Credit: Oliver Niblett via Unsplash

Virtual travelling: The Big Apple in my childhood bedroom

By Tara Gandhi

New York on the first date… who said coronavirus killed romance?

New York: the city that dreams are made of. But at the moment, it is more the city of Covid-19 spikes, hostile police, and curfews. So, during a lockdown virtual date, I visited from the safety of my childhood bedroom, my first venture into the world of virtual travelling. 

If you want the real holiday experience, I have found there are several videos on YouTube where plane enthusiasts have filmed their entire flight, Heathrow to JFK. Not having eight hours to spare, we chose to skip through one couples’ first-class experience (when you’re travelling virtually you can be as rich as you want), before browsing the most expensive hotels and AirBnBs we could find, to decide where to stay (again revelling in the imaginary wealth you have when travelling online). 

We started the trip with the first of two walking tours, through Chinatown and Little Italy. Share your screen, and have the non-sharer read out directions as you patrol the streets in Google Street View. It works better than you would expect, especially with a self-guided tour giving you a little purpose, and if, like me, you’re on a date, it will almost feel like a real holiday as you inevitably bicker over directions and get lost. 

After our first walking tour, we decided to explore the Guggenheim Museum, touring from floor to floor via Google Arts and Culture. While this was fun, if you plan on recreating the holiday I would recommend finding a different virtual museum, such as the Natural History Museum, as unfortunately, Google didn’t upload the plaques alongside the art. We were therefore left looking at modern art, difficult to process at the best of times, with zero explanation from the artist or curator. 

Once we had explored all the Guggenheim had to offer, we took a break for lunch with the traditional New York delicacy, bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese. After this, we settled down for a lecture by a curator from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, who was running an online tour of their newest, and at the time Covid-delayed exhibition, Making the Met. There are often similar cultural seminars online so it should be relatively easy for you to find one that’s on while you happen to be “in the city”. 

After the talk we ventured over to Brooklyn, watching a video tour of some of the area’s best graffiti, before watching a couple of YouTube tutorials and recreating our own, far worse, attempts. We then had time to burn before tea, so embarked on our second walking tour, this time through Greenwich Village, taking us past the iconic Stonewall Inn. 

Tea was a typical American burger, accompanied by a film set in the city itself. New York has almost too many good films set there, and after lots of deliberation, we settled on Goodfellas

And then, in the space of a day, we had been to New York and back. While a virtual holiday like this involves a fair bit of planning, it’s worth it for a day that genuinely breaks up the monotony of a socially distant social life. A great date idea, I’m sure it would also work well as a way to spend time with family or friends you are unable to see in the current climate. It means you can spend the whole day together, and you’ll be unable to run out of things to talk about. The world is your oyster – just don’t forget to pack your laptop charger!


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