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  • Writer's pictureErin Nixon

NYC Day Six - Exploring the Boroughs...and Empanadas

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

We got up early as usual, got ready, and were out the door by 7 am so that we would be sure that we could get to our meeting point for the tour by 8:15 at the latest. We walked the few blocks to the 50th street subway station and took the (correct) train to Time's Square and decided to walk the rest of the way to the pick-up point for our tour.


This is the mosaic mural at the 50th Street subway station, which we've been taking from our hotel. It's really neat how each of the stations has their own unique murals and coordinating borders.


We hadn't eaten breakfast because we wanted to find somewhere along the way to eat and when we saw Bryant Park had some shops open we decided to walk through to see what they had. I made a beeline for a little pastry booth that was selling chocolate rugelach and got a small bag of them. Warm rugelach. Yes.


Anyone that's read my Israel/Palestine blog knows I basically lived on these for breakfast for an entire summer.


We walked through the stalls (most were closed) and decided to try and swing by after our tour to do some shopping. We kept walking towards the pick up location near Grand Central Station and found a cute little French place to get breakfast. We split a ham and cheese croissant, which was delicious, and then popped over to the Grand Hyatt Hotel to wait for our tour.


French food for the win.


We got to the pick up location around 8 am and waited around until our guide, Jorge, found us. The rest of the group trickled in and we got loaded up around 8:30, and had to drive four blocks to pick up six stragglers that weren't going to get to the pick up location on time. Off we went on our five hour tour of New York's boroughs with Jorge and Jose (our bus driver).


We went a lot of places.


We drove by the USS Intrepid, which has been converted into a museum, on our way to Harlem. Our first stop was the Apollo Theater, which is an American and African American landmark for entertainers.


Amateur night at the Apollo is famous for finding new talent by putting them through a brutal tryout in front of a very discerning audience. Be good or be gone!


After stopping in front of the Apollo we continued through Harlem, past where President Clinton's office had been, and into the Bronx. Jorge was very good about drawing very important parallels between the socioeconomic differences between Manhattan and the other Boroughs by pointing out how the subway ran above ground in the poorer neighborhoods (it's very noisy at all hours) as opposed to how it's nearly invisible underground in Manhattan, and how most gas stations are outside of Manhattan because the real estate is too expensive to use for a gas station, so they're often located in the poorer communities (to name a few stark differences).


We stopped by Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to take some photos, and I was really struck by how much it looks like a Roman colosseum.


This place is enormous! Makes Nat's stadium look quaint.


It was around 10:30 so Jorge took us for a quick bite at a Dominican bodega in the Bronx. I haven't had good empanadas in ages so I was all in for this stop. We crammed into the tiny shop and I grabbed two beef empanadas for us, and mom and I headed back for the bus, munching on our snacks.


Empanadas = Happy Place

It was a little chilly outside so the fresh, warm empanadas were amazing. If you have not had an empanada, they are a type of South American meat pie that is filled with meat, onions, and sometimes olives, all ground together inside a fried pastry. Ultimate comfort food. The ones from the bodega tasted just like the ones I had eaten in Argentina. Delicious.


Huge thank you to Jorge for enabling me and Mom's empanada obsession.


Next we (briefly) visited the affluent Malba neighborhood in Queens and saw the huge houses right on the water. We stopped over in Flushing Meadows Corona Park which is famous for housing the U.S. Open, the '64 World's Fair, and was a setting from the first Men in Black movie (remember the space ships on the pillars??).


We got a picture in front of the Unisphere, which is enormous.


After getting to stretch our legs in the park we piled back on the bus and went over the Thaddeus Kosciusko Bridge (famous American Revolutionary War hero from Poland) and visited our final borough, Brooklyn.


It's a little tricky to see, but the suspension cabling on the bridge is red, white, and blue.

Which I thought was really cool.


We started our tour of Brooklyn by going through the South Williamsburg neighborhood, which is a Satmar Orthodox Jewish enclave. Jorge gave a very thorough description of many of the community's customs, traditions, and perspectives gleaned from some of his interpersonal relationships with community members. Orthodox Jewish communities tend to be very insular and this particular neighborhood was almost entirely populated by the Satmar community.


To finish off Brooklyn we stopped in Dumbo, which actually stands for "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass" which mom and I both found hilarious.


No, seriously. Dumbo everything.


But Dumbo is actually the best place to view three of the city's main bridges: Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, and the Williamsburg Bridge. We got out and walked around the parks and got some great photos of the (slightly overcast) Manhattan skyline.



Yes. We took a lot of bridge pictures. No. I couldn't cull them down. The bridges are really cool. Manhattan Bridge is mostly blue and steel. Brooklyn Bridge is mostly stone and grey.

They are both very photogenic...


After having a nice (but cloudy) day, it started sprinkling just a little bit on our way back to the bus so we hurried back and headed to Manhattan over the Manhattan Bridge, passing through Chinatown and next to the United Nations on our way back to midtown. Jorge and Jose dropped us off safely back at the Grand Hyatt Hotel and we started our walk back to Bryant Park to do some shopping!


We got to Bryant Park and miraculously all the closed shops were open! People everywhere! Christmas! We went into shopping mode with reckless abandon. On our way through the market we found an empanada shop selling Brazilian empanadas. Well...we hadn't had empanadas in like three hours so empanadas clearly needed to happen again.


This time mom got a photo of me noshing on empanadas.


Mom and I picked up a few things at the market and located the metro to go back to the hotel. The Time's Square station is enormous so I managed to locate the Uptown platform but since we were just going one stop I figured taking the 3, which runs along the same route, would be fine.


Dear Readers, it was not.


Turns out the 3 train we got on was an express train, which means that it skips a lot of stations. Like the one we wanted to get off on, and the two after that. So when we finally stopped at the 72nd Street station (which is apparently where I fix my subway mistakes) we popped over to the 1 train heading back downtown and got off at the 62nd Street station so we could do a bit of walking around Columbus Circle on our way back.


Mom spotted a miniature version of the Unisphere at Central Park!


I remembered a deli I wanted to check out right around the corner so we popped over there and scoped out the breakfast selection for tomorrow morning. I got another black and white cookie because, of course I did.


Along the way back to the hotel we spotted a Cuban restaurant with empanadas...


I mean, we've had Dominican empanadas and Brazilian empanadas today,

clearly we needed to try Cuban empanadas.


Mom and I decided to rate the three different empanadas we had today on the way back to the hotel. Bodega empanadas - very clear first. Cuban empanadas - close second, very good. Brazilian empanadas - still very good, but definitely third...had a lot of pastry.


We made it back to the hotel and crashed for a bit. We had looked at the menu for The Grisley Pear, the comedy club next to our hotel, so after we had relaxed a bit we decided to order some dinner online and I went and picked it up. Mom got an enchilada and I got some street tacos and some cinnamon sugar mini donuts to share. The street tacos were okay, but the donuts were fantastic!


Mom watched the Golden Bachelor




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