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48 hours in New York City

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Some choices in life are easy – such as deciding whether to fly back on Friday or Sunday after a week-long business programme in New York. The opportunity for 48 hours of fun in the world’s most exciting city was one I wanted to seize, so after an intense week of learning all about how to do business stateside, it was time for some enjoyment.


5am: A walk through Chinatown

They call New York “the city that never sleeps” but I think it’s a misnomer: it’s you that doesn’t sleep, rather than the city itself. By Saturday, I’d grown accustomed to the 5am wake-ups, so I’d adopted the habit of taking early morning walks to explore the Chinatown district where I was staying. This is my favourite photo: people doing early morning Tai Chi in Columbus Park.


11am: Times Square and tea

Fortunately, I had company for Saturday’s activities. I first met Mark and Ting in London when they were both postgrad students at Imperial. They now live an hour outside of NYC, and I had the honour of meeting them in the diamond district near Times Square just in time to see their choice of ring for their forthcoming wedding! Being a newlywed myself, this of course sparked a lot of questions, so the first couple of hours were spent having a good old fashioned natter over that most English of things: a tea. [You have to go to Starbucks, but they DO have proper tea in America these days!]

1pm: A nameless restaurant

To be an exclusive venue in New York is to have either no name or a hard-to-find location. Our lunch spot qualified on both counts. Rumoured to serve the best burgers in NYC, this restaurant is branded only with a neon burger logo and is accessed not from the street, but by walking through the lobby of a posh hotel. The burgers were indeed rather yummy, and the strategy of increasing appeal by withholding easy access certainly seemed to be working, judging by the size of the queue to get in.

2.30pm: MoMA

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has a self-descriptive name, and like everything in America it’s BIG! Six floors of contemporary art gave us the opportunity to view and discuss works from Monet’s water lilies to Jackson Pollock’s “stream of consciousness” abstract art. My favourite showcase was a temporary exhibition of 1950s Japanese paintings: a collection of nihilistic pieces expressing the horror of the nuclear attack and subsequent American military occupation. N.B. This photo is not from that collection!


7pm: Dim Sum with many Kwans

Chinatown was the obvious choice for dinner, so we headed for a Dim Sum restaurant, which followed the emerging theme of gigantic-ness: In order to reach our table, the waiter led us past a party of perhaps 150 people who had all gathered to celebrate sharing the surname Kwan! A partition separated the Kwans from the non-Kwans, and we took our place in the latter section to enjoy a range of Dim Sum delicacies including shrimp dumplings, chicken in sticky rice and deep fried duck’s tongue, the last of these proving a little too adventurous for my palette.

9pm – 3am: Barcade

Brooklyn is the Shoreditch of New York, but it’s got something its London counterpart is sorely lacking: Barcade! Quite simply, it’s a bar that is lined wall-to-wall with retro arcade games. Mark had been there before coming to London, when it was still the new place in town and not many people knew about it. Word had obviously spread in the intervening couple of years, because this place was packed out all night long. Ting proved to be a master at the game of ‘Tapper’, where you have to pull virtual pints of beer, while I proved that my boss at the Welsh pub where I’d worked in 2001 had been perfectly justified in firing me after two weeks. A similarly poor performance at just about every other game followed, but it was great fun nevertheless.

The other distinguishing factor between Brooklyn and Shoreditch is a drink called the Long Island Iced Tea. Despite its innocent-sounding name, this cocktail packs a powerful punch. No wonder, seeing as it contains vodka, gin, rum AND tequila!

3.30am-ish: A Philly Cheese Steak

No night out is complete without a junk food hit, and this is true on both sides of the Atlantic. Barcade is happily situated across the road from a classic American diner, complete with neon lights, padded booths and a humongous menu of every kind of fattening food imaginable. I was ever-so-slightly too tipsy to remember to take a photo of my food choice – a Philly Cheese Steak – but it seemed to comprise cheese-smothered doner kebab-type meat in a subway roll, accompanied by a mountain of fries. Sober, it was probably revolting, but after a couple of Long Island Iced Teas, it tasted pretty good!

As Mark and Ting had missed their last train home, we all headed back to my hotel for a few hours’ rest – thanks to the 24 hour Subway system, another thing London would do well to emulate.


9am and for some time afterwards: A hangover

Sunday was the only day I managed to sleep past 5am – going to bed within an hour of that time probably had something to do with it. It was also the day that I realised why Adrian always insisted I drink a pint of water before bed any time I’ve had something to drink: it staves off the hangover! Unfortunately, with him some 3000 miles away, this detail had slipped my mind and I woke up with the distinct feeling that my head was trapped in-between a pair of pincers. It was a feeling that was to remain with me for most of the day. Mark and Ting headed home, and I wandered out in search of something not too strenuous to do on my last day in New York.

12pm: Meatballs

There was a place near where I was staying called The Meatball Shop that people had been recommending all week, and it seemed like a good hangover cure. Unfortunately the combination of pork, chilli, pesto, cheese and too much oil was threatening to do more harm than good in my weakened state and I ended up leaving most of it on the plate, uneaten.

I walked past this place on the way to The Meatball Shop: I wasn’t tempted by the suggestion, but I did chuckle when I overheard two Americans trying to make sense of the name.


2pm: Tenement Museum

Moderately more successful was my tour of the Tenement Museum, a preserved site from the 1860s which is only accessible by guided tour. We were shown the old structure, with the original wallpaper still hanging loosely to the walls, and then led to a restored apartment designed to look as it might have done when a particular family of Irish immigrants lived there. It’s not one of New York’s most talked about attractions, but for anyone interested in the history of the city, it’s a worthwhile outing.

5pm: Top of the Rock

In contrast to the Tenement Museum, the Rockerfeller Center is one of New York’s most iconic landmarks. It has several interesting art features, such as the golden Prometheus above the ice skating rink, as well as a large shopping and dining concourse. You can also pay to see various parts of the Center and the best of these options in my opinion is ‘Top of Rock’: you take a lift to the 70th floor, where there is a 3-level viewing platform giving you 360 degree views of Manhattan.  This is memorable enough in its own right, but if you time it so you’re there at sunset, it’s an experience you will never forget. I only wish my phone’s camera did the view justice …


9pm – no idea: A long journey home

It’s been quite a while since I had to sleep on an airport floor, so United Airlines, if you’re reading, thanks for that. Delay after delay made it seem like I was destined never to leave New York but at some small hour in the morning, my scheduled 9.55pm flight finally departed and I arrived back at my flat in London to discover that Adrian had tidied, cleaned and shopped in preparation for my return – rendering him fully deserving of the excellent souvenir gifts I had sourced for him from Nintendo World …

Adrian gifts Nintendo

Written by Emily

February 26, 2013 at 4:53 pm

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