Back in college I made plans to travel with my girlfriends but they did not work out due to various reasons. I always thought I would make good on this plan in the future. Fast forward five years and we ended up living in different countries and got busy in our lives. But a few months back, a last minute girls trip happened that brought back that old bug of mine. For us, New York was the best choice since we did not want to bother ourselves with driving.
We stayed in Lower Manhattan at Pod 39, a trendy boutique hotel just walking distance from the Grand Central Terminal Station. Although our room was tiny (as advertised by the hotel) we tuned ourselves to the small space in no time. Eat/Drink: Salvation Taco at the Pod 39.
The main concourse at Grand Central Terminal Station evokes a sense of pleasantness, be it the architecture or the zodiac murals on the ceiling or the shimmering chandeliers. Who wouldn’t want to start their day with this iconic station, with fresh juice and awesome desserts to fuel ourselves. Eat/Drink: Magnolia Bakery.
This is not a typical touristy write up about New York, not that those places are any less fascinating. This is more like my personal guide to the neighbourhoods in New York for those who like to experience the real character and feel of a city.
Brooklyn Heights and Brooklyn Promenade
If you are a fan of Gossip Girl, Brooklyn to you might resonate with Dan Humphrey’s den which stands as a contrast to the Upper East Side, but as they say there is more than what meets the eye. From picture perfect row houses and brownstones to street side gardens and quiet streets, you will fall in love with Brooklyn Heights. Eat/Drink – Vineapple Cafe.
I recommend going to Brooklyn Heights Promenade in the evening and take in the spectacular Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. Come night time and we were walking on the Brooklyn Bridge which is the one of the most iconic walks New York has to offer.
Soho is the place to be. This coveted neighborhood offers everything from flagship stores, trendy boutiques, art galleries, street artists and quaint cafes.
If you are in Soho, you have to go to Ladurée (an upscale Parisian bakery) and sit in their garden while devouring their delectable desserts. I usually don’t have a restaurant on my itinerary while planning a trip, except this time. I stumbled upon Ladurée on Instagram and had it saved on my phone.
If you are in the mind to try out some authentic Asian cuisine, head to Chinatown. Having relied on the cart based dim sum in India, I was amazed to find a whole menu dedicated to dim sum at Red Egg. Good quality ingredients, fresh preparation,affordable pricing and a charming waitress; made this place my absolute favourite. You will find a lot of foot massage places in Chinatown and trust me, it feels so relaxing after all the walking you do.
High Line is a well-publicized place in Chelsea, where a set of old train tracks have been transformed into an elevated park. You can see art installation, vendors, water features on the walkway. Entrances are located at various streets but I recommend the 14th street entrance. Avoid afternoons as it can get very hot and sunny.
For food lovers like me, Chelsea Market has everything from lobsters to sushi to Nutella smothered crepes to Mexican meets Thai; which ultimately made it hard for us to pick a place. So we went with some good Old Italian at Giovanni Rana Pastificio & Cucina. Squeeze in some time for shopping at the daily market. Check out Brooklyn Charm, where you get to design your own jewellery and customize it.
5th Avenue was a must do on our trip. We wandered for at least 2 hours getting in and out of stores, shopping at every ZARA store we came across, all the while admiring the amazing window displays. Apart from the shops, there are interesting sights along 5th Avenue like the Rockefeller Center, the Trump Tower, the Empire State Building, the Flatiron Building and the New York Public Library. We absolutely loved going to Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library. There is always something happening at Bryant Park, from people playing chess or sunbathing during the day to showing old classic movies at night.
We kept Central Park for the last day of our trip. It was the perfect way to say goodbye. We had breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien where we spotted a celebrity whose name we did not know, fed leftovers from our scones to birds (yes, that happened), struggled with the camera’s self timer to get the shot below and dozed off until the rain started to pour.
As a traveler, there is a constant mind battle, a to-do list vs. follow the gut, plans and protocols vs. vagabond traits…I had set few pointers, not plans because I know that’s not my thing..
- Indulge in desserts. Check
- Try different cuisines. Check
- Return to hotel for siesta. (Couldn’t do this one, NYC just kept us on our toes!)
- Quit Starbucks & try local coffee places. Check
So, it looks like I complied to all except returning to the hotel to rest, but that’s what happens when you plan a trip to THE CITY- NYC. There is surely a reason why it is called the city that never sleeps.
And rightly so, Frank Sinatra says:
“I want to be a part of it, New York, New York.
These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it, New York, New York.”