I would like to start off the year by telling you about my biggest and best adventure of 2015.
I decided to make my own dreams come true and finally visit New York City. It was always a blinking bucket list item: to head off to the Big Apple, not just to visit for a few days but to actually ‘live’ in arguably the greatest city in the world. Life kept getting in the way, until at some point a little voice in my heart told me it was time. So off I went on a month long trip, to learn something new at NYU and to explore as much as I could of one of my dream cities. Here are some highlights and must sees:
- Metropolitan Museum of Art– Located at the Upper East Side of Manhattan, this mammoth structure is probably the biggest and best museum I have ever seen. I came in at 10:00 am, and left at 4:00 pm—forgetting to eat or drink in my excitement. There was just so much to see! Ancient Buddhist wall murals and Greek sculptures, masterpieces of everyone you’ve ever heard of (Monet, Manet, Degas, Goya, Picasso, Sargent, what have you), free classes on Impressionist Paintings, and even a course on Fashion in Art. Don’t forget to check out the Costume Institute as well, which has a marvelous collection of famous clothing through the years. Then end your visit with an afternoon high tea at the Petrie Café (inside the museum) facing gorgeous Central Park.
- Central Park– Oh my goodness. There are not enough words in my vocabulary to describe how beautiful this park is in the fall. The trees turn into bursts of yellow, fiery orange and bright red, and the sunlight peeks through the foliage like a golden glow. There are awe-inspiring fountains and lakes, bridges, and even a large ice skating rink in the late autumn/winter. It’s so pretty that you can just sit there for hours, soaking in the magic.
- Broadway/Times Square– In the Midtown area of New York City, that’s where you’ll see all the hustle and bustle, all the bells and whistles, and the ginormous lights and billboards of Times Square. Yes, the place is awfully touristy, quite congested, and at times slightly seedy, but hey, this is the heart of the city. All the Broadway theaters are located in the area—to ensure you get good seats, book ahead online. Or you can hang out waiting to score dirt cheap tickets so you can watch as many shows as you can! Highly recommended are ‘Book of Mormon’, ‘Matilda’, ‘An American in Paris’, ‘Allegiance’ (go see Lea Salonga live!), and ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime’. And the classics too, of course.
- Grand Central Terminal- Jaw dropping architecture and design, especially if you like beaux-arts architecture. This is the iconic, 19-hectare train station located in midtown Manhattan, built in 1871. You are immediately dwarfed as soon as you step in, by the massive marble pillars, the high ceiling featuring constellations, the cavernous main hall. It also has a dining concourse below which includes cult favorites like Shake Shack and the Magnolia Bakery.
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral– I found myself sitting here quite often, popping in an out for several days because the place gave me a wonderful sense of peace. Yes, lots of tourists come to visit and take photos of this place of worship right smack in the midst of all the skyscrapers, but it still remains quite solemn and comfortable. It’s nice to know that a ‘hardened’, ultra modern city like New York still needs this sanctuary—and has jam packed Sunday masses to boot. The Cathedral was dedicated in 1879, and its altars were designed by a Medici and a Borgia. Restoration was just completed in time for Pope Francis’ visit last September.
- Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall- If you want to see the best view of NYC, go to Top of the Rock instead of the Empire State Building—so that you can see the Empire State Building from up there. Rockefeller center has a lot of shops, dining places, and is the site of the famous giant Christmas tree lighting of the city. It also has a skating rink in the winter, and faces the luxe shopping mecca Saks Fifth Avenue, while nearby Radio City Music Hall hosts concerts and holiday performances by the Rockettes. I was lucky enough to be there when they lit up the tree, amidst the happy revelers, the cool, crisp air, and live performances by Sting, Andrea Bocelli, and Michael Buble. It felt like a dream.
- Brooklyn Bridge– Manhattan isn’t the only area worth seeing in the Empire State. You’ve got to go to Brooklyn too for some of the best views and the best eats the city has to offer! First of all, the bridge itself is a must-see. You can cross it on foot and take some amazing photos (it faces Manhattan bridge directly), or you can join a bike tour as well. When you get to Brooklyn, go to the park for some drinks by the river, or see the skyline right in front of you from Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Then visit the Dumbo area for the best New York style pizza.
- Greenwich Village– The areas surrounding New York University on the lower West and lower East sides are very interesting too. There’s the Washington Square monument and park, which gives you a nice sense of calm in between classes. I also loved the Strand bookstore, which sells new, used, rare and out-of-print books. If you’re a fan of jazz music, some of the very best jazz clubs, like Village Vanguard (since 1935!) are located here as well. Oh, and do not miss Amelie, facing the Washington Square monument, for tapas and cocktails!
- Staten Island– You can’t go to New York without meeting Lady Liberty herself. Hop on the Staten Island ferry for a free ride and you’ll see the majestic Statue of Liberty on the way. Then you can opt to go on an actual tour of the place, and even climb all the way up to the Statue of Liberty’s crown.
- Flatiron district– Another very enjoyable spot to visit is the Flatiron building, which looks, like, uhm, a flatiron. It’s probably the most interesting building I’ve seen, and it’s hard to believe it was completed way back in 1902. Notable landmarks are the Gershwin hotel, which is a tribute to the artist Andy Warhol. Celebrated chef Mario Batali’s ‘Eataly’ food emporium is also located there.
- Lincoln Center of Performing Arts– It’s very important to soak up as much culture, art and performances as you can in New York, and you won’t run out of choices. The Lincoln Center features ballet and other forms of dance, theater, film, and it is the home of the New York Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. The complex itself is a sight to behold, especially at night. During the late fall season, they showcase the Nutcracker—and you can literally watch a 13 foot Christmas tree grow to over 40 feet right before your eyes.
- Side trips to nearby states- One of the best things about New York is it is such a hub to get to other beautiful states like New Jersey, Philadelphia, Connecticut, Boston, Rhode Island, and Washington DC. You can visit famous universities like Princeton (in New Jersey), Yale (in Connecticut), Harvard (in Boston), or scope out The Breakers, a Vanderbilt mansion (in Rhode Island), the Liberty Bell (in Philadelphia), and the White House (in DC).
One month was certainly not enough, and I hope someday I will be blessed with another opportunity to go back—but from hereon, I will always think of New York City as my happy place. And I hope that if anything, this article will inspire you to chase after your dreams.
Cheers to all your adventures in 2016, darlings.