Christmas in New York: Day 2 of 3

Brooklyn Skyline

On Saturday morning, we woke up exhausted from our first day but also determined to cross as much off our wishlist as possible. After looking at everything we wanted to do, I decided it would be best to divide everything by location: on Saturday, we would tackle everything below 25th Street (where we were staying), and Sunday would be our north of 25th day.

First, we let our stomachs lead us to a restaurant that had a decent looking menu outside. After going inside, we were seated right away and our server quickly brought us orange juice and water. We stumbled over the brunch menu, as the server couldn’t give a clear answer for what anything really was, until we ordered what seemed like the simplest options.

For anyone here who follows me on Instagram, it’s fairly obvious that I’m obsessed with Eggs Benedict. I can poach the perfect egg in 2.5 minutes and love to experiment with various toppings at home. So, at a restaurant with such an unusual menu, it seemed like ordering a classic Eggs Benedict (minus the pig) would be easy. Until it came out.

Have you ever seen soggy English muffin and poached egg soup? Apparently that’s how you put hollandaise sauce on a Benny, at this restaurant. I took one bite and nearly choked it back up, after realizing what it tasted like: dirty feet. I quickly put down my fork and knife, sipped my juice and waited for the girls to finish, so I could leave and try to forget the taste.

Fortunately, the day took a turn for the better, after that.

We left the (worst) restaurant (I’ve ever eaten at) and headed back to 6th Ave. Walking past the Flatiron Building for the second time, I knew I had to snap a pic. There is a similar looking building here in Toronto but somehow it just seems so much cooler in NYC.

Flatiron Building

We jumped on the N Train and headed downtown, with the intention of getting off close to Ground Zero. Instead, we got off in Chinatown and walked the rest of the way. (I would just like to mention here that a subway ride is only $2.50 in NYC, compared to $3 in Toronto.)

N Train

On our way to Ground Zero, we walked past Century 21, a department store the girls had heard great things about. After walking around on the third floor of the women’s department for maybe 10 minutes, I realized just how hungry I was, so I left the girls in search of a quick bite.

But I didn’t find food. Instead, I walked right past the FDNY Memorial Wall. After spending part of the morning watching the devastating news about the mass shooting in Connecticut, and now standing mere feet away from 9/11 (a vivid memory, although one I only watched on TV) I had to pause.

FDNY Memorial Wall

When I walked down to Ground Zero, I noticed the flags were at half-mast. Is it always like that, down here? I wondered. Or was it out of respect for the recent shooting victims in Newtown? Either way, it was a somber experience and one I’m grateful I got to experience alone. (Below is the new tower under construction.)

Ground Zero

I began to search for the memorial site, when I realized people had to be herded through a lengthy (I’m talking 1.5-2 hours) lineup, just to see it. While I can understand that doing this might give people a better chance to look at the water, read the names, etc., it felt… a little commercialized? Almost like a spectacle. I didn’t like it.

While the girls continued to shop, I decided to find Wall Street and was surprised when I realized it was only a few blocks away. The first building I spotted was the New York Stock Exchange. Standing in front of it, I was consumed with the notion that it might be one of the most powerful buildings I would ever see.

New York Stock Exchange

I also walked past the Museum of American Finance, which I quickly judged for using a dollar symbol in its name. (Seriously!?) Vanessa has already advised me that I made a mistake by not going in, so that may have to be added to my next-time-I-go-to-NYC list (because there will definitely be a next time).

Museum of American Finance

And then I noticed the statue of George Washington, outside the Federal Hall National Memorial. Did you know this is where George Washington took his oath to become the first president? Again, Wall Street is full of so much power, it was hard not to feel overwhelmed by it all.

Federal Hall National Memorial

After walking through Wall Street (I say through, because it’s not a street that cars can drive on but a pathway people can walk down – this may have surprised me the most) I met up with the girls again. We walked towards the water and spotted Pier 17, also known as the South Street Seaport.

Pier 17

Here, we mostly soaked up the views of the ocean, as well as the Brooklyn Bridge and skyline. (Visiting Brooklyn has also been added to my next-time-I-go-to-NYC list, as has walking across that bridge!)

Brooklyn Bridge

After leaving the pier, we walked around in search of TKTX, a discount booth for broadway and off-broadway shows. As soon as we saw the sign, we noticed it was closed. How could it be closed on a Saturday afternoon!? Because the building was damaged by Sandy.

Boarded Up Shops on Empty Streets

If everything else that day hadn’t been enough, seeing the damage still leftover by Sandy added yet another reason to pause and reflect. Walking on sand that had been washed ashore and seeing so many streets and storefronts boarded up was one thing. But it made me want to know how the people affected were…

At this point, it started to get dark out. In discussions about dinner options, we decided most of the restaurants our friends had told us about were either Italian or in Little Italy. Rather than catch the subway, we walked the 2.1km from Pier 17 to Little Italy, where we serendipitously stumbled upon a place called Toby’s Public House.

After looking at the menu, and seeing that salads were fairly priced and pasta dishes were less than $15 (budget-friendly!), we decided to go in. The hostess sat us at the corner window, so we could look out into the street and continue to marvel at all of the lights and passersby. But Roomie and I were more intrigued by the menu…

Toby’s Public House

At the bottom of the menu, a paragraph of texted was blocked in such a way that it took up nearly a third of the entire space. It said that this restaurant had started a non-profit organization that worked to end the killing of thousands of adoptable dogs and cats in New York City’s animal shelters, simply by spaying and neutering them.

The Toby Project, as it is called, is “the only organization in NYC whose sole mission is to address pet overpopulation at its inception by preventing the births of unwanted dogs and cats. [It serves to] make NYC a true “no-kill” community by directing spay and neuter at the very animals who would otherwise perpetuate a vicious cycle of unwanted birth and unnecessary death.”

Anyone who knows Roomie and/or myself knows we are passionate animal lovers. We were meant to eat at this place. And so we did. The girls started with a salad, while I dived right into the one item on the menu that made me walk into Toby’s in the first place: mushroom ravioli. The sauce was just rich enough that I can still remember the taste. And it was only $13.

We finished our second night in the city by walking all the way up from Little Italy, through Washington Square Park and the Union Square Holiday Market, to our cute little loft apartment on 25th Street. Our plan was to drop our bags off, change, and meet one of the LearnVesters at a house party. But in our final few blocks, we began to slow down, realizing how much our feet and bodies hurt from walking for 12 hours straight…

Washington Square Park at Night

We did quickly stop into the market, where I bought myself the most beautiful green gemstone necklace I had seen the day before. I’ve been dreaming of a similar necklace for months, if not years. Buying it from a local designer (and for only $35) in NYC seemed like the perfect way to not only treat myself but get a keepsake from our trip.

By 11:15pm, we were all asleep, warm in our beds. (Yes, on a Saturday night.)

Day 2 Spending: ~$108.50