This post is about my first 5 days (out of 9) in New York City.
DAY 1: EVENING IN NY
Met up with my friend for a full two days of exploring the city together. We checked in at our hostel and left to grab dinner and see the evening New York lights.
Thai Son, Chinatown
KuLu desserts, Greenwich Village
Times Square and all of the lights
Chicken place + LeVain bakery
We initially planned to jog at Central Park though we overestimated our being morning people, so we left for lunch and sampled cookies from the famous LeVain Bakery instead.
Anastasia on Broadway
After a quick queue at TKTS Times Square (a real lifesaver!), we entered the theatre showing Anastasia. Our inner Disney princesses were awakened as we swooned to the show’s famous hymn, and the tremendous acting of the cast. I kinda wished Rasputin made an appearance, though.
The High Line
The city’s density calls for more creative ways to design public spaces, and what better way than to dress up an old railway?
The mile-and-a-half walk felt like a linear display of exhibitions: every few meters was a different experience.
After our long walk (and constantly stopping for photo-ops), we walked over to Chelsea Market to window-shop on quirky, novelty items and look at artisan gastronomy from afar.
Dinner @ Oh Taisho
Darlene’s friend took us to a small but packed Japanese eatery. As soon as we were greeted by Japanese staff, I knew we were in for an authentic meal. True enough, we were, and it served as a nice break after having mostly dry, Western meals for some time.
Jazz @ Blue Note
My favorite part of the day was this: Jazz at Blue Note. When we went for desserts at Kulu the night before, we stumbled upon this place and spontaneously decided to enter, only to find out that the act was almost over. So, we rescheduled to the next evening and paid a hefty $45 just to see Roy Hardgrove play (little did I know he is somewhat a modern legend). I had no regrets and enjoyed every bit of artistic music.
From one of the tours I participated in, I found out that Jazz music actually started out in Harlem, New York, and Greenwich Village, where we found Blue Note, is where Ella Fitzgerald and Miles Davis started playing. Boy, was the city full of history, interwoven beautifully into great stories we enjoy today.
Lunch at Marea Italian
As self-proclaimed gastronomists (well, we’re all gastronomists now, aren’t we?) and pseudo-elite, we wanted to at least have one fancy, Michelin meal in the Big Apple. Being the pragmatic that I am, I opted for a lunch set at Marea Italian Restaurant, just off Columbus Circle. Our meal was DE-LIGHTFUL from start to finish, and well, we didn’t mind paying $$$ for the lunch of our lives as it was a celebration of our first Trans-Pacific trip together, and as long as we did it only from time to time.
The accessibility of these posh restaurants to Central Park is a convenience, as we took our time to stroll through the confusing design of the place, almost forcing one to get lost and take in some fresh air. (I remember a tour guide telling us how it was meant for people to lose their way around.) That is as sinister as it is a gift.
As we allowed the winding path to guide our way, we ended up on Fifth Avenue, one of the busiest streets of this busy town. I awed over the Plaza Hotel for the first time, and observed the ridiculously posh exteriors of the shops lined up on the street. As any annoying tourist would, we took endless pictures and tried to, at least in picture, be the socialites you didn’t want to mess with.
NY Public Library
Apart from its rich archive, I fell in love with its grand and dreamy impression as I sauntered through, jealous of the locals’ easy access to get lost in a sea of knowledge. One couldn’t help but be impressed by the fine interior of white marble, exquisite wood, and impressionist murals.
Check-in at The Local NYC
After my friend left to fly back to Utah, I checked in at another hostel in Queens, where I was to spend the rest of my evenings. I disliked the roommate roulette ’cause it was the first time I got unlucky, but I guess you get what you pay for.
I had some time to kill before my first walking tour, so I had breakfast at Pret a Manger and walked along the east of Times Square before heading to Greenwich Village for the third time this trip.
Greenwich Village Tour (Bleecker, MagDougal, Grove St., etc.)
One of my favorite places in NYC, this place ignited my curiosity for the arts and culture. It was in this small part of the city where most of popular culture planted its roots–from music, literature, movements, architecture, and much more.
Our guides pointed out the cafes and restaurants where it all began:
Minetta Tavern, where Truman Capote would write, along with other beatniks.
Cafe Wha carried the song-writer’s humble beginnings, where Lady Gaga, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen got their start back in the day.
Joe’s Pizza, where Leonardo DiCaprio is often seen in.
Other well-known artsy eateries such as The Donut Project (I had my fix and they were THE BEST), Marie’s Crisis, Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, Murray’s Cheese Bar, and other establishments down Bleecker Street.
Greenwich Village was Bob Dylan’s town, as we walked through cafes he once played in, the MacDougal Street he would walk on, and Record Runner, the shop he used to work in.
Marie’s Crisis, a piano bar, where Lea Salonga and other musical theatre celebrities go to unwind.
My mind was flourished by the coming-to-life of places I only once read about.
We walked by second to the most expensive college in America.
As we walked along a quiet street, I pointed to a corner with a dull-looking cafe, and wondered why people stopped to take pictures of the building it was in. Turns out, it was where the characters from Friends supposedly lived in! (But course the show was actually shot in California.)
Washington Square Park
It was a great place to kind of immerse into the soul of the city. This was probably what the poetic and intellectual New York back in the day was like. Unlike Central Park, which is relatively new and glassed by tourists and Hollywood films, it’s the most genuine place to people-watch, as if it was as New York as New York could get. People would sit and stare blankly, engage in philosophical discussions, play their harmonicas, drums and other instruments, duel over chess (Mark Twain was known to have done that a lot here), unite for a rally, sell propaganda merch, write songs (Simon & Garfunkel did), scribble on the floors, hold a yoga class, swim in the fountain (at least the hippies used to in the 70’s).
Greenwich Village is distinctively bohemian, a cultural landmark, and rightly one of the best places to capture the true heart of the city.
Grand Central Terminal
There was a reason they named it Grand. If you were to build a place where hundreds of thousands would pass each day, you would design it as lavishly as the Vanderbilts did. It is also famously known as one of the most iconic venues in Hollywood films.
Flat Iron Building
The flat iron building was, well, flat. I was more enthused by my first time entering the superstore Eataly, followed by a consideration of how tedious it would be to lug around so many souvenirs. Oh well, maybe when I go to Europe.
Manhattan Square Park
Manhattan Square Park was where the first ever Shake Shack was built, and where there were ridiculously long lines for a classic New York burger meal. I figured I had to skip dinner to make it in time for my next activity.
The Ride & Times Square
I would alternate between touristy and local activities so that night, I signed up for an evening on The Ride, an entertainment bus that drove around Times Square. I couldn’t describe how much fun I had: the hosts were extremely entertaining, and the program came with a couple of theatrics, too. It was an interesting way to experience New York at night.
Empire State Building
I’m glad visiting hours stretch late into the evening, so I had the chance to get a bird’s eye view of the city at night.
I’ll be sharing to you about the rest of my trip on the following post!