I’d seen New York probably a thousand times in my life – at the movies, through the TV and in the newspapers.
In fact, the Big Apple’s charm never seemed to die down for me even after watching re-runs of television series like Friends, Sex and the City and Suits.
Its bright lights would call out to me, from this city far away in the US, and I’d day dream that one day I’d eventually get there and see it in real life.
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When we moved to DC, just four hours by bus away from New York, I knew I was finally going to see it for myself in person. So when our sweet friend Vennie (a super-smart Bulgarian girl that we’d first met in Mannheim, Germany) told us that we could stay over at her apartment in NYC’s Upper West End, I was ecstatic and we jumped at the chance to head there for a weekend.
Two weeks back, Juan and I packed a weekend’s worth of clothes, took the metro to DC’s Union Station, and got onto our BestBus ride to NYC. Four and a half hours later, at around 11.30pm that Friday, our bus pulled over somewhere near Times Square and we got off. Unlike DC, which is calm and collected and spacious without many tall buildings, New York pulsated with energy and throbbed with life, full of tall skyscrapers with lights twinkling in the night sky. Tired from the bus ride but bright-eyed, I breathed in the crispy night air, and my eyes took in the people and traffic that seemed to be moving endlessly to destinations unknown.
NYC managed to steal my heart again, this time, face to face.
We moved quickly, in sync with the rest of the people in New York, hurrying to get on the subway to Vennie’s. After boarding the number 1 line, we headed north and finally got off at 110th, where we walked to the apartment and buzzed the doorbell.
When Vennie opened the door to let us in, we hugged each other tight – it was amazing to meet her again after almost eight years! The last time I saw her was in Germany during our student exchange in Mannheim, the student town an hour south of Frankfurt.
Vennie, still the ever thoughtful girl I remembered, had prepared grapes, cheese, crackers and hummus for us, knowing that we hadn’t had the chance to grab dinner yet. We sat on her couch, catching up on the past eight years over the next few hours, before we headed to bed, exhausted. (Vennie had so kindly given us her master bedroom while she slept on the couch, something I am eternally grateful for. Thank you sweetie!!)
Come Saturday morning, we awoke with the sun peeking through the blinds; it was a beautiful day, and we didn’t want to waste a single moment. We ate a quick breakfast of yogurt, fruit and nuts before walking with Vennie to see her alma mater – Columbia University – which was a five-minute stroll from her place. She showed us the beautiful library, her Mathematics building, and told us a bit about the school.
Later, Vennie headed back to her apartment while Juan and I continued with touring NYC.
The sun was shining beautifully, it was a gorgeous day to be out and I felt like a little girl in a candy store.
At Chinatown we chanced upon the small but famous H K Wonton Garden, where I greedily ate a large bowl of dumpling soup to my heart’s content. It was a particularly windy weekend, and the wind chill factor made us want to hide indoors, but we had more to explore.
We couldn’t miss out on the World Trade Center and Wall Street either, so naturally we headed there before the sun set.
That night, Vennie joined us for dinner at Senza Gluten, a famous gluten-free Italian restaurant that Juan and I had been very excited to try after hearing rave reviews. We started off with fungi bruschetta and homemade chicken soup, after which Juan ordered potato gnocchi with a delicious mushroom sauce, I got fettuccine bolognese and Vennie got spaghetti with meatballs. Dessert was tiramisu (of course!) and a expresso creme brûlée. Everything was so darn good, but the gnocchi was the best (it even inspired me to make my own gnocchi a day after we returned to DC – stay tuned for that recipe!). Later on, we went to bed extremely full but very happy.
Sunday morning, we decided to head out of Manhatten and go to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a quirky chic neighborhood with amazing vintage shops, plenty of bars and restaurants and clothing stores.
It was very cold, and after walking around a bit, we tucked ourselves into Fabiane’s to warm ourselves up, a casual dining place where I got an amazing salmon burger and we polished off gluten-free waffles topped with berries, cream and maple syrup.
By the time lunch was over, we’d only a couple of hours left before we had to catch our bus. So we trained back to Manhattan and got off at East Village, before walking all the way up to fifth Avenue and then Union Square.
I would have preferred to stay in NYC for at least 10 days, but since Juan had to return to work the next day, we got back on the bus and headed back to DC. Two days is simply way too short for a city that big and interesting – I only managed to catch certain parts and felt like I’d only glossed through it. We’re definitely going to have to return.
In the meantime, I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos!