Every now and then I need a day in a really big city. New York City. Boston isn’t exactly a small town, but it doesn’t have the big anonymity or countless skyscrapers, and I can see its city limits from almost everywhere. Meaning I prefer New York City by far and love to take in its big city atmosphere. Last week I knew it was about time for a stiff dose of New York City life, and bought my bus tickets online. Hotels have become so expensive that I sometimes rather spend a night on a bus. This weekend was therefore perfect because the US returned to standard time only last night, leaving me one more hour to sleep in today. Yesterday morning I took the 6 a.m. bus from Boston South Station to Manhattan. It felt way too early and I slept a little more on the bus. But going early also means to avoid any big traffic and arrive in Midtown at around 10.30 a.m.
I immediately took the subway to Lexigton Avenue/53 Street because there, in the middle of Manhattan, hidden in an ordinary corner house on 2 Avenue/52 Street is Güllüoglu, a famous Turkish baklava maker and today also chain of cafes. I might have never known about this if it hadn’t been for a Turkish friend, who recently went there and posted some photos on Instagram. The first thing that made me happy was that Turkish people work there, and they played Turkish pop music in the background. And of course the cafe is full of amazing Turkish food like baklava and börek and simit. I ordered Turkish breakfast and sahlep, which is one of my favorite fall and winter drinks. Güllüoglu is a little pricy, but then again almost everything in Manhattan is. I enjoyed talking to one of the employees, who is from Istanbul and came to the US after finishing university, when I chose from the different kinds of baklava, and bought a pound to take home.
From Güllüglu I walked back to 5 Avenue, passing Trump Tower where several people protested Trump by wearing hats in the shape of a turd. The famous Naked Cowboy was also there, but sang in support for Trump. So not attractive. I neither liked that there was a crowd on the sidewalk halting everyone – and sidewalks in Manhattan are pretty wide. But as the presidential election takes place tomorrow, these are very exciting days … Eventually I managed to pass them and soon entered Central Park. This is one of my favorite places to take photos.
I knew that at the start of November the foliage is at its peak in Central Park and I wasn’t disappointed. Most trees were colorful, and since the weather turned out really nice it was a great day to take a walk through the park. Of course there were plenty of people there, many had picnics on the meadows. Some roads were already closed because of today’s New York City Marathon.
I also found it impressive to see how many people had family photo shootings in Central Park. There were many kids in adorable clothes posing with their brothers and sisters or their parents. Since it is too early for Christmas greeting cards, I wonder if those photos will be on Thanksgiving ones.
When I am in New York City, I always have ants in my pants. As much as I would love to sit down, I can’t get myself to, in fear of missing out on something else. Yesterday I was pretty good as in I only moved between Midtown and Central Park. But when I checked my fitness tracker today it said that I still walked nearly 20 km in total. I guess I am still way too excited whenever I go to the big city. I would love to be able to sit down in a small cafe and just watch the people strolling.
What I always enjoy watching are the cheeky squirrels. They seem to be everywhere in Central Park. They run on the tracks and the meadows, they jump from tree to tree, they fight with each other … have you ever heard a squirrel ranting? It sounds really funny, like a kind of deep cackling.
My two favorite areas of Central Park are the rocks close to 59 Street from where you have an amazing view at many of the highrises in Midtown, and The Lake. Close to the latter is the Conservatory Water where people sail model boats. Behind the trees you can see the expensive apartment buildings of the Upper East Side.
The Lake itself is of course much bigger and you can borrow real boats there. Many people took this opportunity and rowed in wonderful sunshine. In case you are such a big Sex and the City fan as I am: this is the lake into which Carrie and Big fall during one of their dates. The Boathouse, which is a restaurant, is also there and I still have to try it. I think for a proper lunch or dinner you need a reservation, but they also sell coffee and snacks. Only I found the line way to long.
I think another reason why I find Central Park so fascinating is thanks to another movie: Home Alone 2 – Lost in New York. I watch both Home Alone movies every year during Christmas season and Kevin ends up in Central Park several times. Of course it is winter then, but Central Park is always amazing. I think by now I’ve seen it during each season at least once. I remember that the first time I ever went to New York City in 2012 I literally walked through the whole park, from 59 till 110 Street.
And that first time was in winter. Yesterday felt more like a late summer day at the start of November. I am not complaining! It felt really good walking through fall wonderland at sunny 20 °C. There were so many street vendors there that half of the park smelled of popcorn. But I resisted. Coffee would have been a totally different thing, but unfortunately they don’t sell hot drinks – and lines at the little cafes were really long. I had been at least clever enough to bring my own bottle of water from Boston.
Later on I left Central Park and walked to Times Square because the TKTS booth opens every day at 3 p.m. There you get tickets for many musicals and plays on discount for the same night. This had been another reason why I wanted to go to New York City so badly. I had seen that tickets for “Cats” had been available for half the price for the whole week. The musical has been back on Broadway only since the end of July and I hadn’t seen it – but hey cats! I was lucky because tickets also were on discount yesterday so that I bought one for the 8 p.m. performance. Don’t get me wrong: Broadway musicals are expensive, and half the price still means that I paid $ 84, but it’s so worth it.
Times Square is only a stone’s throw from the nice shopping in Midtown. I had a look at the make up department in Macy’s. The new MAC Nutcracker Sweet collection looks cute, but since I’ve started doing the inventory of my beauty products again, I can’t bring myself to buy new ones I definitely don’t need at all. I also paid a visit to Tony Moly in Koreatown. I’ve liked Asian cosmetics for several years, but when I lived in Turkey I blindly ordered from Ebay. Now I can actually walk into a shop and have a look first. This time I bought my favorite foot peeling mask and hand cream.
Koreatown is another interesting development in Manhattan. When I stayed in a hotel on 32 Street back in 2012 (when hotels were still affordable), Koreatown consisted of maybe half a street and looked really shabby. It has grown a lot ever since and there are many nice looking restaurants there, supermarkets and several beauty stores. I had dinner in the Mandoo Bar last night and chose a ramen, which was very good. Afterwards I walked a little more.
Just because it gets dark doesn’t mean that Manhattan goes to sleep – unlike Boston. People still crowd the streets and go out especially on a Saturday night. I passed by the Rockefeller Center which was illuminated in the American colors. Also NBC News hosts the Democracy Plaza there for Election Day, i.e. they set up cameras outside. The Ice Rink has also already opened and many people were iceskating.
Times Square was even more crowded. Unfortunately, several of the huge digital billboards weren’t working which left the square a little darker than I was used to. But I was on my way to Neil Simon Theatre anyway. Seeing “Cats” live had been on my bucket list for a long time and I loved the performance – and the music, the cats and the costumes.
Because I had hoped to get a discount ticket for “Cats”, I had bought a ticket for the bus home at midnight. Even if it hadn’t been that musical, I would have watched another one. After the performance I slowly made my way to Port Authority and waited for my bus to depart. One thing I’ll never understand is why Americans cool down every place, even a bus at night in November. I had already brought a huge scarf, which I used as blanket, but I was still cold. Fortunately, I can sleep almost everywhere and still managed to fall asleep, even though I was freezing. I couldn’t wait to get into my warm bed – I was finally at home at 3.45 a.m. and slept for another six hours with Canavar warming me.