You’re probably thinking it’s a bit cliché to say that about New York and I would have agreed with you had I not been to New York. But after standing on the observatory deck of the Empire State Building and looking out at this beautiful man made city, I have to say there’s nothing cliché about it.
New York city is proof that anything is possible. You can tell that so many people with so many dreams moved all the way there to make something of themselves. As you walk the streets of New York and feel the hustle and bustle, you also understand the meaning of “in a New York minute”.
We had a list of places to see/things to do that we had prepared a few months in advance, after purchasing our tickets. We were quite sure that we didn’t want to do all the touristy stuff and miss out on just being in the city and getting a feel for it.
When we reached there, we realized that the city is humongous and there was no way we could cover everything we had on our list. So, we figured we’ll wing it and try to see some of the items on our list. After all, we just might be able to make another trip here someday in the future :) *fingers crossed*
1. Empire State Building
We tried to get to the Empire State Building after 10am once, but the queue was just too long. A passerby asked one of the entrance workers how long it would take with that queue to get into the building and she said “3 hours”. We realized we could accomplish a lot more in 3 hours so we decided to postpone the visit. The next day we tried again, this time at 8am, when the building actually opens. Success! There was no queue at the entrance, a small queue at the security check, and a small queue at the elevator.
We went up to the Empire State Building’s observation deck on the 86th floor. Our ticket (the City Pass) included a free audio guide that was very, very informative. It’s basically a phone-receiver-like device that you place against your ear and you can choose which portion of the city you are looking at, and Tony (the voice) will tell you a little bit about the sights there with some interesting anecdotes.If you have the opportunity to visit the Empire State Building, please do.It’s a really nice building that was built in 1931 but it looks so ahead of it’s time.
Lesson of the day: If you’ve traveled to New York from the East, use your jetlag to get you there early :)
It was a slightly foggy day, I believe, but the weather was quite pleasant.
2. The Museum of Natural History
The Museum of Natural History is another sight we visited. This is the museum where A Night at The Museumis set. I’m normally not very keen on museums because they take a long time and sometimes it can be a bit eerie with all these strange relics and artifacts around. However, I must say this museum was wonderful.
I was very impressed with their Dinosaur exhibits as they were so upfront about what they wrote and how difficult it is to find scientific information about dinosaurs. For example there was an exhibit where they tried to explain whether dinosaurs were warm-blooded or cold-blooded. That was interesting. Another one that was interesting was also how they claimed that birds are dinosaurs. I tried to get a photo of that one here:
It’s funny because as a kid I was told by a teacher at school that lizards were the descendants of dinosaurs and since then I’ve developed a phobia for lizards. I’m still not sure how I survived two years in Brisbane with the chameleons walking around *shudder*.
Here’s a peek at the fossil they have there, it is huge. I’ve placed the bf in the frame for size comparison only :)
3. Central Park – We walked around central park (West) for an hour or so one particular morning. Central Park is huge! It was nice to see the location where so many movie scenes were shot. The park was quite empty so we took some photographs and continued walking. The weather was wonderfully sunny and quite warm for winter. Here’s a photo of me in Central Park with the lake behind me.
4. Grand Central Terminal – I’ve seen some train stations but this one takes the cake. It’s really beautiful. I kind of wish we had taken a train from New York to somewhere just to be able to use the station. If you watch a lot of Hindi movies like I do, you’ll have a certain attachment to Grand Central Terminal as it is pictured in some of the movies lately, especially if the movie was shot in New York. I had to go to the Apple store within the area, which is like an open store.
5. Flatiron Building – This building was built in 1902. I was a bit annoyed with myself the first time we walked up to this building because I realized I had forgotten my camera’s zoom lens. So I couldn’t take a proper photograph of the entire building. The bf, who’s always too kind to me, brought us here again the next day so I could get a real photograph. Here’s the evidence:
1. Woodbury Common Premium Outlets – We spent most of one particular day walking around here. Technically it’s a 1.5 hours drive from New York City. I’m a little bit of a shopaholic and I love bargains. Woodbury has wonderful outlets like Lululemon, Calvin Klein, Coach, Michael Kors, L’Occitane, etc. The upside of the outlet is the somewhat discounted prices.If you happen to be there at the right time of the year, you can get some good bargains. The downside is usually lack of size and colour.I’m common sized so it’s quite difficult to get my size items at outlets.
This time it was successful. I picked up some workout gear at Lululemon (They make the best workout clothing ever; I mean if you’re going to sweat, you might as well sweat in style, right?), a bag from Michael Kors along with a matching wallet, a biker style wool jacket from Calvin Klein, nothing in Coach (it was way too crowded, you’d think they were giving away bags for free!), and a pair of short winter boots from Timberland (I paid roughly 1/8 of the price in Norway). The bf loved the deals at Timberland as they had down filled jackets for $100 and Calvin Klein Merino wool sweaters for $30. Definitely a steal for those of us paying an arm and leg for winter clothing in this corner of the world.
2. Bleecker Street – If you like Covent Garden in London, then you have to walk around Bleecker Street. The only reason I went to Bleecker Street was to visit the NARS store on 413 Bleecker Street.The store was wonderful. It was too much fun, standing there and swatching NARS blushes and lipsticks. Here are some photographs of what the store interior looks like. I didn’t take photos in the store as I was too busy swatching. Now, what did I get? Not telling ;)I will blog about it at … some point.
Now my fascination for NARS products is a little bit crazy. When the Bleecker Street store opened last year, they released a limited edition lipstickwhich I loved so I ordered one by phone from the store, had it shipped to San Francisco where a friend lives and had the bf pick it up when he was there for work. The things we do for love. I won’t be doing this anytime soon though, as the bf is going to travel less this year :)
Bleecker Street also has a branch of Magnolia Bakery. The first time we were walking along here, there was a long, long queue outside the bakery. Now the bf and I have little patience for queues as we live in small Oslo where there is never a line for anything beyond coffee in the mornings. (Norwegians drink a lot of coffee, have you heard?)
3. MAC Pro Store – I’m a huge fan of MAC cosmetics and I had heard about a Pro store that is near the Flatiron district. We tried looking for it but couldn’t find it. Then we asked at another store (that is within the Flatiron building itself) and was told that the Pro store is right across the street. Finally we did find the store but it looks like you have to buzz the intercom to be allowed entrance. Now the Pro store is in a league of its own :) It’s a makeup lover’s dream come true. They have literally everything. If I wasn’t pressed for time, I could have spent the whole day there!
4. Union Square – There are some really nice stores around Union Square. If you like London, like me, being here might remind you of Regent Street; except for Regent Street having slightly narrower streets. The feel is quite similar. I checked out Banana Republic, Lululemon, Uniqlo, Loft, and Sephora. The bf actually got a haircut somewhere on this street while I was shopping :) Talk about multitasking!
The food, the food. What can I say? It was so delicious. We were spoilt for choice. Usually I read a lot of restaurant reviews and sometimes even make reservations by phone, before hand, to be able to secure a table for the two of us. This time we kind of played it by ear as we knew competition for food in New York had to be high and most restaurants had to maintain a certain level of quality. We tried the following restaurants/cafes:
- Momofuku – The best thing to come out of the kitchen here is: The pork buns. Just kidding :) Try the Kimchi Stew. The bf had that and I had the Spicy Chicken Ramen but it was not very spicy. We also ordered a serving of the pork buns. We loved the pork buns so much that the bf and I actually tried to make it the next weekend, after we came back.
- Buddakan – We met an old friend of mine, from highschool, and her boyfriend here to have dinner for New Year’s Eve (This is the only restaurant for which the bf made reservations before hand). Later we went to a wine bar to countdown.
- Olio – On our last day in New York we had lunch here. The pizza was really good and so was their coffee.
- Magnolia Bakery – We shared a Red Velvet cupcake as well as a Vanilla cupcake with chocolate icing. Both were really good. I was really eager to eat my cupcake so much so that I actually forgot to take a photograph of it. This rarely happens to me :)
- Financier Pastries– We were looking for a nice cafe for breakfast and saw this quaint little place. Let’s get to the important part, this is their pastries display:
I had their Egg on Brioche for breakfast and it was very, very good.
- Nyonya – Whenever I travel, I dream of eating Malaysian food but I worry it might not be a pleasant experience as my taste buds are influenced by homesickness which can result in two outcomes: either I’m completely in love with the food or I’m sitting there comparing it with what I remember. Now the food at Nyonya was pretty good. I had the Nasi Lemak and the bf had their Kuay Teow. We also ordered some side dishes like Steamed Popiah and Roti Canai. Unfortunately the restaurant’s service was a bit disappointing. I’m not sure if I would go there again during the peak dinner period.
- Wall & Water (W&W) – This is a restaurant that is part of the Andaz hotel. We had breakfast here once and it was very good. I had the Eggs Benedict and it was delicious. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photographs.
- Sushi Samba – This is what I would call a fusion restaurant that serves cuisine that is a blend of Japanese, Brazillian and Peruvian food. We stumbled upon it by chance as we were nearby and were almost starving.
- Dean and Deluca – We had soup and sandwiches at their branch near Times Square. It was delicious on a cold day. I was too hungry to take photographs :)
- Kyotofu – Kyotofu is a Japanese dessert bar. They make desserts like green tea chocolate, black sesame flavoured tofu pannacotta, and serve delicious tea. If we had not known about this dessert place in advance, we would not have been able to find it. It’s cleverly concealed.
I really liked their teapot:
This is me at Kyotofu. I look so chubby :/
- Chipotle – A chain of Mexican grills that serve very fresh burritos (and other stuff but I always end up picking a burrito). They’re fairly laidback and have a bit of a fast-food feeling but they make your food in front of you so you get to see how they make it and it gives me, at least, some peace of mind.
- Devi – We dropped by here one evening. The service was impeccable and the food was extremely good. We had the Ragda Pattis Chaat, Abha Aunty’s Baingan and Pav “Indian Sloppy Joe” Bhaji. All three were excellent.
Overall it was a wonderful trip but New York is one of those places where one visit is just not enough – at least that’s what I’m telling the bf to convince him that we need to go there again. I’m still going through photographs. I might add a few more in later.