So i’ve spent the last two years writing about my experiences on the road. Istanbul, Marrakech, Barcelona… the list goes on. Scribbling about iconic cities thousands of miles away it’s easy to become adjusted to fixing one’s eyes on the horizon, even when some of the worlds most striking sites are right out your front door.
While working on my current project I came across a picture that took me a few moments to place. A photograph displaying a colorful spread of fresh fruits and veggies at some farmers market, a beautiful image… but where was this? Here I am with this blank expression trying to figure out where this shot was taken. I have to play it backwards. The wine tastings, the B & B… a long bus ride from… Ah! New York City.
How could I have neglected the most populace city in the United States? Let’s blame it on my memory, the one which leaves me here with a fragmented collection of photographs and receipts stuck between the pages of an outdated NYC guide. So I present to you a vague collection of memories on a very Big Apple.
New York City
Day 1- Manhattan, China Town, Korea Town, Greenwich Village
We land at JFK, catch a cab to Manhattan, and the jaw dropping begins. This is my first trip to New York after all.
We’re staying at The Roger, a boutique hotel teetering Korea Town at Madison and 31st. Settling in we quickly head out working our way south to China Town. Under Mandarin awnings we hide from the rain. There are roasted ducks hanging between paper lamps. Exotic colors, rare teas and imported goods pour into the streets. Settled in the 1800’s the neighbourhood continues to be the epicenter for Chinese heritage in the US and I feel a beautiful sense of pride from the people here.
We grab a snack at a wee Chinese cafe (Steamed buns, aloe vera juice, moshi, and pastries with sweet bean paste). I would highly urge, at the very least, having lunch in China Town. Pho, dumplings, and lobster are common among a countless collection of legitimate eateries.
After the long walk from the hotel to China Town a cab ride is in order for the jaunt to our dinner destination in Greenwich Village, Joseph Leonard. This was one of my favorite places we hit up and I highly recommend eating here. It’s a rugged yet cozy brasserie, namely American in design and menu. When we arrive the place is packed with a bit of a wait but shortly we are seated at the bar and thoroughly enjoy our dimly lit dinner with cocktails while the rain still falls on and off outside.
Completely drained we hail a cab back to our hotel and celebrate our first day in this grand city with a few more cocktails on the rooftop bar. Pass out. End scene.
Day 2- Central Park, The Museum of Natural History, Lower East Side
With the day to myself I head out for Central Park and the Museum of Natural History. It’s a much longer walk than I thought it would be so I wind up grabbing a classic NYC bagel slathered in peanut butter and an espresso to keep me going. I breeze through the Garment District, Times Square and into the terrarium that is Central Park. I’m left speechless at first. The greenery in this massive space really leaves one with the sense of being removed from the concrete jungle.
I do a quick run by Central Park Zoo before cutting across to the Museum of Natural History. My archaic cell phone begins the inevitable bleeping of a dying battery. And here I am, the guy without a camera, entering a museum full of wonders crying out to be photographed. I have to decide between snapping shots of dinosaurs and the remains of early hominids or reserve whats left to keep in touch with Jaclyn. Damn. The Museum is under restoration (at the grand entrance) stripping all the photogenic qualities away. I squeeze through the entrance to be corralled into a line that takes 40 minutes to get through. Dart to the stairs and climb to the second floor (Human origins, Anthropology, and foreign flora/fauna), then to the fourth floor (Dinosaurs) working my way down from there.
I make little progress before being summoned by Jaclyn to meet her in the Lower East Side (LES). So, lesson learned, the museum is a beast. Dont underestimate the time it takes to see each floor, even sparingly.
I’m running through the streets, searching for a subway entrance and trying to soak in everything I just saw. Remnants of our planets, and extraterrestrial, going ons. I’m daydreaming the entire sub ride. Dinosaurs, space travel… Arabia. So inspiring. Arriving in the LES it takes a moment for me to locate Jaclyn. Before dinner we run to a few of the shops recommended by our guide. B-4 It Was Cool, a quirky collection of vintage objects with a focus on lighting. It has a very steam-punk/curiosity cabinet feel. And Assembly NYC, a boutique focused on hard to find/one-of-a-kind fashion labels and accessories.
Our stomachs soon lead us to the Ten Bells. Chalk boards line each wall with scribblings of the days eats, an unbelievable wine list, oysters, and charcuterie to tempt the iron fisted vegetarian. We crush through a variety of oysters, downing wine and beer along the way. The friendly staff send us through gastronomic ecstasy. The vibe is intimate with a dark hipster slant, but what establishment in NY isn’t? Indie tunes hang low alongside the lighting allowing for a comfortable environment.
We’re stuffed, and the bottle has run dry. Moving on we flag down a cab and we’re swerving through the Theatre District to the Hudson. Take every image you can conjure of sophistication in architecture, apply a chic core and a stylish twist of lime and multiply that a thousand times over. This place defines swanky! After touring the first floor bar areas we head to the rooftop. Spectacular views and lounging with overpriced drinks is a paradisiacal way to end the evening.
Day 3-Brooklyn, East Village
We make it a point to head out early as it’s our last day in the city and we’ve a lot of ground to cover. We dart out on the subway to the East Village for a quick visit to the storefront of one of Jaclyn’s design idols, John Derian. A master of decoupage and other handmade goods his storefront combines an assemblage of vintage objects, unique lighting and stationary including bygone pamphlets and art in his quirky collection of ephemera. All displayed between his own line of furniture and decorative goods.
It’s back to the subway and onward to Brooklyn! The station actually drops us off right outside The Brooklyn Botanical Garden. Resting on 39 acres that were reserved in 1897, the Gardens combine an envious collection of flora with a respectable sense of architecture that dances with the greenery. Just another one of those NY sights which could easily consume an entire day. We trace a route through our map of the park to help us stay on track.
The main path leads you around the rhombus shaped garden without missing a beat. Beyond the vibrant colors and alien foliage of the first few sections we reach the Cherry Esplanade. It’s dreamy and the odors in the air intoxicating. We wander through the rest of the reserve in a state of euphoria.
After a refreshing kombucha from the Terrace Cafe we enter the Bonsai Museum where 30 trees are on display at any given time from a collection of 350. Outside we wander the Lilly Pond where I find a collection of lotuses, a plant which i’ve nurtured a healthy obsession with.
Onward we hit the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. It’s breathtaking. Playing off aesthetic asymmetry and an equal balance of natural versus man-made environments and littered with relics of Japanese history.
Emerging from the Gardens we race against the clock to scratch off our list the last stops of the day. Down the block we hit Eponymy, a small boutique recommended by a friend who previously lived in Brooklyn. Intrigued by their blend of old and new, quirkiness and classicism, we are happy we made the stop. After canoodling with the shop dog, Bianca, Jaclyn purchases a bracelet and we carry on.
Around the block its on to Cog & Pearl. This is where I would do ALL of my gift shopping were I a Brooklynite. Cog & Pearl’s memorable items for me were cool jewelry (Jaclyn also bought a pair of earrings here) and fun/funky handmade items like terrariums with tiny people and animals inside. Plus they had a great selection of books, cards and the uncategorizable “I gotta-have-it things.” It’s hip and maybe a bit trendy but we are totally feeling this Brooklyn thing so its a memorable stop.
With a raging appetite we’re down 5th Avenue to a highly recommended Latin bistro for dinner, Bogota. This is where two vegetarians lay it all on the line and order the Bandeja Paisa or Colombian Platter. Fit for a king or a starving dinosaur it’s a spread of grilled skirt steak, pork chicharron, white arepa, rice & beans, fried egg, maduros, avocado, cabbage salad. Hot damn! With drool inducing aromas in the air we dig in.
With a side order of… whatever this crunchy corn tortilla with guacamole and goat cheese is called! It’s nothing short of scrumptious.
After dinner Jaclyn pulls out a crumpled piece of paper. On it, the directions to a lesser known bar called the 124 Old Rabbit Club. It takes us back to Greenwich Village. The bar is essentially a dungeon with an eclectic array of beers. The space is small and lit only by the odd tea candles which are scattered across the bar and the half dozen tables. Between the libations and punk rock I fall in love with the Big Apple. Sad to say, this was our last night in the city. We drink and drink… and drink our way back to the Roger, where it all began.
As this adventure came to an end our time in NY was far from over. Next Stop- Long Island!