New Year New York

I hate working on my birthday. So I don’t.

My birthday was last Monday (May 13th) and as a result, I decided to make a long weekend out of it. Olivia and I planned to visit New York before I officially head off for school and we realized that it was likely the best opportunity for us to do so.

We each had quite a lot of ‘points’ saved up through our credit cards so we used those to book flights then booked a hotel ourselves. We didn’t really know where to go but we knew a lot of the touristy stuff was located in Midtown, so we chose a hotel close to Times Square. I don’t think either of us realized just how close though.

We asked friends for recommendations of what to see and came up with a short list of items we wanted to explore over the weekend, but we didn’t make any hard schedules. We basically ended up with a daily ‘area’ we wanted to experience and a day for each:

  • Midtown on Saturday

  • Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn on Sunday

  • Columbia University and Upper West Side on Sunday.

While packing up the night before, we checked the weather and our plans were thrown into the garbage. Rain. Sunday through Monday (nonstop).

Change of plans. Outdoor sightseeing on Saturday. ‘Other stuff’ Sunday. Columbia on Monday still.

We flew out of Billy Bishop airport via Porter Airlines. It was incredibly smooth and easy to get through check-in and security. I would definitely recommend it.

Landing in Newark, we were a bit disoriented. I should have done a better job figuring out the best route to our hotel beforehand, but ended up deciding to just take a taxi into town. Great decision for the first time getting into the city, but very expensive.

We arrived at the hotel by 10am. Traffic was non-existent and I felt as though I had been fooled by the movies that made New York out to be some big crowded beast… We dropped out bag off at the hotel and took a quick walk to try and find Times Square. Five minutes later, we were dead centre in Times Square and didn’t even realize it. I suspect our disorientation was due to a quieter Saturday morning and an incredibly bright sun that took away from the immensity of the billboards around us. We were underwhelmed to say the least.

Nevertheless we continued on. We didn’t have much of a plan for the day except “be outside, experience the city in a way we cannot in rain” so we walked the streets, saw a few of the sights (Rockafeller), and then headed to Central Park.

By now we were getting tired and a bit cranky without a plan. Neither of us are all that decisive.

We were getting hungry and neither of us knew what to do. So we followed our stomachs and found ourselves a spot on a patio nearby. We got drinks, ordered food, and relaxed for a moment. Caught our breaths. We regrouped and set forth a plan for the rest of the day, which we followed to a T.

First up on our new plan was the Top Of The Rock. A bit pricey but a great way to centre ourselves in the city and see the sights from up high.

We then were able to officially check into our hotel and rest our weary feet for a moment. Following that, we figured out how the Metro works and took a subway down to the 9/11 Memorial site. It was beautiful to see the memorial and the new tower. We did not have time to check out the museum but it is on the list for next time.

We took a quick walk over to the Hudson to see Lady Liberty off in the distance (she is really far out there…) and then made our way over to the Brooklyn Bridge. A friend from work recommended going around sunset because “you get three views. Day, Sunset, Night.” However, I think that everyone else had the same thought.

I do not think that walking the Brooklyn Bridge is a viable commuter option. it is busy, and everyone is taking photos. We took some too, we’re not innocent in this, but we really tried to stay out of the way of others. It was a cool walk, and the view was great - especially from the Brooklyn side. I’m glad we ended there.

We got to Brooklyn as the sun was down and the lights on the bridge were turning on. We knew we wanted Brooklyn Pizza but didn’t have the first clue where to start. We Googled a few things but were lost when faced with multiple options, so we decided to just walk. We took a few turns and wound up out front of two of the pizza shops (side by side) that were very highly rated online and that Olivia had heard of. Unfortunately both had massive lines and we had already felt a few rain drops…

We kept walking a bit to see if we could spot anywhere else to eat. Thats when we stumbled upon another pizza shop. It was full, but no line. We decided to take a chance, and boy was it worth it. We got a really great window table looking up at the Brooklyn Bridge. We ordered a medium pizza and were barely able to finish it despite being so hungry before dinner. It was my favourite meal of the entire weekend because of how perfectly everything worked out.

From there we headed back to the hotel and went straight to sleep.

We woke up to pouring rain. We had prepared for this though. Olivia bought us a new umbrella before we left. But that is one umbrella. One tiny umbrella. My one arm was wet the entire rest of the weekend.

We ready and took a quick stop at the concierge to ask about New York bagels. We had heard good things but weren’t sure were to find something good. He quickly pointed us to Pick A Bagel on 53rd St and we were on our way. Olivia has a thing for bagels and it was top of her food list for the weekend.

We arrived and it was packed. Olivia stole a seat for us while I ordered the breakfast. We made the poor decision to order a cappuccino and a latte though - the coffee team seemed unprepared for something other than “cream and sugar please”. The bagels were great though and the drinks were fine. I fear for my stomach if a bagel shop is close enough to my apartment in New York (which I assume one will be).

We decided that a rainy day gave us good reason to check out a museum that we would otherwise be hard-pressed to take time away from the city to explore. We chose the Met.

A long line awaited us when we arrived, but luckily we had our trusty umbrella. A few others were not as lucky. We saw many soaked sweaters waiting in line.

Once inside, it was easy to get tickets and into the exhibits. We saw some amazing exhibits and wonderful pieces of art. We always love spending time in museums but we always end up with extremely painful feet as we push ourselves through exhibit after exhibit. By the mid-afternoon we were both exhausted and barely taking in the pieces so we decided to call it a day. It was time for food.

Luckily, there was a Shake Shack nearby. Multiple people had told us we needed to check it out as a burger comparison point. Pretty good, but I still stand by Five Guys as the best.

We went straight from our very-late-lunch to NBC Studios at 30 Rock for a tour. This is something I was really looking forward to and Olivia decided to give to me as a birthday present. We had a really great time as we saw the SNL Studio, Jimmy Fallon’s studio, and Seth Meyers’ studio. It was neat to hear about the history behind the studio and how it has evolved over the years, but I could also tell that the Pages were running from a very tight script.

We finished the tour with the group making our very own Late Night show. It’s a night little takeaway for everyone. They asked for a volunteer for the host of the show and when no one else put up their hand, Olivia urged me to raise mine. I became the host and she became my guest. It was awkward and we messed up a few times but it turned out great in the end. We sent the video to our parents and I think they just enjoyed seeing us having fun.

Neither of us were hungry yet following the massive Shake Shack intake from earlier, but we knew we would have to get something small to eat before bed or we would be starving. We found a little ‘prohibition era speakeasy’ closer to Central Park and ordered a couple of cocktails. I’m not usually a cocktail person, but I had a really great bourbon drink and now I have no idea whether i like bourbon or just happen to have had one really great drink… Testing to come.

The following morning we had a meeting set with a student of the Producing program at Columbia. Jing was introduced to me by one of the professors that I have been in close contact with since my acceptance. We met at the entrance gates to the school and she began the tour. The campus was set up for Spring convocation so there were tents and metal seating set up in the centre of campus. Regardless, Columbia was beautiful. It is an incredibly old campus with some great architecture. There are also newer buildings that stand out as beautiful in a completely different way. I got the sense right away that Jing felt most at home in Dodge Hall, the library, and the Student Services building as those were the ones she walked us through and talked about, while the others were passed by and mentioned off-hand. I imagine my experience won’t be too far outside these buildings either.

Dodge Hall is where most Film classes take place and we took a nice long walk through it. The classrooms are small and much older. It felt almost like walking into a high school and I imagine it will be a much more intimate learning environment than my undergraduate experience as a result.

The tour was not all that long, maybe an hour at most, but we got a good sense of the campus and I liked it. It was also overwhelming to be in a place that I plan to spend the next three years of my life. I bought a Columbia University sweater (a birthday gift from my sister) and took an obligatory photo in the centre of campus. I’ll post it soon to Instagram… so far only my close friends and anyone who randomly stumbled upon this blog will know that I’m going to Columbia soon.

We spent the remainder of the day exploring campus and the surrounding neighbourhood before taking off on the flight home.

It was a great weekend in the city and I’m glad I got to experience it ahead of my big move in August. It’s not as scary to move as it once was, but the nerves remain. I’m not sure they’ll ever fully leave me with such a great change on its way, but it’s just something I’ll have to face day after day.