It was great to finally experience a place that has been infinitely written, filmed, and talked about. I did my best to go without any expectations, and just enjoy the city. And I really, really, enjoyed my time there!
I’ve always felt slightly lost and lonely when travelling alone in cities, but NYC offered such a wide variety of activities and sights that I could craft this holiday according to exactly what I liked. From grungy hipster neighbourhoods to towering art deco skyscrapers, junk food to fancy restaurants, and serious art to satirical musicals, this city is as schizophrenic as my tastes.
Here are 7 things I loved about this trip.
The High Line
Formerly a railway track, the High Line is now an elevated walkway that snakes through Manhattan’s West Side. It was a lovely spring-like winter day when Jenna and I strolled along it, making the city views that much more incredible.
The walk took us through vastly different areas, and I got a nice snapshot of this hodgepodge city.
Never considered myself a museums kind of traveler, and was surprised that I spent over 4 hours in the Metropolitan museum alone with the audio guide! I was blown away by the quality, curation, and sheer quantity of artifacts from all around the world, which made every other museum I’ve ever visited seem one-dimensional.
I admire how the Met honours its own architecture. One of the ways it does so is by preserving its 1888 facade, which is transformed into a feature interior wall as the museum expanded outwards.
I was lucky to have a few friends in NYC. Couldn’t be more grateful to get to hang with Jenna again after so many years! We walked, ate, shopped, and talked shit like we did 9 years ago travelling around UK. She also brought me to a hip hop club in Brooklyn, which I unexpectedly really enjoyed.
And then there was a random gathering of friends and friends of friends one dinner, where I got to see Edwin and Sam. Always nice to be around familiar faces and accents in a foreign land, especially after being away from Singapore for half a year.
Being in Hangzhou has deprived me of many Western comforts. So this was my chance to consume as much pastries, desserts, brunches, and good coffee as I could.
A cream cheese bagel for breakfast. The dough is slightly denser than I’d like, but the filling is thick and satisfying.
Taco Tuesdays is a great concept. Always up for discounted bite-sized goodness! Also tried cactus for the first time — it tasted OK, but the soft slimy texture wasn’t too appetising.
One of the best things I had was the Bauernmädchen from Black Forest Brooklyn. A Flammkuchen (German-style thin crust flat bread) with pumpkins, almonds, sour cream, and spicy miso kale. All that flavour without any meat!
There’s nothing like having a friend cook for you… When I was staying with Jenna and her cousins in Harlem, I was treated to freshly made Hot Bakes, a common breakfast dish in St Lucia (where the gang’s from). It consists of fried dough disks, which we split open to stuff it with salted cod fish. It has the casualness of street food, and the heartiness of a homemade dish. A wonderfully wholesome and filling savoury breakfast!
I couldn’t believe my eyes when I stepped into Martha’s Country Bakery in Williamsburg at 9am and saw a 7-meter long display of cakes and pastries. IT WAS HEAVEN. So colourful, so chunky, so incredibly attractive. I was hopelessly seduced as I’ve never seen such enthusiasm for desserts during breakfast. I had a huge cinnamon roll, and wished I had more time in Williamsburg to try 20 other pastries…
Enjoyed the Milk episode on Chef’s Table more than its famed cereal soft serve. Disappointing.
I just couldn’t leave Brooklyn without a hipster brunch! A friend recommended Five Leaves, and it ticked all the right boxes. Loud indie music, tattooed baristas taking their coffee too seriously (but damn, it was one of the best coffees I’ve had), and hipster couples with beanies worn too high on their heads.
Their Moroccan Scramble was very, very well done. The spices were on point, and I was happy to enjoy these flavours again after so many months.
I also went on a food tour of Manhattan’s lower east side, which brought us to various traditional Jewish establishments, hipster stops, and regular but well-loved food stops around the neighbourhood. Eating like the locals is such a fantastic way to learn about any place!
A thick, juicy, slightly spicy pickle from The Pickle Guys, who pickle a wide range of fruits and vegetables… Tomatoes, pineapples, carrots, okra, onions… they’ve got it! Reminded me of Portlandia’s “We Can Pickle That!”.
Donut Plant’s freshly-baked passionfruit cake doughnut, which was denser than the usual fluffy doughnut. So sweet, so sinful, so gooooooood!
New York Public Library
I love books, book stores, and libraries, so this was an essential stop. That tall ceiling… that silence… and, that amazingly simple sky mural.
The Grittiness of it all
I like places with flaws. That are not just about clean streets and new buildings (that’s Singapore, basically). And NYC has this edge. While it’s the centre stage of the world’s art, fame, glitz, and glamour, it’s still a raw, untamed place that has beautifully rough undercurrents.
Most of it I appreciated, such as its street art, graffiti, grime, old shopfronts, and street performers. On the flip side of this roughness are the crazies. While I feel sorry for most of them, the aggressive ones were rather tiring to be around.
I still had such a blast this trip. Everything I did was twice as satisfying as living in Hangzhou has starved me of everything Western.
THANK YOU NEW YORK!!!