So this is FINALLY the last New York post I have to share with you lovely people – of course, that is before I go AGAIN at Thanksgiving – don’t know if I mentioned that but I basically have stars in my eyes thinking of watching the house-sized balloons being paraded around the city so I will keep mentioning it – I AM SO EXCITED 😀
Since this is the final pre-exchange NYC post though, I have a few warnings for you. Not on purpose, but it seems that somehow, I have left a massive amount of food porn for the final post. I kid you not, there will be a ridiculously large number of food photos in this post.
So grab that popcorn/spaghetti/both and settle down for this movie length post because yes, it is going to be long. Very long. (Was it just me or did you also get a ‘Bond. James Bond’ vibe from that last line?)
I think today, I shall start with something I found underrated by other New York tourists i.e. they hadn’t heard about it/had no idea what it was all about so were leaving it off their checklists.
Oh the fools. The poor, ignorant fools.
Chelsea Market is my bae. My home away from home, my New York haven of all things delicious, vintage and deliciously vintage. These markets house my deepest, unwavering love for chocolatey desserts combined with free sampling. Quite generous these New Yorkers, don’t see what all the fuss is about their lack of manners and general rudeness 😛
Located so conveniently opposite the long winding tracks of New York’s Highline, which of course I will go into later, it is a sweet, old building, probably brimming with history, that welcomes you into a slightly Hipster-esque paradise.
I mean, random neon-purple pump of water? Cool.
Gigantic spice shop, in which my mum would have a field day? S’alright.
Much to the chagrin of every other local who just wanted a nice meal and a bit of vintage shopping, my 4 friends and I probably blocked up the pathway too much in our continuous turns back and forth to try in trying to decide what to eat.
Do you know how difficult it is to decide on something when there is food in every direction!?! Oh wait, of course you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this blog 😉
One of my absolute, 100% favourite places (because you know, you always start talking about food with dessert!) was definitely Eleni’s Cookies New York. You may be surprised by this whirlwind of information but she actually does more than cookies. Those are just her specialty (she had sold out of chocolate chip, I was completely and utterly gutted!!!).
I manned up (am i being anti-feminist by saying that?) though after a few tears and settled on a cupcake.
And a whoopie pie. And more cookie samples because dammit I am only so strong. And I made sure the cupcake was ridiculously chocolatey and full of ganached goodness too. Because I was being strong 🙂
We also succumbed to our inner childhood by posing with these adorably frosted cookies – how could we not smile when the cookies were smiling at us? We are nice folk I tell you!!! 😀
Besides, you would be all smiles too after entering this shop, with the stacks of colourful cookies lining the shelves as far as the eye could see. I reckon this shop would be a magnificent addition to Wonka’s Chocolate Factory 😉
But you know me, I could talk about dessert forever, so let’s move on the savoury. The mouthwatering, massively sized sandwiches from Num Pang’s Sandwich Shop. Not even in the hipster oriented world of Sydney city have I had such a combination of Asian flavours in a sandwich!
I know that I definitely got this beautiful Roasted Cauliflower concoction, where the bread is not too overly toasty or warm, but the filling melts on your tongue. There was an eggplant flavoured spread I think and of course, all our sandwiches featured the magnificent chilli mayo Num Pang’s is so famous for!
I also succumbed to advertising. Again.
Now I know I have just bombarded you with an overdose of food, and to be honest, the shopping in Chelsea Market was pretty spectacular as well – all round, I am definitely going back there near Thanksgiving, though I am pretty sure there will be a tourist overload!
I specifically remember that we went to Highline afterwards because we had to carry our stomachs with us up three flights or so of wiry stairs to reach it. Now I didn’t really look much into it, and personally, I thought it got a little old a little fast.
The basic gist of this place was that it was a rough and tough, run down strip between buildings in Chelsea that was graffiti-ed up and in general, a bit of a downer. So to fix it up, trees, flowers and shrubbery was planted all along it to make it fresh and green, and statues (and I believe a fountain?) were also installed along the walkway.
Moving on to something a little more exciting as in A LOT MORE EXCITING 😀 😀 😀
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I kind of blew up there but you have to understand. Soho is where I will retired. Soho is my future life. Soho is the only place I wanted to be in the Big Apple once I actually get there.
Yes. I may have gotten a bit carried away with my love for Soho.
But you have got to understand. Soho is the classiest yet most down to earth place I have ever seen. Are there pristine, crack-less streets with people in modern-day versions of top hats? Nope. Just bakeries and chocolate shops inviting you in with their gorgeous aromas and even a few cafes littered around.
I’d like to stress something – America, you suck at cafe culture a.k.a. you don’t have them. I know you prefer diners but get your cafe game up to scratch!! But Soho’s game is so strong comparatively.
Also, Soho has the coolest apartment building architecture ever! Or maybe I’m biased because it reminds me of Friends 😉
The whole area gives me an ‘I’m a rich hipster’ feel since it is so artsy yet full of people who can afford to wear $10,000 gowns. Once. 😛
My friends and I, on our New York Pass, took a tour of Soho and the surrounding areas, and our gorgeous going-to-be-an-actor guide actually mentioned that Soho used to be a poor artist’s area before the rich came in to fix up the area and then take over it.
At least the artistic talent and spirit survived. If anyone has even been to Newtown in Sydney, then Soho reminds me of a more expensive, classier version of that area.
Trends begin in Soho.
I wish I could show you more but we more simple passed Soho as opposed to actively explored it. Our guide pointed out the apartment in which Heath Ledger was found passed away in (that was actually just for us Australians in the group!) and claiming that the first recorded murder in the US occurred there too.
Historically a little depressing no doubt, but I think it adds to the versatile character of Soho! I plan to spend a whole day exploring that area on returning to New York so I promise more then 🙂
We bypassed Soho, you see, because the crux and actual mission of our walking tour was to cover the divine Little Italy and Chinatown regions of New York which rival these districts back home!
Did you know that since the you literally cross the street to get from one district to another, back in the day, there used to be epic gang fights between the Chinese and Italian leaders?!?!
I know it is nothing to actually get excited about, but me with my active imagination, image a very stereotypical noodles vs. pasta fight, with a dumpling/pizza discus style competition and a whole lot of colourful expletives on both sides.
Of course, the truth is, things got a lot more down and heavy.
We saw a restaurant (many a restaurant but this one in particular) which was the literal home of an Italian mobster showdown over dinner. Guns poised, the streets empty but instead of tumbleweeds, you had basil breaking the pin drop silence.
Again, I am romanticising it all in my head, it sincerely was a somewhat dangerous part of town back in the 20th century!
But on a nicer note, we also saw the, I believe, first ever Italian restaurant in all of the United States there. And yep, it’s still running. IT’S STILL RUNNING! This restaurant, like many things I have seen in the U.S. so far, is also probably older than my home country.
I can’t be the only who finds that fact ridiculous 😛
Chinatown did not do any better in the ‘it’s a safe place’ category.
If you’ve been to Chinatown, you will notice small staircases leading down to creepy ass basement style doors everywhere. Mafia group members used to grab the ankles of unsuspecting walkers on dark nights and pull them down.
Into the basement, away from prying eyes.
And Chinese Tea Parlours? Don’t be fooled. They may appear all innocent on the outside but there were many that were the passageway to the dark world of the Chinese gangs operating in Chinatown.
Though personally, I’m sure Jackie Chan could have taken them all 😉
After our tour ended, we decided to have lunch in Chinatown. We started it off with the famous $1 dumpling shop – the lady who owns it is a controlling old Asian woman who does not take crap from anyone.
And she defines a LOT of things as crap. You don’t have the dollar, you don’t get dumplings. Ain’t nobody got time for giving change! If you speak too loudly or too much or too excitedly, or really, talk with any inflections at all, you will not be welcome in.
In fact, you will be thrown out.
You don’t make chitchat either. You know what you want, you don’t ask ‘how are you’ and waste her time. In and out.
In fact, she is Chinatown’s regular Dumpling Nazi. *Seinfeld anyone!?!*
And according to my friends, her dumplings are SOOOOOO worth it. I wanted to ask her if she had vegetarian but I figured I would just get kicked out… 😛 – She just adds to the beautiful eccentricity of New York’s diverse population.
Plus she reminds me one of my favourite episodes on TV ever!!
Of course dumplings aren’t enough though so afterwards, we went to get more delicious Chinese food, it’s not like we were lacking it all 😛
Can I now step back for a minute and have a bit of a somber moment because my friends and I were also lucky enough to visit the 9/11 memorial.
I was utterly and completely blown away, the tribute to the victims of this tragedy was a beautiful museum to see. Absolutely incredible.
Where the two buildings stood were two… I wouldn’t call these monuments fountains since the water was spouting up, rather running down the sides of marble before being sucked back into the system at the bottom of the deep pool.
It was so elegantly designed, and had all the names of the victimised on the corners, truly a beautiful and humbling site. You stopped thinking about anything and everything to be honest, only focusing on those names that suddenly seem so real.
On either side, there are also beautiful glassy buildings, not to replace the Towers since that could never happen (and I am so glad America didn’t attempt to).
What I really liked about the museum itself to be honest was how humanising it was. I know America. You know America. You know that sometimes, this country can be a little boastful, a little prideful. Sometimes, this country can be a little insinuating, a little vengeful, if that isn’t too strong a word.
There was not one thing in the museum that I felt was angry. No anger directed at anyone. No comments, no bitterness, no political agenda. It simply is a memorial for those lives were wrongfully taken.
As interesting as it was to see the parts of the Twin Towers displayed, I found the hall with photos of the deceased and the videos playing in the centre the most touching. It really enforced how many people were impacted, if not directly then indirectly and personalised the victims.
Also before continuing on from this somber part of our trip to NYC, I’d like to point out that the notes around Virgil’s quote represents the colour of the sky on 9/11. A very poetic touch no?
There is no right way to get back into my excited tone after writing about a memorial for a tragic event in U.S history but I’m going to try because we are still not done. I did warn you from the beginning so don’t be looking at me with those huge eyes.
I’m… how you say… detailed. 🙂
So, I don’t know if any of you know this, but I actually celebrated my 20th birthday in New York. We were all separately for our respective destinations actually on my birthday so on the 12th of August, you saw this *if I do say so myself* stunning group of people walk down Soho in the night (when it is even trendier *squeals*) to have a final dinner together at Chefs Club.
If we were any swankier by god, New York wouldn’t let us leave to be honest…
Like all fancy, proper restaurants (to which, mind you, we almost missed our booking because we were late… fashionably so of course!) the lighting was pretty crappy. You know the whole ‘dim lighting to dilate pupils to make everyone interested so it’s good for romance’ thing.
Social psychology guys, it’s a thing. 🙂
We actually got an incredible deal where we received 3 courses for $38. $38 they were trying new items and running this dining deal and all I could think of was that there was someone smiling down on us :’)
And on top of that, complimentary bread and butter of course *crying again, Americans always do this* 😀
Here are the dishes we got to try (for $38 STUDENT PRICES) – you got one appetiser, one main and one dessert. Though they call mains as entrees and appetisers as entrees so you could imagine the lingual confusion.
So these were the entrees
and moving onto mains…
and of course, desserts (again my student budget could not be singing louder…)
We also got complimentary pistachio chocolate cakes with cranberries on top – you know fancy society has come a long way when the waiters encourage you to take them home 🙂
We were just so full from the ridiculous amount of food that we hadn’t been expecting to be able to afford. I guess being all of our last night together made some magic happen, and I am not about to question it!
Then I had my moment of not being able to speak at a human pitch, more at a bat pitch, since my friends organised a surprise Neapolitan Cake covered in rich white icing for my birthday, making me exclaim and carry on as one does when surprised. Isn’t it the most beautiful cake in the entire world?
This was my *GUISSSSEEEEE* face 😀 I couldn’t wipe the grin off!
It really was a splendid night where we got to be fancy and live up NYC one more time together before the reality of exchange was about to hit a few of us.
Because the next day on my birthday, one could have said ‘and then there were two…’ 😛
And the two managed to have a splendid breakfast at iHop because we hadn’t been to an iconic American chain yet. Ridiculous, I know!
And that was on my actual birthday.
My last breakfast with WC in NYC in Brooklyn cos we left on a note of badassery… 😉
Au revoir mes amis – next time I post, things are about to take a turn for the highly dramatic, soap opera stylings of my life as the adventures in Miami and Orlando were hardly relaxing – just a bit of a cliffhanger there unless you are friends with me on Facebook, in which case know exactly to what I am referring to 😉
And once again I remind you… these three posts for NYC were from 5 days worth so you can only imagine the onslaught to come when I go back for 6 days at Thanksgiving 😉
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