New York City, Arrival and First Day

JFK Arrivals Area
Waiting for a cab at JFK

October 23, 2012 (Tuesday), ~8:00 PM EDT – Arriving in NYC for the first time

After almost three months away, we were finally back in our home country. We had arrived before our scheduled arrival time of 8:10 PM, but due to our luggage having been inexplicably removed from the carousel without our knowledge (we were standing on the opposite side and waiting, waiting, and waiting), we didn’t get into a cab until 8:45. Despite that little setback, it felt good when we finally stepped out of the terminal and saw some distinctively American things: Ford vans, Chevrolets, and Crown Victoria police vehicles. When I checked my phone, it had a T-Mobile signal. The cash in my wallet was green. We were finally home.

Of course, even though we were back in America, it was my first time visiting New York City. I was looking forward to everything the city had to offer, but first we needed to get some rest. We hailed one of those world-famous New York cabs and made our way to our rented apartment in Manhattan, where we quickly unpacked, cleaned up, and went to bed.

The next day was spent walking around the neighborhood while recovering from jet lag. We were staying in the Herald Square area so we were close to Broadway, Times Square, and the Empire State Building. Continuing with our ramen tradition, we found a place at West 52nd Street called Totto Ramen, and walked all the way up Broadway, taking in all the sights and sounds of Manhattan. You see it in the movies and you play it in Grand Theft Auto, but there’s nothing like actually being there.

When we arrived it was just about lunch time, so there was a short wait. It was dinner time for us, though, because London is 5 hours ahead of New York at that time of year (still on summer time). I felt hungry and ordered an extra rice in addition to the ramen, which in hindsight was a bad decision. Since then, I have noticed a pattern when it comes to eating the first couple of meals after a long-haul flight: although I may feel hungry, my appetite is actually satisfied much more quickly than usual because I’m so exhausted. It’s like my stomach can’t keep up. Without the benefit of this knowledge, I scarfed down the rice (which came first and was really good) and ended up finishing the ramen to finish it instead of to enjoy it. Argh.

The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing in the apartment while planning our next few days. Next to our apartment building was a “standalone” food court (there was no mall, it was just there) with a Tim Hortons inside; I had discovered Tim Hortons from my visits to Vancouver, and I was pleasantly surprised to see one in New York so close to where we were staying. That afternoon and over the coming days, I thoroughly enjoyed each and every Iced Capp that I had. 🙂

For dinner, we met up with an old friend at a Korean restaurant in the nearby Koreatown, and afterwards she gave us a tour of her neighborhood in Brooklyn. We finished off the evening with a walk along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade:

View from Brooklyn Heights Promenade
Night view of Lower Manhattan

Like when we were at the Pont Neuf in Paris, I found myself thinking about the Bourne movies again, this time of the last movie when Jason Bourne jumped into the East River. I also thought of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, the password screen where Little Mac is training with Doc. Throughout my life I have seen and heard so much about New York City, and though it took me 30+ years to do it, I was finally there!

Mike Tyson's Punch Out
NYC in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out

Next: New York, Day 2 – Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Chinatown

Goodbye London, Goodbye Europe

October 22-23, 2012 (Monday and Tuesday)

Our last full day in London was spent resting up and charging our sleep accounts in preparation for the long-haul flight back to the United States. Although I slept very well on the Caledonian Sleeper from Aberdeen to London, JC did not and quickly resumed her slumber once we checked back into our hotel. I stayed up for a little while, stopping by Sainsbury’s to buy some food and catching up on our finances, but eventually I succumbed as well. It was that kind of a day, actually our first foggy day in London:

London Fog
London fog

Eating ramen had become a sort of ritual for us during Adventure 2012, having enjoyed bowls in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Paris. Of course, we couldn’t leave London without trying the local ramen. That evening, we tried Tonkotsu Ramen in Soho:

Ramen at Tonkotsu, London
Ramen at Tonkotsu, London

The ramen was good, but the thing to write home about was the cod katsu (sorry, scarfed it down before even thinking about taking a photo), a flaky white fish in a light, crisp batter. I salivate just thinking about it. I also got a chance to enjoy a Yamazaki 12-yo single malt.

The evening was spent packing and enjoying one last Coke from the tap; I had had one that night in Aberdeen and it was one of the best Cokes I ever had, and this one was just as good. Must be something about UK draught Cokes.

A Pint of Coke
That Coke…

The next morning, we had a nice room-service lunch before taking the Underground one last time to Paddington, where we took the Heathrow Express to the airport. Everything went smoothly, and I even splurged on another magazine at the airport.

After 3 weeks in Europe and 2 months away, we were finally heading back to America. I’d never been to New York City before, but I was looking forward to being back in my home country, being around American culture again. It’s just nice to be able to say something freely without having to think too hard beforehand, knowing that people will understand you, and you them. At the same time, we were glad to have finally experienced Europe, to see and smell and feel for ourselves what we had previously only read in books or seen in movies. It was a priceless experience that we will treasure for the rest of our lives.

Next: New York City, Arrival and First Day

Paris, Day 5 – Eiffel, Aquarium, Ramen, Eiffel Again

October 8, 2012 (Monday): our fifth day in Paris. I remember that this was the first day that we woke up relatively late. Up until this point, we had been waking up in the early morn due to jet lag from flying to Europe from the East. It was already 10:00 AM, and as it was our last full day in Paris, I quickly went online and ordered a couple of summit-lift tickets for the Eiffel Tower.

We walked over and stopped by a crepe stand that we had patronized the other day. Their chicken crepe was pretty good and I wanted to eat it again for breakfast. That’s when JC got the treatment from the crepe lady. I had a coffee in addition to the chicken crepe, JC had the jambon, œuf, and fromage. It was good, but not worth the shit that came with it.

Alas, it was a rainy and dreary day, and we wouldn’t realize until we were at the summit that it was not the best day to go up there:

Looking Down from Eiffel Tower Summit
Is this San Francisco?!

Still, the views from the 1st and 2nd levels were pretty good:

Looking Up to the 2nd Level View from the 2nd Level

In the end, the whole thing, from the crepe treatment to seeing only white fog at the top of the tower, was pretty underwhelming. I felt like I’d just been in a boxing match except I was the only one taking punches (ouch).

We walked away from the Eiffel Tower, across the river, the gray sky and drizzling rain doing nothing to take us out of our daze. Trudging along, we walked onto an area of dirt that was now pretty muddy from the rain, and looked up: Aquarium de Paris. Aquarium de Paris was here? If this was fate’s idea of a consolation prize, then we were going to take it. Inside we went.

As it turns out, this wasn’t just a consolation prize, but a complete 180. The Aquarium de Paris is the best aquarium I have ever been to. It’s clean. It’s modern. It has a good variety of animals. The tanks are crystal clear. There’s even a miniature movie theater inside (where we took a nap!). I was very impressed.

After viewing all those fish, I was in the mood for some sushi, so while we were back at the hotel for a short rest I started looking around online to see what was good. In a review for a Japanese restaurant, there was a reference to ramen, and it reminded me of how much I enjoyed eating ramen in Tokyo. After narrowing down reviews, we decided to give Kotteri Ramen Naritake in Paris’ Little Tokyo a try.

Kotteri Ramen Naritake Naritake's Chashu Ramen

There was a line outside that blocked the entrance to the shoe store next door (as can be seen in the photo above). The owner came out and gave the ramen people an earful, and then the staff asked us to queue up on the other side.

Once we were in, it was ramen time. Since we could barely speak French and the staff was almost in the same predicament, we resorted to some of our recently-learned Japanese to order (broken French to broken French vs. broken Japanese to native Japanese). I knew not deleting the app from my phone would come in handy! We had a couple of ramens, an order of gyoza, and a bowl of steamed rice. As can be seen from the photo, the ramen was authentic: rich, greasy, and delicious. Oishii!

From Little Tokyo, we took the Métro from Pyramides back to Trocadéro; it was our last night in Paris after all, and we hadn’t yet seen the Eiffel Tower at night, not to mention we needed to walk off our hearty meal. Luckily, unlike earlier in the afternoon, the sky was much clearer and we were offered breathtaking views of the tower at night.

Eiffel Tower at Night Eiffel Tower at Night

It was still cold and rainy, but our last full day in Paris ended in a completely different fashion than the way it started. That’s the way life unfolds – one moment it might seem like things couldn’t get any worse, and the next moment it might seem like things can’t get any better. If anything, the way this day turned out taught me that you just gotta keep going, because in the end the good will outweigh the bad, by far.


So as not to sidetrack this post, I posted a separate gallery of the Aquarium de Paris photos.

Next: Aquarium de Paris Photo Gallery.

Curry Ramen

I had only a couple of small meals today, so naturally I’m hungry at this hour. One of the cool things about Hong Kong is the variety of instant noodles that is available. I think I read recently that Hong Kong is one of the largest instant noodles markets in the world. Well, who am I to argue with that? Here’s tonight’s variety, curry ramen:

Eating in Tokyo

Eating in Tokyo was a delight. Japanese cuisine, as well as Japanese interpretations of foreign cuisine, really appeals to me. It’s about the presentation, the meticulousness and formality of it. There is also the variety, even within a single meal. Eating a bento is an adventure. Which part do I eat first? Or perhaps I should eat it out of order? The possibilities are endless.

Making Out Like a Bandit

Toys

We stopped by Akihabara today. The first thing I saw coming out of the metro was a Sega amusement center. I’m a long-time Sega fan so I was giddy, of course. We played one of the crane games and won a little toy, as seen above. Other goods that I made off with:

  • A mini wifi hotspot that will allow me to use my phone with the hotel’s wired internet (the wifi in the hotel has a weak signal).
  • A bigger wireless mouse to replace my tiny and overly-sensitive Logitech. Unfortunately, this new mouse has a feature called “Touch & Go” which turns off the mouse automatically after 3 seconds if you don’t touch its right side. It’s supposed to save power, but I have found that it doesn’t always respond properly. Before I found out more online, I thought that the mouse was defective. I’ll have to train myself to touch the right side of the mouse before I use it. It would have been a great mouse if not for this issue.
  • HDMI cable for connecting my laptop to the hotel’s LCD.
  • Extension cord so I can use and charge my phone at the same time when I’m in bed. If I use the phone at night without charging it, then I’ll have less than 100% battery to start the day, and that’s not something you want to do with a Galaxy Nexus.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog wet-nap for cleaning your hands after playing crane games!

In addition to a shopping haul I also spent some time in an arcade to play some Super Street Fighter II Turbo. It’s an older game so I pretty much played against the computer. Once I got to Akuma, however, someone decided to challenge me with his/her Chun Li (I didn’t see who was on the other side of the cabinet, but probably a he). I lost quickly just because it’s been so long since I’ve played against a real person and the adrenaline rush was a bit overwhelming. I got him on the run-back, and then again when he picked O. Ken. So, I can now say I played Street Fighter in Japan, and even beat a local player!

Since arriving in Tokyo I’ve been hacking my lungs out and having problems sleeping. That’s such a shame because I’m really liking Tokyo and there’s so much to see and do. I’ll just have to savor the few hours per day that I have when I’m not super tired, like today with Akihabara. I got to walk around the electronic stores and check out the women dressed in maid outfits, nice!

I suppose the one benefit of being unwell is my appetite. I’ve been eating like a pig. I think I need to eat more to replenish all of that energy lost to coughing and tossing and turning in bed. Below is today’s highlight, ramen that makes me salivate just looking at it:

Ramen

Finally, a sunset that you just can’t get anywhere else:

Dusk

I can’t wait to get better.

Recent Hong Kong Meals

A super gallery containing tons of photos from our recent meals!