I wanted a nicer title to this post. It is after all my journal about my trip to New York City, arguable the greatest city in the world. I hoped for a title that could capture the essence of my trip, but yet I decided against it. By keeping the title simple New York City, it amplified just how much I enjoyed my trip. There wasn’t any one factor that led me to really love this vacation – unlike Vancouver, where there were skiing, food, amazing scenery and great hospitality. No, New York was amazing because it was New York. And I had the amazing privilege to visit last Winter.
I begin with departure day, for I love plane rides and the journey was an experience by itself. I was excited. This LHR-JFK flight was to be my second transatlantic flight. Even more special, I’ve always wanted to fly between the two most influential cities in the world. It was nice just to see the letters LHR-JFK.
Sadly, I wasn’t flying direct. That experience can be saved for another time. In fact, I went with Air Canada and a transit in Toronto. Despite not being a direct journey, I was feeling great. I knew the service was good (having flown on AC to Vancouver) and I would try two completely new planes (Boeing 767 and the Bombardier Dash 8 Q-400). Exciting indeed. But the flight journey is another story, and one that I intent to write about at a later point.
The Air Canada Boeing 767 taking me to Toronto. Bumpy ride but enjoyable.
Coming into land at Toronto and I see a blanket of white. It was beautiful.
Visiting the cockpit of the Boeing 767
And the Dash 8 that brought us from YYZ to JFK. Lovely experience.
We reached JFK and the weather was noticeably colder. London had been rather warm this winter. I was in New York, but our first stop was not New York City. We were heading up to New Haven. Karina had to put her things down and settle into her accommodation before we return to New York. Thankfully, she rented a shuttle and for the next 2 hours, we were speeding on the highway hurling through the US east coast. It was around 10pm when we reached New Haven, and I was exhausted.
The next day was a massive snowstorm, one the the largest I’ve seen in my life. By midnight, there was close to 7 inches of snowfall and it was still going strong. I enjoyed the snowfall, my first one of this winter. We visited some Yale sites and the Yale bookstore. Somehow, I felt a bit smarter visiting Yale ha ha ha.
Yale School of Management
And the Yale Bookstore.
That night, we went to sleep with the heavy snowfall still raging outside. Right before that, I saw people shoveling along the streets – city workers who work through the nice to ensure the city doesn’t stop tomorrow morning. It was really something to see them working in the cold at midnight. I don’t think London would have something like this.
The next morning, or our 3rd day, we headed to New York! But the view in New Haven was stunning. Fresh blanket of snow in the garden, and piled up along the side of the road. They’re still soft, perfect for snowball fights. But the roads and pavements were slippery and the taxi ride to Union Station was extremely slow. By 11pm, we were on the Metro North heading from New Haven to Grand Central New York.
And there I was, in New York City. Standing in Grand Central. Kind of reminded me of Gossipgirl’s first scene of Serena arriving in New York. The size of the station was huge, and I stood in awe for close to 5 minutes. We then took the train to our airbnb apartment.
Immediately, we could feel (sense) how big Manhattan was. The station was only two blocks away from our apartment but the walk took over 10 minutes. And this would be the daily trek we will have to cover.
The apartment, thought, was very…New York? There was a wonderful lobby, with a doorman, concierge and gym. The apartment was appropriately sized – small but it was New York. But I grew to really love the apartment and enjoyed every minute of the stay.
That afternoon, we visited the major architectural landmarks in New York – beginning with the Empire State Building. So optimistic I was that the queue was not going to be wrong I fitted it first in our schedule. I was wrong. The queues extended for 3 to 4 hours and I dismissed it immediately. We headed down 5th avenue, and came in sight of the Flat Iron building – the first skyscraper of New York.
The Empire state and Flat Iron.
Karina then got her new SIM card from AT&T. Turns out that American phone plans are slightly pricey, and the cheapest one available was $50 a month! Coming from London where giffgaff went at £12 a month, I was a little taken aback. But I supposed the States required more infrastructure for such a huge continent.
That evening, we headed to Times Square. I think we picked the wrong day. It was the day before Christmas eve, and so it was completely packed!! But I was like a child entering a toy store, and completely lost myself in the lights of New York City. All the songs about New York came into my head and I can’t help but be in awe.
We visited several stores. The stores were less crowded then outside. My favourite stall was Microsoft. The surface has been released but I haven’t seen it before. Coming into contact with the surface for the first time was exciting, and I was impressed by Microsoft’s improvement.
By then we were really tired, and our legs had walked a fair bit. Mind you it was New York. So we settled for dinner at Virgil’s. It turned out to be extremely delicious! We had barbecued prawns, spare ribs, chicken and salad. We were so full though, and had to pack it for the next day.
Virgil’s Real Barbecue
The next morning, we woke extremely early. We didn’t want to miss our chance of going up the Empire State Building. So we took the 2 train down to penn station and quickly walked to Empire State. The queue was short, and we heaved a sigh of relieve. But it still took us close to an hour to get up.
The view was breathtaking. I simply could not stop staring. We began with the North and I could make our Central Park amongst the tall buildings of mid-town. Then we headed to the West and looked out towards Brooklyn and Queens, and then South to see Lower Manhattan and the East Village, Chinatown in between. And we spotted 1 World Trade Tower, still under construction but already the tallest building in New York. It was numbing to be on top of New York. This was what we came to New York for.
Central Park in the distance
Chrysler Building there!
And downtown with 1 WTC
We had lunch on top (just some homemade burger) and headed down. Our next destination was shopping, and so we walked took the subway to Central Park and 5th and walked down 5th Avenue. But before that we could not help but stroll in Central Park. I never thought it would be this beautiful – and always expected Hyde Park to be nicer. But it was really pretty. The branches of the woods together with the structure of skyscrapers created a wonderful effect and harmonized quite well. Literally, the word concrete jungle starts to jump out. This time, the park was even more special, remains of snowfall from 2 days ago could still be seen everywhere.
We then began our shopping spree, although it wasn’t really a spree. We began with walking down 5th Avenue, and walked past some sights including the iconic Apple store and Trump tower.
Then we entered Abercrombie and Fitch. The queue was about 45 minutes and everything inside was still rather pricey. But knowing that in the UK it would literally be a numerical conversion of the price, I got myself a nice blue knitwear and a blue polo t-shirt for US$140. Or it would have been £140 in London.
We left and headed to Rockefeller Plaza. The previous time I was in New York, it was summer and the famous ice rink was not constructed. But this time, it was there and I was happy to see it!
It was New Year’s Eve, and the sun was slowly setting. Having heard of mostly bad reviews of the countdown, we decided to head home. That night we stayed up and caught the ball drop from the comfort of our room in New York. I was thankful not to have gone to Times Square – the drop was anticlimactic, and the weather outside was extremely cold and windy. But to spend New Year’s in New York was something I’ll never forget.
We began 2013 with Chinatown and dimsum with some friends in New York. It surprised me how similar Chinatown in New York was with Hong Kong. In fact, if not for the cold and the yellow taxis, I would have believed I was in Hong Kong. The dimsum hall was also huge, very much like Hong Kong and they had those little trolleys with dimsum where you can just take when it passes you. Overall, a lovely dimsum experience.
Then 2013 got better as we proceeded to Brooklyn and walked on the Brooklyn Bridge. There, we took some lovely photos of the oldest bridge connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan and of the lower Manhattan skyline. It was a lovely and enjoyable walk, and I loved every bit of it.
The bridge ended with Cityhall, right in the heart of the Lower Manhattan. We strolled around a bit more (passing Wall Street and the Bull) and at 4pm, collected our pre-booked tickets to the September 11th Memorial. It was heartwarming and rather solemn to visit the site of September 11th. The two reflecting pools were a sight to behold.
1 World Trade Center
The reflecting pool situated on the site of the South Tower.
That evening, we head to Upper East Side to have dinner with Karina’s cousin. There were some light bites and also some burgers. It was lovely but soon the jet lag kicked in and we were happy to be on our way home on the bus cutting through Central Park. It was a great start to 2013.
The next morning, we headed to East Village. We were meeting up with a friend for lunch, and because we were in the vicinity, we searched for Karina’s new backpack. At the end, we ended up buying one Herschel Mini America backpack each. It was really worth the buy, at $80. And the more I wear it now in London, the more I appreciated the price and it’s value.
Lunch was Japanese, and utterly enjoyable! It wasn’t too pricey too, and we had an amazing bento box together with some roll.
That afternoon, we headed to the Natural History museum and spent the entire evening there. It was uneventful but a nice trip.
Our last day in New York was spent at Central Park. Having fallen in love with it on our second day, we were determined to visit it one more time. This time, we saw more of the park, visiting the Mall and the ice rink. It was still as beautiful and as pretty as my first visit.
Sadly, that was also where we ended our wonderful trip. We went back, packed and headed to JFK. The rest of the trip was history – I took the Q400 from JFK Terminal 7 (where I met Calvin going to LAX) to Toronto, ate some fast fall in Toronto and took the same Boeing 767 back to LHR.
The journey home.
And the first sight of London.
Overall, I enjoyed every moment of my vacation in New York. It ranked quite high on one of my best vacations ever (but not the best). New York was different. It was another global city, but not London. There, it was louder and bigger.
But I still very much prefer London.