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Tegan & Ingrid's world adventure

A month in the Big Apple. Part 1

USA | Saturday, 28 January 2012 | Views [1470]

View from Geoff's apartment

View from Geoff's apartment

New York City. NYC. The Big Apple. The Greatest City on Earth. These are just some of the many names given to this wonderful place on the Eastern Coast of the United States of America.

We had been to NYC once before, a couple of years ago, when we did our road-trip around parts of the USA with our good friends from Denmark, Jill & Jesper. At the end of our 6 week trip we had spent 5 short days in NYC and loved every minute. We decided then and there that we had to come back and spend much longer. So as part of our Round the world trip we had dedicated one month of our journey to “live” in NYC. We wanted to experience just a little hint of what life could be like living in this huge place.

We’ve decided that it may be easier to split this blog up into two sections as a month is a fair while and we did plenty!

So for now, let’s start at the beginning which saw us arrive from India after a long flight including a 5 hour wait in Amsterdam for a connecting flight. Gladly it was easy enough to find where we were going in NYC. We were lucky enough, for the first 12 days of our time in NYC, to be ‘house-sitting’ for my Dad’s partners brother. A little confusing I know. But it turns out that this guy, Geoff, who we had never even met before lived in Manhattan in a 2 bedroom apartment on the 34th (top) floor of his apartment block and he had agreed to let us stay there free of charge whilst him and his wife were visiting their children for Christmas in London. It’s hard to describe the apartment to someone who hasn’t seen it….Basically we can say this much. They are pretty wealthy, that much was obvious the moment we arrived. Opening the door we discovered a mix of antique furniture combined with tasteful white modern furniture. Then everywhere scattered around the apartment were sculptures. And I mean literally, everywhere. They were on the floor, the tables, at the ends of the bed and even on top of the radiators. Most of the sculptures were made by Geoff’s wife’s mother. They were pretty impressive. Everything from alabaster heads sitting on the floor to huge bronze artworks 6 feet tall, at the entranceway. Needless to say we became a little worried about staying in an apartment filled with such precious things. I got more than a little concerned the first 48 hours of our stay that I might forget or break/damage something unintentionally during our stay. This situation became even more pronounced when we read the list of “house rules” written by Geoff’s wife who had already left to go to London, mostly to do with the care and maintenance of their collection of antique furniture, sculptures and artworks. We had to do things like always keep the curtains closed during sunlight hours as the sun damages the 16th century Japanese artworks on the walls, not bumping into the statues as they may break and not wearing blue denim jeans on the white leather couches. It got more than a little amusing after the first couple of days when the only pants I owned were blue jeans so every time I wanted to sit on the couch I had to take my pants off. So yes, it perhaps seemed a little pedantic but we could definitely understand their concern. Despite all of this we loved our time at this apartment. It was a fantastic location and we had the most wonderful views over Manhattan. It was so great to sit at the dining room table in the morning with a freshly made cup of Nespresso coffee and a fresh bagel with cream cheese and just look out at the view. We were so very grateful to get to stay in that wonderful house.

But of course we were not in NYC to spend our time indoors so despite the near freezing temperatures outside we did spend most of our days out and about exploring Manhattan.

As some of you may or may not know NYC is made up of 5 boroughs which are then once more broken down into various neighbourhoods. The biggest and most well known borough is of course Manhattan and that is where we spent the majority of our stay. In those initial days of our visit, prior to Christmas, we decided it would be worthwhile to spend some time wandering through some of the southern neighbourhoods of Manhattan that we had not explored last time we were here. We enjoyed the beautiful housing and funky shops of Greenwich Village, some upscale shopping and café visiting in Soho, a unique Christmas parade and bustling fruit market in Chinatown, the continuation of the Christmas parade in Little Italy, the Chelsea piers and great art/craft & food market, the sleepy place of Roosevelt Island, accessed by cable car, as well as of course Midtown with 5th Ave, Times Square, Rockefeller centre including their giant Christmas tree, Bryant Park Christmas markets & some great shopping and Christmas windows in 7th  Ave (also known as Fashion Ave). Parts of Midtown we did of course visit on our last trip but with Christmas soon upon us it was well worth doing again for all of the beautiful decorations and lights hanging everywhere. Particularly in the evenings, Manhattan was pure magic. As part of the benefit of staying at Geoff’s apartment he was also kind enough to lend us his membership to the Metropolitan Art Museum (otherwise known as The Met). So we also took almost a full day out to explore this huge museum complex on the Upper East Side. We picked and chose which things we wanted to see based on the map we were given and it still took us most of the day. The Met is the largest indoor museum in the world by area, so if you wanted to see everything in that museum you would have to return several different times. The benefit for us was that much of the European stuff we had seen many times recently in European museums themselves so we did worry too much about looking at that again. The membership also included entry in the Cloisters which is a beautiful European medieval abbey specifically built to house Medieval art in far northern Manhattan. We took the local bus up there which was great fun as it took us driving all over the Upper East, Harlem,  Morningside Heights and many other parts of the streets we’d probably never get to ourselves. We actually really loved taking buses in Manhattan and always chose it over the subway if we had the time to spare because of course with Manhattan traffic they always took a bit longer than the subway. The cloisters building itself was just stunning, perched atop a hill overlooking the Hudson River.  

Now to rewind about 12 months….In a drunken state on New Years Eve 2011 our friends Michael & Hanna were at a party at our house in Melbourne and we got to talking about our big upcoming trip in the new year. We then started talking about how we were going to spend a whole month in New York City and spend both Christmas & New Years there, when Hanna said “We’ll come to visit you and celebrate there with you!” We then of course in our drunken state made grand plans and drunk many more toasts to the fact that next New Years Eve would be in New York. Now, we all know that partying brings out many grand plans and few ever really come to fruition so you can imagine our excitement when a few months ago Michael & Hanna confirmed that yes, they were coming to stay with us in NYC for a few weeks. Hurrah! So fast forward to the end of our first week in NYC and they had arrived. As we were housesitting for the first part of our time we didn’t actually all stay together until after Christmas but more on that later….

We were also lucky enough to have two other groups of friends in NYC over Christmas time. Lisa & Jake were visiting for a few days before heading home to Australia and Michael & Hanna’s good friends Patt (who we also knew) & his girlfriend Elise were also in town. This made for some good fun with friends in the few days leading up to Christmas.

We met up with Lisa & Jake a couple of times. The first was to do something we had all long been discussing which was dinner at the pub that the How I met your Mother pub, McLarens, is based on. The real pub is actually called McGees and we were all talking about it for months. Unfortunately for us we were all sorely disappointed. Not only does the bar look nothing like the one from HIMYM either inside or out but the food just really wasn’t that great either. In fact the only throwback to the TV show was a signed photo of the cast on the wall. Hmmm….not what we all had in mind. But oh well, we were still all in good company and had a good night. The other adventure we had with Lisa & Jake was a visit to Serendipity 3 which I believe was featured in the movie Serendipity and according to Lisa they were famous for the “Frozen Hot Chocolate.” So of course, that was what we had to have. My Gosh! AMAZING! If you ever have the time I would highly recommend but you will want to share with someone as they are giant (like most things in NYC)! It was goodbye to Lisa & Jake after a few days as it was time for them to head home after their time in Toronto and travelling the States.

With Michael & Hanna we enjoyed some drinks and great dinners in both Hells Kitchen & the East Village before meeting up for Christmas Eve celebrations at the Rockefeller centre. We decided that a perfect Christmas eve could be spent going up to the “Top of the Rock” observation decks and it really was beautiful. Lucky for us it was a mild evening so we spent a good couple of hours just watching the New York skyline and enjoying the atmosphere, a great lead up to Christmas day.

There were six of us for a lovely Christmas day lunch including the two of us, Michael & Hanna and as I mentioned earlier Patt & Elise. It had taken a bit of planning to find a restaurant that was available and reasonably priced but I think I can speak for everyone when I say this place was well worth it. We got a wonderful three course meal with plenty of choices for each course from a limited menu and we also enjoyed some cocktails and wine to go with it. The food was lovely and of course some great company. We continued on after our long late lunch to the rooftop bar called 230 5th. We have our couchsurfing hosts in Montreal to thank for that gem. A beautiful bar on the 20th floor looking directly up at the Empire State building and over Manhattan. It was a great way to end Christmas day, sipping cocktails looking up at the Empire state building and later enjoying their plush couches downstairs where we could have some food and more cocktails. Definitely not in our usual backpacker budget but the perfect bar for Christmas evening, we had a really great one and it really helped to be around such good friends so that we didn’t miss our family back home too much.

There is plenty of this NYC story to go but I will leave it there for now and you can keep your eyes peeled for NYC Part 2, which will be posted soon.

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