Empire State of Mind in New York City

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There’s just something about New York. It’s the thing that urged artists like Frank Sinatra and Jay Z to write the songs that we end up quoting on our Instagram posts.

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that there’s always thousands of people around you, everyone on their own mission, or the sea of yellow taxi’s flooding the streets, or the chaos of the city being broken by the absolute tranquility of Central Park, or the promise of success in the names like ‘Broadway’ or ‘Wall Street’. I guess it’s different for everyone.

It is, however, a very overwhelming city. I tend to take a day or so to get used to the pace and intensity that New Yorkers seem to handle with great ease, but then suddenly feel like I have been living there my whole life (except for the parts where I get completely lost and where the lady at the coffee counter doesn’t understand my South African accent).

I am lucky enough to have an amazing cousin, Ilana (who happens to be one of my favourite people on this planet), who lives and works in this city, so instead of taking on the impossible task of trying to find a reasonably priced AirBnB in Manhattan, I get to live in an apartment in the Upper East Side. Ilana is also an exceptional tour guide.

It’s hard to do a day-by-day of what I did, where I ate and what I experienced while in New York, so I will tell you about the places that I feel you HAVE to visit when you find yourself in New York.

Where to eat:

 

1. Grand Central Oyster Bar

This is an institution in New York and the best place to have your oyster and champagne fix! Don’t sit at a table, turn right when you enter the restaurant and take a seat at the bar where right in front of two cheery guys chucking the very oysters you are about to indulge in

2. The Boathouse Lakeside Restaurant, Central Park

Even though The Boathouse is very well known among tourists and we see it in many a Hollywood movie as a chic wedding venue, it’s not touristy at all. Although you have to be well dressed to get a table at the restaurant on the water, they don’t take reservations which adds to the relaxed atmosphere of this gorgeous place.  Also, they offer good take away breakfasts and coffees if you would rather enjoy Central Park from one of their park benches.

3. Joe’s Shanghai, China Town – The home of Soup Dumplings

Don’t let the exterior of China Town stop you from having the best soup dumplings in Manhattan. I would recommend the Pork Soup Dumplings, with a very close second – the Pork and Crab.

Mexicocina, The Bronx

If you would happen to find yourself in the Bronx (I know, it’s not usually where you would end up when visiting New York), do yourself the favour. They made our guacamole fresh and they give you a whole bucket full, not like some places who give you just about enough for one taco. Have the grilled beef hard shell tacos. Yummy.

5. Seamstress, Upper East Side

Fried Cauliflower and Seared Sirloin to die for. Have a couple of plates to share.

Where to have a drink:

1. The Plaza Hotel

When you go through the main entrance, make your way left and then up the stairs on your right. Go sit right at the bar, the bar ladies are very friendly and you get a snack plate along with your drink. This is where you have the Manhattan in the heart of Manhattan.

2. Apotheke Bar

The ultimate Speakeasy. You won’t see a sign outside of the bar, just enter the darkest door you can find and you will be transported to a 1930’s chemistry, except instead of mixing medicine, they mix cocktails. This is also close to Joe’s Shanghai, so this is a good place to have a drink before or after stuffing yourself with Chinese Food.

3. Dear Irving, Gramercy Park

Another Speakeasy from another era. You might have to share a table with a couple of impeccably dressed New Yorkers (you won’t find a single tourist here), but you won’t ever have to flag down a waitress, just push the button next to your table and your waitress will be there in 5 seconds. Have a Dirty Martini.

4. Any Dive bar

New York has bars EVERYWHERE. You can’t go wrong.

What to do:

1. Watch a ball game

Whatever it is: American Football, Basketball, Baseball – they’re all good fun. I watched a basketball game between the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics. Even though we don’t have good basketball in South Africa, it’s such a easy and entertaining game to follow. Especially when you have a foam finger and they shoot t-shirts from big t-shirt shooting guns 4 times in the game.

2. Go to a Comedy Club

There are a couple of comedy clubs around town, just Google one in your area and you are bound to find one close by. I loved it. They pour the wine glasses to the brim and some of the talent ain’t half bad. Just don’t order food, it’s not worth it.

3. Go to a Jazz Bar in Harlem (Ginny’s Supper Club)

Harlem is one of the areas where jazz got it’s soul. This is the best place for a mix of Southern and Swedish food (weird, I know, but delicious). This is where the first waffles and fried chicken meal was ever eaten. Remember to book and ask for a table where you are guaranteed a view, we got lucky and could literally feel the talent and passion of these jazz musicians. This is a MUST do.

4. Take the ferry to Staten Island

Don’t do a trip to the Statue of Liberty. The view is better and it’s a hell of a lot cheeper just taking the ferry to Staten Island and back.

5. Take a walk up Madison Avenue

Although 5th avenue is great for shopping the brands like Prada, it’s hectic and busy. Window shopping in Madison Avenue from 59th street and up is much better.

6. Watch the sail boats in Central Park

Central Park must be one of my favourite places in the world. Combine that with cute kids playing with remote control sailboats and I’m hooked.

7. Times Square at 5:30 in the morning.

Throughout the day, you won’t find a single New Yorker in Times Square. It is most definitely the busiest place I have ever been in my entire life, lights and people everywhere! But, I walked though Times Square on my way to the subway station when I headed to Brooklyn for my half marathon. It was so peaceful. Although the lights on all the billboards were still flashing like crazy, there was not more than 10 people in sight. If you want to experience this iconic landmark in NYC, do it while everyone else is sleeping and you are about to run a half marathon in freezing temperatures.

These are a couple of the gems that I had come across in the time that I had spent in New York. I absolutely love this city for its mix of food, fashion, lifestyle and personalities.

I always feel like I am leaving a day or two too early, just as I start looking the right way for traffic before crossing the street and just as my pronunciation of ‘water’ is so that the waiters understand me, I have a flight back home.

I am however excited to see my dogs.

Until next time NYC!

A B xxx

(EDIT: if you happen to fly from Terminal 7 on JFK, have the Korean BBQ Chicken Wings from Blue Point Restaurant close to Gate 1. They are delish.)

 

 

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