I’m leaving today. I want to be a part of it. New York, New York! Ol’ Frank was really onto something. You would have to be born under a rock not to know where it is! It’s a must on most bucket lists and hands down some peeps’ favorite city in the whole, wide world. How could I start my journey with just a quick layover in the Big Apple? Hell no! I decided to stay for a whole 6 days!
Given the time of year, some would think me crazy. Many in fact, told me so. February is supposedly the worst month of winter and I was guaranteed to freeze my tush off. I started keeping my eye on the weather three weeks in advance already and as departure came closer, the reports started getting more positive. Temperatures were going to be chilly, but clear blue skies were predicted by most weather sites and that was fine by me. I’ve never been one to get cold quickly, so as long as the sun was shining, I reckoned I would cope.
The weather gods smiled down on me, because my arrival on Thursday morning was gloriously sunny. I had packed most of my winter clothing in my carry-on in preparation to start ‘layering’ as soon as I landed. It wasn’t even necessary. The cardie I wore on the plane was completely sufficient. Besides the weather, everything else seemed to turn in my favor. Customs was a breeze. Finding my way from there to baggage claim and then the AirTrain was made very simple by some solid advice from friends who had been to NY before. George, Werner… julle is superstêrre! The subway was somewhat daunting at first, but again I followed the afore-mentioned advice and made my way to Jamaica Station.
From here I was blessed with such friendly and helpful people coming across my path. A lady at Jamaica station telling me which lines to take to my new home for the next couple of days. Two passengers, on separate occasions, starting a conversation and making sure that I was still heading in the right direction. I have to admit, I was surprised! Generally I’ve always been under the impression that New Yorkers were so busy living their lives and getting about, that they had no time for foreigners. This was not the case at all.
A couple of days before I was about to leave Cape Town, the hostel I booked informed me that they were being renovated. Which by the way, I found on a nifty little site called HostelBookers – very useful if you’re looking for affordable accommodation! Anyway, they were placing me in an apartment with some other guests to assure no discomfort and with all the same amenities as was presented on the website. I was a little skeptical at first, hoping it wasn’t going to all backfire on me. Luckily, it didn’t! I phoned the number that was given in the e-mail and was promptly met by a friendly Mexican, by the name of Marcello, who helped carry my luggage and showed the way to the apartment. It was spacious and clean, with comfortable bedding and a well-equipped kitchen and most importantly free wifi. It would do as my humble abode for the next couple of days.
With the whole day still ahead of me, I just dropped my bags and immediately opted for a stroll around the city. I was after all only 5 minutes walk from Central Park. Marcello suggested that I take the subway to Grand Central, walk to Times Square and then start making my way back to the apartment from there. So that’s what I did. Now, I would like to state for the record that it’s definitely worth going there for the tourist factor of it, but once you’ve seen it, you really don’t need to go back again and again. For me it was purely to see and proof that I had been. I did however stop and check out the Body Worlds exhibition. There was a similar display of works in Cape Town two years ago and I sadly didn’t use the opportunity to see it. Since I’m fascinated with anatomy, this was definitely up my alley. Unfortunately pictures were only allowed of the very last piece. The weather started turning chilly now and instead of walking back, I returned to the subway. Back at the apartment, I finally got to meet my co-dwellers. One Canadian guy, another from Brazil and a girl from Ukraine. The four of us, led by Marcello, proceeded to head out for ice-cream and beers. In that order. Hands down best ice-cream I’ve ever had. And beer, because that was all that fitted the budget!
The next morning, the weather turned. It was cloudy and misty, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from a run in Central Park. I lasted all of half an hour. Just enough to get my heart rate going, take pictures and not feel my face anymore! It was decided that it had to be a day spent indoors. With museums aplenty there was no lack of places to visit, so after brekkie I hit the museum mile. The only downside is that some of the museums have a pretty pricey entrance fee, so after careful deliberation I opted for the MET and the Museum of Natural History and on the way took some photos of the Guggenheim’s architecture.
The MET is enormous and overwhelming – the kind of place that one day is actually not even enough for. I grabbed a map of the layout and picked the exhibits that I knew would appeal to me. It was of course mostly art that I wanted to see and to be fair to those of you who would be bored to death, I have a whole separate post for it! I also fitted in a part of Egyption history, before my feet started protesting in all earnest. After a cuppa and free wifi – I love first world countries – it was time to head out to the Museum of Natural History. According to my map, it was almost opposite the MET with only Central Park in between. I could cut through the park and have more opportunity for pictures while on my way. Well, I walked on my already sore little feetsies, then I walked some more hoping that the end would be in sight soon and finally came across a big building… a building that looked strangely familiar!? You guessed it, I walked in one big circle all the way back to the MET! Arrrgghh! Needless to say by this time my sense of humor was at an ultimate low. My feet were hurting bad and I was freezing. So instead of attempting to actually get to Museum of Natural History, I decided to follow my survival instinct and rather go in search of warmer clothing. Even this plaasmeisie was starting to feel less tough!
Saturday broke clear and sunny again and I was going to make the most of it. I had to see the famous NY skyline from up top. Two options were suggested at the hostel that morning. Either the Empire State Building or the Rockefeller Centre. Those who had been to both before agreed that it was pretty much the same thing, but that it was much cheaper to go up the Rockefeller with less queues. For a girl on a budget, it was a no-brainer. After that I would then make my way to the Staten Island ferry to go check out the big lady. The Statue of Liberty. Well, both experiences were breathtaking! For a girl who hasn’t traveled much – yet! – I was completely blown away by the amount of skyscrapers. It truly is amazing.
As for the lady of liberty, I wish I could get closer, but because of my ever popular budget-constraints (#sarcasm) I opted to take the free ferry to Staten Island. You only get to see the statue from quite some distance. There are other dedicated paying tours that takes you much closer and dishes out history and facts as well. In spite of that, it was still an experience… I saw her… in real life!
I was delighted when Sunday turned out to be much the same weather as Saturday. According to Marcello, Williamsburg was a must. Trendy, with cute eateries and bars – a nice place for a walk about. And it was exactly that, plus the added bonus of great flea markets. I did a teeny bit of shopping, because as I’ve mentioned before I was on a budget and purely because there wasn’t even space for a pin in my bag… a small problem I managed to overcome by buying another bag! I am a girl after all. I stumbled on two different markets. Firstly, the Artist and Fleas market, which consists mainly of a great selection of vintage clothing, jewellery, shoes, and bric-a-brac. Secondly, the Smorgasburg market – much larger than the previous – and much of the same goods with furniture added. It also included a great foodie section, with stalls selling local produce and delicious fare. I decided to grab lunch at a quaint looking sandwich shop and to my surprise discovered two tins which had Afrikaans writing on them. One for Koffie. And one for Suiker. I was blown away! When I asked the shop assistants about it though, they had no idea how the foreign decor got there in the first place.
Monday started clear, but very cold and windy. I wanted to visit the Museum of Sex and since my new friend, Marcello, had never been before he wanted to go with. This visit also has it’s own separate post, since most of it is x-rated and I wouldn’t want to subject my loyal followers against their will. Afterwards, we headed to China Town for some proper Chinese food: chicken cashew stir fry, dumplings and to wash it down – TsingToa. Since we were close to Little Italy, we had to get our ice-cream fix from the same shop as the first night out. This time I paid attention. It’s called Ferrara and if you have a sweet tooth, it’s definitely worth a visit. Besides the gob-smacking gelato, they also have the most delicious and delicate looking cakes and danishes.
There was still a good portion of the day left and I really wanted to still check out the Brooklyn Bridge. The weather was getting nastier by the second and reports sounded like there was snow on it’s way for the next day. So, I wrapped myself up warm and took the subway to Brooklyn. The idea was to take pictures from the opposite side of the river, walk halfway across the bridge and then come back to take the subway home. In spite of the cold, I went all the way across. It was icy, but exhilarating.
Unknowingly I has saved the best museum for last. Tuesday was miserable weather wise, so I spent almost the entire day at the Museum of Modern Art… or MoMA as most New Yorker’s refer to it. It’s also subdivided into sections like the MET, but it appeals more to my graphic design background. Besides the art collections – with the likes of Dali, Van Gogh, Matisse, etc – there are also photography, architecture, graphic and industrial design exhibits. The kind of place that can really enrich your creative spirit. Go check out some of the paintings I saw in the my separate post about the museums!
The rest of day was spent recuperating from all the walking that was done over the previous 6 days. My humble abode was much warmer and cozier than wandering the streets and there were postcards to write and very strategic packing to be done. It had been interesting and exciting, but my feet were tender and I was ready to move on to Atlanta to visit my oldest brother, his beautiful wife and my brand spanking new niece. The next day my flight departed as a bank of snow started settling over the city again. Proof. The weather gods do love me!!