10 Heartfelt New York City Experiences

Our family vacation of the summer: New York City. The play, “Act of God” with Jim Parsons drove the trip, a funny must-see. Being it was our second trip in the last few a few years, our tourist to-do list was much shorter. We stayed on the Upper West Side, while most of our eating and sightseeing was in East Village, far away from each other. Hence, the subway became a BFF despite the sweaty, noisy tunnels. We enjoyed this trip so much more, creating experiences to touch our hearts. Now we know why the I Heart NY t-shirts came to be.

 

Yelling locals: Ride a bike on a sidewalk and a New Yorker is not going to turn a blind eye. “Those things do not belong on the sidewalk!” The bike rental shop strapped on our helmets, rolled out the bikes and waved us off. We didn’t get any rules of the NYC road or sidewalks for that matter. Riding in the streets with the erratic taxi drivers didn’t seem safe either, but after multiple scoldings, the taxis looked downright friendly. We were on our way to Central Park, happy to ride for miles instead of walking. Not long after cruising around the park, we stopped to talk to friends from home. What are the chances of crossing paths with a playgroup buddy you haven’t seen in five years? A group of lady joggers, running four across yelled at us to get out of the pedestrian lane. I guess running in the bike lane never occurred to them.

Screaming taxi drivers are for real. We honestly chose the taxi we thought arrived first but the loser parked in front of the winner to give him a choice word.  I’m glad nobody got out of the car.

Pedestrian Blockade. Joggers not happy.

Pedestrian Blockade. Joggers not happy.

*Hang with a local. Our California friends, the Hodders, moved to NYC two years ago. They introduced us to some pretty cool parks we probably never would have explored. We dined on yummy burgers from Shake Shack in the center of Madison Square Park, while gazing up at the Flat Iron building as we sat at one of the many outdoor tables. Eataly, a gigantic Italian grocer and restaurant all in one, was our opening tour before dinner, five long shelves of pasta alone tells you Italy is well-represented here. Meeting at Sheridan Park in East Village gave us a chance to check out the Stonewall Inn, birthplace of the gay rights movement. Washington Park is a great place to join a protest or celebration as it borders NYU. On a hot summer night, sitting around the massive fountain was a welcome respite.

Our New York Family! Courtesy of Jules Hodder.

Our New York Family! Courtesy of Jules Hodder.

 

Immigrant Dream is still alive. Every cab driver we met was from out of the country as well as most of our hotel staff. Tony sat up front in the cabs so it was easy to befriend our taxi drivers, two from Bangladesh. One told him how offended he got at a Chinese kid who asked him why he came to The States. His reply, “Ask your dad why he came here and the answer will be the same.” NYC makes it easier to see, hear and taste international influence from every continent.

Our visit at the Tenement Museum (tenement means apartment and later connoted low-income living) made us realize immigrants from long ago were only the beginning of the great American melting pot. At the museum, we walked through the everyday lives and homes of two families arriving at the turn of the century, one from Prussia and another Italy. NYC opened our eyes to the hope America held and still holds around for citizens around the world.

 

Empire State Building. We did not take a crowded elevator to the top of the Empire State Building nor walk past the front doors. Yet on this trip, we felt its glowing presence every night no matter what part of the city we walked through. There it was, shining like a full moon. Mostly we saw white, but one night purple in honor of the Purple Heart. About once a week the color changes to recognize an organization, country, event, etc. Follow on Twitter @EmpireStateBlding to decode the honoree.

New York "Moon"

New York “Moon”

Music and Art. Sculptures abound on street corners and graffiti/murals filled the sides of buildings. The Highline, a raised railroad repurposed into a park, walking trail and outdoor museum all in one. Commissioned artists contributed sculptures from traditional stone to rod iron to running shoes sandwiched into a cube of dirt. (No shoe sneaks past me!) Musicians played in the subway walkways, street corners, and shaded pockets of Central Park.

There's a shoe in there! And it's ART!

IMG_2687

That’s a shoe! Altogether, it’s ART!

Graffiti on the Highline

Cool Outside of NYC too. “If all you see is Manhattan, then you have not seen New York,” said one travel book. We made it to Brooklyn for excellent photo ops looking back at Manhattan from a lookout point called DUMBO: Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass. Fabulous food is everywhere but the only thing stuck in my older son’s head was a “seafood” place he heard about on the Food Network show, “Unique Eats.” A $25 cab ride/tour later, we arrived at a cool sushi joint called, “MoMo Sushi Shack” The party bomb plate was “the bomb,” unique and delicious! We were the hippest family there, as in the only family, but they served us anyway. So cool were we.

Way cooler than I thought on the other side.

Way cooler than I thought on the other side.

 

Party Bomb!

Party Bomb!

Community. New Yorkers are proud of their City and should be as it is safe, clean and kind (except for bossy types around Central Park.) Our local friends learned New Yorkers talk about the city as life before 911 and life after. Not knowing about this phenom, we sensed the cohesiveness. What better way to understand what it was like when the twin towers came down then the 911 Memorial? It is a must see. Powerful. Thoughtful. Emotional.

Ominous.

Ominous.  Where the North Tower was.

New World Trade Center

New World Trade Center

Food Heaven. We let our teenage foodie book two restaurants. Per his favorite source, “Unique Eats” TV show, we dined at DBGB (French. Crazy good sausages.) and Robataya (Japanese, 400 year-old style serving.) Dining replaced Broadway shows. And as our restaurant recommender put it, “Robataya will be our entertainment.” He wasn’t kidding. We sat at the counter where we watched the chefs hop on the counter to select the veggies or fish on display as if at a food market. Chefs grilled our selections slowly to maintain the food’s original state, ie., a swimming fish. The finished dish is passed to us on a long handled paddle.  Top the night off with Fresco Gelateria’s peanut butter sorbet and midnight pizza slices from Little Italy pizza shop. We could eat our way through New York forever! Walking balances out the eating. Win win.  My personal find since I don’t eat Jook, Chinese porridge, I found an amazing Taco place, Goa Taco, Indian “pancakes” or paratha instead of shells.  We picniced at a tiny park near the Tenement Museum.

Best Taco EVER!

Best Taco EVER!

 

Chinese porridge.

Chinese porridge.

Lunch with the gang!

Lunch with the gang!

Japanese restaurant show!

Japanese restaurant show!

*Fashion Museums. When the lines are an hour long at the Natural History Museum, head for the fashion museums of 5th Avenue, the place where merchandise is for sale but for most Americas, everything may as well be considered art. We spent most of our time at Musée de Bergdorf Goodman, in the shoe exhibit or heaven on the 2nd floor. I took a gazillion photos. (Post to follow.) We were in comfy airport attire except for TJ: He dressed like an Italian tourist in his fancy dress shirt and jeans, the only clean clothes left in his suitcase. He didn’t bother with his hair either, messy, playing into his Euro authenticity. Sales clerks were happy to talk to him and he played along:

 

“This suede safari jacket is a unique piece for Bergdorf,” the clerk offered.

 

“Oh yes! Exquisite. What is it made of?” asked the “Italian” tourist.

 

“Cotton, obviously and something else I’m not sure of. I can run upstairs to find out,” answers the hopeful clerk.

 

“Oh no, no, no. That won’t be necessary,” says the “underfunded” shopper.

Mi "Italiano"

Mi “Italiano”

*Highlight of the trip! Seeing price tags for $38,000 jackets, $162,000 bracelets and $1600 shoes made for a giggly afternoon. Can’t say we’ve gone high-end shopping anywhere as a family. Fun!

*Hanging with a local just makes a trip.  Thank you Hodders!  You treated us like royal family.

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