of 10 year olds.

Australians in a snowball fight, High Line, New York City
Australians in a snowball fight, High Line, New York City
Australians in a snowball fight, High Line, New York City
Australians in a snowball fight, High Line, New York City

The Spotted Pig and the West Village

The West Village of Manhattan is a truly dynamic part of the city, made up mainly of 18th century brick buildings with great, clean stoops.

on a stoop in the West Village, Manhattan
Stoop kid’s afraid to leave the stoop!

Historically an artsy and bohemian neighborhood, but now home to more upper-middle class residents, the western-most portion of Greenwich Village is “bougie” to the core, and no other restaurant is as perfect an example of this characteristic than The Spotted Pig. The famous restaurant is one of New York’s first gastropubs and boasts a focus on simple food made well with straightforward ingredients, a serious wine list, and offerings of cask beers.

The Spotted Pig facade, New York City, courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Romance
The Spotted Pig facade, New York City, courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Romance

The restaurant itself is two floors and made of warm wooden furnishings, with an impressive variety of pig tchotchkes and paintings about. The rickety, antique-like furniture and small amount of space make coming in with little more than a handbag somewhat stressful, and the menu definitely doesn’t think about your wallet’s feelings when it decides what to charge. Nonetheless, we ordered up some “apps,” a term the Aussies thought was adorably American, of deviled eggs, shoestring rosemary fries, and paté on crusty bread.

whiskey smash and cask beer over shoestring fries at the Spotted Pig
whiskey smash and cask beer over shoestring fries at the Spotted Pig
The Spotted Pig, West Village, Manhattan
The Spotted Pig, West Village, Manhattan
pig decor at The Spotted Pig, West Village, Manhattan
pig decor at The Spotted Pig, West Village, Manhattan


The Spotted Pig, 314 W. 11th Street, 212-620-0393

Union Square

As a kid, I always loved to take the train to Union Square, often for Improv Everywhere events, “a New York based prank collective that causes scenes of joy and chaos in public places,” like the giant pillow fight of 2008 or a silent rave.

Improv Everywhere giant pillow fight in Union Square, New York City
Improv Everywhere giant pillow fight in Union Square, New York City

However, I love Union Square on any day for its clean pathways, the groups of people hanging out on the stairs, the farmer’s market, and the statue of a guy on a horse.

Union Square, New York City
Union Square, New York City, from inetours.com

Greer, Jez and I walked from the West Village to Union Square, where we then branched off so I could show them a couple of stores I like to waste time in, New York Costumes and The Strand Bookstore.

helping old lady cross street at Union Square, New York
Couldn’t resist showing this pic of Greer helping a cute old lady cross the street by Union Square

New York Costumes is a hilarious year-round costume shop with two large floors of endless entertainment. From spooky statues to skanky costumes to realistic props, I could easily spend an hour playing with all of the toys and taking selfies with scary masks.

selfie at New York Costumes, East Village, New York City
selfie at New York Costumes, New York City
Native American key table, New York Costumes, East Village, Manhattan
Native American key table, New York Costumes, East Village, Manhattan
peacock feathers at New York Costumes, East Village, Manhattan
Greer and Jez balancing peacock feathers at New York Costumes

The Strand is a book-lover’s dream. 18 miles worth of books, lined up in tight aisles that smell like the best kind of mold, the kind that grows on pages and makes you want to stick your nose between the binding and breath in deep.They sell new, used and out-of-print books. I love taking my little sister here and watching her climb the rolling staircases to discover new books hidden on higher shelves or sit on the floor in a quiet corner making “yes,” “no,” and “maybe” piles. I knew Greer was an avid reader, so I thought she’d appreciate the sheer quantity of books offered at this amazing store.

bookshelves at The Strand, East Village, New York City
bookshelves at The Strand, East Village, New York City
The Strand Bookstore, East Village, New York City
The Strand Bookstore, East Village, New York City
The Strand Bookstore, East Village, New York City
The Strand Bookstore, East Village, New York City

I’d have loved to take them to my third personal must-visit spot in Union Square, the restaurant Max Brenner, for some seriously sick chocolate creations, but I was trying to save room in our stomachs for more important New York food staples.

New York Costumes, 104 4th Ave., 212-673-4546

The Strand, 828 Broadway, 212-473-1452

East Village, Noho, NYU area

St. Marks Place, Noho, East Village, New York City
St. Marks Place, Noho, East Village, New York City

While the far West Village is good for trendy happenings and overpriced wines, the East Village, Noho and the general area around New York University is where you go to get drunk, get a piercing or get a vibrator, or all three.

tattoo, piercing shops, East Village, Manhattan
East Village, Manhattan

I wanted Greer and Jez to get a sense of the sense of freedom in the neighborhoods, so first I walked them down St. Marks Place and Avenue A to enjoy the regurgitation of youth culture in the neighborhood that once housed starving artists and the birth of punk rock. From St. Marks, we made our way back west towards Cooper Square and strolled slowly down St Marks between Cooper and 2nd Ave, eyeing the displays of beautiful blown glass, considering getting tattoos, and debating whether to stop for pizza or hot dogs. In the end, 2 Bros Pizza and their $1 per slice deal won out over Papaya King Hotdogs, though I highly suggest trying both New York delicacies if you have the time and the stomach.

2 Bros Pizza, Manhattan
2 Bros Pizza, Manhattan

We stuffed our faces and chugged a quick street beer and then headed over to Washington Square Park near NYU to sightsee a bit. It was a warm day for winter, and the sun was beginning to set as the usual frolicking of different strokes continued in the park. Small children clapped excitingly over big bubbles, old men played chess and checkers, a man in skirt played ragtime on a piano under the Triumphal Arch dedicated to George Washington’s 100th anniversary of inauguration as the President of the United States, and we stood watching all of it as we munched on Maple and Bacon kettle cooked chips, an odd flavor of potato chips that Greer and Jez couldn’t walk past without trying.

bubbles in Washington Square Park, New York City
bubbles in Washington Square Park, New York City
pianist playing ragtime in Washington Square Park, New York City
pianist playing ragtime in Washington Square Park, New York City
Australian tourists eating Maple Bacon chips at Washington Square Park, New York City
Greer and Jez eating Maple Bacon chips and watching the scene in Washington Square Park

photo2 copy 3

Triumphal Arch, Washington Square Park, New York City
Triumphal Arch, Washington Square Park, New York City
Washington Square Park, New York City
Washington Square Park, New York City

If we had had the time or the stomach space, I would have delighted in taking Greer and Jez to sample one of New York’s famous Jewish delis, specifically Katz’s Delicatessen on Houston Street near the recently departed Empanada Mama (RIP- I will never forget the Viagra Empanada you fed me one time at 4 in the morning.) Katz’s has been a cash-only deli since 1888 with the fattest sandwiches it will ever be your pleasure to unhinge your jaw for. You can order any corned beef or pastrami sandwich, and your taste buds and soul will thank you kindly. But don’t limit yourself. Have some chicken soup or a potato knish with deli mustard to round out your meal.

corned beef or pastrami sandwich, from Katz's Deli's website
*drools*- delicious photo of either corned beef or pastrami sandwich, probably on rye, from Katz’s Deli’s website

Katz’s Deli, 205 E. Houston Street, 212-254-2246

I’d also have taken my friends to one of the cool bars down there, like One-and-One on the corner of 1st Street and 1st Avenue to dance to some Top 40, or to Hair of the Dog on Orchard and Stanton for the young crowd and beer pong tables, or even to Pianos on Ludlow for lounge vibes and 90s hip hop. But alas, Jez didn’t know about the whole ID-ing thing, and we had to trek all the way back up to their hostel in Harlem to get his passport.

On our way back up town, we made sure to stop at the iconic Halal Guys food stand on 53rd Street and 6th Avenue for a mixed chicken and lamb platter with rice, salad, and white sauce (hold the hot sauce). That warm, aromatic platter didn’t stand a chance.

Blunts and 40s

The day I met up with the Australians in New York was also the day that Biggie Smalls, Notorious BIG, died in 1997.

Notorious BIG, Biggie Smalls
Notorious BIG, Biggie Smalls, RIP

In honor of this great man, I taught Greer and Jez what a blunt was, how to roll one by two-stepping, and introduced them to 40 oz. bottles of beer and malt liquor. After we were rolled up and ready, with a 40 of Old English, we poured some out for our fallen homie and made our way back downtown.

40 of Old English, New York City
Greer enjoying her first 40 of Old English

I would like to say that even though we properly brown-bagged our bottles, open container laws in New York still apply, and you really shouldn’t be out and about with an open bottle of any alcoholic beverage, lest you get a fine from the pigs of $25 or up to 5 days imprisonment. I got a little spooked while we were drinking a tall boy of Rolling Rock on the street and a cop car seemed to stop and notice.

Rolling Rock, New York City
Rolling Rock tall boy on the streets of NYC

Unfortunately, my first reaction was to chuck the can and tell Greer and Jez to scatter while I ducked into a convenience store. I didn’t need the Stop-and-Frisk police to decide they have reasonable suspicion that I am committing or about to commit a crime, such as the one I neatly rolled into a cigar wrap. Word to the wise, if a New York police officer asks to search you, your things or your vehicle, you do not have to give consent and you do not have to say anything. If he or she asks you to turn out your pockets, you can refuse (and should if you have drugs in them) because they can really only bag you if you show them your stash. Ask if you are being arrested or if you are free to leave. For more tips on how to survive an encounter with the New York Pig Department, check out what the New York Civil Liberties Union has to say.


I don’t know about anyone else, but before I moved to Boston, one of my favorite pastimes would be to go into the city with friends for some hookah and snacks in the village. I took my friends to Pergola Restaurant, a somewhat classier place than the super downtown, smoke-filled hookah dives with cushion-laden corners that I was accustomed to. We snacked on an octopus salad and a plate of warm pita and cold dips of babaganoush, hummus and tapenade as we blew out mandarin and mint tobacco from a large glass water pipe. It was the perfect way to settle our super full stomachs and wind down after a very full day.

pita and dips plate at Pergola Restaurant, New York
pita and dips plate and octopus salad at Pergola Restaurant, New York
Pergola Restaurant, New York City
Pergola Restaurant, New York City


I had an awesome time being a tour guide for my foreign friends, and hope that this recounting of our day together can serve as a guide for other tourists who want to spend a splendid, slightly off the beaten tracks, day in Manhattan!


by Rebecca Bellan