New York City, you either love, like or hate it. I don’t know if it’s because I like city breaks, or have lovely childhood memories of the city, I just love NYC. That said, I don’t love everything about the city. I dislike the tipping culture, the food stalls by the road side, the way people talk loudly on their phones, and the tacky looking (though air conditioned) subway.
Here’s a breakdown of what I did in 7 days on my last trip. It was a packed itinerary. Clearly, I could have done with an extra day.
Day 1- Ribalta Greenwich Village
One of the things I really wanted to do on this trip is visit as many restaurants as possible. Places that serve good quality food. I had no budget for shopping, instead I had a good one for eating well. At 53yrs old, I’d rather dine well than spend money on clothes whilst on holiday. This is the exact opposite of how I was in my twenties when I would spend all my money on clothes and eat crap.
We pretty much hit the ground walking shortly after we arrived at our hotel, Riu Manhattan Plaza on W.47th street. After sitting on the plane for 9 hours ( 7 hr flight + 2 hr delay), I welcomed the chance to stretch my legs, so we walked to Ribalta restaurant in Greenwich Village on E.12th street for dinner.
Whilst researching places that served good quality food in NYC, a few months ago, I came across Ribalta. It had great reviews so I suggested we try it out first and start the holiday by having Pizza! Ribalta is an Italian restaurant owned by Rosario Procino and Pasquale Cozzolino. The restaurant is famous for its true Neapolitan pizzas. According to Ribalta, “Pasquale only uses the mixture of flours for pizza certified by the Italian flour mill “Le 5 Stagioni” and the natural yeast coming from Italy, which makes pizza light and easy to digest”.
Authentic tasty Italian food
I’d read that Italian expatriates flock to Ribalta to feel at home. Everything in the restaurant seemed Italian and the service was good. The waiter was very helpful and friendly. We ordered 3 dishes to share, pizza, pasta and a salad. The food was tasty and fresh. The was pizza was soooo good, you could tell that it was made from the finest Italian ingredients.
Salad: Spinaci – Spinach, Mango, Pistachios, Golden Beets, Goat Cheese, Balsamic Vinaigrette. Dish contains nuts.
Pasta: Mafaldine Al Ragù Napoletano – Slow-Cooked Tomato Ragù with Pork & Beef.
Pizza: Can’t remember the name.
Day 2 – New York Library
Before going to Central Park, we stopped at the main branch of the New York Public Library now called the Stephen A. Schwarzman building thanks to a $175 million donation from the billionaire.
There are many branches of the New York Public library. The Stephen Schwarzman building is the main branch. It sits between 40th and 42nd Streets along 5th Avenue and overlooks Bryant Park. The entrance of the library is flanked by a pair stone lions which are the library’s icon.
Brief history of the library
The origin of the library dates back to the 19th century when 3 individuals had separate visions of setting up a library with public access. The NYPL came to be because of the foresight (and generous donations) of Samuel J. Tilden, John Jacob Astor and James Lenox. None of these men lived to see the foundation stones laid in 1902.
Construction started in 1902 and the library opened in 1911 with 75miles of shelving and over 1 million books. This landmark building is a majestic and impressive structure built in the Beaux-Arts architectural style of the 1830’s. Beaux-arts is an imposing and decadent architectural style which incorporates baroque and renaissance artistry. This style originated in Paris and it is the French national style. The building is fully marbled all through and is open to the public for research, exhibitions and quiet study.
We visited the ongoing Treasures exhibition where we found the first printing of the King James Bible and many other priceless artefacts.
Day 2 – Central Park
I’ve been to Central Park many times and I last visited the park in 2016 on a trip to the city with our children. I told myself back then I’d come back someday to walk the length of the park. In 2016, we walked to the park from our hotel W. 34th street, and it felt like a long walk. Because of this, we didn’t get very far into the park and the children declined to walk back so we hopped on a bus back to our hotel. This time around, (though the distance was shorter from 47th st) because I’ve significantly improved my walking distance since 2016, we strolled there, got as far as the Bethesda fountain on 73rd street and strolled back to our hotel for a 6pm meeting. It felt like a short stroll.
Located at the centre of Manhattan, Central Park is regarded as a masterpiece of landscape architecture. In 1858, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux designed what has now become a world famous park, to address the recreational needs of the people of NYC. Their intention was to create for the people of NYC, a place to distress and enjoy nature. Central park is on 843 acres (341 hectares) of sweeping grassy lawns, landscaped picturesque woodlands, serene ponds, streams, lakes and historical landmarks. Over time, other recreational activities like the Central Park zoo, 2 skating rinks, baseball and soccer fields, museum, concert and theatre venues have been added to the original design.
My goal to walk through the whole park.
I had a goal of walking to the end of the park on this trip. The park is 4km long from 59th to 110th street and 0.8km wide from 5th Avenue to Central Park west. I figured that, my goal to walk the length and back (being a much shorter distance than my weekly Tuesday/Thursday walks) is not overly ambitious and very doable.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it happen on this trip for because of time constraints. However, it still remains a goal and the next time I step into the city, Central Park will once again be the first place I head to. God willing, I shall be 3rd attempt successful.
For those who don’t like walking, you can experience the park by cycling or being taken around by the many tourist carriages available to hire in the park.
Interesting discovery about Central Park – Seneca Village
Did you know that there was an African American settlement between the W.82nd and W.89th street perimeters of Central park? This enclave existed from 1825-1857 and was called Seneca Village. According to history, Seneca village was a safe haven for African Americans who experienced racism in downtown Manhattan. The village was founded by free black Americans. The inhabitants of the village were land owners who purchased their land from a white farmer named John Whitehead.
The enclave not only afforded them an escape from the injustices of society, it also helped them create a new community where they could thrive under much healthier conditions. The city acquired the land and displaced residents of the village. Before it was destroyed, the village had three churches, two schools, three cemeteries and over 200 residents.
As I write, you can find The Metropolitan Museum of Art at this location. Hopefully, something about this village is in the museum.
“The beauty of the park should be the beauty of the fields, the meadow, the prairie, of the green pastures, and the still waters. What we want to gain is tranquility and rest to the mind.” – Frederick Law Olmsted, 1870
Day 3 – NYC Tour
Times Square is bustling with vendors selling New York City tours. If you don’t want a crappy tour, it’s best to do your research about the tour company before booking one. Viator, the tour company we used was recommended by an event planner. Viator is a TripAdvisor company which means, it’s a good one to have a look at if you’re interested in going on a city tour. Undoubtably, the benefits of doing a city tour are huge. You get to have a glimpse of the many attractions the city has to offer before deciding which ones (if any) to go and revisit for a more in-depth experience.
What makes a good city tour? Read about the whole tour here – What To Know About Viator’s 1 Day New York City Tour
Dinner at The Capital Grille, Rockefeller Centre
We went back to Rockefeller centre for some fine dinning at The Capital Grille. A nice and cosy comfortable, sophisticated restaurant known for its nationally renowned dry-aged steaks, fresh seafood and world class wines. The service was very good, and the waiters were attentive. I ordered steak and it was perfectly done for me – medium well.
Day 4 – Shopping and Lion King on Broadway
It’s quite sad to see the impact of Covid on high streets all over the world. As we strolled down 5th Avenue, an Avenue known for it’s designer shops, I saw a lot of shops that didn’t capture the essence of the avenue. It reminded me of my recent walk down the Champs Élysées in Paris, how that iconic street is now riddled with tacky looking shops and restaurants. The Central Park end of 5th Avenue has remained the luxury end of the avenue. It was a relief to see.
We stopped at Saks briefly before heading off to Macy’s on W.34th st where we had a light lunch at Stella Trattoria. There’s a great view of the Empire State Building from the restaurant.
Lion King on Broadway
More than 110 million people worldwide have watched Lion King in the theatre. Lion King is probably the most spectacular theatre production. It’s the show those who aren’t into theatre should definitely enjoy.
When my children decided against watching Lion King in 2016 because they didn’t want to spend $200 each for their tickets, I promised myself the next time I stepped into town, I would watch it. Obviously, I could have watched it in the UK but, I wanted to watch it on broadway. I booked our tickets way back in June to prevent history from repeating itself.
There are 41 Broadway theatres in New York showing a wide variety of shows. Even though our tickets were pre-booked, our tour guide told us people could get cheap tickets on the day from the red stairs in Times Sq. If you’re not fussy about what show to watch, seating and don’t mind queuing, getting cheap tickets on the day is a good idea.
Day 5 – Photoshoot, Highline, Chelsea Artisan Market & Blue Note
I was meeting up with my twin sister and 2 school mates from university. This was the first time the 4 of us were meeting in the same place in over 30yrs. As my twin and I were waiting for the other 2 in front of the red stairs on Times Sq, a young man approached us with his camera and offered to take our pictures for a small fee and a tip. He ended up taking about 400 photos of the 4 of us in about 5-6mins. Here’s a few of the pictures he took of me.
I suggested we visit to the Highline park. I wrote about this park in my 2019 blog – Must Visit Places In New York We strolled to the 30th street entrance of park from Times Sq. The area has changed significantly since my last visit. There is now a luxury shopping mall, restaurants and the Vessel in Hudson’s Yard.
You can’t miss the new centrepiece structure in the middle of Hudson’s yard. A 150-foot-tall polished copper coloured part sculpture, part structure called The Vessel. Completed in 2019, the Vessel is a tourist attraction at Hudson’s yard.
Inspired by the ancient stepwells in India, the Vessel has 154 flights and about 2,500 stairs. The idea behind the design is to give you different perspectives from different angles and vantage points as you climb. At the top are great views of the yard, river and Manhattan.
Controversy surrounding The Vessel
It has been closed since summer 2021 after a 14 yr old boy jumped and committed suicide there. He was the 4th person to die there by suicide since it opened in 2019. Consequently, many doubt if the Vessel will ever re-open.
We also saw the Freedom’s stand, a exhibition of black newspaper articles by artist Faheem Majeed. This was next to the Shed. The shed is a cultural institution where established and emerging artists can come together, share ideas and create innovative forms of art. The building opened in 2019 and was named The Bloomberg Building in recognition of the former mayor’s leadership.
Great memories are captured through images.
Chelsea artisan market
Dupe suggested we visit Chelsea market. We walked to the market on W.15th Street from the Highline. Chelsea Market is located in the Meatpacking district and is an internationally renowned food and retail market. Visitors flock to the market from all over the world.
At the market, you’ll find a collection of distinctive and diverse merchants selling artisan food, clothing, jewellery and lots more. This is the place to visit if you’re looking for quality, unique tastes, non mass produced art and fashion.
The market is open daily from 10-7pm.
Robert Glasper at the Blue Note
The Blue Note Jazz club in Greenwich Village is one of the premier Jazz clubs in New York. The likes of Sarah Vaughan, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles have performed at the Blue Note. Apparently, at the Bluenote, it’s not unusual to have the likes of Tony Bennet, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder come on stage from the audience. With a history like this, I was excited to go there.
The experience ended up being not what I expected, read the full review here.
Day 6 – Make Up and Birthday Party
My sister’s 60th birthday party day, yay! The reason we were in NY.
After breakfast, my twin and I headed to the Mac counter at Macy’s to have our make up done. You can get your make up done for $100 redeemable against purchases of the same value of Mac products. $100 is quite steep, in spite of this, I decided to do it because I had no time to shop for anything on this trip. I might as well buy some Mac products. Maria at Mac did an amazing job. If you ever need your make up done in NY, go to Mac and ask for her.
After that, I headed back to my hotel. It was nice to just relax knowing all I had to do for the party is put on my dress and shoes. The coach hired for the evening took about 30 of us in total to the party in Connecticut. The 1.5hrs drive was smooth and comfy.
The party was a nice lively affair with much grooving. The birthday girl quiz was the best part of the evening because I was in charge of it. Hahahaha! Also, when I heard Amala was on the menu, I ditched my plate of rice and ran to get some. Amala at a party in Connecticut, who would have thought? That was a genius idea! Needless to say, the Amala was so popular, it finished quickly.
Back on the coach at 10pm and at the hotel by midnight.
Day 7 – Autumn colours in Connecticut
The agenda for the day was, lunch in Connecticut and Sunday Jazz at the Red Rooster in Harlem at 7pm. I enjoyed the live Jazz band at the Red Rooster so much in 2016, I booked to go there again whilst still in the UK. At the time of booking, I didn’t envisage going back to my older sister’s place in Connecticut for lunch. Nevertheless, when that came into the equation, by my calculations, I figured we could still make the Sunday Jazz despite. Well, it turned out to be an overly ambitious plan that was not to be.
And, this ends my New York blog!
Oh, before I forget, here are some of the somewhat playful things that became a daily ritual. As you can see, I’m bit of a lively, fun loving, vibrant personality. There are somethings I don’t take seriously and do for the fun of it, like taking pictures in front of the mirror by the elevators at the hotel every morning on the way to breakfast.
And….there are some things I do take seriously, like strength training anywhere I am in the world. Needless to say, one of the things I look at first when booking a holiday is where to eat and how to exercise. I was pleased with Riu Manhattan Plaza’s gym. By the end of the week, a few of us ‘regulars’ started recognising each other at the gym.
Thanks for reading!