Thursday, September 4, 2014

Memories Made Flying Solo in NYC-Part 1

So have you ever wanted to go somewhere just to get away? To reflect, to soul search, to see something far from ordinary, to celebrate, or just to be on holiday? That was me these last couple of months as I planned my second adventure to one of my favorite cities to visit---New York City. On my last NYC Adventure with my sweet Mom, we had a blast, but I still came home with an unfinished list of things I felt I had to do!

Turning 28 just a week before I left, I had actually begun planning this back in June, getting my plane ticket, lodging reservations and US Open ticket. I had made yet another map, complete with all the places I'd been dreaming of going since my last trip.
I spent hours researching blogs, Instagrams, and websites to find all the places I thought I had to try. I knew I wouldn't get to them all, but I was going to darn well try!
So told my family and friends adios and boarded the plane on Thursday morning.

I talked to the sweetest woman sitting next to me on the 2 1/2 hour direct flight to LaGuardia. Her name was Lisa and she is an occupational therapist in the Birmingham area. She was headed to meet her friends in New York first for a quick lunch and then they were all flying to Spain to go backpacking through the country for 3 weeks! She had only a backpack with two pairs of clothes and the bare necessities for three weeks--carrying it on your back and staying in hostels, you want as little as possible. She even had a solar panel on her backpack to charge her cell phone! Very interesting!

A must re-read for me on this trip was a great memoir from a local friend, Elizabeth Mozley McGrady's "We Share the Same Sky," about her experience traveling alone in NYC. Great read and such inspiration and truth about life, not to mention all the different areas in the city she visited while on her trip.

Arriving at the airport, instead of taking the taxi (whiplash warning) into the city, I decided to instead go the cheaper way and boarded a shuttle bus going straight to Grand Central Terminal, two blocks from my hotel. On the crowded bus, I sat beside this adorable lady named Yvette, from Orlando. She was from Puerto Rico originally and had the prettiest accent and liveliest personality. We had a great conversation on the thirty minute ride into the city. She was meeting her husband for a short weekend trip and they were going salsa dancing. They used to live in Brooklyn, so she was familiar with the city. We exchanged business cards and she told me to call her if I wanted to go dancing with them! ha!

Two blocks from Grand Central Terminal I found where I'd lay my head for the next two nights, The Roosevelt Hotel. I had never stayed here before and I must say, it was great to get out of the noisy Times Square! The Roosevelt was built in 1924 and was alive and well during the Roaring Twenties! Many famous people have stayed here, as well as many movies filmed at this very hotel. Two of my favorites--"Maid in Manhattan" and "Man on a Ledge."

The rooms were on the small size, but it had everything I needed.


The Halal Guys are known for their flavorful street vendor halal food. The location I went to on 53rd St. and 6th the original spot. There is always a line, and going during prime lunchtime didn't help, but I was determined and famished! It would have to be worth it!

The chicken and rice is the most popular dish and at $6 was by far one of the cheapest meals I had the whole trip!  It was a gorgeous day--high of 74--so I took my signature yellow bag and pound of grub three blocks north to Central Park and ate on a park bench, surrounded by the sounds of kids laughter and the soft sounds of the city.
I drizzled the white Greek sauce and carefully dripped some red hot sauce over the food. Oh my stars--it was intense! I like hot, but the red sauce took it way too far! I was able to pick around the affected areas. The yellow/orange rice was good, mixed with the lettuce and chicken and white sauce. MMM!

 I was done at this point. TOO MUCH FOOD!

Central Park Selfie...

My mouth was on fire so I knew I needed something sweet to put out the fire, ha! Inside The Plaza Hotel, a beloved spot of mine each trip, there is a Food Hall with every kind of food imaginable. Billy's Bakery is a spot I knew I had to try. I opted for the Banana Nutella Cupcake and Iced Chai Latte. Really good!
I needed the strength for the walk to Times Square to stand in line for the half price Broadway tkts.
You never know what you will see in Times Square...
Random wedding photographs in the Broadway Ticket seating area...


 I stood in line for an hour and scored a decent price and seat for "Pippin!" YAY!                   And I finally saw The Naked Cowboy after all my experiences in Times Square...BAM! There he was strumming away! Did you know he also marries people--in Times Square! Maybe the couple above had just been married by him in his tidey whities! The Naked Cowgirl and even the Grandma were there, too, but I chose not to waste my pictures on them! Sorry!

"There is more sophistication and less sense in New York than anywhere else on the globe." Elbert Hubbard

After being able to check in my hotel room at The Roosevelt, while tiny, it had everything I needed in square foot, I changed and darted out for the 30 minute trek to the Roosevelt Island tram.
Going across the Queensboro Bridge...see the cars below!

This tram takes you high above the cars passing on the Queensboro Bridge in about 3 minutes and drops you off at the Roosevelt Island tram station, all for the swipe of your Metro (subway) card = $2.50 per trip. I saw this last time my mom and I were leaving the city going home and made a mental note to do that next time! The Island is small, only covering about two miles in length, complete with apartment buildings, a park, lighthouse, memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt, and even the remains an old Smallpox Hospital, built in 1856.
I came to experience the tram ride across the bridge, look at the historic hospital, and mostly for the gorgeous views of the city, which in the late afternoon are kind of shadowy. Sorry!

"One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much as in five minutes as in five years." Tom Wolfe
I hurried back across on the tram, which runs every 7 minutes or so, and found the closest subway to get to Bryant Park. I had a yoga class to get to!
But I got distracted by a street flower market--appropriately named: Sunshine Flowers, featuring my favorite: sunflowers!

I knew I was heading in the right direction when I began to see both men and women of all ages carrying yoga mats. I had registered online to do this through Flavorpill and it was free, which is always good in one of the most $$$ cities in America!

They provide the mats on the grounds and I found my spot. It was an hour long class, led by a fantastic instructor on a microphone and several helpers demonstrating up front. It seemed like there were at least 500-1,000 people stretching and downward facing dogging with me in the very heart of Manhattan, and several hundred more watching. Despite all the noise and chaos around, it actually was one of the most serene and in touch with nature classes I've ever attended. It soothed my tired muscles from walking and traveling and helped me to relax and really be in the moment and focus on being thankful for my body and grateful for life.

Post Yoga Selfie...(#ForcedToTakeSelfiesOnASoloTrip #DontHate)

After it was over, I had a few minutes to go change and walk into Times Square again, in time for the 8:00 show of "Pippin" at the Music Box Theatre.

"Pippin" is an incredible high energy show, combining acrobatics, comedy, drama, and more. Pippin is a young man on the verge of being king but does not fully know who he is or what he is good at. The circus style characters in the show attempt to show him who they think he should be and in the end, though, he finds out exactly what makes him happy, and it's a surprise! Great show!!!

After the show, I headed a few blocks west to Hell's Kitchen to 5 Napkin Burger, a restaurant I had researched and was hungry for three things:

1. Wasabi Devilled Eggs
A twist on the southern favorite! They had just enough bite to make them irresistible.

2. The Classic Burger

Brioche bun, gouda cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, special sauce, and an amazingly crafted hamburger. Did I mention the sesame brioche bun? And sweet potato fries. Perfect...

3)S'Mores Milkshake: Let me set the scene: bits of marshmallows, graham cracker crumbs, and cocoa powder. The toasted marshmallow on top--devoured in 5 seconds at this 5 napkin burger joint!

Getting back to the hotel around 12:30, full and coming off a sugar high,  I crawled into bed and rested for the day ahead!

Friday morning, I set out around 8:30 and grabbed a healthy breakfast of Champions at Grand Central Terminal--

Banana Pudding from Magnolia Bakery. I'm sure it's what all the dedicated tennis players have, too, right?
The train ride to Flushing Meadows was exactly an hour, and it being such a busy and crowded time to go--since everyone was going to the Open, it was standing room only.

 We saw the sights of Queens proper from the train.
And then finally, we had arrived on the last stop of the subway train...Flushing Meadows!

After going through security at the south gate, I decided to purchase some souvenirs to bring back--a t-shirt, a ball cap to protect my head from the sun for the day and I love collecting ball caps--it had to pink, and some tennis balls, a program, and a bottle of water, I was all set to watch the all day tennis event at the historic Louis Armstrong Stadium.

The first match was between # 28 Roberta Vinci and Peng Shuai. There was hardly anyone there when I took my seat, at exactly 11:00 AM, when it began. It was a great match and Shuai ended up defeated her ranked opponent.

Then came #7 seed Grigor Dimitrov against Dudi Sela. It was an easy match and I loved watching Dimitov in action! Did you know he is dating tennis star Maria Sharapova? Cute couple!

It was an easy win for Dimitrov.

It was time for lunch--lobster and shrimp salad--$20! They even had a Chick-fil-A!
Then Lucie Safarova, ranked 14, against Alize Cornet, ranked 22.
Safarova defeated Cornet, but has since been eliminated in the Open.
And finally, what we had all been waiting for: Venus and Serena Williams vs. Kalashnikova and Savchuk.
Venus had lost her spot in the Open just hours before, but she played with a lot of strength and teamwork with Serena.

It was a quick and easy win for the sisters and awesome to see them play together.
Goodbye Flushing Meadows! See you again someday for some more quality tennis action!

The ride back to the city took another hour and once I arrived to the hotel it was about 9:30. I was not ready to go to sleep and decided since it was my last night at the hotel, I owed it to myself to check out the rooftop bar, Mad 46, which is one of the features that attracted me to this hotel. So I changed quickly and rode the elevator up to the exclusive bar.
The "bouncer" had informed me on the ride up that the bartender was from Alabama, told me his name is Tristan and he makes a mean mojito. That's all I needed to know.

I rode the elevator up with a guy from Canada and we decided to grab a drink together and talk. It was quiet up on the rooftop, with smaller, more intimate groups and conversations. I glanced around, ordered my drink and the bartender asked me if I was from South Carolina. I laughed and said that in fact it was Alabama. He said he was from Alabama, too. What are the odds?As he made my drink, I learned that he grew up in Ozark and moved to south Florida during college, and was neither an Alabama or an Auburn fan, ha!

The guy from Canada named Kyle, was also flying solo and it was his first trip to Manhattan. He is a real estate agent in the Alberta area. I told him some great sites to check out in the city, we talked about how small the rooms were here in the hotel, ha, and about traveling in general.
As we rode the elevator back down, we parted ways and wished each other a great rest of the trip.

I was exhausted from a full day of tennis but it was a great way to end the last night at The Roosevelt!

Plenty of adventures still left for Saturday & Sunday, as this birthday trip was far from over...

"Something's always happening here. If you're bored in New York, it's your own fault." Myrna Loy

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