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NYC Trip Report: Solo Female traveller with a penchant for wandering

NYC Trip Report: Solo Female traveller with a penchant for wandering

Old Nov 20th, 2009, 09:04 PM
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NYC Trip Report: Solo Female traveller with a penchant for wandering

NYC Trip Report: Day 1: MOMA, 5th Ave and sushi

Compiling my trip report while it’s still fresh in my memory; I’m leaving Sat. am from Newark and I have some time to kill in my hotel room in between packing for the return trip. The weather this week has been delightful, in the upper 50s, sometimes low 60s with it raining only once.

This week I was in DC for a conference and on the 18th took the Amtrak train from Union Station to Penn Station. Around 3 hrs for the trip and the one-way cost was under $80. Plenty of seats and the ride was smooth and fun. I would recommend this vs. driving or flying from the two cities. Emerging from the train station, I was a little confused----it was loud, crowded and I had no idea where to go. The line for the cabs was about ½ a city block so I dragged my two bags and hiked down the street until I hailed a cab. I was very excited to finally be in NYC. I opened the cab window and hung my head out like a dog, I’m sure my cab driver thought I was nuts.

My sister in law was supposed to go with me but due to a family emergency, I was forced to go by myself. I was a little scared, and I did troll this site as well as others to ensure that a single female visiting NYC didn’t have a lot to be scared of as long as she used her wits and picked the right place to stay in. Due to the feedback from my earlier posts (under cammci---long story can’t get my password and had to create a new account), I chose the Affinia Shelburne in the Murray Heights area. Very good choice and I never felt scared walking by myself at any time. It’s a nice residential area, well lit with a lot of good restaurants near by. Grand Central Station is only a few blocks away and I used the Lexington Ave 4, 5, 6 train a few times to get where I needed to go. I bought a 4 trip Metro Pass (like around $8 and some change) which I thought was a good deal. Each subway trip is $2.25.

The Affinia is a boutique hotel. I had a room on the 8th floor and I’ve read other posts where guests had troubles with the thermostat—well this happened to me too. Interestingly you can open the windows the entire way, which unnerved me because anyone can fall out. Bed was very comfortable, with the bathroom being small, but the counter space was huge to lay out all my toiletries. Staff very friendly and knowledgeable. I wish they would give out free Internet, you think they would with the room price, but I guess paying $13.95 a night is another way to make more money.

Tim Burton is currently having a show of his artwork and projects at the Museum of Modern Art. He was having a book signing on the day I arrived and I naively thought I could just go there, show up and get my 10 sec. with him. Wrong---hundreds of people showed up that day and only 300 or 325 got tickets to have him sign a book. Since his show wasn’t available to the gen pub till the 21st, I took the plunge and got the museum membership so I could see his show. Those of you who are a fan of his (directed Nightmare Before Christmas, Sleepy Hollow, Willy Wonka) should definitely go to MOMA and see his show. http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/313
I loved it. Sometimes it was just as interesting to watch the others who were there to see his stuff, they looked as if they walked right off the pages of an art book.

I noticed another thing about New Yorkers (maybe I’m assuming they’re all natives), but people here sure like to smoke! I had my first hot dog from a street vendor---it was cheap and very tasty (the hot dog!).

After the show, strolled down Fifth Avenue, stopping at NBC studios and Rockefeller Plaza (tree is still being decorated) and watched the Zamboni put fresh ice out on the rink.

Dinner that night was a local restaurant in the Murray Hill area, just around the corner from my hotel: Hiroshi, who bills itself as “Japanese Fusion” (585 3rd Ave.). I had the Tom Yum soup, a very spicy soup w/shrimp that left my mouth burning. The Chilean sea bass spring roll was tasty. The Godzilla Roll (spicy tuna w/avocado) was just ok. I’ve had better spicy tuna in Iowa. Good atmosphere—I would return. Picked up snacks at a local Delmonico’s.

Shopping Pick: Strawberry’s, located on 129 East 42nd street (right above the subway entrance). Inexpensive items similar to a Gordman’s or a TJ Maxx.
http://www.strawberrystores.com/location.php. Got a great jacket for under $20 bucks!

Next day: Museums, Macy’s and mouth full of fire!
cammci34 is offline  
Old Nov 20th, 2009, 10:09 PM
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NYC Trip Report: Day 2: Museums, mummies and a cat with flowers.

Feet sore, joints aching, this is how I awoke to my 2nd day in NYC. Told the husband I want one a pedometer for Christmas because I want to know how many steps I slog every day in my travels. Anyway I wanted to get my hair done in NYC so it would be pretty while I was there…so I went to a neighborhood salon located on east 40th and Lexington. Cost was $35 for a wash, blow dry and flat iron style. Maybe this is a good price for the city, but it’s pretty high compared to Iowa prices. My stylist was a heavyset middle aged man, I’m assuming who was Greek. He asked me where I was from, and I said “Iowa, by Nebraska, Kansas.” He must have assumed it was another country because he said, “Your country, they have beautiful ladies like you there?” Of course I said. When it was time to put a finishing product on my head, he took his massive hands and squeezed my head. There’s a scene in “Gone With the Wind” when Rhett Butler takes Scarlett’s head in his hands and says “I’m going to squeeze Ashley Wilkes right out of your head” or something to that nature (Scarlett calls him a fool). Anyway, that’s all I could think when he kept rubbing my head that way---I had to laugh out loud---because that’s exactly how it looked.

Afterward, with a glowing head of soft hair, I took the subway to the Neue Gallery. My intent was to see the Klimt collection, specifically the Adele Block-Bauer portrait.
http://www.neuegalerie.org/main.html?langkey=english. When I was in Vienna in ’06, I wanted to see this portrait, but by the time I got to the Belvedere, it had already closed. So when this painting had been sold to the Gallery, my goal was to go see it as I’m a huge fan of Klimt. Price was $15 for admission. I had read in other travel sites or books this museum is over priced and I can’t say I disagree with them. I’m glad the audio tour is free, because there wasn’t much to listen to (small selection). The lithographs were really cool. Adele’s portrait is on the 2nd floor, just as you top the stairs and enter the main salon. It is quite beautiful and I’m glad I got to see it. I ease dropped on a tour guide talking about the painting. Afterward I went into the museum café and had a coffee. The hot chocolate looked really good---I’d recommend that if anyone wanted to get a taste of being in a Viennese café. When I was in the gift shop an unusually handsome man strolled in, wearing a long black coat, with a tuffed up fur collar. He smelled good. Obviously he knew he was a looker because he walked around the joint as if to say “look at me.” This stranger was one of many that caught my eye during my trip.

People watching was also one of my favorite highlights. I noticed almost all the women in NYC are wearing boots (usually black, to the knee), with tights. Jeans are either tucked into boots, or they’re wearing them w/tights and a short dress. NYC is a very stylish place to be in, just like being in Europe. Didn’t see a lot of people or tourists wearing white tennis shoes though, most were wearing good walking shoes, usually black.

After the Neue, I walked around the outskirts of Central Park, by the reservoir. The park is really pretty, but I didn’t get to see as much of it that day. Walked to the Metropolitan Museum of Art http://www.metmuseum.org/. I went to one of those outdoor food carts and got a lamb gyro, slathered in hot sauce of some sort. This stuff burned my mouth, but oh I loved it. I sat eating this on the museum steps and enjoyed some outdoor singers singing “Under the Boardwalk.” In the Met, I wanted to concentrate on the Egyptian wing. I paid the full $20 even though I know you can pay less. Ahead of me in line this lady paid $4. The teller was a little surprised I can tell, but he didn’t give her any grief. I liked seeing all the old jewelry, liked the armour and weaponry and was starting to get Egyptian overload but took a break by visiting the European painting wing. Even for the $20, I’d say this museum is well worth the trip and expense. This is on par with fine European museums like the Lourve or the British Museum. Though, for some perverse reason, I had visions of Angie Dickenson and Michael Cain roaming through the halls and outside steps like in the movie “Dressed to Kill.”

Ate dinner at Les Halles. Being a solo I got in pretty easy around 6ish for dinner, however, around 7 or 8 it was very busy and there were many waiting for a table. http://www.leshalles.net/ny_park.php. This was a fairly easy walk from my hotel as I went to the 411 Park Ave. South location. I had the cassoulet “Toulousain”, a white bean, bacon and sausage dish, it was tasty. A lot of other patrons were eating the steak and fries dinner, but a French guy at another table had the steak tartare, which the waiter prepared right at his table. He gobbled it up, so it must have been good.

From there I trudged (my legs were getting so tired, my belly was so full) to Macy’s. Maybe it was the spicy gyro from lunch or all those beans, or maybe it was the head thrashing I got from my hair stylist from in the morning, but my eyes were becoming dim and head was starting to pound. I was beginning to hate the holiday din. Why was there nothing to buy at Macy’s? Surprisingly, they don’t have a Bobbi Brown makeup counter as I needed to replace some foundation. Instead I settled on a 2 sets of Macy’s New York kitchen pot holders as presents for friends/family back home. More practical than “I heart NY” shirts. From Macy’s on 7th Ave walked back to my hotel on Lexington/37th. While fairly late at night (around 10ish), I felt safe walking by myself.

The cat with flowers? Along Lexington Ave, there’s a florist shop. Outside on the ledge was a grey cat. He/she was there in the am when I walked by and when I was coming home over 12 hours later, it was still there! On my 3rd day walking by, Kitty was still sitting on the ledge surrounded by flowers. But on the way home that night, Kitty’s perch was filled with flowers and Kitty was no where to be found.

Day 3: Hop On/Off bus, Chinatown and Greg Gutfeld.
cammci34 is offline  
Old Nov 21st, 2009, 07:14 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
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I'm enjoying your trip report. Keep it coming!
yk is offline  
Old Nov 21st, 2009, 07:26 AM
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Good report. We just came back and missed the Tim Burton exhibit at MOMA. I love Tim Burton.
Judyrem is offline  
Old Nov 21st, 2009, 10:08 AM
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Actually New Yorkers smoke less than people in most parts of the country. the reason you saw a lot of smokers is that smoking indoors is not allowed - so all of the people who do smoke have to stand out in the street to do so. Also, if you see several people in a group smoking outdoots they may be european visitors, who do tend to smoke more than we do - and, again, have no place else to smoke except on the street.
nytraveler is offline  
Old Nov 21st, 2009, 10:25 AM
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I am loving your trip report, cammci! Very interesting, fun and informative. Interesting comment about the Macy's in NYC as I never find all that much in our Macy's in SF, with a few exceptions of course.
LoveItaly is offline  
Old Nov 21st, 2009, 02:33 PM
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Really enjoying this read. More.......
sandi is offline  
Old Nov 21st, 2009, 05:32 PM
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Loving the report so far. I'm glad you're enjoying the city. I'm with NYTraveler regarding the smoking. I think we smoke less in NY especially in Manhattan. It seems like more because its illegal indoors and I'd bet its European tourists as well. Anyway, I hope you continue to have a wonderful time and I hope you liked your hair!
writealiving is offline  
Old Nov 21st, 2009, 08:34 PM
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Day 3

Since I hadn’t hit the lower part of Manhattan yet, I decided I was going to wing it and take the subway to Little Italy/Chinatown area. Along the way I got sidetracked by one of the Greyline Hop On/Off double decker bus tours. I figured what the heck. When I got on, the upstairs was full and I had to sit inside the bus. I was immediately regretting the decision to purchase the tour. While the guide was interesting enough, you don’t get to take any pictures of the sights being inside the bus, so I thought about hopping off and grabbing another. I had also read there were a few Fodorites who don’t recommend this venue as it’s more fun to just trek it on your own.

By the time we got to the Chinatown section, I was able to move upstairs and enjoy the view. While colder, this was a little more fun for me. But with traffic, a 2 or 2 ½ tour became 3 hrs. I just felt hostage by it. Would I recommend it, probably not. The interest in this tour is quite high and given if it was a nice summer or spring day, I could see you having to wait a good portion of the tour inside the bus until seats opened up upstairs.

I hopped off by the Central Park stop, roamed in FAO, took some photos of the giant piano and bought a Star Trek toy phaser. Move ahead to Newark Airport on departure day. I didn’t think to pack this gift in my checked luggage and instead had it on my carry on. Officials were very nice to me, but they made me check my baggage. I almost considered leaving it at the airport. Luckily I had used some leftover Worldperks miles and had upgraded to First Class on this leg, so it didn’t cost me anything to check a 2nd bag. Back to the trip, I wanted to go to Katz Deli so I went back to the subway and took the Express downtown, getting off at the Brooklyn Bridge stop. I figured I could wander around aimless in the area maybe even check out the Tenement Museum along the way.

Chinatown to Little Italy area is interesting. I never felt nervous---this was broad daylight around 3pm, but it is different from the Murray Hill area. I did some shopping in Chinatown, got a scarf and a designer-inspired purse; $30 for the purse, $10 for the scarf. I didn’t attempt to haggle, but I know others were. I was around the Mott street area, then on another main street (can’t remember name). Every other store seemed to be a use restaurant supply store. If you wanted a rotisserie for gyros, I bet you could get a good deal there.

The area around there is very urban, I could see if I was here at night by myself I’d be a little nervous. So I kept walking and walking and just like that came upon East Houston street, by a Whole Foods Market. This area had a different vibe to it, a little less gritty. Finally found the Katz Deli and enjoyed a pastrami sandwich, pickles and a bottle of water, which set me back $19. The meat was very tender. I don’t know if I got my money’s worth, because I sure wasn’t hungry afterward.

I wanted to take the Lexington subway back into Uptown so I walked 3 or 4 blocks east. Along the way checked out an antiques seller and a cool store called “Eye Candy” selling vintage clothes and shoes. Shoes were in the $60 to $70 range. I had a fun time listening to the owner talk about dressing up for clubbing and how the vintage shoes sometimes “explode” on him after a long night of fun because the leather has dried/rotted away. I imagine he has a hard time finding vintage dress pumps to fit his feet, as the average size I saw there were 6s and all seemed very narrow.

Rookie subway mistake---I entered in the wrong side of the subway and found my self on the side that was going downtown. So I had to waste a fare and go in on the right side. Make sure you read your signs before entering any subway.

Dropped off my packages to the hotel and decided I wanted to visit the last hour of the MOMA’s Tim Burton exhibit. At Grand Central I purchased another fare, and immediately it wouldn’t go through. I took it to the attendant who looked at it and was instructing me to go through the gate. Me being dense couldn’t understand what she was saying plus she wasn’t giving me eye contact so I thought she was talking to someone else. Obviously she had little patience with me and yipped at me with attitude. Oh well.

I found this cool site that helps you figure out your subway stops: http://www.hopstop.com/. This cut out the confusion for me on may of my subway runs.

Made my way to the MOMA and the museum was packed. Friday nights after 4pm is free to the public, so while it was good to see the city enjoying fine art, it was a bit of a challenge navigating around the crowds.

8:15 pm. Winding down for the night, I went to Magnolia Bakery off 49th street and chose a pumpkin cupcake and a red velvet cupcake, with a café au lait to wash it down. This around $9 and some change. Very tasty! This was my dinner for the night.

Strolled across the street to Fox Studios hoping to catch the taping of “Red Eye,” one of my favorite news/entertainment shows. Now this show isn’t widely known since its broadcast at 3am, but the host and the show guests are pretty funny. Rounding the corner (atrium between the two Fox buildings) was Bill Shulz and Andrew WY, a musician and frequent guest, taking a smoke break before taping. I got a picture with Bill, he asked me to Photoshop some abs in the photo and I said I could put an ink tear around his eye as if he killed someone in prison. Bill was all up for that.

I hung around for the full hour eating my cupcakes like a crazy stalker. You can watch the show outside while they tape it (at 8:30 pm). The host of the show, Greg Gutfeld waved at me a few times and smiled. After the taping, all the guests and show host came out side and I got a picture with each of them. Once I got home I watched the very show I was outside the studio. They have a special film that obscures a lot of the people, so all you could see was my head. It was still fun though!

Departure Day (morning of Day 4)
While waiting for my Blue Van Shuttle ($18 one way back to Newark), I was leaning against the hotel with my 2 bags just minding my own business. Joggers, walkers and others were going by and this older (well-dressed) lady walked by me, leaned into my face and growled like a dog and kept walking. This shocked and startled me. I almost went after her and asked her what her deal was, but I let it go. She must have had her own reasons. Other than her odd behavior and the yipping I got from the subway agent, everyone in NYC was really nice to me and very helpful when I needed questions asked or help.

General thoughts from me (for those who are researching going for the first time).

•Use the hopstop feature with your subway trips.
•Take time to familiarize yourself with the subway---consider getting a metro card. I like not having to worry about purchasing some or using my debit/CC card each trip I needed.
•Bunch as much as you can in one area and spread out (visit uptown in one day, downtown another).
•I keep Google Directory Assistance on my cell phone (1-800-GOOG-411) and called places I visited to get the cross streets info. This was very helpful when walking, and sometimes my cabbie wasn’t familiar with some of the places either.
•I wouldn’t have minded staying at the Hilton, as this was right next to the subway line, but I did enjoy the Murray Hill area too. I’m glad I didn’t stay in the Times Square or Broadway area as others suggested here on the forum.
•Treat yourself to something fun/nice---like a spa treatment or hair appointment like I did. I would have done a pedicure to take care of my aching feet, but I ran out of time. There were lots of inexpensive hair/nail salons everywhere.
•Consider a “Pret a Monger” or a Delmonico to pick up an inexpensive lunch/snacks. I was glad to have snacks in my room after a late night of sightseeing.
•I had fun visiting grocery/specialty shops and got some seasonings for back home that I couldn’t purchase back in Iowa.

Thanks for all your help Fodorites---your feedback helped me a lot!
cammci34 is offline  
Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 01:59 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 1,930
Glad to hear you had a fine time in our city.
And that the Murray Hill area worked out for you. It
is much quieter there & perfect for a single gal.
Good tidits in your advice for newcomers.
Rhea58 is offline  
Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 02:59 AM
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The only thing better than your trip report would have been being there right with you. What fun. I liked your suggestions. The hopstop site would have saved us many blocks of walking when we made the mistake of getting on the wrong subway line.
dfrostnh is offline  
Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 08:10 AM
Join Date: Jul 2008
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Glad you had a nice visit and I'm thrilled you went to Katz. I always suggest it and feel sometimes like I do too much, lol, but you definitely got your money's worth!!
writealiving is offline  
Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 11:12 AM
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Something I saw on a trip report was a website called hopstop.com that the poster found to be very helpful. Take a look. One other is Google info 1-800-goog-411. I haven't used either of these personally but saw that someone put both in their recent NYC trip report as something that was helpful.
writealiving is offline  
Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 11:13 AM
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Sorry meant to say that hopstop was helpful planning subway rides around attractions.
writealiving is offline  
Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 12:51 PM
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Apologies again. Was trying to pass Cammci's tips on to someone else and posted in wrong spot. I think I'm going back to bed, lol!
writealiving is offline  
Old Nov 22nd, 2009, 08:08 PM
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Pret A Manger is a popular sandwich shop that started in England and there are various locations around Midtown. It's DELICIOUS!!!!
Skiergirl is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2010, 04:28 PM
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Thanks for a great read, Camci; wish I could say it was in preparation for another NYC trip!
Bokhara2 is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2010, 06:01 PM
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Great trip report, Camci.
Thanks for topping, Bokhara!
starrs is offline  
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