Travel Diaries: New York Pt. 2

Brooklyn Bridge

As you’ll have seen from Part 1, I recently travelled to New York. If you want to see what happened on our first couple of days, or even how the trip came about, then go read that. This post picks up on Day 3 and runs through to our journey home.

Jack's Wife Freda

The Sunday morning wasn’t quite as early, but we were still up at about 7am. First up for the day was breakfast at Jack’s Wife Freda, which even at 9am on a Sunday was bustling. We took advantage of their bottomless drip (coffee) and while Maddie had a Rosewater Waffle I tucked into a Madame Freda (Pressed sandwich with duck prosciutto, cheddar béchamel, gruyere & a sunny side up egg). Out of the two main breakfast spots we tried this trip, this one was the better. The setting is charming, service friendly, polite & quick and the food was spot on. We’d booked in a slot to visit the Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Center) so this was our next stop. As someone who has been to the city before, and done the Empire State, I can safely say I prefer the view from the Rock. Coming out of the elevator after a, very short, queue you instantly get a view across central park, something the Empire State doesn’t offer, and the view the other side has the Empire State and the southern end of Manhattan. After 25 minutes of indulgent selfie taking and view admiring we went back down in the lift and walked from the center down towards Grand Central(via Sephora so Maddie could look at make up she couldn’t afford). We deliberately zigzagged on this walk so we could soak in the noise and sites of Manhattan. Next was a walk over to Time Square.

Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock

Time Square itself is an assault on the senses, with people *everywhere* and electronic billboards constantly shifting between the latest movies and lingerie adverts. It’s certainly something to experience both in the day and at night. We stocked up on generic tourist garbage (matching I heart NY tops to sleep in, among other things) from one of the giant tourist shops, popped into the Hershey’s and Disney Stores before deciding it was time for lunch. I’d decided I wanted to tick a burger off, and with a Shake Shack around the corner it seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally try it. Yes, there’s one in London, but I’ve heard mixed things about how it compares, so I wanted to make sure the first time I tried it was in the states. There was, of course, a queue out the door but we loaded up, managed to find a table and worked our way through: Double Smokeshack Burger, Shroom Burger, Cheese Fries and a Caramel Pretzel Shake.

Times Square

Shake Shack

Shake Shack

To continue with the walking theme of Sunday we wanted to go see the High Line, a park created from an old train track which runs for a mile along Manhattan’s west side. It’s a perfect use for the old track which would otherwise have been demolished or been left to rot. You get the view along one of New York’s famous avenues as well as art, street food and gardens, all above street level. Once we got to the far end, after sitting and watching the traffic along 10th avenue for a little while, we dropped down into Chelsea and found that an ice cream van we’d wanted to try was just along the road. This was Van Leeuwen who offer a number of interesting flavours, including vegan options. I had Earl Grey and Maddie had Vegan Mint Choc Chip. Both of us were still full from lunch (that shake really pushed us over the edge) but still enjoyed the ice cream in the muggy heat. The day’s saunter around Manhattan had seen us go from just south of Central Park to Chelsea, which felt like a long way but in actual fact is only a small fraction of the city. Walking Manhattan is by far the best way to see what New York City is really like. The sites, the smells, the sounds and the huge array of diversity are enough to keep your attention and failing that you can walk along an avenue imagining that you’re in one of the 5 million disaster movies set in New York and think about the number of times they’ve had to re-build it.

Avenue Views from The High Line

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream

We’d had the evening of the Sunday penciled in as ‘date night’, as the other two were taken up with seeing friends and watching wrestling. We wanted to eat something seriously good and have a few drinks, perhaps with a potter around. Unfortunately, the heavens decided to open late on the Sunday afternoon and it meant our plans to go see Time Square at night got ruined, so we settled for food and a couple of bars. This was actually the hardest thing to plan from the whole trip. Maddie, as I’ve mentioned before, is veggie. Now, veggie food in New York isn’t hard to find, but places that do both meat and actually good veg options are. As soon as you hit a certain level of restaurant you seem to be limited to either going fully veg or a vegetarian having to resort to a selection of sides (which they’d try and pass off as small plates). It’s the only issue I have with an otherwise very good food scene. After trawling through lists and sadly having to discount a couple of the very, very good looking Veg restaurants like Dirt Candy or Candle 79 due to price we had initially opted for a Tapas place called Boqueria. With the change in weather we cancelled this and found somewhere not too far from our hotel called Cocoron. It actually ended up being the best thing we could have done. A tiny restaurant specialising in Japanese noodles it only has space for a handful of people. We were lucky that a table was just leaving as we arrived and not long later had both finished large bowls of Warm Soba. I had Pork Soba and Maddie had Vegan Soba. They have a sister restaurant specialising in Japanese curry and I’d definitely go next time I end up in NYC. The night continued with a trip to a speakeasy, we did some research on Lower East Side’s speakeasy’s and found one just along the road from our hotel called Nitecap. After a couple of cocktails we grabbed some beers from the off licence and finished our final night sat on the balcony (the rain had now stopped) looking out over Manhattan.

Morning Over Manhattan

Morning Over Manhattan

On our final morning we dragged ourselves out of bed somewhat slower than the others. Having to pack everything up, get out of an extremely comfy bed and lose the view we had across the city were all hard things to do. Having said that we were still up and out by about 9am, as we wanted to maximise our last day before our flight at 6.30 that evening. After grabbing pastries and iced coffee to go from Ludlow Coffee Supply we jumped on on the subway to take us just the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge and walked back across the bridge itself to Manhattan. The storm the night before had cleared the air and left us with the most pleasant weather we’d had on the whole trip, without an edge of closeness in the air and hardly any clouds. The bridge itself is an inspiring structure, and the oldest of the NYC suspension bridges and the longest in the world at the time it was built. In fact, when it first went up the locals didn’t believe it would hold the weight of traffic so a man walked 21 Elephants directly over the bridge without any problems at all. The bridge is completely free to cross and best done walking towards the Manhattan side. If you go early in the morning or later in the day you avoid the main crowds and have slightly better light (in my opinion).

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Once we got back to Manhattan it was time to tick off some shopping, and by shopping I mean going to as many bakeries as possible and picking up food to keep us going through the journey home. First up was the Dominique Ansel Bakery, home of the Cronut, which you often find queues around the block for. The special this month involved cherry, which isn’t one of my favourite flavours, but you can’t complain too much when it’s in cronut form. One is just about to open up in London and I’d recommend going down to try a few of his concoctions, like the frozen s’more or the salted honey tart (I’m really excited to try the Rarebit Croissant I’ve seen them post on instagram). Then we went to a few shops in Soho, including the food department at Dean & Deluca to stock up on treats. This was followed by a walk up to Alphabet City to get a slice of Crack Pie from Milk, part of the Momofoku group. This was so good we made it ourselves since and that recipe will be coming in the next couple of weeks. We also ticked off a veggie burger from Superiority Burger which was one of the most recommended things we hadn’t done yet. The patty is made from quinoa and everything in the tiny shop is veggie and vegan.

Manhattan

With this our trip started drawing to a close, after popping in to economy candy to buy sweets and chocolate for everyone back home, one last iced coffee and a quick potter around some shops in lower east side we headed out to Newark airport. I can safely say that it’s one of the worst airports I’ve flown in or out of, so next time I head over I’ll be avoiding it. It doesn’t feel like it’s designed for use by actual people. I’ll be back to NYC sooner rather than later though, it’s a city I absolutely love to visit. We were extremely fortuitous to stay at the incredible Hotel on Rivington, and I’d recommend it if you have the money. As competition winners with OpenTable we were lucky to be able to stay somewhere that would usually be outside our price range.

Must See & Do

Staten Island Ferry
Central Park
Rockefeller Center (over the Empire State)
Brooklyn Bridge
Walk around Manhattan, it’s the best way to soak up the city
Walk around Brooklyn

Food & Coffee Shops

Ludlow Coffee Supply
Tiny’s Giant Sandwich Shop
Jacks Wife Freda
Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream
Smorgasburg
Superiority Burger (v)
Cocoron
Dominique Ansel Bakery
Milk (bakery)