On our 3rd day in NYC, we headed to Katz’s Delicatessen in Lower East Side for breakfast. The whole establishment looked like an enlarged version of an eatery I visited in Madrid!
The ordering process was very much like an old-school Marche. You get a ticket at the entrance, and then place your orders from the stations along the serving counter; you can’t cross order even though they were like standing next to each other. You can only order from the menu that was set up behind the guy near the ceiling. So it seemed like Singapore’s work culture of not doing anyone’s work isn’t that unique after all!
I ordered this thing that was a cross between a hashbrown and a croquette, which looked dubious, but I ended up liking it a lot! I could taste the potato, marinated with some herbs and spices, although I could also taste the sweet caramelisation of onions. The texture tasted like a meat patty instead, so I couldn’t really make out if it was really hashbrown, or a variation of it! N on the other hand ordered a sandwich with egg and cheese – normal fare, but just as gratifying!
From Katz’s Delicatessen, we took a bus across town to SoHo/Greenwich Village for a look-see look-see of the neighbourhood (we had nothing to eat at or do in particular). This was following the bus ride we took at Washington DC, from our hotel to Union Station, which was our way of experiencing local lifestyle.
From there, we took the subway to look for Chelsea Market (we didn’t get in, because we couldn’t find the entrance!) and then took the entrance at St 14 to go onto High Line.
This was the part which I was familiar, as I stayed in the area around Greenwich Village by the river on my first visit to the Big Apple. (I wonder if Jane Hotel still exists?) That time, I didn’t know what the hell High Line was; I was roaming aimlessly in the neighbourhood and I saw a staircase leading to the “street” above, where I found a beautifully landscaped park above the hustle and bustle of NYC!
The High Line then was only in its first phase of completion, so it was still a small park to walk. After I discovered it, I made excuses to walk through it a couple of times more (like when travelling in between subway stations) so that I could experience the park!
This time around, with the full length of High Line completed, we dared ourselves to complete the whole trail! We even backtracked to the starting of High Line at Gansevoort Street just to make it complete!
We walked past familiar sights, like The Standard, a hotel straddling across the park and the Tenth Avenue Square, where the park turned and crossed 10th Avenue and where a terraced space was carved out to let people watch the traffic pass by below on Tenth Avenue (and of course, look into the length of the avenue with its canyon-like buildings closing in onto the vanishing point).
There were also new sights, like the oddly angled HL-23 building, or the part where the foot path was elevated to preserve the original plants that grew on the tracks after the it was abandoned.
The weather had cleared a lot since the evening we arrived in the Big Apple. Thankfully, it was winter, so despite the sun’s strong rays, the walk through High Line was still comfortable! In fact, many people were also out and about in that fine weather!
High Line swept west as we approached Hudson Yards, which by now was taking shape with its gleaming new skyscrapers. It was daunting to see how far we still had to go before we reached the designated end of the park, which was right opposite the yards (since the park circumvented Hudson Yards), but we did it anyways.
Just before the end of the park, at the section of the park between the railway depot and the river, was the point I liked the most. On one side we could see New Jersey across the Hudson River, with sweeping views across the length of the river, while on the other end, the depot with its lines of trains extended from beneath our feet running into the foundation of the cluster of new skyscrapers that would form the new Hudson Yards commercial centre.
That hike ended on 34th street, where we walked straight to look for food. I mean, it had been around 3 hours since breakfast and I did a lot of walking in between!
We ended up at Penn Station, where we had some sandwiches at Pennsy Food Hall, before trekking down to Macy’s to look for the first wooden elevators that are still in operation at the top 2 floors of the shopping mall.
Them old dames were sounding rickety rockety, but functioned very well despite their age. Made of oak, they were already coming into their centenary when we were there (can’t know the exact age, as they were installed over a period of time between 1920 and 1930 during Macy’s expansion).
We next made our way across 4 avenues and 8 streets to check in at Grand Central Terminal, which was featured in many blockbusters (i.e. grew up seeing Grand Central Terminal in movies). We had watched the documentary where it was said there was a spot in the ceiling that was not cleaned when the train terminal underwent a major cleansing, so that one can be reminded of how years of neglect could lead to the accumulation of grime that covered magnificent art. The ceiling was simply too high for us to find that spot, so we just ended up leaning by one of the balconies looking for our zodiac signs!
Our plan for the later part of the day was to go up to Top of the Rock, in a way to replicate our sunset viewing experience at One World Observatory. We were too early and there was simply no place in Rockefeller Center for us to sit down and chill. We walked around the complex, took some photos, like the one of Atlas, and then decided to go pay a visit to the Flatiron Building in Midtown.
Top of the Rock
We returned to Rockefeller Center to catch the sunset at Top of the Rock. Where One World Observatory was in a totally enclosed space, Top of the Rock allowed you to view the cityscape outdoors, though they had high glass walls to prevent you from throwing anything or yourself off the building.
The observatory was also quite modern considering how old the building was; I suppose they did a makeover recently. There were multiple levels for one to explore, and if you got cold from the howling winds outside, you can always go back indoors and sit down at one of them plenty of benches.
If you really want to take good pictures, I’d suggest you brave the cold and proceed to the upper level, which was totally outdoors and free from the light pollution streaming out from the resting areas at the lower level. However, on a winter night like that, you will really have to be fast in snapping them pictures, as your fingers would get cold and numb pretty soon out in the wind!
Sunset was early in winter, so we actually had time to rush back down and catch The Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular in Radio City Music Hall around the corner (also part of the Rockefeller compounds). We got seats in the circle (since I bought the tickets earlier), so we need not crane our necks to listen to The Rockettes croon carols after carols. To be frank, the run time was a bit too long and it got a little dreary listening to Christmas songs after a while… lol
Oh… we actually had light dinner at one of the eateries at the bottom of the Rock. Like I mentioned just now, the place was really not conducive for eating, due to the crowd as well as the fact that most were restaurants offering overpriced food. So we ended up in this little store which sold “healthy” pasta, which was actually just microwave-heated frozen pasta and soup. Still overpriced, but within what we were willing to pay for…
Leaving the Big Apple
On our final day in NYC, we decided to go “local” with the little time we had.
Breakfast was at Big Al’s Chicago Style Pizza, where we had… bagels lol It was a small store tucked away in a corner of Wall Street; there was space for dine in, but be prepared to cramp in the little space. We had our bagels at a “counter seat” where the table space was barely sufficient for the plate!
Again, the food was just OK. The meat had that grilled and spice-ish taste, but to be frank, our taste buds were pampered from the myriad of food choices back in Asia. That superficially marinated street food of NYC really just didn’t make the cut.
Let’s just say it would be good to go there for the experience of eating in a hole-in-the-wall, and to check one item off Tripadvisor’s recommendations.
We then strolled around Wall Street to take in the sights again, before returning to the hotel. I recalled that I booked a room over there because of the view we could get from the breakfast place / café in the hotel. In the end, we did not even try to eat at the hotel!
We decided to be thick skinned and just walked in, cross the café and onto the balcony to enjoy the view of World Trade Center and the whole of downtown, from the comfort of the hotel.
Or as I put it to N, squeezing every penny’s worth of our room fees.
Our last sights of the Big Apple was tugging our suitcases up and down the subway staircases to Penn Station, where we caught our train ride (in Business Class again) to Boston, where I had another post detailing our gluttony there.
I was so glad that the weather had been superb in New York City! The rain on the evening I arrived made me worry if that would continue for the next few days. Thank goodness it did not, and that allowed us to do a lot of walking, especially through the neighbourhoods of East Village, SoHo, and of course walking the full length of The High Line!
Visiting NYC was my idea, so most of the places we visited were my suggestions. Like I mentioned a few times in my blog, I thought that the Empire State Building was a sight to behold, but if we were to be inside of it, there would be no sight to see.
Therefore, none of the plans was to visit the Empire State Building (I was lucky the last time around that I waited in the queue for only 45 minutes to get to the observatory, but I don’t think we should waste time in queues!). Yes, one gets to see the whole of Manhattan (which you could also view from Top of the Rock or One World Observatory, which are on 2 ends of the lower Manhattan), but I think the Empire State Building’s “value” lies from looking at it from the outside.
It could be viewed while walking on the street; from the High Line down 34th street, or when navigating through the corners of Rockefeller Center, the art deco façade and iconic spire glistening in the sunlight was like an angel overlooking every corner of the city.
Somehow, the magic I felt when I first visited New York City just wasn’t there on my latest visit. I didn’t actually feel a bounce in my feet or “theme song” in my ears when I walked down Fifth Avenue. Growing up do leave its tolls on our appreciation of stuff around us. I have known more about the metropolis, the people living in it and the country it is in – I prefer Singapore’s clean streets over the urine-filled subterranean spaces of the subway; I prefer the greens everywhere in Singapore over the one large patch of Central Park; I prefer the burst of flavours from everyday food in Singapore over the bland, mono-dimensional taste of NYC’s “local” food.
Somehow, the city is just overpriced for what it can offer. I think that would be the last time I would pay a visit to the Big Apple…
This post is part of my series to document my trip to US East Coast, which started with my trip report on Thai Airways via Boeing 777-300ERand on Scandinavian Air Systems (SAS), heartfelt experience at Washington DC, adventures in the neighbourhoods of New York City and Brooklyn (Part 1), 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!
Till then, stay wanderlust!
All photos and videos were taken using Olympus TG870 and Google Pixel XL, and edited with Snapseed.