As a lover of cities, Broadway, and chocolate chip cookies I have long wanted to visit New York City, and last month I finally did. I went with my mother, and we had a blast. We walked a lot, enjoyed some fantastic food, and just enjoyed being a part of such an alive, teeming city.
We arrived on a Wednesday. We took the train into the city from JFK Airport, which ended up being more complicated than it should have been. I shall blame this on poor signage (as I often do, haha). For starters, you pay for the train out of the airport when you get off it, which had us both quite concerned that we were stealing a free ride when we couldn’t find anywhere to pay when we boarded at the airport. Then you had to purchase a dual ticket that covered both the airport train and the subway, and realize that some of the money you put on the card would be lost to the initial metrocard fee, which resulted in me ending up on one side of the subway gate and my mother left behind as the card was short, meaning she had to go figure out how to reload it (along with a crowd of about 30 other people who had no idea what they were doing either). It was more stressful than it needed to be, but in the end we skipped a $70 cab fare, so we were ok with it.
Anyhow, now begins the more interesting stuff. We had dinner at Eataly, which was amazing. It’s a great big Italian emporium, with a variety of different restauraunts, shops, and cafés all blending into one another. Guys—they had a Nutella café! We ate at the vegetarian restaurant after enjoying some wonderful cheese based appetizers, and it was all incredibly tasty. Mmmm. Afterwards we walked back to our hotel. I received one marriage proposal on our way back, and caught a glimpse of the Chrysler building through the mist. We also detoured through Grand Central Station, which was downright breathtaking. It was a good idea to be there around 11PM as it was much easier to stagger about, gawking, without getting run over by hurried commuters.
We stayed at the Pod hotel on the recommendation of a friend who has spent a lot of time in New York. It was clean, conveniently located, and not horribly expensive. The room was small, but it seems that most private spaces in NYC are, and it was large enough to sleep in and get changed, which is all I was really interested in doing there.
The next morning the walking began in earnest. We made a beeline for Central Park, and promptly fell in love with it. The day was humid and surprisingly warm because of it. Low clouds swallowed the tops of the taller buildings, making for rather mystical views out of the park. I’m not sure I can adequately describe how wonderful Central Park is, or how large.
Every aspect of it is carefully considered, and oh-so-charming. There are fountains that remind me of Versailles, and then ambling pathways through wooded forestland that remind me of a walk in the mountains. Everywhere we went we found people just enjoying being outdoors, and despite frequent glimpses of skyscrapers and the occasional distant wail of a siren, we felt removed from it all. We went on to walk the park nearly every day of our visit, and we didn’t come close to seeing all of it, despite dedicated efforts.
In the afternoon we visited the Natural History Museum, seeing barely a fraction of it, mostly limited to the gems & minerals exhibit. My mother (who is a geologist) pointed out the original minerals that make their way into many of the cosmetics I make, which was really neat.
That evening we saw Matilda the musical on Broadway. The highlights were definitely Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood and Ms. Trunchbull. They were just hilarious, and nothing quite compares to seeing a large man (Ms. Trunchbull) dancing about in an athletic kilt whilst shrieking about having a newt in his/her knickers. This was my favourite musical number.
Afterwards we got cheesecake at Junior’s (supposedly the best in the city), and it was very good, though I was relieved to find that it wasn’t so much better than anything I’d ever had that I’d never be able to enjoy any other cheesecake ever again. We finished off the evening with a short wander through Times Square, which was crowded and a bit overwhelming, to be honest. Not really a highlight.
One other food thing I should mention are the results of my chocolate chip cookie quest. I tried three cookies (chocolate chip, double chocolate chip, and chocolate peanut butter chip) from the top two bakeries in the city—Levain and Jacques Torres. I use the Jacques Torres recipe for my homemade cookies, and they are divine. I’ve tried a supposedly Levain inspired/copycat recipe as well, and wasn’t nearly as impressed with it. I was surprised to find the bakeries just around the corner from one another. Levain had a half hour line outside. I waited, and oh my, was it ever worth it. They were the best cookies I’ve ever had. My mother agreed. Crisp on the outside, warm and gooey on the inside. Just chewy enough, and oh-so-flavourful. The Jacques Torres ones were pretty good, but really only ok in comparison. The whole Jacques Torres experience was also much more branded and corporate feeling than Levain as well—Levain was just a tiny hole in the ground, with a long winding line giving the only hint of the decadence contained within. Yum. If you’re doing a Calgary—NYC run, please bring me more Levain cookies. I will happily pay you in soap.
The following day we did a tour at the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side, which was a definite highlight. The museum is an old tenement building that was in use from 1863 to the 1930’s, when it was shut down and left for quite some time. It’s since been turned into a museum through lots of research a work. You book tours based around different families and groups that lived in the building. You’re taught about what life was like at the time, and taken through the building to see what it was like when it was purchased decades after being abandoned, and then into refurbished apartments that have been done up as they would have looked at the time. Unfortunately we couldn’t take any pictures, but it was a great stop, and definitely worth your time.
On Saturday we headed south to the Chelsea area as I wanted to see the pier where the Carpathia landed, and where the RMS Titanic was supposed to dock. Pier 54, where the Carpathia docked was rather sad, crumbling off into the Hudson River. A rusting arch over top of it still had a barely distinguishable “C” and “U” from “Cunard” on it. My mother obligingly took photographs of me with my sailor hat and refrained from poking too much fun at me. In an event, I looked less crazy than the fellow who was moonwalking and dancing all over the pier with his headphones in, haha. Pier 59, where the RMS Titanic should have docked is now a driving range, and I just couldn’t bring myself to get a photo with something so commercial and modern looking. All the same, I’ve now seen both the departing and landing spots of the journey, which is pretty awesome.
We spent Sunday up state with relatives, who toured us through some very charming, quintessentially American towns. We had ice cream cones, admired some utterly stunning seaside homes, and visited their club. The entire day felt a bit like something out of Gilmore Girls.
On Sunday evening (our final night) we went on an amazing sunset harbor cruise with Classic Harbor Line. We sailed on the 1890 Schooner Adirondack, which was a downright beautiful ship, made all the better by being significantly smaller than many of the other harbor cruise offerings we saw in the area. The views and the crew were fantastic, and we got shots of the Statue of Liberty with the sun setting directly behind her. There was also champagne, and complimentary blankets for the evening breeze. And, at just $64 per person (with three drinks included), it was really fairly priced as well.
All in all, New York City was amazing. It’s just so exciting and alive, with so much history. I’d love to go back—I can see why people fall in love with it, I think I just did.