As you would expect, we did a lot of stuff in New York. I mean: a lot of stuff. But as most of you would expect (if you know us) we didn’t really do the touristy type of stuff. We didn’t really go to Central Park, we didn’t go up the Empire State Building or out to see the Statue of Liberty no no no we preferred to investigate the good coffe and cupcake places and enjoy oysters and free wine with friends because really I believe New York is one of those cities that you don’t experience as such, but that gives you what you want to experience. And what we wanted was the local New York, the fun New York, the food-obsessed New York – actually the vegan New York – the street art New York… In other words, he side of New York that fits to us.
So in this blog, I will tell you – and show you – about our top 10 things to do – see, feel, smell (?), experience, discover, taste – in New York.
10 – Strand Bookstore.
It may sound cliché but this place is – to me anyway – really a must-see in New York. It is incredible how enormous it is, how many cool books there are to look at. We had so much fun there. It was really, really cool.
9 – Music in the metro.
Music or act or dancing or whatever you wish is the metro of New York. And that is something that we did enjoy – Dennis more than me of course – because it just gives your trip a difference kind of atmosphere. Sometimes you don’t even want to take your metro anymore! You just wanna stand there and listen.
8 – Mahayana Buddhist Temple (and the book store).
This is a spot close to Chinatown and Little Italy that I read about on Pinterest. The largest golden Buddha in New York! You want to see that. The place is really cool to go to. There is a lot to read about Buddha and the whole Buddhist religion. You can put $1 in a box and pick a piece of paper that gives you insight on your life. The thing to do really, if you are interested in Buddhism is to go upstairs to the book shop. There are so many books about Buddhism, meditation, etc. amazing food for thought. There also bracelets and jewellery and loads of jade, as you would expect. it is a really cool place to visit, very different from anything you would do in NYC. Thanks Pinterest!
7 – Pier 2, Brooklyn.
When we decided to go to Pier 2 with my friends Soo and Sherry, it was because we thought there would be a flee market. Turned out it was only food – good, good food, but expensive – so it wasn’t what we expected, but still, it was cool. First, we took the metro to Manhattan and then the Brooklyn Bridge stop so that we walked the bridge with Sherry. It was fun. And the view is pretty cool.
Then we walked for ages trying to get to Pier 2, and finally found it! The view from there is unbelievable and that’s why I count it amongst my favourite places in New York. For once you don’t have to walk, pay and elbow your way somewhere, you can just sit there and look.
6 – Bleeker St. (And the whole area around Washington Square).
Bleeker Street is this sort of crazy eclectic street close to Washington Square where you can find anything you want and don’t want.
We really enjoyed walking around and having a look in all the boutiques and shops around.
We even went into a bar for some live music one night. It was cool! I felt like a student again. Definitely one of the cool areas of New York.
5 – Farmer’s Market on Union Square.
We were very lucky to arrive on Union Square one Sunday morning and find an amazing farmers’ market with mostly organic food – vegetables, fruits, bread, cookies, etc. It was great to be able to have an organic lunch in NYC for $12. We even had enough left to give to homeless guy.
4 – The High Line.
This is an old railway that has been transformed into some sort of park in the middle of New York. Since it used to be a railway, it’s higher up than the level of the road, hence the name High Line. We walked all the way to the top and back, even if it was raining, because we loved that area. There are little cafes where you can stop, there is street art to look at, plants and flowers to admire, building to contemplate… I could go on and on about how much I loved the place. And if you are lucky enough to go for a stroll there when it is sunny, there are even wooden platforms where you can sit down (or sleep) in the sunshine, with little streams of water coming out of the floor. It is just super awesome.
And just under the High Line is the Chelsea Market where there are loads of boutiques and artists selling their creations, along with good food stalls. A really cool place to stop at when walking along the High Line.
3 – Blue Man Group.
So, we thought you can’t really spend 9 days in New York and not let ourselves be entertained by some form of Broadway show. Now for those of you planning a trip to New York, it is helpful to know the difference between “Broadway” and “Off-Broadway” shows. It is not like the names suggests, a difference in location, but actually the size of the venue and the price of the ticket. So you might pay 5 gazillion for a “Broadway” show and end up having a back seat, so far from the action you might as well watch it on your phone. So we decided to pay 110$ to see “The Blue Man Group” instead of paying a whopping 180$ to see “a curious incident of the dog in the night time”. Still quite dear, but at the time we hadn’t heard that there is also “off-off-Broadway ” shows which are a little more affordable for budget travellers. Although a significant chunk of money, the show was completely worth it. I had seen one of their shows on TV before but being there is a completely different thing. Three, completely blue men in black shirts making you laugh to the point of a painful cramp in your lower belly. Colours, rock music, paintings, flying twinkies, and massive iPhones were all included to create a show that perfectly balanced humour, music and visual art. I don’t want to give away too much, but if your sitting in the first 5 rows you get a free poncho which you will probably be thankful for. I was, and Julie most certainly was as well, although she could’ve done with a face protection as well. Since I really appreciate social criticisms in artistic performances of any kind, I was happily surprised how the 3 ginormous iPhones were used when they were lowered from the ceiling. All in all a show totally worth going to if you don’t mind being 10 min off Broadway, which I certainly didn’t. East village, where the venue resides, right by Cooper Union is one of the areas I can’t suggest enough to any type of traveller.
2 – 51st Bakery, Long Island City.
That bakery is right by Sherry’s apartment (actually the guy owns both the building where she lives and the bakery). It is the place where you will find the best – no seriously, literally, the best – cookies ever made.
Every morning we had hot coffee or tea or ice coffee there, with either carrot cake or a muffin or else… But always with a cookie! I couldn’t spend a day without one of these cookies and I still have withdrawals.
Seriously though, best breakfast in New York for us was there. Good taste in music, good food, lovely people. We miss the place every day. If you guys are ever around Long Island City, stop there for a snack, you won’t regret it, I promise!
1 – Graffiti in Buschwick.
After having been to “Alternative Tours” in Berlin and London, we found that these tours are definitely the best way to discover local street art and graffiti. It was difficult to not have any expectations from a City that is said to be a central part of the roots and origin of graffiti, and visual art subcultures in general. I guess this is thanks to Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat and co. Conspiracy theorists could even consider it to be thanks to “operation long leash” because it seemed to be in the wake of cultural revolution going on in the United States, during the 70’s and 80’s. Anyway, the rise of pop art and hip hop influence motivated the New York visual art scene to start writing their names and pseudonyms in styled lettering on any wall that they deemed suitable. And thanks to global culture you can find it in most big cities these days, and sometimes even in unexpected places like under bridges in the middle of Swiss countryside. So considering all that, I was very excited to get a glimpse of some of Brooklyn’s finest. And needles to say: the Bushwick area is impressive and “Toyz” are hard to find. We started our tour near the famous “Roberta’s Pizza”, and headed around the block with our (to my surprise) two tour guides. Izzy and Mar clearly knew their craft. Mar told us he was working in film and photography, and Izzy was working in animation films and visual art. It was honourable of them not to plug their art to the tour group, although they could’ve easily done that like the guide we had in London (who could learn a lot from these two). They did not only know a lot about the artists, but also their techniques, partnerships, and the history of the street art dinosaurs and who bites their styles (they clarified for example who Banksy bit much of his ideas from). The two are also clearly not made of sugar, as they continued valiantly despite the continuously increasing rain and only one 1 umbrella for both ( and Mar like Izzy was allowed to keep relatively dry underneath it). Now that I’ve basically plugged “alternative tours” enough here are some of the most impressive murals, paste ups, tags, stickers, and graffitis. Oh yeah, by the way, all the ones signed “The Bushwick Collective” are all legal works, that were organised by a Bushwick local with quite a few building owners and residents. Good page to follow on facebook if you’d like something colourful in your newsfeed rather than just your friends having soup or missing the train.