new york: the city that sometimes sleeps

Disclaimer: This is an extremely descriptive post. If you check me out often, you’ll notice that I have a tendency to go on and on and on… this time isn’t any different… plus I was visiting NYC, which made me only more EXCITED! :)

Booked my first trip to NYC on a whim in January… wicked seat sale with WestJet for the first Newark flights of the Spring season.  On Sunday, I arrived at the Calgary airport (I might add… slightly hungover and super exhausted) to start on my journey. Major delays on the runway and 4ish hours later, I arrived in Newark, New Jersey.  Important to note that the lovely, the trip would also consist of Miss Haley – except she was arriving later via a different flight!

For the first time in a long time, I didn’t have a plan for this trip. I am usually the one to buy the travel guide, research everything four thousand times, and plan out every day to a tee (i.e. today we will lay on the beach for 6.5 hours :P).  Other than the hotel was booked, no game plan at all. Newark was slightly confusing – got lost on the AirTrain and road it around to each terminal for awhile. Finally found the Amtrack to take me from Newark Int’l to NYC Penn Station. Quick ride between the two cities, got lost again at Penn Stn, ended up taking the red line in the wrong direction.  Arrived in Chelsea, escaped the subway stn, got lost again, re-entered subway, took train to Tribeca. Lost. Tired. Cranky. Whiney. Lost. It’s important to note now that my sense of direction is generally quite poor. Finally, after a long long time, I ended up on the “local” red line  (didn’t know express trains existed) to “uptown”. Caught up in people watching on the train and missed my stop – ended up at 81 Stn, walked for a long long time looking for the hotel. Lost. Called hotel. Arrived at hotel to unfortunately climb a bizzilion stairs to Haley & my paradise of a room. Ha ha – paradise… typical primarily sleep-worthy NYC hotel. Minimal, but it was just what we needed.

This journey should take the average person less than an hour – and even that is likely generous. To get from Newark to my hotel in NYC took me just over 3.5 hours. Brutal, but major lessons learned. If anyone needs any tips on how NOT to get from Newark to NYC, just let me know. :)

Seeing as my stress levels were high, I took it easy for a few hours waiting for Miss Haley to arrive. Around 12:30am she finally arrived (such a princess :P)!  A quick change of clothes and we decided to check out NYC nightlife! The primary purpose of this trip was to “see the City”… not to shop, club, or live the high life. Being completely clueless and on the Upper West Side, we didn’t have that wild of an evening.  It was completely pouring with rain, but with no umbrellas we ended up walking about 40 blocks that night. Saw Julliard, the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Centre, Time Warner Centre, and the Maine Monument. Treated ourselves to some NY pizza, made friends with some hobo’s and got a little taste of Central Park. Oh yes, and we went on a major search for some wine – but ended up unsuccessful.  I need to research the concept of liquor stores in NYC, as this continued to be a major battle of the next few days.  Back to the hotel around 3am with the agreement that Monday would be action packed.

4ish hours later we were up and getting ready to head out for the day.  It was a bit of a miserable day, but we were prepared little tourists – rain jackets and umbrellas in tow. Took the subway from 72 Stn to Times Square to buy tickets for a Broadway show. That didn’t work out as planned as TKTS doesn’t open till the afternoon – haha oopsie, typical tourist mistake! Note, Times Square during the day is a lot different than Times Square at night – EXPERIENCE BOTH! We were surprised by the lack of people around, but headed to Madame Tussaud’s to take a break from the weather. I’ve been to Tussaud’s in London and Vegas, but Haley had never been – so must do! Great time like usual… best part was Britney Spears and the fact her chest was inflatable and moved with some rhythm.  We were stumbling through Times Square when we see a flock of attention at a cab passing by… what do you know… it’s MARIO LOPEZ from Saved by the Bell. It was a weird situation, there were a few tourists pouncing on him (including myself ha ha), a camera crew and security guards. He got out of the cab, strutted about 10 strides up the street, turned around, strutted back 10 strides, posed for a few pictures, strutted again. Is his 2010 purpose to strut now? Ha ha, it might be. Haley got some cute shots, but mine are all terrible as I was swooning over my junior high crush. Headed along 42nd St to Bryant Park, NY Library and Grand Central Station. Starbucks and NY bagels… mmm mmmmm. Grand Central Station is BEAUTIFUL, absolutely stunning (and cleanest station we ever saw).  Oh funny moment, some dude came up to us and said “where do you guys get your hair cut?” We were looking devastatingly awful that day, soaked in rain & hair plastered to our head, so it was quite surprising that he thought we were hot hot. He actually wanted us to come for a hair cut at his studio (as we needed it…cough cough evil local)… he was slightly disappointed to hear that we were from out-of-town, and we were offended that he had the balls to insult us to our face. :) Anyways, continued on to the Chrysler building, Tudor City, Trump World Tower and the United Nations. Peace protests happening outside the UN, and for whatever reason, all the country flags were down outside the UN, which we thought was super odd.

From the UN, we headed south down 1st Ave to Kips Bay and 33rd St, en route to the Empire State Bldg. Apparently the Empire State Bldg can be a busy place, but we lucked out – in and up super quick! We took advantage of the audio tour, where a NY born cab driver explains each area of the City in a funny, realistic, and appropriate manner.  Kind of a gloomy day and the sky was overcast, but we took in the views of the city. Next stop: Macy’s – the largest department store in the United States! No worries, didn’t get too outta control, purpose of this trip was not shopping, remember! Took the subway to Union Square to grab some lunch and go to Forever21 and DSW. I did some damage – but super cute clothes and shoes, so it’s all good right? That’s what I’ll keep telling myself. ;) Oh must note now that we walked another 10 blocks or so around Gramercy looking for a liquor store – failed again. We were determined to find some wine, so it was back to Times Square to continue the hunt. After stopping for a pretzel and meeting a lovely New Yorker who had a clue about booze, we were on our way to the nearest liquor store! Problem 2: no corkscrew, so now we also need twist off wine. This 4 months NBNB thing has made me so alcohol-stupid. Anyways… 20 mins later we had 2 bottles of twist off red wine. Headed back to the hotel to change and head out on the town. A bottle of wine and some cute outfits later, we ended up on the Upper West Side again strolling for food. Had one of my best meals in a very long time at Monaco – a quaint Mediterranean restaurant just off Broadway Ave. Another bottle of wine later, these 2 cheap little girls were giggling on the patio having a great time. Oh yes, I think this is when “take it off Tuesday” came to be. Enough said, but let me tell you it was still Monday. ;) When stopping for a picture at Darryl’s (for my friend Darryl), a man stopped to ask us to come to his car and “sit on his lap” – ha ha ;) Politely declined. Headed up the street to Café Lalo for dessert – this is where Meg Ryan waited for Tom Hanks in “You’ve Got Mail”. Too intoxicated to know what to order, we ended up with a chocolate mint torte. Took a few romantic photos and back to the streets of the Upper West in search of the hotel. Another 3am night… tomorrow’s plan was to be up early to commute down to Battery Park to beat the rush for the Statute of Liberty.

The morning that followed was the most difficult one to date. Lack of sleep and a little too much wine was starting to catch up to us.  Headed to Times Square to pick up tickets for a Broadway show and then the subway to Battery Park to check out Liberty Island and Ellis Island.  Absolutely gorgeous day – sun was shining and the city was lively. The wait wasn’t too long and we were on the ferry to the islands. The Statute of Liberty is stunning and it was a grand warm fuzzy moment to approach it. Spent an hour gaining some history on the statute and it was off to the next island.  Ellis Island is a spectacular place – a ton to experience and an opportunity to learn a load.  This piece of US history absolutely touched my heart. Another ferry ride later we were back in Battery Park to experience buskers, break dancers, and random vendors. Walked through the Financial District to check out Exchange Alley, the NY Stock Exchange, Wall St., and Trinity Church.  Ended up at the World Trade Center site and future location of the WTC Memorial site. It’s absolutely crazy to experience “ground zero” and to reflect on 9/11… 9 years later the world is still actively mourning those who died and the contained emotion in those visiting the site was evident. Continued our journey north through some gov’t buildings: City Hall, Tweed Courthouse, Municipal Building and the Supreme Court. There were a ton of camera crews outside the courts, so we stopped to ask one of them what was going on – apparently the NY Times Square bomber (from the incident on Sunday) was in the building and they were waiting for him to come out. We thought they were just there for us lovely Canadians! ;) Ended up at Kim Lau Square in Chinatown then up to Little Italy and over to Soho. Shopping shopping shopping is how I would describe Soho! Can’t head to the United States without hitting up Victoria’s Secret – so made a pit stop. It was quite convenient too as torrential rain had hit our day. Broken umbrellas and wet people all around! Great opportunity to take the train back to the hotel! Back to the room to change before Mary Poppins, a Broadway musical. Haley thoroughly enjoyed the experience, where the exhaustion of the trip caught up with me and I slept through the entire show! From there we headed out to Times Square for the night experience! So much more lively than yesterday and it was only a Tuesday night! Tons of “strange” musical acts and the streets were packed. Checked out some stores, people watched, and bought I <3 NY shirts (FYI best price we could find… $2.50 for white or $5 for colored). Ended up back at the hotel shortly after 12am to pack our bags. Less than 18 hours left!

We had agreed to spend our last day relaxing. For us that meant breakfast at Alice’s Tea House and the Central Park experience! Let me also mention now that at Forever 21 I ended up purchasing what I would call a “onesie”… in the fashion world it might be called a “romper”. A strapless short-shorts tribal print purple piece of material – the perfect outfit to sun yourself in, but a picture might be necessary to understand the essence of it. The world might not be ready for “rompers”… en route to Alice’s Tea Cup, we passed by workers unloading a truck. Our struts caught their attention and resulted in damaged goods – yes damaged oatmeal. They had a laugh and commented with “it’s ok when this happens, we were looking at beautiful women”. Ha ha, oh onesie. ;) Today was another beautiful day, we had a fantastic “Alice in Wonderland” meal at Alice’s Tea Cup. Walked Central Park taking in the lawn bowling, Bethesda Fountain & Terrace, Alice in Wonderland sculpture, Loeb Boathouse, Cedar Hill, Belvedere Castle, Turtle Pond, the Great Lawn and Jackie Onassis Reservoir.  Central Park is beautiful, there are no other words to describe it. People riding bikes, mom’s pushing strollers, kids enjoying playgrounds, locals playing music, and locals sunning was definitely the norm. We spent our last hour laying on the grass taking in the sun, heat, and peace.  By the afternoon, we were on our journey back to Newark for an early evening flight.  Upon arrival to the airport, we were greeted by a police officer who promptly advised us to leave the area. Suspicious package on AirTrain platform… As they were cornering off the area around this shoebox, we were discussing what the plan would be if a bomb went off; who had health care and where was our policy numbers! Right now we are on our WestJet 4hr 27min flight home… It was truly a grand few days and we can’t wait to go back for more!

A few last points…

NYC Major Highlights – The H&J Experience:

– 3 days, 3 nights;

– 1 theme song:  Empire State of Mind;

– 120+ blocks walked;

– 10 boroughs visited (Upper West Side, Central Park, Midtown, Gramercy, Chelsea, Soho, Little Italy, China Town, Tribeca, Financial District);

– 7 districts visited (Theater, Diamond, Turtle Bay, Garmet, Kips Bay, Flat Iron, Battery Park City);

– 2 islands experienced (Liberty and Ellis);

– 1 celebrity stalked (Oh AC… you’ll melt our hearts any day of the week!);

– 2 pretzels, 1 hot dog, 3 pizza slices, 4 bagels, 2 gelatos consumed;

– 1 Broadway show watched (Well kind of… by 1 person);

– 3 near misses: Times Square bomb threat, Midtown manhole fires, and Newark suspicious package;

AND …. 3 sets of ridiculously steep hotel stairs climbed 4 times a day (Ooo we can still feel the burn in our legs!).

Our tips on NYC:

– Fly into Newark, New Jersey if it saves you some flight costs. I don’t believe it is usually as painful as my experience. The Amtrack is fairly seamless and you will skip the traffic.  All in all if you’re not a dummy, it’ll save you time and money to commute to NYC.

– Buy a subway “metrocard” pass, but don’t spend all you’re time using it. You will get the most out of NYC if you walk… and if you have proper shoes, this won’t be a problem. At the end of a long day or if the weather changes you always have the subway as an option.

– Talk to locals to find out the “must-do’s” in off beat areas. We never would have known about Alice’s Tea House or Café Lalo if Haley had not chatted up some randoms.

– If you need to buy some liquor for your hotel room, drinking habit, or whatever – google liquor store locations before you leave. For beer drinkers you can buy it anywhere – corner stores etc. For wine or hard liquor drinkers, we saw ONE liquor store in all 120+ blocks of NYC.

– If you are NOT a sound sleeper, pay attention to where your hotel is and read reviews on a source like Trip Advisor. Garbage pick up seemed to take place at night and construction on many of the streets is frequent!  We were on the 3rd floor and although it was quite noisy, slept like babies. I imagine the issue of noise is a problem for many.

A few must do’s for my next visit:

– MoMA (We actually screwed up on this one and had forgot about it until over half-way through our trip!! By the way, it’s closed on Tuesdays.);

– Sex Museum (Why not?);

– Upper East Side (I need to see where those Gossip Girl’s live.);

– Harlem (Gospel music…yesssss!);

– Magnolia in Soho (Twitter recommendation for the best cupcakes ever!);

– Coney Island (Who doesn’t like rides?)

– Rockefeller Centre (From a New Yorker’s perspective, you can see the Empire State Building and it’s the smarter tower to view

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