Once again, I was lucky enough to get selected in the lottery to run the NYC Half Marathon this year. But this time, Justine got in as well, so we’ve been training since before Christmas to run the race. We both love going to New York, and we’ve been looking forward to this little trip for months now.
When we looked into booking the flights, we actually had to pay for them ourselves – shocking really! Normally we can use points for these types of trips, but we both were out this time around. This made us get a bit creative, and look at some other airlines that we normally wouldn’t have considered. We ended up booking on Cathay Pacific, who stops in Vancouver on the way to and From New York and Hong Kong. This makes the flight cheap, and also puts it at interesting times. The flight out is a red eye – it leaves at 10 pm and gets in about 8 am the next day. The return flight also leaves around 10 pm NY time, and gets you into Vancouver about 1 am.
The good thing about these flights is that is maximizes the time we get to spend in New York – at the expense of some rough travel. We booked the flights to leave Wednesday night, and come back Monday evening, giving us five full days in New York! With the race being in March, we were gambling a bit with the weather, but it’s generally been nice the times I’ve run the race.
The training for the race really didn’t go that well. I know that’s going to sound like an excuse, but it is the truth. My back has been bugging me, and I ended up with a bunch of nagging minor injuries – tendinitis in my foot for example – that cut into my training time. I’ll tell you more about the race later on, but I wasn’t feeling confident about equaling my time from last year. That race I was prepared for, and ran a good race.
Back to Vancouver – we headed to the airport Wednesday night after work, and were loaded up and on our way after a bit of a delay. It didn’t really matter, but sitting around an airport for any reason is always a pain in the ass. Justine bought some melatonin, which I had never tried before. I figured there was no harm, and took some after they served us a meal on the plane. I watched a movie (Creed – quite good actually), and then managed to sleep for most of the rest of the flight! All totaled, I think I got 2 ½ hours of sleep. Not great, but better than nothing. Justine seemed to sleep about the same, and all things considered, we weren’t feeling too bad when we arrived at JFK Airport in New York.
The flight got in a little bit late, around 8:30 I think. It was a pretty quick trip through customs, and we were on our way. We had booked our hotel in a slightly different part of town from where we normally stay, and one of the benefits was that it was on a number of different subway lines. One of them was a direct line from the Airport into Manhattan, letting us ride the subway from Brooklyn, rather than taking a cab or a shuttle bus. Much cheaper - $7.75 reach instead of a $75 cab trip.
The A train whisked us into Manhattan in a little more than an hour, and dropped us about a block from our hotel on Canal Street. Justine had used the last of her hotel points to book us a room at the Sheraton TriBeCa. We picked this spot as it was closer to the race finish line, and we also wanted to explore a different part of the city. Our last few trips we had been much further north, in the mid-50s, close to Central Park. This hotel put us close to SoHo, TriBeCa, NoLita, Little Italy and Chinatown. It ended up being a very good location, and we had a great time exploring the area. I think I would stay in that part of the city again, if we went back.
Since we couldn’t check in right away after we arrived, we dropped our bags with the front desk, and went out for a walk to find some breakfast and try to wake up. We found this great little bakery just around the corner (although we did end up walking the long way around to find it…) and had some breakfast sitting in the sunshine. As we had a few hour to kill before we could check in, we decided to walk up to 18th Street to the race expo to pick up our race kit.
It was a beautiful day, with lots of sun and it was a little warm. We walked north through the west side of SoHo, and got to check out a lot of the cool shops and galleries in the area. Eventually we crossed into Greenwich Village, and strolled through Washington Square Park. There were trees and flowers starting to bloom, and it really felt like spring had arrived.
The Race Expo was on West 18th Street, and was the usual efficient process for picking up our race numbers and kits. The shirts this year were pretty awful (the colour), but the race expo was well organized, with lots of good information. We browsed the race shop, but didn’t end up buying anything. They had a number of really cool displays of the race course, with elevation maps and details on what to expect. Having run the race last year, it wasn’t that important to me, but was good for Justine to see.
We didn’t stay long, and soon headed back south towards the hotel. It was about noon when we got back to the hotel, and luckily there was a room available to us! We got checked in, then went up to the room and promptly had a three hour nap. I woke up feeling much better, and we spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around. With Justine’s hotel status, we had access to the lounge on the top floor of the hotel. One of the features of the lounge at this hotel was access to a great roof-top patio that had amazing views of the city. We checked out the lounge, I watched some of the NCAA basketball tournament, and then it was time to get ready.
One of the things that Justine and I like to do is find great restaurants in NYC. We have some of our favorites (coming up…), but this trip I wanted something new. IA month or so before the trip, I did a bit of research and came across Vandal – which was being touted as the “hottest new restaurant in New York” by a number of sources. I booked us a table for the Thursday night, and we were looking forward to checking it out. And we were definitely not disappointed!
Vandal was a relatively short walk from the hotel, on the Bowery. The walk was through SoHo, which made the walk enjoyable as well. It had cooled off a bit, and I was regretting leaving my jacket behind. As we were a bit early, we decided to stop at a local bar for a drink and some appies. The drinks were good, the appies just OK, but it was a great spot to people watch and pass the time. Before long, it was time to head over. Fortunately, the rain had passed through and it was a dry walk!
The resataurant lived up to the hype from the moment we walked through the front door. There was a big marquee out font (and the requisite door man), but when we walked through the front door into a flower shop, we were understandably confused… The girl inside must have been used to that reaction, as she quickly confirmed that we were in the right place, and ushered us through a second door where the hostess confirmed our reservation and got us seated.
The place was supercool, with a great vibe and atmosphere. We were pretty early, but it quickly filled up, the noise levels rose and you could see that it was a hot spot for the trendy set. The food was tapas style, and was influenced by street food from around the world. This meant lots of unique dishes, and that we got to try lots of different things. We even had wine from the Canary Islands, which I had never seen before. The food was amazing, and we had a really fun night. We’ll definitely put that on the list of places to return to, next time we’re in New York. It was a (typically) expensive night out for us, but worth every penny.
Since we had started fairly early, it wasn’t too late yet when we wrapped up our meal and headed out. They have a bar in the basement that is supposed to be another scene unto itself, but we were too late to check it out, as there was a line forming already to get into the place. As it was St. Patrick’s Day, we thought that we needed to find an Irish pub to have a pint of Guinness before we headed back to the hotel to call it a night. Fortunately, as we were wandering back through SoHo, we found just such a place and quenched our thirst with one last drink. Given the shortage of sleep, it was no surprise that by the time we got back to the hotel around midnight, we were wiped out, and asleep in no time.