Sunday, 8 September 2013

Travel Journal Part 3: New York City

So, yes. This has been a long time coming. I got back over a month ago and have only now found enough time to finally compile a post for my third and final destination of this trip.Thank goodness for my line-a-day journal, I packed so much into my one week in the big apple that I never would have remembered it all to write here.
Here's a recap of my time in NYC!

Day 1 - July 17

Our plane landed at 5am and as soon as I stepped off the plane it was as though a miracle had occurred. Despite being bed-ridden for two days prior, fainting every time I stood up and getting carted through LAX in a wheelchair (though I did insist against that), the second we reached JFK I felt a million times better. Call me crazy, but I think love can do pretty powerful things. Like heal my immune system.

We got to the hotel just before 7am, only to find there had been a miscommunication, our booking for the night prior (so we could check into the room right away) hadn't been confirmed. Still on my I'm-in-New-York-nothing-can-break-this-happiness mood, I couldn't care less. I suggested we crash on the couches at one end of the large, newly renovated lobby, and that's just what we did - until the front desk called us at around 9am and said that our room was ready.

Originally, the plan was to take it easy the first day. In fact, just one day earlier mum had been so concerned about my health she thought I might not even be up to getting to New York, let alone leaving the hotel so soon. We napped until 2 and then headed straight to our favourite deli for breakfast/lunch/afternoon tea even though it was dinner time on our body clocks. I got an almond choco-loco Chobani and watermelon, plus a tuna bagel to go. Popped into McDonalds next door to use the wifi, shot an email to dad and did a bit of researching for the week ahead. Bought a large McFlurry because they still sell the oreo ones and they're the size of my arm. Also because the security guard there always accused me of loitering if I went 30 minutes without ordering something again.

Walked to Times Square that night, shopped around and stayed in Forever 21 until 1am, oops. Bought 4 sports bras, some matching running shorts, two hands worth of rings and some other groovy tops.

Perfect first day.

Day 2 - July 18

Had a quick breakfast in the room (Chobani, watermelon and Kashi cereal of course) and headed over to one of my favourite places in the city - Bryant Park. It was a sweltering hot day, it reached 100 degrees even before 11am but I was loving every second. We found seats in the shade to the edge of the grass, and each collected one of the paper fans they were distributing.

Every Summer, New York puts on an event called Broadway in Bryant Park where they have a few performances each week from different musicals currently showing. Ours were The Phantom of the Opera (which still to this day scares the yeezus out of me), Chicago, Sistas the Musical - the story of African-American women through top 40 songs since the 60s and a modern, off-broadway show about young adults called F#%cking Up Everything. As you might expect, I instantly fell in love with both Sistas and FUE, but another pleasant surprise was recognising a cast member from FUE, who was in my favourite musical from last year - Bring It On. His name is Jason Gotay and I may have actually squealed upon seeing/hearing him, it just made me so excited to be reconnected to something I fell so in love with. Sadly we weren't able to get tickets for those two shows but I know they would have been amazing.

We then sought refuge from the heat inside the NYC Public Library, which some might recognise from the Sex and the City movie where Carrie goes to get married. The architecture is every bit as breathtaking in real life, but my favourite part was the gift shop. I honestly could spend hours in there, pouring over old fashioned journals, book related souvenirs (i.e. Gatsby pencil cases), maps, history books of the city, and best of all - a book that compared photos of specific landmarks and areas within NYC from hundreds of years ago to how they looked today. 

Next we headed across the street for a refreshing Jamba Juice (apple & greens, always), and popped into the Asics store next door. I was infatuated with two very colourful pairs but couldn't choose so ultimately decided to come back another day. Stopped in at the NBC store on the way home and picked up a few birthday presents and just admired the collection of Friends, The Office and Community merchandise. That night we went out to a musical called Let It Be, which, although featuring songs, costumes, themes and characters of The Beatles, could not legally mention them in any way. It was still very awesome and I felt like I was a true Beatlemania fangirl at a concert at the peak of their fame.

PS. Finally got onto Peta and Caitlin and finalised plans!

Day 3 - July 19

Started off the day with a HUGE acai bowl (featuring almond butter and coconut) from Juice Generation down on 9th, then headed to Central Park to meet Peta and Caitlin (!!). We hugged, we walked, we sweated. We paid something like $4 each and went out rowing on the lake for an hour, blasting old school Jojo, Jonas Brothers and pretending we were in Stuart Little. Out on the lake we soon faced a dilemma; Peta was by far the strongest, I was mildly capable and sadly Caitlin proved to be the weakest of us all, which lead to often rowing around in circles as two people had to manoeuvre the oars. Most of the time I let them take the lead while I sat at the back facing them, yelling "STROKE" and feeling like a Winklevoss twin. 

After this vigorous workout (and near heatstroke) we ventured off towards a cafe of Caitlin's choosing, Alice's Tea Shop. Everything was Wonderland themed, from the menu to the decorations. I got a gigantic warm lentil salad and we all enjoyed refreshing iced tea out of very large goblet-style mugs. This is definitely a hidden gem in the city and I recommend it to all - I think there are three locations.

We then decided to get our shop on and after I'd mentioned my love of it, we got the subway to Broadway, SoHo. By this point my shoes felt like they were melting so we were happy to go into pretty much any store, it was just lucky that SoHo has pretty much all of my favourites; American Apparel, Urban Outfitters, TopShop, H&M, Brandy Melville, Forever 21 and a whole lot of Starbucks (Peta bought about 10 Valencia's so I learned that it wasn't only a place in Spain nor - more importantly - an Instagram filter). After a couple of hours, a few heavy shopping bags and many white girl coffee drinks, we decided we needed a few hours in air conditioning so we bought some froyo and went to see our boy Darren Criss in Girl Most Likely (with Kristen Wiig). Back at the apartment that night we consumed delicious ice cream and a yogurt so life-changing we went out in search of more around midnight. That night also saw one of the scariest, most surreal experiences of my life and I don't even know if I can quite put it into words. 

We had a supernatural encounter up on the rooftop of the apartment and Caitlin and I were close to tears, while poor (or lucky) Peta missed it and was stuck in her cynical, non-believing ways. What happened up there that night changed us, or at least changed me and the things I thought I believed in. 

Day 4 - July 20

Went to Red Rocket tattoo parlour and organised (booked?) Peta's freaking awesome tatt. The woman who booked it wasn't in the greatest of moods but the lady who was actually inking her up was super friendly and super cool. Went to Macy's. Remembered I don't like Macy's. 
Took the subway up to Union Square and finally got back to do some shopping at the farmers' market. Paid my daily visit to Whole Foods, this time stocking up on a double punnet of blueberries (for $2, I'll never get over that) and a delicious green pressed juice.

Then, I made some very last minute decisions, very quick and hopeful phone calls and a sprint across to OfficeMax to use their printer and managed to organise tickets and transportation to the Jonas Brothers concert that night out at Long Beach. I had known about this miraculous coincidence for a few months but never truly believed the stars would align for things to work out - until they did.

For those playing along at home, I should mention that these boys had been my favourite band for around 6 years, my teenage hopes and dreams, and (despite having written a song about us and gone on multiple ""world"" tours) had never come to Australia. 

It was an emotional, exciting, overwhelming, hurried and incredible night. The experience never felt real and even now I still can't completely comprehend it. With literally no time to waste, we rushed to Penn Station, bought tickets and after much, much confusion, boarded a train. We had to then get a bus out to Long Beach, which was less crowded and allowed me to eat my pre-show snack of mini pretzels and listen to some old school JB to get in the zone.

The concert was perfect. 
Karmin was the support act and though I'd never heard of them, I definitely jammed to every song and really enjoyed their set. The rain held off but storm clouds were threatening, but when the boys came on, nobody cared. I couldn't (and again, still can't) believe I was seeing them in front of me with my own eyes, the fantasies of my thirteen-year-old self all coming true. They played a bunch of old songs, as well as a bunch of new ones, and much to my delight/surprise - WYLMITE. I couldn't even pretend to hold back my emotions at that point. 
The heavens opened up during Burning Up but we continued to rock out through the thunder, lightning and rain. It only made it all the more exciting and it was a nice refreshment from the wild dancing and flailing. I also nearly died of laughter when they played Gotta Find You from Camp Rock. It's nice to revisit your roots, I guess?

 I got a few pretty good videos on my camera that night which I may someday post on my other blog, to remember one of the best nights of my life.

Day 5 - July 21

Finally got around to something I'd been looking forward to all year - a morning run through Central Park. (When I say run I mean jog and when I say jog I mean jog-walk) 
I grabbed a big Jamba Juice afterward, had a shower and then went with Caitlin and Peta to see The Joe Moses Showses. This was another very emotional experience for me, and not in the way I had expected. After being seated, the girl (a stranger) next to me turned and said "Hey, just so you know, Anthony Rapp is sitting over there" - then the lights went down.
The show started but my head was in my hands and I wasn't able to explain to the girls the importance of the information I had just learned. Anthony Rapp, for those who might not know, is an actor very well known in Broadway circles, famous for his portrayal of Mark in Rent, but also a person who inspired, touched and truly shaped part of who I am today. That musical is so much a part of me and my friends lives, and his autobiography was so honest, truthful and inspiring that I felt like he'd just opened up his heart personally to me. He was also in Adventures in Babysitting as a kid if anyone watched that. Point being, this man has had a profound influence on my life and learning that he was sitting just a few metres away made it difficult to focus on the show, but thankfully Joe, Tessa and Curt are all hilarious and extremely talented so I was able to enjoy their outrageously witty and relevant show. Favourite segments included The Potion Master's Corner (obviously), audience-participated Le Mis skit and Tessa's song about fangirls.

After the show I got to meet both the gang and Anthony himself, which was unbelievable. We waited for most of the other fans to leave (thank god Peeta is a Rent/Broadway-head too and was just as excited as me) and then actually got to spend some time talking with Anthony, as though we were just hanging out as friends. He was very quiet, very soft spoken and almost awkward, but I guess meeting strangers who know so much about you would be an uncomfortable situation. I got him to record a video wishing my cousin a happy 21st birthday after explaining she was the one who introduced me to Rent all those years ago. He also kindly invited me to a charity event the following night after I mentioned I'd recently seen (his Rent castmate) Idina Menzel in concert, who (along with Whoopi Goldberg, Taye Diggs and Adam Pascal) would be appearing, not knowing that it required a very formal and official invitation.

After saying goodbye there, we went a few stores over into a pizza joint (or was it kebabs??). I can still remember that feeling of elation, as I danced to The Jackson Five playing in store, much to the delight of the man behind the counter. The girls ate while I browsed the buddha shop across the street, made new friends and purchased a new ring. We then strolled back towards the subway and I parted ways with the girls, who were getting on a bus to Orlando that night. 

Day 6 - July 22

Started with the usual breakfast in the hotel room, then caught the subway out to SoHo again.
Bought things from Forever 21, H&M, Aldo, and finally got to visit a place I'd always wanted to - the Strand bookstore (it's pretty famous in itself but even more special for a Rachel Cohn and David Levithan reader). The place is HUGE with (I think) 5 floors and millions of books stacked to the ceiling in isles. I miss Borders but I'm so very glad that an independant bookstore like that still exitsts - I spent a good two hours in there but could easily have stayed all day. I ended up buying 6 books, putting at least 5 back because I couldn't justify the weight in my suitcase. Sad, sad moment. My favourite part of the store is at the back on the ground floor where they have all these ancient, secondhand books. They smelled incredible.
Another much anticipated visit was to the Chobani store for lunch, where they not only stock the entire range (flip, bite, champion, tube, fruit on the bottom, regular, you name it - they had it), but a menu of freshly made combinations to choose from. I opted for the blueberry-walnut-brazil-nut-chia-seed mix which I posted on Instagram. The coolest thing about the Chobani store is that after you're finished eating you can give them your bowl (glass with the name on the side) and they give you a clean one to take home and keep. I have two, a small and a large, which I know I will have in my own kitchen for a very long time.

Hit up the Whole Foods salad bar again for dinner, which I don't think I'll ever stop missing. From what I can remember, I filled my box with quinoa, raisins, beetroot, corn, spinach, tomato, grated carrot, kale, sweet potato, grilled eggplant and mushroom, chickpeas and other lentils, felafel balls, peas and sprouts. For $6. God I miss Whole Foods. I also got the biggest and most delicious granola & nut bar (it was the size of two iPhones and I ate it right then and there after dinner because seriously, it was unbelievable).

Realised later I was probably so hungry because we'd been shopping (and thus walking) for nearly twelve hours. New York sure keeps you fit!

Day 7 - July 23

Early morning yoga in Bryant Park! I was super excited about this and although yoga always challenges (see: nearly kills) me, I absolutely loved it. It was great to be surrounded by fit and active people, enjoying the perfect weather and getting in touch with our bodies and breathing. After the class, we headed to Jamba Juice for rejuvenating smoothies, and then again to the Asics store (where I finally made a decision and purchased my new babies!). Went back to the Chobani store for lunch (this time I got a mango-mint-chocolate concoction) and then over to Central Park to rent bikes (!!!). We first enjoyed a leisurely ride through the greenery, then had to peddle like mad men after going far too far and having to get the bikes back in time. We ended up frantically (and exhaustingly) riding from 110th to 60th street and made it in just under an hour (slightly over the twenty minutes we had originally booked). I was as red as a tomato and sweating like crazy, so it wasn't exactly the picturesque casual afternoon ride I'd been planning, but it was definitely a vigorous workout. 

Headed to the very well disguised Columbus Circle Whole Foods to drink three litres of water each, as well as buying my stash of nut butter, cereal, energy bars and powerfood mixes to bring home. After showering back in the room we split up to try our luck at the lotteries for Matilda and Kinky Boots, both to no avail. Instead, we spent the rest of the night shopping (bought makeup at Mac, leather overalls at H&M and some adorable ring holders at Forever 21), and had just as much of a good time. Heading back to the room we stopped by the deli and grabbed a pint of Ben & Jerry's (our last-night tradition flavour - Americone Dream) which we split in half and devoured bitter sweetly.

Day 8 - July 24

We went to the organic deli/health store around the corner that I'd been eyeing for our last day breakfast. Split a bowl of bircher muesli, a bowl of yogurt, fruit and granola, and couldn't help but buy the most enticing smoothie I'd ever heard of - almond coconut bliss. We went back to Rockerfella Centre for last minute purchases and with hopes to meet my friend Boyd at the Top of the Rock, but sadly we both got held up and didn't have the time to hang out. (Next time Boyd!! We have to conquer the states together)

After finishing packing, taking a few final sad hotel room selfies, we hailed a taxi and set off for the airport. The rest, I suppose, is history!

New York, you somehow manage to capture my heart more every time, and the ache I feel after leaving only intensifies too. You will always be my first love, my strongest love, and I know we will be together again soon - hopefully next time for much longer.

Always yours,


Here are some more random photos from my time in the city!

Until next time!