Concrete Jungle Where Dreams Are Made Of – New York City Travelogue

US East Coast Trip - New York City. Brooklyn Bridge against the Manhattan skyline, taken from Brooklyn Pier.

I’ve procrastinated writing my travelogue to NYC, because I’m not sure how to properly write a trip to a city that had been written to death in numerous travel sites. There’s nothing to “recommend” since there are a lot of recommendations online; it was more like us moving around to try whatever we could on the recommendations we found online.

US East Coast Trip - New York City. Brooklyn Bridge against the Manhattan skyline, taken from Brooklyn Pier.

Arriving into New York City

First, the logistics.

We went from Washington DC to NYC, via nothing other than the Northeast Regional. To do that, we walked 5 minutes down to a bus stop along K Street (about one block away from Washington Plaza Hotel) to take a 15-minute bus ride to Union Station.

We buffered for plenty of time for bus rides and walking, so we spent that extra time settling down at Pret A Manger for breakfast.

Lucky for us, I made the bold decision to purchase tickets for Business Class seats (more expensive, but I did not have to pay an arm or a leg for the upgrade). I was all the more relieved after we saw the horrendous queue for the Economy class. The staff went down the line and looked for premium passengers like N and I who unwittingly queued up with the cattle 😛 Then, she led us from the back of the line alllllll the way to the front (I reckon it was like 100m long?) and boarded the train first. To me, the “extra space” or comfort offered by this Business Class was nothing compared to the ability to “cut queue” – it was definitely worth paying that extra!

US East Coast Trip - Washington DC. Union Station of Washington DC.

After arriving at NY Penn Station, we switched to the subway to drop off at Rector Street and walked to our hotel at Club Quarters Hotel World Trade Center.

The hotel was a short walk from the subway station, but learning from my previous experience, I made sure I looked up and memorised the exit that we were supposed to walk to, and then the number of streets before we had to make turns etc, for the grid-like street system of the Big Apple, though straightforward, can become confusing as every street corner looked similar to each other for new visitors.

The 4-hour journey from DC meant that we checked in nicely at 3pm and had sufficient time to do some roaming before we head off to watch a Broadway show.

Speaking of Broadway shows, this arrangement was in a way to make up for the musical we missed back in London’s West End. In that spring of 2016, we had wanted to catch The Phantom of the Opera on the night we flew in from Edinburgh. Unfortunately, the British Airways flight was delayed and we missed our show. This time around, learning from our mistake, we left 5 hours from our ETA to the start of the show – a back-up plan that we thankfully need not activate!

US East Coast Trip - New York City. Fountain in the Christmas Market in Bryant Park.

New York Public Library and Bryant Park

With that extra time, we went around to New York Public Library (being the scholarly dudes we were, as one is a NUS Book Prize Winner and the other a Harvard dream-abe) to soak in the festive mood within the library.

I had been to old, Victorian-ish (frankly speaking, I do not know the architectural style) buildings and my Munich trip the year before afforded me the chance to soak in authentic European Christmas mood. However, being inside an old building in New York City, with its own American style of Christmas-ism was a different story!

US East Coast Trip - New York City. Facade of New York Public Library.

I felt half-Harry Potter, half Home Alone, scurrying in between the reading rooms with the crowd, wondering how those people could study with all the tourist-y activities going around them. When we were there, the Christmas tree at the hall was nearly done – already, I could feel the season’s greetings!

US East Coast Trip - New York City. Main Hall of New York Public Library. Christmas tree was set up.
US East Coast Trip - New York City. Facade of New York Public Library.

The mood outdoors didn’t feel so Christmas-ish. True, the sky was overcast with wintry winds and it was drizzling for most of our first evening at NYC. Eventually, I couldn’t be bothered with hiding from the rain, since that fuzzy drizzy still managed to find its way under my hoodie!

Before we arrived at New York Public Library, we dropped by the Christmas Market at Bryant Park. The atmosphere at the park was literally warm with all the crowd and hot food! Despite the wet and gloomy ambience, everyone was all smiles and filled with positive energy, which was what I quite liked about making the trip there!

The last meal we had was the brunch at Penn Station in Washington DC before we hopped onto the train, so by then, we were famished, but we still wanted to leave some room for dinner. Therefore, we ended up with just a serving of piping hot fries and gobbled them down in double quick time to save them from being drenched by the rain! 😛

US East Coast Trip - New York City. View of Times Square from Foundry, a bar at Westin.

Times Square and Broadway

The remaining time to our Broadway show was a bit of a mess, since we had too much time to spare. We went to McDonald’s for dinner, and then backtracked to Toys R Us (lucky we went there before it went bankrupt!) to pretend we were kids again, before finding ourselves at Foundry, a bar at The Westin New York in Times Square for some more finger food to kill time.

I cheesily chose Anastasia for our Broadway experience, for that “once upon a December” Christmas-sy mood. We bought the tickets just before we headed off to Bryant Park; that was super last minute, boy was I glad that we managed to snag seats for ourselves, albeit at the front few rows!

Being sat up front didn’t dampen any of the quality for the show! The singing was on point, the effects were magical and the scenes were so tightly-knitted, time flew past before we knew it! Apparently, N had never watched a musical before, and thank goodness it was a good show put up!

US East Coast Trip - New York City. Wall Street's New York Stock Exchange facade with xiong xiong the teddy bear.

Day 2

The next morning, we popped by Leo’s Bagel, which was in Wall Street near our hotel. As there was literally no place to dine at the small store, we just stood at the street corner outside of Leo’s Bagel to finish it off! Although it was recommended by Tripadvisor, I didn’t think highly of it. I found the bagel too hard for my liking, as my mouth was aching from all the abrasion from the bagel!

What was a trip to Wall Street without the Wall Street bull? Just months before, the Wall Street Girl was put up, in a posture that set her in a confrontation with the bull, in the name of feminism. Much had been talked about the controversy of feminism, but I thought that placement was smashing symbolic!

US East Coast Trip - New York City. Wall Street Bull, with xiong xiong the teddy bear.

Of course, Xiong Xiong got to come out and have a ball of a time with the bull!

US East Coast Trip - New York City. Brooklyn Bridge against the sky, taken from Brooklyn Pier.

Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge

Our main itinerary of the day was to visit Brooklyn Bridge, so we took the subway from Bowling Green to Borough Hall in Brooklyn, before taking a stroll down towards the riverside. However, that walk proved to be too much, so we settled down at the first café we came across, Bluestone Lane, to have a cuppa before we went on towards the river.

However, no matter how we searched, we could not find The Spot where everybody else took their iconic shot with the bridge in the background! All we could catch was the underside of Manhattan Bridge, and a very flattering angle of the distant, but panoramic, view of Brooklyn Bridge.

US East Coast Trip - New York City. Manhattan Bridge against the Manhattan skyline.

It was only after a while that I realised my mistake… I had mistaken the bridge in the iconic shot as Brooklyn Bridge, when it was supposed to be Manhattan Bridge! Blame it on the bad tagging of the instagrammers! hmmfff! We eventually found the lane where the Manhattan Bridge peeked in between from 2 rows of nostalgic townhouses and took our been there, done that shot!

US East Coast Trip - New York City. Brooklyn Bridge against the Manhattan skyline, taken from Brooklyn Pier.

All was not lost with Brooklyn Bridge, because we also found the spot near Pier 1 to take some impressive shot of the lady stretching herself across the waters!

US East Coast Trip - New York City. At Brooklyn, at Manhattan Bridge photo spot.
US East Coast Trip - New York City. At Brooklyn, near Manhattan Bridge photo spot, with me spotting my doppelganger, Lang Lang the musician on the bus.
I also found my doppelganger: Lang Lang, the musician!

A trip to Brooklyn would not be complete without us dropping by… New York Transit Museum! They converted a decommissioned subway station with the connecting tracks into a space that not only recorded the history of subway in NYC with posters, but with actual cars themselves! Those exhibits would not only get train buffs like N wet, but it was significant as NYC sports the largest subway system in the world. What better way to appreciate its contribution to the economy of NYC, than to visit the New York Transit Museum?

US East Coast Trip - New York City. At Brooklyn, inside New York Transit Museum, one of the old carriages of the subway system.

Lunch at IHOP

We rounded off our day trip to Brooklyn with lunch at IHOP – International House of Pancakes. We heard that locals loved dining at IHOP, so we thought we would experience something that locals do!

US East Coast Trip - New York City. Pancakes and toasts at IHOP in Brooklyn.

Again, I was spoilt for choices. In the end, N and I each ordered a set, which came with toasts and pancakes. Mine was with chicken sausage and scrambled eggs while his came in French toasts, bacon, omelette and toasts with banana and caramel.

Their food really recalled all memories of childhood; I wonder where the eateries serving such tastes have gone to in Singapore? I particularly liked the hashbrowns, which was made of potato strips (instead of the potato bits that had been made popular by McDonald’s) and was slightly burnt.

US East Coast Trip - New York City. Pancakes and toasts at IHOP in Brooklyn.

The whole restaurant also harked back to the 80s, with ceramic tiles and plastic seated booths. The place was crowded, but not claustrophobic as they left plenty of empty spaces between tables. It felt a little awkward though, that we were the only Chinese/Asian in the whole place!

US East Coast Trip - New York City. One World Trade Center against New York City skyline, with the canopy (signature spikes) of the Oculus in the foreground.

World Trade Center

We were early in our schedule, so we crossed the East River again for a tour of World Trade Center, which by the way, was visible from our hotel, since we were just a few blocks away from it.

The last time I was here, One World Trade Center was yet to be completed, so it was awesome to see it in its full glory, glistening under the winter sun, towering over us minions with the other skyscrapers.

US East Coast Trip - New York City. Interior of Oculus, with its cathedral like cavernous space.

Our point of entry was World Trade Center subway station, where we got to view the Oculus from the inside out. The splendour of the structure was beyond words, even though the cathedral like space spoke out to us visually and spatially. There was this buzz from the scurrying of thousands of commuters, yet a blanket of silence filled the space.

The outside of the Oculus was just as spectacular, with its giant spikes forming a gradient towards One World Trade Center. In photos, the structure looked just like any other station architecture. It was only when I was standing under the canopy that I got to appreciate the grandeur of it all!

The 9/11 Memorial was unique in its own rights. The reverse fountain drained into a hole in the middle of the spacious cavity, making one wonder what lies beyond that emptiness, which was out there, but beyond reach? I knew none of the people whose names were carved onto the sides of the fountains, just like I knew nothing of the water that flowed away. Yet they carried with them a certain degree of heaviness that everyone who grew up watching the terrible images unfold on TV could feel.

US East Coast Trip - New York City. 9/11 Memorial North Pool, against New York City skyline.

If you get the chance, stand at a corner and be amazed at how the wind got channelled to a single spot. Try to stand still for more than a minute if you can!

US East Coast Trip - New York City. View of Manhattan Island, from One World Observatory atop One World Trade Center. The East River is seen on the center of the picture, with East Village in the foreground and Brooklyn in the background.

Sunset at One World Observatory

Another place on our list was One World Observatory.

The journey started in the amazing elevator that was fitted out with LED screens that brought us through the history of Manhattan island as the elevator physically and figuratively rose above the surrounding landscape. The observatory provided us with 360 views of the NYC, across all the boroughs that the metropolis covered.

Since young, I was amazed by urban development, so it was a heart-stopping experience to view them like small simulation pieces around us and beneath our feet!

Having been to Empire State Building and Rockefeller’s observatory decks, I must say the one at One World Observatory was different. Unlike the older 2 decks, One World Observatory was totally enclosed, which meant that it would not be closed to public due to bad weather. On the other hand, of course, you don’t get to experience the air high above the metropolis!

We also managed to catch the sunset 1776 feet above ground, and watch the lights go on in the sprawling metropolis below. It was magical to see the world’s greatest city in 2 views and that made all the effort to make it there, at the right time, worthwhile.

In fact, we stayed up there for at least 2 hours, soaking in every bit of the changing scenery high up in the air.

US East Coast Trip - New York City. Sunset view of Manhattan Island, from One World Observatory atop One World Trade Center. Bronx is seen in the middle ground, with the Statue of Liberty at the centre left of the picture.

Dinner was at Shake Shack which, despite its fame, I had never eaten at before! I went for the simple Chick’n Shack that came with juicy ridge fries and a cup of thick and creamy Chocolate Shake. Well… That recovered all the calories burnt searching for Brooklyn Bridge!

to be continued…

US East Coast Trip - New York City. Street view of Times Square after dark.

This post is part of my series to document my trip to US East Coast, which started with my trip reports on Thai Airways via Boeing 777-300ER and on Scandinavian Air Systems (SAS), heartfelt experience at Washington DC, exploring the skyscrapers of the Big Apple and my immersion of old English ambience in Boston, including an overview of the Lobster Rolls I found in Boston. Subscribe to my blog for further updates of my trip!

If you enjoyed reading this trip report, please like and share my post to your friends!

Till then, stay wanderlust!

All photos and videos were taken using Olympus TG870 and Google Pixel XL, and edited with Snapseed.

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