New York: Part 2 - Exploring Lower Manhattan and experiencing a NY Blizzard
Chinatown, Little Italy, 9/11 Memorial, Wall Street, Staten Island, Statue of Liberty
Despite our best intentions, the jetlag has really kicked in and we woke up at midday in a panic, after having trouble sleeping the night before.
We quickly packed our daypack and hopped on the subway to our first stop - Tim Ho Wan the Dim Sim specialists. New York might be the best place other then China to get Chinese food and we were not disappointed!
The decor was really nice, with good service and ambience. unfortunately, I was too busy eating to my hearts content to take any decent photos, so here's one of me eating BBQ Pork Rice Rolls - Yum! 10/10 delicious.
Next stop was Chinatown. We spent some time wandering through all the alleys and streets of colourful shops. There was an overwhelming number of jewellery shops for some reason, each with more ostentatious and elaborate pieces on display in the windows than the last.
We eventually find ourselves wandering through Little Italy. There are many Chinese shops still interspersed between Italian restaurants, cafés and pizzerias. An Italian gentleman politely invites us to dine in one of the restaurants, but we tell him that we've already eaten lunch, and he kindly sends us on our way, with a blessing. How nice.
I have to say that the majority of our interactions in New York have been fairly good, the people have been friendly and helpful. One time when we went to a deli to pick up sandwiches, we were stopped and asked if we would like to be interviewed on the 'Crisis in New York'. As we answered, it became evident that no, we were not from New York or even America, and no, we had no idea about the crisis in New York (apparently there was a shortage of convenience stores). It was nice that we must have looked local enough to be asked though!
Our next stop was to the Financial District where the World Trade Centre and Wall Street are located. We hopped off the subway and found ourselves in the middle of a bustling hubub of activity.
At the centre of the district is the 9/11 Memorial. It's quite a fitting memorial - 2 enormous rectangular spaces, with water falling into the centre, and another smaller square, a reverse image of the twin towers. the black stone around the edges are engraved with the names of the lives lost on 9/11.
We also popped down to Wall street and checked out the statue of the Charging Bull. A large number of people were gathered around the bull's testicles for a feel - what odd behaviour.
Feeling a little tired, we decided to head to the Staten Island ferry for a quite trip and a chance to rest our feet. We walk there via the Bowling green, which is quite a nice large area of park at the bottom tip of Manhattan. There are many squirrels darting around, and they are very friendly, probably used to being feed by visitors.
The Staten Island Ferry is a free service run by the New York City Department of Transport, and there are services approx every 20 mins.
The ferry is a great way to get a good view of the city, and you can even catch the Statue of Liberty. The ride is only about 15mins each way so it's a pretty quick round trip.
At this point, there is a snow warning and the sky is spitting down the occasional speck of ice. We duck into a cafe to get a hot drink to keep us a warm. Interestingly, we ordered a 'medium' hot chocolate (apparently nothing in America gets served in small sizes) and it's huge.
16 Oz for a medium sized hot chocolate? Ridiculous. I couldn't even finish half of it. And it cost me $2.75
Oh well. Time for food instead!
Maurizio and I have been watching a TV show called Fresh off the Boat, about an first generation immigrant family in America. This show was based off a memoir written by Eddie Huang, owner of the Baohaus in NY.
We really enjoy the show for it's strong characters, in particular Jessica Huang, played by Constance Wu, who I empathise with somewhat.
It's also great to see a show that portrays a family of colour, and addresses the struggles of immigrants to assimilate into society, finding the right balance between cultures.
Anyway, back to Eddie Huang, we love the show and wanted to try out his food too. He has another Vice show on Youtube called Huang's World where he travels the world tasting and learning about food from a variety of cultures.
We had a minor panic attack as we approached because they had the winter screen up outside the store and we thought they were not open. Luckily as we walked up we could see people moving around and realised that it must be open.
We ordered a couple of Baos each - a chicken one each and I got a tofu bao while Maurizio went for a classic Pork Belly - along with a portion of delicious Taro fries (We have kumara fries in NZ but not Taro fries! I bet my mum would love some Taro fries). Maurizio really liked the spicy haus sauce that came with the taro fries - he was reading this as I type and wanted me to add that.
The chicken bao was superb, juicy and crunchy with the right amount of seasoning. The salty sweet garlic and peanut topping was the perfect blend of flavours. Eddie you genius! I tried a little of Maurizio's pork bao and it was pretty good, the pork was well seasoned and tender.
A little less impressive was the Tofu bao. I normally love tofu, and if you cook it right, I'll never complain about it being flavourless, but this was a little disappointing. I didn't particularly enjoy the sauce and the tofu was quite bland by itself.
All in all a 9/10 experience.
We decide to do a little shopping afterwards and head to Muji, one of the best places in the world. Muji is all about quality goods, without the branding. They have everything - clothes, homewares, even plants! They are opening a couple of hotels in China and I plan to stay there next time I visit!
We buy a few clothing items to top up our supplies (I needed a few extra tops and a beanie that wasn't full of holes to cover my ears and Maurizio needed a cashmere scarf). I wish there was Muji in Wellington...
After getting back to the hotel, I spend 2 hours waiting on the phone to Iceland Air to check the status of our flights to Reykjavik. They cancelled our flights...
The earliest flight we could get out of New York is the 23rd of March, 2 days after we are meant to be in Iceland, and a day after our G-Adventures Iceland Northern Lights & Golden Circle is meant to begin. Not going to lie, I'm disappointed.
Snow, Shopping and Cinemas
We woke up to a full on snow storm on Wednesday morning. While we were excited to see that is was in fact snowing, we were planning to do a few outdoor activities such as walking Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge that weren't so appealing in the snow.
I guess a quiet day mostly indoors was probably the best idea.
We ventured out to the corner store for some breakfast bagels with cream cheese - huge, delicious and only $2!
While it was snowing outside, the weather wasn't actually that terrible, it's not like Wellington where the slightest wind will chill you to the bone. The fresh snow kind of just brushes off your jackets as you walk so we didn't get that wet.
After munching on our bagels back at the hotel, we planned out the day ahead.
First off, we needed to book a new hotel because now we were staying an extra 2 nights, our hotel was fully booked out that night! Fortunately, they are part of a chain and had another hotel in Midtown East called Pod 51 (on 51st Street). Unfortunately they were a bit more expensive than out first hotel, but hopefully our travel insurance will cover it!
We catch a cab uptown to our new hotel and check in. Fortunately our room was already available so we dropped off our bags and headed out to do some shopping at Bloomingdale's.
Bloomingdale's is the kind of shop you hear about on tv, movies and books, but it's really weird to go to in real life. The department store is massive, with stands for all the major labels. The first 3 floors were pretty standard, dare I say affordable items. We decided to venture further up the floors, which turned out to be serious designer labels and couture - way out of our budgets so we quickly skipped past. I did find a pair of fantastic skinny jeans that fit me like no other jean has fit me in my life. I always struggle to find pants that actually taper to my ankle, but these rag & bone jeans are some kind of miracle.
We were stopped by an Irish store clerk named James who asked where we were from, and upon hearing that we were Kiwis, talked a million miles an hour about Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, pies, and various other Kiwi related topics. I'll be honest, he spoke so fast I barely caught half of what he was saying, but he did write down some restaurants for us to try, including a Kiwi/Aussie Pie place in Brooklyn called DUB Pies. Unfortunately, I'm not sure we'll have time to make it out to Brooklyn this trip.
We did have time to grab a cupcake from the famous Magnolia Bakery. If I'm honest, I wasn't all that impressed with the cupcakes - they were far too sweet for my liking with a bit too much frosting.
We also popped into the Dean and DeLuca deli for a quick bite to eat before catching a movie.
The original plan was to go and see Black Panther in IMAX because that would be a cool experience. Turns out it's $28 USD per person and there was no way we were paying $80 NZD for the 2 of us to see a movie.
Instead we opted for the regular 2D screening at a still somewhat unreasonable $17 USD. We went the full mile and even got ourselves a 'regular' sized coke cup that's more like a super size one in NZ.
I really enjoyed Black Panther, the soundtrack was excellent and the characters were a lot better than I expected. I did find it a little hard to follow the dialogue at times though.
The movie finished around 9pm and we were a bit hungry so opted to find some late night ramen. Luckily there was a place close by our hotel called Totto Ramen. We though we would be able to order and take it back to the hotel to eat, but they were serving dine in only so that was a bit annoying.
Maurizio and I both ordered the Chicken Paitan with Char Siu Pork.
The noodles and pork were excellent but personally I wasn't a fan of the broth, or the millions of julienned spring onions among the boodles, a bit strong for my taste.
Still a nice way to end the day, after braving the cold and icy streets of New York.