By SANDRA VEGA

New York in quarantine looked like a horror movie: deserted streets, empty subway cars, an unusual silence, and many businesses almost abandoned; definitely not the New York one normally sees.

This image of the Big Apple is shocking, indeed. But to me, it wasn’t all bad. I’m grateful for having seen this side of New York with my own eyes, and for capturing something undoubtedly historic through my lens.

Despite all the bad and weird things this pandemic has brought, there is also a good side of this. And this is what made me appreciate New York at another level.

NO CROWDS

I know it might sound funny, but living in the heart of Manhattan comes at a price: traffic noise almost 24/7, sirens that wake you up at 4am, big and daily crowds, and some crazy drunken fellas yelling past midnight. Believe me, it’s not fun.

However, since shelter in place was announced, calm and quiet have invaded the city like never before: empty streets, silent days and nights, and a beautiful peace that has banished my nocturnal bff: insomnia. Why on Earth would I complain about having a good night’s sleep? Au contraire, I think this is what I appreciated the most.

LOCAL TOURISM

OK, by now you probably know that big crowds are out of the picture. But let me tell you something: having the most popular tourist spots all for yourself is AMAZING! Not only for taking your time to walk around your favorite place, but also for shooting some nice pictures without people getting in your way. Yay! I mean, New Yorkers are finally fully enjoying their city. I’m not a born and raised New Yorker, but after five years living here, I actually needed this kind of break from tourists.

TERRACES

This might seem like no biggie for a lot of people, but in New York, many restaurants and bars didn’t have outdoor space before COVID-19 (it was a complex legal issue). But, due to the economic impact suffered by many food establishments, New York City created Open Restaurants, a program focused on helping these businesses cope with this difficult time.

The result? Nice, colorful, and adorable outdoor spaces. Simply by walking through these areas, you feel in southern European vacation mode (I’m missing Spain BTW).

The Open Restaurants scheme has been so positive for the local community that it will return in May 2021.

NEW ACTIVITIES

The pandemic has forced everyone to try new things. For me, it’s been skating and biking. With gyms not opened yet, and personally still not feeling very comfortable working out in the park, skating and biking have become my daily cardio session with a plus: panoramic views of New York I can enjoy without being rushed.

Also, a few weeks ago I tried water rafting for the first time and I loved it. It is a great activity to enjoy with your loved ones while social distancing. If you haven’t tried it, you should. Nature, your people, your favorite drinks and food, and, of course, a little exercise (if you want).

The city is slowly reopening, and places appear more crowded. While we adjust to this new lifestyle, I’d love to know what good side you have rediscovered in your town because of the pandemic. Let me know what else you have enjoyed so far. Comment below.

Sandra Vega is a Mexican journalist. She left her country in 2014 to live in the US for one year. Six years later, she hasn’t been back to Mexico, and is “still trying to find my way in one of the most exciting cities in the world: New York!” Sandra lives in Hell’s Kitchen. Find out more at Oh My Latina (where this story originally appeared).