New York Adventure- Day Two, part 2

After I survived my TV segment, Chris walked me to Grand Central Station, where I was to meet my friend. The timing was perfect. It was around 2, and she was to get there around 2:30. There were all sorts of interesting little shops around the perimeter of the huge building, which was restored a few years ago. The ceiling was amazing.

Grand Central Station restoration

Chris walked me through several specialty food stores, famous for cheeses or bread or fish or beef or spices. I wasn’t too surprised to see (beautiful) beef for $12 a pound, but I was amazed to see some cheese that cost $21 a pound. Pretty crazy to an Idaho girl who won’t pay more than $2.50 a pound for cheese.

I’d gotten a chance to visit Whole Foods the night before, and so was starting to see that the deli departments in the grocery stores in New York are amazing. So MANY options. It’s easy to see how it would be very tempting for a working mom with a small family to just grab deli food instead of cooking in the evening. The food all looked so good, and so varied. Mexican, Asian, brick oven pizza, and on and on….

I said goodbye to Chris, called my husband to tell him things went well, and then met up with Kate. She has 4 kids, including a son from Ethiopia, and we have been email friends for years. It was fun to meet her in person, and she was in person almost exactly as she seemed via email. I felt like I really did already know her, and we had zero trouble finding things to discuss.

She had her 11 year old daughter with her, whom she needed to drop off at her grandparents’ house for an overnight stay. So we walked and took the subway there first. This was the first time I’d been on a subway anywhere except in Korea. Kate said that the line we were riding on was one of the better ones. Compared to the subways in Seoul it looked extremely run-down: unpainted concrete, low ceilings, very industrial and worn. But you can’t beat the price:$2.50 to ride anywhere in the city.

Kate’s parents’ lovely apartment was lined with bookshelves, which made me immediately feel at home. We visited with her dad for a couple minutes, and then headed off to walk to Chinatown. People like me who live in the suburbs or out in the country get used to hopping in the car to go anywhere. In big cities it seems like people expect to walk more.

Kate lived in NYC for years, and said that they didn’t even own a car until after 9-11. Now they live north of the city. But during their last year in New York they spend $300 a month just to park their car. Numbers like that make me understand why a lot of people in NYC don’t even own cars, especially given the fact that there are trains and subways that can get you all over the place.

The next day I talked to a cab driver who said that a nice restored brownstone house in Harlem will cost you $4000 a month to rent. A cheap 1 bedroom will cost $1000. Housing prices are so high in the city that he moved his family to Pennsylvania, where their mortgage on a 5 bedroom house is $1500. As much fun as the city is, I’m glad I live in Idaho.

Housing in Harlem  for $4000 a month

Kate led me first to a great shop that had boatloads of fun goodies. For my 4 year old(birthday gift– shhh!) I found a tiny 5 inch replica of a ladies purse, complete with shoulder strap and 4 separate zippered compartments. She will have a lovely time filling it with little things and bringing it to church with her. Found lots of other good stuff too. I was completely tempted to bring home an entire set of dishes. But I stopped myself, remembering how hard it would be to get dishes home without breakage.

Along with things for my family, I also found some excellent prices for sesame seeds and dried mushrooms, proving once again that ethnic markets can offer excellent deals, even in big cities. To get things home, I found a lightweight zippered tarp-like grocery bag for $4. (Was wishing I’d remembered to stuff an empty duffle bag into my suitcase, but ah well.)

Soon we realized we were starving. The 3 bites of sandwich that I ate for lunch were long gone! Kate knew a wonderful hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant—down some steep steps into a tiny basement, actually. We had shrimp chow fun, dumplings, sesame chicken, and a most excellent chat. I felt so blessed that she’d been able to rearrange her schedule so that we could get together. After the meal, we shopped as we walked back through Times Square towards my hotel and the place where she was meeting her husband, and said goodbye a few blocks from my hotel.

Speaking of hotels, I was staying at the Hilton Garden Inn on 8th Avenue and 48th Street, and was well pleased with that choice. I’d been given a $300 a night budget by my publisher. Hooray! However I was surprised at how hard it was to find a nice hotel for that price. Turns out $600 a night in NYC is not uncommon. Two nights at that rate would be more than our entire monthly house payment. (Can you tell that NYC left me with major sticker shock??)

Anyway, the hotel is in the middle of everything, and is clean and well staffed, with lovely beds. My room had an empty fridge—not one of those booby-trapped mini-bar ones– and a microwave. Down in the lobby there’s a little grocery store where you can buy microwave dinners, drinks, ice cream and other snacks. I was only on the second floor, and the view out my window kind of made me laugh. But tweak the camera angle upward, and it was pretty darned sweet.

My window, looking out

My window, looking up

That evening I got back to my room around 7, and suddenly realized that the hustle and excitement of the day had left me utterly whipped. I proceeded to spend a quiet evening writing, chatting with my hubby on Facebook, and watching Bobby Flay throwdowns on Food TV. A quiet hotel room all to myself– utterly satisfactory.

{ 13 Comments }

  1. Was the Chinese restaurant Woo Hop’s by any chance? Thats my favorite one down there.

  2. Elaine, I think that sounds right, but maybe Kate will chime in….

    Mary

  3. I’m glad to hear you’ve enjoyed your time in my fair city. And we’ve had some great weather for you this week.

    My I’m afraid that you would actually need to double the monthly rent prices your taxi driver quoted: a 1 cheap bedroom in Manhattan is about $2000.

    Which is why I enjoy your frugal cooking/shopping tips!!

  4. I was giggling at the prices! When I moved away from New York, I spent 3.5 years in Los Angeles. A flea-infested hole-in-the wall studio (no bedroom) apartment in South Central (very dangerous area) cost $1000/month! Here in Seattle, prices are still pretty high. The county median house price is nearly $500k. My husband is from Coeur d’Alene and we marvel that all of his friends have been able to purchase homes–with multiple bedrooms–and yards!–on salaries less than half of what he makes. Living in or near a major city really is just very expensive, but I’ve been doing it for so long, I foget sometimes that other people DON’T have the same cost of living that I do.

  5. awesome hearing all this. what a great trip you had!

  6. Cool that you got to meet Kate in the city. To be shown around by someone who knows where they are going is a priceless gift.

  7. Sounds like a fun adventure. My parents had a terrible experience in New York City a few years ago, so it is interesting to hear about your good one.

  8. My husband and I visited New York in August, and we stayed in Queens. We had to take the shabby subway a lot! I’ve been in subways in many European cities, and I agree with you on how dirty looking the NY subway is. But it got us from A to B cheaply. And people on the subway were so nice! Every time I rode the trains, someone got up for me and my pregnant belly. That was awesome.

  9. kate in ny says:

    Elaine – It WAS Wo Hop’s that we ate at! I’ve eaten at many restaurants in Chinatown, but I still think that the food at that little basement hole-in-the-wall is the BEST! Funny that you would know it right off the bat, considering how many other basement hole-in-the-wall restaurants there are in Chinatown!

    – Kate

  10. Kate ,that just goes to show what a wonderful writer Mary is and why I read her blog.As I read I was walking the basement stairs into Woo Hop’s.This is what keeps me reading her blog everyday.

  11. You are SUCH a people person — the kind of person who finds out all those neat details about people and places when you visit.

    For hotels in NYC Priceline name your own price is great, as well as Quikbook.com. On Priceline, we always get 4 star rooms for under $200 (usually under $170), so if you go again, I’ll help you! I’ve never been burned.

  12. Hmm – $300 a night seems a bit steep. Another option for hotels is http://www.quikbook.com. I usually book with them and stay at the Park South.

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