I have been to New York twice now and had very different experiences both times. The first time I was pretty much in awe. I was seeing all the famous sights I recognised from TV. The statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, World Trade Center, Central Park...I even snapped a pic of the steaming sewer/subway grate! I never even realised that wasn't just a special effect. Or perhaps it is something they do just for the tourists. It was a sight-seeing trip mostly so I tried to fit in as much as possible. Grand Central station was pretty impressive too!
My second trip was much different. I got to experience more of a real New York. I ate in deli's, China town and wandered through little Italy. I hailed a New York yellow cab. I went to see the Today show being filmed out in the street. Hailing a cab is certainly an experience. Especially for a self-conscious Brit. You get to stand out in the street and draw attention to yourself intentionally and uncomfortably while a thousand cabs drive past. I guess it's an experience that grows on you. Most of the cab drivers we had were great. They were fast but safe and relatively friendly. The only time I felt uncomfortably was the trip we took where I had to avoid the puddle of unknown liquid by my feet. What made it worse was that it was our longest cab ride and seemed to be completely out of the way of where we wanted to go (they have those handy digital maps in the back of the cabs now). And I didn't even get to win any money :-(.
I enjoyed the big city but I don't think I could ever really feel at home there. The rush of crowds on every single street, the distrust and air of underlying mild frustration that lingered on people, the 12 Starbucks on every block. The fact that everything is open late was great but it just wasn't me. I have to say though that New York has some kick-ass cheesecake. I'm yet to find decent cheesecake in West Virginia. So please let me know if you find some.