Day 1: Saturday, May 24thSaturday was my travel day! I had been packed already for about a WEEK, because that’s how anxious and excited I was for this trip. I had pre-planned outfits for most days and a detailed itinerary of all the things I wanted to see and do in NYC, because newsflash: Debby is a control freak.
Do not overdo your itinerary. NYC is huge and you can only do so much. Try to plan one main thing per day, so you also have some time to spend with friends in the city. You only get very limited time with them, after all!But anyway, I was flying with KLM out of Schiphol in the late afternoon, so basically I spent the entire morning tapping my foot and looking at the clock. But finally, it was time to leave. The flight itself was wonderful, with KLM of course making everything as Dutch and high quality as possible. I actually even really enjoyed the meal, I KNOW, what in the world. The only downside was that I was stuck in a middle seat.
I spent most of the flight listening to the lovely relaxing voice of Wil Wheaton narrating my audiobook of Ready Player One, and before I knew it, I arrived at JFK.
JFK is a hot mess. If possible, fly to a different airport. The customs line is the most inefficient ever – featuring self-scanning machines, the results of which are MANUALLY checked after waiting in line for another hour. *facepalm* (And this is the citizen line. I know.)After fiiiiiinally escaping customs and immigration and picking up my suitcase, it was time for the orange to conquer NYC public transport. I was extremely confused. Again: don’t go to JFK, because there’s gotta be a simpler way. But I figured it out (THE CROWD ROARS) and got on my train, where I was witness to a bathroom door that didn’t lock and thus was struck with the image of a guy peeing, got to Penn Station, found the right subway line, and finally met up with the one and only loveliest Gaby who would be the bestest host in the world. We ended up chatting until midnight, even though I was extremely exhausted, and so, quickly, I collapsed.
Don’t panic about getting lost and not having cell service or a data plan. Every other block has a Starbucks, McDonald’s, or Panera where you can stand outside and claim free Wi-Fi. (Also: Subway stations sometimes.)
Day 2: Sunday, May 25thSunday morning I woke up early, full of jet lag, but also excited to start exploring the Big Apple. Though I’m not unfamiliar with the US, I’d actually never been to New York before. Anyway, Gaby had to go to work, but we met up with Christina and Gillian for an early breakfast of REAL NEW YORK CITY BAGELS. (Spoiler alert: they are delish.) Gaby soon left for work, but I hung around with Christina and Gillian. The weather was amazing, so we took a bit of a walking tour and went around to Books of Wonder, where we bothered Gaby at work until she got in trouble (oops), and, of course, we went into the Strand.
Bookish people are even more awesome in real life. You’ll feel amazed and blessed to finally be with people who really GET you.
After that, we went our separate ways. I was due to meet up with my sister and her boyfriend, who came up from DC to spend a couple days with me. We had a lovely brunch at Comodo (my sister is a major foodie), checked in at our hotel, where I’d stay for two nights, and then took a walking tour around Greenwich Village. We stopped in Washington Square Park for a while because the weather was so nice and there was a wonderful little jazz band playing. I lol-ed a bit about the tourists in the park who apparently love pigeons. There were some “artists” feeding pigeons and getting them to land on peoples’ hands, arms, and heads, and apparently people found this really cool. Maybe it’s an American thing? In the Netherlands, everyone freaking hates pigeons. Rats of the sky. *cough*
But that’s not that important. What struck me about New York this first day was mostly just how huge it is. Not just the size, but just that there’s so much to see in every corner of the city – so much going on all the time. I think I walked around the city for the entire week with my eyebrows raised and my eyes open as wide as possible, just trying to absorb everything around me. It was an involuntary response. But the city is seriously impressive.
We had dinner at Oh Taisho, a Japanese izakaya, which had absolutely delicious food. Seriously, I was blessed to have my foodie sister with me, because she knew exactly where to go. This place was super authentic, and I chuckled to myself about how familiar it seemed since I’d seen similar places in so many Japanese dramas. But yes, I’m definitely keeping this place in mind if I’m ever in New York again. Sadly, it became apparent that my jet lag was seriously affecting my appetite. I couldn’t eat as much as I wanted to. We kept up the authentic Japanese theme and went to the Cha An teahouse, which has a seriously impressive list of different teas, which are all served in different types of teapots. It was wonderfully relaxing, but I was exhausted, so I quickly headed back to the hotel and to sleep.
Left to right: Okonomiyaki (Oh Taisho), Squid (Oh Taisho), Pu-erh tea (Cha An)
Day 3: Monday, May 26thMonday I split off from my sister and her boyfriend, since they wanted to meet up with some of their own friends and go to karaoke. I woke up around 8 and took a nice walk from my hotel in SoHo up to Union Square where I stubbornly waited until the Barnes & Noble would open. See, I wanted desperately to buy The Art of Lainey, but neither Books of Wonder nor the Strand had it. But I found it there! And yeah. What? I’m a bookworm. I found a book I desperately needed a physical copy of. You shouldn’t be surprised.
You’ll quickly realize it’s not hard at all to find your way around NYC. Yes, the map is handy, but the city is on a grid, so it’s relatively simple to find your way.
I then went up to the Upper East Side to meet up with Christina and Gillian again, as we had planned to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art together. We’d planned to meet at 11. I may have been a little early… but they only just woke up. xD Not everyone is a morning person. Anyway, we had a brunch-esque meal at Panera and met up with the awesome Lenore, author of The Memory of After (previously known as Level 2), and then headed to the museum, with free tickets courtesy of Gillian’s amazing mom.
If you do want to explore the city (but not on your own) try to plan ahead of time with friends with similar desires and expectations (it’s not everyone’s first time in New York) – and check whether they are morning people.The MET is seriously impressive (like all things in NYC) and unfortunately we only got to see a little part of it. If you’re a true fan of art and want to see all or most of it, plan an entire day, because seriously. But we had a really good time anyway, because Lenore needed to plan a short story for her MFA program. We came up with the most hilarious and awesome plot, featuring paintings coming to life and bisexual love triangles and general awesomeness. I’m still hoping Lenore will actually write it someday soon 😉
Soon after that, I split off again, meeting up with my sister and her boyfriend for an authentic Korean dinner at Pocha 32. I’m actually not that familiar with Korean food, so it was definitely an experience. I may have been a little skeeved by the soldier soup, but it was overall pretty delicious (especially the watermelon soju).
After that, my sister sprung for us to go to Newsies on Broadway – which was AMAZING, all those hot guys dancing, srsly, oh and I SHIP IT LIKE FEDEX. And of course that meant we were at Times Square, which is a cliché, but still really awesome to see in real life, and we followed the show with some delicious cheesecake at Junior’s, which was the most delicious. God I miss cheesecake.
Day 4: Tuesday, May 27thTuesday, we woke up rather early to go see the tourist attraction that was number one on my list: the 9/11 memorial and museum. The museum had just opened the same month, so I didn’t really know what to expect, but it pretty much blew me away. I’m not sure I can adequately describe all of the feelings I had as I went through the exhibit. I’m pretty sure this is heavy for most people, because we all have a personal story about that day. That plays through your head, but the museum really gives a comprehensive picture of everything that happened that day (also at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania), so it’s easy to be overwhelmed.
If you want to go to the 9/11 memorial and museum, realize it can easily take you all day. We were there for 3 hours and still skipped a large chunk. But it’s definitely worth itYou start by going down, underground, to where the foundations of the twin towers used to be. There, some wreckage is on display: remnants of the airplanes, firetrucks that came to help, support pillars of the buildings, and the stairs people used to escape at the last minute. There’s a nice display where people can write personal messages of support and remembrance. There’s also a placard marking the exact spot where the first airplane crashed into the North Tower – which really gave me pause.
However, the main exhibit is in an enclosed area, where they take you through a timeline of the day. It’s extremely emotional and overwhelming, with all the news reports playing and sound clips of the reports. There are also areas where they play recorded stories of the victims and witnesses – while they show you on a screen where they were in the building. All throughout the exhibit there are totems with tissues, which get used A LOT. I managed to keep it dry, but only just. After a timeline of the entire day, there’s also an area that tells the history of Al-Quaeda’s attacks on the US and the aftermath of 9/11. Anyway, I spent a good hour and a half within this exhibit – probably longer. The part that we skipped was a tribute to the victims, where they tell stories about their lives and families. We needed to head off, and it sounded overwhelmingly depressive anyway, but I might like to go back someday and see that as well.
Outside, the memorial is truly beautiful, and the completed Freedom Tower is as well. A last exhibit in the outdoor area is the only tree who survived the fall of the buildings. What a brave little tree.
Our next adventure, since we were downtown anyway, was walking along Battery Park City to get to the Staten Island Ferry – the free method to see the Statue of Liberty. Also cliché and typical tourist, but it was my first time in NYC, so I WAS a typical tourist. It was cool to see – though next time I might actually want to spring for the tickets to get on the island itself and inside the statue. I think it would be pretty nice, even though you might scoff at that. Anyway, the weather started to turn, so the pictures weren’t that nice, but it was a nice trip that also let me recover from the overwhelming morning.
You’ll probably have heard, but still: if you want to actually visit the Statue of Liberty, you have to book those tickets months in advance.
After that, I had a last tea in Koreatown with my sister and her boyfriend and then said goodbye to them. I chilled with Gillian for a bit, and then went back up to Gaby’s apartment to drop my stuff. That night, we went out to dinner with an awesome group of bloggers and authors. It was such a fun evening, and it was at the most American diner ever – Big Daddy’s. Yummy burgers, fries, and frozen Margaritas. I’ll never forget Gaby’s super duper skills as moderator in our ice breaker game – in which I actually surprised Rachel with the fact that I grew up in the US (she didn’t realize who I was because I didn’t have an accent xD). Oh and the shouting matches about books, ships, and literary tropes. Priceless. I’ve scarcely been so amused.
You might be intimidated about meeting authors first, but most of them are extremely down to earth – and they’re bookish people just like you! So let go of your anxiety, srsly and for reals.
Keep those business cards on hand at all times, because there’s bookish people all over the city, and everyone appreciates them!