Once upon a time, I was skyping with my friend Jen.
Jen: I've never been to New York.
Josie: Me either.
Jen: Wanna go?
Two months later, our plane took off for the Big Apple.
Both Jen and I had friends in the city, and made a pact to see all of them during our four day stint in the thriving metropolis. We were staying with two different friends in Manhattan, and visiting five more in various parts of the city. We were on a mission. We could not be stopped. So when we first arrived in the city that never sleeps, where do you think we went? To drop our stuff off at my friend Scott's apartment of course!
But what you don't know about Scott's abode is that it happens to be smack dab in the middle of the hubbub and chaos of the city of Manhattan. Also he's on the 40th floor of his apartment building. Also he has a giant sheet of glass for a wall, and he wakes up every morning to this:
It was prettttttty great. But Scott was still at work, and Jen and I knew exactly how to entertain ourselves. We were going to Time Square.
On our way, we realized how hungry we were, and stopped at a place called Harvest Brewery. We had fried bar food and enjoyed the local beer. Jen went with a classic IPA, and I went for their seasonal brew: pumpkin and chocolate stout. And mmmm boy, it was tasty!
Then, a few blocks later we reached it. Time Square! And it was just as overwhelming as it looks on TV.
After wandering aimlessly for a while, we walked to the famous Central Park. We were about to cross the street to the entrance when... we saw a Coach store. With Jen sporting both Coach boots and a Coach purse, we had to make an appearance! They complimented me on my boots too, and I got them at a local boutique in Traverse City, Michigan! So....... booyah.
But then we went across the street and meandered through the snowy unplowed paths of Central Park, which bikers said would take 6 hours to walk in its entirety.
We had just carved our names in the snow when Jen got a call from her cousin Lee, who lives in Brooklyn. He wanted to take us to dinner at a local Spanish restaurant. Tapas? Yes please!
The place was Tiapole, and it was incredible! It reminded me a lot of San Chez, a tapas bar in Grand Rapids where I grew up. Except it had a big-city feel to it, and our flamboyant waiter was hilarious! He gave us plenty of suggestions, and we were all open to trying new things, so we gladly welcomed them! From the sangria to the fried edamame to the flan for dessert, everything was delicious and very true to Spanish cuisine.
After that, we decided to go to the bar by Scott's apartment: McGary's. It was a splendid local dive bar, and I approve of the fact that Scott and his friends visit it often. It was open until 4 in the morning. We were able to be part of the closing time experience that night. Closing time... Time for you to go out to the places you will be from...
The next morning, Jen and I visited the famous Rockefeller Center! We passed Radio City Music Hall, and the NBC builing now famous because of 30Rock! Less than a block away, it was ice skating time!
After that, we spotted Anthropologie, a dangerous store with adorable clothes and less than kind prices. But Jen had never experienced the store before. I couldn't have that. Soooo... that happened. We also made a brief stop across the street at J. Crew.
After that, it was back to Time Square. Jen and I were back with a mission to get discount Broadway tickets for that evening! We waited in line by the TKTS Booth in the center of the square for an hour and a half. We were freezing, but it was worth it when we were able to get FOURTH ROW SEATS to the PHANTOM OF THE OPERA for 50% OFF! And that's how it's done.
Feeling extremely pleased with ourselves, but a little half-frozen, Jen and I set out to see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. We had gotten directions from what seemed to be a credible source. We were to go on the subway, and take Line 1 all the way to the end. The ferry station would be there and it would be impossible to miss.
We followed these directions, and just as we suspected, the exit from the train took us directly to a line for the ferry! We were immediately able to board the ship, and the best part? NO FEE! The ferry was free! We did notice something else strange. Nobody on this boat seemed to look like tourists. On the contrary, they seemed to be returning home after a long day's work. "Could this ferry be making other stops along the way to Ellis Island?" I asked Jen. "I don't know... Are you sure this is right?" Asked Jen.
Turns out we were on the Staten Island Ferry. Womp womp.
After having a good laugh, Jen and I put our feet up and decided to enjoy the ride. And we're so very glad we did! On the Staten Island Ferry you're able to get a great view of the city skyline, and even better, a view of the Statue of Liberty! We met a couple of other tourists from Mexico City who had made the same mistake, and we laughed together and took pictures, making the best of the situation and making friends in the meantime.
We got off the boat and took an hour or so to explore Staten Island. Turns out there's not much to do... at least within the vicinity of the ferry station. BUT! I would still recommend taking that free ferry ride for the spectacular scenery! And it was even better on the way back, when we could see the lights of the city at dusk.
We ventured back on the subway in a hurry, excited to have some dinner before going to see the Phantom of the Opera. Scott had picked out a good Italian place, and we were pushing our luck for time as it was. But fate would have it that on our way back, we stumbled across an H&M. It was inevitable! The siren song of the fairly priced graphic tees and skinny jeans were too much. So we went in. We called Scott and asked if it would be alright if we could just do dinner after the show. He accepted this proposal gleefully, excited at the fact that he would now be enjoying much cheaper fare.
After changing into our new clothes for the show, we headed out into the night! When we got to the theatre (The Majestic), we were ushered to our seats. Check out the view from the fourth row:
Being someone who had never seen a live production of this musical before, I was blown away. The man who played the Phantom (Hugh Panaro) was absolutely incredible! And Christine's voice- played by Sara Jean Ford- was one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard. But what do you expect from a New York Broadway show? All in all, an amazing performance.
To make up for our nice Italian dinner, we picked up some Dollar-a-Slice Pizza on the way back to Scott's apartment. His roommates had called to inform him that some friends were coming over that night, and they wanted to "go out later."
So we got back, met some new friends and played Catch Phrase-which is guaranteed to always be a good time (always)-and then headed out to a bar on 11th Ave. And it was the most crowded, packed place I've ever been. If you are in any way claustrophobic, this was NOT the place for you. And it wasn't for us either. There were about eight of us, on top of the hundreds of others packed into a 600 square-foot area. After about a minute and a half, we decided to bail.
We walked out the door, not knowing where we were headed. And I don't know how it happened, but somehow I was leading the group. So I went with my gut. I turned left. I went about two doors down, and saw a green neon sign that said "BAR" with an arrow pointing up a shady set of cement stairs. I went up the stairs, and it led me to a thick wooden door. Inside, it was a hole-in-the-wall bar, complete with arcade games, beaded doorways and PBR by the can. I was home. They also closed at 4 AM. Welcome to New York.
And the second half of my trip will be detailed in my next blog post... Coming soon. Stay tuned, folks!