Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas from NYC!

It's been a while since my last blog post but I thought I would do a live update from NYC!!!  It's not my first visit to the Big Apple but this is the first time I actually have plenty of time to sight-see in this beautiful city.  All my previous trips were kind of rushed...

I brought my mom with me this time so my itinerary is super relax... (We are covering 2 POIs a day on average, which is actually what most tourists do but I am usually a "walk-a-holic" when I am traveling...)  She is also forever reminding me to be frugal... Thus, I didn't splurge (as much) this trip... I am just glad that there is delicious food in NYC for every budget!

The Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center
We had to fight crowds to get to it!

Here's a quick recap on the what and where so far... I promise I will update with (more) pictures later...  I think I am having problems with Flickr again... if anyone know of a better and free picture repository for blogs, do let me know...


Arrived late afternoon, checked in at Hampton Inn - Madison Square Garden for 2 nights.  Went to Inakaya for dinner (mom won a $50 gift certificate!), got some cupcake from Cake Boss Café, and went to where all tourists go - Times Square.


Work, work!  Had to work during the day so didn't do much sight-seeing but my boss took me to Keens Chophouse for a very nice dinner!  Will definitely write more soon~

Boss actually let me out early on Friday so I went shopping at Macy's, got some ridiculous deals on shoes!!!  We had to move hotels today and mom suggested we walk 20+ streets instead of taking a taxi due to crazy traffic... I was like "Are You Serious?" but oh well, I obliged... After all, I am a walking machine...

We stayed at Midtown Hilton for the next 3 nights on points.  (No way I would splurge on a hotel like this with my own money.)  Since my brother still has status with Hilton, we used his number instead and got us some free breakfast and complimentary Wi-Fi!  Score!

Had to come up with something cheap and quick for dinner so I took my mom to Menkui Tei.  She liked it so that's good.  We walked around 5th Avenue, saw the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, and watched the light show at Saks Fifth.


Went to Central Park after a huge breakfast and was so full, we skipped lunch!  I love Central Park!  All my previous visit at the park was so rushed I am happy I finally get to spend a good half day walking around here.  Love the Mall area and even watched a street performance - it was a highlight of the trip actually.  These guys were really funny!

We went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art next.  Compared to MoMA, I think the latter is more enjoyable in my opinion.  The exhibit on Chinese art was kind of a joke.  We were disappointed.

After a full and intense day of walking, we were famished.  Mom wanted to try Joe's Shanghai since she heard me talking about their soup dumplings there and it was near our hotel.  I was reluctant since I know those ain't real Chinese food by her standards... As predicted, she wasn't impressed...

After dinner, we went to check out the Christmas market at Bryant Park... Retrospectively, I should have let mom go back to the hotel and rest.  She was too tired when we arrived and opted to sit out while I explored the markets.  Better yet, we should have skipped Joe's Shanghai and came here for street food altogether!!!


After another huge breakfast, we went to check out another Christmas market at Columbus Circle.  It's much of the same thing at Bryant Park so if you've been to one, you can literally skip the rest.  We looked around some more at the Shops in Columbus Circle but I can totally tell mom is tired so I escorted her back to the hotel so she can take a nap while I marched on~

I went back to Rockefeller Center since I wanted to see the tree during the day and got some cakes from Bouchon Bakery.  I also went to the TKT booth in Times Square hoping to score some discount tickets only to find out the Lion King is never on sales :(  I was about to settle for Chicago at 50% but the girls in front of me took too long to decide and the Chicago tickets ended up being only 30% discounted.  I thought about going to the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City but $65 is too much for that one in my opinion too.  Oh well...

It's too late to go to MoMA after all that fuzz so I decide to go get a manicure instead.  My chipped nails have been bothering me for a while anyway.  Mom's up from her nap when I returned to the room so we went to Grand Central Terminal hoping for some oyster dinner.  Oyster Bar was actually close on Sundays so we ended up with Shake Shack.

On our way back, we stopped by St. Patrick's Cathedral and loved it even though it's under restoration.  We decide to come back on Christmas day for a mass.  (The Midnight Mass 2013 was reserved only and tickets were all out! :/ )


Just as I was debating on what to do that day (I actually don't have an itinerary for this trip) and read about Yayoi Kusama's exhibit in NYC on Facebook.  Of course I got excited and went before reading in depth about it and found out on arrival that not only the Gallery was close on Mondays, Kusama's exhibit actually ended 2 days ago!  I was so disappointed (and it was cold and rainy too)!!!  I should have done my homework and I would not have missed it!!!

Oh well, I now know Kusama is going to have an exhibit in MOCA Shanghai from now till March 2014... If I am lucky, I think I might be able to go to Shanghai before the exhibit is over this time...

Now that I have more time to kill in Chelsea, we decide to go to Chelsea market.  We were very impressed with the food selection here and decided to cancel our reservation at ABC Kitchen.  We ate at the Lobster Shop instead.  I love the action and liveliness of this place.  Keep it up!

Head on to SoHo after lunch and of course I had to try my luck at Dominique Ansel Bakery, even though I know his cronuts will be sold out by now.  It was quiet and I didn't see any lines.  Tried a few things, wasn't impressed.  It was a let down to be honest.  I don't think I will be back, unless I won't have to line up for his cronuts.

Shopped a bit in SoHo, showed my mom to Rice to Riches, and dragged my mom to Lombardi's.  I still love their pizza there.  One day if I get the chance, I might visit Grimaldi's for a comparison but I am at a good spot with Lombardi's.

We moved again today!  Thanks for a good friend from college, I was able to stay 3 nights at Sheraton Time Squares at a really good rate!  Loved the location and the size of the room.  Everything was great!


I asked my mom if there is any place in NYC she really wants to see and she said the Statue of Liberty.  Thus, even though it was freezing cold, we decided to go this day since it was the only day the weather forecast says it will be sunny and there are reserved tickets still available.

The line was long and my mom said she would be happy just to see the statue from the Battery Park had I not purchased the reserved tickets already.  >.>  Oh well, we spent a long time queuing and we didn't even got off the Liberty Island since she said she is happy to see the Statue from the boat and I have been to the Island before already so it's not a big deal for me.

The Immigrant Museum was a let down as many of the exhibits were closed due to the holidays.  Good thing I seen what I need to see during my last visit already otherwise I would have felt scammed.  Since we are back earlier than I thought, we walked around Wall Street and went to the 9-11 Memorial.  My mom wasn't a big fan of the memorial since we were just spending too much time queuing and going through security when there was nothing but two fountains of what used to be the twin towers...

I suggested to go to Chinatown since it was still quite early but mom said she would rather go back to the hotel and relax before dinner so that's what we did.  We picked up a Chicken & Rice from the Halal Guys (there were so many imitates around the block it got really confusing!).  We managed to bought from the real Halal Guys and the food was really good.  For $6, you can't beat it!

We went back later to Inakaya for dinner to use up the certificate and went to check out the stores in Times Square.  My mom actually liked the M&M Store!  The Hershey Store on the other hand was a let down.


[plan] Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, lunch at Totto Ramen, return to Chelsea Market for more oysters, check out Chinatown, dinner at Delta Grill


[plan] cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery, visit MoMA, pick up some more Chicken and Rice from Halal Guys, go back to Chicago.


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