By 5am we were wide awake, showered and ready to get out and explore. It had been 7 years since I was last in NYC, and that trip had no research or planning, so I was excited to explore the city properly. It was Amy’s first trip to NYC, the only other place she had been in America was LA & Vegas with me three years before.
We went for a walk in search of some breakfast, wondering what we might find in the depths of Chinatown. There were a few deli/supermarket type places, so we stocked up on cereal, snacks and drinks for the room and continued on our quest. Shortly afterward at around 7am we stumbled past Prosperity Dumpling. I remembered hearing great things about the four for 1$ dumplings, so somewhat unconventionally ordered a portion for my breakfast.
Amy got some Asian pancake thing and we perched on some stools munching away whilst watching them mass cooking more and more dumplings. Judging by the queues we spotted later in the trip these no doubt were sold very swiftly! Tummies filled we returned to the room to drop off our things and headed back out to suss out the subway. I hadn’t ridden it previously in NYC, but have all across Europe, Asia and in other parts of the US so assumed it would be more or less the same, which it was.
It was still early, and a Sunday which resulted in not too much being open yet. We set off towards Union Square for the Christmas market, distracting ourselves browsing Whole Foods, CVS and Forever 21 until it opened. By this point I seemed to have caught my boyfriends “man flu”, so loaded up on cold & flu medicine, which I thought was outrageously priced compared to back home! To soften the blow I threw in a few giant bags of peanut butter and birthday cake m&m’s.
We picked up more snacks in Whole Foods where my friend went hog wild at the dairy-free baked goods section due to her allergy. A Christmas jumper was calling to me in Forever 21 as well, so we’d already done a fair bit of shopping before even entering the Christmas market! Finally it opened and we wandered around for a while browsing all the funky stalls. There were a lot of cool ideas for Christmas, I didn’t buy anything this time around but Amy loaded up.
Before long we were hungry again, Amy tried some giant meatballs from a stall there and I experimented with some innovative macarons from “Macaron Parlor”. The salted caramel one was average, but the maple bacon cream cheese flavour was out of this world! A genius idea that would probably be far too out of the box at home.
Next was a stroll to Bath & Body Works as I love this store, especially all the funky scented miniature hand sanitizers. I found a bunch of Christmas gifts here too, getting distracted along the way in Sephora where I treated myself to some makeup. Today was an expensive day already! I was starting to feel a lot worse so kept myself dosed up on pills whilst we took a stroll toward Grand Central.
The weather wasn’t so cold, but very wet and quite windy, which wasn’t ideal for my current state! Still, I prefer to walk rather than subway when I can as you see more and get a feel for the city that way. Last time I was here it was the middle of summer, so there was quite a difference, but the whole city felt festive which was great – so much more Chrismassy than the UK, even in London.
After a general browse we checked out the holiday market here, but weren’t too impressed – it was very high end and we weren’t too keen on the limited selection. Overall the Union Square market had better prices, more variety and trendier items to choose from.
At this point my brain wasn’t functioning too well under the cold, and my normal planning-organising-and-decision-making self was struggling, so we nipped back to the hotel to drop off our bags, warm up and have a bit of a rest. Somewhere along the way I found Vivi bubble tea and had to indulge, along with some salt and pepper chicken that we munched whilst meandering back to the hotel.
There was a short recovery period, and then we set out for Rockefeller centre to see “Top of the Rock”. We rocked up (ha) a little early so got briefly distracted by the gift stores and shops, and I was surprised by how tiny the ice rink was – it always seems so much bigger on the TV. The tree wasn’t lit up yet but was ready for the lighting ceremony in a few days.
We joined the queue early hoping to make it to the top before sunset. The sky wasn’t the best, so there were no real bright colours, but it did get prettier as it got darker. It was interesting to see the full view of Manhattan and the surroundings, although this was ruined slightly by the dominant neon red H&M logo off to the right!
After a while it got super busy at the top, and we had seen everything there was to see, so headed down to explore nearby. We went on a spontaneous walk past Radio City and a bunch of festive lights, then across to Times Square. A few things had definitely changed in the last 7 years, but a lot was the same. The giant Android screen was a bit overpowering and I don’t remember the red steps being there either. It did seem to be a bit of a gathering point for protestors and other attention seekers – some entertaining, some borderline scary!
We did the touristy thing and had a quick tour of M&M world and the Hershey store. They were packed full, I guess a mixture of the location and time of year meant people were on a serious shopping mission. Everytime I complain the M&M store is overrated, but still cant stop myself going in to check it out, even at the one in London! We were disappointed to find out the raspberry and coconut m&m’s had been discontinued though – this was the fun part for us, buying and sampling all the flavours we can’t get at home.
I had heard a bit about Dave and Busters so when we saw a sign right nearby we decided to check it out, but it was more of a kids arcade with everything paid in tickets – I hate that, I want to play for real money, hence the several trips to Las Vegas! My cold was now in full force so it was time to catch the subway back – this wasn’t great timing as we would have liked to stay out for dinner, but with eyes streaming and constant sneezing I didn’t want to inflict that on a restaurant full of people!
Once back to the room I really didn’t want Chinese food again, and wasn’t sure I had an appetite so my friend picked up some Kung Pao chicken and we retired to the room, I think the mix of the cold and the jet lag was making everything feel more extreme! This was one of the times I found our location frustrating, it would have been nice to have just a 7eleven to grab a quick snack, but without a bit of a walk our only options were Asian supermarkets or Chinese takeaway.