The Big Apple

Who knew that 6 girls that have never been on a road trip (where we had to be in control of the road) would make it safe and sound to the Big Apple all by themselves?!? Ya, we’re pretty proud of ourselves too!!
With all the chaos surrounding our departure (we had last minute issues with our van rental) we are ever so grateful that we are finally HERE!
Sitting in a van with 6 girls for over 8 hours is not good news. It’s amazing we didn’t kill anyone on the way, and boy did the van stink!
Road trips are always exciting in the planning phase but with so many people it’s usually a gamble as to how well it will actually turn out. Having too many people navigate can also be problematic, and with none of us having any New York City driving experience, all of us were pretty anxious about getting here without being lost (although we did have to stop and ask for help numerous times). We were also kind of stupid for leaving at night but we wanted to make the most of the 4 days we managed to get off from work.

the van and the girls

The main purpose of our trip is to explore the city but also to visit my cousin Judy who is currently living in Brooklyn. We were lucky enough to have her neighbour let us stay in his apartment while he is visiting family. 5 girls in a one bedroom Brooklyn apartment is kinda tight, but we’re not complaining seeing how expensive everything is down here. We aren’t too far from the city (meaning Manhattan where all the excitement is), about an hour by transit.
We’ve got numerous plans to take in the city, specifically the night life, the arts, the culture and some of the sights (cuz NYC has enough sites to keep you busy for weeks).

Looking like Pocohontas in my pigtails

 Our first night we ventured into Manhattan. We met a friend for dinner and wound up in the SoHo district where I was harassed by a homeless man for looking like Pocohontas. That incident kinda sums up NYC for me.. you come across the most random yet interesting people on the streets of New York. Everyone is so different from the other. It’s not exactly multi-cultural but more like multi-layered in regards to people of society in Manhattan. The divide is great between the rich and poor which is clear with upper and lower east and west sides (I’m still not sure which side is the wealthier one) and being defined by not just where you live, but HOW you live. Most of the minorities also reside in the suburbs of Brooklyn, Bronx and Harlem since Manhattan is very pricey for pretty much everything. The public transit is also pretty horrible with 1 in 10 trains having A/C and all the stations reeking of urine.

The divide is also evident in dining and shopping, especially since these two are also every New Yorkers’ fave past times. We walked into what we thought was an Italian restaurant only to be charged an arm and a leg to eat dishes we had no idea how to pronounce. It got some of my girlfriends quite frustrated, why can’t pizza just be pizza? But put a fancy name on it and you can charge whatever you like for it! We were so hungry we couldn’t complain, UNTIL the bill came. Even though it was our first night in NYC and we wanted to do much more, we were all indescribably exhausted so we had to crash. Did I also mention how humid and hot it is in the city right now? We have all given up on make-up.

We made up for it the next though because we had a jam-packed day and an even better night (sort of!).
We had to get up early to get to Manhattan because we were all eager to watch a play on Broadway. Luckily we were able to get last minute half price tix to watch the Phantom of the Opera which was amazing! After the play some of us shopped around while the rest of us (including me) hit the museum to soak in some culture. We got to the MET just before closing so we’re not sure if we snuck in or not since no body at the entrance really asked us anything. Because we only had about an hour before closing we split into 2 groups and split.

After the MET we took a stroll through Central Park, but it was already dark. We have easily managed to master the NYC transit system with its numerous lines and with a metrocard it’s very easy to get around the city. By early evening we checked into our hostel for the night which was located in Chelsea. We got 2 rooms but they were in different buildings so we ended up getting ready in one room. Again, the rooms are uber small but we managed. I really don’t understand how New Yorkers can deal with such small living space?!
The hostel was also pretty grimey, looked like something from the 60’s but we just needed a place to come back and sleep in after a late night of partying.
We headed into the Meatpacking district which is infamous for the club scene. After waiting in line for a club known as One, my friend Avi and I decided to jump the rail into the smoking section. We got sick of waiting. The bouncer saw us and conveniently ignored us so we were left to party on our own while we waited for the rest of our friends. This club was pretty jamming and had a mix of people. Since New York lacks a major population of Indian/Sri Lankan females, we were quite the attention getters tonight. After a good few hours of dancing a man decided it was time to end the night, American styles, and started a fight with another man. Unfortunately, my friend got caught in the middle and ended up scabbing her knee. Good thing Judy is a doctor in the making! It definitely came in handy.

being mummies at the MET

After that incident the club closed and it was only 4am so we went looking for an after hours place. We were positive that something had to be open but being as intoxicated as we were, it was quite the task to locate one. So after sitting around on the street and grabbing food at a convenience store (there is always somewhere to go for food at any time of day here), we gave up and crashed at the hostel.
Ellis Island museum

Our last day in New York City had to be memorable so we decided to do some touristy things (even though it’s the most unbearable thing for me) since for most of my friends this was their first venture into the Big Apple. We waited in line for almost an hour to board the ferry to visit Miss Liberty. We didn’t end up getting off at the island to really explore since it was really busy. Instead we got off at Ellis Island, a place that I never knew existed until watching Hitch.
Ellis Island is a historical landmark because it was the point which all immigrants had to pass through before arriving in New York City. The island consists of one big building which the immigrants would go in to register themselves; it’s now preserved as an immigration museum reflecting on the emergence of multiculturalism in NYC. It was definitely educational but not as entertaining as one would like.

with Lady Liberty in the background

We had enough time left to make a short stop to the infamous Canal Street to get some quick shopping done. We split into groups for efficiency. Avi and I knew exactly what we were looking for so it made it much easier to get our job done. I ended up getting a nice pair of aviator-type sunglasses for 5 bucks before heading to a store to check out some knock off bags. As soon as we entered the guy at the counter took us into a back room and began to ask us how much. We were confused; we were the customers, don’t we ask the questions?

Apparently on Canal Street the secret to getting good deals is to bargain, a skill that I have never quite been able to conquer. Fortunately for me I did end up with a good deal for a Coach wallet and bag.
Avai didn’t find what she was looking for so we kept walking until a boy came up to us in his broken English and began the usual chatter of “Versace, LV, Guess.. what you want?”. We nodded and headed behind him, not really knowing where he was taking us but we knew this was the thing to do in this part of town; you just nod when the names are thrown at you not be alarmed when you are taken into unknown corners. Luckily I wasn’t alone so for Avi and I, this was an interesting adventure.
We were finally taken to a white van parked in the middle of a random busy street. The windows were tinted and because I had already heard stories of shady purchases inside vans I wasn’t too worried. The door opened from the inside and Avi and I were called inside. The van was a mobile showcase of bags! There was a bench for us to sit on while we examined the products and Avi scored a good deal. Then the lady in the van called someone (probably the boy who was waiting around the corner to make sure there was no one watching this illegal sale), said a few words in Chinese and then told us it was clear to get out. It was the strangest purchase ever but quite exciting as well. We felt that we had finally had the ‘real’ New York experience.
the cowboy at Times Square

After heading back to Brooklyn we wanted to celebrate our last night in New York so we dressed up and went in search of a club. We were told that Bedlam was where there were some cool, hip bars and clubs so attempted to catch a cab since the subways closed at 1am (we lost track of the time since 5 girls getting ready in a tiny apartment is pretty hectic). Unfortunately for us none of the cabs would stop (they were all empty), and the one that did claimed that they did not know where Bedlam was, but we knew he was lying since Bedlam is a well known area in Brooklyn but we just didn’t know why. We didn’t expect Brooklyn to be so dead on a Sunday, wasn’t this New York city?!

Finally we gave up and decided to hit the salsa club which was a 5 minute walk from where we were staying. As soon as we walked in we felt that now we were really in Brooklyn; the club was filled with only Puerto Ricans. The bouncer was very friendly and knew right away from our accents we were Canadian and took it upon himself to protect us for the rest of the night. The live music was incredible and the Puerto Rican boys took turns dancing (or trying to teach us how to dance salsa) with all of us.
Finally as the night ended we were warned not to leave the club alone because we will be followed. This was quite appalling for us but the bouncers insisted to walk us home even though it was barely 5 minutes and so we let them. As we walked home we realized that they were not exaggerating; they showed us a van that did follow us and waited around the corner so we took a longer route home, totally blown away by how unsafe Brooklyn really is. I guess sometimes movies don’t lie.

We woke up realizing we had to leave today. It was a short trip but an eventful one. After grabbing some fresh tacos, we hit the road for an 8.5 hour drive home.
I can’t really say I love New York, but there is lots to see and I might have to return one day. And this time, I will know to be more cautious.

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