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Since my husband bought a table saw in New York City — yes NYC  he has had a passion for visiting the Big Apple. And of course, I tag along.

More than 25 years ago, he discovered Garrett Wade, a store on the lower end of Manhattan that was the only one in the U.S. to sell a certain Swiss table saw. He had to check it out, and thus began a pilgrimage to the island that has continued through this year and hopefully beyond.

Driving in the city was never questioned. We just get in the car early on a Saturday morning and head north. Sometimes we feel like a cab sandwich as we're surrounded by the yellow speed demons, but that doesn't stop us. We arrive about 10 a.m. and either head to the hardware store or for coffee. The city is already alive with delivery trucks making their usual rounds and taxis gearing up for a busy day.

Parking can be a challenge. Sometimes we luck up and find a spot on the street but more likely in a lot. We make the most of being on the lower end of the island, often taking in sights like Battery Park.

We adopted the philosophy of hiking Manhattan, comparing it to hiking the mountains near our home in the Shenandoah Valley, with comfortable shoes  a must to traverse the island. I laminated a map of the Big Apple at least 20 years ago and never leave home without it when aiming for NYC. The creases and folds have deepened with age.

As we became more familiar with the iconic city, we had favorite spots we would frequent. Sometimes we walk from the hardware store near Canal Street and the Avenue of the Americas to Little Italy on Mulberry Street. Little Italy has been a favorite spot when we visit the city  at least once a year and sometimes more. My family was from Italy, so the area is appealing as restaurant employees stand on the street and beckon visitors with specials on the menu. We always have a great experience with superior breads and pastas as well as a street fair atmosphere.

After lunch, we head uptown where our hotel is usually located and turn the car over to the valet. My husband scours websites for good deals. Before websites were commonplace, he would actually make phone calls to secure a room. When we found one we liked, we would frequent it until prices went up or if service declined.

The highlight of the hotels was a stay at the Waldorf-Astoria. My husband found that special in The Washington Post travel section. Especially memorable was when we were waiting on our car along with actor and singer Robert Goulet. We played it cool and did not bother him for an autograph, but it is something we will never forget.

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, lighting many candles at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue, watching the ice skaters at Rockefeller Center and trekking through Central Park are just a few of the activities we can’t miss when we make the drive from Virginia.

Taking in a movie at The Paris Theatre on 58th Street near The Plaza Hotel is one of my favorite pursuits. It is like a trip back in time, with one screen as the theaters of our childhood and teenage years. Seats of velvet-like fabric are worn but reminiscent of bygone days. Cost is close to movie prices anywhere, and the popcorn is great. Movies are of the artsy-type, which are hard to come by in many communities.

Broadway plays are part of the plan, especially if there is one we just have to see. If not, we line up at TKTS in Times Square to see what is available. “Rocky” was an entertaining musical this summer with unusual audience participation.

We had the chance to take two of the grandchildren, along with their parents, a couple of years ago at Christmastime. With six people, the best option was tickets on the off-and-on tour bus. We covered the whole island, seeing many places we had missed before. They loved it as we would hop off when we wanted to visit an area and back on to continue the journey. The American Girl Place on Fifth Avenue was a very special destination and did not disappoint.

This summer, the two of us made the drive again, taking in our usual haunts. Sunday morning we found our way to the TODAY show, where I got to meet, shake hands and have a picture taken with my favorite newscaster, Lester Holt.

There is always something new to see and usually a few surprises, including filming crews for movies or commercials. For those who hesitate to visit NYC, don’t. It is exciting, thrilling and invigorating. Costs can be kept down by not spending a great deal on food by finding corner stores and local restaurants to frequent, and my husband can always find an Irish pub. There is a pizza place and a Starbucks almost on every block. And don’t miss taking a taxi. It is as thrilling as a ride at an amusement park and will get you to your destination in record time.

Who would have thought two Logan County, West Virginia, natives from the deep mountains near the border of Kentucky  Hatfield and McCoy territory  would have ever become city savvy. All of these wonderful experiences happened because my husband just had to check out a table saw he wanted in a hardware store in NYC. Go figure. 

Frances Lowe

Frances Lowe is a retired journalist and educator, most recently serving as lifestyles editor at a local newspaper.

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