Monday, August 2, 2010

Guest Post: I am interviewed on All Things NYC

See below for the interview I did with Lisa, from Two Bears Farm, and then head on over there to get to know her better. You won't regret it - I promise!

When Andrea invited me to do a guest post I was very excited, because I’ve been dying to pick her brain on all things NYC for a while now. See, I’m running the NYC marathon in November. It only took me FOUR LONG YEARS to get in. And I’m pumped! But a little intimidated. I grew up in Northern Virginia on the outskirts of D.C., but I’ve been a country girl now for quite a while. And I definitely don’t know anything about NYC. So I asked Andrea if I could interview her for my guest post. I need the inside scoop so I don’t get into trouble while in the big city.

Okay, so first off logistics. The race starts on Staten Island and I heard that it’s best to take the ferry to the start. So I’m staying at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. Good choice or am I screwed?

** You will be able to take the subway (often referred to as the train) from Times Square directly to South Ferry. I believe it will be the red lines, the 1 or the 2 trains were what go directly downtown, and you can pick them up in Times Square, but I will confirm that for you before then. A great website for visiting NYC and the buses/trains information is Hopstop.com. Even native NYers like myself have been known to use it at times!

We’re taking a train in to Penn Station because I’m absolutely terrified at the idea of driving in NYC. My husband actually asked me why we weren’t just driving. I said, “No one DRIVES to NYC!” Would it be disastrous to expect to walk from Penn Station to our hotel (assuming we only have light luggage) or should we cab it?

** Too funny about driving. You're likely better off so as not to have to worry about parking, which unless the hotel has a "lot" you'd be paying out the nose for over the course of so many days! You could actually take the subway, if you were comfortable enough doing so. You'd get on the train [subway - not the one you're taking in] under Madison Square Garden and inside Penn Station and take that directly to Times Square. It's one stop over. A cab is not horrible, and it's a short ride, but with traffic (what time are you arriving in NYC?) it might cost more than you'd expect since you're in the heart of the city over there. If you wanted to walk over it's from 34th (Penn Station) to 42nd (Times Square) and depending on the exact block your hotel is on, it may seem like an ordeal, as, again, heart of the city, lots of foot traffic, and car traffic, etc. If you don't mind spending a few $ to get you there, hop in a cab and you'll have the "experience," and tend to use them less frequently than you'd expect throughout the four days you're there.

Oh please please please tell me about food! Favorite restaurants, street vendors – you name it I’m game. I’m running a marathon and I expect to enjoy the chow rewards that come along with that ;-)

** There are so many amazing places to eat in New York! You can pretty much find a pretzel or a "dirty water dog" vendor on any street corner. I suggest you be sure to have yourself a true NYC bagel and at least ONE slice of pizza from a real pizzaria before you head home. I need to check exactly where in Times Square your hotel is, so I can direct you to the best possible options! And I'd say if you could find yourself a local diner, you'd have an enjoyable and fairly cheap dining experience, at least once.

A few places I recommend (and I'll give you a few not in the area, so you can explore Manhattan a bit!) are:

* Chat-n-Chew, for which you can find the menu here. The reviews on this particular site aren't overly favorable, but I have never had anything from their menu that I didn't enjoy.

* Cucina de Pesce, for the best Italian food! There are tons of places you can find, but this one is quaint, even somewhat romantic. I usually get pasta, but they have a variety on their menu. It's not exactly "cheap," but it's fairly affordable compared to other places. Plus it's on the Lower East Side, which is a different experience than where you will be. But if you and hubby prefer to try family-style Italian eating, there are the well-known touristy Italian restaurants I can suggest, as well.

* Another place I'd recommend is John's Pizzeria, which is actually not far from your hotel. The pizza is really good, the atmosphere is fun, and you can walk there. It's not your typical NYC pizza joint, but it's well known, and good food.

* OK, lastly (or I'd be going on forever here!) if you want another touristy experience, you should go to Serendipity. Their regular menu isn't all that exciting, and is really over-priced, so you can feel free to pick up a slice of pizza or something generic out on the street (in a smaller location, not a restaurant type place) and head over there for dessert. If you've never heard of their frozen hot chocolate, well, you'll see when you click that link. To. Die. For. I can also recommend their "Humble Pie," which is really yummy. [Plus they are right down the street from Dylan's Candy Bar, so you can pick up some treats to bring back home or to your hotel with you - to avoid raiding the minibar! Or heck, just grab dessert there and people watch!)

We’re staying 4 nights in NYC. I won’t do much the night prior to the race, but the other nights are fair game. This will be my first time away from the twins and Pierce like this, so the hubby and I should probably live it up. In fact, we haven’t even been out to a movie on our own since they were born! Where should we go to have fun in the evenings?

** Will you try to see a show? If so I think heading over to the TKTS booth in the area will be your best bet, as long as you are flexible, they have offers available for crazy low prices, but you have to buy whatever they have for sale to go see that day. So you may want to see show A, but if they don't have cheap seats, you would only have B & C to purchase, if you're interested. Worth checking out. Honestly, you can experience so much just walking around Manhattan. There is so much to see and do, I would be hard pressed to encourage you to do one thing at night. Food, food and more food work well. ;) Would you like some bar info, too? Dancing? I am pretty sure there are movie theaters nearby, as well, so you can always catch whatever is playing!

Likewise, we’ll have some free day time too. What are the MUST SEES for the tourist like myself? Who knows when/if I will get to head back there, so I want to make sure I don’t miss anything really great.

** The Empire State Building is a must-see for tourists in NY, in my opinion. I've been a handful of times, and each time it amazes me how much you can see from up there. It's over on 34th street and 5th Avenue, and you could probably walk from your hotel (see the cab comments earlier, it's an easy walk once you know where you are headed and minus the luggage). Also, St. Patrick's Cathedral is beautiful. It's just an amazing experience to walk in there, and it's a definite NYC landmark. If you're looking for a more somber experience, you can always head downtown to see Ground Zero. There is a lot to do down there, shopping and eating, etc. but I warn you, it's an extremely emotional and overpowering experience to stand before where the towers once were.

Do I have to wear black? It always seems like the trendy New Yorkers only wear black.

** You can wear whatever you want. If you want to blend in more, stay away from floral patterns and stick with solids. NYers do wear black, but we like our solid colors, too. Although in November, if it is a chilly fall, you may be wearing a coat all the time, anyway. Except when you're running, of course.

What about shopping? I’m perpetually broke, but is there some really great store I should be saving up to visit?

** I am a shopper, but I don't think I have anything you MUST head to. Like, I'd say, oh, you should go and see Tiffany's, but as if you're going to make a purchase in there, just because you're there, ya know? But I would say you should try to get to FAO Schwarz. It's the craziest toy store in Manhattan, and yes, you'll enjoy the experience even without the kids. Possibly moreso! But don't expect to purchase anything. Their prices are crazy. But if you've seen BIG [Tom Hanks] and remember his jumping around on the floor piano scene? That was filmed there. If you do want to buy something affordable for just YOU, and don't have an H&M anywhere nearby, you may want to check out one of their locations. They have cute stuff, a little bit of a city feel, but it will be JAMMED in there when you go, so brace yourselves! [Oh, and now that I think about it, there is one like right by St. Patrick's, so you might want to sneak on in ...]

I don’t guess they have sweet tea up there. What am I going to drink?!?

** Nope. No Sweet Tea. And avoid their iced tea like the plague. Since it will be November, you're bound to find some yummy warm beverages to keep you nice and toasty as you travel the city streets. Basically you can find a coffee/tea vendor on any street corner, and for about 50c (it may have gone up - but it's still super cheap - all things considered!) you can actually get a decent cuppa' something to warm your insides. Of course there are 900 Starbucks locations (that's an exaggeration, but I am sure I'm not far off) throughout Manhattan, and every real New Yorker knows that carrying a water bottle on you at all times is essential.

Any tips for avoiding issues like pickpockets. Do I even need to be worrying about that?

** It's not nearly as scary as one would think. Just use common sense. If you're on the subway, don't carry your bag behind you with all of your money in it. If you have a knapsack, pull it around front so you have your hand and eyes on it all the time. If you're walking through the streets hold your bag under your arm and close to your body. If you've got a knapsack keep nothing in the smaller zippered compartments and keep your money on your person, as opposed to in the larger areas in the bag. Always keep some extra cash on you, in a pocket, somewhere, in case you lose your bag. It's easy to forget something if you're not used to the experience. Just pay attention to your surroundings and you'll be fine. The tips I'm giving are not so you'll be afraid, just so you remind yourself of common sense and you won't have to worry. And try not to stop in the middle of the street and look up. Dead giveaway that you're a tourist. Oh, and I wouldn't suggest asking strangers to take pictures of you and hubby. Unless you happen to meet a couple in the hotel or something. [See the next answer for more on that!]

Tell me a fun story from your own life in NY. Just to give me a little taste of what I’m headed into!

** I am ALWAYS the person that people on the street ask for directions, ask a favor (can you please take a picture for us?) and just plain talk to. NYers are friendlier than you think. If you need directions, ASK for them. We'll help you, and if we have no idea where you're talking about we'll shrug and walk off. Or we'll say something like, 'Sorry, Dude.' But unless you see ME in the middle of the street, be careful who you ask to take a picture for you. You never know if you're going to wind up with someone who is going to run off w/ your camera. I'd say that anywhere, but your best bet is to ask the waiter/waitress serving you, or a hostess to take a quick shot, so you can at least remember that you and hubby were there together.

As a final reminder, walk around like you OWN the place. Seriously. That is one thing New Yorkers do. And we are cool with sharing. Don't push and shove, of course, leave that to the natives, but that's also where the don't just stand there comes in. We'll knock you out of our way. If you need directions and can't figure something out, move over to the side of the street, walk into a store, but don't be surprised if the guy behind the counter barely speaks English and is trying to tell you how to get to where you're headed anyway! Wow. I'm so totally homesick right now. Good thing I'm headed North soon ...


Thanks, Andrea! How cool is it that I’m going to have my very own Good Girl Gone Redneck handbook for my trip? Waaaaay better than Fodor’s!

4 comments:

HarmSkills said...

if you are in times square, go to Carmine's and carbo load on the best marinara sauce ever before your race. I also like Ruby Foo's in Times Square!

walk around alot. And if you want a NY drink that you cant get anywhere else, ask for an egg cream at a diner or i think they have them at Gray's Papaya.

No sweet tea here, although that is my favorite thing about traveling to the south! good luck!

varunner said...

thanks SO much! Awesome info, and I can't wait to eat all those places ;)
Last night we watched Run for Your Life - a documentary following the history of the NYC marathon and its creator - and now I'm more excited than ever!!

Secret Mom Thoughts said...

We went to NYC a couple weeks ago. Wish I had read your advice first. Next time we'll check out some of those restaurants.

Di said...

Excecllent advice - especially Chat-n-Chew. We love that place. Love. It.
Another cool NYish shopping place is Uniqlo - which is actually a Japanese chain of clothing stores with on-trend basics. Love their stuff, and it's a bit better quality than H&M. They have a location near St. Patrick's, I think

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