Tag Archives: new york

New York: Walking the High Line

The High Line
One of the highlights of our trip to New York was walking the High Line, a formerly abandoned, elevated train line in Chelsea that has been turned into an urban park/greenway. We visited on a warm, sunny Friday afternoon in October, and the High Line was packed with locals and tourists.

High Line Experience

The design detail that went into redeveloping the High Line is awesome. There are so many little touches that make it an interesting stretch to walk. If you look down, you’ll see remnants of railroad tracks and rugged shrubs and flowers. If you look up, you’ll see old brick buildings undergoing renovations to keep up with the interest the High Line has spurred in the area.

Benches on the High Line

There is plenty of seating along the route to stop, eat, read a book, or people watch.

Walking the High Line

High Line and London Terrace Gardens Natural Beauty on the High Line Highline Maintenance Trike Drinking Contraband Soda Undeveloped High Line New York Vertical Parking Lot

New York: Cycling Manhattan

Allen Street Separated Bike Lane
New York has made huge improvements to its walking/cycling infrastructure in the past five years, adding bike lanes, car-free zones, and greenways throughout the city. When we visited in 2007, the first bike lanes were just being built in Manhattan, and few cyclists braved the streets. Five years later, Times Square is a pedestrian-only zone, the High Line is all the rage (more on that in a later post), separated bike lanes cut across Manhattan, and cyclists are everywhere.

Brooklyn Bridge Cyclist

I was really excited to bike around New York and experience all the improvements firsthand. We rented bikes one day, and, unfortunately, had a terribly disappointing experience – the weather, construction, and cost all conspired against us. New York’s bike share program was supposed to be operational during our visit, but was delayed until March 2013. That forced us to rent expensive tourist bikes for $25 each for only 2 hours. The staff at Bike and Roll were almost useless on providing advice on where to go and sent us off with a map that promised separated bike lanes, but didn’t mention that large stretches were under construction and a mess to navigate.

Cycle Track Construction Begins Narrow Bike Lane During Construction

After we got through the construction under the FDR Expressway, we made the mistake of following the signs for the Brooklyn Bridge. The bike route to the foot of the bridge lead us down congested streets in the financial district without any bike lanes. It got especially hairy near the 9/11 memorial.

Nervous in New York Traffic Congested Bike Route

Things were a bit better once we got to the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge has a designated lane for cyclists, but it’s narrow and there are constantly pedestrians spilling into it. There was also more construction on the bridge, so the the first half gave us spectacular views of metal sheeting.

Brooklyn Bridge Bike Lane Brooklyn Bridge Metal Tunnel

The one bright spot of our ride was the last stretch on the west side of Manhattan. The West Side Greenway and Hudson River Promenade offered wide, smooth, uncongested bike lanes put smiles on our faces.

Enjoying the West Side Greenway Battery Park City Promenade

Maybe it was because we weren’t often out during rush hour, but there seemed to be less conflict between cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians in New York (compared to Vancouver), even though space is at more of a premium and we witnessed a lot more bad behaviour. Pedestrians routinely darted into traffic, cyclists salmoned up bike lanes, and cars routinely parked in bike lanes. Yet, we rarely saw angry confrontations. I guess everyone’s a sinner in New York, so there’s no sense being self-righteous.

Union Square Bike Lane Cars Parked in the Bike Lane

More pictures available on Flickr.

New York: Best Vegan Restaurants and Bakeries

New York Vegan Food Collage
While Emily and I were in New York for Ben and Brittany’s wedding, we did our best to eat at the best vegan and vegetarian restaurants. New York has several upscale restaurants that are strictly vegan, and we spent hundreds of dollars trying most of them. The only notable one we missed was Dirt Candy. Here are reviews of the 8 restaurants and two bakeries we ate at.

  1. Pure Food and Wine on UrbanspoonPure Food and Wine
    A raw food restaurant that impressed us with the quality and taste of the food. We ate a portobello and hemp burger and the brazil nut and sea vegetable croquettes, washed down with a bunny brew and red ginger pressed juice. Everything was extremely flavourful. It’s expensive, but well worth it. Everything is completely vegan, soy-free, and mostly gluten-free.
  2. Blossom on UrbanspoonBlossom
    An upscale vegan eatery in Chelsea (close to the High Line). I really enjoyed my phyllo roulade and the coconut crème brulée dessert was to-die-for. Emily enjoyed the ravioli with a cashew cream sauce, but her soup was bland.
    Blossom Dinner Blossom Vegan Coconut Crème Brulée
  3. Candle 79 on UrbanspoonCandle 79
    Another vegan fine-dining restaurant. I was blown away by the food when I ate here in 2005. It was my first introduction to upscale, vegetarian dining and it set the bar that I compare every restaurant to. This time we ordered the nachos, seitan steak, and raw enchilada. It was all good, but we probably should have ordered an appetizer that wasn’t so similar to our entrees.
  4. Sun In Bloom on UrbanspoonSun in Bloom
    A funky vegan restaurant in Brooklyn with lots of raw and gluten-free options. We went for brunch and tried the pancakes (tasty) and a tofu, squash tart (good but dry). There were lots of menu items that I’d want to go back and try. We sat at a big communal table and got to listen to the crumbling relationship of the couple next to us. It was awkward.
  5. Tiffin Wallah on UrbanspoonTiffin Wallah
    We had a tasty Indian lunch buffet here before we had to fly back to Vancouver. It was the cheapest meal we had in New York. Everything is vegetarian and mostly vegan.
  6. Red Bamboo on UrbanspoonRed Bamboo
    A Greenwich Village vegetarian restaurant specializing in mock-meat dishes with a range of flavours. Almost everything has soy, but I managed to find a black bean vegetable stir-fry that I could eat. This was one of Emily’s favourite restaurants and she really enjoyed the mock salmon and quinoa dish she ordered.
  7. Quintessence on UrbanspoonQuintessence
    A raw bar that we checked out for brunch. We had granola with coconut yogurt, walnut banana bread, and a savory crepe (tasty and impressive for a raw food restaurant). The clientele on a weekday morning were bizarre, but it’s exactly what I expected in the East Village.
  8. Caravan of Dreams on UrbanspoonCaravan of Dreams
    Another East Village vegan restaurant. We tried the raw quesadilla and seitan taquitos. Unfortunately, it was all a bit bland. It could have used more spice and flavour. The prices were similar to Candle 79 and Blossom, but the quality wasn’t nearly as good.

There was no clear winner in our vegan bakery contest. Both Babycakes and Blossom Bakery were amazing. The only difference is the part of town they’re located in.

  • Babycakes NYC on UrbanspoonBabycakes
    Located in the Lower East Side, Babycakes has a retro diner atmosphere and is loaded with vegan treats. We tried a doughnut and brownie, and they were amazing. They have lots of gluten-free and sugar-free treats.
    Babycakes Bakery
  • Blossom Bakery on UrbanspoonBlossom Bakery
    A block away from the Blossom restaurant in Chelsea, the bakery serves up sweet delights. We ate a pain au chocolate and coconut creme sandwich. Both were excellent.
    Dessert from Blossom Bakery

We also had really good vegan empanadas from the Nuchas food truck and vegan pizza and pasta from Nick’s Pizza.

New York: Guzinski – Coskery Wedding

First Dance
A beautiful Jewish wedding for a beautiful couple. Congratulations Ben and Brittany. As I said in my rambling wedding speech, it was obvious when I first met Brittany that Ben had finally found his match. You both possess immense wit, intelligence, passion, and a twisted sense of humour. You’re great together. Mazel tov!
Continue reading New York: Guzinski – Coskery Wedding

The Big Apple (Part 2)

(continuing my New York post)

Unlucky numbersThe most memorable part of the New York trip was going to see Jon Stewart and the Daily Show. Ben had 2 tickets, but since they give out more tickets then there are seats, I had to show up early to guarantee us spots. The tickets recommended showing up between 3:30 and 4:00. I showed up at 3:30 and there were already a ton of people in line. By the time Ben showed up around 4, there were another 50 people behind me. Around 4:30 they told some of the people behind us that they wouldn’t be getting in. Then at 5:00 they counted down the line and decided who would get in. We just missed the cut, but since there were some VIPs that hadn’t shown up yet, they kept 13 people around on stand-bye. Ben and I were 12 and 13. Then at 5:30, just before filming was set to begin, they let us know that they had room for 11 more people. Ouch! So close.

I wanted to see a musical (Avenue Q or Spamalot) but the timing didn’t work out. So, now I have to go back to New York.

Married to Science
On Sunday, Emily and I gave Ben a break from our constant presence, and took a train down to Philadelphia to attend a wedding for Emily’s friend. The train ride was quick, comfortable, and convenient but not cheap. I think I’m addicted to trains. I really wish the train network here was better.

The wedding was nice. I probably would have had a better time if I knew someone other than Emily. The ceremony was nice and short, the reception had good food, and the venue was amazing. The wedding was at the Benjamin Franklin Museum. The cocktails were served in the planetarium and the reception was in a big atrium with a domed ceiling and giant Benjamin Franklin statue.

We stayed at a swanky hotel in Philadelphia and had some time Monday morning to explore a bit. I only found out afterwards that the famous Rocky running scene took place just next to our hotel. I wish I would have reproduced it, but I didn’t have my runners anyway. Philly seemed deserted and quiet, especially compared to New York. The museum district and old town were nice, but other than the Liberty Bell (not that amazing) there wasn’t much to see. I think the place might mean more to Americans with all its history, but the significance was lost on me.

Vancouver vs New York
New York is a lot like London, but the exact opposite of Vancouver. All of the excitement in New York is in the center – the big buildings, Central Park, etc. The waterfront really is under utilized. In Vancouver, the seawall is the biggest gem and its the beaches along the water that make it special.

New York is loud, bustling, and smelly. Vancouver doesn’t really feel like a big city. It’s never that crowded, and it smells nice – maybe because it rains more often. Did I mention it was like +30 and sunny the whole time we were in New York? Vancouver was cool and rainy the whole time we were gone.

New York is more classy than Vancouver. Everyone there dresses nice – suits are the standard. Every time we ate out I felt under dressed. Vancouver is more sporty. The standard wear is MEC gear or Lululemon pants. I never feel out of place walking around in my MEC rain jacket and a lot of people wear ski jackets all the time.

New York is a city of arts and culture. There’s a ton of art galleries and theatres. Vancouver is a city of recreation. People here don’t go see plays, they go hiking. There are lots of parks and none have fenced-off grass.
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The Big Onion (Part 1)

I just got back from an awesome weekend in New York City – thanks again Ben for being such a great host. 5 days wasn’t nearly enough time to see everything, so I’m already looking forward to the follow up trip.

Fabulous Food
New York is full of amazing restaurants, including a ton of vegetarian ones. I didn’t know upscale vegetarian restaurants existed, but there are plenty in New York. Usually expensive, fancy meals involves meat of one kind, but we managed to find a few restaurants with exquisite, vegetarian menus. Candle 79 was by far the best. I added some other favourites to my Urban Spoon profile.

The papparazzi wouldn’t leave us alone while we were drinking at Jimmy’s 43. A lady kept snapping pictures of Ben, Emily, and I drinking. She told us a Village Voice, a local paper, was reviewing the pub and needed a picture for the article. I don’t know if we’re famous yet – Ben will have to check when the new issue comes out.

Urban Exploration
I really enjoyed just exploring New York. There are some great neighborhoods (although they did tend to blend together). Emily and Ben took me to the East Village (with its funky shops), Chinatown (crazy busy and smelly), Soho (expensive clothing boutiques), and Union Square Market (a real farmer’s market!). The Big Onion tour of Greenwich Village – the formerly bohemian artists area of town, now trendy, gentrified, and expensive – was super informative and interesting.

I was constantly amazed at the hustle and bustle in New York. The city is chaotic! The sidewalks were constantly packed with people, the streets full of crazy taxi drivers, the smell of garbage lingered everywhere, and the symphony of horns and sirens never ceased. A few times we saw the NYPD out in force riding around in convoys of 50 police cars, sirens screaming – not sure why though they never seemed to get out of their cars. Intimidation maybe?

Stunning Sights
I got to see the normal tourist sights. We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge – a surprisingly pleasant trip due to the fact that the sidewalk is in the middle of the bridge and elevated above the car traffic. I also saw the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and the Statue of Liberty. And of course I got the top-notch Ben tour of Bloomberg – which was pretty impressive. Grand Central Station was another highlight – thanks for showing us all the secrets Ben.

We barely scratched the surface of Central Park (it’s huge!), and I’m itching to go back. I’d love to run and cycle through the park and explore more of it. But it really is a gem. I was amazed with how raw and natural most of it was. The rest of New York is really lacking in parks and green space (why do the other parks insist on fencing off the grass?). But Central Park is just perfect.

Tricky Transportation
New York offers tons of transportation opportunities. The subway is really efficient, but confusing at first. We had trouble a few times figuring out which lines to take and where we could transfer. The express lines speed thing up but also make the system complicated.

We tried to take a taxi once from Grand Central to Penn Station but had trouble flagging on down and eventually gave up and walked – really the best way to get around.

The cyclists in New York are nuts. There are some new cycling lanes painted on the streets, but the cyclists I saw just went wherever they wanted, often against one-way traffic. And every bike had 20 lb chains on them. It’s too bad, because New York should be easy to cycle (its dense and relatively flat), but the crazy drivers don’t make it easy.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Lucky/Unlucky, Married to Science, Vancouver vs New York, and a photo journal.