Friday 12th July
Really excited to be in the big apple, yes, last stop is none other than New York. After the red eye flight, a 1 hr drive from the airport, and then a short wait while we got our shared apartment sorted, I really needed sleep.
Time flies and I haven’t eaten anything all day so time to find a place for dinner. Sofrito is my choice, serving Puerto Rican food.
Walked around a bit exploring the nearby blocks in drizzling rain before heading back to wind down for the day.
Saturday 13th July
The day started off with an interesting twist – bang bang bang “Open up NYPD!” OK it wasn’t that dramatic but we, and every apartment in our building, got a visit investigating a complaint that someone was using a unit as a hotel – our unit maybe??? Should have taken a photo of the police – the incident was just like on TV.
Lazy start to the day, we headed off after 12pm to take a relaxing walk to Times Square. Stopped by a high end kitchen store, Sonoma and Williams, where they also had several temporary vendors displaying their wares. Got some jalapeno spiced chocolate.
Also stopped by David Chang’s Momo Fuku which is a milk bar selling some interesting milk shakes and other goodies. Behind the milk bar is the restaurant. I had one of their pork buns which was so delicious. Juicy large pieces of pork with fat rendered down in a lovely sweet sauce typical of a pork bun, with the bun like a thick pancake, encasing its contents. They also have some interesting items like miso butterscotch milkshakes. I’ve got to come back and try that.
As we kept on walking, we passed by Obikà, a mozzarella bar, so I picked up a tomato, basil and mozzarella toasted panini. Really fresh flavours. So love cheese. They also have a mini degustation! Tempted but have to keep on walking. We’re on our way to see the Lion King on Broadway so no time to waste.
We also happened to walk past the Trump Tower which looked palatial just from the outside!
Bit humid so after a long walk we reached Times Square and headed to the theater to watch The Lion King. On our way, we got a glimpse of Times Square. We would explore later but it looked maddening just passing through it!
One has got to see a Broadway musical while in New York. I missed the opportunity in London. The performance of The Lion King musical was absolutely fantastic! What an excellent performance. I love the props, the music, the stage scenes, use of lighting, and the choreography. It’s been a long time since I saw the movie in my teens but it all started coming back to me. Well worth every cent and some more.
After that we spent some time walking around Times Square which is a crowd on steroids! Activity everywhere, markets, crowds of people, traffic, huge electronic billboards, blink for a sec and you lose the people you’re with. Pictures simply cannot explain Times Square. It’s an experience. The energy and the buzz is unbelievable and makes you feel as alive as ever! Got to come back tomorrow to explore in more depth.
I had also ordered the New York Pass online, which we picked up the book in New York. On this trip, I’ve used the Roma Pass, the Paris Pass, the London Pass, and now I’ve gone with the New York Pass. It’s an excellent resource that allows you to visit plenty of attractions (generally for free or at least discounted), jump the queues, get discounts, a map, and a whole lot more. Unlike the other passes, it doesn’t come attached with a travel pass to ride the metro for free. Instead you need to go to the subway station and buy a metro card, load it up with cash, and travel the subway like all New Yorkers do.
We then walked at least 14 blocks to our dinner destination – the 5th ranked restaurant in the world: 11 Madison.
Sunday 14th July
After the early morning return (~1 am), I needed a good sleep before seting off in the humidity for another day of travels.
I popped by Momofuku again and had miso butterscotch milkshake (yum!), pastrami pocket (intense flavour of pastrami and fennel, pretty good), crack pie (not what it sounds like but a brown sugar baked pie) – sweet but quite nice. Talk about an interesting array of hand held food!
I had a browse around various shops on my way to Times Square. Popped into M&M World New York, Hershey’s, Bloomingdale’s, caught the metro for a quick visit of Wall St (will return for a tour), and back again to Times Square to rest and then head off to watch Chicago the musical on Broadway.
Unlike The Lion King, the orchestra took up most of the stage so the performance was at the front. Regardless of where you sat, you had a good view. I really enjoyed the show and it’s excellent to see live.
Bit peckish and since there’s hot dog and kebab vendors on several street corners I thought I’d try the kebab. Pretty good flavour but the cut of meat not the best so a bit chewy at times. Served in a bun with ketchup and mustard, was a perfect late dinner snack. With the stifling humidity, one doesn’t feel hungry, just parched. Times Square is still buzzing but the crowds have thinned a little.
Monday 15th July
Up early and to the shop for more water as I’ll need it. Already the walk to the metro has me pouring in sweat – can the humidity get any worse? On top of that the underground is full of warm air and the carriages are not air conditioned like yesterday.
I cut my trip short to take in Grand Central Station. It’s huge and crawling with people. A very wide open space with shops tucked away to the sides. The only balcony overlooking the central area, a common scene in many a Hollywood movie, is home to the Apple store. It’s a bit unusual because it’s not enclosed, there’s no entrance into the shop, rather you just climb the steps to the balcony.
Headed off on the metro wondering why I’m the only one sweating – obviously the New Yorkers are used to the humidity. I’m off to Wall Street for a walking tour of an iconic area in New York and world finance. As I’m writing this the New York Stock Exchange is on my right with plenty of tourists gathered in the area. Behind me is the Federal Hall, like the Greek Pantheon, which is where the first ever US government was based.
The Wall St Walk (as part of the New York Pass) was led by a former trader who started his way from the bottom and has also done some acting with roles in Law & Order SVU. Being a real finance nut, I was fascinated to learn about Wall Street, the history, and the history about the area. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour.
Wall St gets its name from a wooden picket wall erected by the Dutch to keep the British out. The Dutch were doing a roaring trade so the British decided to move in.
A lot of the area is under the river line so during Hurricane Sandy, a lot of flooding occurred including major buildings and the 9/11 memorial. We also visited ground zero and can see some of the towers of the World Trade Center (there were 7). I love listening to the New York accent, some of the comments by our guide were hilarious.
I cooled down for a moment and then headed to Times Square where I popped into a cafe for a quick bite and grabbed a slice of tasty pizza. I also saw for the first time what a pizza pie is.
I then went across the road to visit Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. Pretty good but some of the creations were superior in Paris’ Grevin Wax Museum. However there were a lot more recognisable faces being American over French. But then there’s sports stars and TV anchors which I haven’t heard of.
The visit finished earlier than expected so I made my way to the Empire State Building level 86, not bothering with the extra fee to the very top on level 100-something. The view is amazing and I paid extra for an audio guide which explains what you’re looking out at plus some history. Quite remarkable they built this building in 14 months which would unlikely be repeated in today’s era. They’re also spending some millions to make it greener and more energy efficient via computerisation.
Headed back for a quick shower and then to the world’s 11th ranked restaurant by Thomas Keller, Per Se which is based in the Time Warner Centre at Shop at the Columbus Circle.
On the taxi ride back we found out since the time we arrived in NY, it coincided with the start of a heat wave which is only going to get worse. I guess it beats the cold!
Tuesday 16th July
Up early and out to the Brooklyn Bridge walking tour via the New York Pass. I got there too early and despite doing a walk of a few blocks in the surrounding area, I didn’t find anything of interest so I sat in City Hall Park which has lots of benches, lots of trees, a lovely fountain, and even a cute squirrel.
My tour began and to the surprise of the tour guide I was the only person so I got the personalised experience. The walk along the bridge is long but really scenic and there are cool spots at the towers. It was quite hot and humid but not as bad as yesterday.
The tour was pretty good and informative. It’s interesting seeing the diverse mix of people in Brooklyn which is literally like a mini world with over 100 countries represented and over 100 languages spoken. Brooklyn was a major trading centre with heaps of warehouses which has now developed into an artistic region.
We also made a stop at a chocolate store to cool down and sample some chocolates. Really yum, I picked up a block to take home.
I then headed back to Wall St to visit the Museum of American Finance which was really interesting and nice and cool. During World War I when inflation spiralled out of control in Germany, they had to print notes with larger and larger denominations. Below is nine million mark note.
Next I headed to Times Square and then the pier to catch a 90 minute cruise of NY (via the New York Pass) including a close up stop of the Statue of Liberty. It faces east across the Atlantic while the smaller version in Paris faces west. I can’t believe I saw both of them on this one holiday. Certainly didn’t plan that one. The cruise was pleasant and scenic and with a tour guide providing commentary, it made the ride so much better. Across the river is New Jersey. There’s some really interesting sights of New York which you don’t get on foot or standing on the observation decks of buildings like the Empire State Building.
For a late supper I met my friends at Serendipity 3, the home of frozen hot chocolate – yep, only in America. Talk about ending the day on a high.
Wednesday 17th July
Today it was off to the Rockefeller Centre to take in a NBC Studio Tour (via the New York Pass). It was excellent and I wished it went longer. We got taken to several sets – newsroom, The Today Show, and Saturday Night Live. It’s amazing the amount of lighting – one set had over 300 lights! They accordingly have super cool air conditioning to offset the heat. With HD, fingerprints and smudges are magnified on the desks so they’re covered. We were led by 2 pages, just like Kenneth in the TV show 30 Rock.
Next, in the same building we took the Top of the Rock experience (also on the New York Pass) which takes you to the observation deck of the Rockefeller Centre. The lift’s ceiling is glass and the shaft illuminated as it goes up and down. The views from the deck are amazing and it’s more open so you can get unobstructed pictures. The Empire State Building had wire fences around.
After exiting, there seemed to be some kind of markets on. Lots of stalls freshly cooking up all kinds of food which looked super yummy. Except I had to save my appetite for our next event.
After visiting a few stores, we made a journey to Penn Station where we went on a Food on Foot Tour (via the New York Pass), led by Corey who had run this tour for 4 years. The tour takes you away from the tourist areas to the neighbourhood, riding the subway like a New Yorker. There is no sampling, you buy food as you visit each restaurant. For this reason, it was good having friends so you can share one meal because there’s no way any one person is going to eat 4-5 meals in the 3 – 3.5 hour tour.
First stop was Mile End Sandwich, a Canadian eatery selling smoked meat like pastrami but done the Canadian way. I shared a smoked meat sandwich with mustard and pickle which was delicious. The meat had a lovely flavour and was better than the pastrami I’ve tasted so far. There are 4 stops so it’s important to share to leave room for the food to be consumed.
Next, we visited Mighty Quinn’s, a BBQ house. We shared pulled pork, spare ribs, and beef brisket, with a side of slaw ($25) and I had iced tea. The meats were so tender and moist. The ribs needed a bit of BBQ sauce (on our table) which was pretty good. The pulled pork was fantastic! They have the chunk of meat sitting in it’s own juices and then they take the tongs and just pull out a chunk. The pork holds together but is still moist and tasty. I really loved the beef brisket. The first piece was juicy and succulent but every other piece just had this extra special flavour that had you saying OMG! I highly recommend a visit here.
Next stop was Paul’s Burgers, the best in NY. They’re made to order and cooked to your preference. I shared a deluxe bacon cheeseburger (< $12) with American cheddar that had just melted into this gooey cheese that was yum. The patty needed more seasoning and was not hugely flavoursome. I also got ok chips which I shared amongst the tour group and then gave to some homeless people we had passed on the way here.
We got a surprise extra stop which was a Jewish bakery, Moishe’s Kosher Bake Shop, selling all kinds of interesting stuff. There’s this flying saucer thing which is like a cake biscuit. Can’t describe it but got a small piece to taste from a member of the tour and it’s addictive. I had a chocolate cigar which was very dense. Not to my liking. I wish I had more room to try some of the enticing items in the shop.
Then we visited Van Leeuwen, an ice cream shop where the ice cream isa hand made. I had a small cup of passionfruit sorbet. On a hot humid day like today it was perfect. Smooth, cool, refreshing, slightly tart but so yum. The tour concluded there, some 3.5hrs later. We thanked Corey who gave us directions for our next stop. He also gave tips to the group for other restaurants to visit around NY. I really enjoyed the tour which showed me some areas of New York I wasn’t familiar with and opened our eyes to some excellent restaurants we probably would not have found on the tourist trail.
I popped by Sak’s for a moment (9 floors of all kinds of stuff) and then headed to the apartment to call it a day.
Thursday 18th July
Slow start to the day but finally made it out to the lower east side. We had visited around here yesterday on our food tour. It was predominantly Jewish but now is a melting pot of various cultures. So if you want the world’s cuisines you will probably find them here. However, there is one very famous relic that remains from the Jewish era and that is Katz’s Delicatessen, home of the pastrami sandwich. It was also made famous in the movie Where Harry Met Sally – the “I’ll have what she’s having” was shot here.
I walked around the area which is a little derelict in some parts – there’s an overgrown park by an abandoned apartment where a few adults sit and no kids in sight understandably. Other parts are full of eateries each representing a different cuisine from the other. I dropped into Whole Foods Markets, a kind of supermarket but it leaned towards organic. They had alcohol, bags of different coffee bean varieties, fruit & veg (had some mango which is a little tart), grains, nuts, even a gelato stand. I had mint & watermelon sorbet and asked for the small which means two large scoops so the cup is struggling to hold it’s contents. Lovely refreshing sorbet. Ventured upstairs where there’s seating which is where I’m eating and writing this with more mini eateries and goods for sale. Interesting place.
Next off to Macy’s after a few metro trips. Had a look around, not all the 9 floors mind you. Exited to the front which is like a courtyard on the street (no traffic). Tables and chairs lie scattered about but then music starts and a free zumba session is offered. People join in and the crowds watch. There’s always something happening in NY.
Killed a bit of time and cooked some more riding the subway and walking around different areas of Time Square. Thank goodness for McDonald’s – air-conditioning, mango passionfruit smoothie (so refreshing), free Wi-Fi, and toilets.
Finally wasted enough hours waiting for my comedy show at LOL New York. There were 4 comedians plus the host and a 2 drink minimum. Small cosy theatre and some hit and miss entertainment. I liked the 2nd guy the best. But it was a good relaxing night away from the heat and there were enough laughs.
Caught the subway back to the apartment. Still hot on the platforms even late in the night. There’s plenty of people about on the streets, especially Times Square which never empties, and there’s sufficient lighting. Calling it a night.
Friday 19th July
Today I set off towards Wall St again to visit the Federal Reserve on a self guided tour. The guided tour was booked out so I missed out on the opportunity to see the gold vault housed beneath the building right down to the bedrock. The tour is not bad and takes about 45 minutes. I was interested to learn the US Secret Service was created to stop counterfeiting in the early days of America’s life as an independent nation.
After that, yet another full security check as I visited the 9/11 Memorial Site where the twin towers once stood at the World Trade Centre. They have in it’s place the largest man made waterfalls with the names of those who passed away inscribed. It’s a really lovely place which does an excellent job at paying tribute to the lives lost in the 4 plane crashes and responders to the attacks.
Also at the site is the survivor tree. It was a tree at the twin towers that was reduced to a stump but was then nursed to health at another site before surviving Hurricane Sandy and being replanted at the 9/11 site. The tree acts as a symbol of hope and survival. Other towers are or will be constructed. The original debris is still being sorted through and remains of another victim were found a few weeks ago.
For lunch I made the trip out to the far east side again to visit Katz’s Delicatessen to try some other items which were delicious.
I headed back to Times Square and was very lucky to be just in time to get 50% off Annie that was starting just across the road in about 5-10 minutes. Unfortunately Jane Lynch of Two and a Half Men, and Glee fame, wasn’t acting in today’s afternoon performance. But I’m thrilled to catch another Broadway show…and be in air conditioning. Another Broadway spectacle, this play was fantastic! Three Broadway shows in my 8 day stay in New York and I can’t complain.
Time to call it a day, return early and cool down.
Saturday 20th July
Last day in New York and of my long trip. All packed and ready to go. One final descent down the 4 flights of steps with luggage in hand. Fortunately, while we have to check out early I’m able to leave my luggage round the corner at the laundromat. I have a late night flight to catch so I’ve got nearly a whole day extra to spend.
So it’s a walk to the subway and it’s cooler today, but the platforms are their usual oven hot self. One of the things I have yet to try which is typically New York is a bagel. When I got to Grand Central Station I had a good look around and was most pleased to stumble upon an eatery selling smoked salmon, cucumber and cream cheese bagels. I also got a drink and enjoyed my breakfast.
I got a ticket to the movie White House Down in Times Square before setting off to Hershey’s for some more chocolate to fill the remaining empty luggage space. Back to the cinema to watch the movie which was excellent and predictable but that’s Hollywood.
While traveling about I’ve had the fortune of pay TV so I have watched the Food Channel. There’s this show Diner’s, Drive-ins, & Dives hosted by Guy Fieri. I’m here in NY and notice he had a restaurant on 43rd, Guy’s American Kitchen, so this is my last meal stop. Lots to choose from but I went with crispy shrimp po’boy – lightly seasoned and fried cornmeal crusted shrimp, dressed in New Orleans style with Creole mayo, shredded cabbage, tomatoes, pickles, and fries.
I really enjoyed the spicy crumb and tender shrimp. Very tasty sandwich and fries tasted good with the small bowl of tomato sauce.
I walked around the Times Square area to kill some time. I then headed towards our now vacated apartment to stop by the laundromat to pick up my luggage with plenty of time to spare before they closed. I grabbed a taxi and I’ve arrived early at the airport at JFK so I just have to keep patient and entertain myself in the airport.
It’s a huge airport and since I was hungry after checking in, it took me an hour to walk around the terminal and back. I eventually settled on a bar and had 3 pulled pork sliders with their own BBQ sauce. Delicious meal but the pulled pork was a little dry but with the sauce, it livened it up. Pretty tasty meal, but nothing on Mighty Quinn’s.
My flight left late but we eventually got off the ground. I watched 3 movies and really enjoyed the delicious food Emirates served.
I landed in Dubai at 8:15pm to be greeted by 38°C weather. Fortunately, we stepped straight off the plane and into the air conditioned airport. The stopover was significantly reduced due to the delayed take-off so I only had about 50 minutes before having to board again.
After another long flight, another 3 movies, sleep, and more delicious food on Emirates, I’m glad to be home in Perth. What a trip and experience it has been!