New York minutes
Just back from my second-ever visit to New York City, I am suffering from mass-transit withdrawal and humming "Avenue Q" and "Billy Elliot" tunes. We are blessed to have my husband's brother and sister-in-law (they'd attract hordes of visitors even if they lived somewhere uninteresting) situated just a couple of blocks from Times Square. Not only that, they dispense kind advice on NYC navigation without making us feel like complete yokels.
Still, I boned up on some local attractions and customs before this trip. Checking out the usual suspects from the library--Fodor's, Insight, Blue Guide--was a good move; they effectively guided my selection of our what-to-see short list. I've forgotten which book provided the Essential Cab Advice, but here it is because you should know: tell cab drivers cross streets rather than addresses, and never select a cab driver who approaches you in the airport.
Sometimes, the best feature of a planned destination is the discoveries you make en route. Propelled by rush-hour sidewalk traffic, I was seeking out a garment district address when the "Sposabella" sign caught my eye. I'd read about it in The Curious Shopper's Guide to New York City: Inside Manhattan's Shopping Districts by Pamela Keech. The store specializes in wedding veils and related finery, and celebrities patronize it. Since (despite evidence to the contrary) I still consider NYC a mythical concept--not unlike flying First Class--spotting "Sposabella" and several other wonderfully specific shops that I'd first viewed in print was a treat.
Another can't-keep-to-ourselves discovery from this excursion is something you won't find in the library; it's more like a deck of cards than a book. City Walks: New York: 50 Adventures on Foot by Martha Fay was offered in museum gift shops in NYC, but you can also purchase it at Barnes and Noble and other local bookstores. Handy-sized cards map out walking tours for various interests and different parts of the city. Notes on the back spotlight features you might otherwise miss.
I recommend City Walks for your own next trip or for a traveler's gift. I also feel compelled to plug Pete Hamill's Forever (which is available at the library) as possibly the ultimate fiction choice about New York City. And, with photos of Central Park and the Naked Cowboy on my phone and a Mood Designer Fabrics shopping bag on my arm, I am qualified to judge, don't you think?