After a 24hour flight, lay-over and delays we arrived in New York. First day was a jetlagged blur. I tried a few different things, but ended up having breakfast and lunch at the same place, close to home. I also over estimated myself and walked far too much, because I knew how to walk, but not how the subway works. New York is built in a grid with numbered streets, so it’s easy to figure out where to walk, but working out the subway took a few days. Got a great tan from all the walking though. Looks brilliant.
- Union square market
The second day was better, much better. I didn’t get lost once, but that might only have been by accident. I started the morning by going to the Union Square Green Market. I had only 3 things on my list for Jamie Oliver’s recipe of cubed roasted potatoes. I needed garlic, rosemary and, of course, potatoes, special potatoes. Jamie had written “waxy potatoes” and I had no idea what this would be.
I passed flower stalls and cheese filled tables. Stands with bread stacked high and rows of huge cookies. Vegetable stands and a fish counter. Carrots in every color along with rainbow rhubarb, seriously, rhubarb in all the pride colors.
I lifted a small bunch of very fresh rosemary out of some water and paid for it. The garlic still had its “top” on. Like the leafy part, when I bought it the guy removed that. Looks different than the ones at the store.
I walked all around the market looking for “waxy potatoes”. Finally sitting down and reading that waxy potatoes are also known as “new potatoes” among other names. Now, almost every vegetable seller had new potatoes. I just hadn’t known what I was looking for!
- Central park
I’m certain today’s visit will just be the first of many. I actually intend to spend much time there. It’s only one stop from our apartment, so it’s easy to get there.
I found an African American guy singing under a bridge. The arch made the acoustic fantastic, so even without a mic his voice carried. He has real talent and a strong voice, along with an audience of one. I sat down, cross legged, and rested my very tired body. After two or three more songs he asked my name and sang me a song. He’s really good at freestyle, he made up the most beautiful song. The lyrics included “Maria… beautiful… star… welcome to new York, welcome to New York… Maria…” He and his Yamaha keyboard stand there making wonderful music for passersby. Nobody else seemed to truly listen.
I didn’t record him or take a bunch of pictures in the park. I saw a squirrel in the park, about 5 or 6 other people saw him as well, nibbling a tiny piece of food. I was the only person who didn’t take a picture. I actually looked at the squirrel and after all the cameras had clicked and their owners had left, I still watched the squirrel. I’d like to add that I don’t mind pictures, but we miss reality.
A girl in “an itsy-bitsy, teeny tiny, yellow polka-dot bikini” sat on the grass rubbing sunscreen all over her body and sunbathing in the middle of the park.
- Christopher Park:
Currently sitting here next to George Segal’s life-size sculptures of a lesbian couple. It’s really tiny. The statues are beautiful and seems to portray two people just being together. If I hadn’t known it was meant to represent a lesbian couple I’d have thought it was just friends. I like how he portrays the LGBT community. The streets in this neighborhood are really pretty. The first pretty streets I’ve found so far. The other streets are interesting, but these are cute as well.
- Friends building Located on the corner of grove and Bedford St. Is the building used in the FRIENDS series. I came here not only because I loved the show but also due to the location. It’s very central and easy to find. In the 5 min I’ve been sitting here at least 6 others have taken their picture in front of the building and walked away without truly looking. I watched as a group of tourists came by with a guide. They seemed to be on a movie walking tour.
5. West Village Stroll. I had thought that west village and Greenwich were two different places. It seems to be the same place with two names. It’s quite pretty though, with lots of trees which create a rather relaxing environment. NYU is closed, because it’s summer, maybe if there where more people it would feel different.
6. Grimaldi’s Pizzeria
Waiting in Brooklyn Bridge Park for this pizza place to open, apparently there are two. Grimaldi’s is the touristy one and then right next door is a better pizza place. I waited in the park and shared my Atkins bar with a squirrel who then persistently returned to see if I had any more food. The pizza place is so busy that after placing my order for their smallest and cheapest pizza (which turned out to be quite large!) I had to wait outside. Within 10min of opening the place was packed with people queueing outside and waiting for their turn to have some pizza. I ordered mine as take-out and then carried it back to the park where I shared my very large pizza with a homeless guy and continued reading Stardust by Neil Gaiman.
- Brooklyn Bridge Bridge/Tunnel: “A drive-through cathedral” is how the journalist James Wolcott described the Brooklyn Bridge, one of New York’s noblest and most recognized. And I just saw the statue of Liberty for the first time in my life. The bridge is much bigger than I expected or, well, I did expect it big it just took me longer to walk over than I thought. Tip: go with cash there are a couple of artists selling pretty sketches for $10. Got some good sun exposure, so I’m not Dubai white anymore. Interesting experience.
- Staten Island Ferry Every day, some 70,000 people ride the free ferry to Staten Island, one of the city’s outer boroughs. We were on the ferry early this morning. It was nice seeing the statue up close and on the return journey you have a great view of the Manhattan skyline. We spent no time on the island but just took the next ferry back. The statue was not as big as I’d expected. Ellis Island seems to be a tiny spot of land. From the ferry I saw lines of tourists standing waiting to go up the statue.
- The cloisters
We came here rather early. There are two ways to walk from the station, firstly you can walk along the road or secondly you can walk through the park. The park gives you flashes of the Hudson River and its lovely and green and quiet. Quiet, I’ve discovered a new trick: There’s so much noise pollution that I’ve started wearing earplugs. New Yorkers talk really loudly, louder than necessary. Everything is loud, so I’m wearing earplugs! Anyway, the cloisters were pretty and really relaxing. The kind of sightseeing you can do while on vacation. It’s beautiful there.
- Bryant Park: I came here partly for the park, but also for the New York Public Library. In this library is the original Winnie the Pooh teddy bear. I hung out in the park for a while, until some dancers decided to start their very loud music and disrupt the rather peaceful environment.
At some point a “Christian” man walked passed me preaching something while walking. What he said seemed to hold no connection to my perception of Jesus and he was the one people would hear, not me… Later on another man came and sat down and just started rambling to me, he said some nice things, but I scurried away, not sure if I should talk to him.
Saw the Empire State Building from far away as I passed the library, which, seeing as it was Sunday morning, was closed. Came home for a decent nap. Some people had managed to nap in the park on the grass, but I just couldn’t see how, maybe I’ll acquire it.
- The Met – I spent about 10minutes here, looking at the sculptures and the Greek pottery. It’s really beautiful and I was amazed at the style of the art, because other art I’d seen from that period in Rome was much more stick like. These figures had movement. I didn’t stay long, since it’s so big and I had no idea what else I wanted to see.
- Grand Central terminal
The amount of detail on the ceiling was interesting. It’s so high that you can scarcely make it out, but still somebody cared enough to make sure it’s beautiful. The roof was much higher than I had remembered.
- Jane Carousel – I don’t really know architecture or carousels very well. So this work of art was entirely lost on me. I was walking through Brooklyn Bridge Park and just saw the sign pointing to it and I’d read all about how special it was so I wanted to see it, but I didn’t get it.
As mentioned I am still cooking Jamie Oliver’s book. For a duck pasta recipe he requests half a bottle of Barbera winewhich I couldn’t find in Dubai, not even a substitute. So, on my way home from the Jane carousel I walked into a liquor store, just to check. There is was, one bottle left on the shelf. I bought it instantly and carried it from Brooklyn to Manhattan and then packed it in to Dubai – now I can finally make the Duck pasta as intended. I love shopping for this book. It opens up the world in a new way.
- Appellate Division Courthouse next to Madison Square Park: I think I saw it, but I’m not sure. Apparently there are two figures on either side of the door representing wisdom and force and I did not see them, so I’m still not sure. I tried to find it though, but then I passed the subway and well Union Square Market was open so I just went to buy some vegetables.
- Top of the Rock – Great view. It gave me a good idea of where I was in the city. You see the whole of Central Park and then the statue of Liberty on the other side. I wasn’t sure from such a distance which bridge was Brooklyn Bridge, New York has more water than I ever thought, so there are many bridges to see from the top. I like going up towers, and seeing the city in a new perspective. There are two tickets which I liked, one lets you go up only once and the other one is “twice in one day” so you could go back at sunset or late at night and see the city in a completely different way.
- The Highline – This was much smaller and narrower than I’d thought. It’s an old unused train line which has been turned into a park and then leads to a lovely indoor market. We passed a yoga class, and some joggers everybody trying to get into the little bit of green that there was. The walk was short, but nice and then we went down to the Chelsea Market.
- Chelsea Market – It didn’t look like I had expected a market to look, it was more an indoor shopping center selling food, but it was great once I got used to it. I bought all the vegetables to make Jamie’s Red Mullet recipe. There was large bunches of basil with such large leaves and many different kinds of chilies and yellow tomatoes and an entire wall filled with different kinds of coffee beans. After this I visited the fish store, which now said it didn’t have red mullet. The manager came out and asked whether I wanted something in the same size or flavor as red mullet and I said flavor, he recommended bluefish and it was delicious.
- Bergdorf Goodman – This is a department store, with Macy’s changed and Barney’s franchised, this store is now the high end department store to go to apparently. I thought I’d have a look, I prefer souvenirs in the form of home ware and clothes, not the stuff they sell at the tourist stores. After about 10minutes in the store it became clear that I didn’t belong there and that stuff wouldn’t suit me. There was little heart-shaped necklace in the kids section I thought would be nice, but it was $6000 and made of real diamonds and white gold. This made me leave rather quickly.
- Arthur Avenue – Also known as the true little Italy of New York. Beautiful, but tiny. I was standing outside a café trying to google if they were any good and I looked across the street. My eyes fell on a café with 4 Italian looking men chatting outside and smoking, instantly I knew the place would be good and I wasn’t wrong. I ate the most delicious cannelloni there along with a perfect espresso. A man with an authentic Italian name came to chat with me and asked me if I had ever asked my smartphone a question it couldn’t answer, when I said yes he told me that meant that I was smart. I liked that, because a while back in a lecture the teacher asked “when was the last time your phone couldn’t answer you?” and I thought “5min ago” but the teacher was trying to prove how great technology was. Anyway, the cannelloni, the espresso, cigars, chatting, wonderful. PS. I’ve been searching for Amaretti cookies for almost 8 months for a Jamie Oliver recipe – I found them! Beautiful streets, more run down and dirty and plain than Manhattan but really nice. Don’t come if you don’t have anything else you want to do in the Bronx. Took me an hour to get here from Manhattan. With walking and the express train.
PS. After 2weeks back in Dubai I found the same Amaretti cookies on a shelf here. Standing there all innocently as if they hadn’t been eluding me for so long. But I don’t regret visiting little Italy and am happy to know that I have the best version of the cookies. Thus far Dubai’s baking has rather disappointed me.
- Most days include Central park and watching the sunset from our balcony. Last night the sunset was a lovely yellow. It had rained in the afternoon and by sunset the rain had cleared up and the sun was shining through all the clouds. I love going to the park in the day, it’s just green grass, trees, blue sky and white clouds – everything Dubai doesn’t have. Yes, Dubai has parks, but it’s different… I come to the park and I don’t want to listen to music or read a book, I don’t want to be transported, I’m in love with where I am and I don’t want some story to interfere with that. I have tried to read, but I don’t get further than two pages. All I truly want to do is just be there. I want to sit, watch the people, drink in the scenery and just be. It’s a perfect place, at least for me, for now. Sheep’s Meadow is my favorite spot. Many morning I also visit the church to pray.
I go to Central Park and I just sit, I think, I don’t think, I watch the people, I ignore them. I try to read, but the park is so wonderful, I don’t want to be transported to Hogwarts or Middle Earth. When I’m tired I lay down on the grass and have a quick nap. First I put my shoes down, then my bag on top of my shoes and then my head on my bag. This should stop people from stealing my stuff without me realizing. The patterns of the green leaves against the blue sky fade as my eyes close and after about 30minutes I sit back up and continue my relaxing time. It’s my favorite place in all of New York, based on very limited exposure.
- WalMart – As a tween I loved the Olsen Twins and I had read that they sell their clothes and make-up at Walmart, later the store was referenced in many movies, including The Sisterhood of the Traveling pants and also my Jeff Dunham. In my business books I’ve read about how effective Walmart is and how great their business plans are. After all the references I thought it might be an interesting thing to visit Walmart. I knew it would be a store, but I thought it would be interesting or special or something to make it so well known. I searched for the bus, waited at the wrong gate, then at the right gate. I tried to get on the bus, but didn’t have the right ticket. More than an hour after I left home I was at the right gate for the right bus with the right ticket. New Jersey has a very different vibe from New York. Walmart was just a store, like Game in South Africa or Carrefour in Dubai. Nothing to make me get why it was so well known. I walked around for a few hours, picked up some things I needed and then came back. The place I had wanted to see for so long was just a normal place, it wasn’t special in any way, it was just big.
- Food – I use to love pizza but can hardly stand it now. It’s so tasteless, even at places which are well-known and receive good reviews. Sadness… I cannot believe the things in the stores to eat. Things that people want to eat. It’s rather disguisting. I tried Twizlers, just like the Gilmore Girls, and they are terrible. I bought a pretzel and it was tasteless. I bought wine which turned out to be not wine, but a wine product, meaning it’s wine mixed with water and sugar and sometimes high fructose corn syrup! It’s terrible. All the sugar and carbs and processed foods and refined carbs. I had a hotdog and, being use to real food, I couldn’t believe people think it’s good. I bought a corndog. This I liked until I focused on what was in my mouth, the added sugar in the corn flour clashed dramatically with the salty sausage.
- Nails – I thought it might be interesting to get my nails done in New York. See something different, experience it the American way or something. Turned out to be exactly the same as in Dubai, a Nepalese lady painted my nails with Essie polish and there was nobody else in the salon. I thought maybe I’d get my nails done and idk have Monica and Rachel discuss Ross next to me or have Emily Gilmore enter the salon, but no, it was the same experience I’ve had in Dubai. At the very end a business man walked in and asked whether the salon did mani/ pedi walk-ins and then sat down to have his nails done. The Emirati men in Dubai are meticulously well taken care of, but there is a separate salon for men and women. This was the first time I shared a salon.