Tuesday, January 29, 2013

New York- A Concrete Jungle Where Dreams Are Made

Rockefeller Centre

Empire State of Mind by Alicia Keys (feat Jay Z) is a song that I often find myself humming when I walk around the Jozi Inner City, and so when I was offered the amazing opportunity to go to New York recently I found it stuck in my head for the entire week I was there.

In New York
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothing you can't do
Now you're in New York
These street will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Hear it for New York!

(by Empire State of Mind-Alicia Keys)

(link to YouTube Video Link)

And now having spent time in New York, I couldn't agree more with these lyrics. New York is a city of dreams, anything is possible and it will inspire you! Although very different, it does stir up emotions like my city- Joburg!

I wanted to write this blog to share my adventures and also to use it as a "Thank You" to those who made my trip possible. So please follow the link to the song above and listen to it when you read this blog post, I hope it inspires you:

At the end of last year I was offered the opportunity by SA Tourism (via Joburg Tourism) to go to the New York Times Travel Show (a trade fair) in New York. I have to say when I first received the offer, I was really honoured but didn't think I would be able to go, as my company Past Experiences is a small family business. But due to generous sponsorship from South African Tourism and TEP, and my company, I was able to go...and what an experience it was! It was definitely the experience of a lifetime, one that I will never forget and I can never thank them enough but I will try anyway...Thanks, Thanks, Thanks!!!!

My week in New York was fabulous! A lot of it was spent at the trade fair, selling the Jozi Inner City to industry and consumers, but I was also lucky enough to explore the city too. The Travel show was an amazing learning curve for us and I made contacts and learnt about the US market. It is also a huge step that tourism in the Joburg Inner City has progressed in the 4 years that I have been involved and that it is now being pushed by National and Regional tourism boards and being promoted at International tourism fairs. I am so excited for Past Experiences and Inner City Tourism and the bright future that we have together!
Our (Past Experiences) booth at the South African Tourism stand at
The New York Times Travel Show

South African Tourism Stand that Past Experiences was part of at
the New York Times Travel Show

Luckily we also had some time to play in New York. New York is a dream to walk around in and I fell in love with the height of the buildings, the buzz of the city and the lights! I wasn't the only Joburg representative at the fair, Lebo from Soweto Backpackers and Soweto Bicycle Tours was also in New York. We did some serious walking around NYC and visited Central Park, FAO Shwarz and probably the highlight, we ended up in a Cigar Shop across the road from Grand Central Station, where we smoked cigars and chatted to local New Yorkers. If you know me, you know I love movies made in the 1980's, including BIG starring Tom Hanks, in which he dances on the Giant piano at FAO Shwarz so I had to do that!

Lebo and myself in Time Square
Dancing on the Piano...woop woop!
Tom Hanks dancing on the piano in Big

Luckily for me a friend of mine Kate, has moved to New York in the last 6 months. She took me out, showed me how to use the Subway and we went to the East Village and Greenwich Village which I loved the vibe of....thanks Kate!!  To read more about her worldly adventures check her blog and stunning photos out on http://lightnessofbeing.me/

Me in Greenwich Village (thanks for the pic Kate)
Judy from SA Tourism in New York looked after our group like gold, she is awesome and the trip would not have been half as good without her! She took our group to dinner, and we went to a restaurant called Gazala's in Hells Kitchen, which has been featured on one of my favourite TV shows "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives". The food is from the Druze culture which I had never heard, follow this link to Wikipedia for more info on this unique cultural group. The food was so Delicious, very Mediterranean with humus and other meze. My next New York trip I will definitely be back.

SA Tourism Stand
Like Alicia Keys, I think New York is amazing and it did inspire me but it is difficult to sum up my New York experience or what New York is in one blog post, i have looked around to see what others have written and I think writer and New Yorker EB White sums it up best:

The city is like poetry;
it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island
and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines.” 

Will write again soon, Jo xx