Our plane finally landed only 2.5 hours after it was supposed to. We had been worried about having a layover in Chicago: turns out Chicago’s weather was fine, but Newark told our plane to hold off because of their weather. It ended up being a blessing, because it forced me and Honey to wander around Midway and actually eat something. That was the only real meal either of us had all day.
After finally landing in Newark, we both had the same realization: each of us has lived in cold weather climates before, and while it was cold, it wasn’t arctic, just a breezy 35F or so. Hats were a good idea, but the long-johns, insulated self-heating socks, and hand warmers I had been considering would have been overkill. So that was nice. And bracing.
Thanks to NYC’s preparations for having winter tourists, the Holland Tunnel (you know, the route you take to get from NJ to NYC) only had one lane of traffic open going into the city. I guess they thought we were coming next week. Still, our cabbie knew what to expect and slid us through very quickly, pointing out some suckers waiting in the wrong lanes for up to half an hour just to get into the correct lane.
We checked into the hotel a little past midnight local time, which was still fairly early for us West Coasters. Maybe it was the bracing weather, or the practice run our cabbie had for Sonic the Hedgehog V: Sonic Takes Manhattan, or maybe it was just sheer exhaustion from being on a plane all day, but by the time we got into our room, I collapsed. I don’t think Honey was far behind me, but it was hard to tell with my face in a pillow.
Thursday: Our First Day in Manhattan
Things I Like About Manhattan:
You can wear winter hats here! So much fun! While I had packed a couple extras just in case, nothing really suited Honey, so we ended up buying him one that looked like a snake was eating his head. He has received many compliments for it. I wore my red/purple/orange hat from my WV days, and was still happy a) with the look and b) with the heat. Happies all around!
New Yorkers walk EVERYWHERE. OMG! Everywhere. Because of this, proper footwear is essential. I have seen sneakers in every color of the rainbow on people of all ages. MAN, I LOVE THIS SHIT! And for those who MUST look less colorful fashionable, BOOTS. Gorgeous, functional boots. I’m sorry. Boots are just an accessory in LA. Here, they are… a necessary addition to any woman’s wardrobe.
- Gluten-free restaurants are EVERYWHERE.
I suppose it’s because the city is so compact– it’s only a few of square miles, total– but I was able to eat at a new and interesting restaurant at every meal. There was a new option every time I opened my app. But get this: I was able to order and eat a slice of cake from a restaurant. I have not been able to do this in over a year. I HAD CARROT CAKE THAT SOMEONE ELSE MADE AND IT WAS DELICIOUS. I even had… bread pudding! *whispers* It was so goooooooood!
- The city is compact… and you don’t need a car to get around.
Honey and I have done so much walking in just two days. And not just laterally! Every single time we took the subway (which was quite a bit for us), we had to go up and down stairs– sometimes multiple stories for just one train. Great exercise!
- We saw snow.
In Manhattan. In December. And it didn’t stick. (Yes, this goes in the plus column.)
- We saw the big-ass tree in Rockefeller Center.
- GF Bagels!!!!
A few months ago, I heard about a GF bakery out here called Jennifer’s Way. They carry bagels that I can eat. I bought bagels. And cried the whole time.
- We visited my 97-year-old grandma and her partner.
They are both still catching busses, enjoying the bracing weather, and generally kicking butt. I have always admired my grandma’s gusto for life.
Things I Don’t LIke About Manhattan:
- Explaining to a 97-year-old woman why I cannot eat at her favorite Japanese restaurant, even though it’s just around the corner. And she has their menus. And they don’t have bread, so what’s the problem? (I know: this is not an intrinsic part of the city for most people, but it is for me.)
- Gluten free restaurants may be everywhere…
but over 60% of them were also raw vegan establishments. This meant that while I could eat there safely, I really didn’t want to. At all. Chia pudding is NOT a lunch menu item. Just no.
- Getting reprimanded by a subway clerk for taking a wrong turn our first time on a subway. FREAKING LABEL YOUR DAMN STATIONS CONSISTENTLY if you’re going to take that attitude. Jeez.
- Managing to get lost in every single subway station we entered, sometimes twice in one visit.
- Getting stranded in the city at 9:00 at night.
The subway system had an unlikely hit of three disasters at the same time, which managed to screw up all of the trains all night long. We were miles away from the hotel, wearing Los Angeles winter clothes, and having bellies full of a rich and delicious (gluten free) Brazilian meal. Since we didn’t leave the station immediately upon news of the disasters — they might get things running again in 10 minutes? — we didn’t hit the streets when everyone else did, looking for a cab. It was a long and bracing fucking cold walk back. After about half an eternity’s walk with no available cabs on the street, we did manage to snag a taxi as he was dropping someone else off, so we were able to get the rest of the way home much more quickly (read: warmly), but again, we didn’t get to home base until after midnight. I crashed. Again.
Friday: Day Two We Nailed It
We were up and out the door bright and early (for us) after a lovely and filling breakfast of bagel for me (!!!!) and self-made waffles for Honey. The subways were mostly up and running after the fiasco from the night before, so we were able to get around easily– and now that we knew which signs to read, and where to look, we didn’t get lost once. (So THERE, cranky subway attendant! So there!)
We went back to Rockefeller Center. The big-ass tree was still there. I’m fairly certain the same gawkers were there, too, but this time we didn’t stop to mingle: we went straight to the Nintendo flagship store and took pictures with Donkey Kong and the Pikmin. (New to me since the last time I played Nintendo however many years ago, but a fun game!) We also briefly considered getting some ugly sweater shirts, but they only had Mario and Link– no Pikachu or Samus.
After that, we moseyed to Times Square. Boy, they really cleaned that place up since the last time either of us were there. Not a hooker in sight. Honestly, it looked like a colder version of Hollywood and Highland, back home. The same stores. Lots of people in costumes– actually that was one thing that was very different: three Hello Kitties standing next to each other. Back home, there would have been a major cat fight over who got which corner. I once saw two Batmen scuffle over who got to stand in front of Grauman’s Chinese and who could get stuck in front of the mall, but here Hello Kitties were mingling with Mickey Mice. It was weird on a couple of different levels.
While we were in Times Square, we decided to grab something to eat, but unfortunately either my app is stupid (entirely possible) or we lost our sense of direction (also entirely possible), but we ended up taking a detour past the main library that resulted in the statement, “It’s so cold, I can’t feel my butt.” Twice. We finally figured out where we were, grabbed a quick lunch, played some video games, and then headed over to our friends’ hotel to start the wedding festivities. But that’s another story.
To be continued…
Photo by Honey.