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.

New York in July – what we did

Having established that New York in July is hot hot hot, you’d be forgiven for thinking that being a very pale cold weather addict, I wouldn’t want to do very much.  In reality, we actually managed to pack loads into our short stay, and were out every night which is most unusual for our trips.  I very quickly gave up putting make up on as it just melted off, my feet are still broken, and I ruined a pair of shoes, but we powered through to have an amazing holiday.

What did we get up to, other than walking, shopping, and eating (which I’ll cover off later):

Saturday night – The Container Store
OK, OK, a bit of a slow start to our trip.  We landed at 2.30pm, raced through security onto the LIRR, and we were all checked in by 4.  Such an efficient start to the holiday!  We had assumed we wouldn’t have much time on our first night so hadn’t planned anything, but I knew I needed a Mint Mocha Frap from ‘my’ Starbucks so I took Husband over there first.  We then wandered down 6th Avenue, spent about an hour in The Container Store, before grabbing some dinner and getting back to the room.

Saturday night looking at bins and then getting caught in a rain storm – what an epic life.

Sunday night – John Oliver
The perfect way to end a day wandering around Midtown was watching John Oliver at the CBS Broadcast Center.  So amazing.

Monday afternoon – The Big Sick at the Alamo Drafthouse
This was our first trip to Brooklyn, and we didn’t get to see much but what we did see, we loved.  We took the East River ferry which was so easy, cheap, and fast.  Much more enjoyable that the subway.  We alighted at DUMBO and walked the mile or so to Fulton Street, which ordinarily would have been delightful but it was just so freaking hot so we didn’t really enjoy the walk.

Thank goodness for the air con at the Alamo Drafthouse.  I have been mildly obsessed with seeing The Big Sick for a while, mostly because I adore Kumail Nanjiani. Admittedly, we could have seen the film in Manhattan, but c’mon – it’s the Alamo Drafthouse!  Once we’d figured out how to order food, we had cocktails, a giant bowl of popcorn, warm pretzels.  The legendary service they offer was absolutely perfect and WHY CAN’T WE HAVE THIS IN THE UK?!?!?!

The film was pretty damn perfect as well.  I want to see it again!!

Monday night – 1984
I was a bit nervous to see this as reviews really laid it on thick with the warnings – people fainting, getting into fights, graphic torture.  Not really a fun evening.

I didn’t need to be worried – I found the entire thing boring and unnecessary.  Everyone else around me thought it was great though, so maybe it was just me.

Tuesday Morning – The High Line
I’ve been on the High Line three times now, and each time has been cold, windy, and featured dead wintery plants.  This was the first time that we’d been with the plants and trees in full bloom and it was glorious.  There’s still a bit of building works around it, and parts of it were incredibly busy, but I loved it as always.  Truly my favourite part of New York.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Greenwich Village and Soho which is my favourite part of Manhattan.  We did consider going to the Whitney but it was insanely busy (do New York galleries every have quiet periods?).

Tuesday night – Macy’s fireworks
We ummed and ahhed about what we’d do on 4th July.  I’d trawled the entire internet for a rooftop bar to watch the fireworks from but they were either sold out or ridiculously priced.  Everyone online said it would be an absolute nightmare to go down to the East River to watch, so up until the very last minute we weren’t going to bother.

I’m glad we did.  We filed up the on-ramp onto the closed FDR drive about an hour before the show and managed to get a spot right in the centre of the five barges loaded with fireworks, although some of the view was blocked by a couple of street signs – we were stood directly below a sign for exit 9.  There were thousands of people on the freeway if not more, but 95% of people were lovely and very respectful of everyone’s personal space.

The main problem was trying to get back to the hotel once the fireworks were over as we had to walk down the freeway to the next exit, which was 12 blocks away from where we wanted to be.  It took us about an hour, and my step count leapt to 34,000 steps for the day.  I was shattered.  No regrets at all though – the fireworks were very pretty, and it was a great experience.

Wednesday Morning – Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum
I wasn’t particularly interested in visiting Intrepid but Husband has wanted to go for years so it was only fair that we visited.  My review – there weren’t enough seats and it was weird being on an aircraft carrier.

He really enjoyed it and I got doughnuts afterwards so that’s all that matters.

Up next – food!

I’m obsessed with the mess that’s America

I had two full days in New York entirely to myself – utter freedom to do as little or as much as I wanted.  I stayed at the Fairfield Inn and Suites near Penn Station which was perfect – perfect room, perfect location, perfect staff.  Plus I had the above view from my room – I didn’t ever close the curtains as I couldn’t get enough of it.  Waking up to that view each day was so memorable.

I decided to split the island, take the west side first and the east second.  After a quick diversion for roadworks, I made my way to the High Line – my favourite space in New York.  I hoped to walk around the Hudson Yards considering this was closed on our last trip thanks to Snowmageddon 2015.  But again, it was still not to be.

Much less snow in 2017, but still closed.  It only snowed for about 5 minutes on this visit, but they hadn’t been able to clear the snow from a few days before so kept the Hudson Yards closed.  A bit disappointed, I made my way down the rest of the High Line which was blissfully quiet, if not a bit windy.  There’s a lot of construction work around 30th St so some of the High Line is under cover – I guess there’s going to be a lot of new apartments and offices within the next couple of years (also a lot of ugly looking buildings…)

I dropped down to street level at 14th St to visit Chelsea Market – another favourite place of mine.  I had a sticky bun and some lemonade from Amy’s Bread whilst texting Husband, feeling really homesick for him at this point as we’d visited Amy’s in 2015.  As much as I enjoyed my solo trip around NY, I did experience a few pangs of sehnsucht for him.

After a further wander round the market, I carried on south to the iconic Bleecker Street.  I am in love with the whole of Greenwich Village, and Bleecker even more so.  It was so peaceful and so different to Midtown.  I decided to just give in and be a cliched tourist.  I hit Kate Spade (where I experienced the best customer service I’ve ever had), Co Bigelow, Sephora, and you guessed it, Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment.  I was having the best me-time.

So cheesy, but LOOK!  CARRIE LIVES HERE!  There were some British tourists taking selfies in front of her stoop whilst I pretended I was a local, just out for spot of shopping.  It’s such a beautiful street and whilst I felt a bit guilty for traipsing down a regular residential street, I tried to be very respectful of this.

I’m such a dork.

So after buying a beautiful Kate Spade bag and some Co Bigelow goodies, I walked back up 6th Avenue, popping in to the Container Store to see what all the fuss is about, before picking up a very late lunch from Lenwich.  I intended to have a quick nap before going out for some evening shopping, but I ended up getting sucked into TV.  The bed was too comfy, so I snuggled in and watched the sun set.

Leaving New York, never easy

NY2015_lDay five in New York and I finally managed to sleep in.  Hooray!  We didn’t have to worry about packing as we’d done it the night before, so we were able to check out pretty soon after we woke up.  After being ignored by the doorman (grr), we left our bags at the hotel and walked down 10th Avenue to the 30th street entrance to the High Line.

I loved visiting the High Line last year despite it being crowded and grey, and couldn’t wait to see it in the snow.  We checked their Twitter to make sure they were open, and whilst the new bit wasn’t open (the loop around the train yard), the rest of it was clear.  Both of ice and people – it was amazing!

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Walking the High Line is the best meditation.  We passed maybe a dozen people on the whole walk, and at times, there were more volunteers clearing the snow than visitors.  I am sad we didn’t get to walk around the railway yards – it wasn’t open last year and was underneath a good few inches of snow this time – but one day we’ll go back and see the whole thing.  And in warmer weather hopefully.

It was completely worth braving the crazy gridlocked 10th Avenue (yes, New York had got back to normal after its two days of silence) and the wicked wind whipping off the Hudson.  If I lived here, I would be at the park every day.  Bliss.

My Mother-in-law had recommended Chelsea Market to us, so we forfeited the last couple of blocks of the park to visit the market on 16th Street.  Wow.  I want Chelsea Market as my local grocery store.  Once again, we managed to avoid the crowds and had the pleasure of walking through in relative peace and quiet.  We stopped off at the High Line pop-up store and bought a magnet (although I was very tempted by the Diane Von Furstenberg/High Line notebooks) and browsed the wonderful Posman Books.  There were so many places to choose from for coffee and brunch, but we decided on a sticky bun and apple cake from Amy’s Bread.

Sitting outside the bakery, we watched the Google crowds coming in to pick up their lunch and I finally got it.  I got New York.  After my first visit, I said ‘I didn’t get the immediate “Oh my goodness, I want to stay here forever” feeling’ but Chelsea Market, the Meatpacking District, the High Line – they have my heart.  I was all wrong!  Now, I just need Husband to get a job at Google and we’re golden.

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We dragged ourselves away and started the very sad trek north up 8th Avenue.  We went passed the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre where I screeched “IT’S AMY’S THEATRE!” (I don’t know if I was expecting Amy to appear or something), passed the US Postal Service building which is insanely grandiose, before we realised that at the rate we were walking, we’d be back at the hotel far too early to go to the airport.  So, short notice plan, we changed direction and headed towards the East River.

We stumbled across Grand Central Station, and I popped in to use the bathroom (that’s what it was built for, right?).  We did think about eating in one of the five billion amazing eateries in the terminal but it was crazy busy.  So instead, we went back outside and kept walking until we reached the UN building.  For no reason.  We didn’t really have time to go in, although Husband would have dearly liked to, so we just peered at it from the pavement.  We then carried on up 1st Avenue, where I got the insane giggles at the amazingly named UN Piece Cleaners dry cleaning store.

Give me a minute, laughing at it again.  I’ve just googled it, and no one on the internet is finding this funny.  What’s the matter with people?

Anyway, we’d spent enough time wandering around, so we crossed back to the hotel to be ignored again whilst trying to collect our bags (grr).  It was around lunchtime and the streets were packed with city workers grabbing lunch, but fortunately we didn’t have too far to go to get to the Subway.  We settled in and hoped for a quiet 45 minute journey to Sutphin Boulevard.  Sadly, it was not to be.

About two stations in, a group of teenagers got on, started blaring music, then having a dance battle for money.  This went on for a couple of stops, and we managed to do our best impression of awkward British people by staring straight ahead.  We breathed a sigh of relief when they finally switched the music off and left the train, only to realise they had been replaced by a couple of guys with huge drums.  By the end of the journey, we were beyond relieved to escape the chaos.

Security at JFK was a nightmare.  They only had a couple of those ridiculous millimeter wave body scanners so the queues were snaking round for what felt like hours.  I wasn’t particularly happy about going through the scanner but I couldn’t actually see any female agents around who would do a pat down, so I knew I’d have to wait an insane amount of time.  I just sucked it up and walked through.  I grumbled about it for a good few hours afterwards.

We then walked around the airport several times for something to do, before settling down with a Shake Shack, as per our JFK tradition.  We even pushed the boat out and got a concrete each – mine was an extremely yummy chocolate thing with about fifty extra chocolate trimmings, and Husband got the much healthier (!) granola vanilla raspberry version.  Despite worrying about whether our plane would be cancelled (after everything was cancelled the day before) we boarded and took off on time.  We had an exit row and the space was obscene – I could pretty much lie on the floor.

In flight entertainment for me this time was While You Were Sleeping and a nap through Divergent.  Annoyingly, this meant I slept through breakfast, but woke with enough time to watch a 4 episodes of Brooklyn-99.  Classic plane media.

The flight wasn’t without worry though.  About two hours in, I suddenly became aware of a kerfuffle in the row behind.  A flight attendant was saying quite loudly: “Sir!  SIR!  Are you OK?”  I tried to subtly listen in to what was happening, getting concerned for the elderly guy sat directly behind me who was flapping about.  As it turns out, it wasn’t the elderly man; it was the young guy behind Husband.  The attendant rushed him into the bathroom, and shortly afterwards the call went out to see if there was a doctor on board.  I really thought that we’d be turned around as we were still closer to the US than the UK and whilst I felt bad for the man, my heart sank.  We’d managed to escape snowpocalypse; surely we couldn’t fail now!

No doctor appeared, and after about 15 minutes, the guy came out of the bathroom, said “Oh, I’m fine now” and sat down.  WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!?!  Did you just need a poop or something?  After the mini-drama, everyone settled down and it actually felt like a really short flight.   Soon enough we were back in Heathrow and waiting for the bus to the car park.

Jet lag caught me pretty much as soon as we got home, and the cold that had threatened Husband grabbed him on Thursday and me on Saturday.  I can’t help feeling that having a cold would be much more easy to handle in Chelsea Market, with a sticky bun and homemade lemonade.  Stupid UK.

New York: Day two – Accidental half marathon

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Pan by Sean Landers on the High Line

Probably one of the most amazing moments happened as we slowly woke up on the Friday morning.  Pulling back the curtains and just seeing New York right there in front of us was stunning and we were so glad we booked this hotel.

I turned on the TV almost immediately so we could watch as much Good Day New York as possible.  Watching Greg Kelly live was definitely something I had been looking forward to (if you watch The Soup, you know why).  It is just one of the worst/best TV news shows I have ever seen, and it was such a shame that we were here over the weekend as it meant we missed out on two days of Greg’s nonsense!

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Greg Kelly, the nutcase.

We very quickly learnt this morning that Americans know nothing about their own weather.  Shortly before we arrived in NYC, they were talking about snow showers and temperatures of -9.  This turned out to be completely wrong.  We watched the weather on GDNY and they were promising cold temperatures again but clear skies, so we both went out with our coats to walk the High Line.  Never again would we listen to their reports.

First up – find some breakfast.  We were still quite full from McGees last night so only wanted something light, and thought we’d find somewhere on Sixth Avenue.  We peered in coffee shops for a few blocks but they were all rammed with people and very little seating – their cafes are all so small!  We eventually found a Starbucks which didn’t have much of a queue, and decided to get a morning bun and some coffee to take away, finding a seating area a couple of blocks down.

We cut across Manhattan to get to the start of the High Line, down at 10th Avenue and 30th Street (probably about 2 miles).  I was quite hot by this point, so had resorted to dragging my coat behind me but pretty much as soon as we stepped foot on the incredibly busy High Line, it started to rain.  Rain which had not been predicated.  Stupid weather.  We continued our walk from 30th down to Gansevoort Street, underneath The Standard (we didn’t see any nudies).  I did really enjoy the walk, but the rain ruined any photo opportunities, and the fact that all the plants were dead didn’t help either.  Everything was grey.  Boo 😦

We had a bit of a wander through Greenwich Village, stumbled across a film set which had taken a break in the rain – we think it was Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll so not that exciting – and then we found Co Bigelow.  The last time we were in Las Vegas, we stayed at the Cosmopolitan which had amazing Co Bigelow toiletries.  Since then, I’ve desperately wanted to stock up on my favourite conditioner, so now was my opportunity.  Of all the places in New York, the one I was most excited about was a drug store.  WOO!

Co Bigelow

Happy with my purchases, we made our way back up Sixth Avenue, stopping at Old Navy so I could buy a couple of t-shirts and a lightweight hoodie as my coat was already irritating me.  We realised we’d gone passed the Kiehl’s flagship store  (Husband is a fan) so we turned back to visit and spend a ridiculous amount on skincare.  We found another Starbucks and had a very quick lunch before setting off again back up Sixth.

It was a long old walk, through the Flatiron district and Madison Square Park – we thought about having a Shack Shake but the queue was insane – passed the Empire State Building, the New York Public Library and the Rockefeller Center.  You’ll notice I’m saying we went passed all of these things, but it had already been an incredibly long day in the rain so we didn’t stop.  Except when we got to Uniqlo on 5th Avenue, but this was only a brief stop as Husband hadn’t prepared himself for a spree.

We got back to the hotel where I has a lovely bath, then passed out for several hours.  Husband researched where we’d be going for dinner, then gently woke me up in time to do my hair and make up for our Off Broadway adventure.

My legs had stopped working after our earlier traipse around the city, so we jumped on the R train for the 20 minute subway ride to the East Village.  We found Paprika which was a gorgeous little Italian, where I filled up on mozzarella salad, and Husband had some kind of meaty, cheesy fettuccine, with a tiramisu to finish.  I really liked our waiter – he was so cheery – and it was a really great meal.

We then went over to Theatre 80 for the Friday night production of Bayside the Musical.  Yes, an unofficial Saved By the Bell Musical.  I’ve given the musical it’s own post so won’t go into it now, but we were initially quite confused as it appeared we had to queue in the bar next door.  Husband thought he’d prepare himself by getting a drink, where the interesting bar woman gave him a menu purely of absinthe.  And then wandered off.  Not wanting to get that drunk, we asked if he could have just a JD and coke.  The answer was yes, thank goodness, and the bar woman proceed to pour a metric ton of whisky into his coke.  She then didn’t know how much it was – it was very bewildering for everyone involved.

We didn’t have to wait too long for the production to start and it was amazing (as my next post will explain!).  After the play, we went straight back to the subway forgetting that the Big Gay Ice Cream shop was the next street over and got the R train back up to our hotel, then collapsed into bed ready to start the next day in New York.

It doesn’t actually sound like a lot, but my pedometer says we did over 13 miles in total.  No wonder my legs nearly fell off.