New York was a real treat.
I’d had it planned as a romantic weekend getaway for Tessie’s birthday but after a disastrous “romantic bike-ride” on the actual day-of-her-birth (think twisted handlebars, blood stained shirts and salty, salty tears) I was scared to leave the apartment. Jumping at any noise or movement, sweating profusely, pooing irregularly, (all of these are very very true) I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to go anywhere. But I couldn’t live in fear forever and I had to make it up to Tessie so off we trotted for a three day extravaganza!
We booked into a hostel for the first two nights but left the third one open because I was considering booking something a little more fancy for the birthday girl, cos, you know, going to New York isn’t fancy-dancey enough. Tess picked out the Whitehouse Hostel at East 3rd and Bowery, right in the district of NoHo. It was a quirky little place in a really cool old building, with what looked like it’s original floors and window trimmings still in use, broken and worn, yes, but not replaced.
The rooms were all sectioned off from each other with thin wooden panels but were all open to a unified ceiling, as we were on the top floor, we had a skylight right above our bed, which gave the room a somewhat romantic atmosphere during the thunderstorm on the second night (if it hadn’t been so leaky).
The first night was pretty good, considering. We didn’t have noisy neighbours and the bed wasn’t too uncomfortable, we bounded out of our room and wandered out into the big wide city. We had decided early on that our plan of attack was to have no plan. There was so much we wanted to see and we only had three days but we’re not exactly very good at sticking to plans so we thought “why bother” we’ll just wanderaboot and see where our fancies take us! So with that in mind our first stop, of course, was breakfast!
We stumble across a great little café just around the corner from our hostel, it was indoors but outdoors, walls but no roof, with all matter of flora wrapping itself around the place, it was perfect and the food hit the spot juuuuuuust riiiiiiight.
With our bellies full of yum yums and our legs set to wanderaboot, there was no stopping us!
From Times Square we headed to Radio City where we found ourselves a bit peckish and decided to splash out on one of those giant pretzels. It was roughly the size of Ghana so we had to take a photo of it. Unfortunately Old Tessie butterfingers learned why we were always told not to play with our food. SPLAT. We’d barely even tasted the thing and she dropped it. Nice one Tessers. She scooped up the remnants and took it back to the vendor to explain the need for the purchase of a second giant pretzel but she must have turned the puppy dog eyes up to 11 because he gave her one free of charge! And they say New Yorkers are rude and unfriendly.
After a quick blast around the Rockefeller Centre, with Tess humming the theme tune to 30 Rock, and a peep into the brilliant Lego store they have there we found our way to Grand Central Station and The Chrysler Building
The ceiling of Grand Central is quite interesting;
In autumn 1998, a 12-year restoration of the station revealed the original luster of the Main Concourse’s elaborately decorated astronomical ceiling.
The original ceiling, conceived in 1912 by one of the architects, Warren, with his friend, French portrait artist Paul César Helleu, was eventually replaced in the late 1930s to correct falling plaster.
This new ceiling was obscured by decades of what was thought to be coal and diesel smoke. Spectroscopic examination revealed that it was mostly tar and nicotine from tobacco smoke. A single dark patch remains above the Michael Jordan Steakhouse, left untouched by renovators to remind visitors of the grime that once covered the ceiling.
Luckily we found some respite in the form of the beautiful Lower Terrace at the Bethesda Fountain. It’s a pretty well hidden gem in the middle of the park.
Apparently the fountain sculpture was designed by Emma Stebbins in 1868, she was the first woman to receive a public commission for a major work of art in New York City, which is pretty cool and she did an amazing job so kudos to her.
We spent most of the day wandering around exploring the paths and bridges of the park, getting lost in The Ramble and spotting turtles in the lake.
After we’d soaked our bones through and through, we subway’d down to Battery Park to see if we could get a glimpse of old Libby. We couldn’t come all the way to New York and not see her and I thought I knew the perfect spot to do it from! We arrived at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and went inside, my thinking was that we could stand in the dry and look out through the windows. We climbed the escalators and as we were rounded the snack shop the giant windows came into view, I made a “taa-daa” noise and heard Tessie gasp behind me. I was a fool to think she was gasping at the magical sight of Lady Libby reaching up into the storm clouds, oh no, not our Tessie. “CHIPPIES!!” she exclaimed rushing over to the snack shop. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? TESS MARIE!
Her subtle hint that she was hungry got us thinking about where to eat. Despite having eaten Italian food the night before we’d heard such good things about the Little Italy district we just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to take in the tastes! We headed through Battery Park and found the Wall Street Bull, spent a while at Ground Zero and then cabbed over to Lil’ Italia town! As soon as we stepped out of the vehicle we knew we’d come to the right place. The neighbourhood opened its arms and welcomed our soggy beings with a big glowing hug, the tiny independent restaurants that line Mulberry St vibrated with soul, outside of each one stood a smiling host attempting to convince us that we’d find the best Italian food in NYC inside their particular eatery.
One place was different though, the girl outside wasn’t particularly Italian looking and when she spoke to us it wasn’t “You two beautiful people deserve the most beautiful table at the most beautiful restaurant in the whole of New York City, and I have it for you right here” but more like “Yo, this is where the party’s at, shit!” as she took drags on her cigarette and sipped a gin and tonic. Woah! Now that’s marketing.
“Are you allowed to be drinking on the job?” We asked her. “I don’t work here, shit! I’m having a birthday party. This is my favourite place in the whole city and my family have flown in from San Diego, you two should come party with us!” Well, we weren’t going to turn down an offer like that! We followed her in and the whole place (it was tiny but…) cheered as we came through the door! It was an wonderful night shared with wonderful people, including Breanne (the birthday girls sister) who had flown in from San Diego with her Dad and invited us to go visit sometime!
We sang and drank and ate and chatted til the wee hours of the morning, it was exactly what we were looking for after a full day out in the rain. On the drunken walk home we started to play hide and seek. Tessie was “hiding” behind a lamp post when a homeless man approached me and asked if I had any change I could spare for some food. I wasn’t about to just give the guy cash but luckily I had the left overs from Tessie’s meal in a container. As I was passing it over to him there was a loud wailing from down the street and Old Marie whips in and snatches away the meal from the poor starving soul. “Sorry” she apologised “but that was really tasty and I want to keep it” she then rifled in her handbag and gives a handfull of dollars over to the homeless. I couldn’t believe she’d just taken food out of the palms of a hungry bum! This girl is out of control.
We spent that night in a hotel that had been recommended to us by a fellow guest at the hostel as the hostel was fully booked, the hotel was twice the price of the hostel but no-where near as charming. And we still had to share a bathroom!
For our last day in NYC we decided to splash out and go to the American Museum of Natural History. The weather had not improved and we were running out of dry clothes so a day inside was a welcome change. It was a really cool place, we didn’t have time to see the planetarium but stuck to the taxidermy halls. The highlight was the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life where a giant 94ft model of a blue whale is suspended from the ceiling, it’s an impressive sight that’s for sure!
Of course we stayed too long and almost missed our shuttle bus to the airport, but it was all worth it!
When we got to the airport however, we found out that our flight to Detroit had been cancelled. Which could easily have been a disaster but instead was actually a stroke of luck because they put us on an earlier flight that was direct to Toronto, so no messing about with connections! We got back way easier and way earlier than expected! Woo!
All in all it had been a brilliant trip, even without a schedule and with terrible weather we’d seen so much, not bad for two and a half days! As soon as we were back in Toronto we were discussing when we could return to the Big Apple. Perhaps at Christmas, maybe next year, whenever it is it won’t be soon enough. Looks like I’d redeemed myself from the woes of the birthday bike ride a mere week earlier. Thank you New York, Thank you!