4# Throwback Travel- New York: Lower East Side, West Village and High Line (day 4)

I’ve been a little unwell the past month but feeling better today. So I can continue with Day 4 in New York City. We were finally done with our tours, so now it was time to check out some of the hipster neighbourhood in Lower Manhattan. We did breakfast on the Lower East Side, lunch in the West Village, walked the High Line and did a low key dinner with a friend. It was a pretty low key day, but boy did we do a lot of walking.

Lower East Side

One of the places you have to visit when in New York is the famous Katz’s Delicatessen. If not for the movie nostalgia and its history, definitely for their pastrami sandwich. This historical kosher-style delicatessen was founded back in 1888 and has been featured by numerous food shows. I have never been to a kosher eatery, so I was pretty excited to see what they would have on offer.

We arrived pretty early in the morning and there really wasn’t a lot open on the Lower East Side. Katz’s Delicatessen was open, so we took our time reading about their history and getting accustomed with the menu. Its a pretty lay back place, so we didn’t feel rushed to figure out what we were going to have. The menu is massive, consisting of hot and cold sandwiches, traditional Jewish dishes, breakfast omelettes, soups, salad platters and cakes.

We ended up going with the classic Pastrami Sandwich, which was chock full of freshly cooked pastrami, with mustard on fresh bread. We also had a side of half-sour and full-sour pickles and plate of Potato Latkes with apple sauce and sour cream. I’m don’t usually like cold cut meat sandwiches, but this hot pastrami sandwich exceeded my expectations. The meat was so juicy and satisfying. The sour pickles really complemented the sandwiches and the potato latkes were nice and crispy.

After breakfast, we took to the streets to see what the Lower East Side was all about. The buildings on this side of town aren’t highrise, so it has much more of a neighbourhood feel. The area has quite a few contemporary art galleries and home to many artists and creatives. It is also known as a place for night life and live music, so we probably should have visited later in the day. At this time of the morning, it was pretty quiet. None of the shops were open and it seemed most people were still in bed. We did find a few coffee shops open. In Australia, coffee is a pretty big thing and our coffee is a lot different from American coffee. So we were hoping to find something more similar to what we were used to.

We visited Ludlow Coffee Supply and their coffee was pretty good. Their barista/server was pretty rude though and I am not quite sure why. I don’t quite understand why anyone would be rude when they relying on tips. In my country, we don’t get tips, but its still unacceptable to have a bad attitude. Anyway hopefully they have nicer staff now. Other then that, it has a pretty trendy interior and was a pretty popular place for locals.

West Village

Afterwards, we walked over to the West Village, which took about 20 mins on foot. For us quite a bit longer with a toddler and a grandmother. We stopped at a local park and let O have a bit of a play. It was so unbelievably hot, so we hung out here for a while. The West Village has so many amazing cafes and restaurants in this area, as well as vintage stores and galleries. Its was probably my favourite neighbourhood in New York.

Pretty soon it was time for lunch and we visited another one of my must-visit eateries in New York. I have been a huge fan of Chloe Coscarelli for years, so I couldn’t wait to visit her first cafe. I have already reviewed this By Chloe on Bleeker Street, which you can see here. The food was amazing. It looked and tasted just as delicious as the food in Chloe’s cookbooks. Unfortunately, since our visit, Chloe was ousted from By Chloe. You can read about it here. To be honest I am not sure I would want to return to By Chloe given the chance. It just feels wrong after the way they treated her, and continuing to profit off her name and food genius.

The High Line

After lunch, we walked up to High Line, which begins on the north-eastern tip of Greenwich Village and continues through Chelsea. The High Line is an elevated public park, that runs along a historic freight rail line. It offers great views of Manhattans West Side and Hudson River, and features art installations and 120 different flora species. It runs about 1.45 miles (2.33 km) and a great place to take a relaxing stroll.

Friendly Catchup

After all that walking on the hot sun, we took some time to rest in the hotel. For dinner we met up with a friend of mine, who was air hostess and stopping overnight in New York. I really wanted to go do Momofuku Noodle Bar or John’s of Bleeker Street. However, it was so hot and nobody wanted to go so far away. Instead, my friend suggested the Olive Garden near Time Square. Marco was much more keen then me to try this Americanized-Italian food and I was a little curious.

Olive Garden at Time Square is a huge restaurant and is extremely popular for tourists. We had to take a buzzer, but it didn’t take too long to get a table. The menu is also massive, consisting of pastas, meat dishes, soups, salads, desserts, etc. It was quite overwhelming, we kept it simple with the Bread sticks, Famous House Salad, Angel Hair with Shrimp (no cream) for me and Meat cannelloni with meat sauce for Marco. The meals came out and were just massive in size. Mine looked a bit better than Marco’s dish, which looked a mess. My pasta wasn’t too bad, bit also wasn’t really flavoursome. Marco wasn’t such a fan of the taste of his. On the bright side the salad was fresh and the bread sticks weren’t bad. This would have been the perfect place to take your family if they love lots of options, big serves and have no dietary restrictions.

That brings me to the end of day 4. Tomorrow we do a horse and carriage ride through Central Park, visit the Central Park Zoo, see a Broadway show and dine at the amazing New York Eataly.

3# Throwback Travel- New York: Lady Liberty to Uptown (day 3)

On day three in New York, we continued our Big Bus tours, cruising to the Statue of Liberty and exploring the fancy side of town. We lunched on the Upper East Side, at one of the most amazing and elegant vegan restaurants, saw a Broadways show and had a cheeky late-night premium burger in Hell’s Kitchen. All in all, a pretty great day.

River Cruise to Lady Liberty

We had to get up pretty early this morning for the NYC Sightseeing River Cruise, which was part of our 2 day Big Bus pass. For breakfast, I went to a little hole in the wall bagel store near our apartment, which I can’t remember well and didn’t photograph. From memory, it was a pretty average. After, that we took a car down to the South Street Seaport in the Two Bridge area, where we took the Hornblower Cruise. It appears that this has been changed to a port off Hell’s Kitchen now.

The cruise went for about an hour and took us along the East River, passed the end of the Hudson River and into the Upper New York Bay. We got amazing views of the Financial District, Brooklyn, Governors Island, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. During the cruise, there was a recorded commentary and we could explore the top deck and the inside cabin. There wasn’t anything very exciting to eat or drink, just snacks. So I happy we had breakfast first.

This cruise didn’t get too close to the Statue of Liberty, but it did provide a great opportunity to take photographs of the entire island. It was pretty surreal seeing the lady of liberty in person. I did see many people exploring the island and I don’t regret not visiting it. I think we got a better view of the statue from the cruise than we would have below the statue.

Uptown and Harlem loop tour

Next, we took the Big Bus Uptown loop, which we got on from Bryant Park (20). It took us up through Time Square and the Broadway district, where we could see the outskirts of the Rockefeller centre. Then up to the Columbus Circle (southern left point of Central Park). From here we got off and onto the Harlem loop, which took us through the Upper West Side and up to Harlem. Harlem is a pretty hip area, with an amazing history, particularly for African Americans. As we passed through the Upper West Side, our guide pointed out the celebrities residents of the massive apartment building and important churches. The bus then took us back down to Columbus Circle, where we took the Uptown loop again up as far as the MET Museum. Here we got off to explore and have lunch. We didn’t have time to see the MET today, but I did return a couple of days later on my own.

Upper East Side

The streets on the Upper East Side as exactly how I imagined this fancy New York neighborhood to be. The buildings were all perfectly maintained with trees lining the narrow streets. It was much less crowded and very private, so I can see why it would be an ideal place to live in this bustling city. There are plenty of places to eat at this end of town closer to Central Park and in between the quieter streets.

One of the highlights of my trip was visiting Candle 79, which is a seriously great vegan restaurant on the Upper East side. It was top of my must-eat list for New York and it was highly recommended by Alicia Silverstone. It is a high-end vegan restaurant, serving organic, local and seasonal food. The menu items are well thought out and there was a small army of chefs in the kitchen producing all the amazing food that was coming out. It doesn’t matter if your not vegan or vegetarian and I guarantee the food will still wow you.

We sampled a few different dishes and I can say it was all really great and everyone was very happy. I had the Wild Mushroom Crepe with summer vegetables, tempeh, spinach, garlic truffle aioli. Marco had the Burrito with chilli-herb grilled seitan, caramelized onions, sautéed greens, chipotle black beans, brown rice and ‘mozzarella’. And Sally had the Spaghetti & White balls with truffled tomato sauce, roasted garlic, spinach, cashew parmesan. O just sampled what she liked. We also ordered a couple of desserts, including the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bliss (chocolate & peanut butter mousse, salted peanut-caramel crust, berry coulis) and the Cannoli (chocolate chip-vanilla cream filling, coconut ice cream, chocolate drizzle). If you didn’t know the deserts were vegan, you wouldn’t off been able to detect a different. They were just fantastic.

Broadway show

After such a big day we took a break in the hotel and prepared for our big Broadway show. I bought the tickets to Aladdin months before for Sally and I. They were pretty expensive, I think about $200 AUD. This is the only show we booked in advance. However, we did put our names down in the Broadway lottery every day, so we all got to see another show each, at a discounted rate. At the time, many of the shows prices were being driven up by bots buying tickets and then reselling them on other sites for four times the price. This was very unfair because many of the shows were quite empty.

So when I left the apartment, O was fast asleep on the bed with Marco. I prayed everything would be well because this would be the first time I ever left her. Sally and I walked up to the theatre. The show was held in the gorgeous New Amsterdam Theatre and we had pretty great seats. There was a bar with Aladdin inspired drinks and shop with merchandise, but it was all pretty pricey. When the show began I was blown away, it was spectacular. Remember this was back before the film came out. The show was very close to the original movie and was a true live-action rendition stage. Then, halfway through the show, I began getting messages from Marco. O had woken up and freaked out that Mama wasn’t there. He could not calm her down and was begging me to just come outside the theatre for a quick hug. There was no way I was going to leave this amazing show and jeopardise my first few hours of freedom. I said no way, deal with it. In the end, he gave her a shower and she fell back asleep from exhaustion. They managed, which was the most important thing.

Late night burger

After the show, Marco wanted to get some dinner, so we all took a walk to Hell’s Kitchen to try the famous Five Napkins Burger. I believe this is one of the only places Marco had on his must-eat list. Five Napkins is a high-end burger joint, with four locations across NYC, and are renown for their original 5 Napkins Burger. It contains 10oz Angus beef from Aspen Ridge, Gruyere cheese, caramelized onions and rosemary aioli on a soft white potato bun. We all got the original with fries, I just omitted the cheese. These burgers were pretty amazing and tasted exactly how you want a juicy beef burger to taste. All the ingredients were high quality, but I think it was the caramelized onions that won me over.

Now all of our tours were completed, we had the freedom to explore some of the places we saw on the bus and explore a few new things that weren’t covered. Tomorrow we head to Lower East Side, the West Village and catch up with a friend.

2# Throwback Travel- New York: Big Bus from Midtown to Brooklyn (day 2)

On day two in New York, we did the most touristy thing you can do, the Big Bus tours. I usually prefer walking tours, but when you have a baby and the weather is a bit drizzly this was easier. We got to see so much more than we would have on foot since the city is just so massive. The Big Bus tours are only offered for 1-3 days. Of course, we wanted to save money so we went tried to do four bus tours and a cruise two day. We still did shopping, dining and sightseeing on foot on the same days, so its definitely doable. Today we did the Downtown, Brooklyn and Night tour loops. We also visited the Financial District, Battery Park and 9/11 Memorial.

Since we had a big day ahead of us we need a big breakfast. My hotel did have complimentary breakfast, but I preferred not to dine there since the food was very processed. The healthiest option they had was Quaker Oats, but I was aware there was a class action against them. I preferred to explore some healthier breakfast options near my hotel. I found Le Pain Quotidien (Bryant Park location). They offer pastries, artisan breads, jams, eggs, steel-cut oats and more healthy breakfast options. Their bread is made traditionally with organic stone-ground flour and most of the other breakfast menu options are also organic. They have a large selection of organic jams and other condiments that are also free to use. Octavia and I had boiled eggs with a selection of breads and jams and soy cappuccino. The staff were so lovely and brought Octavia some extra bread to chew on.

Downtown Loop Bus tour

We began with the Downtown Loop, which we did in two parts that day. We took it from the 5th Avenue Midtown (3), all the way to City Hall Park (10), which covered Midtown to Lower Manhattan. The bus goes right through the middle of the island, so we saw districts of Nomad and Greenwich Village, Spring and Canal shopping strips and all the important law buildings in the Lower Manhattan. From the second level of the bus, I was able to get better views and photos of buildings. I listened to all the commentary from the guide with the earphones. The guy on this part of our tour was pretty entertaining and one of my favourite guides.

We got off the bus at City Hall Park, where we saw our first squirrel. It was so cute and much tiny than I imagined. We also saw Black Lives Matters activists, but it was pretty quiet at that time of the morning. We did some retail therapy at Century 21, which had great deals on designer apparel. I found some great bargains for O and myself in our short visit. What I really loved is that they had a petite section for short people like me, so I found a couple of great dresses that were cut correctly for my height.

World Trade Centre

Next, we made our way to the World Trade Centre district to see the 9/11 Memorial. One of the most noticeable buildings we saw as we were walking up was the Oculus. It is actually the World Trade Centre train station, designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. Next, we saw the sky-high buildings that were adjacent to the twin towers. To think that twin towers had been taller and then to see the space for the memorial was amazing. The memorial does have an eerie feeling, despite the crowds of people. It makes you remember how crazy that day was and reflect on the tragedy and where we were at the time of the event. I was actually in Athens on my first trip to Europe with my parents. We were in shock and weren’t sure if we would finish the bus tour and be stuck in Europe for months. It seems silly now to think that, but that feeling that we weren’t safe from such a distance was very real. I regret not going to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. I wasn’t that interest to visit it on this trip, since celebrating my birthday. Next time, I hope to go see the museum.

Financial District

We visited the Financial District for lunch and take our next tour bus. It was nothing like I imagined. The roads seemed so narrow with this sky-high buildings and it was also pretty quiet. I did see the Charging Bull of Wall Street, which was in a peculiar position, on a bit land between two roads. I could not get near it, there was way too many tourists taking photos. I have a photo of it below, from the Bus tour, it was still busy.

For lunch, we made a stop for one of the best lobster rolls in New York. This was very exciting because in Australia, lobster is super expensive and usually served in a fine dining restaurant alongside vegetables. Luke’s Lobster has various locations in NYC, across the US and Japan and Taiwan. They offer Maine-style seafood rolls, chowder and bisques using fresh sustainable seafood. They also have vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free options. On the day we visited, it was pretty busy, with local workers stopping in for a quite bite. We ordered a few different seafood rolls to share, including crab, lobster and prawn, which came with a crab claw and a large pickle. Considering I was dining with people who don’t like seafood, they all loved it as much as I did. Even little O, who was excited to try all the new flavours.

Brooklyn Loop tour

From the Financial District we took the Brooklyn Loop at the Battery Park stop (29). By this stage the heat had finally broken and it was quite drizzly. Luckily the bus offered plastic coats for those like me who wanted to still sit on the top deck.

The tour took us along the southern shore, which runs along the East River and through China Town. We then took the Manhattan Bridge, which gave us great views of the Two Bridge area, as well as the East River and Dumbo, Brooklyn. In Brooklyn, we saw one of the few fuel stations as well as a strange suspended car park. Brooklyn wasn’t exactly what I expected. However, we only saw a little snippet of it, since we only went as far as the Grand Army Plaza, and then turned around and went back over the Manhattan Bridge. It did take a slightly different route on the way to Battery Park, past Seaport and the Charging Bull.

Battery Park

After that tour we were eager to have a break, so we got some cold drinks from Starbucks and relaxed at the Battery Park. This green space is 37 hectares and sits on the southern-most top of Manhattan. There are quite a few monuments in the park, as well as the Pier A Harbor and an abundance of street food vendors.

Downtown Loop tour

We then took our third bus tour, which is actually the second half of the first bus we took that morning. We got on at the Battery Park stop (29) and travelled along the west coast, all the way through Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen and Time Square. By this stage, we were all toured out, but it wouldn’t be our last bus for the day.

Urbanspace Vanderbilt

For dinner, we wanted to go somewhere near our hotel for a quick bite before the night tour. So, we stopped in at Urbanspace Vanderbilt. This is an amazing food hall, with rotating concepts and diverse cuisines. I really needed to eat some vegetables and wanted to make sure Octavia had someone healthy as well. It was so hard to choose, but I settled with Two Tablespoons, who offer vegan and vegetarian veggie bowls and rice paper rolls. They use mostly organic and locally sourced ingredients and avoid using any heavily processed ingredients. I ordered the Shanti Express, which included a chickpea stew, quinoa, curried Cauliflower and a  kale and Lentils salad. It tasted fresh and fragrant, it was healthy and it was satisfying.

Discover NYC by Night tour

The very last tour of our day was the complimentary evening tour. It began at M&M’s World Stop (37), just a block from Time Square. It was so crowded and hot. I felt like I could barely breathe. Since they were doing construction under the road, there were large pipes pumpkin hot air to the road level, making the streets even warmer. After quite a wait we got the last bus off the night. This bus took us through Time Square, Midtown, China Town, Little Italy, Lower Manhattan, across the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn, Soho, Greenwich Village and back up to Midtown. Although we saw a lot of we had already seen today, it was definitely different by night. The stories were different and so was the city.