New York State of Mind

Columbus Circle, NY
I changed my LA flight to a NY flight and realized only three days prior to it that my new flight is on 9/11 – the day of the 2001 fatal terrorist attack, which shocked and horrified people all over the world. To this day, the horrors of that unfortunate event still bring fear to the hearts of many people. Because of this happenstance my family kept on convincing me to change my flight but I pursued as planned.While I was on board on flight AA34, a weird feeling suddenly ensnared me and the thoughts of 9/11 tragedy lingered in my mind. To avoid the uneasiness that I got from thinking about it, I started listing the things that I will do in NYC.

Frankly, I was more scared skydiving 10,000 feet high than taking this flight.  I know I will be fine and see NY after my last visit in 2003.I finally arrived at the JFK airport after a 5-hour 30-minutes long flight. I actually did not pre-book a transfer.  I was told that I have the option of taking a cab and pay a flat rate of $45 plus tips to Manhattan or pay $15 to Grand Central Station then take a connecting free shuttle to Midtown hotels.  I took the shuttle option.

The first scene I witnessed on my way to the hotel from Grand Central Station was 2 NYPD police cars and a policeman hand-cuffing someone in the middle of 8th Avenue.  Welcome to New York!– that’s what I said to myself with a hint of glee and a tinge of fear.  The scene apparently reminded me of those action movies where the heroic policeman would pursue the ever-evasive villain.

I culminated my first night of adventures in the city at Barbounia Greek Restaurant/Bar along Park Ave with my Melbourne friend whom I have known for more than 20-years, my brother-like Sam. At the restaurant, I also had the chance to meet up with his friends, also from Melbourne and their friends from DC and New Jersey.  I welcomed my first night in NY by going with my usual starter – this time I tried one of the Barbounia’s cocktail specials called Thessaloniki, which is close to a martini but with a twist of cucumber flavour.   The drink was indeed nice and refreshing!  The place perfectly fit the bill – nice décor, great ambiance and a friendly staff.

Sunday at 10am, I met up with the same group and enjoyed a traditional Jewish breakfast at Barney Greengrass located on Amsterdam Avenue at 86th Street.  Barney Greengrass was founded in early 1900 and after three family generations, it continues to be an institution in NY.  Films and TV shows that featured Barney Greengrass include Sex in the City, Revolutionary Road, Seinfeld, You’ve got Mail, Law & Order and many more.  The food is not something I would have craved for being an eggs benedict lover.  Also, inasmuch as I am not much of a coffee drinker, I can confidently say that Melbourne coffee is still the best.  Barney Greengrass only serves filtered coffee.  Their New York cheesecake is highly recommended.

We decided to just walk back to the hotel – that means a walk from 86th Street to 52nd Street.  It was indeed a nice and entertaining walk; and it was most definitely the best way to explore every corner of NY – in indulging in its raw urbanity and its bustling streets – despite the fact that it was an overcast cold morning.

Along the way, my friend Sam got so hungry so we decided to stop at the famous Original Carnegie Deli & Restaurant– known in town to be the home of the best pastrami and corned beef and dispensing delectable deli.  It opens daily from dawn (6.30am) to distraction (4.00am).  The place was obviously packed.  I enjoyed watching the type and variety of foods being served.  I have never seen a sandwich as big as the Empire State Building – it was indeed humongous!  I had to ask the waiter how much beef is consumed a day and he politely responded 10,000 pounds a week. And on peak seasons like December, 3,000 pounds of beef are consumed a day.  That’s tantamount to a herd of cows! Truly, the best things in life are enjoyed without counting the calories.

On Sunday night, we walked through the streets of New York for three hours – that’s from the hotel towards Time Square then onto Penn Station.  From there, we decided to take a quick cab ride to Chelsea and took time to walk around the neighborhood. We took another cab ride to Spring Street at Soho – one of NY City’s most fashionable districts.  The place was surrounded with lots of boutique hotels and shops, and great dining selections and nightlife activities.  It’s the hip and young crowd that frequent Soho. Chinatown was our last stop where we had our late supper. After that long but definitely enjoyable day, we took a cab back to the hotel to rest and reenergize.

I stayed at Flatotel– a two-bedroom suite with a fully equipped kitchen.  The moment I walked into the foyer, I did not like the atmosphere at all.  It was dark!  The first room assigned to us had some light switches that were not working; and the only light that was functional in my bedroom was the reading light.  The next day, we were shown to another room to move into.  This one is a one-bedroom suite with an interconnecting deluxe room. We encountered the same problems – defective light switches and even a broken sliding door for the wardrobe.

On Monday we have finally moved to a new room. This time important pieces were missing – the pots and pans!  My only positive review about this hotel is that it is situated in a prime location and it has free internet access, and lastly got an excellent rate being a long stay. To top everything else, the front desk staff was not cordial.

Monday, 13 September, we did more walking on the streets of NY. I am discovering more amazing, views – the city skyline is spectacular. And from looking up and admiring NY’s great architectures and landmarks, I had a stiff neck and a headache.  NY is indeed a walking city – and this is what we exactly did for hours.  I never walked this much in two days but the amazing experience was by far too rewarding to count the costs.

By dusk it started drizzling and we had no umbrella. We tried catching a cab back to the hotel but it was impossible to get one that particular hours.  My feet could not make it to another block where the subway is, so I persisted to wait for a cab.  Over half hour later, still no cab so I decided to grab one of those black limos that charges at a fixed rate – a rate that’s double the cost of the cab.  Finally, and with much relief, I made it back to the hotel an hour later.

I will continue to explore NY, in the next few days and this time I will explore the city via subway rides – aboard the veins that keep the heart of the city pumping.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to add some lovely comments and kind wishes – I am pleased to know that you have enjoyed reading the first column.

Comments courtesy of

Posted by Carol – Travel counsellors 17 Sep 2010 11:32:04 AM
Woohoo Mich! Save some adventures for when I get there. x
Posted by Nat – Travel Counsellors 17 Sep 2010 1:31:19 PM
Love the travel stories!! Keep them coming
Posted by Moksbythebay – Fremont, CA 17 Sep 2010 2:58:18 PM
Wohoo! another entertaining article. Keep them coming!
Posted by your Cuz 17 Sep 2010 5:35:23 PM
Like it! Have fun and take care always! Mis ya
Posted by Jules – Australia 2 Oct 2010 7:08:51 AM
Hey Michelle, Loving your blog so far and cant wait to read on. Sounds like you are having the best time away and I cant wait to see what else you have been up to. Take care honey and chat soon xxxxx
© 2012 by Michelle Riel, retains sole copyright to her contributions to all the contents of this site.
  1. Candice

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    March 20th, 2013 // Reply

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