3:30am is not a reasonable hour to be awake, I maintain that stance.
However, that was our wake up time for our 6:55am flight to Sydney from Wellington, so there we were, stumbling out of the house at 4am.
Luckily the sun was starting to rise by the time we made it up in the air.
I'll admit I wasn't exactly looking forward to this part of the trip. It's pretty tough for me to sleep on planes so I never enjoy the plane ride. This time we had 3.5 hours to fly from Wellington to Sydney, 12 hours to fly from Sydney to Los Angeles and 4.5 hours to fly from Los Angeles to New York. Add on an extra 3 hours in between each flight and suddenly you've spent more than a day in airports and planes.
During our short stop in Sydney airport to change planes, we discovered that the McDonalds there has a rather ingenious setup. The store is split into 2 levels with the kitchen above, and automated kiosks for ordering below. The assembled and packed orders are attached to a pulley system, much like a dumb waiter. Very novel.
There was a slight hiccup in LA when we tried to transfer flights and got lost - as did almost everyone around us - the directions were not signposted very well, if at all.
After flying from Sydney to New York via Los Angeles (shoutout to Qantas for being such a pleasure to fly with!) we finally arrived in “The Big Apple”.
Arriving in JFK was such an interesting experience. It took about 45 mins for our luggage to reach the baggage claim area, and then I paid $45 USD for a SIM card with 4GB data and I'm still not sure if it was a scam.
We originally planned to take the subway to our hotel, but both of us were tired and just wanting to get there so we opted for a shuttle service.
The shuttle ended up being a good choice as we took a journey through Queens and the outer suburbs of New York before crossing a bridge onto Manhattan. There was an abundance of brick buildings and identical pitched roof townhouses in rows, mixed with grim industrial areas, everything felt a little surreal.
We check into our hotel, Pod 39 on 39th street. Small rooms, glass partition for bathroom that’s only halfway frosted, but clean and tidy! Not too noisy either.
Of course we are pretty hungry by this point and venture out to find some food. A quick google search brought up a couple of choices but the standout was Momosan Ramen & Sake by Iron Chef (if you haven't watched Iron Chef, do because it's great) Masaharu Morimoto on Lexington Ave, a short walk from our hotel.
Despite being a Sunday night, the place was packed out with a small queue forming by the door. Upon arrival we were promptly seated on the bar along the front window, where we were able to people watch to our hearts content.
The menu had several items that I really wanted to try, especially the Peking Duck ramen, but that was unavailable as they had sold out earlier :(
I settled instead for the classic Tonkotsu with extra Pork Chashu and Maurizio had the Tantan, a spicy coconut curry with Pork Chashu and Red Miso ground pork. The service was very prompt and our food arrived quicker than I had anticipated!
Overall, I would definitely rate Momosan Ramen & Sake 10/10. It's the best ramen I've ever had - the noodles were perfectly textured and cooked, the Pork Chashu just melted in your mouth - divine.
After dinner, we weren't too tired so opted for a leisurely stroll around the city, wandering through Grand Central Station and down Madison Avenue before the evening chill started to set in and we hurried back to our hotel to get some long awaited rest.
MoMA and Exploring
After a mad scramble around Grand Central to try and figure out the subway system, we give up and take a bus to the Museum of Modern Art. I've always wanted to visit, every since I was a young art student.
We had a great time wandering through all the art exhibitions, but my favourite by far was the paintings on the 5th floor.
It felt like a high school best of art collection. We saw pieces by all the artists we'd studied - Moholy-Nagy, Leger, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Mondrian, Pollock, Picasso, Monet, so many famous pieces!
My biggest disappointment was that there was only a single Dali, and his most famous The Persistence of Memory was out on loan!
We popped into the MoMA store and had a look around but there wasn't much that we could grab easily and take home. In the end we only got 2 Ramen Sporks, but they are very cool Ramen Sporks and now we will only need a single utensil for eating our Ramen at home. Priceless.
After that we felt brave enough to attempt the subway again and managed to get ourselves to Madison Square Garden, where the best and biggest Photo and Video store is - B & H.
I have to say it was heaven in there, so much camera equipment! I ended up buying a new camera bag - The Bond Street by ONA, a lightweight Manfrotto tripod for our Iceland leg of the trip, a 10 Stop ND filter to play with and an extra battery for my Fuji X-T2.
Maurizio was feeling quite tired by this point so we headed back to the hotel for a nap and some quick snacks from the deli by our hotel.
After a quick nap, we felt refreshed enough to wander out to Times Square for an evening stroll. It's quite mind boggling the sheer number of lights and billboards in that space.
We grabbed a hot chocolate at the Hershey's store and browsed a few more stores. What a great way to end the evening...