I went to New York City and saw nothing

IMG_1363It’s true. It was my first-ever visit to the city that never sleeps and I didn’t even visit Central Park. Or the Statue of Liberty. Or the Empire State Building. Or Brooklyn Bridge. Nope. What a waste of time, right?

WRONG. I may not have visited the major tourist attractions but I believe I got a real feel for the city in the short time I was there. My stay in New York City was split between two days: the Friday and the Monday that sandwiched my weekend trip to Lake Placid. I arrived early enough on Friday to get somewhat of an introduction to the city, and my flight back home on Monday was late enough in the evening for me to spend several more hours getting to know it better. When traveling to a new place, especially solo and to a place as enormous and as intimidating as New York City, it’s nice to know people there. I’m lucky; I have a number of friends in the city, a couple of whom offered to spend some time showing me around.

I flew into LaGuardia on Friday morning and took a cab from there to my friend Marisa’s apartment in Jackson Heights. It was a short ride but it gave me the chance to have my first look at a real New York City neighborhood. Marisa showed me around her newly-purchased apartment (she’s a transplant from Texas) and then she and I made our way to the subway to go into Manhattan. Don’t ask me which train we rode or where we exited because I have no idea. One of the perks of having a personal tour guide is not having to worry about figuring out public transportation. Marisa took me past Radio City Music Hall and then over to Rockefeller Center, where I got a shot similar to the scene we always see on television (the ice skating rink with that big, gold statue in the background). Then it was over to Times Square for the obligatory tourist shot, which was easy for Marisa to capture since it was virtually empty. The weather probably had a lot to do with that. It was gray and rainy all day. Next stop was Koreatown for lunch. Not having any specific restaurant in mind, we chose Shilla Korean Barbecue because we saw a group of actual Korean people go in. We figured if the place is good and authentic enough for them, then it’s good enough for us. Apparently that group knew what was up because I thoroughly enjoyed my samgyupsal gui (grilled pork belly). The amount of food brought to our table was ridiculous and all so delicious.

Thanks to Marisa for the panorama shot of me in Times Square!

Thanks to Marisa for the panorama shot of me in Times Square!

It was time for me to start making my way to Penn Station to meet up with Craig of StayAdventurous, one of my travel mates for the weekend Lake Placid trip. On the walk over, Marisa and I passed Madison Square Garden and, even though I didn’t get to see inside the arena, this hockey fan was quite excited to at least see the outside of it. We also walked past a trio of New York Rangers players on their way to the rink and my inner 18-year-old squealed a bit.

Of course the insanely fun Lake Placid weekend just flew by and I found myself back in New York City late Sunday night. I had plans for the following day to see more of the city with Lisa, a family friend and native New Yorker. As my brother described her, Lisa is “Ms. New York”. She proved it by being the ultimate planner and tour guide!

My and Lisa’s family both are Italian-American so she knew I would want to visit New York’s Little Italy. It was on the itinerary as our first stop via Chinatown. We took the subway from her AMAZING Manhattan apartment and I browsed the vendor stalls along Canal Street before arriving at Mulberry Street. We turned the corner and it was like I had come home. Having grown up in Chicago’s Little Italy, at a time when the neighborhood was so much more ethnic than it is now, Mulberry Street was a pleasant reminder of how things used to be. We ducked into a few shops and I picked up Tombola Napoletana (Italian bingo, as I described it to Lucia) for my mom. We also paid a visit to Alleva, “the oldest Italian cheese store in America”. Or, as I like to think of it, heaven. I was able to sample some cheeses and I left with a hunk of pecorino to bring home (so The Working Dad could replicate this dish we loved so much in Italy).

When in Little Italy, one must eat, right? Good thing it was lunchtime because I was ready. Lisa suggested Da Gennaro, where I had a plate of pappardelle (my second favorite type of pasta) with mushrooms in a light tomato cream sauce. It hit the spot. It was filling, though I could have eaten more, but there was a promise of cannoli later on so I amazingly exercised some will power. To get to said cannoli, we walked through NoLIta, stopping in St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral; past several NYU campus buildings; through Washington Square Park; and ultimately landed at Pasticceria Rocco in Greenwich Village. Lisa had been bragging about the cannoli all day and I was on board until we walked into Rocco’s and everything in the pastry display case started calling my name. Cannoli aren’t my favorite Italian dessert (I know, right? Bad Italian girl!), so I opted to try miniature versions of a few of the other delicacies and washed it all down with a cappuccino.

Da Gennaro on the left, Pasticceria Rocco on the right

I could have sat there for hours enjoying the atmosphere and the company, but I had a plane to catch, and a train to catch before that. So it was back to Lisa’s apartment to gather my belongings and begin my journey home.

I’m sure New Yorkers hate to hear this, but New York City seemed to me like a bigger Chicago. It’s a good thing, in my eyes, as I felt completely comfortable and at home. I’m not upset that I didn’t visit any of the “big” attractions, like Central Park and the Statue of Liberty. I would much rather explore the various neighborhoods, as I prefer to do whenever I visit a new city, and get a feel for local, every-day life. Moreover, it gives me a perfectly valid reason to have to travel to New York City again. And again.

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13 Responses to I went to New York City and saw nothing

  1. Laura Passini January 26, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

    I love visiting New York City but I could never live there. The 4 words that come to mind are dirty, smelly, loud and crowded. It’s a great travel destination but I honestly can’t see how people can stand to live there. I think native Chicagoans are a lot nicer to newcomers and tourists. In fact, most places are. That is probably the only city I felt unwelcomed in, except when we visited Brooklyn.

    • craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous) January 31, 2014 at 11:55 pm #

      really? first as new yorker I am glad you love it… although, i don’t believe you really learned the city… your 4 words might be correct at times and in places, but I’d argue on the friendliness factor… and Brooklyn as the nicest and most welcoming.. i should show you more of Brooklyn.

      How can we live here? It has an energy… a pulse, something I don’t find in Chicago or most places….It also has the best of the best… the talent is here, the people you meet are some of the most interesting, educated and inspired… I am not saying live your whole life here, but oh, do I recommend a taste… you’ll see.

      stay NYer, Craig
      craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous) recently posted…Are There Beaches in Singapore? A Visit to Siloso Beach in SentosaMy Profile

  2. Laura Passini January 26, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

    Actually I need to amend that, the people in Little Italy were awesome. I’m so glad you got to go there. You saw quite a bit for such a short time there.

  3. Raul (@ilivetotravel) January 26, 2014 at 9:31 pm #

    Awesome! You got to see a good bit for the amount of time you had. And I have never seen Times Square SO empty!!
    Raul (@ilivetotravel) recently posted…Top 14 Items to Bring When Climbing Mt. KilimanjaroMy Profile

  4. @mrsoaroundworld January 27, 2014 at 3:43 am #

    For me it is always about the memories you create – I would rather spend an afternoon sitting somewhere with a nice view and great friends than cramming in 4 museums. Glad you had fun and felt at home.
    @mrsoaroundworld recently posted…The Luxury Travel Blog Network – January 2014 EditionMy Profile

  5. Lance | Trips By Lance January 27, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    I love New York. It’s my favorite city in the world (well, one of my favorites). No need to see those tourist destinations. What I love about New York is all the neighborhoods. I also agree that I’ve never seen Times Square that empty.
    Lance | Trips By Lance recently posted…In Pictures: Escape the Cold In Miami BeachMy Profile

  6. Paula January 27, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    As always Francescsa, it was great “seeing” New York through your eyes! Thanks.

  7. the lazy travelers January 29, 2014 at 3:53 am #

    psh, you saw plenty. plenty! next time, we need to show you around properly. (you still won’t see anything, mind you, we’ll just get you drunk.) xo
    the lazy travelers recently posted…no travel required: #traveltuesdayMy Profile

  8. Traveling Ted January 29, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

    I have had similar outings in New York when I have went with friends just hanging out, eating, and drinking. I did a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, but no Statue of Liberty. Hope to get back soon.
    Traveling Ted recently posted…Five tips to #Turnitgreen while traveling or at homeMy Profile

  9. lola January 31, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

    i love this post!! i really enjoy the diversity of the neighborhoods too. Little Italy and Nolita are awesome.
    lola recently posted…One Day Stay: Montreal, CanadaMy Profile

  10. craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous) February 1, 2014 at 12:04 am #

    Actually, you saw quite a bit… and many folks come here to see Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Little Italy and China Town… all big draws. You did well in that category. Plus you rode multiple subways, that’s another win. But I’ll admit, I live close to Times Square, and I’ve been through there at all hours… I’ve never seen it that empty either.

    Overall, great recap and great to see you in New York. A bigger Chicago is hardly an insult, Chicago is a great city, plus I think it means it felt like home and that is a compliment.
    stay New York, Craig
    Ps – Korea town is authentic on food… for Italian, I can take you to better spots on your next visit.
    craig zabransky (@StayAdventurous) recently posted…Are There Beaches in Singapore? A Visit to Siloso Beach in SentosaMy Profile

  11. Leah February 5, 2014 at 4:38 pm #

    Sometimes the best things to do don’t involve the major tourist places anyway. I still can’t believe you’d never been to NYC before this time. Just blows my mind as close as you are to the city.
    Leah recently posted…Five Packing Essentials for Snow SkiingMy Profile

  12. lorrie May 8, 2014 at 9:51 am #

    I know what your saying when I go traveling I like to be my own tour guide a pick out the things I want to see and explore on my own some of those touristy places are overrated.

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