Adventure #3.2 : Manhattan, Tuesday 28th June 2016.
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Post written by : Alice
Today is the big day for me, I can finally visit the legendary city of New York ! As Simone already knows the place pretty well, I had basically full decision powers (his only demands were to go to Central Park and to the top of the Empire State Building), which is actually nice ! So we woke up at 8am, which was rather hard because the so-called AC of our Airbnb in Brooklyn was very noisy (and totally inefficient) which prevented me from falling asleep, and when we finally stopped it the sun started to rise, which prevented me to get back to sleep as there wasn’t shutters on one of the two windows. Anyway, it’s okay because I’m very excited to discover New York (Manhattan, in fact)!
Our first stop is Grand Central, that I absolutely wanted to see. It was somewhat a bit less impressing than I expected but it is a beautiful train station nevertheless.
We then went to the New York City Library, which we visited quickly. It is truly beautiful (and it shames me to say that I cannot compare it to the French equivalent as I have never been to the Historical City Library of Paris…)!
The rest of the morning is then dedicated to strolling around, because we have a lunch date. We went to walk on the famous 5th Avenue, around Rockefeller Center, MOMA and Central Park.
My feelings about this city so far are mitigated… the huge skyscrapers are oppressive, the amount of people going around in the street is crazy, the noise is endless, the constant smell of street food brings me to nausea… I’m impressed, and happy to find the New York I’ve seen in countless movies, but I’m not feeling very comfortable, and the excitement has receded. It’s insane, it’s huge, but it’s not very… nice? I had always dreamed that I would live in New York one day, but now here I am, disappointed and disillusioned.
Maybe with some time to adapt it will get better, so we go to Time Square where we meet Gregory (one of Simone’s cousins) for lunch.
We go to Wasabi, a kind of Japanese fast-food where we have a delicious feast, ending it with a surprising green tea ice cream ! After chatting a little all together, we leave Gregory so he can get back to work and we go toward the MOMA. The queue is huge so we decide that being only in New York for 2 days, we would rather take the temperature of the life here, rather than visit museums, so we give up on this idea.
Simone understands quite quickly that I’m completely overwhelmed by this suffocating and brutal part of the city, and suggests that we go to one of the stops on my list : Columbia University. We take the subway* to the Upper West Side of the city, and when we exit: surprise ! The city is no longer overwhelming and exhausting as it was when we were in Midtown, it’s a pleasure to have some respite ! And it goes on with Columbia campus, whose access is not restricted (but we haven’t tried to enter any building, libraries included), which is also green and – even if it’s shared by students, locals and tourists, appeasing. It looks also rather huge, and the buildings are beautiful.
After strolling around, we had to go to the Columbia Bookshop where I bought a shirt (I’d like to bring something back from every university we visit, and I’m also out of clean shirts, bonus!).
We then walk around the neighbourhood, which is charming and calm, an incredible contrast with what we have seen until now. I’m feeling much better than I was before and I wouldn’t mind living here anymore! Central Park is around the corner but we want to go to the opposite part of this (huge) city, to see New York University this time.
We have already walked so much, so we take a bus instead. It gives us the opportunity to see the city from the Upper West Side to the Village, even though it takes forever because of the traffic. Another nice surprise is waiting for us around NYU : Greenwich Village is a very welcoming and charming neighbourhood compared to Midtown! NYU buildings are nice, even though the configuration is completely different than Columbia (but I guess NYU is much more recent, and with buildings scattered around the city) : it’s not a somewhat enclosed campus, we rather feel like it’s a little village (how well-fitting!) in the city (or Village, in that case).
We pass by the German House and the French House of the university, and I suddenly want to apply right now!!
It’s already quite late so the buildings seem closed and there is little activity. Vegan sandwich in hand, we roam the neighbourhood with great pleasure. It’s definitely where I want my New-Yorker loft (a girl can dream!)
We go through the square that is just on the corner of NYU and get happily lost in the Village, Noho and Soho, Tribeca even.
We’ve also watch some part of a basketball game between teams of different New York streets, it was pretty awesome! People were super laid-back, eating a slice of pizza while cheering for their team!
The sun sets on the city and we feel perfectly at home here. Maybe because these neighbourhood seem way more « Europeans » or maybe just more familiar, human-sized, calmer and simpler. We walk to Little Italy where we’re desperately looking for a pizza by the slice (which we will not find) and go until China Town.
We are now positively exhausted, our feet are only a vague memory, and we are starving. We take another subway ride back to the Village where, still not finding any vegan pizza slice (it was on our to-do list but we actually had one after we partied one night in New York a few days back so it’s alright), we settled on a vegan Mexican restaurant called Vspot where we basically stuffed our face with delicious food. I am forever thankful to whoever invented the vegan « mozzarella » or vegan « cheddar »!
Full and happy, it was then time to get back to our too hot and too noisy room in Brooklyn (where, as we were exiting the subway, we have been greeted by a violent rain… but the apartment was 2min away so it wasn’t a big deal) in order to rest until our second and last day in New York City!
[At home at night, we have also booked our accommodation in Boston. The prices were unbelievably high, so we had to settle for two bunk-beds in a dorm of 4 in a supposedly great hostel in the center – For an outrageous price!]
*We had first planned to buy a combined ticket for a 48h hop on/hop off bus and the Circle Line cruise, supposed to be awesome. But considering the price, the time we had and the weather, we dismissed the idea and decided to only use standard public transportation. A single ride being $3, we decided that it would be less expensive to buy a 7-days (they didn’t have less) unlimited-rides Metrocard for $31 per person.