New York, NY - March/April 2016

New York, NY – March/April 2016

First of all, we’d like to send a shout-out to Aunt Joan who was kind enough to let us use her east-village apartment for our month in NYC. The location of the apartment was perfect and it would have been a very hard destination to manage without her place. Elisa lived in the apartment for a short time after college so we already had a jumpstart to getting the lay of the land.

It’s not a trip up north without a stop at a Wegman’s! We stocked up on groceries for the month at this one in PA. It is by far our favorite grocery chain.

First impressions – NYC needs a facelift! Almost all the buildings are brown or grey, the streets are grimy and the thousands of anonymous faces passing by on a given day make for a cold impression of the city. If only the buildings had painted exteriors, then it would be so much more attractive and welcoming! We saw only one brightly painted building in a whole month of walking around. I realize it is probably impractical to paint and maintain, but when a 500 sq. ft. apartment can sell for a million or more, it seems like a small price to pay for a little uplifting beauty to life.

Why can’t all the buildings be this colorful?

Another downside is the lack of green space in the city. The small amounts of grass and garden are inevitably fenced off for viewing only. The exceptions are central park and prospect park in Brooklyn, both of which are fantastic. I guess this is all just part of NYC being a metropolis, but it seems like other large cities like London, Paris, San Fran and LA all have done a better job with greenspace. We all would have loved to have had a little more greenery around us (including Nick and Nora).

Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn

We learned a lot about New Yorkers during our stay. Once again, having the dogs in tow was a great tool for meeting locals, since most of the conversations we had were as a result of people stopping to pet Nick and Nora, or in one of numerous dog parks in our area. Contrary to the stereotype, my impression is that the New Yorkers are not any more rude or impolite than residents of other US cities. In fact, most of the people we met were polite, if a bit standoffish. My theory is that when you have limited personal space, one tends to avoid interacting with strangers in an effort to be polite and not infringe any more on their space. The stereotype of being impatient definitely held true though! I haven’t seen people jaywalk through busy traffic (like a game of Frogger) since being in Vietnam 5 years ago.

The NY primaries were coming up during our visit and there was plenty of anti-Trump graffiti. This was a particular favorite. If you are reading this in 2017 or later and Trump happens to be president then you’ll know that Elisa and I are now residing in Canada.

World Trade center plaza view. We visited the 9/11 museum and it was terribly sad and depressing. Having lived through that period it was something we didn’t feel we needed to revisit but slogged through the long lines to do so anyway..

Some more fun(?) graffiti.

We visited all parts of Manhattan, as well as a couple of the outer boroughs. The west village and east village (where our apartment was) were definitely our favorite spots in Manhattan, since they seemed to contain the cheapest and most diverse eats, eclectic people and a good mix of architecture and history. We could have spent an entire month eating only at the restaurants within 3 blocks of us and would not have exhausted the options, most of which are delicious. We made 3-4 trips out to Brooklyn and enjoyed that as well – it would be awesome to stay sometime near Prospect Park and to go for long walks in nice weather.

We spent a day walking from our apartment to Brooklyn across both the Brooklyn and Washington bridges. It was an exhausting 12 miles all told but also great fun to see parts of the city we wouldn’t have otherwise. This was on the south side of Manhattan near the Brooklyn bridge.

Family photo looking at Manhattan from Brooklyn.

Manhattan roof tops from the Manhattan bridge.

We really enjoyed the Prospect Park in Brooklyn and would love to come back when more things are in bloom. This lake house reminds me of those lining the Venetian canals

View across the East River from Brooklyn. There was a nice food market call the Smorgasbord in the adjacent park to this photo.

Classic brownstone houses in Brooklyn park slopes.

There were too many good options to count in terms of food and NYC definitely wins for the best food in the world in terms of quality and variety. We doubled our food budget for the month and only cooked in a handful of times since the food out was too good to turn down and really wasn’t much more expensive than eating in. If we lived in Manhattan, I can see how not cooking at all would be a reasonable plan. Our favorite restaurants of those we tried were Love Mamak for Indonesian food (and the most amazing roti bread), X’ian famous foods for spicy Chinese noodles, Raku for ramen noodles, Han Dynasty for traditional Chinese, C&C Prosperity dumplings for deliciously cheap eats and Gaia Italian Café for outrageously tasty pasta dishes. We also visited the Pickle Guys on Essex street about 4 times for more and more pickles (our last purchase was about $50 worth of pickles!).

Raku ramen was fantastic, and was one of the few cases where I really enjoyed eating tripe.

Spicy beef noodles at X’ian famous foods

Latte from Blue Bottle Coffee in Brooklyn.

We had delicious Korean BBQ when Brandon and Valerie came to visit.

Amazing roti bread at Love Mamak.

We ate vegetarian Indian food on the upper west side at a little joint frequented by cab drivers. It was super cheap and tasty.

Pad see u from Love Mamak – fantastic!

Nasi Lamak from Love Mamak restaurant

This is what $50 of pickles from the Pickle Guys looks like! We visited four times while we were there and the pickles were just as good each time.

C&C Prosperity Dumplings is dirt cheap, quick and tasty. If I were a student or pinching my pennies in NYC, this is what I would be eating!

The Italian food at Gaia was excellent. This was truffle ravioli bursting with flavor from fresh truffles, parmesan and mushroom-stuffed ravioli.

This was a fancy Japanese dessert that we had.

Brandon and Valerie came and stayed for several days and Elisa and we had a blast hanging out with them. We got to hang out with Brandon’s aunt and uncle for St Patrick’s day, toured central park, hit up the Highline and Chelsea Market, visited a number of local restaurants, and sampled the various bubble tea shops in the area. It was wonderful to catch up with friends and hopefully we get more chances to do so in our continued travels.

Elisa and Valerie walking the highline. Anywhere else this would just be a fancy greenway, but in NYC where grass lawns are more rare than a Rolls Royce Phantom, one can understand why this lush green spot was pretty popular.

View from central park.

Unfortunately, we had really crappy weather almost the entire stay. The two nicest days were the last two days before we left. I think if we return it would be much better weather from the middle of May to middle of June.

We arrived to NYC at the end of spring, which while cold, still had some pretty sights.

Union square was always busy, but we frequently visited for the farmers market, dog park and nearby Trader Joe’s..

We bought some of these wonderful dried flower arrangements at the farmers market in Union Square. They are supposed to last up to three years.

Since the weather was crappy we spent a fair amount of time on Netflix, gaining weight as couch-potatoes and catching up on Orphan Black and Madmen (among other favorite shows). We did manage to do some work and got an inventory shipment out to Amazon. Doing business in the big city was surprisingly easier than we had anticipated. The only extra effort came from bringing our inventory purchases back into the apartment bag by bag, and often carrying them home from the store via the subway. This was made a little easier in some cases since most stores would do delivery for a $15 charge, and we could schedule pickups with UPS for $10. The little extra work was worth it though since there was a lot of high end luxury shopping which had good profit margins for us!

It’s the unexpected joys in life which make it fun, in this case an almost unlimited supply of free boxes for Amazon shipments which appeared almost magically every week in streets

Of course, Nick and Nora were along for the ride. They got many walks and jogs in, daily visits to the small dog park at Thompkins Park, and generally seemed to enjoy their stay as much as we did. They haven’t learned to talk yet so I am just guessing here though. Within a 15 min walk from the apartment were 4 dog parks in larger parks of about a block each.

The pups didn’t have a backyard for this stay, but there were plenty of squirrels (and rats!!!) running around the city to chase. We made the mistake one day of leaving the window blinds open while we were gone. Evidently the dogs flipped out when a squirrel taunted them from the tree out the window and we received a note from the neighbor upstairs about their bad behavior. The pups lost their window privileges from then on and they had to stay in the bedroom with some white noise while we were out.

We took several day long walkabouts with the pups and they would inevitably crash afterwards. Here Nora was totally out of it.

Elisa giving Nick a leg up to view the squirrels behind the fences. It kinda felt like we were at a zoo each time we visited the park since all the wildlife was contained behind bars.

It got pretty cold during our stay! Fortunately, Nora and I came prepared!!

Nick and Nora loved their long walks and seemed to really get the hang of big city living. They are more chill than ever before.


Our next post will be from New Orleans! Thanks for visiting and we hope to see you soon!