Travel & Food – New York (Part 2)

If you missed part 1, where I describe our experience of Hurricane Sandy, you can read it here.

The morning after the hurricane hit, we went for a quick wander to assess the damage. We didn’t stay out long as it was pouring with rain and was freezing cold but we did need food and were fortunate enough to find a shop selling bagels. It had the biggest queue ever but we had no other options. As you can imagine, supplies were running low and we managed to buy two of the last remaining bagels. When we left, people were stopping us on the street asking us where we had been to get food that was open so they were obviously desperate.

That evening we just hung out in the hallway with our laptops and phones plugged in, listening to music and chatting. It was quite a fun atmosphere really because everyone had to sit out in the hallway so it felt a bit like a school trip or something!

hallway partyThe next morning we woke up to blue skies and the news that the subways were still closed. We were starting to get cabin fever a bit so we decided that we’d just walk over the bridge to Williamsburg and Brooklyn instead.

Chrysler building

Walking down to the Williamsburg bridge, we started to get an idea of exactly how widespread the power outage was. We couldn’t believe it. We walked for blocks and blocks (about 3 miles) and nobody had power. We felt so fortunate to only be staying 2 blocks away from working restaurants. It was very strange seeing so many closed restaurants and shops. There was literally nowhere to buy food or drink from.

The trek across the Williamsburg bridge was crazy. Obviously it’s the first time I’ve done it so I’ve got no idea how busy it usually is but at this time, it was heaving. Once we arrived in Williamsburg we walked along Bedford Avenue and had a peek in all the shops (they had power over there). For lunch we stopped in The Meatball Shop and had a huge meatball sub for lunch which was delicious. This was followed by an enormous ice-cream sandwich which consisted of two walnut brownie cookies with caramel ice-cream in between.

Ice cream sandwich at The Meatball Shop in Williamsburg, New YorkMy friends all laughed at this picture because they thought it was a picture of minced beef and were a bit freaked out…(and I agree)

When we’d finished there, we walked to Brooklyn Heights (about another 3 miles). As you can imagine, by this point I was absolutely exhausted. We walked around a few streets to look at the houses and then had a quick walk down the high street. It seemed very nice but unfortunately I was far too tired to fully appreciate it.

View of Empire State Building through Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn HeightsView of Empire State Building through the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn Heights

Houses in Brooklyn HeightsExhausted in Brooklyn HeightsI was taking any opportunity there was to sit down! (and yes, I’m wearing the same clothes as before – I only packed a small amount of ‘cold weather’ clothes and wasn’t expecting to be in New York for quite so long!)

We walked back to Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge, which was again very busy, only made worse by the fact that there was work going on which meant that there were big boards down either side of the bridge, blocking the amazing view, and halving the size of the walkway.

Brooklyn Bridge, New YorkView of Manhattan from Brooklyn bridgeWe walked a total of about 13 miles that day! Luckily, about half way on the walk home, we managed to catch a free bus, which were running on a limited schedule, but free of charge. I’ve never been so happy to get on a bus!

As everywhere was still shut, we just grabbed some more cheap pizza and chilled out in the hotel, watching the crazy traffic out the windows. They’d re-opened the bridges and the traffic lights were still off and it was just mental!

No traffic lights in New YorkEmpire State Building lit up orange for HalloweenThe Empire State Building was lit up orange for Halloween

The next day we just wandered around Manhattan again to see what was open. The library was still closed. Central Park was still closed. Luckily, a lot of the shops had re-opened otherwise we’d have been very bored! We spotted the infamous dangling crane and I gorged on red velvet cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery.

Red Velvet cupcake from Magnolia Bakery, New YorkCentral ParkTrying to admire the Autumn colours in Central Park from behind the barriers

Dangling crane, New YorkThat night we went to Serendipity3 for dinner. I’d never heard of Serendipity3 but my sister-in-law went when she came to New York and loved it. (Apparently there’s a movie called Serendipity and it’s the set for that?) Anyway, she’d told me about a thing they do called a frozen hot chocolate so I knew I had to check it out! The building itself is absolutely adorable and our waiter was fantastic. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone. I ordered a shrimp salad and I swear I had half the ocean on my plate!

Tiffany lamps at Serendipity3, New YorkSerendipity3, New YorkFrozen hot chocolate at Serendipity3, New YorkWarning: This is literally a bowl of chocolate so you’ll need to share it!

We stopped off at the Apple store in Grand Central on the way back as we needed to get one of our laptops looked it and Grand Central was back to it’s usual busy self as some of the trains had started running again (to Williamsburg and Brooklyn as sod’s law would have it!)

Grand Central Station, New YorkEven though the trains were still going, the traffic was still crazy with the lights being out so every crossing had a policeman on directing the traffic in the dark with flares.

Directing the traffic using flaresThe next day (Friday) was our last day in the city but our flight wasn’t until 22.40 so we had most of the day to do whatever we liked. We spent the morning packing and Nick ran off to Ess-A-Bagel one last time.

Cream cheese and lox bagel from Ess-A-Bagel, new York

For lunch, Nick had heard of a ramen place called Totto Ramen that was meant to be quite good and popular so we walked over there. When we got there, there were about 30 people stood in the queue outside! So he added our names to the list and we got in line. Then we noticed they only took cash and we were down to our last few dollars which meant that we could only afford for one of us to have ramen. We felt bad that we’d be taking up two seats if only one of us was eating so I stood in the queue for an hour in the cold with Nick and when his name was called I trotted off down the road to a diner (I’m such a good wife).

I hopped into Cosmic Diner and ordered bacon and scrambled egg, which was exactly what I wanted and was gorgeous and some ‘lumberjack’ pancakes. I wasn’t quite expecting them to be quite so large when they arrived! There were three pancakes on the plate, all about the size of my head! But I smothered them in maple syrup and got on with it.

Bacon, egg & pancakes, breakfast in New York at Cosmic dinerWe had to get a private car to the airport as all the taxis were running out of fuel and just charging whatever the hell they liked. We got there in record time (about 20 minutes) and got checked in and settled down. I was so glad to be going home!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the Affinia Shelburne hotel for being so kind and accommodating and not kicking us out in the cold when we suddenly had to stay another 3 nights! All the staff were so patient and wonderful.

Travel & Food – New York (Part 1 – Hurricane Sandy)

So last week was pretty crazy! We landed in New York last Saturday around 12pm. After checking into our hotel, the Affinia Shelburne, we headed straight for the shops and Times Square to pick up some souvenirs as that was the only afternoon we had free to buy bits and bobs for people (or so we thought!)

View from the roof terrace at Affinia Shelburne, New YorkView from the Affinia Shelburne roof terrace

Bloomingdales New York

Bloomingdales

Sabretts hotdog in New YorkEmpire State buildingThe night time view from the roof terrace before the black out

The Disney store has moved since I last came to New York but it’s still as amazing as ever. I’m not even that into Disney but walking into there is like walking into a little bit of my childhood.

We also popped into the library, which is gorgeous. I walked past it last time I was in New York but had never been inside and having googled some photos, I was desperate to go in! The Rose Main Reading room is like something out of a movie and I would love to sit in there and study (although it must be quite off-putting with hundreds of tourists stumbling in for photos every 5 minutes). The library was the location that Sarah Jessica Parker (nearly) got married at in the Sex & The City movie.

New York Public LibraryRose Reading Room New York Public LibraryThe Rose Reading Room

For dinner we went to The National. It was amazing. It’s the perfect mix of uptown posh and laid-back cool, perfect for business meetings or dinner with the parents. I had the pork chop, Nick had ‘the ugly burger’ and we shared an order of sprouts. Oh my god the sprouts. They were unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. Just divine. Just goes to show that anything can be improved by frying it.

On Sunday we got up and stood in the queue at Ess-A-Bagel and visited the high line, which is the old railway that they’ve turned into a walkway/garden type thing. It’s very peaceful and quiet and offers some great views of the city.

Highline New YorkEmma from The Style Box at the Highline in New YorkEmma from The Style Box on the Highline in New YorkI can’t imagine anyone would ever want to look like this but just in case…

Wearing:

Hat – Forever 21 (similar)

Scarf – Forever 21 (similar)

Jumper – H&M (similar)

Jeans – Mother, The Looker

Shoes – TOMs

Then we just wandered around West Village and Soho. There was a Halloween party happening in one of the children’s play parks on Bleecker Street and there were loads of adorable children all dressed up and running around on a candy high. The best outfit I saw by far was an entire family of lobsters. Amazing. Unfortunately, we didn’t take any photos as it felt a bit awkward taking pictures of stranger’s children.

House in East Village New York

After that we went to the Housing Works Bookstore & Cafe which is so lovely inside. It’s a secondhand bookstore with a tiny cafe at the back and it’s got little winding staircases up the sides to more books. We stopped for a cup of tea and each bought a new book.

Housing Works Bookstore New York

Then we went to Momofuku noodle bar for lunch. Nick has been banging on about Momofuku for ages and ages and David Chang gets mentioned so often that I feel like he’s part of the family. Anyway, we grabbed a seat at the ‘bar’ which is definitely the best place to sit in the restaurant as you are basically face to face with the kitchen and it’s breathtaking watching the chefs at work. Everything is so well co-ordinated and the chefs are working so fast without a moment to take a breath that it’s completely spell-binding. We ordered the pork buns to start which were incredible and both had a bowl of Momofuku ramen which was delicious. I would definitely recommend Momofuku but don’t visit if you hate noisy, bustling restaurants where you have to sit next to strangers (which is exactly what I love).

For dessert we headed round the corner to Momofuku Milk bar which is like their tiny little bakery/coffee shop and picked up some crack pie. Yep, crack pie. But don’t worry, it’s basically just made of sugar.

Then, as if we hadn’t already had enough to eat, we walked to Katz’s Deli which is another place that Nick has been banging on about for years. He bought the biggest sandwich you’ve ever seen in your life (pastrami on rye) and tucked right in. As he was munching away we noticed a tiny film crew in the back corner so I ‘went to the loo’ so I could investigate and as I turned the corner I spotted Dynamo the magician filming tricks for his new show! I was so excited, I told Nick to eat really slowly so that we could stick around and try and get filmed but it didn’t work.

Katz's Deli New York insidePastrami sandwich on rye from Katz's Deli, New YorkUnbelievably, after that we popped into Pommes Frites to buy some poutine. Poutine is a funny thing for me because it’s something that sounds like it’s going to be really posh but totally isn’t. I had visions of some tiny roast fancy bird so when a cup of chips smothered in gravy and cheese turned up, I was quite surprised (and secretly pleased).

Poutine at Pommes Frites, New York

We’d heard that the subways and buses were to stop running at 7pm in order to prepare for the storm and lots of the shops had closed early so that the staff could get home on time so we were running out of things to do so we just headed back to the hotel to make sure that we didn’t get stuck the other end of the city.

On Monday we didn’t do much because there were no trains anywhere, everything was closed and it was raining.

Times SquareMet building & Grand Central station, New YorkStations closed in New YorkEmpty streets in New YorkCentral Park closed

We decided to try out the hotel restaurant that night, Rare Bar & Grill, but given that everyone was in the hotel as we’d been advised not to go outside as the winds picked up, there was quite a hefty queue. We waited an hour for a table and in perfect comedy timing, as soon as our bums touched the seats, the power went out.

And the power well and truly went out. We rushed outside for a photo of the Empire State building surrounded by darkness and then settled back in, expecting the generators to kick in so we could get on and order. Little did we know that power wouldn’t return for the rest of our stay.

Empire State Building in New York blackoutBlack out in New YorkAfter about 15 minutes we realised it was no good and decided to brave the winds to find some food. Luckily we were only about 3 blocks away from power. It was so eerie out on the streets. There was a kind of excited tension that comes from such a strange situation and the complete lack of knowing what’s about to happen. We were very fortunate to find a 99¢ pizza store and grabbed a couple of slices before heading back to our hotel room.

Fortunately, the generators supplied lighting for the lobby and the hallways and allowed the lifts to operate. We didn’t chance the lifts and chose to walk 15 flights of stairs up to our room instead where we sat in the hallway chomping on our pizza. It was about 9.30pm at this point and with no TV to watch, we pulled up a movie on Nick’s laptop and settled in for the night.

The wind got progressively worse and worse. I watched from the window as planks of wood flew seven stories through the air, crashing into buildings. We could hear the windows wobbling and I sat with my hand against one and I could feel the strength of the wind making the window flex back and forth. We decided it would be best to draw the blinds so that if the window did break we wouldn’t get shattered with broken glass.

I woke up several times in the night from the sound of the wind. I think it was at it’s worst at around midnight. The worst thing was that when we woke up in the morning, we couldn’t stick the news on to see what had happened and how much damage had been done.

We wrapped up warm and ventured outside. It didn’t seem all that bad up where we were. In fact, the only immediately visible sign that anything had happened at all was that the traffic lights were out. There were a couple of branches strewn across the pavements but they only have small trees on the streets so it wasn’t anything bad. We walked up to Times Square where everything was closed and boarded up and it was a bit of a ghost town. It was very strange wandering around and everything being so quiet in New York. There were no cars, no buses and hardly any people. We realised we weren’t going to be able to do anything that day so we went back to the hotel room, snuggled up in bed and read for a few hours.

When we ventured downstairs, the staff had managed to hook the TV in the lobby up to the generator and we sat watching the news for well over an hour. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing in Staten Island and the Rockaways.

(Part 2 coming soon!)