Long flight, but the journey started well. While waiting on the quay in Lausanne, I happened to not be sleepy but practice my smiling exercise– you know, it confuses people :)– but it works only based on action-reaction. So it was the chief of the station, Thierry, happened to be doing his 4th on site survey since December. He must have been happy to be out of the office, since he was in a good mood, so we had a short but very neat chat. This put me in a good mood.
The flight and the transfer went smooth. The 7h40 on the LHR-JFK elapsed quite fast and I hardly noticed when the plane landed with almost flapping wings. The aircraft, a Boeing 747, smaller than the one to Singapore, was impressive at take off when the whole structure seemed to be well.. less rigid than expected.
In NY the weather was very good, warm and sunny. We arrived at 7 ish PM local time. The luggage claim took forever but in the end worked out well. No welcome messages at the border check however. The transfer to the hostel was slightly trickier since someone in the airpot directed me astray a bit, but made it in the end. Was a pretty white night, since according to Lausanne local time, I ended up going to bed at 6 am. What a party! :)
Jet-lag says its word and I cannot sleep past 6AM so I get up and by 8:30 I am downtown. Surprise Surprise! Some of the shops open at 9, but most of them at 10.
To my surprise I meet so many Europeans in NY. First of all, the girls who does the check in for me is a black, very sympathetic and pretty girls of not more than 23, and she is speaking german with an obviously native speaker. I am impressed since she speaks a very good german! Then next in the morning, I meet accidentally a french student whom I accompany to a certain stop while she sends me in the right direction.
The metro system is surprisingly easy. At least to me it seems easier than the London one– maybe I did not put enough effort into it when there. It is dirty and doesn’t come as often as I would expect it to, but it is fast and efficient. The tickets are per ride, once in, you can ride the metro the whole day and it will still cost you only one entrance ~2.5$ I think. Expect an infernal heat when down there waiting for the next coach to come (at least in this period of the year).
Cars and buildings are huge! Like in Iceland, I guess they borrowed the model from Alaska. It is still impressive for me to see these exaggerated sizes compared to the European culture. I guess I wouldn’t be able to drive one of these cars without some pillows.
5th Avenue: the lower part is for shopping, so I spent most of my time there, while the upper part, as progressing towards the Flatiron building, was not jammed when I saw it, but then I spent most of my time in the shops. The traffic flow felt very calm in the afternoon. What I particularly enjoy in the local traffic is its smooth flow and the fact that most of the one way streets–there are many– are traversed on red :).
Three cornerstone delis:
- Dean & DeLuca was the first one that I discovered. It is amazing! the whole concept of having fresh products sold like on a market–well European market style– and in the same closed space to have corners where people consume instantly prepared food.
- Eataly was the second one that I discovered and honestly my favorite so far. It looks from the street like a small coffee bar and I just decided to pop my head in before taking the metro back to the hostel. Well, was a great decision: I spent there 2h looking around. The whole complex is based on italian food product selling and serving.
- Grand Central Market my third best surprise in this matter. Another neat covered market. This time, eating on the spot is less favored. Yet, it presents a fair range of products. It has just like the others, a strongly vibrant atmosphere!
Museums and art galleries have really something to offer, though I would have expected and wished for more institutions of this type, in such a big city. In any case, I enjoyed my time in the ones that I visited. I can only recommend them! I would say that Vienna is quite a good competitor at this chapter though.
Central park was pretty but I just saw part of it. The rest of the visit was in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I haven’t had the time to visit all but most of the exhibitions where I peaked in were worth the tie investment. A bit of Picasso overdose, some Miro –which I like a lot, some Brancusi and Giacometti. I also discovered that in my early elementary school I was on the same wavelength with Klee! ;-). On the other hand, I very much enjoyed the exhibitions on the New Guinea and African cult objects, impressing by rich and intricate decoration.
MoMA was however my favorite. Their art collection is impressive. A lot of new works as well as classics such as Picasso, Monet, Klimt, Brancusi, but more recent ones as well, in the contemporary section s.a. Andy Warhol and the following era. The museum is very well organized and the audio guide is perfectly usable with your own smart device. This is not entirely true when it comes to the Guggenheim museum. I left this place with a slightly confused regarding the theme of the exhibitions. The exhibited collections were nice — Kandinsky’s time in Paris and others, plus the building itself, but no clear structure about the collections on display at each level. Maybe I was too much in a hurry, thus haven’t dedicated the right amount of time to figuring out the missing pieces.
Empire State Building actually it all went pretty fast. Wasn’t that crowded as expected, but definitely worth the money for the view. Though I keep wondering if the Rockefeller building wouldn’t have been maybe better to oversee the ESB. For me the main observation deck was more than enough.
Shopping so far, to my delight, I could find some nice stores. Favorites are Club Monaco, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, Uniqlo and well, the Nordstrom Rack is really for the hardcore gold diggers. One could easily find sth, but it would better not be a scheduled must have.
South Manhattan offers a nice view over the waterfront, and an extensive urban jungle feeling. The skyscrapers are mostly steel and glass buildings. The most impressive site was maybe the Wall Street (Wiki: the name of the street was derived from an earthen wall on the northern boundary of the New Amsterdam settlement, perhaps to protect against English colonial encroachment or incursions by native Americans. A conflicting explanation is that Wall Street was named after Walloons—possibly a Dutch abbreviation for Walloon being Waal. Among the first settlers that embarked on the ship “Nieu Nederlandt” in 1624 were 30 Walloon families.) though I felt a slight repulsion from the whole district, when thinking of all the damage they caused to the World since 2009.
The list continues with a pleasant surprise in the hipster district, Williamsburg. The neighborhood looks pretty wracked, you wouldn’t want to hang around too long, and above all, sit in at one of the local cafes. But as a bit expected, once in, it is a totally other world. The two places that i visit, leave me with a desire to come back.
Technology. I cannot believe how much people rely on iPads around here. First night when I arrive, the check is done all the way on iPad. The reservation, payment with the credit card(!) my hostess simply connects a small card reader extension to it and paid! Then in the restaurants, reservations are done via iPad too. Well, thumbs up for making life easier!
One more day … Long Island
Was a great destination and a good timing. The so much awaited thunderstorm announced for the day actually poured cats and dogs on NY, but it was only on our way back from LI that we saw the aftereffects , aka we had a great sunny day!
Basically we did a section cut through the middle of the island, visiting the south beach (ahhhh! :) ) and then drove up to the northern part, for a delightful wine tasting in Baiting Hollow –very good wines actually that we tasted.
We finished the stroll by driving through Coram, up to the tiny, little neat village of historic Port Jefferson. A quick drive through tour on the Stony Brook University Campus, I realize that EPFL is really small compared to STU, yet going so much stronger for a good ranking.
- Flatiron Square –this is where one can find the Eataly Cafe and this was my last destination for the first day. When I entered and discovered the cafe, I was very impressed and just before that, I snapped this pic, where I found the clock to be such a nice European tough… maybe British?
- Got to sit down on a bench in the shadow and write some postcards in Battery Park. The view and the timing was perfect and gave me a pleasant moment in the heat of the day
- Rosemary’s turned out to be an italian place. a bit pricy, but the interior design was very much for my taste. Could be described as rustic, but in the same time, of high quality.
- the Blue Bottle Coffee place, Williamsburg. Love it! another hidden gem of New York. The place is awesome indeed. It is not the Starbucks of coffee choices, but I liked it more like this, just varied enough to satisfy a gourmand’s taste. I grab a New Orleans cold brewed coffee and a parmesan shortbread and watch how people do cupping just next to me. Soon I would realize that it was a pretty strong coffee, as I am enjoying my granola in the stop below, I feel some palpitations… :)
- Egg, same story as above. The place is perfect for breakfast or an early brunch, or maybe even more. I have a home made granola with yogurt and a wonderful grapefruit, to temper the coffee after effects.
- at the C’est Cheese, they have a great selection of cheeses, local and european likewise. But the most impressive is their menu, a very good selection of sandwiches, degustation plates and beers, from the merchandise they sell.
Coram, lazy end of the day …
More pics here.