Anthony and I keep a lot of lists. I don’t think it’s a natural thing for him, but as an avid list-maker myself, I think I’ve imparted some of this on my poor husband. One of our lists is a “travel bucket list” that we both add to and keeps us on track for the places that we want to see together. I know there’s no way we’re going to be able to check off all of our goal destinations, because we add to it constantly and only have so many days and dollars to travel. But, we’re giving it our best shot!!
One of the places on our list has always been New York City. Anthony longed to show me the city he knew I’d love but had never visited, after traveling there himself for a college architecture field trip. How a city-lover like myself had gone nearly 29 years without seeing this urban mecca in person is beyond me. I spent my formative years lusting after the lifestyle of Sex and the City, dreaming of a career on Madison Ave., and imagining recreating the dozens of iconic movie scenes shot in Central Park. I even briefly entertained the idea of moving to New York to look for magazine jobs when I graduated college, before choosing to stick to a Midwest big city and settling in Chicago. So, on the weekend of my 29th birthday, we made the trip together.
We landed at Laguardia airport to a rainy dreary day, but that didn’t stop my excitement. We used some Southwest coupons for free drinks on the plane, and chatted about all of the things we were going to see and do.
When we got close, I had my face stuck to the airplane window like a little kid, getting a birds-eye view of the Statue of Liberty and the entire city. “It’s huge,” I kept telling Anthony as he laughed. I was kind of in awe of the sheer scale of the biggest city I’d ever seen.
My eyes were similarly wide as I gazed out the cab window as we made it to our hotel. Once we were down and in the city, it strangely felt less overwhelming and more like the cities that I’ve called home. Anthony made the comment that New York City feels oddly familiar even to those who have never been there, due to all of the movies and tv shows we’ve watched. He is absolutely right, and it definitely felt like I had been there before.
Through some work hook-ups, we were able to get a comp room at the Trump, right on Central Park, and consequently felt very fancy! We checked into our room, trying our best to portray a look of “we belong here” to the hotel staff, and then when we had shuffled out the bellman and shut the door, we instantly began “ooh-ing” and “aah-ing” at the luxurious touches in our suite.
After settling in and cleaning up, we made our way out into the drizzle, to grab some dinner in Hell’s Kitchen, a few blocks from the hotel. We were overwhelmed with choices, and ended up settling on one of the less crowded restaurants in the area — a Thai restaurant — and enjoyed a great meal before hitting a pub nearby for some local brews.
We then decided that, since the rain had let up, it would be fun to just take a walk and explore the area. We started strolling and suddenly turned the corner and were transported “into the tv.”
I had not realized we were so close to Broadway and before I knew it we had just stumbled upon Times Square.
I wasn’t a huge fan of this famous area, as it felt very much like the Strip in Vegas (also not a favorite of mine), but it was pretty cool to finally experience something that had been such a big landmark. Anthony has a large poster that used to hang in our bedroom, showing Times Square circa the 40’s or so, and it was kind of fun standing in the middle and imagining it without the crazy tourist crowds or giant LED screens.
The next day, we woke up and headed down to the Meatpacking District, where we had made brunch reservations at the recommendation of a former New Yorker. Unfortunately, the restaurant made a mistake with our reservations and was not actually open at the time made (weird, huh?) and we ended up just grabbing a quick bite to eat before heading out for more exploring. First, we hit up Chelsea Market and wandered around some of the posh shops. Then we headed a few blocks over and visited the High Line Park, a must-see on my landscape architect husband’s list.
The park is built atop old train tracks, and features lush gardens in the middle of the concrete jungle. It was pretty crowded but easy to get through and a great way to check out the views from above.
After this park, we stopped at the Chelsea Pier to take a load off for awhile and watch the boats on the river before heading back to our hotel for a little street food and a quick recharge.
When we headed back out, we rented bikes and rode all over Central Park. It was a great way to see the whole park, and we were both smiling ear to ear to finally be experiencing the (in our opinion) best part of the city together. Plus, just being atop a bike obviously makes me feel right at home, and we can’t seem to avoid a cruise on every trip we take.
After we had made our way through the park, we still had another hour on our bike rentals, so we ventured out onto the streets to see more of the city. While it was a little bit scary navigating a new (and huge!) city on a bike, I maintained my confidence and it actually made the city feel a little more manageable. We found a bike path on the river and were able to cruise through and see several neighborhoods before returning our bikes and grabbing a couple six-packs to bring back to our room.
The next morning, I got up early to take a “short” run through Central Park. Somehow, I got so entranced by the surroundings and my endurance at sea-level, and ended up running for almost an hour, covering almost 6 miles of the park and taking photos all along the way.
After my run, we grabbed some lunch at a local deli (and a black and white cookie, á la Seinfeld) and made our way downtown. We hopped on a subway and got off in the Financial District to take a look at the new World Trade Center. It just being completed, and being Memorial Day, this area was understandably packed. So, we took the obligatory photo and hopped back on the subway, bound for Brooklyn.
Once in Brooklyn, we found ourselves in the middle of a street festival and enjoyed the neighborhood vibe and hustle and bustle. Afterwards, we walked all over Brooklyn, checking out some parks and design shops, and stopping in for a couple of beers to cool off during the surprisingly hot day.
We also walked down a lot of residential streets, which ended up becoming one of my favorite things to do — just walking along and imagining the insides of the old buildings and the lives of those who’ve lived there. I did convince Anthony that one of these had to be the Cosby house (although it turns out that while the show was set there, the house was actually filmed in Greenwich Village.
Later, we met up with an old friend who now resides in Brooklyn, and who brought us to a delicious Mediterranean hole in the wall. It was great catching up and hearing about the city from a now-local.
The next day, our last full day in New York, we awoke to the same weather as when we arrived: rain. Determined to enjoy our last day, we set out to hit several landmarks. We did a quick walk through Grand Central Station, which also felt like a place I had been before due to the myriad of movie scenes filmed there.
Afterward, we took the subway down to Little Italy and Chinatown. Honestly, having been in similar neighborhoods in San Francisco and Chicago, I wasn’t really feeling it. Between the drizzly rain and the [shall we say “interesting”?] smells at the open air markets in Chinatown, and the exhaustion catching up with us after several days of constant walking, we probably didn’t take advantage of this last day as we should have. However, it turned out to be a pretty fun time anyway.
We stopped in and grabbed a pizza at small place in Little Italy, and got way too much food for the two of us. We still managed to gobble it all up, along with a couple of beers, and then got a recommendation from the waitress for a nearby pub/pool hall to spend the rainy afternoon. Being a Tuesday, we pretty much had the place to ourselves and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves for a couple hours until heading back to the hotel to rest off the afternoon beers and prepare for a fancy dinner out.
We had recommendations of another place down in the meatpacking district, but decided to cancel our reservations for yet another Hell’s Kitchen excursion. We chose an Indian restaurant based on Yelp reviews, which was a delicious last dinner for our vacation. Afterwards, we went out to another bar for one last toast before heading back to crash in our fancy hotel.
The next morning we had bagels (a New York must, right?) and prepared for a long trek to the airport, forgoing a cab to take the subway up to a bus to the airport. The bus ride through Harlem gave us a glimpse at yet another neighborhood, and the ride across the bridge to Queens served as a great “goodbye” to the city that had treated us so well.
While we had plenty of attractions that we missed, and itinerary items that didn’t happen for one reason or another (usually being weather), we still feel like we got a nice full trip and can check one more place off of our travel bucket list!
Whew, no wonder it took me so long to get this post on here. That took forever to summarize all of the fun!