Don’t tell my New York friends this but I never understood the allure of their city while I was living in Boston. Maybe it’s out of sheer blind loyalty to my sports teams or it’s just too close to Boston for me to fuss over or because of this one bad trip I had 10+ years ago that I can’t even bear to recount here. Maybe it is all those reasons. Then very, very unexpectedly I fell in love with New York City in the dead heat of August while arguing with an incensed New York cabbie.
“You people don’t tip?!” the cab driver sputtered at me while I was pulling out two dirty dollars from my wallet. You see, I had just given him in cash what I thought was the fare indicated on the meter. But as soon as the car stopped the total amount increased for whatever reason as did his barrage of rude remarks. I have never thrown money at people before (because how rude) but that’s what I did, two one dollar bills landed squarely on his chest while I yelled out “All you had to do is wait a *#%$ing minute. You don’t even deserve this!” and slammed shut the car door.
Is it sick to admit that I reveled in that interaction? I was furious but also emboldened by such an honest exchange (btw – by you people he meant Londoners since we had just told him where we’re from). There was no beating around the bush and I knew exactly where I stood with him. After living in London for 5 years I didn’t realize how much I missed having a frank exchange with a complete stranger and absolutely no pretense of politeness. It has its charms and I’ve come to realize so doesn’t the city where these people dwell.
Four days in NYC wasn’t enough especially since we spent one of them in a sorry state after a very fun wedding the previous night. I didn’t get to half of my list of places to visit and restaurants to try but here are some that I did try and would recommend:
What to see in NYC
The High Line, an elevated urban park that was built over the old disused West Side Line train tracks, was the most recommended attraction my friends had for me. It’s really clever how they designed the park with plenty of benches for people to relax on the 1.5 mile stretch. If you’re walking from West 29th Street don’t despair, the park gets much more interesting especially with the street art once you hit 19th street and onwards to the Meatpacking District. There were some great food vendors clustered between the 16th & 17th street (if the weather is still warm you must try the red velvet cream cheese ice cream sandwich).
Ground Zero is not a tourist attraction so much as a place for people to pay their respects. I could feel the mood of the city shift as we moved closer to the memorial pool. It’s become a really beautiful space for reflection though heavily guarded.
We spent a morning in Brooklyn solely to indulge in my brunch needs. The borough reminds me a little of Shoreditch with its whisper of alternative edginess and the familiar trend of men rocking beards. Needless to say, I loved it!
Crossing the river also offers great views of the Manhattan skyline and I loved going under the romantic Williamsburg Bridge.
My New York City highlight was the Grand Central Terminal. I’ve seen it in photos and knew it was supposed to be spectacular but still I was in awe. It’s a little random that while I was standing on one of the platforms to take in the zodiac ceiling and the movement of people in such a grand space someone holding an iPad approached me to see if I needed any help. Apparently I was standing in the Apple store! We revisited the train station again before our trip ended 1) because we loved it so much and 2) there’s a Shake Shack in the food hall.
I was very fixated on ramen finds in New York so went on a mini ramen crawl. In short, the cheap and cheerful bowl at Sunrise Mart was passable, Ippudo was good (though I take issue with their noodles) and Momofuku was great (even for vegetarians). It seems there will always be a line since the restaurants do not take reservations but we were able to bypass this for Ippudo by dining at 5:30pm, by the time we were done at 6:30pm it was already teaming with people and a line trailing out to the door. Momofuku was well worth the 30 minute wait at 9 in the evening. I wasn’t a fan of their shiitake buns but the lychee slushie and the signature momofuku ramen was on point (but it’s really for people who love a good porky broth).
The Navy is one of those NYC restaurants that seem to pop up in my Instagram feed from time to time. It’s on a truly quintessential SoHo street with a cute Once Upon a Tart cafe & bakery as its neighbor. Unfortunately I cannot claim that breakfast was amazing, even for me fish tacos at 10am is a wee bit early (I thought given that it’s a seafood restaurant I’d give it a go). But I loved it for the space, that early morning SoHo vibe and the coffee. I’d want to try it for dinner next time around.
Five Leaves in Brooklyn came as a recommendation from NYC friends and is worth crossing the bridge for. It’s a small space with outdoor seating and a little take out coffee window. I’m told on weekends there’s usually a wait for a table as it’s so popular but we bypassed that by visiting on a Monday morning. I particularly love when a restaurant’s coffee is as remarkable as its food and Five Leaves is one that does both well. I opted for the ricotta pancakes with honeycomb butter and fruit and the Brit went heavy with the Big Breakkie.
Where to Stay: Andaz 5th Avenue
Off of West 41st and 5th Ave is the Andaz hotel. It’s pretty unassuming as far as hotels go with a really nice casual vibe once inside. We’ve stayed in their Tokyo and San Diego hotels before and I’d say this is pretty consistent throughout. It’s centrally located to major attractions such as the Rockefeller Center (12 min walk), Empire State Building (8 min walk) and is right across the street from the New York Public Library. For an Andaz, I’d say comfort is a given with great integration of design and services. They offer a free mini bar (excluding alcohol) which is replenished by request.
I’ll leave you with two tips for New York City. If you’re planning to visit museums such as the MoMa and Whitney have a look on their website for “free evenings”. We were able to take advantage of free passes to MoMa on a Friday evening (from 4-8pm) which was a savings of $50 total for two people. We arrived at 6pm and walked right in. Lastly, a visit up to the Top of the Rock right before sunset is the best time to go. You do need to book in advance to save yourself some wait time in the building. I found it just so dreamy up there.