America part 2: a bite out of the Big Apple
Arriving in the New York really felt like arriving in a different country. I must admit it was quite a test getting used to this city in two weeks, and an even bigger test to appreciate it. I guess we found out that we are more drawn to nature than citylife. Of course we did discover a lot of the beautiful parts about New York as well! Both the history-, culture- and peoplewise! That’s what we’re happily sharing with you here. And I’d like to add that we will be visiting NYC more often in the future! (though more for the people there) ;) (Small disclaimer for the hsp people: the big apple probably isn’t your idea of a fun trip... At least not for longer than a week...) So without further ado!
First, we took a 4 hour greyhound bustrip and another subway towards our Airbnb in Queens. Our first encounter and my first thought (it’s smelly and busy) with New York was probably at our transit in the subway station, where loads of people were beeping in an out, musicians playing( very loud), other subways arriving or leaving (screaching over the tracks as if they hadn’t had maintenance since forever), the temperature was hot and humid which made you gasp for air. We hurriedly looked for the right subway to take, and luckily didn’t have to linger too long in the station. A thing you can definitely say about New York is that they have a good subway network. Everything is doable with the subway really.
When we arrived at our Airbnb in Queens we were greeted warmly by a young girl ,Penny, who had recently started Airbnbing. She gave us a large room with a private toilet, and (thank you!) airconditioning. We had a spacious kitchen and bathroom to share with the other residents. Just one rule: no cooking. We were allowed to use the microwave though! Which was just the challenge for us to look into microwave cooking (easy corn on a cob, jambalaya,...). After we settled and unpacked everything, we strolled around in Queens, doing a bit of groceryshopping, and laundry at the local laundromat, before settling down in our room, enjoying a small meal and then a good night’s rest.
Our first week was mainly characterized by my guest spot in Acqua Santa Tattoo, in downtown Manhattan. Besides adventure, we both also hoped to meet other artists during our worldtrip, enjoy new experiences and maybe learn something new along the way. Canada had proven quite interesting already, but just a bit too busy for me to squeeze a guest spot in. So I had been looking for a shop that specialises in a tattoostyle that I am interested in but don’t do (yet). And a mail or two with their shopmanager later I found myself in JP Rodriguez’ Acqua Santa tattoo shop, where Japanese traditional designs coloured the whole interior. The whole week flew by. It would be too much to explain the delights I experienced. I can only say we definitely will visit New York more often in the future, albeit in a more relaxed fashion.
Not to explain everything in days, because our stay in the big apple felt as a haze, so let me just narrate the fun activities we did in our second week. Oh, and for those who wondered, my husband used this week to get familiar with manhattan, visited some people and just wandered around in the big apple. Yes, he’s really good at getting lost in cities but he does find nice spots like Hudson park near the river,...
Out of the many, many things to see and to do in NYC (seriously, there is way too much to do here), one of our first activities was a walk down Broadway, over the Brooklyn Bridge, grab dinner at Grimaldis in dumbo (down under the manhattan bridge overpass) and come back over the Manhattan bridge. A recommendation Dan Fogler told us that wouldn’t dissapoint (thanks again man!).
The Brooklyn bridge is really impressive, unbelievable how it was build, and impressively holds out until today, carrying pedestrians and cars from Manhattan to Brooklyn on a daily basis. Do choose your moment to cross it though, it can get really busy. Avoid weekends and go for either very early or very late during the day. Crossing it doesn’t take quite long, about half an hour but grab some sunscreen because there isn’t much shade to take cover from the scorching sun ( if it’s a sunny day).
Once in dumbo’s, our tummies started growling and we fancied ourselves a yummy pizza down at Grimaldis. Our way back over the Manhattan bridge must have been our favourite part of the day. Since it was getting late, there were no tourists in sight along the whole bridge, and we were happy to enjoy a beautiful sunset behind the skyline of Manhattan. A peaceful moment alone, in the sleepless city of New York was greatly appreciated.
Afterwards, we did something that we’ve been wanting to do since we heard of if (way back in Belgium). We went to The Cauldron magical pub. This is a Harry Potter themed bar, but more importantly you can book a « potion brewing class ». Now I’m going to be honest, it was on the more expensive side of things ( 40 - 50 $P/P) but then again sometimes you have to let loose a bit. So in we went and we had a blast!
Entering the potion brewing class is entering the doorway to another world. A magical world.
First of, we got our own magical wand and robes.
After that, professor Nice guided us to our table (all the waiters are in character). You can use your wand to turn on lights, open secret compartments and tap a drink (under supervision), from a very weird bar with kraken tentacles, hydra heads and a unicorn head.
Then the potion brewing class began. We got our set of instructions and ingredients, such as dragon’s blood, pixie dust,.... and started brewing our first potion. We mixed it all and than got a little flask to add to our drink. It turned from blue to purple!!!
We’re not going to spoil all the drinks but suffice to say, they are damned fun to make and taste very good. Beware that they contain alcohol so you need to be 21+ if you think of putting this activity in your itinary.
Of course we had to go and see Times Square too! But would I recommend it? Hmm, my doubts about that. Not that the big led-screens 3-4 stories high aren’t impressive, and standing in a spot the Amazing Spiderman stood, well it definitely is memorable. But the swarming tourists, bigbrand stores, walking man-shows, rich people, poor people, crazy people, insane traffic, AC vents and foodstalls everywhere... I guess nighttime would have been a better moment to enjoy the lights and magic of Times New Square. There should be a bit of a show to watch too on the led-screens when the clock hits midnight.
One of the things I totally recommend doing, is visiting Central Park and one of the adjacent musea. Small reminder: musea in NYC are f(insert cussword)ing expensive. So choose wisely: do a little research beforehand so that your “museum” doesn’t end up not being of your interest, or doesn’t end up being just a room or two with junk not worth paying a visit. The Museum of Natural History, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Gugenheim Museum are the 3 big ones definitely worth a visit (as told by lots of New Yorkers). But as our time in NYC was running out, we chose the Museum of Natural History as one of the three to visit this time.
So we got up early, walked past the Plaza Hotel, and entered the green oasis known as Central Park.
I understand why so many people chill in here. It’s a much needed breath of fresh air in this metropolis. It felt refreshing, walking under the trees that form a natural barrier against the heat of the sun, the exhaust gasses, the noise,... . You can see people relaxing, enjoying a walk, letting out the dog, playing a match of softball, spending qualitytime with the family, ... Central Park is very big though, so it’s easy to spend a whole day walking about the many pathways.
The Museum of Natural History was awesome, in a way that it is the very best version of your cliche idea of a museum. You have halls filled with dinosaurs (Yay Rexie!), taxidermy animals from all around the globe, ocean life, butterflies, birds, gems and minerals, human origins and culture, etcetera etcetera.
We spend quite some time in the Rose Centre for Earth and Space, which also aired a dark universe show (addressing the history of the universe, and dark matter). Narrated by the silky smooth voice Neil deGrasse Tyson, the documentary is aired in a dome-like structure with screen so as to see the universe from every possible angle. I have to say the show is narrated so good, I might’ve dozed off for 5 minutes... Before my husband woke me up.
There really is so much to do and to see that you really want to get to the museum early. But a tip! If you do miss a (small) part of the museum, from 5 pm until closing time there is no entrance fee! Second tip, if there is a crowd waiting to enter trough the main entrance, you can take the side entrance.
I really enjoyed every bit of the museum but I do admit a day goes by quickly and you might just want to spend two full days there...
Do look for the Theodore Roosevelt memorial! You’ll find his statue, chilling on a bench, definitely worth a pic!
That same evening we joined in on a bbq party with my new tattoo familia, and I had the great pleasure to meet other people, carrying other backstories and proficient in other arts. It’s funny sometimes, being so far from home yet meeting people so alike. Could be the artistic circles, or maybe the NYC people, or even the American attitude, but we have met so many people, who traveled far and wide, giving it all they’ve got, to accomplish their goals. Going for their dreams. It’s been a real delight already, meeting many likeminded people. Can’t wait to see what the rest of our travels have in store.
Anyways, my compliments again to Dan, his Brazilian style BBQ was delicious!!!! I still dream of it... . If you ever have the chance to partake in a Brazilian bbq, don’t hesitate. You won’t regret it. Before going home we set out for a last couple of drinks at the local bar, where my tequila proficient colleage JP gave me a shot of what was to me the smoothest tequila I ever tasted. Thanks peeps for the wonderful night! Hope to repay the favor in Belgium! ;)
Our most expensive but nonetheless-worth-it-outing was going to the top of the Empire state building. This time we did choose our moment better, avoiding daytime and golden-hour time (=sunset). So us nightowls paid for our 40 dollar (each) ticket, rode the elevator up to the 80th floor, and for the heck of it, did the last 9 floors with the stairs. Nothing like some late night cardio right? There was also lots of entertainment while heading for the elevators, such as pictures of celebrities visiting the empire state building, King Kong commemorations, and news/facts about the building of the tower.
Though there still were some tourists, they were in much lesser numbers, and you can actually enjoy your time and admire the beautiful view when reaching the top of the building. The city really looks like black velvet filled with shimmering diamonds in all colours. It looks so peaceful from up there. Really, worth it.
For our last day in NYC, we had one more thing to scratch of our bucketlist. Lady Liberty. But a visit to this green maiden can be quite expensive, depending on how far you wanna get. A visit limited to the foot of the statue, or a trip all the way to the top of her crown. And you have to book months beforehand! Just staying outside, hanging around the statue would still make you pay for ferryride. Not worth the ride we thought, if we can’t do it all. So we decided that visiting Lady Liberty would be an excursion for when we come back to NYC next time. But we did manage to find a fun way to already enjoy a good view of the Lady. Talking to many locals, we found out that there is a small ferry (only 3 dollar a trip!) that takes you to a very much underrated island that is actually the closest to the statue (500 meters tops!).
An island meant to defend the entrance to NYC, now almost entirely deserted, and an entire oasis of peace. Almost no tourists in sight, you can enjoy a stroll along the abandoned houses, visit the castle Williams with its rich history, and chill in the many beautiful parks that nearly stretch the whole island. You won’t hear any honking of cars (since there are none), no sirens, no AC vents, no crazy people,...Just the sound of birds and maybe a boat passing by. During summer the streets of Governors Island will home multiple culture/art/music events. This year apparently there was a festival that commemorated the roaring twenties.
In the evening we enjoyed a lovely meal near the shop with my other beautiful colleague Ania and her friend, trying to close off my time at Acqua Santa in style. But unexpectedly, we were shown just a little bit more of New Yorks fine cuisinery, thanks to JP Rodriguez. We ended up having some more dinner at the Aria West Village, an Italian restaurant worth mentioning because their cuisine is absolutely superb.
And a while later ,with tummies filled, we ended up back in the shop where I had the honour of having an addition made by JP Rodriguez on my leg. Ain’t nothing like a traditional Japanese kaeru (frog)! They’re just so happy! (Healed pic will follow).
A bottle of vodka and some gipsy music later, we set out towards what I thought was just a hotel. But this happened to be the Jane Street Hotel, where in 1912 the survivors of the Titanic stayed at. We waddled through the doors, passed the bellboy and into the elevators that took us straight to the rooftop. There entered a nightclub (beware, loud music), and enjoyed some last drinks on the rooftop terras. Thus ended our night in style.
After some heartbreaking goodbyes, we took a subway home at 3, finished packing our bags, and “enjoyed” just 3 hours of sleep, before our alarms woke us up at 7. Goodbye New York.
You will see me back sooner than you think.