New York City, Jul 6 – 11, 2017: One Heck of a Town!

New York City is a one-of-a-kind city. It is referenced as the metropolis to visit because it has everything- art, food, history and sports. For Trina and I, it is the one place we visited most frequently outside of Boston and Singapore, constantly for ballroom dance competitions and lessons. More often than not, we would end up with some sort of travel hiccup in our commute to and fro New York. Stuff like my car breaking down and Trina and I playing cards along the side of the highway to pass time, or me forgetting the bus time and Trina arguing with the bus operators to let us on. But whenever we were in the city we would have a blast. This time we were going to try the train instead of the car or bus.

Thursday July 6:
We started out our day with a nice workout (don’t forget to exercise when you are on vacation!) in Connecticut. We had planned on taking the Amtrak train from Windsor Locks Connecticut to New Haven, and transferring to the MTA New Haven Line to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. First we had to figure out how to get to Windsor Locks. I was planning on trying Uber, but Trina talked me out of it because she was doubtful of the prevalence of Uber drivers around. We took a cab service instead and got to the station in 15 minutes. It was a pretty pricey- about $40 for a ride in a Lincoln. I decided upon arriving at the station that on the way back, we would be taking an Uber.

I’m being generous when I say “station”. Windsor Lock train station is more of a platform. There was one plastic and steel shelter and that was about it. It was already occupied by a family so we sat on the stairs. We got to the station early, about 40 minutes ahead of the train’s arrival. While we were playing the phone rendition of Ticket-to-Ride (perfect game before a train ride), I received a text saying that our train was going to be delayed by 30 minutes. And then 15 minutes later, I got another text that the train was on time. Eventually, our train trundled down the tracks and we scurried up the steep ladder with our luggage.

We got to New Haven quickly. When we exited the train, we realized that a train to Grand Central was going to arrive in 5 minutes. I had thought we could buy tickets at the platform, but it turned out that the ticketing counter was in the main lobby, which was all the way across a labyrinth of train platforms.  We weren’t going to make it to the ticketing counter and back, so we decided to pay on the train. We did contemplate having me bolt over to the main lobby and Trina taking care of the luggage but we decided to not risk it. We were also sharing one cellphone (mine), so there would not be a way to contact each other if something messed up. We hopped on the train that pulled in next, and took it straight to Manhattan.

Once we got to the city it was fairly easy to get to our hotel- the Shelburne Affinia hotel. Grand Central was very hectic when we got there, with people rushing home from work and we weren’t used to the sudden 10x increase in people density. Our hotel was located about four blocks from the station on Lexington Avenue, and the whole Murray Hill area was extremely nice. Check-in at the hotel was easy. After unpacking our stuff we headed across the street to Momosan Ramen and Sake and had ramen and pickled cabbage. It was really tasty but too filling so we went for a walk through Bryant Park towards Time Square to soak in the lights. I know it is a touristy area, but I always find it impressive that the whole area is so brightly lit it almost feels like day.

We went through Times Square and walked back to our hotel with food all digested.

Friday July 7:
The day got off to an odd start. Initially, Trina and I were planning to do an hour kayaking tour of the Hudson River. Mother Nature had other plans. It was cloudy, foggy and a bit rainy. We received a phone call from the Manhattan Kayak + SUP, telling us that they were going to cancel and reschedule our session. They proposed a few times that did not work, so they told us they would get back to us. Trina and I then went into solution mode. We discovered that we could reschedule our spin class on Saturday in order to have a Saturday session. We were able to do contact the spin cycle place very easily. We called the Kayak tours back and were able to get a Saturday tour.

So with not much to do in the morning we walked over to the nearest museum, which was the Morgan Library. As we walked over there the skies opened up and dropped buckets of rain on us. Trina and I realized if we had gone to the Hudson to kayak we would be paddling through torrential downpours. Good call by the tour place.

Drenched we made it to the Morgan Library. It was extremely ostentatious with deep brown mahogany book cases filled with elegant leather bound books. You could tell that JP Morgan liked his library because we was willing to build such a large space in one of the most densely populated and expensive cities in the world. Trina commented that it felt like she was stepping into the library in Beauty and the Beast, except no talking furniture. We checked. The candlesticks and clocks were not animated at all.

We only saw half the library before we headed out for lunch at Mexicue near Bryant Park. There we feasted on tacos and jambalaya. I was actually amazed at how affordable the food was for its quality.

We then walked off our food a bit by visiting the New York Public Library. It was pretty big with lots and lots of books of course. I am not sure why anyone would want to study there in the public areas since there were tourists everywhere, Trina and I included, snapping photos. I guess it is something of an experience to do some serious studying in such a grand place?

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Feeling thoroughly inspired by the books we went to our spin class at Soul Cycle near Bryant Park. Trina and I have heard a lot about it in the news. There is no studio where I live in Connecticut so we figured this would be a good opportunity to try it out. Plus the intro class is pretty affordable at $20. We entered a really clean studio, signed in, changed and then went into the cycling area. It was pretty cramp, but also thoroughly crowded. In the chaos of setting up we got some assistance on the bikes from what appeared to be a crew for the instructor. For 45 minutes we were cajoled into cycling harder and harder. I admit I felt that some of the session was about inspiring people to push themselves more and more. Our instructor was pretty good about that. I know I am suppose to concentrate on myself, but given my hearing loss I tended to look around to get cues as to what to do. People were not able to cycle as fast as the instructor, but still there were some speed demons there. The whole session ended with lighted candles being placed through the studio. Never seen that in a workout before. Overall, it was a really positive experience. I hope a studio opens up near me in CT, that would be worth going to.

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After showering and catching our breathes Trina and I headed back to the hotel to rest a bit. We then headed to Grand Central to go to a Yankees game. Before getting into the station we stopped at Previti Pizza for a slice of chicken and tomato, and a slice of spinach and artichoke. Both slices were really large and hit the spot. We then boarded the number 4 towards Yankee Stadium.

Let me be clear that Trina and I are Red Sox fans. That does not, however, preclude us from going to a Yankees game. We have both been hearing a lot about their young star outfield Aaron Judge, and we were interested in watching him play. Plus, I wanted to see the new Yankee Stadium. The trip up there was pretty quick and efficient. Sadly, getting into the stadium was not. We needed to wait in line to get our will-call tickets, then we waited in a monstrous line to get into the stadium. There was a lot of security, understandably, given the size of the crowds. We eventually made our way up our seats at the main deck overlooking the third base line. It was a really good view. After being used to cramp Fenway park, Yankee stadium is quite spacious. We enjoyed a pretty even match between New York and Milwaukee when Judge came up for this 2nd at bat. In his first plate appearance he hit a fly ball to shallow center field for an easy out. I told Trina he was due for a home run. Sure enough, he hit one out of the park. At that point, even though I am a jaded Sox fan, I could not be unimpressed. He definitely has a bright future ahead at the rate he is going.

 

The fans themselves were pretty into it too. Even though there were some great distances between groups, the crowd was always rowdy. Around the 5th inning Trina and I got a hot dog and beer. Unfortunately, we had to wait quite a bit for both. We did see Milwaukee hit a go ahead home run, while waiting in line. Yay! When we got to our seats it starting pouring down rain. Fortunately, we had ponchos and that our seats were covered. It was entertaining to see the ground crew take care of the base path. Trina admitted it was the first time that she had noticed it was dirt. In any event the game resumed once the downpour stopped. After a fun rendition of “Take me out to the ballgame” it was around the top of the 7th that Milwaukee hit a grand slam. That put everyone in a sour mood. Most people started leaving. Trina and I followed suit after Aaron Judges’ 4th at bat. We stopped by the Yankee museum, which was pretty impressive. There was so much memorabilia. After perusing all the exhibits we strolled down to the elevated train station and were able to easily get back to our hotel from there, quite happy that the Yankees lost.

Saturday July 8:
The next day we headed over to the west side for our Kayak tour. The weather was brilliant, so no fears of any rainfall. We got there and quickly received an introductory course on Kayaking. Our guide was pretty funny, but made sure to answer all of our questions. We were given a life vest and a paddle. Trina and I would each have our own kayak. I liked how they slid us into the water after we got seated into the boat. Before heading out to the Hudson we paddled around a dock next to the USS Intrepid. Once everyone was in the water we headed upstream towards the Washington bridge. We probably only went about a mile north and settled into the middle of the Hudson between Manhattan and New Jersey. The skyline was pretty magnificent. It was also cool to see the Statue of Liberty all the way down in the harbor. We paddled around while the guides demonstrated getting dunked in the water. We were invited to do so, but Trina and I politely declined. After a bit more photo snapping we headed back to the docks. We had no trouble getting out of our boat. Overall, it was a really fun experience.

 

We felt pretty famished so we walked over to Gotham West Market for some food. It was a food-court-like set up where we went to a place called Genuine for a burger and chicken sandwich. Both were really delicious. We thought about playing the board games they had there but felt our seats were too far away to play. We got tempted by the ice cream a the Ample Hills Creamery. We had Munchies flavored ice cream which consisted of potato chips, marshmallow, and crackers. It was really good, though I preferred an oatmeal cookie flavored ice cream.

We then thought we should check out the Intrepid. There were some really long lines, and the admission was pretty expensive, so we opted for walking on the High-Line. We wandered across it for a few miles. It was pretty neat seeing all the plants while walking past buildings. There were also a lot of people wandering it. As a walk it is a nice respite from the hustle and bustle from the streets. We headed back to the hotel to shower off the Hudson water and the sweat we accumulated during the Kayak and Highline trips.

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After a refreshing nap we headed over to Greenwich Village near Washington square. For dinner we went to the Olive Tree Cafe and Bar for Mediterranean food. I had the chicken kebab while Trina had the borscht Overall, it was okay, though for me it was great since I cannot find that type of food where I live. There were two notable things about the restaurant. It was playing Charlie Chaplin movies on the wall, and it was over a comedy club. Trina and I needed to use the restroom, but had to go through a performing comedy routine to get there. It was a bit strange to hear laughter while I tried to use a urinal. Not something that inspires confidence in oneself.

 

After wandering through Greenwich Village a bit we headed over to the Comedy Cellar Village Vanguard on McDougal street. We had nice seats looking at the right side of the stage. The first comedian, and also the emcee, was Mo Amer. He was really funny, and talked about how he got seated next to Eric Trump on a flight that did not go well. The next comedian was Des Bishop. It was interesting hearing his Irish/New York accent through some of his Mandarin phrases. Trina said he spoke really well. The third comedian was Ronny Chieng. We liked his take on how Amazon would soon be delivering stuff even before we want it. Trina later pointed out that he was from Johor Bahru, just north of Singapore. Up next was Michael Che, who had some good observations about how to survive a drinking contest.

The emcee moved through the comedians pretty quickly, then came up to remind us not to take any photos. He then promptly introduced Judd Apatow, the producer of movies like Knocked Up and Trainwreck. It was really exciting to see him perform since he normally does not have big parts in his movies. Overall, he was pretty good, though he was going through a list of jokes he wrote. He then invited Pete Holmes from the TV series Crashing to join him on stage. It was a bit awkward to see both try to slide in jokes. Trina later found out that Pete Holmes went to the same high school as me in Lexington MA. Small world!

Finally, the emcee came up one more time to again to remind us not to take photos. Sure enough he invited up Chris Rock! Wow! He is one of the most influential comedians of all time. He had some interesting bits about Rite Aid and Prince, but overall you could tell he was just trying out material like Judd Apatow. From what I understand both like to come to comedy clubs to try out material for their broadcast specials. So they were both a bit disjointed, but funny nevertheless.

We felt pretty good after that evening. Also having two drinks also put us in a great mood. We happily went back to the hotel recounting all the jokes we heard that evening.

Sunday July 9:
We started the next day off with some exercise in the hotel gym. For lunch we met up with a classmate from grad school at Moonstruck diner. There I had a BLT sandwich. It was great catching up with friends. Since they lived in Manhattan they made some recommendations on where to stop on our way up to Central Park.

We headed up 5th Avenue. Along the way we stopped at St Patrick’s Cathedral and then Rockefeller Center. I had to make sure we stopped at the large LEGO store there. After admiring the sets we went to Central Park. Nearby on 60th Street there was a Bastille Day festival to commemorate the start of the French Revolution. We both are not French, but that did not prevent us from picking up some nice tarts and lemonade.

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We then meandered around Central Park looking for a place to sit in the shade. We finally found one unoccupied bench where we people-watched and enjoyed our tarts. Trina noticed that there was a Pokémon at Central Park that she wanted to catch. So we promptly headed north to seek it out. The distance we had to cover was a bit of a hike but we got there with plenty of time. Unfortunately, my cell reception got really bad. I think it had to do with all the people enjoying non-digital entertainment in Central Park. After rebooting my phone to no avail we resigned ourselves to failing our quest for the digital creature. So we did some more people watching in the park.

Feeling rested from the expedition we headed down to Times Square to watch a musical, the Book of Mormom. Before getting there we stopped by Dig Inn for a chicken kale and quinoa bowl. It was extremely tasty and also very filling. I was not able to finish all of the sweet potatoes.

We made it to the Eugene O’Neill Theater for our 7 pm show. We were sitting in the orchestra and noticed that the three seats in front of us were not occupied so we thought “Oh great! Un-obstructed View!” Sure enough three giants staggered in just in time for the curtain to raise. Now the musical was great, but one thing that the production cannot control is the people. Not only were they tall, but the were talking and giggling during awkward moments in the show. Trina and I were somewhat disappointed. As the lights came up for intermission we noticed in front of the giants that two seats were unoccupied. So just before the start of the second half we grabbed those seats. I muttered something about missing the first half and not being allowed in. Fortunately, the people around us did not fuss about it. And even more fortunately, no one ever came down to claim the seats. The second half was way better! The musical is great by the way, though it is not for everyone. If you get offended by just about anything then this musical is not for you. Trina commented that my jaw dropped several times throughout the show because I did not think that what we saw could be done on stage.

 

We felt pretty good about ourselves afterwards and wandered through Time Square and Bryant Park. Again, recounting all the jokes we heard.

Monday July 10:
Trina and I started our last full day in Manhattan with another round of exercise. Trina proceeded to continue her exercise when she noticed that the digital creature she was seeking out, the Tauros from Pokemon, was nearby. She promptly left the hotel and said she was just going a few blocks away. So I showered, read a book, watched TV and began to wonder where she was. I then called my phone, which she was carrying,, because I was worried. Sure enough she said she did not get it and was trying to fix it. Then she was cut off. I thought “oh great she is stuck in the lobby”. Before I could get out of the room she barged in and started saying something about not being able to load anything. Turns out she had deleted the app and could not download it again. After she downloaded it she sprinted out again. I decided to follow her this time as she sprinted ahead. I did not want her barreling head first into traffic to catch a digital bull. I eventually caught up to her at Park Ave and 35th street. She happily proclaimed success with a thumbs up! Matter of fact she caught two of them. The rest of the day both of us were very happy. She, because she caught a North America specific Pokemon, and me because she will stop running through Manhattan like a crazy woman.

To celebrate we went to Food Gallery 32 on 32nd Street for some Korean food. I had a ramen dish, while she also had a noodle bowl. Apparently, her dish was super spicy, even for her well tested taste buds. To cool off a bit we shared some macaroons.

For the most part we did not have much planned for this day so we decided to go to see some of the sites at Wall Street. We first started by looking the crowds surround the Bull of Wall Street and the Defiant Girl. They were both mobbed. There were a number of people getting their picture taken while holding the bull’s bronze testicles. Not exactly a Hallmark moment, but we were not going to judge. We did opt for a selfie with the Defiant Girl so that was neat.

 

After taking a few more pictures we went to Federal Hall where the New York Stock Exchange is located. Federal Hall is where George Washington took the first oath of office for the President of the United States in 1789. New York City was at one point the capital of the nation before moving to Philadelphia. There were a number of exhibits with the hall, discussing not only early colonial history but other points in US history.

After touring around a bit we headed over to the 9/11 Museum and Memorial. The 9/11 tragedy is one of those moments in history that a large majority of people will remember where they were when they heard about it or were affected directly by it. The memorial itself does an amazing job of honoring the victims as well as celebrating life. The waterfalls are indeed very impressive and a good indicator of what to expect inside the museum.

The exhibits and displays very solemn but full of information about what they represent. For me personally, I liked the exhibits about the towers themselves. Near the south tower base there are displays about how the towers were built and what life was like inside of them. The south tower displays also had dedications to the victims, displaying all there photographs as well as small exhibits about what they were interested in and did for a living. The north tower displays were very intense, going through a chronology of the events during and after. This area was very overwhelming. It would take two days to go through everything that was on display. While it is a very sad memorial I would recommend people to see it because it is one of the few museums I have ever gone to that packed an emotional punch.

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Afterwards, we decided to get dinner at Fraunces Tavern where George Washington used to eat when he was in New York serving his first term as president. It was a small little colonial brick building that looked minuscule among the skyscrapers. There I had a really tasty Oyster Stout and salmon, while Trina had the mac and cheese. The pub area was really lively and had a great 18th century mood lighting to it.

Still feeling a bit down from the museum we opted to watch the new Spider-Man movie at a nearby theater. Coincidentally, the movie takes place in New York. There was one scene where Spider-man saves passengers on the Staten Island ferry. While the movie is fiction we decided not to experience the ferry even though we thought about doing so. Instead we headed back to the hotel for some rest.

Tuesday July 11:
The next day we returned to Connecticut. During the entire trip back I was obsessed with Amazon Prime Day. We eventually got some good deals. However I always feel like going to New York is a good deal. It is so big and expansive that each trip there is unique and fun.  Trina and I look forward to visiting New York City more times in the future!

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