Escape to New York: Adventure on a budget

New Yorkers surprise with their kindness everywhere


New York City is a conundrum, a contradiction, a poem in free verse, soaring and dirty and in your face, a mad symphony of a thousand noises and quiet contemplation.

It is a city where bigness is celebrated, yet greatness is encountered in the smallest of places: a hole-in-the-wall neighborhood tavern, a tiny Italian restaurant with eight tables one flight below street level, a firehouse barely the width of a two-car garage.

And it is a destination for millions of visitors every year. So much spectacle. So much history. World-class museums. Broadway shows. Carnegie Hall. The Empire State Building. Thirty Rock. Coney Island. And 13,000 yellow taxis, most of them too busy to stop.

New York is also Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island, but it is Manhattan that draws most of the city’s tourists, and it is Manhattan where most of them stay. They pay handsomely for the privilege.

A hotel room in midtown Manhattan can easily run $2,500 to $3,000 a week, or more. One middle-of-the-pack midtown hotel we checked charged $299 to $459 a night for the week we were in town recently.

Throw in the cost of getting there, plus meals, tours, shows, and the obligatory “I (heart) New York” coffee mug, and a trip to the Big Apple is a major financial undertaking.

But there’s a way to ease the pain. It’s called an apartment. After trying unsuccessfully to find a midtown hotel that was clean, comfortable, and within our budget, we changed our strategy.

We learned about an outfit called Taylor Made rentals. With the help of an agent who told us he once lived in Maumee for several years, we found a wonderful place to call home that had everything we were looking for.

One bedroom and one bath. A great view of the surrounding skyline. And of course, a kitchen. That meant we didn’t have to eat out three times a day. Dining in Manhattan, like sleeping in Manhattan, is extremely expensive, so having our own place made a big difference. Two grocery stores were within a block.

Our high-rise was on 56th Street just west of 8th Avenue, a perfect base camp for exploring. The subway station was two blocks away at Columbus Circle.

So was the southwest entrance to Central Park, one of the world’s great urban parks. On the Sunday afternoon we arrived, 8th Avenue was closed for a street fair, an unexpected treat, with ethnic foods and impromptu concerts.

We got all that for about $1,600 for seven nights. In Manhattan, that qualifies as a bargain. Most of the apartment rental agencies in the Big Apple prefer to rent their units by the month. But Taylor Made allows one-week rentals as well.

A tip for getting around New York City: We bought seven-day transit passes and used them on both the subways and buses. We figure the transit authority stopped making money on us by Day Three.

Invariably we felt fatigued by evening, although it was a good tired. It’s part of the adventure. And of course, we had a comfortable apartment to return home to every night. Our building was secure. The doorman quickly memorized our faces and seemed like an old friend by week’s end.

Another nice feature of renting an apartment was the mix of residents we encountered. Only a few of the apartments in our building were rentals. The rest were occupied by New Yorkers. Judging from the relative youth and fitness of most of them, we figured they were dancers or other performers at nearby Broadway theaters.

New Yorkers have an occasionally deserved reputation for rudeness, but we found kindness everywhere we went — with one exception. An elderly lady at the Metropolitan Museum of Art scolded me after I accidentally bumped into her in a hallway jammed with people.

“Listen,” she said sternly, “I’m walking with a cane here.”

I felt like saying: “And I bet you know how to use it.” I apologized and explained that I had been pushed from behind. I’m not sure she believed me.

Our week was filled with two Broadway shows, strolls through Central Park, long walks to Times Square, and an emotional yet heartening visit to the site of the 9/‚Äč11 attack.

The new Freedom Tower, nearly complete, shimmers in the sun. The two waterfalls, which sit in the footprint of the original Twin Towers, are beautiful symbols of a nation’s resolve to rise from the rubble and terrible losses of Sept. 11, 2001.

New York City remains an expensive place to visit, but the rewards are worth it, especially if you find the right place to call home. Yes, I (heart) New York. But for a Cleveland Indians fan like me, there’s just one thing: those damn Yankees.

Thomas Walton is the retired editor and vice president of The Blade. His column appears every other Monday. His commentary, “Life As We Know It,” can be heard each Monday at 5:44 p.m. on WGTE-FM 91.

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