Following the release of Monocle’s latest publication The Escapist, a journal for travellers, my thoughts are surprisingly preoccupied with the joy of staying put. Last week the New York office hosted a visit from some of our London-based colleagues – which meant sorting hotels, booking restaurants and suggesting activities for limited free time.
The US has seen an increase in “staycations” over the past few years: more residents are booking nights in neighbourhood hotels, rediscovering their favourite museums and spending Saturdays at local beaches rather than shores far away. I typically itch to escape New York, whether it’s to leave the city for greener pastures or to explore a place I’ve never been.
But entertaining colleagues who pass through only a few times a year presented an opportunity to see my city as a foreigner – and appreciate it as one too. Upon having to find a last-minute dinner reservation for six one day, it seemed every hot new restaurant was booked solid. So we chose an old-favourite on nearby Great Jones Street. The food was simple and delicious. The atmosphere was understated and just busy enough that we weren’t hustled through our meal. Everyone was happy.
The following evening I suggested a new and popular downtown restaurant and afterwards, reviews seemed mix. (Heading to a very sought-after spot means the crowd can be less than relaxed.) I was more cautious on my next choice, bringing our editor the following day to a classic stand-by on Bond Street. It’s five minutes walk from the Monocle office, uncomplicated and tasty. And while the restaurant went over well, so did the block it was on.
Although it’s just around the corner, I haven’t truly appreciated the fine retailers, galleries and restaurants. Nor have I paid attention to the sheer width of the street, its well-maintained architecture or how clean its pavements are. It’s a breath of fresh air north of Houston Street. We walked around the block admiring the less pristine side of the Bowery and popped into a few boutiques. I routinely pass by these streets but with a guest to point out the charm to me I could appreciate it with fresh eyes.
Throughout the week we referenced our New York Travel Guide frequently and recounted both surprising discoveries and ordinary charms of the city, from the incredible rebuild of Rockaway Beach to our favourite taqueria and the success of the new Whitney Museum. Looking at the city through the lens of discovery prompted a new appreciation for what’s available everyday. So while I’ll look forward to a holiday away, I’m also keen to spend the summer meeting New York again.
Megan Billings is a researcher/ writer for Monocle’s New York bureau.