Little note for any readers: I realize this is very long! However, my love for New York City and the trip that I took is very deep and could not be expressed in just a short blog post. If you do not feel like reading every detail of my days, complete with lots of food, fun, and family stories, you can skip to the end where I summarize some highlights and lessons of my journey in the section titled, “Ending Notes”(: (Keep in mind I inserted many photos so it may seem quite a big longer than reality.) But for the rest of your brave souls: happy reading! I hope through this post you’re able to capture the excitement and essence of the most amazing city that there has ever been! I appreciate your willingness and desire to accompany my story. Enjoy!
Tuesday, August 10th was the day our flight went out. The day previous Liz, my Dad, and I went out to breakfast at our favorite place: Sportsmans. We spent lots of time together with him that day before we wouldn’t be seeing him for a week. On Tuesday morning we got up early to get to the Hibbing airport. That morning it still had not really hit me that I was about to be in New York City aka the city of my dreams; the city that I have already been spending my nights dreaming about despite never having been there. The trip was head knowledge, but it wasn’t heart knowledge quite yet. My father drove us to the Hibbing airport where we boarded a smaller plane to Minneapolis. With a two hour layover we had lunch at The French Meadow Bakery at the airport and finally got to head to the East Coast. The plane ride there was close to three hours, all of which I read my book, Sweetbitter.
When we first began our descent into the city was when it finally started to become clear to me that this was actually happening. We flew in around 9pm, so it had already began to turn dark in NYC. As the plane was lowering itself towards the Laguardia Airport grounds Lizzy, mom, and I were taking turns to look out the plane window. The city was all lit up the way a Christmas tree glistens during the holidays. There were giant building, cars everywhere, you could see parks and pools… The city went on forever and was absolutely packed to every corner with life.
After getting off of the plane and reaching the baggage claim we were immediately swarmed with Uber and taxi drivers alike rushing to anyone in sight who looked like they could use a ride. We had a man ask if we needed a ride and immediately my mom accepted. Now I am not going to lie, I was frightened a bit. We had just gotten to the city and my mom accepted this random man’s offer without seeing any kind of qualification or identification… but that was just the small-town girl in me being guarded in this new, large city. I knew Lizzy felt the same way when she gave me a side glance of uncertainty. Although, as you probably guessed, the man turned out to be an Uber driver who was very kind and an amazing driver. We got into the Honda he drove and began to our hotel, The Roosevelt, located just blocks one way from Grand Central Station and about 10 minutes the other way from Times Square.
The drive through the city was astonishing. I had never been to a city like this before. Despite being so late, there were people and cars everywhere. We passed every kind of food and business places imaginable. It truly is the city that never sleeps. And do not even get me started on the driving there, it is a skill all on its own. It is so fast and full of sharp turns, quick stops, weaving in and out of other cars, dodging bikes and pedestrians, wedging yourself into small openings because otherwise there is no getting into that lane that you need to be in…It was scary at first, but then thrilling when I figured out that no, I wasn’t going to die, this is just the way it is.
We got to our hotel extremely late that night, so there wasn’t much looking around. Although we were pretty hungry, so we went right next door on one side of the hotel where there was a pizza place and all ordered a plate of wings. It was the first of many food adventures of the trip. And can I just say that not only was I still in shock by how much I was already in love with this city, but also by the strength that I have been able to gain within the last few weeks alone related to the eating disorder that I have been working to overcome. Wings, especially at almost midnight, is something even a month ago that I would not have ever eaten. But as this trip goes on, I continue to grow stronger. This trip was the best week of my life mixed with the biggest week of growth since I began recovery.
We were staying right in the middle of Manhattan, where many of the biggest landmarks are, so we decided to set out on foot that morning at 7am to get our vacation started off right. We decided to have our first breakfast at the hotel, which had terrible coffee if you’re wondering. Immediately we made our way to Grand Central. I was stopped in my tracks as I walked in and immediately felt thrown into the first episode of Gossip Girl when Serena is filmed in that exact spot. So naturally I had to pose here for some photos and took many of the station itself. We stopped down in the entrance of the subway to get our MetroCards for the week. It was so mesmerizing to watch the thousands of New Yorkers, all with coffee and briefcase in hand, rushing down the stairs, through the gates, and onto the subway to get to work just in the knick of time.
After getting our cards we explored Grand Central a bit more, making our way into the food court where there was a cafe, Irvington Roasters. I got my second ever oat milk capp, and they made the most gorgeous art in the foam of all of ours drinks. The art reflected the quality of the beverage that I finished in just minutes. Eventually, after exploring the large station, we set out for the area of Times Square… or at least that was where we meant to go. Most everything we saw that day was by mistake if I am being honest. We were using our Iphones as Gps’s, but Sprint has terrible coverage in that area, and our navigation wasn’t the best, so we were wandering mixed with asking many people directions and navigating with our paper maps. We saw so many sights that morning: Radio City Music Hall, The Rockefeller Center, both the Love and the Hope signs, and we found the beloved Magnolia bakery! Having been a ‘foodie’ for quite awhile, I know of all kinds of the different spots to eat at in NYC and where you can find the best of everything. Magnolia is known for their cupcakes and banana pudding. So I enjoyed a chocolate cupcake and a few bites of my mom’s pudding, which is even better than I could’ve imagined (I am drooling at the thought), and then we ate a Pret a Manger for lunch. This cafe has all natural food and meats that are raised without any hormones or antibiotics. It is about the highest quality food you could possibly get.. So I decided once again, already the third time on my trip, to challenge my eating disorder and get a club salad, which meant I would be eating some bacon for the first time in years.
I enjoyed my salad, some quinoa, and iced coffee and then we set out again. We went to the Top of the Rock and got to overlook the city. The view was so gorgeous, I can not put it into words. To see one of the most beautiful cities in the country, from such a height where it is all in your view at once, is truly unexplainable. You would never guess how large Central Park is unless you were overlooking it and realized you could hardly see where the greenery ends even at the location that you were at. It felt as though I were looking at a photograph, except this was real life.
Next we made our way to Times Square, courtesy of the fact that I was able to figure out directions to get there after spotting it from the Top of the Rock. It was still very bright out, so this was our daylight trip here. These few small blocks of the city were a world of their own. You are jam packed next to every kind of person imaginable. There are signs, lights, shops, cafes, food trucks everywhere you look. It is a bit of a jungle. People acting like animals, actual animals, people performing shows, men handing you their mixtapes that were about to make them famous (or so they claimed), armed police everywhere, people shoving fliers in your face for their play or restaurant, many homeless asking for a donation… These few blocks are an area of the world that needs to be experienced by an individual to be comprehended. I have heard and read about Times Square for years and years, but nothing compares to being there in person. It is such a beautiful place. It is so exciting, something to see everywhere you look… I could’ve sat there the rest of the trip and been content.
We went in and out of every shop in the area that interested us. Of course, for Lizzie’s sake, we began at Hershey’s World and then went across the street to The M&M Store. These two stores could give you diabetes by just a step inside, but they also sent me into a nostalgic phase where I immediately felt six years old again eating candy for every meal. And their scents? Imagine stepping into Charlie’s Chocolate Factory and then multiply that by ten.
After making our way through all the other shops, including a cute Kellog’s Cereal store, we continued sightseeing which was filled with all kinds of beautiful works of art placed around the area, and then we ended up at the Museum of Modern Art. The museum really caused me to stop and think. In one room you would see The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh but then in the next room you would see a helicopter built by hands. Across the hall you might see a video projected onto the floor of some ballerinas, and then turn around and you witnessed a sculpture made of junk you would find in a trashcan or maybe you saw old fabric sewed together in chunks. The museum made me realize how absolutely unique we all are. Everyone views art as something completely different, and it is so cool. God has given us all our own personality, yet in the end, we all view something as art, however there is a 99% chance it isn’t the same as everyone else’s. It is what makes me uniquely me and you uniquely you. If we don’t even view the same objects as ‘art’, how much more unique are our thoughts on a subject that is deeper such as religion or world peace?
We quickly rushed out of the museum gift shop after I dropped a glass frame, had it shatter near my feet, and had hundreds of eyes staring at me in judgement, and made our way to the hotel. Having walked close to probably ten miles that day we rested for just a bit before heading to a cafe between our hotel and Times Square. We ate, and then made our way back to the square to view it at night.
I thought that TS was its own world during the day, but at night it was even more uniquely its own experience. It became more crazy. The lights got brighter, the honking louder, the crowds tighter, the police more visible, the street performers crazier (some naked, some thankfully clothed)… It may sound insane, and that is because it was, but it was insane in the best way possible. It was so exciting and the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. I tried not to blink, because I didn’t want to miss a second. That is the only way I know how to explain my experience, or the best night of my life.
Finally on the third day was when I was getting the hang of the city and was able to really begin to navigate us to all the food places that I had on my ‘foodie list’. We took our first ever subway trip that morning to SoHo. The subway wasn’t as near as confusing as I had thought it would be. With the swipe of my card, the help of a map near the tracks, we hopped on the 6 train towards downtown. It was so exciting to stand there in the train, holding the bar, and feel like a true New Yorker with my own coffee in hand.
Little did I know SoHo would become my favorite part of Manhattan. It was so magical. The street filled to the brim with cafes, coffee shops, boutiques, street art, hipster-type people… I felt like I was exactly where I belonged. Eventually we found the cafe we were searching for, The Butcher’s Daughter. It is a vegan spot where I enjoyed the most amazing purple cauliflower grits with poached eggs and mint tea. I savored every bite of that dish wishing that I would still be able to recall the flavor through my instagram shot.
We then headed over to Brooklyn to walk the bridge, which was crazy that morning as there was some kind of race going on in the area. You thought walking on a street next to cars because there wasn’t a sidewalk was dangerous? You don’t know anything until you are on a bridge or walk path in NYC where both walkers and bikers had to share the way. It is a bit of a dodging game, but once you figure out where your spot is, and where theirs is, you will fall right into the swing of things.
The view of the river beneath the bridge along with the city was so inspiring. It is a picture perfect scene that you thought only existed in the movies… Let me be the first (or maybe the ten-thousandth) to tell you: It is real, and more amazing in person than you could ever conjure. With ever step on that bridge I left a piece of my heart, it was one of the most amazing walks I have ever taken. When it came to an end, quite a while later, we found one of a million Starbucks that lined the streets of the city to recharge at. I got a coconut-milk latte and enjoy it as we mapped our journey that would take us to the Financial District area.
We only got lost a lot, but once we finally made it to the ticket line for the Statue of Liberty, it was only a short wait until finally we boarded a cruise ship towards Staten Island. The closer we came to Lady Liberty, the thicker the crowd at the window got, so I sat patiently until we arrived at the island to take my first peek. Once we got there, I was taken back. I had seen thousands of photos of her, read hundreds of times in history class of her significance, but seeing Lady Liberty in person was such an amazing experience that I couldn’t ever forget. The statue is absolutely amazing. It is large, although not as big as I imagined, but it was so detailed, even to the tip of her crown. I felt so little as I took photos next to her vastness, but it was such an amazing experience.
We had lunch on the island and checked out their shop where I purchased a cute coffee mug (I bet you are very shocked), and a book printed in Italy that is full of the most gorgeous photos of the entire city that I could only dream of capturing. Then we took a short trip over to Ellis Island. I am not going to lie, I was cranky at this stop, not really wanting to be there at the time, but I am so glad that I was. I was able to step inside the very building that thousands of immigrants went through and stayed at after first coming to this country. What an honor, one that I regret being crabby throughout, but I am only human and it happens.
As soon as we arrived back on shore we took a ride on the Seaglass Carousel that I read about online that was right there in the same park. It wasn’t as exciting as the internet told me it would be, but it was still another memory made. We then tried navigating ourselves towards Wall Street where we stumbled across the famous bull statue along with the little girl statue. Before walking over to them we found a man who was dressed as a statue himself. He sat there, without moving, until you put money into his box, and once you did, he would begin to go into ‘alive mode’ and move in such a robotic manner I had a hard time believing he was a human man. Then we tried, and failed, to get good photos with the statues due to the fact that their were other tourists climbing all over the area.
Next we found the 9/11 memorial and museum. The pools that were built in memory of all the victims were so beautiful, as was the experience itself of being there. Despite being crowded with people, this area is quite silent. Out of respect most are silent or keep it to a whisper in this area. It really becomes real when you are standing at the pool and get the chance to read the names of people who were victims of that terrible day. It is no longer just something that happened, but it becomes real people who had their lives taken away for no reason. It was heartbreaking to come to this realization, but I am thankful to have experienced it. The feelings inside the museum were deepened tenfold. There were many artifacts and videos that began your journey into the museum. It was hard to look at them. But then you entered a part of the museum where there was no photo-taking allowed. Throwout these rooms there were many items, photos, videos, news broadcasts, artifacts such as a letter written by Osama Bin Laden himself to the pilots instructing them exactly how to crash the planes… walking through that area was a very hard thing to do. I had by learning about that day every single year in history class, but walking through that museum really brought it all to life. It is very hard to truly understand the horror until you watch videos of people at the scene in panic and tears over their family member who they could not locate and other awful happenings.
After resting outside the museum for a bit next to one of the pools, we walked across the street into a large mall where we had dinner. I ate food from a place that sourced their food locally and by the season. My mom and Lizzy got a traditional New York pizza, because you definitely can’t go to New York without having pizza! So of course I ate two slices along with my other goodies. We were all extremely full and so we made our way back to the hotel, which meant getting to walk through The Oculus to get to the subway, to drop things off and rest a bit. It was pretty late but we decided the adventures weren’t over for the night quite yet. We walked quite a ways to Black Tap, a restaurant known for their crazy milkshakes. After waiting in line outside the place for over an hour, we were seated, ordered, and eventually were served the most glorious shakes that I had ever seen. I had not had a milkshake in years, and this was anything but a disappointment. The creaminess of the shake, along with the insanely sugary toppings, were all I needed to become a jittery, hyper mess. I did more dancing on the way back than walking, and took us on a small detour to a beautiful courtyard I found that was glowing with trees wrapped in lights. Eventually we got back to The Roosevelt and it is safe to say that I slept very well that night!
This day was the most anticipated for Lizzy: Our Central Park day! We woke up that Sunday morning and I had planned for us to make our way to a perfect brunch spot before our adventures began. Sarabeth’s, a place I have always read about that is known for their fluffy pancakes and their egg’s benedict dish, was right across the street from Central Park, so that is where we started off the morning! We all ordered the egg’s benedict, mine the salomon, Liz and my mom got the traditional, along with a berry bowl that we shared and the absolute best black coffee that I had ever had. My mom and I each, separately drank more coffee that morning than everyone else in the place combined if I am being honest! The aroma alone was absolutely heavenly, but after you took a sip, the profile of the coffee was exquisite. Paired with the finest egg’s benedict that I have ever before eaten, with the freshest English muffin that had been toasted to perfection. I now have the highest expectations for Sunday brunch that will never be able to be reached again, of course unless I am back at Sarabeth’s.
We got to-go cups of their coffee after Lizzy was finally tired of the endless coffee-drinking that my mother and I were doing, and started into Central Park. The short venture across the street was absolutely amazing. One minute I am in New York City, then next I am stepping into this jungle full of paths, large fields of green, people walking their pups, others biking or running, beautiful wildlife, carriages being pulled by horses, performers… it was like I had stepped right out of the city.
The whole day was walking and adventuring. We saw many singers and dancers performing for money in the park. As we tried to navigate around we stumbled upon the Bow Bridge, the Alice in Wonderland Statue, The Lake, and Cleopatra’s Needle. Near the middle of the day we walked down the large path known as ‘The Mall’. Lizzy got a soft pretzel, as one does in NYC, and then we both got an organic henna tattoo. While Liz was getting her tattoo done, my mother and I got the chance to talk with a New York resident who was there with her daughter and some friends. They recommended we check out all kinds of restaurants, the Meatpacking District/Chelsea area (which was on the agenda for tomorrow), and we just chatted. I am not sure who first said that New Yorkers weren’t nice people, because this lady, along with everyone else I had talked to all week, with the exception of a small few, were all kind-hearted souls.
We continued on with exploring the mall and stumbled upon a man who was taking polaroids of people in the park, and then photographed them holding the polaroid. He was working on a photography project, so we decided to participate! We took a few for his project and got to keep some as well. I found it very honoring to get to be apart of his project and get some beautiful photos in the park!
For lunch we ate at the boathouse restaurant there in the park. After that we headed on over to The Met. Of course, this started off with a short photoshoot for myself. The steps of The Met are another big setting in Gossip Girl where Serena and Blair always ate their lunches, so naturally I had to channel my inner gossip girl once again. So that happened, and then we ventured inside where I got to see some Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, along with others. What stood out to me the most was the Greek/Roman statue area. I have always read about these gorgeous stone figures, but even having looked at hundreds pictures in my sixth grade textbook couldn’t compare to the beauty of these sculptures in person. It is a crazy thought to know that they were the exact sculptures from those times, that they were right in front of me… and they were breathtaking.
We wandered around for a bit and began to get hungry after a while, so we started on our journey towards our next food venture when I was caught by an artist on the sidewalk who was offering to draw a portrait of me for a discounted cost. It was something I had been talking about since that morning when I saw a few artists sitting around the park, so I accepted. I sat there for around 20 minutes, my butt got sore, I had hundreds of people walking by, many stopping to watch, and I was extremely hungry by the end. However, once I saw the end product, I was very pleased! The short man who wore a barre had created an oil-pastel portrait that resembled me in a very detailed way… it was almost unreal! I paid him and began to walk away when he started to complain that I hadn’t given him his full payment, despite his original claim that he would give me a discount. We went back and forth with him trying to deny his claims and guilt me into giving him more money, but eventually I walked away… what is a trip to New York City without someone trying to scam you, am I right?
We finally made it to our dinner destination: Sweetgreen. They have almost all organic ingredients, all of which are local and fresh. I got a romaine salad with sweet potato, watermelon, beets, bean sprouts, spicy broccoli, tofu, and a sesame ginger sauce plus an iced chai. I was absolutely in love with the dish, all the way until I finished the last bite when we went next door to The Levain Bakery. It was their new location, but we walked down the street, post cookie-heaven, to see the original that they were in the process of moving from as it was too small for their growing business. They are known for their cookies that are as thick as two cards decks stacked atop one another and are as soft as the texture you’d imagine from a cloud. The served them to us warm, mine the dark chocolate peanut-butter chip, Liz’s the double chocolate chip, and mom’s the chocolate chip walnut. It was the best dessert that has ever had the pleasure of residing in my mouth. I bought a second…enough said.
After I was visited by the cookie angels, we wandered back to the park. By this time of the night it was quite dark. We decided it was a perfect night to check off from our bucket lists a biggie: A carriage ride around Central Park. We found a carriage and hopped in. The park and city that night were so gorgeous. With the twinkling lights, the sound of horse hooves against the pavement, and the beautifully decorated carriage; it was a dream come true. We had a very nice carriage driver who gave us some history of the park and even brought us to Strawberry Fields, a landmark in the park we weren’t able to find, that was dedicated to John Lennon. As the horse galloped, and we took in all sights, I couldn’t help but be so thankful for that amazing city, the wonderful opportunity, and my loving family.
Again, we found ourselves in Grand Central, heading towards Soho. That morning we stopped at Bluestone Lane for breakfast and coffee. It is the cutest Australian cafe that is #goals, and we even had a waiter from Australia with the best accent and mustache I’d ever seen! It was such a genuine experience. My latte and the mochas the Liz and mom ordered showed such handiwork, and our meals looked as though they had been cared by the same detail-oriented barista-turned-chef. I order the Pea-Mint Smash. It was a thick, toasted piece of bread with a spread of mashed peas, lemon, mint, etc. and topped with peas, oil, spices, microgreens, and a coconut yogurt dollop! I felt like the definition of health that morning. That lasted about two seconds until we hit up the Starbucks next door for some more coffee (I think it is safe to say that my family has an addiction). And once we had finally hit an acceptable caffeine level, we began our morning. It consisted of a beautiful walk to The Washington Square Park where we saw the cutest dog park, gorgeous flowers, a man who was doing some kind of strange dance/yoga routine to music that must have been in his head as there was none in the park, and the Washington Arch!
Then we set off for a highlight of mine: a few steps around New York University! I went into the bookstore, the admissions office, and lastly The Student Welcome Center. I talked with a current student and picked up a whole stack of papers. The campus is spread out all around the area, and because I didn’t sign up for a tour in time, I just saw a lot of the outsides of different buildings. However, I am highly convinced that I may be back there next year. The only exception to that would be that I was not accepted. All I know is that after this trip, I will be back in this city as soon as I am handed my high-school diploma.
Our stomachs started talking to us again so we found a foodie dream of mine: By Chloe. It was a cafe that served all-vegan everything. I had a guac ‘burger’ with sweet potato fries, beet ketchup, and drank from a coconut. After having now finished the trip and reminiscing, this was my favorite meal, (not dessert), by far. Not only was it vegan, which means I am supporting our planet and the animals, it was both healthy and to-die-for. The sweet potato fries were so crispy yet soft and paired very well with the beet ketchup. Along with the guac ‘burger’…it is a must-try. We followed up with The Ansel-Dominique Bakery, known for their cronuts and frozen s’mores. I was very disappointed that they had already sold out of their cronuts for the day, but Liz enjoyed the frozen smores, which I stole a nibble of. Along the way here we explored Bleecker Street, which is the large street that our friend from the park told us we had to check out. It is one of the best areas for shopping in the city she told us, and she hadn’t been wrong. We stopped into a few boutiques and shops; all spendy, but all so cute and so New York.
Next on our New York adventure was to make our way to The Meatpacking District and walk the High Line Park. When we found ourselves at the park, we began the walk down the 1.5mile park that was elevated above the street and built next to an old rail-road. It was such a gorgeous walk, not to mention a creative piece of art. Along the way we stopped and were awestruck by gorgeous views of the city. Near the middle we took a detour into The Chelsea Market; a giant building full of bakeries, restaurants, vendors, craft-sellers… With such a great vibe and aesthetic, as a somewhat self-proclaimed hipster, this place is absolutely a landmark that I really enjoyed. Inside on the bottom level there were vendors everywhere. They all sold the most gorgeous, local jewelry, art, clothing, etc. I fell in love with this corner of the market. We walked through the whole building, with a stop at a chocolate store for Liz, where they made life-sized chocolate sculptures! I thought the chocolate heel that was being sold for about 50 dollars would’ve been a perfect fit for Cinderella!
We popped out on the other side and continued down the walk. I spotted a few gorgeous apartments buildings (all of which I wrote down the websites for), and we enjoyed. We didn’t quite make it to the end because it had been getting dark and we were ready for our dinner, which we needed to take the subway to reach. After some more walking and riding, we landed in Little Italy. This area of the city, despite only covering a few blocks, was full of what seemed like hundreds of Italian restaurants, traditional coffee shops, and gelato stands. It was all of Italy shoved into a small area in NYC! We choose Benito One, known as the heart of Little Italy. Inside was like stepping into an Italian ladie’s home where she prepared only her finest dishes for you right from scratch. I ordered a platter of shrimp, mussels, clams, and calamari. I had only ever had shrimp before, but I decided I was on vacation and was in Little Italy, so that meant I needed to step outside the box of normal.
I loved my shrimp and calamari, but after one clam and one mussel, my Italian meal was over with. The meat itself was great, but the texture plus the shells… I think you understand. So I got a to-go box and we all piled in our food. We had so many inside that we decided it couldn’t go to waste. Our plan was to find one of the many homeless scattered throughout the city and gift them with the Italian goods. It didn’t take long after walking out the door to find an old man who was sleeping near a subway. My mother woke him gently and left the bag next to him. We did not stick around, but from what I saw while walking away, his smile was larger than I could ever imagine producing. It was such a beautiful scene; that man brought some tears to my eyes. If I could help more the way we did with that man, I wouldn’t ever be able to have a ‘bad day’ again. Scenes like that really cause me to realize how thankful I ought to be. I was on vacation, for 8 days, spending $6 on a small latte daily without a thought. Yet this man, living on the streets, possibly hadn’t eaten for days, and seemed to be in his glory when a stranger left him her leftover grub that she couldn’t finish. I have begun picturing him ever since anytime I feel that my chicken is too dry or the internet is too slow.
For our dessert that night we trekked through Chinatown, which was such an experience! It was full of lanterns, Chinese writing, cafes selling duck and dumplings; it definitely did not feel as though I were still in the U.S. However that was where the ice-cream shop was, so that is where we went! We got a little lost, but with the help of an American-speaking Chinese girl, we found 10 Below! At this shop they hand roll the ice cream right in front of your eyes. You are paying for the experience as much as you are the ice-cream, but it was worth every penny (I suppose they weren’t my pennies so I shouldn’t be talking…but I will vouch for my mother).
At this point, I was becoming a master as locating the best breakfasts spots (with some help from Instagram, Buzzfeed, and some bloggers). So after another subway ride, and a stop at Irvington in Grand Central, we brunched at Jack’s Wife Freda that fine morning. All the cafes in Soho were always packed and shoved into tights corners that overflowed onto the sidewalks in front of the place, but it made the experience so much more genuine and enjoyable. I started off with mint tea once again, and ordered the shakshuka. Lizzy ordered a duck and egg sandwich, and my mom got the rosemary waffle with Lebanese yogurt. I hadn’t ever had anything quite like that dish before, but it was such a treat! Such delicate spices mixed with the eggs and greens, oh, and the most amazing challah toast!
We purposely had a bit of a later start that day as our next to-do was to make our way to the Soulcycle studio next to Bryant Park. I hadn’t ever taken a class before because there are no studios in Minnesota, however, I’ve read lots about it and wouldn’t leave that city without the experience! We got there, got signed up, and got onto our bikes. When the class started, the lights dimmed extremely low and you could only see shadows. Our instructor, Aaron, had such an inspirational playlist put together. I fell right into the rhythm of the songs, the pedaling, the only being aware of yourself and your motions, pushing yourself to the brim. It was such an amazing class. People weren’t there to just exercise, but to get inspired. They were cheering, shouting with joy, as we pedaled and pushed ourselves all while Aaron instructed us and continued to build us up with such positive words.
I walked out of that studio with the thought that I knew I was going to become a serious cycler when I next made it to the city. I had a huge smile, sweat soaked clothing, and two new SoulCycle sweatshirts. My family and I walked across the street and took a few short minutes, as we were sweaty and it was raining, to take in Bryant Park. This was where they set up the big skating rink in the winter! Right in the area was the NYC Public Library so I viewed that quick as well, and then we trekked back to The Roosevelt to shower and head off to lunch for some fuel.
We subway-ed it, per usual, over to Union Square, another area we had not yet hit. I wanted to find Union Fare, the block-long resteraunt that one of my all-time favorite New York food bloggers eats at almost daily. She always hits up the smash bar, aka the toast bar. So as I bet you can guess, I hit up the smash bar. I also ordered her usual: the ricotta toast with berries, and the avocado toast with veggies, which were accompanied by two of the place’s famous croissants: the red velvet and birthday cake croissant.They have both made their way into my instagram feed quite a few times, so naturally, I had to know what they tasted like. I could probably be rich if I wasn’t always spending money on bread in different forms, but what would the fun in life be if I spent it that way?
My carb-filled lunch was everything that Emily, my fav New York foodie, always said it would be. So as I crawled out of there with the happiest tummy ever, we walked over to Dylan’s Candy Store (I wonder if you can guess who requested this stop). The store smell like pure sugar, and made me feel like I always had after successful Halloween nights as a child. Liz got chocolate, and then we walked across the street to explore Union Square Park. Along the way we passed two men in front of McDonalds arguing about who was first to claim the sidewalk in front of the place as ‘their own’. We got out of there before it turned physical. The park was such a cute little walk, although with the rain it was not as long as I had planned, but I still wanted to see the area!
We stopped into a Burlington Coat Factory, one of both Liz and my favorite retail shops, and did quite of bit of walking. We got to see the big clock in that area that counted down to midnight and up from midnight, which meant it aligned at zero every night for only one nano-second. It was accompanied by a ball that followed the moon’s phases and a beautiful sculpture that represented God, the Earth, the past, and a few other major things. Without being told what any of this was you would’ve never known. It took us staring at the giant scene for quite awhile for a man, Ron, to walk up and explain to us exactly what everything was. Only to finish up with a plea for money. Once again, we had been scammed, but Ron was both nice and informative, so we weren’t too upset. Then we made our way to the nearest station in the park for the subway.
After heading over to Times Square that afternoon to purchase tickets for Broadway, we headed to the hotel to get all prettied up. It did not take us too long before we were ready and so we made our way towards our theater, which took us back through Times Square once again. We ate at a small cafe, and stopped at a Starbucks to burn up some extra time that we had allotted incase we got lost for some reason. We never got lost, in fact we were some of the first in line and got into the theater with much extra time. We were given our playbills and found our seats. After a bit of waiting, Chicago began.
That play was one of the most phenomenal productions I have ever seen. I haven’t seen too much in my life, however I can tell you that this was a high quality show. The singing, the dancing, the acting…. It was so very impressive. I couldn’t help but leap up out of my seat at the end while clapping and hollering for a possible encore, that never came might I add. I got to see some of the most well-put together scenes that I have only dreamt of being real. The actors portrayed their characters, or maybe themselves, I couldn’t even tell the difference, to the T. They held their notes, and their splits alike, for longer than the east is from the west.
I wasn’t feeling too tired when the production ended, so we decided to go and find The Momofuku Milk Bar and try their famous cereal milk soft serve with their crunchy cornflake topping. It took a short walk where we came within a block of the place that president Trump was currently staying at while there in NYC. The neighboring blocks were taped off as there were quite of few people protesting in the area. That did not stop us from enjoying the best soft-serve I’ve ever tried, much better than Dairy Queen if I do say so myself.
It was the morning of our last full day which meant mom had to take a few minutes in the hotel computer area to print off our tickets for our flights the next day. While she did that Liz and I went to the coffee shop right next to the hotel that we had not yet gotten a chance to try out and enjoyed some gorgeous drinks. After finishing up with all of our business we headed for our last breakfast adventure towards yet another cafe in Soho.
At Two Hands, which had been suggested to me by my friend Sam, I got a latte with the Market Bowl. It was an amazing place to enjoy our last morning meal in the city. It was also conveniently located next to Cha-Cha Matcha where I ordered their Pink Drink. It was only about 10am and I had already gotten three different drinks from three different places. I felt so New York… I loved it. As I sipped my hibiscus, rose infused beverage, we started to make our way towards The Bronx where our plan was to visit the zoo and the botanical garden. However we ended up taking a few of the wrong subways. We had had such good luck up until then, never getting on the wrong train, it was bound to happen…no one gets that lucky in The Big Apple! However we ended up on a train headed towards the Bronx after quite some time. About three quarters of the way we ended up getting off. As we got closer to the area, we began to feel less comfortable with our surroundings. We made the decision to visit the Central Park Zoo, which we hadn’t been to on our previous park day. Although the stop we hopped off at turned out to be on the opposite side and corner of the park. We walked half of the perimeter of the park, the length being somewhere near 40 blocks, to make it to the zoo. It took us nearly an hour, and quite a few stops for water! However, we did get to a zoo that afternoon, but not an ideal one.
The Central Park Zoo turned out to be pretty lame, not possessing at least half of the regular zoo animals you’d expect to see, and that they were advertising on all of their signs and advertisements. It was a bit of a lost cause, but we did see a few cute critters so it hadn’t been a total bust! All of our walking left me quite ready to tackle one foodie adventure that I had not yet pursued: eating a genuine New York bagel.
We traveled towards Tompkins Square Park so that I could find Tompkins Square Bagels, one of the best bagel shop in the city according to both Buzzfeed and Spoon University. When I got in there, I ordered exactly the order they both suggested, the one I had been dreaming about: their famous french toast bagel with cake batter cream cheese. I had one half with the cake batter, and the other half cookies and cream. Buzzfeed warned me it would be like taking a bit into sugar, and they hadn’t been lying. I am not sure I could eat another anytime soon, but I have to say I do not regret it. The crispiness of the toasted bagel against the smooth cream cheese. The warmth that lingered on the bread along with the cool touch of the refrigerated topping… the two were perfect pairs to each other, such a perfect contrast. And to top it all off, french toast plus cake batter and cookies and cream flavors, I had never imagined such a sweet combination.
On our walk back to get to the nearest station we stumbled across a small shop run by a Chinese lady. Her place was closing down and she practically carried us in there and had us looking at everything she was selling so that she wouldn’t be stuck with it in just days. We walked out with a large suitcase worth around 150 dollars for about 35… and it was a stroke of luck! We ended up filling it right to the 50 pounds that Delta allows per bag, along with our three other suitcases we brought which weighed nearly 50 each to begin with.
Our last night was a bit of an unscheduled free-for-all that we spent back in Times Square. The place was so gorgeous, and so New York, that we had to see it one last time. We took in the sights and the commotion. We ended up in Sephora, Forever 21, and Express where we did some shopping, and then went for dinner. For our last hoorah we made our way to Junior’s, know for their genuine New York cheesecake. So we got our last meal in the city and followed it up with the best cheesecake that has ever touched my tongue. I ordered the apple crumble and also took some of Lizzy’s red velvet. It was the perfect way to end our trip. We ate until we were so stuffed that we all gave birth to food babies, we laughed until our sides hurt, and just enjoyed ourselves. What a beautiful memory I have of that night.
The last of our time was spent walking and just absorbing the last bit of the New York-ness that I could. I got an ice-cream cone from Ice and Vice, had a latte from Va Bene, and we were able to, once again, give our leftovers from Junior’s to a homeless boy. He was just as happy as the last, and my heart was just as warm as before. It was such a perfect end to the trip, accompanied by Liz giving a man a few dollars to help a man whose dog needed surgery.
Back at the hotel, at nearly midnight, we began to pack our bags. Our Uber driver, the same from our first night, would be there in 3 hours to take us the the airport where we needed to be checking in at 3:30am. Can I just say that flying out that early, after pulling an all-nighter, following 7 days full of walking and little sleep, is about the worst thing you could ever do to yourself. I slept at every chance I found during the time in the airport and the flight and eventually we were back at the Minneapolis airport where we had breakfast at The French Meadow Bakery and Cafe yet again. I ordered their ‘Zone Omelette’ that had scallions, red pepper, greens, organic egg whites plus one yolk, goat cheese, and was accompanied by greens and organic, sprouted toast. What a perfect morning pick-me-up that was followed with my usual coconut latte from Starbucks.
A short plane ride back into Hibbing, that I slept through, brought us home at around noon that day. The sight of my father’s red Ford Escape caused my heart to leap. I loved the trip and the city, but there was one person I missed that I could not have gone one more day without, and that was my dad. His big bear hug was the best way to be welcomed back home. That night I got to spend time with him at Caribou and told him everything. That was followed with getting to see Cooper at home who I cuddled for hours on end. To finish up that day into the next, I slept a whoppping 11 hours. That is something I haven’t done in years, but it felt so good! When I first woke up I spent a bit of time in tears. As silly as it may seem to some, I loved my time in New York City. I have a heart that desires adventure, excitement, people, sights, all of which were endless on the trip. It was a hard reality to realize I was back home in Hibbing. However, I decided I needed to be thankful for the time that I had gotten there and that it was only a year until I could choose a college to attend. And as I said earlier, I already had plans to go back there for school.
My dad, Liz, and I had breakfast at our same spot on our first official day home as we had on our last day before our departure. We shared stories and hugs, and then it was back to work that afternoon at Caribou Coffee for me.
So to sum up my trip I put together a few different lessons I learned, some of the highlights, and summarized my experience:
- The city is everything I thought it would be, and I am in love. So many friends told me I would hate all the commotion, the people, the prices, etc. However, New York has my heart. I loved everything about the place. When I went there all I saw was inspiration, hope, excitement, love, beauty, purpose, and it was exactly what I had expected from it. Everywhere you look there is something new. There are people of all types there. You could eat at a new cafe and never hit the same one twice. Everyday the opportunities there are new and endless. The lights, they are so gorgeous and inspiring. The aesthetic of the whole city caused me to want to sit right there are just take it all in for hours and then go on to write about every last little detail all the way to the random Joe that was across the street. New York City, in the most simplest terms, is a world of its own… a world that I never wanted to leave.
- I am so blessed. I have nothing to complain about. I am not going to lie, I have looked at other people, longing for what they had and viewed myself as underprivileged. After traveling to such a large place, with such a big population, it really showed me that I have more than I could ever deserve. The Lord has blessed me with so much. He could have allowed my fate to be that of any of the homeless on the streets. But instead, for some reason, he has blessed me with the best life and family I could ever ask for. I might not have as much as some, but I definitely know now that I have plenty more than many, many others. I should be thanking God for what He has allowed me to have, because it could be much worse. I also have decided to make it a priority to learn to be more humble and giving. I believe by doing so that the lesson of being blessed will be able to penetrate me and help me start taking action by giving back to others and putting my person second.
- I am addicted to two things: lattes and avocado toast. This was not anything new, however, New York does them best.
- I don’t matter. For so l had always been worried about what I looked like, how I dressed, every detail of myself. The reality of it is is that you’re one in 8 billion on the planet. Being in New York City for 8 days really opened my eyes to this idea. I saw people of all shapes, sizes, ages, races, styles; people all over the board. I would see a tall, thin, blonde who I would think was absolutely beautiful. Then I would turn and catch my eye on a gorgeous, dark-skinned, native girl who was shorter and maybe a bit thicker. The beauty of the first girl did not change the beauty of the second, they were both gorgeous humans. They were both unique and had amazing personalities of their own. Everyone is different and uniquely themselves. You should not ever compare yourself to others. You may see a model and think she is perfect, but that does not make you any less perfect. And on that same note, there are millions of people and looks in that one city alone. You are not any more special than the person next to you. If you are having a bad hair day, or you’re feeling less lean, no one is going to notice. They see hundreds of other bodies daily and you are no exception. Stop making the thoughts of others your concern and instead start concerning yourself with what you think of yourself and where you stand in the Lord’s eyes. I would just like to thrown in two Bible references that have really helped me in this area: 1Peter 3:3-4 and Psalm 139. The first talks about how we should be focused not on our outward appearance but our inward self. The second is a chapter all about how much the Lord loves us, thinks of us, how we were delicately created by him. If those two references don’t make you feel loved, feel perfect the way you are, and realize that your appearance is not important, I am not sure what will.
- The last big point I would like to mention are the milestones I overcame on this trip related to my eating disorder and my OCD/depression. This trip would not have been possible a year ago. I wouldn’t have had energy to walk and sightsee as much as we did. I would have been too nervous of the possible outcomes of everything. The trip itself, as unplanned as it was, would have caused me to become too anxious. However, the biggest obstacle that would have kept me from the city would have been the lack of a scheduled workout and food routine. Although the trip was filled with plenty of experiences and sightseeing, it was also heavily revolved around food. After reading this you probably know that I did not have scheduled times to eat, I ate lots of desserts, there were not too many fruits and vegetables involved, I ate often and whenever there was an opportunity… Basically, everything I did was the exact opposite of what I did when I lived with my e.d. If I said there wasn’t some anxiety and guilt that accompanied some of the trip, I would be lying. However, the point is that I did it. I ate when I wanted, sometimes overate, I ate randomly, I ate what sounded good despite calories, I had desserts very often, I got multiple lattes a day. Not only did I do that but, aside for Soulcycle and one night that Liz and I checked out the hotel gym, there was no official exercise. What a race this trip was; a race that I won. Does that all mean that I have given up my healthy lifestyle? Absolutely not. I still love to eat local, real, whole, organic, fresh foods that are mainly plants. I also still enjoy the gym. This trip was an example, though, of what it means to live balanced. Going on vacation is apart of life, and naturally desserts and different foods accompanies that! I was not ‘getting of track’ but rather living my life. I am back at home and back to my normal diet and routine. If there is a day that I am offered a sweet though, and it sounds good, I am going to eat it. If there is a day I have to choose family time over the gym, heck-yeah you’ll see my hanging with my sisters over the treadmill. This trip really forced me to get uncomfortable in my recovery, in a very comforting way. Am I cured? No, but I am just one step closer to living in food freedom and learning to love my body at every stage, and learning that life is for living, not for running and for calorie counting.
New York City is the city of dreams. It is true when people say this. I would absolutely recommend that everyone take a trip there at some point, even just a short one, to experience the culture. I enjoyed every second, and once again learned lessons that will last me a lifetime. I connected more with my family, with myself, and with God. I will never forget this vacation. I hope by reading this it inspired you in some way. I hope you enjoyed reading of my time spent in the city, and that this brought a smile to your face if nothing else! I always seek to bring insight and light to others through Jesus and my knowledge… and I am praying that this post did just that! Thank you for being apart of my crazy life!