I know the photo I chose above is not a typical visual of New York that people have in mind. This is the last post in the North Eastern adventures trip from November. Took me a while to go through all the towns, but I love reliving the moments by going through the photos and writing my blog posts. Before I get into New York, I want to set the mood; please press play below and enjoy! I think the music pulls the picture above, and this whole fall adventure together well.
If you recall, a month before I was also briefly in New York, and that was a more true “The City” experience. You can read and view the photos here. This trip was even more brief than the last one – we only had one night. I was able to drop off the rental car in the city without an additional charge (we picked it up at the Newark Airport), which saved us a lot of time and the toll fees for crossing the bridge back into New Jersey. Good job, Budget!
I didn’t take photos inside the hotel, but I booked it through Priceline Express Deals (as I often do), and we got a room at The Marcel At Gramercy Park. I was worried since the reviews complained about their tiny rooms, and I guess we were originally assigned a room with a full bed, but the girl at the check-in desk upgraded us to a slightly larger room without us having to ask. It was very similar to the Fairfield Inn where I stayed a month earlier. Location was good, but not as convenient as staying near the Times Square, but since it was a night before Thanksgiving Day parade, hotel prices, as you can imagine, were a bit over our threshold.
The drive from Boston to NYC was peaceful and relaxing until we got closer to the city. People must have left work early before the holiday to get out of the city, everything was in gridlock. But we made it through and it was kind of fun to be part of the NYC traffic. We dropped the car off at 4 pm and by the time we checked into the hotel, it was already 5. We had a few things on the check list:
1. Go to Times Square to return something to a store I purchased on my previous trip;
2. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge (I did that alone in October, but wanted to experience together with Dmitry);
3. Visit the Ukrainian restaurant, which I visited in Moscow.
After the first two items were complete, we headed to the Korchma Taras Bulba Ukrainian restaurant at W Broadway and Broome Street. It’s not a big space, but besides us there was only 1 other table, and it was a bit awkward as it felt like there was too much attention on us. At first half of the dinner there was a musician signing Italian songs, a bit unexpected for a Ukrainian restaurant, but that was pretty cool. We ordered hot borscht (the beet soup), which comes with bread and amazing garlic spread; blinchiki, aka crepes with meat filling and sour cream (it’s not Ukrainian if it doesn’t come with sour cream); and cherry vareniki, better known as pierogi, which had to be packed in the to-go container because we just couldn’t eat it all.
When you get ready to leave, the hostess sends you off with a complimentary shot of vodka chased with a small pickle. The food is a bit pricey, but the experience is worth it!
Oh, and a couple of interesting things happened when we were walking through the city earlier at night:
1. We saw a random statue of Lenin in someone’s entryway.
2. We saw cops bust an illegal bag salesman in front of Applebee’s.
Our original plan for the next morning, Thanksgiving Thursday, was to wake up early and go to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, however, inspired by all the amazing schools we had visited earlier (Yale, Brown, MIT, Harvard) we decided to avoid big crowds and headed to Columbia University instead.
I am so glad we did! It was so peaceful and quiet, perfect time to have some breakfast and eat out vareniki from the night before.
After the U we walked along Morningside Park, very nice park if you want something different from Central Park.
And on our way back to the hotel we even caught a glimpse of the parade! Felix the cat just made his way around the block and was about to be deflated when we caught him in action.
Overall, unless you have VIP tickets to the parade I’d say it’s not worth it. The balloons move pretty slow and at that time of the year it will most likely be cold, the experience is a lot more “pulled together” through the television screen. But if you’re in the area anyways, then why not?!
We had just a few minutes left to check out from the hotel and grab a bite at the Caffe Bene NYC. Obviously, we are fans – we go there in every city that has one.
From the cafe we ran to Penn Station where we were the last ones to get on the train to Newark Airport.
By the end of this trip we had visited half of Ivy League Schools (Yale, Brown, Harvard, Columbia) and MIT and travelled through 5 states (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts). Not bad for 1 week!
P. S. I must say, I was very impressed with Newark airport. It was my first time flying through it, I guess because it’s newer, it has lots of cool spots to hang out while waiting for your flight. It was quite different from the older worn-out La Guardia.