“Before it’s too late, without thinking too much about it first, pack a pillow and a blanket and see as much of the world as you can.” – Jhumpa Lahiri
I didn’t leave my heart in San Francisco (I already left it elsewhere), but I had a great time revisiting this city again.
We only had one day to go around downtown and we went to the usual touristy spots such as The Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street and Pier 39.
However, the highlight of the trip for me was going to Haight-Ashbury. I was born decades after this place gained its notoriety, but I was introduced to it by one of Joan Didion’s essays and for some reason, it has always stuck with me.
It is no longer largely inhabited by hippies. Rather it has stores selling all sorts of merchandise (such as the beautiful wasteland that is Amoeba) and pastel-colored apartment buildings lining the streets, but there are still bits and pieces of the hippie culture peeking through walls and windows. I like how you have to lean in as you squint at floor details, or ask the girl manning the store for more details about Jimi Hendrix’s old house.
San Francisco isn’t glitzy like Las Vegas or as bustling as New York is, but there’s a certain calm and solitude in its rolling hills and foggy skies, which I relish.
One of the things I had to do while in New York was to watch a Broadway musical. It wasn’t hard to choose (barely a second, really), since I’ve always wanted to watch Wicked. It was funny and witty, but also had a lot of depth. I haven’t watched an insane number of musicals, but it definitely ranks in my top two. (Avenue Q, being the other one, and which I would love to watch on Broadway as well!)
I wish I could say, I saw more of Central Park. I didn’t see the carousel, the zoo, any of the playgrounds or the boathouse. Mostly just a lot of greenery, some benches, the horse-drawn carriages and bridges. It all looked so familiar though, I knew I’d watched it in a movie somewhere.
I love walking in New York. It can get tiring and I got lost several times, but there’s always so much to see. You never know what to expect.
But know what I love even more? After being there for five days, I know that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what New York has to offer. There is still so much to discover.
To explore the city, my family and I decided to get a 3-day New York Pass. Aside from the savings and convenience of getting one, it encourage you to go around the city and see of it as much as you can in a limited amount of time. Best to read through the guide prior to your trip so you can easily plan your itinerary and strategize.
For the tours, my favorites were The Wall Street tour (I come from a family of bankers, so go figure) and the Rockefeller tour which was very informative. The World Trade Center site was humbling, but The Radio City one was a bust.
For the museums, we went to the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which you could easily spend an entire day in.
A friend told me that if we wanted to see the city from above, theTop of the Rock was better compared to the Empire State. The lines are shorter, it’s less crowded and you have several levels to choose from to use as your vantage point. I’d have to agree.
Despite having said that though, you cannot go to New York and not go to the Empire State Building. We went close to midnight, and true enough, we still had had to wait for half an hour just to get pass the security check. But was it worth? Yes, New York at night is even more beautiful. (Also, random fact: Sleepless in Seattles is one of my favorite movies, ever.)
We also went on a ferry around Manhattan Island which allowed us to see Manhattan from a distance and the Statue of Liberty up close. (There was some construction going at Staten Island, so we weren’t able to include it in our itinerary anymore.)
It’s been almost five months since spent I first found myself in New York, and I’m still trying to find the right words to describe how much this trip meant to me. In a nutshell, I fell in love.
I couldn’t stop myself from marveling at the architecture, both old and new, and at all the choices at anyone’s disposal. You want art? Go to MOMA or the Metropolitan Museum. You like sports? Watch a Yankees or Nets game. Fancy watching a musical? Take your pick at the dozens of plays in Broadway. Dreaming of pursuing further studies and becoming a hotshot trader? Apply at NYU or Columbia, then take a walk down Wall Street. Need some retail therapy? Head to Fifth Avenue, where all the flagship stores are.
The buzz. The vast number of choices. The dream of possibility. It was everywhere. I couldn’t remember the last time a city made me feel like that.
Las Vegas, to me feels like a person who has multiple personalities. At a glance, it’s a stretch of bright neon lights lined by colossal structures. If you try to look closer, it takes awhile to make sense of what you’re actually looking at because there is so much gimmickry happening all at the same time. You see Paris, New York, Greek and Roman architecture, ships and pirates, flamingoes, larger-than-life sculptures and castles, side by side. It can be interesting, to say the least, and there are some great shows to catch (like O, which was amazing) but five days was too long, I realized. The sensory overload and the trying to make sense of things, tires you. Besides, you’d have spent almost all of your hard-earned cash on the slots or the outlets, by then.
In San Diego, my cousins took us to Old Town for some legit Mexican food.
And also, tequila. I cannot remember the name of the first tequila shot we took, but I will not forget the scorpion at the bottom of that bottle. The second tequila shot, I also cannot remember, actually. But it was much better than the first one, and scorpion-less.
Afterwards, we walked around a bit in the chilly evening air. They were telling us about Whaley House, which is supposed to be haunted. Being the scaredy cat that I am, I didn’t really want to go near the place or even take pictures because we’ve all heard stories of seeing things that aren’t supposed to be there. But still I took a couple, albeit hurriedly, because who knew when I’d be back?