Grapeshot Travel Blog: Sonia goes to New York


Words || Sonia Lal

Place Travelled: USA

Favourite City: New York! From the soaring skyscrapers to the smell of hot dogs wafting through the air New York City was undoubtedly my favourite place within America. I was there for only two weeks and it definitely was not enough. The constant bustle of people getting on and off the Subway and the buzz of the neon jungle that is Times Square left me with a constant sense of excitement and urgency. I wanted to constantly be a part of the hubbub because I was scared that I might miss out on a dance show on the streets or miss the cut off for the never-ending line of people waiting desperately to get bargain Broadway tickets. The constant craziness of NYC has made it one of my favourites places in the world!

Five items that were an absolute must-have on your trip?

  1. Carmex, or any other form of lip balm/moisturiser: I travelled to NYC during Winter, which meant subzero days. Having a strong lip balm like Carmex on hand most definitely helped my very cracked lips!
  1. Hand Cream: Along the same line as the Carmex, hand cream is a very underrated part of the winter essentials. Carrying hand cream around with me prevented my hands from getting overly dry and shrivelled.
  1. Warm Clothes: I spent most of my days and evenings outside in the cold exploring the city so I didn’t leave my room without thermals on, a thick scarf, a beanie, gloves, and a really thick coat.
  2. Subway App: The subway is the main way I travelled around NYC. Before leaving for my trip my cousin suggested to download the app, and after doing so it quickly became a daily essential. The app made using the subway a whole lot easier, and getting around NYC so much less stressful.
  1. Quarters (25 cent pieces): I stayed at a hostel, which had a self service laundry facility. Luckily I had watched the episode of Friends where Ross takes Rachel to a laundromat for the first time so I was already aware that I would need quarters to operate the machine and dryer. Even in the other cities I went to I needed quarters to operate the laundry machines. So I realised that always having some quarters put aside was the key to clean clothes.

Did you find any sights or activities down the road less travelled in New York City?

My favourite poem of all time is Having a Coke With You by Frank O’Hara. In the poem he outlines going to The Frick to see a painting called The Polish Rider. So being the nerd that I am I had to go to The Frick to see the artwork O’Hara writes so highly about. The Frick is a mansion that was turned into an art museum at the behest of its late owner Henry Clay Frick. Unlike the other art museums I had visited there wasn’t as much of a crowd, which allowed me to admire the pieces without feeling rushed. I was able to stand in front of The Polish Rider for as long as I wanted, and explore the mansion for hours. Whilst it is conceived as famous art museum, I still felt that it was one of the lesser known treasures of Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Weirdest thing to happen you on the trip?

I had been standing for almost 13 hours in Times Square. It was New Year’s Eve and like most of the other 2 million people there I was eagerly awaiting Mariah Carey to come on stage and sing us into the new year. I started screaming at the top of my lungs when she appeared behind a cluster of giant white feathers being held by some very handsome backup dancers in burgundy velvet blazers, and started singing Auld Land Syne. However, it was only after a few seconds that the performance went downhill. Mariah suddenly stopped singing and on one of the massive LED screens plastered to a building I could see that she was not happy. She then tried to resume the performance, however, after two minutes of mumbled singing, apologies, and awkwardly dancing around the stage Mariah simply walked off. It was honestly an extremely strange and surreal moment. Two million people, myself included, simply stood there in complete awe of what had just taken place. It was definitely one of the weirdest and craziest moments I had experienced on my trip.

What was the budget like?

New York City can be quite an expensive place. In saying that its cosmopolitanism enables a great array of choices to suit a varying range of budgets. Working full time prior to embarking on the trip allowed me to have a relatively comfortable budget, however, knowing that I would be going back home to no job meant that I was still being careful with the amount I was spending. I budgeted at least 100 US dollars a day to cover food and activities, but there were some days when I didn’t even spend close to the $100 budget. I found that I mainly spent money on sightseeing activities such as going to museums and attractions like the Empire State and Rockefeller Centre. Staying in a hostel helped reduce some of my cost not only because the accomodation itself was cheaper in comparison to a hotel, but it also contained a communal kitchen. This meant that I bought groceries in order to cook my own food (I really only made cheese and mustard sandwiches because I have zero cooking skills!), which saved me from eating out everyday.

#Foodbucketlist: Best eats?

NYC has a huge variety of food choices. Even with all the amazing food options I have to say that Shake Shack was probably one of my favourite places to eat. They do a delicious chicken burger with pickles. Prior to my first Shake Shack burger I absolutely despised of pickles, but I am now a convert thanks to Shake Shack. I can’t talk about NYC food without mentioning pizza. One of the best pizza places I found was called Gotham Pizza on York Avenue. The slices are enormous, freshly cooked, and it’s quite cheap as well at around $3 a slice. Another great place to get food is from the food carts that line the streets. For me nothing quite beat walking through Central Park after a day at the Natural History Museum, eating fries I had bought from a food cart.

What advice would you give to other people travelling?

I think it is really important sometimes to not have a strict plan and allow yourself to  wander. I found it really exciting to wake up and see where the day took me.

My travel mantra is…

To never take things too seriously. I realised not only whilst I was in NYC, but when I was travelling through other states in the US that it’s so important to actually relax, explore and take a moment to absorb everything.