this is the 1st of two NY trip postings - for those who have been patient enough to keep checking back, this is hopefully long, meaty and picture-laden enough to make it worth the wait!
Some notes on the trip:
The weather was pretty great in the 1st few days (40s) but it got chilly (low 30s) towards the end of our trip. We narrowly missed a snowstorm which occurred the day after we left.
I fell sick twice and spent a few days just sleeping it off in the hotel room. When I was awake, I was most happy in front of the telly flipping channels - there's always *something* fun to watch. Have to confess that I quite liked watching shows like American Justice & Cold Case files on A&E. Also Hollywood Access & Extra...
I call Duane Reed pharmacy/ convenience store my favourite store since it was the one I visited the most! Mainly to pick up a variety of flu & cough medications, and also for a supply of trashy magazines. US$1.99 only!
New York Fashion Week started the 2nd week of my visit. Alas! Did not make it to any shows there. (Project Runway also showed I believe)
I am perpetually in my black coat, black scarf & boots - I got bored out of my mind! One of the hazaards of being a practical minded tourist I guess.
Day 1 - Friday 27Jan
10.00am - Arrive at JFK, 1 hour ahead of schedule (wow, first time i've ever arrived ahead of schedule). Had an almost 24 hour flight from singapore to New York via Frankfurt - the 2nd leg of the flight was very empty and it was great to get 3 seats all to myself. The only problem - I could not sleep!!! Spent my time watching lots of inflight movies with Intermittent sleeping.
On arrival, I decide that the best form of transport is the SuperShuttle, which takes one door-to-door from the airport to your hotel for US$17 one way.
Unfortunately what I don't know is the shuttle route - they start with the uptown hotels and work their way downtown. Well it figures that my hotel - the Holiday Inn Wall Street - is downtown, smack in the middle of the Financial district, so it takes me approx. 1.5 hours on the bloody shuttle before I arrive.
1.15pm - Finally reach the hotel and meet Pat (who's on leave from work) & Kisu for lunch - around the financial district. I can't remember the name of the place we go to, there is a salad bar, and hot entrees - you pick up stuff in a plastic container, it gets weighed and priced. It's freezing and I get a pork dish that reminds me of Shao Rou back home. I could feel the lack of sleep over the last 24 hours hitting me - my vision is swimming!
3.00pm - After settling in at the hotel, Pat takes me to her favourite shopping area - SoHo. where we went in to many shops - Banana Republic, Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, Kate's Paperie, H&M. All of them are still having sales - and it appears that I have great timing - the following week is tax free week!!! Which means no 8.325% sales tax on clothes and shoes priced under US$110. My jetlag is temporarily forgotten..I just get lost in all that amount of stuff to shop for!! We take a quick coffee break..and have a cupcake.
Not quite a Magnolia Bakery cupcake..
I can understand why Pat's fav shop is Anthropologie - I've been to their online store before, but the real one is much lovelier. Full of dainty, whimsical designs - pretty dresses and gorgeous home stuff (chinawear, comforters, cushions) ...I fall in love with these vintage looking glasses which had gold lace patterns painted on them.
6.00pm - Pat has an early dinner appointment and has to go - my dinner with Kisu, Yun-jo and Charly is slightly later and in K-town (Koreatown). While waiting for them to get off work, I check out Macy's (35th St) which is a stone's throw from K-town. Successfully navigate my way (with Yun-jo's detailed directions) to dinner place KunJip - the last time I came to New York, my first meal (dinner), was also at KunJip - it's a noisy packed place where you will SMELL after your dinner because there's so much BBQ-ing going on. We have budaejigae, soondubu (spicy army & tofu stew) all the while catching up over soju. Yun-jo then brings us to drinks at a nearby beer place - we stay there for a bit. The great thing about drinking places in New York is their no-smoking policy. It was smoke free at the bar, which I love. Charly headed home early (he stays in Connecticut and had a relatively long drive back) and us 3 remaining proceed for drinks at an Izakaya place in the East Village (near YJ's place). I do pretty well for my first day, I think - we finish up past 1 and head back.
Day 2 - Saturday 28 Jan
Past noon - Wake up late (previous night's drinks?) ...and head to the East Village again to have late lunch at Veselka - an all nighter at YJ's recommendation. It's a Ukranian place and packed! There is a line and we get a seat after waiting around 20 - 30 minutes. While waiting, we chat with an elderly lady who's also in line - says she's here for a particular dessert and shows us a restaurant writeup. Says it used to never be this crowded - she tells us that the crowds are due to the recent writeup. We get a corner seat and I order the Ukranian borscht, carrot juice and cut grapefruit. The borscht is bright red from all the beets and Kisu gets the combination meat platter. There's polish sausage - it's kind of a weird shape - flattish rather than round and he also gets pierogies (dumplings stuffed with rice and pork). I OD on fruity goodness - feel rather sick and stuffed. The carrot juice is full bodied - powerful, man! Not the skimpy watered down versions you get back home. Must be too much of a good thing!
Me & My Borscht!
Kisu's combination meat platter
3.30pm - Meet up with YJ who walks from her place around the corner. The plan is to go shopping for my wedding shoes and evening gown and then go for reunion dinner (sort of) in Chinatown. We're going to hit the shops along the famed 5th Avenue. Nicole, who is in B-school at Wharton (in nearby Philly) is coming into town for the weekend and will be joining us in the afternoon.
We take a train down to 5th Avenue...and bump into Nicole in the subway! Go shopping at Bergdorf Goodman, starting at the designer shoe section (Manolos and Blahniks whoo hoo!) and work our way to the evening dress section. Proceed to other random (but huge) dept stores - I love that there are so many labels (especially designer ones) in the New York stores - I get to check out an extensive range of all the beautiful designs at close range, and all under one roof. You hardly get to see ALL these big brands with their lovely clothing at your neighbourhood departmental store here. You have to go to The Link, or Club 21 (both of which I do not patronise).
Pat calls after her gym session and we meet up at Bloomingdales (or Bloomies) - after a quick walk around, we head off to Chinatown for our Lo Hei dinner.
7.00pm - Go to this place called Penang Nonya which serves Singaporean Malaysian food in Chinatown (Canal Street) - they don't take reservations so we find ourselves in a line (again!) I'm beginning to think that this is a part of the entire NY eating experience...it's packed with Asians and a fair number of ang mohs - NOT a good sign of authentic Asian food. But I guess we have little choice. While waiting, we stand outside the restaurant, looking in on the guy flipping the roti canais. Blair, Elle and Amol join us for dinner - we get a tonne of stuff - lo hei, roti canai, curry chicken, stingray, beef rendang, char kuay teow, and popiah. It's not fabulous, but it's not too bad either - and it was relatively cheap. I suppose Pat managed my expectations very well by repeatedly telling me that the food that is *really* not that great. It's fun though, and the Lo Hei is very CNY.
After dinner, we cross the street to Ferrera's - it's this Italian dessert place that Kisu keeps raving about - he used to come here alot with his college mates whenever they dropped by New York. Once again, a line. But we get to entertain ourselves with the yummy looking glass display of pastries and cakes. The girls share Tiramisu, lobster tail and a chocolate cake, and Kisu has the Chocolate Canolli.
L-R: Me, Pat, Yun-jo, Nicole
Amol & I
After that YJ suggests that we go to "Happy Endings" - it's a former chinese massage parlour (shady!) now turned hip club. Blair & Elle head home, the rest of us go to celebrate Pat's recent promotion (i.e. she gets to buy drinks). It's a fun night - just check out the pictures!
Ooh - who's butt is that?
Pat doing her "thing"
you know you want this....
drink?!!! YJ offers Nicole some good stuff...
Kisu with his new friend (our waitress)
Ooh we're happy now!
Nicole & her random white dude
Ooh yeah, definitely happy people there!
I think your hair needs fixing - look, this really brings out the colour of your eyes!
Day 3 - Sunday 29th Jan
Past noon - Too fun a night, I think! - we have to skip our plan to go to Woodbury Common (outlet shopping 1 hour away from NY). Kisu is still not up for a meal so he stays in - I venture out to Pat's place to meet her and Nicole at 77th street. Visit Pat's flat - and then go to eat at Annie's - the pancakes and waffles look so yummy, but I opt for eggs wellington, Pat's reccomendation. We walk about 20 blocks to Bloomies - I try shoes (again)...Pat opens an account with the store which gives her additional 10% of all her purchases for the next 24 hours. Shopping in NY is a dream. So much choice, no questions return policy, additional discounts....
Kisu finally ventures out and we head over to the East Village to have Pizza at Patsy's. Seems like all NY restaurants are named after people. Hmm. Head back and catch 1/2 an episode of Desperate Housewives. It's an early night for us!
Day 4 - Monday 30th Jan
11.00am - I check out the #1 discount store (so it claims) in NYC - Century 21, which is right by Ground Zero, where the World Trade Centre used to be. It's kind of old, and quite messy - maybe I'm not in the best state of mind to shop; I'm not that keen on looking around. But I do manage to navigate almost the entire shoe department!
Meet Kisu by the old JPMorgan building (23 Wall at the corner of Wall & Broadway) and lunch at what has become one of Kisu's favourite lunch spots - the Trader's cafe.
Have a overcooked pasta dish - the sauce is nice though, but definitely not al dente! and some of Kisu's roast beef sub.
In front of the New York Stock Exchange
1.00pm - YJ is on half day to bring me to the Vera Wang shop on Madison (whoo!) I can't believe I am visiting THE Vera Wang store. Once again, let me gripe about the lack of fashion in Singapore. Here you only get Vera Wang at The Link - and in *extremely* limited quantities. I heard that Singapore brides who go for her wedding gowns can only get them in S, M or L sizes - eeuw! If you're paying that much money for a gown, it better be custom fitted!!! We meet at 77th again, and walk a couple of blocks to the store.
It's NOT a great experience. First, there is a reception area. They don't let you in until you explain to the receptionist what you are doing there!
After a call put through to the higher powers (i.e. people at the back) - the receptionist didn't know how to "deal" with us since we didn't have appts (YJ had called prior to our visit and was told we did not need one) - she let us in. The salespeople were cool - polite, but it was not the warm and ethusiastic service I had encountered at Bergdorf's and Bloomies. The place was spacious, but it wasn't FABULOUS like what I imagined the Vera Wang boutique to be - in fact, some of the dresses on display were actually in pretty bad condition! It's a disappointing experience overall - it is an upmarket boutique afterall, but I still make YJ take a picture of me outside her store so I can say I've been there!
YJ thinks SAKs is my best bet for evening gowns, so we go and try on tonnes of evening gowns - I finally find one that I like, yay!!! We have a very late tea (lovely!) at the SFA (SAKS Fifth Ave) cafe, and then head out to meet Pat at Bloomies - she's trying to make the best of her 10% storewide discount. We go to dinner at the Brasserie 360 (French), just next to the store.
Lovely Tea at Saks!
Even though we're stuffed, we force ourselves over to Serendipity cafe. This is where movies like Serendipilty (haha) and One Fine Day was filmed (that scene with Michelle Pffeifer and the kids eating huge sundaes). Unfortunately there is a minimum order per person, so we have to get some huge desserts. We have their famous ffffrozen hot chocolate, the strawberry fields sundae and celestial cheesecake and force down the enormous potions. (Kisu: "Why does this feel like we're being punished?")
Waiting in line at Serendipity
Strawberry Fields Sundae
Frrrrozen Hot Chocolate
Pat & YJ
Day 5 - Tuesday 31st Jan
12.30pm - The past few late nights are hitting me - I sleep in late - and then meet YJ, Pat & Annie for lunch at the Brasserie - it's restaurant week and there are all kinds of meal offers. I am not very hungry so I have the Chop Chop chicken salad.
1.45pm - The girls return to work - but not before telling me which shops to hit - it's started raining so I have to go into a CVS pharmacy to buy an umbrella before I venture down 5th Ave, and then up again along Madison. I go to Banana Republic, Kenneth Cole, Cole Haan, Barnes &amp;amp;amp; Noble, H&M, Ann Taylor, etc. There's a large glass display in Banana Republic of a dress form swathed in fabric - and a sign on it reads "Banana Republic is a proud sponsor of Project Runway"
I stand back to admire for a while - this is IT! I am Here - Banana Republic! Project Runway! New York!!
I'm so entranced with all that I see that I actually forget to even take a coffee break. My feet are killing me!
8.00pm - Head over to 34th St to shop and then to adjoining K-town for dinner with Kisu. We go to Gahm Mi Oak - Kisu gets his beloved soondae (blood sausage) which is not found in the korean restaurants in singapore (he polishes off the entire dish, which is not small btw), and we also get bindaeduk (soybean pancake) and sulungtang (beef bone soup). Comfort food! the hot milky white soup with lashings of spicy kim chi is so tasty in the cold weather!
Kisu tucking into his *beloved* Soondae