Hello, New York
After a long twelve hour flight from our stopover city, Tokyo, Travis and I found ourselves on the steps of JFK airport. We were tired, smelly (as we hadn’t showered in over 24 hours) and disoriented but that didn’t dampen our excitement at all! There was fresh snow falling from the sky (little did I know at the time this was the calm before the snowstorm) and I was particularly excited, make that ecstatic, about seeing my oldest friend (as in the one I’ve known longest!) Mandi after her almost two year absence from our hometown.
We emerged from the airport and frantically put all the warm winter gear we could find. It was excruciatingly cold that night, and I certainly was not psychologically prepared for the cold weather seeing as though 24 hours earlier, I had been basking in the sun at our annual outdoor office Christmas party. The taxi ride to Mandi’s apartment was slow. The taxi driver had advised as that it was in his (and our) best interests that he drove slowly so as to avoid a similar fate to two cars which had driven/slid off the road due to the ice.
As we approach Manhattan I recognised for the first time the beautiful Christmas-feeling that Mandi had described to me during our chats and emails. The streets were covered with snow, Christmas lights lit the busy street and it was just so picturesque. We found ourselves at Mandi’s apartment in the quaint West Village and after all our hugs and greetings it was quite late already. Whilst comfortably warm inside we decided to brave the cold to grab some late night dinner (or brunch as Travis and my brains told us) at a diner nearby in the Meat packing district. The two block walk felt like an adventure (given the novelty of snow and cold) and so we were then rewarded with our first American meal – some yummy American burgers, buffalo wings, disco fries and Oreo milkshakes!
We awoke leisurely on Sunday morning, had brunch (I had my first Bloody Mary) and made plans to take a walk through Central Park. It was so pretty! The park was filled with white snow covered trees, children tobogganing off the slight hills, ice skating rinks, freshly created snowmen. Not to mention the familiarity of scenes from numerous movies. We visited a shopping mall near the subway picked up some hot coffee, some delicious macaroons (Bouchon Bakery) and headed back home.
That evening we met up with some of Mandi’s buddies at what I learnt was a speakeasy. Unlike their historical counterparts speakeasies nowadays are legal, sell alcohol legally and have only inherited the exciting underground atmosphere of the Prohibition times. The speakeasy was located through a backdoor of a small corner-side deli. Upon entering the door we were escorted down two flights of stairs and through what looked like the restaurant’s kitchen. The restaurant we went to (La Esquina) served Mexican cuisine. The decor was amazing. Dark lighting, big wooden tables.. it felt like we were in a swanky dungeon of some sort (which happened to serve tequila with warm apple cider, on the house!). Anyway, dinner was fun and our first introduction to the many crazy New York apartment living/hunting/house mate conversations to come…
First day of Travis and my self-exploration of Manhattan. Mandi was working and so we decided to use our newly acquired Metro card to wander around the city. We ended up walking from 14th St (around where we were staying) uptown to Times Square. Took us a while as we were consistently distracted by all the people, bustling streets, quirky shops and photo opportunities. Incidentally, good foot wear is essential during the Winter season and my Perth-bought boots didn’t meet the standard requirements for general footpath walking (no grip). As a result, I fell down smack bang in the middle of Times Square which was very, very embarrassing. Lucky my coat was black. After Times Square (stopping to eat some breakfast at Maxines – bagel, cream cheese and smoked salmon for me!) we headed to the Rockefella Center to enjoy the views of the city. On our way, we passed Radio City Music Hall, some giant Christmas baubles and various other New York things. Might I add we also ensured we visited all the uniquely American stores such as American Eagle, Old Navy, Urban Outfitters, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, etc.
That evening we caught up with Mandi and walked around The West Village, passing through some interesting sites including the Carrie’s Sex in the City apartment, SJP’s real apartment, Washington Square and various other famous people’s apartments. We had pizza at nice little Italian restaurant (the mozzarella cheese was yum!) and then sampled some very unique desserts at Momofuku (the milk bar). We had:
- cereal milk icecream
- compost cookie – pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch, chocolate chips
- crack pie – toasted oat crust, gooey butter filling
New York has everything!!
We dedicated this day to general site seeing once again (since M was working – her last day). Took the subway downtown to Ground Zero site (not much there), walked down Broadway, past City Hall towards Wall St. Visited Tiffany & Co on Wall St and walked all the way around to the Statten Island Ferry Terminal. We decided to skip the Statten Island Ferry and go to Liberty Island instead (so walked further on to the next port) to see the Statue upon which we realised the line was gigantum! It was cold but we decided to do it anyway. Twenty four dollars later we were waiting in the queue (which was at least 500 m long) eating our all-American hotdog (with sauerkraut and mustard) and freezing our fingers off. We finally boarded the Ferry and took a pleasant boat ride over to Liberty Island. Usual touristy stuff, photos. Met a friendly Columbian guy who seemed to be travelling alone.
On the way back we decided to walk up 6th Avenue. Stopped by a burger joint where I had the smallest burger I have ever seen (it was called a mini burger) so as not to disrupt my appetite. Lucky for that because late that night M took us to dinner at Boka, a Korean restaurant in St Mark’s which specialises in fried chicken (Bon Chon chicken) – really delicious! We had a couple of dishes of that, some soju and after a satisfying night out, headed home.
Christmas Eve. We started the day by taking the subway to Brooklyn. Since we were there, Mandi decided to introduce us to Brooklyn’s most famous Pizzeria, Grimaldi’s. It was so delicious! Definitely some of the best pizza I have ever tasted, the base was just so tasty. Highly recommended. We were lucky to arrive with only a 2 minute wait but when we left there was a 30 minute line!
After pizza we headed towards the Brooklyn Bridge to cross it. This was fun but freezing!! Took lots of ‘creative’ photos. Upon reaching Manhattan Island we started walking towards Chinatown. I could smell the Chinese food before I could see it! The streets were lined with markets selling I love NY shirts, designer perfumes (which look and are said to be genuine but at a fraction of the price), all sorts of jewellery, knock off handbags and other knick knacks. We wandered around for a while and then explored some of the other cultural areas (Little Italy, Little Korea) around the area. Before heading back to Mandi’s we checked out American Apparel & Top Shop.
That night we went to an All you can Eat Brazilian BBQ Cuisine. Churrascaria Plataforma. The restaurant was $60 per head and offered all sorts of BBQ meats and Brazilian side dishes, a buffet including fresh sushi and salad. Needless to say I was extremely full afterwards!
We spent the morning planning to visit museums. Whilst we didn’t make it to the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), we somehow ended up at the Museum of Sex (nothing particularly interesting I thought), had lunch at a pizza bar, then Travis and I wandered to the New York Public Library, took some photos and walked up Fifth Ave and visited the Apple Store.
We had dinner at the famous Carnegie Deli where Travis had the shockingly huge corned beef sandwich and I had a tasty potato knish.
In the morning Mandi and I went to yum cha by ourselves while Travis slept in.
That evening, we made a scrumptious dinner (well M did most of the cooking whilst I played kitchen hand/table setter) at M’s apartment.. pork belly, stuffing, roast vegetables, roast duck (courtesy of a shop in Chinatown) and pecan pie for dessert. A couple of visiting friends from Oz joined as did M’s work colleague.. it was a fun evening with lots of laughs.. much of it related to the horrid BeanBoozled jelly beans. Braving the cold, we later decided to go to Sing Sing Karaoke bar in St Marks for a few tunes.
Now looking back I really cannot recall exactly what we did Boxing Day. We went to the MoMA where we caught up with Amy and Kim (friends from Oz). MoMA was amazing.. and huge. We barely managed to see half of the exhibitions so decided we would visit the museum again the following week.
On the night of the 26th we left for Orlando for a short 3 day trip…hoping to escape the cold!