My recent trip to New York City was once again one of those things I come up with to push the homebody into something a little more adventurous than my student life. Once the plane ticket is booked, I can’t get out of it anymore, which is good because up to now these missions have always turned out to be extremely awesome! So here are some things that saved my life in the Concrete Jungle.
1. Mama’s Pizzeria
After a forever trip across the Great Pond and a 1.5 hour ride through Queens and Manhattan combined with constant thoughts such as “Where the hell am I?” “I need FOOD! NOW!” “I want to sleep until I die.” and “No seriously, where the hell am I??”, Mama’s Pizzeria on Amsterdam Avenue (between 106th and 107th St, if you’re ever in that area) clearly prevented my entire system from croaking. They have humongous pizza slices with various yummy toppings for a great price and also very friendly people preparing them. By the way, shout out the nice black guy that talked Canon cameras with me on my second time around!
This tiny yellow paper card is awesome! It get’s you anywhere and everywhere, if you have the Pay-Per-Ride option you can even use it on the AirTrain to and from JFK Airport. Not so awesome are the barriers to get to and from the tracks, they’re about as wide as a needle eye and if you manage to squeeze yourself through one of those (remember it’s freezing outside and you’re wearing a coat that turned you into the size of an American football player) that doesn’t mean your suitcase will squeeze through, too. I won’t even get started on those turning barrier thingies that fit a supermodel but not a football player and definitely not a traveling one and I also won’t mention the doors marked with huge “Emergency Exit Alarm Will Sound” signs that everybody passes through without a single alarm going off.
3. Oriental Food Joints
They say if you only have time for one museum in New York, it should be the Metropolitan Museum of Arts. I agree. You pay what you want for admission ($25 for adults, $12 for students recommended) and get to see a huge collection of paintings, photographs (my favorite), sculptures and furniture from America, Asia, Europe and ancient Rome and Egypt. I have to confess that the best part of the Met was the falafel sandwich I got from one of the oriental joints on the street right in front of it. $7, but the best $7 I’ve spent in my life.
4. Google Maps
My general advice for New York is: Get lost! Seriously, you stumble upon the cutest little streets if you have absolutely no clue where you’re going. That’s how I found Gay Street. Since I was more lost than found most of the time, Google Maps really saved my life by getting me back to the hostel every evening. And if you think that’s just terribly unspontaneous and boring, let me tell you: You’re probably even more likely to get lost with a virtual map and a moving blue dot in your hand than without because you’re absolutely positive you know exactly where you’re going. Which you don’t. I can’t count how many times I walked a mile into the wrong direction before noticing.
5. Dunkin Donuts
Imagine a warm, old-fashioned doughnut with ever so fluffy dough coated in sugar paired with hot coffee after a long walk through the freezing cold of NYC. Definitely a life saver, especially if you can’t smile for selfies that should prove you were there anymore because your lips feel like they have been forever conjoined by temperatures below zero (Celsius!). Plus their coffee must be really good, since Ellen is advertising it on her show. I have no idea about coffee. I just like it hot.
6. Pick A Bagel
This cute bagel shop at Lexington Ave and 77th St made the best sesame bagel topped with two inches of scallion cream cheese ever. I’m drooling just thinking about it. Definitely a life saver and highlight of the day! Shout out to the sweet, disoriented German gentleman I met on that corner by the way – I hope you made it to 133rd St although I don’t think that’s even on the map.
7. Early Morning Times Square
If you don’t want to get run over, squished or crushed by people and also don’t care much for Kiss Cam (nobody kisses anybody anyways, it’s just a bunch of Asian people taking a picture of the Kiss Cam taking their picture), visit Times Square early in the morning. It doesn’t even have to be the still-zombie kind of early in the morning, 9 a.m. is still good. If you’re lucky you can catch the Good Morning America sign at Times Square Studios and if you wait a little until the crowds at Starbucks are finally in their offices you can have coffee and breakfast with real New Yorkers reading the NY Times, tapping away at their laptops or having casual business meetings.
Because that’s what New York is: Sitting in a warm place drinking coffee and watching the craziness pass by outside. And the food. Don’t forget the food.