NYC, I Love.

New York City, a place that is to me a little too overrated, overcrowded and where everything is overpriced. It’s been a while since the last time I visited. It was almost 5 years ago and I was still pregnant with my daughter when I took my grandmother to visit the city before she headed back home to the Philippines. And I remember how I loved walking the busy streets in spite of the sweltering summer heat, hopping onto the subway and grabbing a quick bite from pizza and hotdog trucks. Last weekend, I got the chance to visit Manhattan again. And I must say, it was one of my most memorable NYC weekends. It was a weekend like no other because I never thought that I will be treading Midtown Manhattan all the way up to Central Park with a friend, from the Philippines! A high school friend from the Philippines! A dream come true!

My high school friend, Maite and her husband, Francis are here touring the US. They are doing east coast this year and Maite, as soon as she got their tickets never failed to let me know that she’s coming over and we should see each other. I booked a flight to JFk as soon as I found out and have looked forward to it, counting down the days until I fly to NY and see her (which is another story). So anyway, Saturday, July 9th, we headed to NYC. We took the 167 NJ transit to Port Authority and headed out to 41st street. Then we started  heading north. At this point, I was mentally pinching myself. It was all surreal to me. I’m walking abreast with one of my friends from high school IN MANHATTAN! Not Makati. Not Ortigas but NYC!!!

New Bridge Rd. & Washington Ave. waiting for 167

41st St. heading North to Central Park

Neopolitan Pizza and Strawberry Sierra Mist

On our way to  Times Square, we decided to stop at one of the corner food courts where I ordered this delicious thin crust Neapolitan Pizza and an ingeniously brilliant Strawberry Sierra Mist.( Now why didn’t I think of that?)  And I can’t remember which corner it was on. I think it’s somewhere around 45th or 46th between 7th and 8th ave? Anyway, the food was good in spite of my $8 bill for a pizza and drink. So we continued on with our journey with my belly quite full and happy (and so was Francis’).  As we were walking, we must also find a place, a coffee shop or a small cafe where Maite and Francis can charge their camera battery. Coincidentally, Maite started getting hungry (just about 2 seconds after we left the corner pizza place) and we found this dim sum joint, Ruby Foo’s (Times Square 1626 Broadway ay 49th St.).  The host was gracious enough to let us use the charger. +1 for Ruby Foo’s on top of their good dessert bento box. Their dim sum wasn’t too impressive for a dim sum place ( I guess it’s expected when there’s not one asian person in the staff, am I wrong to think that?). But they made up for it with their dessert. I attampted to take a picture of the pie/tart I loved so much but my Blackberry failed me.

Times Square, 1626 Broadway at 49th St.

Times Square

NYC! (photo courtesy of Francis Alcantara)

Where do we go next? (Photo courtesy of Francis Alcantara)

What's NYC without the infamous Yellow Cabs

We located tkts first to see if we can catch a matinee broadway show but everything starts at 2:00pm so we decided against it. So we continued on Broadway to Central Park. This is what we did the majority of the afternoon. Immerse and disappear in the magic of Cetnral Park. That was what Maite wanted to do. Just sit in the middle of the Park, in the Mall and visit the fountain. I’m so glad to see her fulfill one of her dreams. We hired a bicycle cab that we teasingly call “pedicab” which abounds in my homeland. It was a good thing we did because by the time we reached the park, the sun was well at it’s peak right above us. Our bicycle driver/tour guide, Apollo  was pretty entertaining.

We were yet to find out he was going to be our Central Park guide

Above is the picture of Maite getting excited as she sets foot on Central Park. I was so happy for her. After we have familiarized ourselves with the park via the bicycle tour, we revisited all the spots again on foot. Now I realize why Central Park’s been a favorite setting for romantic movies. There’s something captivating about the place. I want to go back there in the fall to capture the warm fall colors against the biting New York city weather around that time of year.

In our NYC "pedicab" (Photo courtesy of Francis Alcantara)

About to make a wish at the Bethesda fountain. At this point I really regret not bringing my camera. (Photo courtesy of Francis Alcantara)

Musicians in Central Park. I love the compelling sound of the cello. These two women are amazing.

There was also a wedding when we went there. And what would be more apt than these girls playing Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel. I had to force tears from jotting down my eyes. And once again, the cello captivated me.

As we were walking, we spotted this alternative-blues duo and i decided to give them a hand with my talent in playing the kiddie tambourine. I had so much fun and I think the crowd loved it, too. I don’t think the guys were too happy about my idea, though. I gave them a dollar after.

My NY debut. If child care fails, I have a fall back plan. It looks kind of promising.

Figuring out how to get to Serendipity. (photo courtesy of Francis Alcantara)

After hours of walking around the park, it was time to head to our next and probably final stop, Serendipity. Yes, the movie. And yes, that’s the small cafe where Cate Beckinsale and John Cusack ate. Maite wanted to visit the place. We walked the Upper East Side to get there and it was an easier stroll because the it wasn’t as busy as Midtown Manhattan. The wait was an hour and a half and we decided to look for another restaurant to eat and come back for dessert. We found The Brasserie 360 . I ordered Cheddar Ravioli du Jour in wine cream sauce. It was good but so rich and heavy. Kind of pricey, too. $16 for a 6-piece average sized raviolis. Francis ordered the skirt steak and it was delicious. I am yet to learn how to cook steak like that. Just go there so you can see what I’m talking about. It you ahve $90.00 to spend on 3 different entrees, then this is your palce to go. However, I wasn’t satisfied with the service. Our “Antonio Banderas” server wasn’t quite gracious. Maite and Epi were so nice they still tipped the guy pretty well. God bless you, guys.

Brasserie 360. 200 E 60th St. at 3rd Ave.

And so we finally culminate the trip at Serendipity. We headed back to the tiny cafe tucked in 60th Street. The palce? Your perfect Sunday brunch spot with your girlfriends or four-year old daughter. The interior is shabby chic and every corner has a pleasant quirky surprise. From art decos of Marilyn Monroe to distressed salmon pink dresser. Downstairs was a gargantuan clock next to one of the tables. We were seated at the 2nd floor by the window. It was perfect. The coffee was awesome, expensive but awesome. The flavor was full and it’s a nice waker upper for another set of walking back home. We ordered the Forbidden Broadway Sundae and it was good. It was three scoops of vanilla ice cream which was surprisingly light so you don’t feel guilty of eating a huge serving of sundae. It was topped with a decadent fudge frosting covered chocolate cake and a generous serving of chocolate fudge and whipped cream. It was heaven in a cup. A huge cup. It was pretty scary to eat by yourself. But just when I thought that no one can devour a single serving, the middle aged red-haired lady just finished hers, by herself! Wow!

225 E 60th St. between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.

We immediately took a cab back to Port Authority right after trying to savor and enjoy the sundae and coffee in what felt like 10 minutes. But it was THE sweetest (pun intended) 10 minutes of my life.

It was an NYC trip to remember indeed. When we got back to my mom’s house in New Jersey, we retired for the day but I kept playing back our day in my head. It was so much fun and I was grateful to have spent it with a friend. You see, that was an idea I have long forgotten and let go, being able to hang out with one of my friends from the Philippines here in the US or some foreign country. I never really thought it possible, but it happened. And I still thank God for this rare opportunity that reminded me that nothing is impossible. Now, I have a new-found love for NYC. So as the song goes “concrete jungle where dreams are made of”. (I know, it’s just Beyonce) But it is true. It is the dream that the city holds true for you.  No matter what it is, be it a corner office in out of the Wall St. corporate towers or just simply visiting movie settings with a friend. That’s the magic Manhattan brings to you.

Here are some helpful links for those of you who want to visit the magnificent New York City.

Where to stay, things to do, etc.

Getting around town (transportation)

Discount tickets to Broadway shows

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