New York in December – Everything Else

Having been to New York on a few occasions now, we have a pretty solid routine, but we do enjoy adding one or two new experiences on each trip.

We were up early enough on the Saturday to get to the Westfield World Trade Center as it opened – mostly because we wanted to get the classic shot at the entrance that everyone gets for Instagram before it got crowded. This was our first visit – the architecture is incredibly impressive but I think I enjoyed the walk through Tribeca more than the mall. We spent very little time here once we’d got our shots, and quickly scuttled up to SoHo for some shoe shopping.

Of course we took a trip up the High Line – we could see parts of it from our hotel room and it frequently looked packed full of people, so we again took advantage of our jet lag to get there early for a gloriously peaceful walk. We saw some beautiful art on this visit – “Agora is a group exhibition that looks at the role of art in defining, creating, and using public space” – and I particularly loved the light installations like Somos 11 Millones by Andrea Bowers (above) and Marinella Senatore’s Give Your Daughter’s Difficult Names (below). It would have been amazing to see them at night.

We had a quick wander around Central Park, but this was peak Christmas Vacation and the crowds were insane. The relative calm of Greenwich Village and SoHo had lulled us into a false sense of security and we completely underestimated how busy the whole of Midtown would be. After battling through the hoards in Central Park, I had the brilliant idea of going down 5th Ave to see the Saks window display – no chance. It was a scrum.

The crowd briefly parted for me to see a bit of the store front, and that was enough for me so we ducked down towards Rockefeller Center. Even crazier idea, as seemingly everyone in New York was also headed this way to see the tree. The last time we saw the tree, it was deserted so to see it so crowded was a little stressful.

We retreated south and spent the rest of our trip in Chelsea and Greenwich, which included stumbling across an insane Christmas tree display, which I think was something to do with The Standard

… and saw some slightly more upscale Christmas decorations on Bleecker Street.

I also found my new favourite store on Bleecker – The Mask Bar, which stocks dozens of Korean sheet masks. It was heavenly and the perfect end to our trip.

Let me hear your 50 words for snow

NY2015_hI woke up predictably early on our fourth day in New York – 5am – and jumped out of bed to see the damage that the blizzard had done.  Husband sleepily asked me how bad it was as I got back under the duvet.  I managed to convince him for about 30 seconds that it was worse than predicted, before revealing that it was no different to last night.  I’m not entirely sure we actually had any more snow after we went to sleep.

Thank goodness.

It was so very quiet outside.  No cars beeping or sirens.  It kinda felt a bit apocalyptic – as much as I love silence, New York without any noise was a little bit creepy.

We snoozed for a bit longer, watched some news and went out at about 9.  Our Starbucks was closed, but we figured something would be open as we walked towards Central Park.  We were wrong about that – the subway had only just reopened so no one could really get in the city.

Central Park was utterly beautiful.  There weren’t many people out and about as we started our walk from Columbus Circle –  a few news crews and police vehicles – and we criss-crossed the park, not entirely sure if we were walking on paths as everything was covered in snow.  We’d been told to visit the Central Park Boathouse, but figured that wouldn’t happen:

NY2015_iCedar Hill was filled with children on sleds, and there was so many people skiing – it was a little surreal.  We made it to about 90th Street when the wind started picking up again, so we decided to walk back down 5th Avenue to try and find some breakfast before visiting the High Line.  Not finding anything, we went over to Broadway and towards Times Square figuring we’d stumble across something in the more touristy areas.  Times Square was eerily empty – just a few confused people wandering about.  We eventually found a Starbucks on 39th Street where we warmed up, inhaled coffee, and discovered that the High Line was closed.  Boo.

NY2015_k

I had lost all feeling in my feet – as it turns out, my boots were not waterproof – so we went back to the hotel where I had a bath and promptly fell asleep.

We had tickets for the Jake Gyllenhaal/Ruth Wilson play Constellations and we were worried that it would be cancelled – Broadway shows had been cancelled the night before – but fortunately it was to go ahead as planned.  So I furiously tried to dry my boots with a hairdryer and we went out at about 5 to find some dinner.

We found a restaurant called Toloache – a somewhat pricy but very nice Mexican restaurant.  We both had chicken tacos, Husband had a manchego quesadilla, and I ate a lot of guacamole.  Everything was so tasty.

We then walked over to the Samuel J Friedman Theatre a couple of streets away to see the play (which I have reviewed separately).  The theatre itself was really nice, and although it was sold out, it didn’t feel cramped like London theatres.  There wasn’t even a queue for the bathroom!  We made friends with the hipster girl sat next to us who had gorgeous glasses, and everyone in the theatre groaned when someone’s phone went off.  The audience was great (except phone person).

At the end of the performance, we very briefly considered waiting at the stage door, but the wind hit us as soon as we left the theatre, so we went back to our hotel.  We’re not hardcore enough to stage door in minus temperatures.

Back at the hotel, we packed and watched New Girl and Mindy Project reruns, and continued to try to dry my boots.

New York: Day five – Blue sky, just not where it counts

Empire StateOur last morning – boo!  We had a lazy start, as we knew we wanted to get to the Top of the Rock by about 11, so we messed about with the suitcase for a bit, double and triple checked that we hadn’t forgotten anything, and checked out.  Our final breakfast was at the Starbucks on the Rockefeller concourse and we sat watching the cute little zamboni prepare the ice rink for the day.

There weren’t any queues up to the Observation Deck at all.  In the first lift, there were 6 of us, but no one told us where to get out, so we ended up going back down again.  The guy at the bottom kind of looked at us oddly before saying “y’all need to get out on the 2nd floor”.  Well you should have told us that!

2nd floor was airport style security (although a heck of a lot faster than the airport), and we then took the long winding walk around the barriers to get to the next lift.  On the walls were posters telling you about the history of the place which would give you something to do if you were queuing, but as we didn’t, we read none of it.  Take that!  The glass ceiling lift to the top shot up quite quickly – I didn’t really understand the theming of the lift as they seemed to be suggesting it was taking you through time.  Um, ok.

But then we were at the top and got amazing views like the photo at the top of my post.  We spent about an hour at the top – it was mostly grey although we could see some blue skies in the distance, and it did try to rain at one point, but it was quite pleasant up there.  I think the weather had put most people off so it wasn’t crowded at all and we had plenty of space to mess about with lenses and get some good shots.

Back on the ground, we quickly stopped by the NHL store to get a birthday present for my brother, and then I decided we’d go back down to the West Village to get some ice cream.  Not just any ice cream though – amazing ice cream from the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop.  It is possibly the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my entire life.  I had Salty Pimp (vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche, sea salt and, chocolate dip) and Husband had American Globs (vanilla ice cream, pretzels, sea salt, and chocolate dip).  I also bought myself a tote bag which we very quickly put the NHL bag into.

Big Gay Ice CreamAnnoyingly, as soon as we got out of the subway at Christopher Street, we were hit by beautiful blue skies and cursed the weather for not being like this when we were at the top of the Rockefeller Center, but to take advantage of this, we got back on the subway and went back uptown to 81st Street to walk through Central Park.  We walked the 30 blocks to our hotel down the west side of the park, and it was lovely aside from the students everywhere.

We got back to the hotel at about 2, grabbed our bags from the bellhop and started on our subway trip back to the air train.  The bellhop had offered to call a car for us, and I was briefly tempted but as soon as he uttered the words $70, I scoffed.  It’d cost $7.50 on public transport!

The E train felt like a long journey and we had to stand for the first half, but eventually we got to the air train.  The station there was a bit skeezy, so we didn’t hang around for too long and we soon found ourselves at Terminal 4, which is ridiculously spacious.  Security was a nightmare and so hot and busy and I couldn’t wait to get down into the shops and restaurants so I could rest my throbbing feet.

And it was passed security that I finally met my main goal of this trip – eating a Shake Shack in New York.  Down by gate 36 (which was very close to our actual gate), there were no queues, free tables, and I finally got MY BURGER!

Shake Shack JFKThe service was a bit crap but I didn’t care – the burger was bloody lovely, as were the fries.  Husband wandered about the terminal a bit later and said the queue was massive, so I’m pleased we went there when we did.  We then found a space by a big window overlooking our plane and settled down to wait.  I did have some change left which I wanted to get rid of, and realised I had enough for a blueberry muffin and a double dark choclate cupcake from Cake Tin – nom.  I ended up leaving NY with only one dollar coin.

Everyone managed to board the plane quite quickly so there was no hanging about.  We taxied just as the sun was setting and gave us the most amazing view of New York.  AS WE WERE LEAVING.

Leaving NY

A terrible photo – it was taken with an iPad.

We were so annoyed – if only we had stayed one night more, we would have seen this.  Ack!  In a bid to get over it, I watched six solid episodes of Brooklyn 99 whilst eating another Delta chicken salad – still with fruit.  I then watched Frozen (didn’t get it) and slept through Catching Fire, waking every now and again to see Katniss running about.  And then our flight was pretty much over.  We had the usual hold pattern at Heathrow for about 45 minutes so we just circled the sky above London.  When we were let free from the plane, we almost ran to Immigration as we’ve been caught in massive queues at Terminal 4 before but there was no one there and we were the first in line for the scanning machine.  YES!  Being the slightly cynical person that I am, I assumed the wait was still to come at baggage claim, but our bag was second off the plane.  YES!

We did have to wait for the bus for the car park, but overall, I think this was the quickest we have ever left Heathrow.  We were home and eating pancakes in no time, and I tried to get myself back on UK time – it was back to work tomorrow.