(A very very very belated post about our trip to New York City. I will be back-dating these posts later.)
I know I probably haven’t mentioned it to many people, I have wanted to go to New York City for some time now. My favorite story of NYC that my parents tell me is of how they and some friends went to see the Phantom of the Opera when it opened on Broadway. With Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford. They went to a super fancy restaurant and took a limousine! That must have been amazing fun.
During my time in Japan, Japanese people would look at me in confusion when I told them that I, as an American in her mid-20’s, had never been to the Big Apple. An American who had never been to New York City? Surely something was wrong with that!
I was due to return to the USA in July, so I began plotting an epic “Welcome Back to America!” trip for myself. At first I thought of doing a road trip and hitting up a bunch of the big-name east coast cities… But who was I kidding? I don’t like road trips. I much prefer to fly.
I thought about going by myself, but… that just didn’t sound like fun. I have traveled by myself before (2 weeks in Thailand/Singapore) and I don’t mind it. Sometimes I actually prefer to explore places by myself, but traveling with a friend is always fun and you’re never lonely. I decided to ask my mom, who managed to get a substitute for a few of her yoga classes that she teaches. We were on! My mom and I have traveled together before and I must say we make fabulous traveling companions.
I bought the tickets in March, so waiting until July was so torturous!
On July 4th, I touched down in Chicago, slept a bit, recovered a bit, and re-packed. Went to a wedding in Indiana, worked at a 4th of July festival for my parents’ restaurant…
Day 1: Monday, July 8th
We were on our way to New York City on Monday, July 8th at 6:50am. It was my first time flying with JetBlue Airlines, a known budget airline. After reading a few reviews and looking at the prices, I thought to myself, "How bad could it be?" And it wasn’t bad. At all. Not even in the slightest! They gave us legitimate snacks and there was even free cable on the screens. My mom and I distracted ourselves with a HGTV "Love It Or List It" marathon, which helped to pass the time more quickly than I expected.
We touched down around 10am. It was a gorgeous day, the first of many gorgeous days! After a little mix-up with our bags (we had intended to do carry-on only, but the overhead bins had filled up by the time we got on the plane), we got them from the carousel and were off to the trains.
I hadn’t been on a train since Tokyo, so I was curious to see how American trains compared. We rushed from the terminal to catch the train, but waited forever for it to arrive. The one we got on from the airport looked a little dingy and run-down. Leave it to Japan to keep all their trains sparkly and new-looking. And goodness it was rickety!
We followed the directions given to us by our AirBnB host and found the apartment without any problems! (AirBnB is a website where you can find vacation rentals by people who want to rent out rooms in their homes or their entire home. You can find pretty affordable accommodation! A lot cheaper than hotels, most of the time.) We stayed in a small 2-bedroom 5-storey walk-up in Greenwich Village, near Washington Square Park. It was an older building, so there was no elevator. I volunteered to carry the heavier bags up the stairs. The apartment was really cute and perfect for what we needed it for. We just needed a place to sleep in Manhattan near convenient train lines. Our host was wonderful and friendly and helped us with anything we needed. He was even vegan to boot!
We unpacked our things and my mom changed into some cooler clothes. It was hot out there! I grabbed my sister’s camera, purse, my mom, and headed out to begin our 8-day exploration of New York City!
My sister graciously let me borrow her Nikon CoolPix for the trip. It has an awesome optical zoom. My own little point-and-shoot had died a few months ago, so I was only left with my iPhone 4 and my mom’s iPhone 4s. The 4’s camera is past its prime. The 4s has a pretty good camera, but still isn’t the best in low-light situations. So I was extremely grateful to have a real camera on hand. That said, it was still a little large for my kind of lifestyle (need something small that travels well), so I am hoping my next phone camera will be better. I am also looking at other Sony point-and-shoots that are comparable to DSLRs…. But anyways, enough about the camera situation.
We started walking north through Washington Square Park, taking in all the summer sights.
There were musicians playing in the park, children swimming in the water fountain (was that even sanitary?), and general greenery everywhere. It was a hot day too, so the trees provided some needed shade.
For lunch we decided on Peacefood Cafe, a vegan cafe in the NYU/Union Square area. The food was divine. The chickpea fries were out of this world.
The carrot cake was the best carrot cake I have had in years. I still dream of that carrot cake.
After that we walked to southern Manhattan.
Our next destination was Southport, where we sought out the TKTS ticket office to see if we could get any cheap seats to any other Broadway shows. We were not lucky, however. The cheapest tickets to shows like the Phantom were at least $100 a piece. I’d already paid full price for the Lion King tickets, so I was looking for something a little cheaper. We left empty-handed.
I suggested we walk a little more and ride the Staten Island Ferry. It’s free to ride the Staten Island Ferry and it’s a great way to be able to see the Statue of Liberty a little closer. (It’s a lot smaller than I imagined it would be.)
And the terminal is actually really cool too. We were able to get on without problems even though there were quite a few people.
Here are some shots from the ride.
Coming back to Manhattan, we got a great view of the city. I thought to myself, "Wow, I’m really here. This is New York." It was pretty epic.
Once we docked, we walked back up Broadway Avenue and stopped at a couple places to shop. We bought postcards to send out and spent a fair amount of time in the MAC store for some makeup. I bought a good supply of makeup and an eyeshadow that I really like. It was called "Improper Copper."
By that time it was getting darker and we popped our heads into REI to look at shoes and use the restroom. We were hungry and tired, so we swung around to the Bowery Whole Foods to grab dinner and breakfast supplies.
Our host wasn’t home yet, so we enjoyed a quiet dinner in the apartment together with some TV. After dinner, we showered, called my dad, and hit the sack.
That was a lot of walking for our first day! But I suppose anyone who travels with me knows that they are in for a lot of walking.
Day 2: Tuesday, July 9th
We ate breakfast at home and headed to Strand Books in the morning, because it is one of NYC’s oldest and most famous bookstores. It reminded me a lot of Powell’s, but Powell’s is a lot bigger and has a better selection. I bought a couple souvenirs for my book-loving friends from there. And I also bought a map! A waterproof map of Manhattan and Brooklyn, which served us quite well on our trip. I always like to get maps of where I am traveling because maps help me get my bearings. Can’t rely on GPS all the time!
Yoga at the New York City Iyengar Yoga Institute was at noon.
My mom took a Level 4 class and I took a Level 2 class with another instructor. We were both done within 15 minutes of each other, so that worked out excellently. My mom really thrives on yoga, so getting to take classes from some of the best instructors in the country was a really great experience for her. This trip was like a tourism trip and a professional development trip combined into one! I of course enjoyed myself at yoga as well. I felt like I got a lot more out of the classes later on in the week, though.
We ventured on to Beyond Sushi, which I had been hearing about online at the vegan forums that I sometimes frequent. All vegan, plant-based sushi. It didn’t hurt that every single thing was just gorgeous. We got a couple things. :)
And then headed down south for dessert at Babycakes. I’ve been to the Babycakes in Los Angeles with my aunt Jan, but I’ve always wanted to go to the original in NYC.
The vegan, gluten-free goodies did not disappoint.
NOMNOM. (They even had day-olds for purchase at a discount!)
We took the subway back up to Union Square, where we spent a good amount of time in DSW and Nordstrom Rack. I didn’t find anything, but my mom did. I was still reveling in the fact that I could walk into a store and purchase shoes that actually fit me. (As opposed to Japan where they did not carry my size in women’s shoes. And I’m only a 9.5!)
We ate dinner at home again after picking some stuff up from Whole Foods and combining them with leftovers from the night before.
Day 3: Wednesday, July 10th
This day was one of my most favorite days. I will always remember it!
We got up early early to go see the Today Show live.
My mom said it was something she’d always wanted to do. She’s not an everyday watcher of the show, but she has watched it for a long time.
The highlight of the morning was when we got to be on TV! Well, we were on TV and someone else saw us! My grandparents in Texas were watching and they saw it.
We left after a little while and saw Rockefeller Square, the setting for many a movie.
I think I will have lots of nostalgia when I watch Home Alone 2 this Christmas season.
We walked over to Ess-a-Bagel and I was surprised at how hoppin’ the place was. New Yorkers really love their bagels! We managed to score a table for two inside the place and sat down to enjoy our breakfast.
I got pumpernickel with veggie tofutti cream cheese and my mom got a cinnamon-raisin bagel with cinnamon tofutti cream cheese.
They both were awesome. I think I liked mine a little better, but I enjoyed getting to try both savory and sweet.
Our bellies full, we were off to Central park.
We walked around a bit of the southern end of the park. We were walking without a map and ran into Balto! I was so excited! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched the Balto movie. I took pictures with the statue.
We also found Shakespeare and some really fun swings.
We vowed to come back another day and rent bikes so we could bike around the entire park.
After leaving the park, we walked to Madison Avenue, stopping at the Plaza Hotel. I’m a huge Home Alone fan, so I just had to see this place!
We went to the famous Tiffany’s after that so that my mom could get her engagement ring cleaned.
The cleaning service for platinum jewelry is free, so we figured why not? I popped over to the Apple store to see what all the hullabaloo was about. It was enormous.
A nice employee there kindly exchanged my mom’s broken USB cable for a new one in minutes.
F.A.O. Schwarz was right next door. They had done some remodeling since my mom had last been there, but it was still an awesome toy store. The most awesome I’d been in, for sure. I had fun playing with the Avengers toys and taking pictures with Muppets.
We went back to Tiffany’s to pick up the ring and were on our way.
I fulfilled a childhood dream of mine, which was to visit the American Girl Place.
I had an American Girl (a me-lookalike) when I was little and always ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the catalog whenever it came to me in Singapore. The place was pretty magical, I will admit. They even had a doll hair salon where you could get your doll’s hair done.
We got on the subway and took it down to Angelica Kitchen, another famous vegetarian restaurant. Our AirBnB host even said it was one of his favorites. We ate well and the food was just so wholesome and tasty!
That was our big meal for the day, so we were all set to explore once more.
We saw so many of the things on my to-see list that day! I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves.
We took a picture in front of the theatre where we would see The Lion King on Friday night.
Exhausted once again, we trudged back to the subway. we really had to use the bathroom, so we sneakily ducked into a fancy hotel and walked in like we knew where we were going. I think it was The Westin. No one noticed us as we ducked in and out and down to the subway.
Another day completed!