I always love spending New Year's in a big city. There is something about that vibrant atmosphere and being in a crowd waiting for that exciting countdown to cheer. 356 days ago, I was in London enjoying the fireworks display light up the dark sky. Everyone was in the moment, sharing that spectacular feeling of belonging, hope, and reminiscence. I have to admit I didn't have that much time to plan what I would do for this year's NYE and going to New York was a spur of the moment decision.
I contacted one of my best friends and told her about my plan, inviting her to join me. She immediately agreed and we started making plans for our trip. We planned to leave on Saturday morning, drive down to NYC and spend two days there. Booking an Airbnb took most of our time; seeing as how there were only 8 days left till NYE, most of the places were already booked. I had found a nice place in Manhattan for a very good price but by the time we contacted each other and agreed upon booking it someone else had snatched it. It was by pure luck that I noticed Ethan's place, which was not too far away from Manhattan and was located in a nice neighborhood. Unfortunately, my friend had an exam and cancelled at the last minute. Ridden with panic, I contacted my ex-flatmate Marian, as I know she loves travelling and might be interested in coming with me.
Getting there took a while and although we left early during the day we only reached NYC at about 8 pm. Granted, we made a quick stop along the way as I had forgotten my shoes and had to buy new boots, but the drive itself took about 8 hours. Knowing that getting through the border would be a drag the weekend before New Year's, we took a quick detour and drove through Lacolle on route 223 and it took us 2 min to get through control. I strongly recommend avoiding crowded borders as the wait could take up to 30 min+.
While we had expected to arrive around 6 pm and skate at Central Park, our late arrival left us with little time to get the keys and prepare to go out into the city. We booked tickets to see the Christmas Spectacular starring the Radio City Rockettes at 10 pm, which meant we had to leave almost right away! Our Airbnb host was very hospitable and his dog was one of the cutest little dogs I had ever seen; seeing as how he was also leaving the house we all walked to the metro together and he gave us directions on how to get to our show. The show was SPECTACULAR, by far exceeding my expectations. I had never seen a Broadway show before and thought it was very well done. The show was very enjoyable for both young children and adults, with confetti and well done light-shows making the theater look even more grandiose: a definite must see! The show first appeared in 1933 and has since been revamped to keep the Christmas spirit alive for generations to come, offering performances each year during the holidays.
Getting home after the show was a drag. Compared to other big cities, New York's subway system presents many flaws. It took us roughly 2 hours to figure out how to get home as some trains terminated their services in the early evening and alternatives routes were improperly advertised. It was after calling for assistance that we finally received directions on how to get home as our efforts to orient ourselves or ask for help had been in vain. We asked four different people for directions and received four different answers. Even the assistant worker's answer was ambiguous, as she gave us directions on how to get home from a different station! On the bright side, the subways have WiFi and you can easily connect to the internet, so all hope was not lost for our friend Google Maps was there to help.
Tired and weary from our long trip, we immediately went to bed.
The next day was extremely cold. We hoped we would escape the cold Montreal weather by coming to New York but we were greeted by cold winds and light snow early in the morning. The weather made it harder to enjoy walking around in the city and while we did visit Times Square, The Central Station and the Christmas market, we had to take numerous breaks to warm our hands and feet. Going to the Museum of Natural history was on our list so we decided to walk from the Rockefeller Center to the museum and get a chance to see the Central Park. I grabbed some food along the way from a stand and was appalled to notice the meat was not cooked properly! My chicken kebab looked more like a stack of pinkish goo rather than anything else, and it cost me 7$!
We braved the cold that day and succeeded on checking off most of the things of our list. Firstly, we took the metro early in the morning to get to Times Square before the police closed off the gates in preparation for the Ball Drop. After walking for a bit we stopped at a cafe where Marian bought a little snack. We were right in the center of Manhattan, and we had a nice view of Bryant Park and its skating rink. Since Marian had planned on seeing Van Gogh's "Starry Night" at the MoMa, something which I wasn't particularly interested in, we decided to split up and meet later on at Rockefeller Center. I proceeded to make my way past Times Square, in the direction of Empire State
Building (which is much more impressive at night). My next stop was Grand Central Station, and I was amazed by how beautiful it looked and felt as if I had entered a Christmas movie, where I had to hop on the next train towards home. I quickly forgot about the time and realized I was going to be late for my meeting with Marian.
The next stop on our list was the Museum of Natural History, where the movie Night at the Museum was filmed. I was very excited to get to the museum, not only because it meant we could go to the bathroom and warm up a little, but because of its Tyrannosaurus Rex (or "Rexy", in the movie). I am a big fan of Museums and the fact the entry to the museum was by donation made visiting it even more enticing. After a quick bag search, we entered the museum, only to find ourselves surrounded by a sea of people, all crossing our paths from opposing directions. On the first floor of the Museum, we could find the Bernard Family Hall of North American Mammals. To the left was the Helibrunn Cosmic Pathway where we got to see a short movie on the universe's creation and learn about the formation of our planet. My main interest was the dinausaur exhibit, along with the Mummy exhibit, which were both on the fourth floor. Much to my dismay, the Mummy exhibit was a temporary exhibition and required an additional entrance fee. Because it was my one goal of the day, I stood in line for the ticket booth and was greeted by a rude employee. He was not patient nor very helpful and we could clearly see he was not keen on answering our questions. After we got cast aside (I had only asked how much it was and how it works..as there seemed to be specific times marked on the tickets), I gave up on my quest and we went to see the Saurischian Dinosaurs. The Mummy exhibit is unfortunately closing on January 7th. The Dinosaurs were fantastic! I took a picture with Rexy and walked among these giants still in awe that they had populated our planet millions of years ago. Marian told me an interesting story about s current fish species and their survival tactic, where they would go underground when the water dried up and wait until it rained. We could learn many things by studying our fellow neighbors, be it animals, fish, birds, or insects, and I just wish some humans treated them with more respect.
We spent about one hour in the museum and had to rush to make it to Brooklyn Bridge before the sunset. Since we walked along Central Park to get to the Museum, we decided we should take the subway and visit Lower Manhattan next. There, we walked South past the World Trade Center, the 9/11 memorial and the Stock Exchange. All very impressive buildings, withstanding time and home to some of the most important business exchanges. The NY Stock Exchange felt a bit like a tourist trap, and I was surprised to see a line-up of eager tourists at the entrance beneath a huge American Flag, which took away some of the mystic I had associated with the building and the tradings going on inside. Lower Manhattan has a nice vibe to it, and although I cannot quite explain the feeling, I was a bit more relaxed while walking on the streets.
We arrived at the Brooklyn Bridge just in time for the sunset and had a lovely (but cold) walk to the other side. The pathway is narrow and cannot easily fit both bikes and pedestrians, however, we were very lucky that the bridge was not too crowded and could walk at our own pace. Marian and I took some lovely pictures at the Bridge and rejoiced in the last rays of the sun.
We had a lovely supper at a nearby restaurant called Boon Thai, where the Wonton Soup and the Rolls were absolutely to die for, and let our feet take a break from walking when we got back to the apartment. While I was slowly regaining motor capacity of my big toes, we got ready to go out celebrate New Year's. After a quick shot offered by our host, we hurried to the subway and headed to The Comedy Club, where we booked tickets for their 10 pm show. The club had a nice hipster atmosphere, with places located close to the stage and little candles decorating our tables. Unfortunately, it was very cold inside so we could not take our coats off. The comedians themselves were great, but I felt as if the atmosphere degraded as we got closer to midnight. Sadly enough, we ended up missing the countdown due to a lack of attention from our host, and I felt a bit uneasy after the last comedian started telling inappropriate jokes. All in all, it remained a very pleasant experience as I got to share it with my friend and we had a few laughs along the way. We left the club and headed downtown, to District Social. Our host had told us it was a brand new bar and it seemed very trendy. He was not wrong. The music was great, the people were dancing and the place was very well decorated.Marian and I stayed there for a while, although most people were already getting their coats and heading home. It was very surprising for us since we weren't used to seeing people leave so early! Judging by the long wait at the coat check, we quickly understood why a line had quickly formed (you start to leave at 1 am but end up leaving the building at 2 am!).
We got home at about 3 am, and set our alarm for 8 am. Surprise, surprise, we missed our alarm in the morning and woke up in a panic incredulously looking at the time :12 pm! Our host was very understanding of the situation and did not charge us extra for overstaying, all while being surprised that we hadn't left yet (there were people coming at 1 pm). We quickly got ready and were out the door in 20 minutes. We were both very glad that first alarm did not ring as we felt rested and ready for the long drive back. We stopped along the way at an iHop in Jersey, as I was in desperate need of a warm breakfast, and finally sat down after a 40 minute wait. The breakfast waffles weren't as delicious as it seemed, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. What I recommend taking is the crepe, with cheese, mushrooms and chicken, as it was absolutely delicious!
We stopped for gas at Elizabeth Town, where the low lights, the "I'll get you" tune blasting on the stereo, and the fact that the first gas station was "out of gas" created an unsteady feeling in the pit of our stomachs. Luckily, we weren't in a horror movie and the town turned out to be harmless (making us look very silly in the process). We got back to Montreal at about 10 pm, where I had a nice shower and fell asleep right away.
If you are planning a trip to New York, check out my recent article for great tips on planning, getting there, and helpful websites!