En Route: New York City

[written on the 1st week of October]

How do you move on from a place that has given you so much life in two weeks?

I’m sitting in my workspace in Manila as I’m typing this (for the nth time), jetlagged, daydreaming I was still walking the streets of Flushing as I take the Subway to Manhattan or Brooklyn, probably with an iced coffee on hand and earphones to make my commute bearable. I’d head to Bryant Park to unwind a bit and maybe grab a quick lunch at the nearest food stall. And maybe spend the afternoon locked up in the New York Public Library or check out the latest exhibition at the MoMA. Lastly, I’d drop by the nearest Trader Joe’s or get my art materials fix at Blick before calling it a day.

To be honest, New York never really spoke to me — I was one of those girls who was smitten about Paris the moment “travel” came into my dictionary. But ironically, after seeing the Eiffel Tower and visiting France twice in the last couple of years, I found no reason to go back. New York was different though; it’s a slow but sure immersion into a place I never knew actually existed. And it’s become a place that’s so vivid in my memory that I am itching to go back sooner than ever.

Since we’re here, thought I’d share a few of my favorite highlights from my recent trip to New York. I have to say, I’m not much of a tourist — so some of these are mostly simple joys that my introverted creative self is pretty glad to have experienced at some point in her life. Also, not to spoil, but I will tell you that THIS was the best trip I’ve ever had in my 24 years of existence. Read on to find out why.

Survived the New York City Subway

They say if you’re able to navigate the NYC subway, you’re pretty much covered when it comes to navigating train stations in general. Took a while for me to actually get the whole Uptown/Downtown thing (Google Maps thank you haha) and the different exits (because in Asia we’re always Exit A, B, C, etc or by number) but two weeks’ worth of traveling definitely helped. Also, the nearest subway from our place in Queens in the 7 train, which is probably the reason why we’ve become quite accustomed to long train rides (and lots of idle time in between). Don’t get me wrong though, I loooove long train rides.

Had coffee every day

Funny story: it’s those morning coffees that make me and Christie find the nearest restroom every time we get out of a station (okay this is so petty but it’s hard to find restrooms in New York – the struggle is real). Nevertheless, from those $1.50 coffees near the station to the ever famous Blue Bottle, it’s impossible to NOT have coffee in NYC. It’s a staple especially if you put in two girls who love their cup of joe on a daily basis.

Geeked out on art museums

My ultimate non-negotiable when traveling? Visiting art museums. I’ve only ever been amazed with the Musee de Louvre (Paris) and National Gallery (Singapore) but apparently, visiting the MoMA was such an eye-opener. Always in awe seeing masterpieces by my favorite artists (Van Gogh, Picasso, Kahlo, Dali, etc — you know the drill) and there was a special exhibition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work (he was the architect responsible for designing the Guggenheim Museum). Let’s not forget my obsession with museum shops (of course I had to check out the souvenirs!) after we viewed the exhibitions.

*To add: the Whitney Museum of American Art is another must-visit. You HAVE to check out all the exhibitions and visit the top floor for a magnificent view of New York. You’re welcome.

Spent my me-time at the New York Public Library

Library? Free entrance? Free WiFi? Designated desk space per person? Count. me. in. Was surprised to find out that the spaces inside New York Public Library are open for everyone. I was oooh-ing and ahhh-ing during my first visit (and forgot my art materials lol) so I decided to spend another afternoon here (the day before we left), in peace, planning my next trip to New York (it’s happening sooner than expected).

Visited my dream school

It’s been quite a while since I’ve thought about SVA (School of Visual Arts). Every so often I would request for their course catalog in the hopes of possibly studying here in the near future. Apart from the beautiful facilities (AHHH I LOVE THEIR LIBRARY), the faculty lineup is quite impressive (Debbie Millman? Timothy Goodman? Jessica Walsh? *cries*). I was lucky to find a campus tour schedule that coincided with my flexible itinerary (fate?), so we were able to spend a morning visiting the SVA campus. Leave me here, I’ll be fine, promise. *soon*

Went to art shopping heaven

For someone like me who ALWAYS goes art materials shopping (for “work”), I’m quite immune already seeing rows and rows of colorful tools for creating. I was wrong, though — went to both BLICK & Michaels and I left myself in awe. They literally have EVERYTHING here. I wanted to take home new tools to try but…baby steps. I got some gouache paint, wooden art boards and a few nifty tools for DIY projects. (I’ll share more about them soon!)

*Both BLICK and Michaels have stores all around New York. I visited the ones in 23rd Street. 

Saw my book at Strand Book Store (!)

Going inside Strand itself was mind-blowing (my favorite YA novel “Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares” was also set here, so you get my fangirl feels). All these books decked out in every corner made my heart skip a beat. But what made me even more #shook was heading to the second floor and finding copies of Hand Lettering A to Z tucked in the Art Techniques shelf. Definitely one of the most surreal moments I probably had in my lifetime.

(Back story: my initial New York dream was to really have a book published in the US and see it in the shelves of a New York bookstore. I was like, “Yeah, whatever, push mo ‘yan” but the universe wasn’t kidding — it really happened omg.) 

Met up with my editors / Participated in Maker Faire

Both my editors are based in New York and it was great to finally meet them in person! I’m generally shy but I was happy to have spent a nice lunch + museum visit with them while I was in New York (thanks, Judith and Joy!). I also just finished working on another book which will be out Spring 2018 so it was nice that we were able to meet prior to the release.

In related things, apparently Maker Faire was on the same weekend! It’s one of the biggest fairs in the world combining art and science. I got to meet my art director Marissa and teach lettering for a few hours at the BUST Craftacular Booth. 🙂

Tasted the best pastrami sandwich at Katz’s

A friend highly recommeded Katz’s Delicatessen, and little did I know that this was where When Harry Met Sally (one of my favorite rom-coms) was filmed. SOLD! We went on a weekday, but the place was packed, as expected. I gotta say though, we didn’t wait too long in line and we enjoyed every bit of that huge pastrami sandwich (which was gewd). 10/10 would go back for the corned beef sandwich!

Ate lots of food (a given)

I don’t know about you, but exploring New York will automatically make you eat a variety of cuisine styles. I was pretty happy with the bagel (salmon goals?!?!) at Bagel Express (I love bagels, so there’s that too). Also, trying out the OG Halal Guys (near Radio City Music Hall) was a treat. IT WAS GOOD! Like really, really good. We also had our fill of Shake Shack and Papaya Dog, among other things.

*Tip: Me and Christie don’t eat a lot, so most of the time we split on our orders and it really is an efficient way to save and at the same time enjoy the food.

Finally tried the big pizza slice too (yum) and the ever-so-famous Milk Bar store (ice cream was okay). Just going to put this here, I loved Magnolia Bakery’s Banana Pudding and Junior’s Cheesecake! Must try. I also loved the food we had in Costco (haha) especially the soft serve. 😀 #foodislyf

Walked the Brooklyn Bridge

I’m going to admit that this was one of the highlights of my trip. Only because we commuted from Queens with our respective coffee cups (see “Had coffee every day” part of this post) and we were rushing to the restroom when we got off at Brooklyn. But of course, we had to cross the Brooklyn Bridge to actually get to DUMBO where the restroom was. And we *had* to take nice pictures while walking because that was what we were after, anyway. LOL. Long story short, we managed to cross the bridge after an hour (the walk seemed long but it wasn’t, actually!).

I think apart from walking on this bridge, getting to see the view on both sides was so surreal. It was gloomy when we went, around 9AM, and the weather was pretty cold (don’t let my summer outfit make you think otherwise). There were a lot of people (no, not tourists) too because crossing the bridge was one of the more convenient ways to get to the other side of Brooklyn.

Had an “Empire State of Mind” moment

And I thought my touristy self would not show! Going up to Top of the Rock was my favorite. We also visited the Empire State Building which was also a treat — geez, all these buildings make you think you are just a tiny thing in this world. Or maybe vice versa? They look like finely placed logos when viewed from the top of ESB.

*FYI: Entrance to Top of the Rock is around $30+ (we booked online), while entrance to Empire State Building is $50+. I suggest choosing one if you’re not keen on visiting both. 

Watched a Broadway show

When Sara Bareilles first tweeted about Waitress a few years back, I knew I had to watch it in Broadway. So glad to have seen this live — the cast and music were amazing! I think I fangirled while entering the Brooks Atkinson Theatre only because it feels so weird to actually be there. To watch Broadway. (Don’t mind me I fangirl a lot for very weird reasons lol)

While I didn’t find Times Square to be as glamorous as my expectations (sorry!), I saw a Harry Potter poster and I knew Cursed Child was going to show here (Spring 2018 eep). BRB saving up for future Broadway shows!

Explored neighborhoods

Upper East Side, Lower East Side…what are these things? I only ever remember them from my attempts to watch Gossip Girl. Apparently these neighborhoods are what makes New York quite unique. My favorite was SoHo (Chinatown / Little Italy) — lots of good food, a bookstore / cafe rolled into one, lots of street art, and generally a good place to hang if you just want to chill.

Can I just say? Every time I step out of the subway, I see a different side of New York. It’s that interesting.

Cried seeing the Grand Central Terminal IRL

I had a few hours to spare before watching The Script on my last night, and since I went out to GCT as my exit (a few blocks away is 5th Ave where most things are, anyway), I decided to drop by the Main Concourse to see it for myself.

OMG IT’S SO PRETTY please don’t mind my very touristy photo of the concourse. But you have to enter and see it for yourself. The architecture is just amazing (I fangirl over architectural sites too, don’t judge me) and the influx of passengers all from different directions makes you feel like you’re in some sort of film. But okay, to be fair, being in New York always feels like a movie with all the picturesque places. 😛

Watched a concert alone

My introverted self is pretty proud that she managed to watch a concert alone. HAHA. Radio City is such a beautiful venue (curtains and all), and I had a fun time meeting fellow The Script fans (no longer an introvert lol) before the show. I was on the mezzanine, which wasn’t really near the stage (I watched The Script twice in Manila already, and I was able to see them up close before lol), but I enjoyed. It was a great night!

Have you been to New York?

What are places you’ve dreamed of doing in the Big Apple?

Always be creating,

Abbey 🙂

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