Earlier this month I got an awesome opportunity to go to New York for the 2017 Maker Faire. For those of you who don’t know, maker fairs are heaven for those who like to tinker, take things apart, re-arrange, and sometimes even create something new. It’s sorts of DIY engineering. Just to give you an idea for how big this event is, 95,000 people came to the event over Saturday and Sunday (Oct 1-2).
It was held at the New York Hall of Science, which is located in Queens. My trip was confirmed just 2 weeks before the event and by that time most hotels in Queen were booked. Which worked out well as I found a much cheaper option in Times Square with easy subway ride to the venue.
My United flight was five hours late with two of our planes being taken to the garage for maintenance 30 minutes before announced departures. Must be my October luck (if you’ve been following me, perhaps you remember my fiasco United flight to UK). But at last a third plane was found and we were on our way to the Big Apple.
It was my first time flying into La Guardia. Since it was a company trip, I could have taken a taxi, but I like me an adventure, so I found a kiosk that sells metro cards, found my bus, and as soon as I got on, my phone GPS stopped working. THANK GOODNESS I took a screenshot of Google Maps before to confirm I was on the right bus and the stop I needed to get off. I am very GPS dependent when I travel. Busses are slow, even if you’re not in Manhattan. Streets are small, lights are plentiful. I confirmed with the bus driver where I needed to get off, and found my way to the train. Ah, much better, Subway train, quick, not very clean, but super efficient! And finally I was at my destination – Times Square. Well, Bryant Park to be exact is where I got off.
I stayed at the Fairfield Inn on W 37th between 5th and 6th. Everyone raved about the awesome location being close to Times Square. I think I got a little spoiled when we went to NYC three years ago because we stayed not close, but right ON Times Square, Millennium Hotel, overlooking the Good Morning America set (I still regret we never woke up early enough to attend the filming). But W 37th was good enough and the hotel was nice and clean and I had a spacious king bed all to myself albeit the compact bathroom.
At this point it was around 9 PM and I was HUNGRY! It was time to go and look for food. I headed South, away from Times Square and got a bit carried away taking photos of the awesome statues along Broadway in the Garment District.
While taking pictures, I managed to lose my hotel key. I learned that you should never take the key with the envelope that has the hotel name and room # on it… So I had to trace my steps back and luckily I found it! I then made my way back to Times Square, where I recharged with a half pounder at The Counter. I set at the bar, the couple to the left of me got their food way before me, yet I finished to the last crumb while they were still working on their burgers.
Although I was pretty tired at this point, and it was wet and cold outside, I just couldn’t stay away from the glistening lights of NYC. It’s like the sirens calling on to ships so the sea man lose track of their time. I don’t think there is a better place to people watch than Times Square. I spent a few moments walking around, took pictures, saw that they moved my favorite Empanada truck to the other side of the Square, and was too chicken to take a direct photo of the guards (or are they SWAT team? idk), so I pretended to walk away and “accidentally” snap. The security in Times Square looked legit. I felt completely safe.
Coming back to my hotel actually got a sneak of the Empire State Building. The pink hue was magically diffused by the fog and the rain. It was pretty spectacular. It was a nice moment to end a long day of travel.
In the morning I skipped breakfast, grabbed some tea from the lobby and headed to meet a friend at Hotel Chantelle. It’s confusing, but it’s actually a restaurant. I snapped some photos on the way to the restaurant. It was the first time I’ve seen a Chinese Hispanic Grocery. And I wondered what NYPD was posing for.
The food at Hotel Chantelle was just OK. My friend got Eggs Benedict, which in my opinion was the best thing on the menu. I decided to go a lighter way by getting smoked salmon, but there wasn’t much salmon, and what was served on the plate was too salty and fatty. The bagel crisps that came with my meal were soaked in butter, so my “lighter” option probably had more calories and saturated fat than the eggs. However the ambiance completely made up for the average food. It’s a perfect indoor/outdoor spot and the Jazz Band was awesome! Go there for the mimosas.
I got pretty lucky, a friend was going the same direction I needed to go, so I got a comfy front seat view crossing the Williamsburg Bridge. I was worried that I missed a few morning hours of the fair, but OMG! The Maker Faire was huge and there was so much to see. In two hours I had to sit down and recharge my energy. There was something for everyone. Since I was doing research about upcoming education technology I stopped and talked to a lot of booths. Some of my favorites were the acrylic guitar with copper tape, the HUGE 3D printer, Destination Imagination, which helps kids think of design challenges, like designing a house for a pirate, and SAM button. With VR (virtual reality) being a hot topic among engineers and tinkerers alike, I was surprised to only have seen a couple of booths with this technology. I’ve been to a similar event before and it always gives me energy and motivation. Really, the mindset and motto of everyone in the maker community is “anything is possible.” There is no better way to learn than hands on learning.
In the evening I went to meet another friend, whose condo overlooks the whole NYC, from the Statue of Liberty, to World Trade Center, to Brooklyn Bridge, and Empire State Building. It was amazing to have all these iconic architectures in one view. After I was fed a huge dinner, I decided to take a stroll down the Brooklyn Bridge. It was around midnight at this point, walking up to the bridge I was a bit concerned as there was no one around, but once on the bridge there were plenty of people taking a night stroll, taking photos, and riding their bikes. I even went as far as walking another hour alone through Manhattan after crossing the Bridge. There were a couple of moments I was terrified, both caused by drunk teenagers, but I just kept my cool and kept walking. The fresh air felt really good on my cheeks. I was a 45 minute walk away from my hotel, but my feet were betraying me (I was at 24K steps at that point for the day) so I got on a Subway and crushed in my bed. But the emotions I received from the day were all worth it!
On Sunday I did not wake up at 6 AM to meet the sunrise as I had planned to. My feet were killing me, but I only had a few hours left in the East coast, so I sucked it up and went on a casual stroll to the Central Park. Last time we started at the South End and walked up to the big lake in the middle. This time I started North and walked down. North of Central Park looked so quaint and peaceful, yet still had a city feel to it. If I ever move to New York and could choose where to live, I’d probably choose this area.
With 10 minutes to spare, I went to Muji, a Japanese Container Store+Ikea hybrid. It was Okay a bit pricey for the quality, I thought.
I was rushing back to my hotel to pick up my bag and call an uber when I got yelled at by a police officer because I completely didn’t see him/ignored him. The street the hotel was on was blocked off for the start of the Polish Festival, he just wanted to confirm that I wasn’t just ignoring him. It was interesting to watch everyone in their red and white dresses and outfits and teenage girls put very bright red lipstick on. But I was out of time and had to go. I actually had built-in extra time into my commute to the airport, and I am glad I did, 5th was completely blocked for the festival, so it took us extra 15-20 minutes to get out of the City. Bye NYC, until November. 🙂