Good-bye New York

If Brooklyn was still a city in its own right rather than a borough of New York City, it would be the fourth largest city of the United States in terms of population. As such, a short day would never do the place justice. But, I can proudly state that we did what we could.

Returning to New York after a wonderful few days in Vermont and New Hampshire, we were moving in to a hotel in the Upper West Side. That is the Upper Upper West Side, at 107th street.

I was pretty much ready to return home after two weeks full of adventure and amazing memories, but we had a weekend to explore the Upper West Side and Brooklyn. In addition we’d bought tickets for a pre-season Knicks game which my boyfriend was pretty excited about and we planned to visit The Natural History Museum after our failed attempt last Saturday.

Even in Chinatown they have better hotels…

We arrived late Friday after a bit of traffic jam on our way into Manhattan. Reaching our hotel we were met with a pretty hallway and a receptionist who seemed to wish himself anywhere else than in the reception. As we checked in, we noticed a notice in the reception with information of an upcoming visit by the exterminator. What a pleasant bit of info to get. And the polite but disinterested receptionist could not tell us if it was rats, cockroaches, bedbugs or gremlins.

Our room and the hallway were dismal with a dirty brown carpet which covered up holes in the floorboards, a disgusting shared bathroom where no one but the initiated knew how to turn off the shower. While the place was pretty much run down they did offer cable and breakfast, and I can’t help wondering if perhaps the money for the cable could have been used better to repair the floor. To think that we were to spend two nights here.

I missed our clean and simple Chinatown hotel.

A quick day in Brooklyn

Unlike last Saturday when we had originally planned to visit Brooklyn, today offered a beautifully clear blue sky and high temperatures considering we were halfway through October.

With the Knicks game in the evening we only had limited time in Brooklyn and planned to get out of the hotel as soon as humanly possible. Despite having slept well, I was far from happy with the place. Before leaving we decided to try out the breakfast. We were shown down to a dirty basement where massive amounts of four different types of cookies were set out along with coffee. Now as much as I like cookies, in my book they do not count as breakfast, but as desert or candy – perhaps a snack. But not breakfast. However, I stockpiled my pockets with cookies before we got the hell out of there.

We wanted to cross the Brooklyn Bridge by foot, wherefore we took the subway to City Hall. Last time we’d been here it had been cloudy and cold and it was great to get a chance to see it with a blue sky.

The Brooklyn Bridge is iconic and I can’t count the number of crime shows I’ve seen where someone threw themselves off the bridge or was killed on it. And it is a very beautiful bridge. I can definitely understand the hype. However it is also completely blocked by other tourists and some of them are very ignorant of the separation between the bike lane and the walking lane. This in turn makes a lot of bikers both native New Yorkers and tourists yell out. There is very little room for error on the Brooklyn Bridge.

But despite the competition with hundreds of other tourists and the angry salutes by bikers, it was an amazing walk across to Brooklyn. Many of the walkers passing us were covered in pink, all of them walking to raise money and awareness of breast cancer. I liked it. I liked all the pink and that so many where out spending there weekend walking through the streets of New York for a good cause.

Brownstones, Orthodox Jews and Korean food

If Brooklyn was still a city in its own right rather than a borough of New York City, it would be the fourth largest city of the United States in terms of population. As such, a short day would never do the place justice. But, I can proudly state that we did what we could.

We began by walking through the beautiful streets of Brooklyn Heights following the pink ladies, before we found a path which allowed us to cross to the waterfront, where we enjoyed the promenade and the beautiful views of Manhattan. I will never understand why Americans build motorways along the waterfront, destroying the access and hiding the view of the sea from the neighbourhood. I hope that in the years to come and as the Brooklyn Promenade is developed Brooklynites will find a way to redirect the motorway or build it into the ground – and yes I know that is utopia, but they did something similar in Portland, Oregon.

After finally finding a way to cross the motorway at Joralemon Street we zig-zagged Montague Street enjoying more of the charming Brooklyn Heights. We were slowly heading in the direction of Fort Greene Brooklyn Flea, hoping to find a funny little gem to memorise our visit.

When we finally arrived, the flea market wasn’t anything special and quickly left again. I think the dream of returning home with something fun and unique will have to wait until next time we are in the area.

Next up was Williamsburg – that neighbourhood that everyone keeps talking about. But there is a long way from Fort Greene to Williamsburg, much longer than what it looks like on the map.

It was Saturday -Shabbat and before long we’d entered a very Jewish Orthodox neighbourhood, which was obvious from the countless well dressed families out for their Shabbat stroll. The men wore large brimmed and very tall black hats and had magnificently dressed curls and beards. The women were classical yet conservative in their dressing and I’d say even the Parisian women would have to look out for these women looked chic.

The area was as many others we’d seen so far, but it stood out in one major way. All balconies were boarded up with cardboards or wooden planks. In most places it looked like a homemade solution. It is not difficult to figure out that Orthodox Jews are not to keen on showing parts of their private life to the public such as by sun bathing or drinking a cup of coffee on the balcony. In fact it is very hard to see anything through their windows. Not that I tried.

However, it makes the neighbourhood look ruffled and dirty which is quite sad. Moreover, I personally find balconies an absolute plus and the idea that people willingly close off their homes to natural light is impossible for me to comprehend. Where I come from light is a commodity in high demands, because half the year we have nearly none.

By the time we reached Broadway, I was ready to crawl on my knees. My feet were messed up and I felt like I was walking on bare bone. But walking up Broadway with the elevated subway tracks had me quickly forget my feet. This is how I imagined New York. Very similar to how the loop circles Chicago, the elevated subway gives off a futuristic feel. I immediately started looking for Harrison Ford because it seems like we’ve reached the not-so-far-away future of 2019, where blade runners kill off replicants. We’d reached the über hip Williamsburg.

With pained feet we entered the first and best eatery we could find. A small Korean Take-Away which allowed for a few seats at the windows. Oh my, never have I had such great Korean food and never have I been so happy to sit down.

After enjoying our food and resting our feet, we went out to explore the streets of Williamsburg. We got to the waterfront with magnificent views of Midtown Manhattan, and passed community gardens with more hipsters than I saw in my life.

Turning from the waterfront we walked down Bedford Avenue stopping for a coffee at one of those über hip coffee shops – this one with a Swedish touch. I think we both agreed that we would have liked more time to explore Williamsburg, but we had tickets for Madison Square Garden, where the New York Knicks were meeting The Boston Celtics.

Go Knicks!

Before coming, I’d spent a good amount of time securing tickets for a basket ball game at Madison Square Garden. I’d researched everything from sites for procuring tickets to seating arrangements.

I must say my research paid out. We had magnificent seats up at 210, row 2. Though we were too far away – as were most – to catch one of the t-shirts being shot off during some of the many breaks. Half the fun was all the in-between events. Cheerleaders, hip dancing groups for kids and the close up on the screens of some of the celebrities placed on the row facing the field. I have no idea who any of them were and it seemed like D-celebrities to me with some guy having a secondary role on Teen Wolf. But they were amazingly self-conscious and playing it off smart. I guess this is the closest they’ll ever come to feeling important.

The game itself did not go well for the Knicks, who were behind most of the match and ended up loosing, but to me it was an amazing experience – apart from having to endure yet another boring hotdog.

Before the match started we had stocked up on Knicks merchandise and both of us in Knicks t-shirts and with a foam finger we felt the part. However, we were far from the only tourists there and more than once did we come across a Danish family. I guess this weekend is the start off of the Autumn holiday back home. Thank goodness we are returning as the rest of Denmark is taking over Manhattan.

A dance good-bye

On our last night in New York and after having watched our first off season NBA game we walked through Hell’s Kitchen towards Columbus Circle from where we took the subway North. We’d not been able to make it to Hell’s Kitchen previously because of that one rainy day which screwed with my tight schedule. So here was our chance. Not that I feel I can say much more than “we walked through”.

I was by all definitions weary and tired after a long but wonderful day in Brooklyn and an evening at Madison Square Garden. I was so absolutely ready to return home.

At Columbus Circle Subway Station, I imagine I was not alone at feeling that the train never came. However, as many others I was caught up in the dramatic dancing of a thin boy dressed in white pants and a red satin shirt. He was literally dancing the night away. It seemed that he’d just stepped off Broadways rendition of Fame.

Around him stood tired New Yorkers, some had placed themselves on the stairs, all of them caught up in the energetic dancing of this thin boy. He seemed a little break from the long haul home, a welcome distraction from the train that didn’t come.

He dazzled me, and I can’t stop thinking about him and his courage to stand on that platform acting out his Michael Jackson fantasies. Who is he? Where does he come from? And why is he here performing to strangers?

As the train drove into the platform, I added my couple of dollars to his basket, hoping that he didn’t need them too much.

Last day

I cannot get out of this hotel fast enough. The entire Upper West Side is crawling with rats and we literally saw a girl yesterday who had to scare them away from her front door. They are everywhere! Adding to that we just left our luggage for safe keeping at the hotel in a room with dead cockroaches.

As we walked from the hotel we saw a guy killing something which was moving inside a plastic bag by dropping a brick to it. I say it was a cockroach. My boyfriend says rat. It could have been either.

A Day at the Museum

We’d planned to spend the morning at The Natural History Museum today. We were psyched about the exhibition “Dinosaurs Among Us” as well as the large collection of dinosaur skeletons. But when we arrived and after a short break in line, my boyfriend quickly convinced me that we should buy a ticket for all the exhibitions. We’ve ended up spending the entire day at the museum.

Not only did we see countless dinosaur bones in the permanent Fossil Halls, but we also had a look at the exhibition Dinosaurs Among Us, which explored the evolution of dinosaurs to birds. We explored the Crocs exhibition, with real life crocodiles – though of the smaller variant got lost in the beautiful Human Origins and Cultural Halls as well as the powerful Mammals Halls. Moreover, we got to see a movie about the Arctic as well as search the universe through a showing in the Hayden Planetarium.. And then we ate our last American meal at the award winning food court at the museum. Americans sure know how to create an atmosphere at natural history museums.

After hours of discovery, we returned to the hotel before departing for the airport.

Now having returned, I can’t figure out whether I regret having taken the trip, because while we experienced so much and was so very awed, I feel as if Manhattan is no longer the mysterious place in my mind, but rather a real place with pros and cons, with everyday people and places and streets. All the movies and tv-shows and books loose their mystery and instead become reality.

But I liked New York, and for the vacation itself I am very happy we went.

Zofka

Days in New York: The UN and the Upper East Side

Americans seem to adore parades. They have the Mardi Gras, the Thanksgiving Parades, massive Halloween parades and Saint Patrick’s Day Parades which equals anything in Ireland.

One parade which I’d never heard of before is the Columbus Day Parade, but during my research I discovered that we would be in New York around the Columbus Day weekend and what better way to experience the Upper East Side than with a long line of parade floats down 5th Avenue.

The United Nations

But before heading towards the Columbus Day Parade, we’d planned to visit the UN headquarters. Unlike yesterday, the sun was shining brightly today and it was almost sad to have to enter the UN building for a guided tour with such pleasurable weather outside.

However, one cannot regret to enter the halls of this place. The architecture is stunning and the fact that this organisation attempts to gather the nations of the world in peace makes a visit here worth your while – no matter the weather outside.

Our guide was a charming young African man with a particular interest in the work against landmines. He took us through the different meeting rooms ending with the impressive General Assembly Hall. We were lucky that not too many meetings were taking place that day, but from a Danish perspective we were unfortunate that of all the rooms it was the Trusteeship Council Chamber which was occupied.

This particular chamber was first designed by Danish furniture designer Finn Juhl in 1952 and renovated with new furniture by Danish design duo Salto and Sigsgaard in 2013. Thus the chamber is an icon in Danish design history as well as in the architectural history of the UN. It is very likely also the main reason for most Danes to visit the UN Headquarters in New York.

But despite missing out on this symbol of Danish design history, we had a marvellous walk through the UN. However, I was pleased once we got outside and were able to once again enjoy the sun. After yesterdays heavy and cold rain I was enjoying the sun to the fullest.

Columbus Day

I wont be exaggerating when I say that the parade was a let down. It seemed a very small affair in comparison to how I imagined American parades and nothing near the spectacle I’d experienced at the 2012 Vancouver Pride.

Here we were standing around most of the time waiting for the next float to arrive. The floats themselves were often just a truck with no decoration but a sad advertisement or brand. There were some marching bands in between which I enjoyed, but for the most part it was boringly dressed people walking down 5th avenue.

It seemed to be mainly the Italian community which was celebrating this day and I assume that the rest of the New York population was off enjoying the fall foliage on an extended weekend in New England. That at least was where I’d much rather be than standing around for this.

I apologise for being negative, but in a land where we have come to expect that everything is always supersized the thin parade stood in sharp contrast to the rest of our trip.

However, with the brilliant weather our decision to see the parade offered an excellent opportunity to zigzag some of the streets and neighbourhoods of the Upper East Side as well as enjoy a walk through Central Park.

On our walk through the Upper East Side, I found the following description of the neighbourhood from the New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation:

The Upper East Side, today one of the most elegant residential and shopping districts, was first built up following the creation of nearby Central Park between 1857 and 1877. It has gone through several development phases, each of them distinctive and still represented today. Middle-class brownstones in the Italianate and Neo-Grec mode of the 1860’s to the 1880’s exists on some side streets. The Beaux Arts palaces and Neo-French Chateaux of the period, designed by McKim, Mead & White and other architects for the Vanderbilts, Astors, Loebs, and Whitneys, recall the days when those names were synonymous with American industrial and economic power. The Neo-Classical revival facades from the early 20th century show a change in taste from 19th century eclectic opulence; and the luxury apartment houses of the 1910-1930 period sought to retain the high style of private residences, while accommodating a basic change in lifestyle.

The Upper East Side seems a dream for the historically interested architect and full of some of the best of American architecture through the ages. At the same time it seems a land closed off to the commoner, where only the elite of American society has any chance of living.

Central Park in comparison seems a breathing hole shared by all New Yorkers and offered a marvellous walk across the Great Lawn and down along the Lake.

We ended the day under the neon lights and large billboards at Times Square along side the many cartoon characters and fellow tourists.

Zofka

Days in New York: Harlem and the Met

Whatever sun we’ve experienced is gone from Manhattan and instead we are left with a grey blanket of clouds and heavy doses of rain.

We wanted to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge today and explore the different neighbourhoods of Brooklyn as well as a few flea markets, but with the cold rain slapping our faces we gave up on that idea and found our way to Grand Central Station to check out the Great Northern Food Hall, which the media in Denmark have been buzzing and fussing about for the last few months.

Third Ave Subway Station
Third Ave Subway Station
The Great Northern Food Hall

Now I’ve never really been a fan of Claus Meyer though I remember him as a television chef from when I grew up. He is the personification of the over hyped Nordic Food which has made my home town into a food Mecca for the elite. But he has always turned my hairs the wrong way.

Central Station
Central Station

However, proud of particularly the Danish breakfast treats (the real Danish pastry) and well aware that Danes are leagues ahead of New Yorkers in the appreciation of a real and good tasting hot dog, I was curious to see Meyer’s attempt at educating the Americans in regards to some of these essential food items.

Great Northern Food Hall
Great Northern Food Hall

I had read ahead of time that Meyer had been way to artistic with his hot dog stand and instead of offering actual Danish hot dogs to the masses he’d gone ahead and made a real classic Meyer by attempting to dose it up with all kinds of weird stuff. Thus, since it was early in the morning we kept ourselves to the Vanderbilt Hall where we got a treat of Danish tebirkes and porridge.

Hall to the Subway at Central Station
Hall to the Subway at Central Station

The first was just as it is back home and gets an A+ from this tebirkes aficionada. The porridge might have been good, but apart from the main chef at the stand bad mouthing the entrepreneur – that is Meyer –  we were also served the porridge nearly cold. In comparison to what I know of American service by now that guy should be out on his ass. Even in Denmark where we prefer a more cold service that guy wouldn’t have kept his job long.

I might not like Claus Meyer, but no one bitches about him but me!

Pershing Square
Pershing Square

After getting cosy and comfortable at Grand Central Station we took the chance to see if we might possibly get a tour of the inside of the UN Headquarters.

Central Station and the Chrysler building in the rain
Central Station and the Chrysler building in the rain

Inside being the keyword as rain started pouring down. But we were out of luck and had to wait a day for the next tour on site.

Warning Rodent Bait!
Warning Rodent Bait!

At this point I was ready to just get home and under the sheets, but despite having changed rooms at the hotel the idea of spending the day there was far from pleasant.

NYPD barricades
NYPD barricades
The Met – Temples and Eggs

We ended up taking a bus into the Upper East Side where we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Arts. The Met is one of largest museums in the world offering a permanent collection of more than 2 million pieces.

Temple of Dendur
Temple of Dendur

Amongst these is the entire Temple of Dendur, which the Egyptian government gifted to the US in 1965 after it had become obvious that the temple’s original location would be flooded by the building of a nearby dam.

Figures and hieroglyphs on the side of the Temple of Dendur
Figures and hieroglyphs on the side of the Temple of Dendur

The temple is reconstructed in the Sackler Wing where it lies with a beautiful panorama view of Central Park. The very idea that the museum houses an ancient temple helps to comprehend the sheer size of this place.

Sphinx
Sphinx

We could have spent hours walking around and studying the many exceptional exhibitions on show from all over the world.

Drinking horn from Nuremberg, Germany 1436
Drinking horn from Nuremberg, Germany 1436
Funerary mask from 10th-12th century, north coast of Peru
Funerary mask from 10th-12th century, north coast of Peru
A Hypocrite and a Slanderer by Franz Xavier Messerschmidt
A Hypocrite and a Slanderer by Franz Xavier Messerschmidt
Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus) by Salvador Dalí, 1954
Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus) by Salvador Dalí, 1954
The Charles Engelhard Court of the American Wing
The Charles Engelhard Court of the American Wing
Gold beakers, precolumbian art
Gold beakers, precolumbian art
Saint Michael from France, ca 1475
Saint Michael from France, ca 1475
Interior from the Classical Galleries, 1810–1845
Interior from the Classical Galleries, 1810–1845
The exhibition 'Body Language'
The exhibition ‘Body Language’

To me the most interesting find in the vast collection were the Fabergé eggs on show in the European section. In particular, the beautiful pale pink egg bearing the title Imperial Danish Palaces Egg. The egg was presented to the czarina Maria Feodorovna on Easter 1890 by her husband Czar Alexander III.

European Sculpture Collection 1700-1900
European Sculpture Collection 1700-1900

Maria Feodorovna was born Princess Marie Sophie Frederikke Dagmar daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark. Most Danes know her as Dagmar.

The Imperial Danish Palaces Egg
The Imperial Danish Palaces Egg

Her older brother became King Frederik VIII of Denmark, her older sister Alexandra married the later Edward VII  King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India, while her older brother was elected King George I of the Hellenes (Greece). Not without reason her father was known as the Father-in-Law of Europe, and many royal houses can trace their history back to him.

Early cast for the Statue of Liberty by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi
Early cast for the Statue of Liberty by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi

Dagmar herself saw her son and grandchildren killed during the Russian Revolution of 1917, and as such ended as the last remaining crowned person of Russia. But before these events she lived a life at the utmost top of society in Russia and Europe.

Head of Satyr playing the double flute, 1 centurt A.D.
Head of Satyr playing the double flute, 1 centurt A.D.

The Fabergé egg which caught my attention has hidden a folding ten-panel gold screen which shows some of Dagmar’s favourite Danish and Russian retreats. The thought of finding – among such treasures at the Met a tiny but priceless piece of ornament showcasing miniature pictures of Danish royal palaces seemed so surreal.

Small folding screen inside of the Imperial Danish Palaces Egg
Small folding screen inside of the Imperial Danish Palaces Egg
Harlem tour

We waited out the heavy rain in the large halls of the Met and as the weather seemed to stabilise and only the grey cloud remained, we decided to shake up our schedule and take the subway to Harlem.

Brownstone-homes on Striver's Row
Brownstone-homes on Striver’s Row

I had planned a Harlem tour full of Harlem history facts. Thus we started at 135th street station and St. Nicolas’ Park walking towards Strivers’ Row, which is a three-row radius of spacious town houses, known as brownstone-homes. According to the information I’d found beforehand some of the key players in the Harlem Renaissance and civil rights movement lived here.

Victory Tabernacle Seventh Day Christian Church on 138th Street
Victory Tabernacle Seventh Day Christian Church on 138th Street

Built in 1891, most of these homes remained empty until affluent African Americans (Strivers) bought them in the 1920s as Harlem became the centre of a ‘literary, artistic, and intellectual movement that kindled a new black cultural identity’ (History.com).

Private Road between 138th and 139th Street
Private Road between 138th and 139th Street

The movement has later been known as the Harlem Renaissance and was caused by a mass migration of black Americans from the South to Northern industrial cities during and after WWI. They came to the north and Harlem in search of jobs within the war-time industry and brought with them an artistic and cultural explosion as ‘strivers’ for a better future.

Private Road - Walk Your Horses
Private Road – Walk Your Horses

History.com offers a short introductory video on the Harlem Renaissance which is really nice: The Harlem Renaissance.

Houses on 138th street
Houses on 138th street

We continued from Strivers’ Row down to Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd and the Abyssinian Baptist Church, which dates back to 1823. The congregation was started in 1808 as a way for black Americans to avoid the segregation in church and is one of the first and most influential African-American congregations.

Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd
Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd

Continuing down Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd I must admit that I was surprised at how pleasant Harlem is and all the lovely brownstone houses. This is definitely a wonderful part of Manhattan and much more attractive than Midtown.

Harlem Nights
Harlem Nights
Brownstone houses
Brownstone houses
Behind the facade in Harlem
Behind the facade in Harlem
The Universal Temple of Spiritual Truth and Funerals by Design
The Universal Temple of Spiritual Truth and Funerals by Design
Fire exits
Fire exits
YMCA - Young Men's Christian Association
YMCA – Young Men’s Christian Association
Corner of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd and 135th Street
Corner of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd and 135th Street
135th Street
135th Street
Floral Expressions Harlem
Floral Expressions Harlem
Shrine Live Music
Shrine Live Music
Bethlehem Moriah Baptist Church
Bethlehem Moriah Baptist Church
Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd and 132nd Street
Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd and 132nd Street
Just Lorraine's Place
Just Lorraine’s Place
Shiloh Baptist Church
Shiloh Baptist Church

We ended up where everyone ends up on a tour of Harlem at 125th street – the commercial centre and beating heart of the neighbourhood.

125th Street
125th Street

Enjoying the atmosphere and the crowds of people who had overcome the grey weather we did a bit of shopping on 125th. I was particularly pleased with the GAP outlet store, which offered enormous discounts on clothes.

Monument to Adam Clayton Powell
Monument to Adam Clayton Powell

After having seen the shop assistant add discounts of up to 75% on all the items I’d grabbed I was pretty much whistling and exclaiming that this couldn’t get any cheaper.

Shopping in the GAP
Shopping in the GAP

To this our shop assistant grinned at us and added ‘We haven’t counted in the 25% off on all items yet’. What! I walked out of there feeling like I wasn’t spending money, but earning them. This place is definitely on my to do list if we return to New York.

Apollo Theatre on 125th Street
Apollo Theatre on 125th Street
Sylvia’s

We ended our day in Harlem with a late lunch at Sylvia’s, which is known for serving Soul Food. The late Sylvia Wood who ran the restaurant for more than 50 years was known as the Queen of Soul Food, so I’d figured a visit to her restaurant was the proper way to eat in Harlem.

Sylvia's
Sylvia’s

The term Soul Food comes from Alex Haley’s recordings of Malcolm X and is used to describe the food which the Great Migration of African-Americans from WWI and up until the 1960s brought with them from the South to their new homes in the northern industrial cities. Sylvia’s and many similar black-owned restaurants have served as meeting places and social spots for the black community in for instance Harlem, serving up traditional dishes of the black south.

At Sylvia's
At Sylvia’s

Strangely enough the cuisine originates not in the African roots of slaves in the South, but with the indigenous and native people of North America.

Sylvia's Restaurant Soul Food
Sylvia’s Restaurant Soul Food

It is heavy food and probably not all that healthy to eat all the time, but it tastes amazing and Sylvia’s was a marvellous place to end our Harlem adventure.

Zofka (now dressed in GAP)

Gallery: Chelsea Flea Market

Though I did not find anything, I was in particular need of, I could not help myself taking pictures of all the odities that were available at Chelsea Flea Market.

Danish garders by Kaj Bojesen
Danish garders by Kaj Bojesen
A pilgrim cup
A pilgrim cup
If only this chair could fit in a suitcase
If only this chair could fit in a suitcase
Shelves of porcelain
Shelves of porcelain
Dracula in a frame
Dracula in a frame
Abraham Lincoln and Stars and Stripes
Abraham Lincoln and Stars and Stripes
Colonial wood carved African American men
Colonial wood carved African American men
Colonial wood carved African American men
Colonial wood carved African American men
Can you find Tintin?
Can you find Tintin?
The lady and the glass slipper
The lady and the glass slipper
Books $5
Books $5
A bulldog
A bulldog
African masks
African masks
African figurines
African figurines
Another chair for the suitcase
Another chair for the suitcase
Brushes
Brushes
Chelsea Flea Market
Chelsea Flea Market
Barber sign
Barber sign
A doll on the shoe shelf
A doll on the shoe shelf

Zofka

Days in New York: The Village

A small group of students were advocating for the rights of Native Americans, and in reference to the upcoming Columbus Day were asking people passing by how they’d like it if someone showed up and took over their house.

Unlike yesterday which offered a beautiful blue sky, we’ve had to do with grey clouds all day today. However, I have still thoroughly enjoyed walking through the Village.

We began the day with a visit to Chelsea Flea Market and though I didn’t end up buying anything, there was more than enough to look at. Loads of American flags, wooden figures and people enjoying the atmosphere. So much that I decided to make a gallery of it all.

Colonial wood carved African American men
Colonial wood carved African American men

From there we walked down 5th Avenue and into Greenwich Village. When we reached the First Presbyterian Church in the New York City we turned down 11th Street to 6th Avenue and the Jefferson Market Library and Garden.

The Jefferson Market Library
The Jefferson Market Library

Here I found the small Patchin Place and one of only two still existing gas lamps in New York. I wonder if I get a chance to find the other one as well.

One of two remaining gas lamps in New York
One of two remaining gas lamps in New York

Continuing down Christopher Street we took our time to enjoy the lively puppies in the many local pet stores. At West 4th Street we turned north into an area full of lively restaurants and bars where people had defied the grey weather and were enjoying the outdoor seating.

Sant Ambroeus on West 4th Street
Sant Ambroeus on West 4th Street

As we reached Perry Street we happened upon a house with large groups of young women taking photos in front. It would seem that we had reached Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment building.

Women flocking to Carrie Bradshaw's apartment building
Women flocking to Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment building

Despite the fact that Carrie lived in the Upper East Side in the series ‘Sex and the City’ this house was used to shoot the exterior scenes. And for that reason for women of my generation, it seems to have become a destination for modern pilgrimage.

Soon Julia Roberts and Richard Gere will show up on the fire escape
Soon Julia Roberts and Richard Gere will show up on the fire escape

Continuing up to Abingdon Square we found a small farmer’s market by Grow NYC offering locally grown vegetables, lobsters and turkeys from DiPaola Turkey Farm.

Abingdon Square
Abingdon Square

After a turn around the farmer’s market we continued down Bleecker Street enjoying the many little shops before finding our way towards the exterior apartment building of another New Yorker series.

Shops on Bleecker Street
Shops on Bleecker Street

On the corner of Grove and Bedford Streets lies the building known from ten seasons of Friends. Unlike with Carrie Bradshaw’s building, no one was to be found outside here taking selfies. No Ross and Rachel fans.

Apartment building from Friends on Grove and Bedford
Apartment building from Friends on Grove and Bedford
Grove Street
Grove Street
Bedford St and Carmine St
Bedford St and Carmine St
Downing Street Playground
Downing Street Playground

We continued down Bedford Street to Father Demo Square where we got a bagel at Bagels On the Square before continuing onto Washington Square Park. This is a particularly lively and pleasant park full of NYU students.

The Washington Square Arch in Washington Square Park
The Washington Square Arch in Washington Square Park

Let’s celebrate Columbus Day by walking into someone’s house & telling them we live there now.

I loved the fact that a small group of students were advocating for the rights of Native Americans, and in reference to the upcoming Columbus Day were asking people passing by how they’d like it if someone showed up and took over their house. Well there is something to think about when we will enjoy the Columbus Day Parade on Monday.

Celebrate Indigenous people
Celebrate Indigenous people

As rain started pouring, we made our way eastwards through a lively area of East Village full of young people and students.

Grassroots Tavern
Grassroots Tavern
New Yorker taxis
New Yorker taxis
The Tenth Street Church of Christ
The Tenth Street Church of Christ
A classic walk of shame
A classic walk of shame
East Village Barber Shop
East Village Barber Shop
E 10th Street and 2nd Avenue
E 10th Street and 2nd Avenue
Trump says 'no crossing!'
Trump says ‘no crossing!’

In order to get out of the rain, we quickly found a place on St Mark’s Place called TKettle Kitchen which served bubble tea.

Bubble tea at TKettle Kitchen
Bubble tea at TKettle Kitchen

I love bubble tea, and we spent some time at this Taiwanese place chewing tapiocas and soaking up the atmosphere away from the rain, and before making it the rest of the way home.

 

Zofka

Days in New York: Midtown and a Detour to World Trade One

To realise that we stood by the windows overlooking Manhattan took my breath away.

We woke up feeling better than yesterday and with a clear blue sky over Manhattan. It seemed the perfect day to visit World Trade One after we’d dropped it during our first weekend because of a grey and cloudy sky.

World Trade One
World Trade One

Our original plan was to see Midtown with Times Square and 5th Avenue as central attractions. But while visiting Manhattan for the first time requires a visit to Midtown simply to cross it off the list, it was never a real priority in my eyes. Thus, it felt the perfect time to take a detour south visiting the observatory of Freedom Tower.

Buildings next to 9/11 Memorial Park
Buildings next to 9/11 Memorial Park

When we arrived I was dying from hunger and instead of making our way to Freedom Tower immediately, we headed off towards Brookefield Place across the road for a quick coffee and pastry.

North Cove Yacht Harbor
North Cove Yacht Harbor

After shopping in one or two of the fancy bakeries, we sat down at the large glass windows overlooking North Cove Yacht Harbor and the Hudson River.

The Sisyphean job of cleaning the windows of World Trade One
The Sisyphean job of cleaning the windows of World Trade One

Knowing that we’d have to spent the day in between some of the most recognisable skyscrapers of the world all day, it was fantastic to enjoy the view and a quick tour outside for a slight breeze.

View over Manhattan
View over Manhattan
One World Observatory

When we returned to One World Trade Center a small line had grown, but fortunately we managed to pass through quickly ending up in an elevator which during the 47 second travel time reached 1,268ft (386.5 m) while showing us a time lapse of Manhattan from 1500 AD to now.

I found this one on YouTube, but it can’t really measure with the real thing:

Once we reached floor 102 we were shown a short presentational video on a long and 3D canvas. As the final touch the movie screen open up to the outside view.

View towards Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty
View towards Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty

Up until then I had no orientation and felt as if we were hiding in the dark shadows of a presentational hall in the centre of the building. To realise that we stood by the windows overlooking Manhattan took my breath away.

NYPD in the air over Manhattan
NYPD in the air over Manhattan

Reaching the observatory deck, we spent an hour or more enjoying the blue sky over Manhattan. My favourite part was looking north towards Midtown and Central Park with the bridges to the right crossing over to Brooklyn. Such an iconic view.

View towards East River
View towards East River
Midtown

We started at Herald Square taking a slow walk down 7th Avenue and Korean Town passing Empire State Building as we turned on to 5th. At 37th street we crossed to Broadway slowly making our way to Times Square.

Hot dog and pretzel stand at Herald Square
Hot dog and pretzel stand at Herald Square
Saxophonist playing on Herald Square
Saxophonist playing on Herald Square
Young Orthodox Jews
Young Orthodox Jews
Fast food stand in Midtown
Fast food stand in Midtown
7th Avenue outside Madison Square Garden
7th Avenue outside Madison Square Garden
7th Avenue
7th Avenue
Starbucks and Church of Saint Francis de Assisi on W 31st Street
Starbucks and Church of Saint Francis de Assisi on W 31st Street
Koreatown

However, we decided to make one more detour of the day crossing into Koreatown which lies on East 32nd Street between Broadway and 5th Avenue. It is a nice little place though I imagine that with more time, we would have gained more from our visit.

Chefs at Mandoo Bar in Koreatown
Chefs at Mandoo Bar in Koreatown

The Korean enclave is a relatively new phenomenon as it started in the 1980’s with the opening of a Korean book store and a few restaurants. Today the area holds more than a 100 shops and eateries and is a centre for the Korean community in the US.

Empire State Building
Empire State Building

I absolutely love the idea that even in modern times it is possible for small and culturally interesting enclaves to pop up in this massive metropolis and that they are offered some sort of recognition in the official nickname of this section of 32nd Street as Korea Way. It shows how this city continues to develop not only from the high-rises, but also from the multi-ethnic groups which call it their home.

Minnie Mouse times two
Minnie Mouse times two
Times Square

As we moved closer to the epicentre of Manhattan tourism more and more cartoon dressed people started to show up. I knew there had been a Comic Con in New York from the 6th to the 9th of October , but all these dressed up people didn’t really fit the profile. Most of those I saw without their Iron Man or Goofy head on were short Mexicans.

Minnie Mouse and Minions on a short break
Minnie Mouse and Minions on a short break

They intermingled with the tourists getting money for pictures. I must admit that I myself fell for a photo with Iron Man mostly because it seemed the thing to do as we neared Times Square.

With Iron Man and Spiderman
With Iron Man and Spiderman

It seemed so similar to the young men with Middle Eastern and North African roots who sell small metal Eiffel Towers in Paris for 1€ at every major tourist attraction.

Statue of Liberty texting
Statue of Liberty texting

Here however, they were standing out in their cartoon customs moving about the tourists or off to the side in groups taking a break. It seemed so sad in my eyes and made me even more reluctant to hang around Times Square.

Dallas BBQ and other neon light advertisements
Dallas BBQ and other neon light advertisements

But we were getting hungry and before we knew it we were finding our way to a massive amount of mediocre American food at Dallas BBQ on West 42nd Street.

NYPD on 43rd Street and Times Square
NYPD on 43rd Street and Times Square

While the food was as all such chain restaurants can offer – nothing special – I did get a massive virgin Piña Colada which gave me an extensive brain freeze. I am still in shock regarding the portion and drink sizes in the US and it is not difficult to comprehend how the country has such major issues with obesity. I must have gain five kilos from just walking in the door at Dallas BBQ.

Times Square and W 44th Street
Times Square and W 44th Street

Once again moving towards Times Square I was surprised at how small it felt and how excessively dirty. Before leaving for the US we’d watched an episode of ‘Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations’ about New York City in which he contemplated on how Times Square had turned into an amusement park far detached from the everyday New Yorker.

Looking south from Times Square and W 44th Street
Looking south from Times Square and W 44th Street

Standing here crushed by tourist masses and Mexicans dressed up like cartoon characters with massive stores for Disney and M&M, I could only agree.

Duffy Square - the northern triangle of Time Squares
Duffy Square – the northern triangle of Time Squares
Ads on Times Square between W 46th and W 47th
Ads on Times Square between W 46th and W 47th

View from Times Square up Broadway
View from Times Square up Broadway

However, we were tourists ourselves and I’ve never claimed not to be a hypocrite in some sense of the word and before long we were enjoying the wonders of the Disney Store considering whether or not to by a BB-8 or R2-D2. A discussion we’d also had while in Tokyo. Disney Stores just bring out that inner child. We’ll probably have the same discussion the next time we see a Disney Store.

Leaving behind the masses at Times Square we made it up Broadway to 57th street and on towards 5th Avenue and Trump Tower. With absolutely no interest in standing around that place, we moved on to 53rd street and the Museum of Modern Art.

Broadway north of Times Square
Broadway north of Times Square
Broadway north of Times Square
Broadway north of Times Square
Broadway north of Times Square
Broadway north of Times Square
Louis Vuitton on 5th Avenue
Louis Vuitton on 5th Avenue
Trump Tower
Trump Tower
MoMA

On Friday nights nearby Uniqlo – one of my favourite stores – sponsors free entrance to MoMA between 4 and 8 pm. While I am not much for art museums, I am well aware that a visit to New York is not complete without a stop at MoMA.

MoMA
MoMA

While the museum itself did not fascinate me more than similar museums in Europe, I was happily surprised at how full it was because of the Uniqlo Free Friday Nights.

Repose, 1908 by Pablo Picasso
Repose, 1908 by Pablo Picasso

However there was one exhibition which caught my attention namely Bouchra Khalili: The Mapping Journey Project. I was caught by the travels that these immigrants had been on crisscrossing Europe and returning to Africa before criss-crossing Europe again. All of it in hopes of a better future and through constant exploitation by other.

The Mapping Journey Project
The Mapping Journey Project

One had given up a good living in Italy where he had found a peaceful job in order to pay for a ticket to Barcelona where his uncle could exploit him by forcing him to work under dismal conditions.

But my uncle took all my money
But my uncle took all my money

These fates and their stories as migrant workers was terrifying and the installations through which they told their stories were so brutally honest.

And help my family, so I should go to Libya
And help my family, so I should go to Libya
Uniqlo

And yes, off course I ended up at Uniqlo after our visit to MoMA. Still awaiting the brands arrival in Denmark, I take every chance I can to shop in one of their stores.

St. Patrick's Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Evening prayers in St. Patrick's Cathedral
Evening prayers in St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Wedding in St. Patrick's Cathedral
Wedding in St. Patrick’s Cathedral

After intense shopping in Uniqlo we took a few minutes to contemplate in peace at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue, while watching a couple saying I do.

We ended the evening in our own neighbourhood with a well deserved pizza.

Zofka

Gallery: High Line

The High Line might be my favourite place in Manhattan after a two weeks visit. It is the mix of old and new, industry and creativity, and the feeling of walking above the Manhattan grid in a wonderful world of recreation.

View from the High Line
View from the High Line
Fire escapes
Fire escapes
Passing through modern high rises
Passing through modern high rises
Old industrial chimney
Old industrial chimney
Small back alley
Small back alley
Painting on wall and body
Painting on wall and body
The High Line
The High Line
Beautiful old New Yorker complexes
Beautiful old New Yorker complexes
The High Line
The High Line
Rubber car
Rubber car
View of W 23rd Street
View of W 23rd Street
Graffiti
Graffiti
Back alley street art
Back alley street art
Time for a small break
Time for a small break
Blind idealism is deadly
Blind idealism is deadly
The green of the High Line
The green of the High Line
The green of the High Line
The green of the High Line
Car Park
Car Park
Empire State Building in the horizon
Empire State Building in the horizon
W 19th Street
W 19th Street
View towards Pier 57
View towards Pier 57
Star on 18
Star on 18
The Lion King
The Lion King
Nude sunbathers
Nude sunbathers
View of W 17th Street
View of W 17th Street
Looking south on 10 Avenue
Looking south on 10 Avenue
Looking north on 10 Avenue
Looking north on 10 Avenue
W 16th Street and Hudson River
W 16th Street and Hudson River
At W 16th Street
At W 16th Street
View towards Hudson River
View towards Hudson River
People enjoying a coffee on the High Line
People enjoying a coffee on the High Line
View of W 15th Street
View of W 15th Street
Relaxing in the sun on the High Line
Relaxing in the sun on the High Line
New fashion from Giorgio Armani
New fashion from Giorgio Armani
Pier 54
Pier 54
Brass Money
Brass Money
View of W 12th Street
View of W 12th Street
Buildings near the High Line
Buildings near the High Line
Curved building near the High Line
Curved building near the High Line
The green of the High Line
The green of the High Line

Zofka

Days in New York: Gramercy, Flatiron and Chelsea

We passed between modern buildings built to encapsulate the High Line as well as older and crumbled buildings which stood as testament to the industrial area that it used to be.

We’ve slept terribly tonight. The hotel room was draughty and the bed was more than usually squeaky. You only had to breath for it to complain. After a long and late journey from D.C. in a very cold bus this was absolutely not what we needed. However, the hotel staff have been really helpful and offered us a new room – one where the bed is not directly under the window. Thankfully that also meant that we left behind the brown tartar wall paper which made me feel claustrophobic.

Dogs for posing
Dogs for posing

I don’t know if their willingness to help had anything to do with me standing in the foyer crying at 8 in the morning. I’d pretty much lost it after that night. We were both feeling sick and the very idea that we had to spend one more second in that room made me close to hysterical.

Placement of dogs
Placement of dogs

I was so eager to get a new room that I misunderstood the guy at the reception desk when he said we could switch rooms. I thought he meant right now and fifteen minutes later with luggage and a grumpy boyfriend I was eagerly waiting for a new room. However, a room with no window by the bed would not be available until someone checked out.

Posing dogs
Posing dogs

I must have looked wild. Absolutely out of it by the idea that we had to return to our draughty room.

After settling back in the room we took our time to get ready for a day of sightseeing in Gramercy and the Flatiron District as well as Chelsea and the High Line.

Gramercy Café
Gramercy Café

Gramercy Café

We began by fuelling up at the nearby Gramercy Café – a sleazy but well maintained diner. I can’t emphasise how much I needed to get my wits together somewhere outside that hideous room.

Breakfast time at Gramercy Café
Breakfast time at Gramercy Café

I love how in New York every establishment has its regulars filling up the place and how you nearly never see an empty restaurant or drinking hole. Gramercy was one of those places filled with regulars and people who were on first name with the waiters.

New York buildings
New York buildings

The prices were reasonably compared to what we’d come to expect from New York and we ended up with a serving of pancakes, oatmeal and coffee. Lots of coffee.

Looking up
Looking up

Yet again we were reminded that service was not part of the bill. It seems a standard that waiters tell European tourists, and it is pretty tiring to constantly to reminded that they expect for you to find their overcrowding service welcoming and to pay for it. However, these guys had been friendly and were not sitting like hawks checking up on us. Which was a welcome change from our experience at Harry’s in D.C.

Church of the Holy Apostles
Church of the Holy Apostles

I will never get comfortable with the tipping system. I like to pay a pre-defined amount for both food and service and not have to reflect on how much I might give, feeling bad since I’d constantly find myself between wanting to give a lot and not having the money – thus leaving the restaurant feeling guilty and not really wanting to come back. And I’d prefer the waiters to leave me alone, since I will never feel comfortable with someone chatting with me or serving me for the hope of a large tip.

But while here I’ll tip by the standards and cringe on the inside, while telling myself it is a cultural experience.

Gramercy Park
Gramercy Park

Gramercy and the Flatiron District

We left the diner and had a pleasant walk through Gramercy and past Gramercy Park before reaching Union Square where we sat for a while people watching and baking in the autumn sun. Gramercy is a beautiful area and we have been absolutely fortunate to keep the brilliant weather from Philadelphia and D.C.

Flatiron Building
Flatiron Building

Not soon after leaving behind Union Square we found ourselves soaking up the sun in Madison Square Park. With Flatiron in the background we got to enjoy the buzz of the lunch crowd, people dressed in ties and suits, briefcases and hot-dogs. We’d attempted to take a photo of Flatiron, but it had proven difficult as a photo shoot was in full swing in front of it.

Photo shoot at Flatiron Building
Photo shoot at Flatiron Building

As so many other things in life, I was surprised that it was not larger. I vividly remember it from watching Spin City during my childhood and back then it seemed enormous. But size doesn’t matter! The building is beautiful and I can understand why it has become an icon in Manhattan.

Is Santa real? Oysters!
Is Santa real? Oysters!

After enjoying the buzzing Madison Square Park we came across the SONY building next door, where we got a chance to test their latest in Virtual Reality.

Madison Square Park
Madison Square Park

It is pretty amazing how far they’ve come and though it is still pretty difficult to imagine all of us sitting in the coach with these heavy white helmets on, while thinking we are somewhere else, it is probably not that far in to the future.

I got to explore the depths of the sea and get attacked by a shark, which the guys at the show room found hilarious, since apparently I was very apparent in my fear of the shark.

Lunchtime in Madison Square Park
Lunchtime in Madison Square Park

Returning to Madison Square Park, we once again joined the remaining lunch crowds. I love how the parks are used by New Yorkers. How they are an integrated part of the business life.

Empire State and Macy’s

While the business people left for their offices, we moved further up 5th Avenue to the Empire State building. I’d confused it with the Crystler Building ad was certain that the tall skyscraper in the distance was not Empire State. It wasn’t until we exited Wallgreen, where we’d stocked up on anything to use against the common cold, that we realised that Wallgreen was situated in the Empire State Building.

4 Park Avenue and Empire State
4 Park Avenue and Empire State

I guess, I can say that I have been inside though not up the Empire State Building.

Madison Avenue
Madison Avenue

We continued up 5th to Macy’s at Herald Square since we’d seen a commercial advertising that Macy’s was readying for Halloween. Our disappointed was pretty great when we realised that their Halloween section was nearly the size of a stamp, while their holiday section was all about Christmas.

A taste of religious US
A taste of religious US

The idea that Americans overdue it with decorating for the holidays and that the department stores were crazy felt nothing more than a stereotypical prejudice. Hopefully they got more crazy when Halloween got closer, because that was sad.

Herald Square
Herald Square

After another break at Herald Square where I realised that pretzels are just as boring in the US as in Germany, we headed off towards the High Line.

High Line
High Line

The High Line

While the Halloween decorations at Macy’s and the pretzel at Herald Square had disappointed, the High Line lived up to everything we’d imagined.

14th Street and 9th Ave
14th Street and 9th Ave

It was so unbelievably fresh to walk the extent of the High Line. A breath of fresh air in the middle of the concrete jungle. With the amazing weather people were relaxing on benches and chairs amidst the greenery. Some spots offered marvellous views of the streets below, where traffic was jammed and people in a hurry. Up here it was peaceful.

The corner of Gaansevoort and Washington
The corner of Gaansevoort and Washington

At some spot we were warned that naked sunbathers were at large while at others we passed small cafés and souvenir shops. Fortunately, these were limited and did not take away from the overall enjoyment of the High Line.

Homestead Steakhouse
Homestead Steakhouse

We passed between modern buildings built to encapsulate the High Line as well as older and crumbled buildings which stood as testament to the industrial area that it used to be.

If ever I return to New York, it will not seem complete with out a walk on the High Line. From this time around, I decided to create a gallery with some of the shoots from the High Line.

Dry Cleaning
Dry Cleaning
Clinton vs Trump
Clinton vs Trump
New Yorker pizza
New Yorker pizza
New York street by night
New York street by night
New York street by night
New York street by night

After a long day exploring the areas Gramercy, Flatiron and Chelsea, we spent the evening with a slice of a real and greasy New Yorker pizza and a night time walk before returning to our hotel, where we had been moved to a new and much more comfortable room.

Zofka

Welcome to New York: Financial District, TriBeCa and Ellis Island

After our visit to Ellis Island and learning about the discrimination against Chinese, it felt befitting to return to Chinatown and a proper Chinese meal.

We woke early after a night in our Chinese office building. We’d slept through most of the night with ear plugs and thanks to a heavy dose of jet-lag, but we were soon up and about.

We’d booked a ferry to Ellis Island at 9 AM in order to get the most out of our day. But we have not yet become complete comfortable with the New York subway and though a bit uncertain of what we did wrong we ended up a stop short of where we planned.

In fact the subway is both confusing in regards to direction as well as local versus express trains, but it is also anything but friendly towards people in a hurry, since there are no indications of when the next train might arrive, and sometimes you have to wait awhile.

Federal Hall on Wall Street on Sunday morning
Federal Hall on Wall Street on Sunday morning
Wall Street on a Sunday morning

We got out at Broad Street Station in the middle of the financial district. The place was empty on this Sunday morning in October, and apart from a few scattered people both Broad Street and Wall Street stood like movie sets ready for filming. It seemed so unreal with the grey buildings and no sound from traffic or people.

An empty Wall Street on Sunday morning
An empty Wall Street on Sunday morning

Despite running late after our run in with the New York subway, we took our time absorbing the peacefulness of these historic streets. It was impossible to imagine that these buildings were amongst the leading in regards to world finance. That they usually bustle with energy and people while transactions worth billions pass through.

View of the dock at the tip of Manhattan
View of the dock at the tip of Manhattan

But I was getting antsy about not reaching our boat and before long we were hurrying down Broad Street and Water Street  to Battery Park and the very tip of Manhattan. Fortunately we made it in good time and with my pointy elbows we managed to get through the line easily and secure ourselves a good spot on the roof of the Statue Cruises boat.

Statue of Liberty on a grey morning
Statue of Liberty on a grey morning

Ellis Island

The morning was grey and the clouds looming over Manhattan as we set sail – or motor – for the Statue of Liberty. We were on one of the first boats of the day and most people were off to explore the feet of the statue of liberty, meaning that we got the boat almost all to ourselves on the last stretch towards the beautiful Ellis Island.

Ellis Island dock
Ellis Island dock

On January 1, 1892 Ellis Island opened its doors to become a front door for immigration to the US for immigrants travelling from Europe. The first to register was an Irish lass named Annie Moore, which is befitting considering the huge amount of Irish immigrants who have made their way across the Atlantic in the decades following the Great Irish Famine of 1845-1852.

The Great Hall at Ellis IslandThe Great Hall at Ellis Island
The Great Hall at Ellis Island

When Annie and her fellow passengers set foot on Ellis Island in January 1892, they were welcomed by one of New York’s most famous inhabitants – Lady Liberty. As a symbol of freedom, equality and liberty she was the welcoming sign for generations of immigrants arriving to New York, and to this day it is difficult to separate the statue with the American history of immigration.

1921 Europe versus the United States poster
1921 Europe versus the United States poster

Up until 1954 12 million immigrants would follow in the footsteps of 15 year old Annie Moore and pass through the inspection at Ellis Island. As such 40 pct. of all Americans have ancestors who are registered here and many Europeans find in their family tree relations who have made the journey from one of the large European ports to New York.

After a fire burned down the wooden ramshackle structures on Ellis Island an architectural competition was established in 1897. The iconic main building which greets visitors on Ellis Island were designed by Edward Lippincott Tilton and William A. Boring in a French renaissance style.

Visiting Ellis Island

I was blown away by this museum. Though with a very different past it reminded me of the many KGB and Soviet museums in Eastern Europe. The reason is that unlike so many museums the walls of this place holds the story. You can almost feel the crowded space, the many different languages filling the large waiting hall and the stress of the inspections.

It was coming even more to live with the audio guide we carried around. The rather painful story of a family of three generations reaching Ellis Island only for the grandmother to return to Europe because of an unknown growth on her one finger which stamped her as a safety risk. The family continued through to the US while she returned to the boat and Europe never to see them or here from them again. Not everyone came through and the tragic stories are of those who had their dreams of a better life crushed at these inspection stalls.

But what is most frightening about some of these stories is that they could have been written by immigrants in 2016. Nothing has really changed in how we prick and prod and decide whether fellow human beings are worthy of a better life amongst those of us privileged to be born into it.

Cartoon by Joseph Keppler from 1893
Cartoon by Joseph Keppler from 1893

Those who are loudest in their cry of ‘America for Americans’ do not have to look very far back to find an ancestor who was an immigrant.

New Immigrations’ Protective League, 1906

Discrimination

Another piece of information which got stuck in my mind after walking through the museum and reading about the many waves of immigration was the discrimination against Chinese and other Asian immigrants.

Japs keep moving - This is a white man's neighborhood
Japs keep moving – This is a white man’s neighborhood

They did not come on ships from Europe, but crossed the Pacific to such cities as San Francisco. Yet, they were met with much harder conditions and discriminating legal acts from e.g. the State of California. They were feared by the American workers because they took jobs for wages far below that of the American worker. In 1882, this even let to the Chinese Exclusion Act which restricted immigration from China. Moreover, when the African-American population were awarded citizenship through the renewed Naturalization Act of 1870, this did not extend to other non-white people because of fear of the Chinese.

NYPD
NYPD

We might think that society changes, but it is a hard reality to consider how our restrictions on immigrations and how we perceive some people as a threat is still fundamentally the same. In US anno 2016, the Chinese have been exchanged with Mexicans and the discriminating legal acts with the visions of a wall. The fear of them taking our jobs, pressuring our wages and dominating our society is the same.

Exiting Battery Park
Exiting Battery Park

Return to Manhattan

After having explored every crook and nanny of the museum grounds we returned to Battery Park enjoying the iconic skyline of Southern Manhattan.

Charging Bull
Charging Bull

We made our way to the Charging Bull and on towards Stone Street where we found a place to lunch. The fact that there was mimosa ad libetum for an additional 20 dollars was an added bonus.

Nassau Street
Nassau Street

After a hearty lunch in Stone Street, we walked through the Financial District and reaching a much more bustling Wall Street than what we had seen in the morning. Yet, the people filling up the street were tourists like us and I felt mighty pleased that we had gotten lost on the subway and by chance had seen the area while it look like a movie set.

Dunkin Donuts
Dunkin Donuts

We ended up crossing Broadway and Church Street stopping at the 9/11 memorial at the spot of the former twin towers and with the massive Freedom Tower looming over us.

9-11 Memorial
9-11 Memorial

It was quite touching to see the many names written on copper plates surrounding the pools. But what was the most heart-breaking were the single roses tucked in next to a name indicating the birthday of that person had he or she been alive.

Birthday rose at the 9-11 Memorial
Birthday rose at the 9-11 Memorial

There is a beautiful simplicity to the gesture keeping the memory of the people lost more alive than any other part of the memorial could do.

We had planned to visit the top of Freedom Tower, but with the grey sky we decided to pass it for another day.

Tourists on break at the 9-11 Memorial
Tourists on break at the 9-11 Memorial
City Hall – has anyone seen Mike Flaherty?

From my childhood one building in New York stands out before the rest. It is not the Statue of Liberty or Empire State or the Chrysler Building. In fact it is rather unassuming considering that it is nestled in between sky scrapers.

New York City Hall
New York City Hall

It is the New York City Hall, which every afternoon throughout my youth would appear as a scene break on one of the best television shows of the 90’s – Spin City.

Greenwich and Harrison
Greenwich and Harrison

Standing in front of a building which for so long has been imprinted on my memory from watching television was a pretty big thing. Unfortunately, it was difficult to get close and take a proper photo, but seeing the place and the area was a fantastic experience. I get a sudden wish to re-watch those first seasons once again and see if there is more of Lower Manhattan which I can recognise in the show.

View of Hudson River and Jersey City
View of Hudson River and Jersey City

From there we crossed in to Tribeca and got to enjoy the afternoon near Pier 25 overlooking Jersey City, before making our way to Canal Street and an evening walk through SoHo in hopes of finding a good restaurant.

Garbage and copies on Canal Street
Garbage and copies on Canal Street

With absolutely destroyed feet we gave up our search and made it all the way home to Chinatown where we ended up eating until we couldn’t move at Great NY Noodletown.

After our visit to Ellis Island and learning about the discrimination against Chinese, it felt befitting to return to Chinatown and a proper Chinese meal.

Tomorrow we are off to Philadelphia.

Zofka

Welcome to New York: Chinatown, Little Italy and SoHo

Sitting down at this very local and far from touristy little place was absolutely heaven, and perhaps the moment that we both realised that we were indeed in New York.

We arrived to the city that never sleeps quite late in the evening after several hours on a flight with not enough leg room. Dead tired our only concern was to find our hotel and sleep – and hopefully get passed the oncoming jet lag as easily as possible.

Being on a budget we planned for our first weekend in New York to stay at one of the cheap Chinatown hotels. Getting accommodation in Chinatown will also provide easy access to the southern part of Manhattan.

Now I have stayed in a lot of weird hotels and hostels over the years, but I have never tried anything remotely like Bowery Lodge. While centrally located at the exit to Manhattan Bridge and in the middle of Chinatown this was a fantastic bargain, but inside it seemed the oddest construct.

It was an old and cheaply designed office building with cubicles. But the cubicle dividers went to the floor and each private cubicle had a door. I wouldn’t call these rooms, but a dorm with paper thin walls set up between beds. And when I say paper thin I am not talking about the rice paper in a Japanese traditional room. No these seemed even thinner. The cubicle was 2 by 2 meters and held a bed and a small stand. Yet it was clean, which in the city of bedbugs is a pleasant surprise.

We had on various fora been warned to bring earplugs, and surprisingly enough and despite the heavy sounding fans and the fact that we could hear even the smallest of sounds from three cubicles away, we fell asleep easily enough.

A grey morning in Chinatown
A grey morning in Chinatown

Waking up in the big apple

The good thing about our hotel cubicle was that is did not invite for you to linger around. Providing only a thin bed and grey walls, we had no interest in hanging out at the hotel or returning for an afternoon nap.

Bakery in Chinatown
Bakery in Chinatown
Breakfast in Chinatown

Our first day was already planned out and we began by heading off in the direction of Mott Street and the central parts of Chinatown. Starting off by shopping for a few moon pies and other breakfast items from Fung Wong Bakery, before heading down Pell Street finding a small and nondescript café called Mee Sum Café.

Mee Sum Café
Mee Sum Café

Sitting down at this very local and far from touristy little place was absolutely heaven, and perhaps the moment that we both realised that we were indeed in New York. My boyfriend enjoyed a steamed meat bun while we each had a perfect cup of coffee. Despite the run down interior this was a little slice of heaven.

Chinatown coffee at Mee Sum Café
Chinatown coffee at Mee Sum Café

After our visit to Mee Sum Café, we passed by the Edward Mooney House – the eldest brick building in New York, or that is what it said on a piece of paper in one a the windows.

Columbus Park recreation
Columbus Park recreation

We ended up in Columbus Park enjoying our Moon Pies while people watching. Even with a grey sky several tables were filled with groups of local elderly chatting or playing various Chinese board games.

Peking duck
Peking duck
Christmas in Little Italy

After breakfast we headed up Mulberry Street as it turned into Little Italy. Unlike Chinatown, Little Italy feels far from authentic and is filled with tourists and souvenir shops. But I admit it had its charm and perhaps on a less cloudy day it would be a great place to enjoy a coffee. If indeed they make it as the Italians.

Little Italy
Little Italy

While our visit to Little Italy was but a walk down Mulberry Street, we did end up spending an unforeseen amount of time there. We were drawn to a massive Christmas shop.

There is just something pompous and over the top about American Christmas decorations. A stark contrast to Nordic minimalism which has been the dominant theme where I am from since the end of the 90’s. We wanted to find something quirky and different to our Christmas set-up this year and I must admit that the idea of Disney figures on my Christmas tree brought forth quite a bit of nostalgia and memories of watching Disney Classics as a young girl.

Audrey Hepburn in Little Italy
Audrey Hepburn in Little Italy

The nutcrackers too drew me in. I have a great love for these wooden soldiers and we ended up buying a small purple glittery nutcracker alongside our first ever snow globe which off course featured New York.

Nutcrackers
Nutcrackers

Enjoying the area SOuth of HOuston

With our snow globe and nutcracker nicely wrapped up, we continued our walk north on Mulberry until we reached Houston. Our plan was to stay south of Houston for our first weekend limiting our sightseeing to the areas close by our hotel.

But I’d seen on Bestbuy that a portable hard drive was on sale just across the street on Broadway and not having any place to storage my pictures, we had to cross the forbidden line.

The Puck building in Nolita
The Puck building in Nolita

Our visit to Bestbuy was also our first meeting with Broadway – a street which is celebrated throughout the world for its theatres and plays. Yet, Broadway is not only broad, but also long and we were far away from any of the glamour of Broadway.

SoHo shopping
SoHo shopping

Hurrying back to the South side of Houston our next area of exploration was the fabulously cool SoHo. I really liked the area despite the posh shops and too-cool-to-be-ignored people everywhere. There was a small town atmosphere to the place, which pleased me.

Starting to get hungry, we happened upon Fanelli’s Café which was crammed with people. What we didn’t know was that we had entered a historic landmark in Manhattan.

Fanelli's Café Liquor Licenses
Fanelli’s Café Liquor Licenses
Fanelli’s Café

The house on Prince Street was build in 1847 and for a few years it alternated between a saloon and a grocery. As such, it is one of many New York establishment claiming to be among the eldest food-and-drink-establishments. According to New York Art World, it is the second eldest as grocery stores also sold drinks. No matter what from 1867 onwards it has been a place for drinking and in New York standards that is ancient.

Fanelli's Café
Fanelli’s Café

During the Prohibition from 1920 to 1933 the place acted as a speakeasy alongside many similar places all over the US. A speakeasy was a place which sold unlicensed alcohol either home brewed or from bootleggers.

From the artists took over SoHo and the emergence of the Beat Generation and up until the 1980’s Fanelli’s was a central meeting spot for the neighbourhoods artists.

You're in New York - Live like it
You’re in New York – Live like it

Today, the walls in the back room where we sat is filled with liquor licenses from the 19th century, while an old dial-up payphone is placed next to the bar. Despite so many things turning retro for the sake of commercialisation, Fanelli’s Café still lingers in the past – and I like that.

Having had our first New Yorker lunch, we walked through SoHo stopping by the MoMa Design Store before slowly making our way back to Bowery Street.

Trendy place in Lower East Side
Trendy place in Lower East Side

Lower East Side and Katz’s

We continued into the Lower East Side as evening settled in and happened upon another New York institution as dinnertime came about. Katz’s Delicatessen started up as a small deli in 1888 and has since then been famous for serving some of New York’s best pastrami sandwiches.

Katz's Delicatessen Sign
Katz’s Delicatessen Sign

Quite a long list of movies and TV-series have been filmed here, yet one of the most famous movie scenes filmed in Katz’s is the fake orgasm-scene from When Harry Met Sally.

The place is fun to experience and full of locals and tourists alike. When entering everyone is given a ticket which is then stamped whenever you order something. When you exit you have to turn over the ticket and pay.

Queuing in Katz's
Queuing in Katz’s

It was great to start off our time in New York with both Fanelli’s and Katz’s. I can’t wait to explore more of the city tomorrow.

Zofka