05 Oct

New York, New York!

Travis really liked the idea of taking the train to get from D.C. to New York City, but the reality is that it’s not cost effective. We scored two tickets on Boltbus that together cost $30, while Amtrak would have cost us $104. With this extra money saved, we’ll be able to eat as much 0.99¢ NYC pizza as we want!!

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Settling into Brooklyn on a sleepy Labor Day weekend in the Bedford–Stuyvesant neighborhood. These blocks have been home to countless talented people including Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., Chris Rock, Norah Jones, etc. We did not encounter any of them. Or their ghosts.

Brooklyn, NYC

We rented a room with an Airbnb host in Brooklyn for $55/night. It had a really great air conditioner, which for us is big-time luxury. We had great sleeps!

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Now, first things first. Should we take in Brooklyn’s West Indies/Caribbean Islands Festival? Didn’t we just come from the Caribbean? Yes, but who cares! The smell of fried foods, smokey BBQ and sweet tropical drinks mingle with the sounds of island music.

West Indies/Caribbean Islands Festival 2015

West Indies/Caribbean Islands Festival 2015

We set off to tackle the world’s largest subway system (by number of stations) with vigor – we WILL figure this out! We make it to Central Park and pop out from underground to a beautiful cloudless day.

Central Park, NYC

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art (those in-the-know call it ‘The Met’) has an immense plot of real estate on the east side of Central Park. Cost of entry is “pay what you can”, which is right up our Mustachian alley! An amount of $25 per person is suggested. We donated what we felt a day at the museum is worth to us and everyone wins! You want to know how much we paid, don’t you???

There is an odd sense of déjà vu at this museum… Amanda playing hacky sack on the front steps at age 16 while on a class trip from Montreal. This is all that is remembered from this world-class museum through a teenager’s eyes.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

Rooftop terrace at the Met with views of Central Park and the west side of Manhattan.

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After a few days, we learn to take the express subway to get anywhere quickly. We find ourselves using terms like uptown, midtown and “lower east side”. People ask us for directions and we’re 62% certain we send them in the right direction! Boy, are they thankful to be talking to knowledgeable New Yorkers!

Cabs and hot dog stands on 5th Avenue? Yes, we are definitely in New York City.

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The Hayden Planetarium was on Travis’ New York bucket list. It’s part of the American Museum of Natural History (another ‘pay what you can’ museum). We were secretly hoping to see its director Neil deGrasse Tyson wandering around, but he was probably busy with universe-related things. Here’s Travis enjoying a blowup shot of the spectacular Whirlpool Galaxy!

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As much as we enjoy taking the subway, it’s not Panama City cheap. We sign up for the NYC bike share program, Citi Bike and set out to cruise the loud, mean streets of New York. After a short while it takes on a video-game quality, as you expertly dodge angry cabbies and the honking begins to sound like a background symphony.

The Brooklyn Bridge was a fab ride. It looks peaceful in this shot, which allowed Travis to pull the camera out, but the normal state of affairs is dodging large clusters of pedestrian tourists stumbling into the bike lane while taking selfies. Furious weeny bikebell ringing ensues.

Brooklyn Bridge Bike Path, NYC

As the date approached the 11th of September, memorial wreaths were popping up outside fire stations we passed on the street. A few days prior, we had visited the 9/11 Memorial Park at the base of the new WTC1. Square infinity pools sit in the exact footprint where the two buildings used to stand, and the close to 3000 victims names are inscribed around the pools. The feel was more tourist landmark than somber memorial, however I’m sure this differs inside the well-regarded museum (at a cost of $25 p.p., we did not go).

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Time Square and the NYPD. What colorful chaos in this part of town!

Times Square, NYC

The main reason to come to this area is that it borders the Broadway Theater District. We entered into several ticket lotteries … and lost. It was ridiculous, really. Below is a picture of the lottery draw for a new Broadway musical called Hamilton. Look at all these people attempting to get discounted seats!

Hamilton Broadway Show Lottery Draw

In the end, we did get to see a great play called Hand To God: foul-mouthed puppets with religious satire – an awesome combination. We bought $27 rush tickets at the theater box office, which are only available on the morning of the show. This is the cheapest way we found to see a show. Also, choosing one that wasn’t nearly as popular as some of the others. Musicals seem to be in high demand, but in our experience, Travis can never seem to figure out what people are singing about and the show is thus lost on him (‘why is everyone so Miserable?‘). We really enjoyed our puppet play.

Hand to God Broadway Show

Our pre-Broadway show meal was an amazing Chinese noodle place called Xi’an Famous Foods. We each had one of their signature Spicy Cumin Lamb Burgers and shared Concubine’s Chicken Hand-Ripped Noodles. So nose-snifflingly yummy and very affordable!

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We ended the trip with a free ride on the Staten Island Ferry. Free for all. Not just because we are special. In addition to shots of the New York skyline and several bridges, you pass the Statue of Liberty and a nice view of New Jersey. It’s always great getting out on the water!

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The comforts we feel being back in a familiar, English-speaking country are about to be pulled out from under us, as we return to Central America. The land of rice and beans, plantains, pineapples and papaya. We’ll continue to polish our Spanish over the next 3 months, then get back on the road with our 4Runner Bruno to head north through Honduras, Belize and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula!

  • Nathan Smith

    Reading this, all the while thinking “yes yes, but WHERE is Bruno??”

    • Amanda

      Bruno’s not really one for flying… next post – Bruno’s jail break out of the storage facility!

    • Travis

      Hey, don’t you worry about Bruno, he’s safe and sound parked out front. In fact, I was just doing work on his alternator!

  • Looks like it was a great trip! Only thing I would add is the high line. Gotta love the *free* Stat island ferry.

    • Travis

      Thanks! Yeah, we actually did walk some of the high line. At one section there is an interesting view of a vertical parking lot – so I took this picture!

  • I never knew you could walk or ride a bike across the Brooklyn Bridge. Not sure why that never crossed my mind in all of our trips to NYC. I’ll have to add that on the to do list for the next tourist trip up to the big apple.

  • deanerick

    So, you took a vacation from your vacation? Not sure that is frugal. Bruno would not approve.

    • Amanda

      You’re right – Bruno disapproves anytime we fly instead of include him, but a trip to the homeland was necessary due to our US green cards. Not really a vacation, since we weren’t paying rent anywhere. Just a continuation of our daily lives!