Boarding passes in hand, we set off to New York City at the end of June 2018 to take care of Heath for one week.
In the days leading up to the trip, we emailed Heath’s humans to get all the pertinent details about our assignment – not the least of which was the address. After a reassuring check on Google Maps, their one-bedroom apartment didn’t appear to be in a sketchy part of the city – in fact, quite the opposite. We both thought we could easily slip into life on the Upper West Side, a block from the Museum of Natural History and two blocks from Central Park.
The moment of truth — after making our way from the airport, we were standing on the sidewalk at the base of a stoop to a quintessential Manhattan apartment building — home base for the next week? Fingers crossed.
I texted Heath’s humans, “We’re here.”
We took a deep breath.
We received a quick reply, “We’ll be right down.”
With our leap of faith rewarded, our Big Apple adventure was off to an excellent start. We meet Heath and his twentysomething humans on the sidewalk. They couldn’t be nicer nor more welcoming.
Up two flights and we dropped our bags in their apartment — cozy and blessedly air conditioned. It’s summer in New York and the mercury was rising.
The young couple were eager to get on their road trip to a family gathering in a nearby state. Before dashing they gave us a quick run-through of Heath’s routine. We learn he’s a six-year-old, golden lab mix. He starts his day with breakfast and a walk. Sleeps the day away. Then dinner and a walk. And one final outing before bed. They told us about an off-leash area at the end of the block. Perfect.
In a matter of minutes, they went on their way. Frank and I looked at each other. We looked at Heath. We marvelled at the apartment and still couldn’t quite believe that this pet sitting thing was an actual thing.
We leashed up Heath and set off on the first of very many strolls through our new ‘hood with him.
Our preference when we travel is to stay at places outside of the tourist areas, particularly in places we’ve visited before, and this wasn’t our first time to NYC. On this trip, we really wanted to experience the city from a different perspective. After all, with a dog on a leash we looked like locals – so much so, we were on the receiving end of many a “hello” and “good morning” from doormen, shop owners and others on the sidewalk. When we’ve stayed in the tourist areas, it’s hustle-bustle in a sea of people and no one really makes eye contact let alone talks to each other.
So that’s Heath and as much as he was the reason for this trip, we still needed to do some exploring without him.
Where to start?? Here are some of the highlights from this trip.
Since we were staying close to Central Park it was a no-brainer to hit up the Metropolitan Museum. If you can’t find a jaw-dropping exhibit in the Met, there may be something wrong with you.
Our favourite was Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.
It was a stellar mashup of all the big designers in their ecclesiastical glory. Spectacular.
Words can’t really describe it so take a look at some of the exhibit on The Met site if fashion is your jam.
Arriving at the end of June means we were there for both Canada Day (July 1) and the Fourth of July. With many Canadian expats living and working in New York, Canada Day is something that is celebrated, albeit in a more subdued way.
Thankfully we know a Canadian expat and she invited us along to a large, roof top party. The event space was decked out in all things red, white and maple leaf-esque. Music from Canadian artists on the playlist, Canadian beer and Caesars on the drink menu, and life-sized, cardboard cut-outs of a myriad of Canadian icons: Celine, Alex Trebek, Bob and Doug Mackenzie, and Hal Johnson and Joanne Macleod to name a few. It was much more a Canadian-concentrated theme than we would have experienced back home.
With Canada Day behind us, we had a few days to prepare for Independence Day in America. I was keen to see fireworks as only the Americans can do. News reports gave details on the best vantage points. We attempted to make our way to one, but it was tough slogging.
Countless roads were closed, even to pedestrians. Fencing and police everywhere. We were being carried in the mass of people, hundreds of thousands of us, all with the same idea of watching fireworks from “the best” spot. And this was two hours before the fireworks were to begin.
TOO. MANY. PEOPLE.
We decided to throw in the towel. We turned on our heels and declared to the hordes of people now facing us. “Nope. Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent at this juncture.”
It was a lot of swimming upstream, but well worth the battle to get out of there — Independence Day Fireworks be damned!
One of the best parts of New York is just being able to walk and walk and walk. There are countless things to see within every block, so it doesn’t seem like you’re on a journey to someplace far in the distance. On many days we had no set destination. We’d just find ourselves at some NYC tourist mecca.
On our previous trip to the city, the 9-11 Memorial was still under construction. On this trip we wanted to see how it turned out.
As we turned the final corner to walk on to the plaza with the two reflecting pools, it was like I walked into a massive wall of sorrow. In a split second I went from the natural high you get on vacation to an overwhelming sense of grief and pain.
As beautiful as the memorial is in its enduring tribute to the 2,977 lives lost on September 11, 2001, I found that the energy in the ground was so sad that, boom, it immediately brought me to tears. I couldn’t stop crying and knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold it together to visit 9-11 Museum. I was as surprised as anyone by my reaction. Utterly sobering.
The heat of July continued to rage, and we looked for any and all opportunities to soak up a little AC. One afternoon we found ourselves in the Meatpacking District at the southern point of the High Line — an elevated park that runs just shy of two miles along a historic, rail line.
Because most of the High Line is unsheltered from the blistering sun, we decided to cool off first at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Did I mention they have air conditioning? They also have a great little café on the eighth floor for a refreshing beverage.
Suitably hydrated, cultured and cooled, we set out along the High Line. The walkway along the old rail line is peppered with a variety of garden spaces and public art, but it’s the different vantage points you get of the city, from being several metres above the sidewalk, that I found most interesting. It’s definitely a must see in the city – and it’s free.
Although we spent a great deal of time getting around on foot, we also made good use of Ubers and the subway. After all, we needed to plan our days so that we could be home to take Heath for a late afternoon walk and feed him dinner.
There were a few nights that we cooked dinner in the apartment and hung out with Heath, some nights we’d pick up dinner from someplace nearby and a few nights we actually went out on the town.
On one of our final nights, we tucked Heath into bed and moseyed down to Hell’s Kitchen to a watering hole called Flaming Saddles. It checked all the boxes: drink specials, air conditioning and at certain points throughout the night the bartenders jump up on the bar and perform a line-dance to the stylings of Shania Twain. 🎵“That don’t impress me much.” 🎵
Even at Flaming Saddles we couldn’t escape a taste of Canada.
Thanks New York. Thanks Heath. It was a super slice of a Big Apple pie that we won’t soon forget.