About orionstar

Easily amused, easily interested, easily bored. Always looking out for new experiences..The world is so vast...

“Curry and Curry” (Blk 203, Hougang St 21): Super Shiok Curry Fish Head

Having coffee (in my case, tea) and chats/laughs with good friends followed by a fulfilling dinner is a wonderful way to spend the Sunday. That is how I had spent the day. Had met the Liu sisters at one of our regular joints- Cedele at Serangoon Gardens- for some coffee/tea and generally chilling out. By 5pm, we’d flagged a cab to take us to “Curry & Curry” at Blk 203, Hougang Street 21, next to the NTUC Finest.

They had often passed by the little eatery but never get to try their signature fish head curry. By 6pm, especially on weekends, the eatery will be packed even though more tables are set up in the open space just outside the eatery. That is why we had beat the dinner crowd and reached the place before 5.30pm.

The curry fish head ($20) had arrived first. Piping hot and extremely aromatic. In fact, you can catch a whiff of the curry, even at a slight distance from the eatery. I don’t eat fish head curry often but once in a while, I don’t mind numbing my tongue and sweating it out over it. Best eaten with a few other folks.

This fish head curry is spicy but thankfully, not too spicy till my eyes started tearing, nose runny and tongue totally paralysed. It’s a little tangy, probably with some assam? The fish is also fresh and we’re happily drenching our rice with the curry. My face’s a little red and the powerful fans inside (we had sat inside) had managed to kept me from sweating buckets. But can’t say the same for the hubby who perspire easily. He looked like he’d just ran a marathon.

The other dishes we had ordered were the beef rendang ($6- didn’t manage to take a picture of it), chicken rendang ($6), prawn paste chicken wings ($8) and stir-fried sweet potato leaves ($6). There are other dishes on the menu that look good but there are only 4 of us, and what we had ordered were just nice for us.

The chicken rendang is very rich and the thick and flavourful gravy is perfect for plain steamed rice. In order to appreciate the individual flavours of the 2 types of gravy- fish head curry and chicken rendang- I had to separate the rice on my plate into 2 portions. And I wiped out my rice, with no guilty feeling. Hahaha.

The prawn paste chicken wings are just alright for me. It’s hard to find very delicious prawn paste chicken wings here. The ones from Old Chang Kee are decent though. The stir-fried sweet potato leaves are ok as well. While these dishes are good on their own, the star is still the fish head curry.

There are no GST and service charge, and the whole meal turned out to be less than $50 for 4 of us. Not bad for the quality of the food.

After a very satisfying dinner, we had cooled down at the NTUC next door. LOL! Had bought some groceries too.

The Liu sisters had went home after that but I chose to take a little stroll around. Though we hardly come down to this part of the island but this used to be very familiar grounds when I am in secondary school. Had very fond memories of hanging out here with my classmates either before school, if we were in the afternoon session, or vice versa. No smartphones (not even handphones) or social media, so it’s really just chatting and walking around.

This place had changed much. The bus interchange is gone, even though the building structure still remains. Most of the shops are now smaller. Actually, it’s the old unit size split into 2 smaller units so there seem to be more shops now. Oh man, suddenly I miss those simple and fun days. Heh, anyway, those days are long gone but the wonderful memories still remains. :)

Zipping Thru Washington DC

Washington DC!!

Another must-visit destination in my list. Each time, images of the Lincoln Memorial, US Capitol and Washington Monument or other key landmarks of DC appeared during intervals of scene switching in some of my favourite TV shows like “Bones”, “Scandal”, “House of Cards”, “Criminal Minds” or in movies, I’ll be like, I wanna visit these places! As you can see, I am quite the TV buff. LOL! Hence, in the planning of our NYC trip, DC MUST be included. It’s around 2 hours plus train ride. Surely, we can do that right?

That’s also why we had chosen to stay (reasonably) near to the Penn Station in NYC. After we reached Union Station in DC, we had bought a large cup of ice-blended juice from “Jamba Juice” at the station, thinking we can enjoy slurping it during our subway train ride from Union Station to Farragut North (the subway station supposedly nearest to our hotel but in reality, is quite a walk), just like the subway in NYC where food and drinks are allowed. To our disappointment, food and drinks are not allowed in the subway. Dang! It’s a large cup so we had to gulp it all down with bouts of brain freeze in between. Youch!

Buying a subway train ticket from one of these ticket machines is a bitch. There are all these buttons and words on the machine. For example, the actual ticket value doesn’t appear on the display panel. Think there was some random figure and you need to press the “+” or “-” to adjust to the fare price of your destination. It’s just complicated!

We didn’t realise the subway station is quite a distance from our hotel. The weather in DC at that time was surprisingly hot! In anticipation of the cool fall weather, we had actually packed more long-sleeved tops and clearly not prepared for this summer-like weather. Blazing sun and all! The only short-sleeve top I had, was the same top which I wore on the plane ride to NYC. Had no choice but to “recycle” the top. It’s either that or I melt in my sweater. In case, you are wondering, nope, my top wasn’t stinky ok, granted that I don’t perspire much. Hee..

One thing we’d noticed during our walk to the hotel. The streets in DC are considerably cleaner than NYC. Same for the subway stations and the trains. There were also a lot of squirrels scurrying along essentially anything that has grass and trees. Quite funny when they’re busy munching nuts at super speed.

After some 25 mins walk, no thanks to our heavy luggage which had slowed us down, we had reached our hotel at around 4pm. Within minutes, we had dumped our stuff, slap some water on my face and start our sight-seeing venture. The afternoon is about to end so no time to lose!

First stop, the official residence and office of the POTUS- The White House. We had taken this picture through the grills along the lawn area. We’re not so crazy as the guy who had climbed over these grills, think it was a day before we had arrived in DC. Obviously, he made the news. What a way to be on national TV! Just as I am posting this, there’s another guy that also did the same thing a couple of days ago. What are they thinking of?

It would be so cool to join the White House tour but it seems easier for US residents than foreigners to sign up for this tour. We read from the website that we’ll need to apply through our embassy at DC or something. Anyway, it’s not so straight forward as to just buy a ticket and get in da group. So forget it.

We walked past the Washington Monument, a very prominent structure visible even from a distance. Completed in 1884, the 169.3m tall obelisk was constructed to commemorate George Washington.

During the Hop On Hop Off BigBus tour the next day, the guide on the bus pointed out the difference in the colour of the monument. Around 1/3 from the base is lighter in colour as compared to the remaining 2/3 above. Apparently, a lack of funds had halted the construction from 1854 to 1877, so when the construction resumed, the design and possibly the material had changed as well.

This is one of my favourite views. And also a very common scene in my fave TV shows. In some scenes, can’t recall specifically which shows or what, the characters would be sitting on the steps outside the Lincoln Memorial and looking ahead to the exact same view as below. They could be chatting or feeling pensive. And here we are, viewing the same scene. How surreal! Of course, during the day and not too late at night, these steps seem to be populated primarily by tourists.

Oh shoot! It’s coming to 5pm. We need to catch the dinosaur exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History before it closes at 5.30pm. On hindsight, we could have factored one more day at DC to visit these museums. There are quite a few of them and would easily take up a day or more just to adequately cover them all. Besides, admission is free!

But time is not on our side, so we need to be selective AND focused. It would take us an entire afternoon just to browse through this museum but we had only 30mins (!!) and since our main interest are the pre-historic exhibits, we had scrambled to find our way there. Tick tock tick tock…

Alas! The only dino exhibit we saw was this replica of a T-Rex skull at the entrance. The dino exhibit area was under renovation!! Oh man!

Anyway, in that short span of 30mins, we had whizzed through some exhibits including skeletal structures of different mammals and ocean creatures. Some were pretty interesting, and bizarre, like these mummies on display. These were once living and breathing beings some gozillion years ago and pretty well-preserved today. Yes, they look like dried leather (well, they do) but the body structure and bones seem pretty intact.

Oh, that tiny rodent-like creature, at the bottom left of the above image, is called the “Monganucoden oehleri“. What a mouthful eh. A close relative of this creature was supposedly the first mammal on earth and its DNA was passed on to billions of descendants including us!! No wonder there are some people who are just so ratty… haha…

By 5.20pm, the museum folks had started to “chase” us out. The other museums would be closed as well so no point checking them out at this time.

The next stop is the FBI building. Before we reached the building, I was all psyched up and kept repeating to the hubby that we must check out the FBI building. Again, much influence from telly. I also kept thinking about the movie, “J Edgar”, where Leonardo DiCaprio had played the head of the FBI. Can someone give this guy an Oscar already?

Ok, we reached the building…. Well…It looks… desserted and erm, a little dull? The entire building is a uniform light earth brown. It was a Saturday so it’s either half (can’t be the entire building right?) the building is shut down… or it’s meant to look dead when there’s actually tons of activities going-on at that time. Pardon my ignorance. Just stating what we had observed.

Omg, my attempted “dun mess with me” pose next to a police car is a mega fail. Looking at the picture now, I look like some shady character who should be sitting at the back of the police car, taken in for questioning. LOL!

Our day had ended with a nice dinner and a visit to the Lincoln Memorial. Trying to experience the night view but we will catch more of it the next day in bright daylight.

Earlier, I had mentioned that we had taken the Hop on Hop Off bus tour. First things first, we had received mixed reviews about taking such a bus. My colleague had recommended it, saying it’s really convenient cos the bus would stop at the major attractions. Gary’s friend had advised otherwise, citing reasons that we would end up waiting for the bus and everywhere is accessible by subway.

Well, I am not sure what to recommend cos the bus is indeed convenient and the waiting time wasn’t that bad. And the subway might be a cheaper option and certain places, near the White House and the museums, are within walking distance if you are ok with some walking. So the choice is yours. If waiting for the bus is a concern, the popular route (red and blue) would have buses coming in every 15 to 20 mins, and they seem to stick quite closely to this interval. The only grouse was, at certain stops, the bus would wait there for a while for I dunno what reasons. That is fine if the weather wasn’t so hot, otherwise it’s really uncomfortable slow-roasting under the blazing sun in the open-top upper deck of the bus.

The next morning, we started our journey with the Lincoln Memorial. There are rangers standing nearby to answer any questions as well as share some history about the memorial or Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the USA, who was best known for preserving the Union through a bloody civil war and abolishing slavery. I haven’t watched “Lincoln” (played by the magnificent Daniel Day Lewis). Instead, I had watched the silly “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”. Cringe much?

We had moved on to the Vietnam War memorial which is around 5mins walk away. Completed in 1982, the memorial consisted of 2 gabbro walls of reflective surface, honouring the US forces who had died or were missing during the Vietnam War. There are 58,286 names etched on the wall. Designed by an American-Chinese, Maya Lin, there were some controversies over the design but it was officially accepted. As a compromise to the detractors, the “Three Soldiers” statue was erected nearby.

Next, we hopped on the bus and moved on to Arlington Cemetery, which is across the bridge from DC to Virginia. The cemetery is the final resting ground for many of the nation’s veterans, casualties of war and former presidents such as William Taft and John F Kennedy.

There was a story that JFK had visited the cemetery sometime in 1963 and as he took in the view of the Potomac River and its serenity that he remarked, “I could stay here forever.”. How true is that.

The bus had passed by the Pentagon but the stop was at the Pentagon city mall which is pretty far from the Pentagon. We were kinda half-roasted from the sub so the thought of walking much had prompt us to skip this stop. Oh, you can’t take a picture of the Pentagon for security reasons. Anyway, we don’t have much time plus there’s quite a bit to cover and we are meeting up with Gary’s friend and his wife for dinner, so let’s move on.

Ah, that familiar dome of the US Capitol, how can we miss that?

We didn’t spend much time there and hopped on the bus towards the Holocaust Museum. Didn’t take any pictures in the museum cos I wanted to spend more time viewing the exhibits. We had only an hour to cover the place, and didn’t want to waste any time snapping pictures along the way. The exhibits at the Holocaust Museum had stirred up my emotions. Genocide and torture, all to pursue a superior race… You’d wonder, how can such cruelty exist?

Relating to the same period of the Holocaust, is the WWII Memorial, which is within walking distance.

This is our last stop before we returned to the hotel for a quick shower before meeting up with some friends later. We would be returning to NYC the next day and won’t have any time to do more sightseeing. There are still so much to see, if only we have more time, but at least we had covered the key attractions. Would be perfect if the weather wasn’t so crazy hot.

By the way, the above picture was taken along the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. The Lincoln Memorial is behind us but didn’t look very clear in this picture.

On the way back to NYC, the dreadful reality that our vacation is ending soon is more pronounced. Another 2 more nights in NYC… It’s always the case with vacations and festivities (especially Christmas). The anticipation leading to these events would be enjoyable but yet at the same time, you just can’t wait. And then they happen, you just wish it would last forever but obviously, it doesn’t and before you know it, urgh, it’s back to work!! What a never-ending cycle…. Sigh…

Ha, ridiculous emotions aside, we had enjoyed our vacation. Not at all for the jet lag. The return was worse. Over the few nights after we’re back, I had woke up around 4am and couldn’t fall asleep. Thankfully, my body clock is normal now, after almost a week.

Of course, we had eaten loads in our vacation. Being food lovers, there’s no such thing as a diet during vacation time. If I have the time, I would post about the food, or at least some of the good ones.

Cheese and Garlic Popovers

Again, the influence of TV shows. I’d first came across “popovers” when this character (a mom) had baked some popovers and asked if her kids wanted some. Can’t recall the name of the show but those golden brown muffin-like goodies had surely intrigued me. They look good.

So I went online to search for recipes and found one from Martha Stewart. There’s only 2 of us at home so I’d halved the ingredients to reduce the quantity, and also added some new ingredients.

These popovers are easy to make and the ingredients are not complicated. The aroma halfway through the baking was wonderful and mood-lifting. Of course, it is especially when you can sink your teeth into one of these yummies soon.

And they are yummy indeed. The popover is like air encased within a savoury and crispy shell. Well, it’s not totally hollow inside. But these popovers are best eaten within minutes after they are out of the oven when they are still pretty warm. For the leftovers, some light toasting would help crisped it up a little.

Here is the recipe, which makes around 10-12 popovers using a standard muffin tray


2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp salt (I had used this French salt mixed with herbs, given by a colleague)
4 large eggs
2 cups of milk
A handful of Cheddar cheese and Mozzarella (or any type of your preference as well as the quantity)
Garlic, diced (optional)

1. Pre-heat oven at 175 Deg C with the muffin trays (greased) inside

2. Sift the flour with the salt and set aside

3. Whisk eggs with an electric mixer for around 3 mins

4. Heat up the milk in a saucepan at medium heat till the edge of the milk start to bubble slightly

5. Add the warm milk into the egg mixture and continue whisking. Add the sifted flour and salt and whisk till batter is consistent

6. Pour batter in each muffin cup till it is almost full. Sprinkle the cheese and garlic on the surface.

7. Bake in oven at 175 Deg C for around 45-50 mins. Around 15 mins after baking, quickly turn the muffin trays 180 degree and continue baking. Do not open the oven door after that. (At the remaining 10 mins, I had lowered the temperature to 170 Deg C)

8. Before removing the popovers from the oven, leave the oven door slightly open for around 5 mins.

9. These popovers can be consumed around 5 mins after baking. Yum!

All Hail the Majestic Niagara Falls!

Our latest vacation is not all about NYC. We had also included Niagara Falls and Washington DC in the itinerary. After 3 nights in NYC, we had checked out to go on a 2D1N tour to Niagara Falls. The road journey to Niagara Falls would take around 8 hours, depending on traffic, so it would be advisable to stay overnight near Niagara Falls rather than attempt to do a really exhausting 1-day trip.

We had booked the tour from “TakeTours”, and this is a fine example of “you get monkeys when you pay peanuts”. When compared to other tours, like Viator.com, the price (around USD 100-something per pax) from “TakeTours” was considered on the low side. I am not sure if we would get a better coordinated and less screwed-up tour from other agencies if we had paid more but one thing for certain, “TakeTours” was disappointing. And we were not the only ones in that same tour who had the same sentiments.

We had started the day on a rather gloomy note. Literally. It was drizzling when we left the hotel to make our way to the pick-up point at Chinatown. Oh yes, the tour was led by Chinese and quite a number of the tour group folks were Chinese too. We were supposed to depart at, I think, 8am but we had only left at 9.30am. I can’t recall the exact timing but we were more than an hour late for departure.

If waiting for 2 inconsiderate late comers which had impacted the departure timing wasn’t bad enough, guess what, some parts of the bus was leaking at the roof. By the time the bus had reached the next pick-up point at New Jersey, some of the seats were totally soaked. The driver insisted he had just sent the bus for “maintenance”. Needless to say, the last passengers who had board the bus, were furious over the soaked seats and demanded a refund. Another passenger had complained the tight legroom of her seat and demanded to switch places. For around an hour, we were stuck at New Jersey while the tour guide, Joey (who is another mess of a tour guide altogether) tried to contact his office to presumably change bus. Well, there was no new bus and we ended up with this leaky bus. We were alright cos our seats were spared from the leak but for the affected ones, Joey can only passed them paper towels. Oh dear…

Anyway, the first stop was at the Corning Glass Museum, a place which I thought why bother other than lunch. There were some people who, I dunno for what reasons, actually paid $16 each to view a very short glass making demo. After that, they had to rush through their lunch cos we had to stick to the timings. In the first place, we were already very late.

The next stop was the Watkins Glen State Park which we had to pay $10 per pax to enter. After we got back and read all the crappy reviews about “TakeTours” (something which we should have done throughly prior to booking but don’t ask me why we didn’t), someone mentioned that the park is free. WTF!!

After the horrendous start which lasted till mid-afternoon, seeing the natural beauty of the state park had appeased the group’s mood somehow. Thankfully, the weather was excellent. Clear blue skies and some light wind. Most people were snapping pictures of the natural rock formation and taking in the beauty of the natural waterfalls and gorge. Strolling through the park, technically we had started from the top and descend downwards instead of the other way round, has a soothing effect on one’s mood. What a great place to sit back, relax and meditate!

We were given only an hour at the state park. Something that I am very unhappy about. An hour is insufficient to take a leisurely stroll in this park. If we had departed earlier from NYC and without all that waiting time or the time-wasting stop at the glass museum, we might have a longer time here.

The state park is our last stop for the day. We had reached Niagara Falls in the late evening. Those who opted to watch the “Thundering Water Cultural Show” ($20 per pax), which we didn’t, would have to (like the glass museum) rush through their dinner after the show.

Don’t get me started on the food. We had dinner in this really awful food court that is in this building, next to the Hard Rock Cafe. We should have gone to the Hard Rock instead. What we got were salty and oily food at costly prices. Imagine paying $13 for a rice plus 2 dishes at the Chinese stall. That’s crazy!!

In between our crappy dinner, Joey had walked around and told whoever he had spotted at the dining area to check out the night scenes of Niagara Falls after we were done. This is in the itinerary, by the way. He should have given us a time and place to meet him cos those who managed to catch him, had followed him to the falls. Those who didn’t, like these 3 Russian girls in the group, had missed the night scenes and they were furious about it. They had berated him for not informing them and all Joey did was shrugged it off. What a “great” guide huh.

The next morning, we had stopped by the Whirlpool State Park for a short 30mins view of the Niagara river. The view was breathtaking. During the 19th century, this river was considered to be of strategic importance to the British forces in those days. Controlling this river means it could serve as an accessible link to Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and the Gulf of Mexico, thereby controlling the trade links into the interior of the US. So battles were fought between the Americans and the British between 1812 to 1815 with the Americans finally reoccupying Fort Niagara.

Speaking of that, the next stop was the old Fort Niagara. Built in 1678 by the French, the Fort was originally named Fort Denonville with about a hundred men stationed under the command of a Captain Pierre de Troyes. The harsh winters and diseases had led the fort to be abandoned in 1688. The fort was then used as a trading post until 1755 when it was expanded to its present size due to the rising tensions between the British and the French.

Fast forward to present day, the fort had become a tourist and educational attraction. Some of the buildings were supposedly in their original state.

We had also witnessed a traditional musket firing demo by a guy dressed in the military uniforms of that era. In fact, there were quite a number of guys who were dressed in the different garbs of those times from military uniforms to artisans. And they would gamely posed for pictures. If you noticed, the dude next to the hubby was frowning. In fact, he had a frown the whole time and when another tourist asked him to smile, he replied gruffly, “Soldiers don’t smile!”. Think he’s in character. Haha..

We had spent about an hour at the old fort. Looks like most of the furniture, like the beds, tables and uniforms, are probably in their original state? They look pretty dusty, as if they had been untouched since ions ago.

Finally, the highlight of this tour- the Niagara Falls.

Before we get up close to the falls, we were hurdled, yes, hurdled like sheeps, to watch the Niagara Falls Adventure Movie. It was a 40-min documentary about the origins of Niagara Falls and some stories about people who had experienced falling over the falls including this retired (and likely, with a questionable state of mind) school teacher who put herself in a barrel and rolled over the falls, and survived, and this kid who had accidentally fell over the falls during a boat ride with his sister and some guy. Miraculously, the kid became the first person who survived without any aid. He had only a life-jacket on him.

I was told that the view from the Canadian side was more beautiful. Well, we didn’t get a chance to cross over. Not with this group whom the composition of the nationalities mean they would need a visa to cross over. But it doesn’t matter cos we had managed to catch the magnificent view on the “Maid of the Mist” boat ride.

After the show, we were hurdled again to take the boat ride. Joey said if we had missed this boat, the next one is in 30mins. Damn, let’s rush for our lives then. Unfortunately, some had missed the boat. To be fair, it was quite a distance from the theatre to the boat bay and we had less than 10mins to sprint to catch the boat. If you have kids or elderly folks, or are a natural slowcoach, you will likely miss the boat. Gary and I, and a few others had managed to board the boat while quite a few in our group had to take the next one. That means, once we had disembarked, we had to wait for another 30mins plus for these folks before we can move on.

Of all the attractions, I’d enjoyed the “Maid of the Mist” boat ride the most. Before boarding the boat, each passenger would be given a flimsy poncho. If you do not want to get drenched, wear the poncho cos you will get wet especially when the boat is near the base of the falls. The force of the water plus the wind is enough to give you a bath on the spot. Unfortunately, the strong wind had blown the hood off my head and my hair was totally soaked.

But it was a truly exhilarating feeling watching and feeling the powerful swoosh of the waterfall crashing down onto the rocks, creating a cool foggy mist in the aftermath which had enveloped us as the boat approaches the base of the falls and turned around to get back to the bay. What a rush! 

I’d wished the boat ride was longer or I can take another round. Sigh…

I was thinking about that kid who had fallen off and survived. I cannot imagine the fear going over the falls. At such height and the amount of water. One could have drowned halfway through the fall. I will always remember that scene in “Superman II” where this kid was playing at the edge of the falls and naturally, he would fall cos that’s when Superman had come to the rescue. That was my first impression and sight of the Niagara Falls when I was 8.

While waiting for those who didn’t manage to catch the boat, we had snapped some selfies (or wefies, to be accurate) with Niagara Falls in the background. My hair was still flat from that “shower” earlier.

At around 2pm, we had left Niagara Falls to make our way back to NYC. It would be a long 8-hour ass-numbing bus ride with only one toilet break in between!! The guys at the gas station were shocked to see the long line outside the ladies. There’s only 1 cubicle for the ladies and 10 over of us. After that, most of the folks were snoozing on the bus so that took away the feeling of wanting to go to the restroom. I am amazed that I wasn’t in need of a restroom after that 1 toilet break. We had reached NYC at 10.30pm.

Despite the screw-ups in the tour, at least we got to see the Niagara Falls. Gary had posted a negative review of the tour agency in Trip Advisor. He was pretty pissed off over some of the arrangements. Actually, me too. Anyway, the tour is over so no point bitching more than what I already did here.

On to Washington DC the next day!!

While the hubby is away this weekend…

The hubby is away at Sanya, located at the southern part of Hainan Island, for a friend’s wedding. So that means I gotta make my own plans this weekend.

Definitely need to catch up on some rest. The past week had been pretty rough. After our vacation in NYC/DC, it took some getting used to after we’re back home. My body clock got a little wonky. For the initial few nights, I had woken up around 4am and unable to get back to sleep after that. Had remained awake in bed till 7.30am. Then I got up to take a shower and get ready to go to work.

The morning seemed fine. Hey, it wasn’t that bad right? Wrong. By noon onwards, a mega cloud of drowsiness hit me. Really hard. My head’s in a buzz. I can’t think straight. Worse, the bloody haze had triggered my sinuses and I was sniffing and coughing away. By Thurs, I had developed a sore throat which thankfully had subsided by Fri night. The jet lag seemed to diminish as well.

What a horrible week.

Sat afternoon was spent mainly lounging around at home. Did my own hair treatment. When you are feeling shitty the whole week, everything- your hair, skin and all- just feels grimy and awful. Took a little nap- not too long, just an hour- at 4pm and woke up at 5pm to get ready for an evening with “H”.

Dinner was at Hakumai (International Plaza). Had read good reviews about this place. Now I understand its popularity. We had ordered the Chirashi Gozen ($39.80) which comes with truffle sauce chawanmushi (steamed egg), botan jiru (prawn soup) and salad. The sashimi slices were thick and fresh. The bento sets are generally well-priced in terms of variety and to compare against other similar Japanese restaurants, excluding the fine-end ones.

Hakumai is now one of my favourite Japanese restaurants.

After that, we head down to our regular cocktail bar at Amoy Street. Had a couple of cocktails and thought we would call it a night when H asked if I’m ok to join her friend, who’s celebrating his birthday, at Clarke Quay. Well, why not? I wasn’t feeling that tired yet.

The next few hours went like a blur to me. After the Pump Room, which we had met her friend, we had moved on to “Shanghai Dolly”. The hubby’s favourite club. Had went there once and I didn’t really like it. Think it’s the music and the general crowd. Mainly Mandarin and Cantonese songs were performed during the live band segment. A hot favourite is always Beyond’s 海阔天空, which is also the “official” anthem of the Occupy Central protests in HK.

Check watch. It’s coming to 4am. Think I’m done with Shanghai Dolly. Need to use the bathroom badly and the bathroom in the club was super gross. Somebody puked on the surroundings of the toilet bowl. That’s a signal to get out of here. Think H got hungry and asked if I wanna grab a bite. Yeah, I can do with some food. Dunno why, I always feel in need of junk food after many drinks.

We grab a cab and stopped at Conrad. H said the restaurant is opened 24-hour. And we had eggs benedict at 4am. I wasn’t really hungry early but after seeing these eggs, I’d turned into a ravenous monster and wiped the plate clean, except for the tomato which I never like. The hashbrowns were good. The poached eggs were inconsistent. One of them was a little over-cooked, judging from the semi-solid yolk, while the other was ok.

Had reached home at 5am. So much for catching up on some rest… Needless to say, I was flat-out right away till… omg…2pm the next day or rather, a few hours later!

Head felt like lead. It would be worse if not for the multi-vitamin pill took just before I knocked out. Whenever I had a little too many drinks, my nasal passage gets really dry or something, and I would be expelling really thick, viscous and yellow mucus. Sorry, too much info, I know. Hehe…

By 4pm, I am out of the house for cycling. I wasn’t feeling the best of mood and everything. Had planned to cycle a long stretch of east coast park but before I reached Bedok camp, I was panting and feeling dehydrated. I had downed a lot of water but the heat and the aftermath of last night had really made me feel like crap. Really tempted to turn back and head home. But decided to change the route and cycle around Bedok Reservoir instead. Reckoned that there would be many people at the beach and that would just foul up my already crappy mood.

Ouch ouch ouch… how long have I not cycled already? Think it’s only 3 weeks. That’s not that long right but why am I feeling all the aches just barely 1 and a half hour into cycling.

Anyway, I am glad I had pushed on for some 15km instead of just giving up and go home. My thighs are aching mad now but it’s a good kind of pain if you know what I mean.

Grabbed a quick dinner at Tampines. Got some groceries. Made some jello which is now setting in the fridge. I luv jello, seriously.

Another 2 hrs more before hitting the sack. Mon blues had officially started. Herrherr…

That’s my weekend… Gone in a blink of an eye…

Bright Lights, Big City: A week in New York City

As a kid, “Sesame Street” was one of my favourite TV shows. However, it’s not the stories or the characters (though my fave is Cookie Monster) that made me such an ardent fan. Rather, it’s the idea of a close-knit community where everyone knows and are friendly with each other, as well as the ambience and the infrastructure (buildings designed with a mix of old-school style and eclecticism) of the “neighbourhood” that I was drawn to. It’s only much later that I found out online that “Sesame Street” was a fictional street set in NYC. Adding in the influence from other TV shows (Friends, Sex and the City, 30 Rock) and movies, NYC became a top destination in my list of “must-go” places.

Image from “Daily Mail”

2 weeks ago, the dream of visiting the Big Apple came true!! *excited* Had also included Washington DC and Niagara Falls in the mix. Might as well. In total, we had spent 11 days in all 3 places, with majority of the time (1 week) in NYC.

So I’m gonna categorised our travelogue into key places visited in each day. Towards the end of the trip, we didn’t really have a plan but to re-visit some of the earlier places just to check out more attractions and food. Given the amount and variety of food we had tried, that would likely be a separate entry.


After some 17 hours of flight time and near 2 hours overlay at Dubai, we had arrived at JFK International feeling like crap. I had managed to catch some sleep now and then but it wasn’t the restful kind of sleep.

To worsen my already foul mood from the lack of sleep, the immigration clearance at JFK was horrendously slow, and frankly, by far the worst I had encountered. Arrgh… We were stuck in the same queue as passengers with travel visas. Essentially, they had lumped everyone that requires an ESTA, even though your passport does not require a travel visa, in the same queue. There were easily 100 plus passengers in the queue and so few counters.

There was a counter specifically for people who require assistance. I’d noticed the same number of passengers, all of them in wheelchairs, and there were not that many by the way, stuck in the line for more than 30 mins!! It appeared that each passenger had taken around 20 mins (or more) to be processed. What’s going on, man?

Can you believe that we had managed to clear immigration near 2 hours after our flight had arrived?? This is just ridiculous. At the baggage claim belt, our bags were already removed and placed at the side. Given the inefficiency of the immigration clearance process, I would suggest to allow ample buffer time before your next appointment after touch-down.

Now that we’re done with all these procedures, let’s search for the AirTrain JFK station. The AirTrain JFK will stop at Jamaica Station. After that, you can opt for the express train (LIRR) or the normal service (MTA subway) to get to Manhattan, which is where we had stayed. The AirTrain JKF is free so you don’t pay anything at the airport until you reach Jamaica Station where you would then buy a ticket for the connecting ride. The cost and travel time of the LIRR is US$15.50 and 35mins, whereas the MTA Subway is US$7.50 and 50mins. We’re not in a hurry so we’re good with the normal service.

You can buy the metro card at the machines at Jamaica Station or the “Metro News” stand just across these machines. Think there is an unlimited 7-day card at US$30 (if I recall correctly) which would be good for those who would be there for that duration. Unfortunately, our week in NYC was interspersed with DC and Niagara Falls so we didn’t get the unlimited 7-day card cos it would expire while we’re in Niagara Falls.

Each trip is a standard US$2.50 regardless of the number of stations in between. In comparison, taking the MRT in Singapore would require one to tap the card (EZ Link) at point of entry and exit, and the appropriate fare would be deducted at the latter. Since most of the key attractions planned were within walking distance, we chose to walk where possible. The pedometer on my handphone had clocked between 16,000 to 20,000 steps per day. No way I would have walked that much back home.

The subway train is a little smaller than I had expected, and not as scary as how they had been portrayed in TV shows/movies. You know, like muggings at knifepoint or gun in broad daylight, hoodlums dancing or rapping/ singling along the loud music blasting from their boomboxes (Gosh, I must be stuck in the 80s) or taunting passengers on the train… I am not saying these don’t happen. Just that we never encountered any of these during our trip, thank goodness.

The subway stations reminded me of those in Paris. Lots of steps (a nightmare for people with huge luggage), very few elevators, old, worn-down and dirty, often reeked of pee. Eeww…

Hotels in Manhattan, depending on which part of the city, are expensive. On hindsight, we could have searched in the Airbnb too. Maybe next time in our next vacation. After ploughing through reviews in Trip Advisor and other websites, cross-comparing prices, checking proximity to the subway/train station and to key attractions in town but still not too shabby, we had settled for Herald Square in mid-Manhattan (19 W31 St), which is also very near to “Little Korea”.

Similar to the subway station, the hotel reminded us of the one we had stayed in Paris. For the first 4 days, before we had checked out to go to Niagara Falls, we were given the room at the top floor (9th floor). The room was not that big but it was clean and decent. The bed is queen-sized but very soft. We didn’t know that was the biggest room in the hotel until after we had checked in twice- once after returning from Niagara Falls and the other from DC- where our rooms got smaller after each check-in.

After we had settled down and freshened up a little, it’s time to head towards our first destination- Chelsea Market.

Chelsea Market is quite a distance to walk from our hotel so we took the subway Line A (or C, E, 1, 2 and 3) from 34 St station to 14 St station.

One of my friends had highly recommended the lobster at Chelsea Market. His exact words were to just go for the lobster first and then check out the other things. After I told the hubby that, he was fixated in attacking the lobster. There’s nothing else on his mind except the lobster.

To get your lobster and other seafood fix, “The Lobster Place” is the place to go. It is like a marketplace for seafood. There’s also pre-packed sushi and soups. The lobster section is right behind. There are 3 sizes which you can choose the lobster of your preference or have the guy pick one for you, and they would prepare it on the spot. We chose the 2lb (around 900g) North Atlantic lobster at US$40.35 (S$52).

The lobsters displayed were actually pre-steamed so they can be “flash-steamed” just before serving. Nonetheless, the lobster tasted very fresh and so juicy. The stoned feeling after the long flight had affected my appetite. That means the hubby had more of the lobster to enjoy and I’m sure he isn’t complaining. Haha..

Now that we had settled what we had considered as the first thing to do at Chelsea Market, it’s time to visit the market proper. Initially, I’d thought Chelsea Market is like a farmers market of sorts and set outdoors. The shops and restaurants are actually within an air-conditioned building.

It’s not really a farmers market but more of a mix of restaurants/eateries and various shops selling food items like spices, teas, chocolates, candies, baked goodies etc.

These cupcakes from Ruthy’s Bakery looked too cute to be eaten. So cute that many people, including myself, had to snap a few pics of them. A good thing is, nobody seem to mind if pictures are taken. Am sure in a city like NY, if people do mind, they won’t hesitate to tell you.

There’s a stall (“The Filling Station”) that sells different types of oils, vinegar, salt/seasonings and craft beers. The vinegar are stored in those metal containers with dispensers at the bottom and little paper cups at the side for sampling. I had a field day sampling different vinegar. Heh, but I am not a free loader. I got a 200ml bottle of white truffle oil at US$24 (S$31). Perfect for the gazillion packs of Israeli couscous bought in this trip.  

The next place of interest would be Times Square so we had hopped on the subway from 14 St station via Line 1, 2 or 3 to 42 St station. While planning the itinerary, I was initially confused over the naming of these stations (“how come some of them are named after the street number?”). Yup, they are. Do find a city map with the subway stations and lines (a mix of alphabets and numbers which seem confusing but it’s really not that bad) plotted on the various locations.

While NYC has its charming neighbourhoods, Times Square is like the heartbeat of the city with the bright lights and dazzling colours from the numerous ginormous billboards and video screens, tons of people including tourists (evident from the photo-taking and the maps in hand), street buskers and those in costumes of superheroes or cartoon characters which you can pose with for a picture, with a tip of course.

On the risqué side of things, these ladies are certainly bold enough to strut around in their birthday suits with parts of the American flag painted over certain “strategic” spots.  

Food carts selling hot dogs, pretzels, falafel, kebabs, nuts and drinks are a common sight in NYC. There is a food cart at every corner and street. I’d see people grabbing something from these carts and eat as they are on the go. For those not rushing for time, they would consume their food at a nearby park or bench.

Gary was tempted to get a hotdog from one of these carts. He’s like, how can you not eat a hot dog in NY? Hmm, ok. But the stories he had read and heard about the unhealthiness of hot dogs had put him off such that for a rare moment, he didn’t succumb to the temptation. Wow, he must have read some heavy shit about these dogs cos he’s usually very dismissive of these stories. However, he did get a lamb gyro from a food cart near our hotel on our last day.

In a mad-crowded place like Times Square, you’d definitely need the cops to be patrolling around, not especially with the latest ISIS threats of retaliation and what not. These cannot be taken lightly. Somehow, these cops on horses had also “double-hat” as a “mascot” for the city evident by the many tourists, including ourselves, who had taken photos with them. Hopefully, they are not distracted by all this attention that they lose paying attention themselves? :/

Knowing that we would be tired from the long flight, we had decided to take it easy on our first day and not load ourselves with too many areas of interest. After dinner, we had decided to call it a day. By 8pm, we were feeling totally drained, largely due to the jet lag.


After a good 9 hours of sleep, I am feeling a lot better and ready to start our day. After a quick bite at a nearby diner, we started our journey along 5th Ave, starting with the Empire State Building.

Of all the skyscrapers in NYC, the Empire State Building is a major icon. It is after all THE building which King Kong had scaled. Haha. But we didn’t go up cos one of my colleagues, who had studied in NY, had recommended we go up the Rockefeller Centre instead. She said the grills at the top of the Empire State Building would affect taking pictures of the view.

Next, we walked along to the NY Public Library, recognisable by the 2 lion sculptures at the entrance. Not quite visible in the picture below. We had stepped in briefly but didn’t spend much time in there. There’s quite a bit to cover today.

Lunch was planned to be at the “The Oyster Bar” in the Grand Central Terminal. As mentioned earlier, food reviews would be in a separate entry so I won’t talk about what we had for lunch. From the NY Public Library, we resumed walking along 5th Ave and then turn right along W42nd St.

The Grand Central Terminal is more than just a train station. There are some retail shops, a food court at the lower floor and some restaurants. Heh, there’s even a restaurant by the famous basketball player, Michael Jordan, called “Michael Jordan’s The Steak House NYC”. Usually a restaurant, that’s opened or endorsed by a public figure/celebrity, would have images or anything to do with that celebrity right? Like “Kenny Rogers Roasters”. The restaurant has more pictures of the bearded country singer than the chickens. Strangely, the Michael Jordan’s restaurant devoid any of these.

There’s also a market in the terminal. Ooh, I love to visit markets! The variety of items in the market includes fresh produce (vegetables, fruits), meat, dry goods, bread, cheeses and many other stuff.

After spending some time at the Grand Central Terminal, it’s time to move on to the Rockefeller Centre. We had turned back from W42nd St towards 5th Ave again and continue upwards till between the 48th and 51st Sts.

Being a fan of “30 Rock”, Rockefeller Centre cannot be missed. I can’t explain the excitement over seeing familiar parts of the building featured in the show, even if they are just brief shots. For example, the statue of Atlas and the bronze sculpture of Prometheus. Sigh, I missed “30 Rock”.

Another show which I miss, and would often watch reruns of it, is “Friends”. Can’t contain my excitement (again) when I saw these merchandise of “Friends” in the NBC store. So tempted to get one of those T-shirts with classic lines (Joey’s “How you doin?” and the hilarious sofa pivot scene where Ross was barking “Pivot!” to his friends in their attempt to deliver his new couch along the narrow stairway to his unit) or features (“Smelly Cat” and “Central Perk”) of the show. I didn’t get it in the end. On a separate note, seeing these “Friends” merchandise had inspired me to search online for the location of the “Friends” building. Would get to that later.

To catch one of these late-night talk shows, you need to reserve the tickets way earlier. Probably several weeks in advance.

The final highlight is the visit to the “Top of the Rock Observation Deck”. During the peak season, it’s advisable to purchase the tickets online. We decided to take a chance and were lucky that there wasn’t much of a queue.

It’s pretty cold up there and the wind’s turning my hair into a crazy mess. But, omg, the view IS spectacular. Do spend some time taking in the scenery of NYC. I would love to do that if it wasn’t so freaking cold. Brrr..

You can also go for the Radio City Music Hall tour and NBC tour. Think in “30 Rock”, it was Kenneth Parcell the page who had led the NBC tour. Anyway, we didn’t go for either tours.

Alrighty, that’s it for Day 2. By the end of the day, our feet were aching mad. Lying in bed after a warm shower had never felt so good…


Rise and shine! Another day of sightseeing! We had woken up earlier to take the Staten ferry. The main purpose is to catch a glimpse of the iconic Statue of Liberty. There are cruises and tours that would take your directly to the statue as well as to climb up to her crown. Well, we don’t need to be that up close and personal with her. Seeing her from a slight distance would do. Plus the Staten ferry is free. Yup, that’s the buzzword.

The ferry schedule is published online. Except for Mon mornings where there are no trips, the service is regular with trips every hour and more during the peak period.

As the ferry departs from the Whitehall Terminal, we had managed the catch a view of the skyline of lower Manhattan. The sky was really clear and blue. Without the cool sea breeze, the weather was rather warm. Thought it would have been cooler at this time of the year in NYC. The afternoons were generally warm but not unpleasant. The evenings were much cooler.

Ah, there she is.. Standing tall and proud. Though most of our pictures were taken by my Samsung Galaxy S5 handphone, we were glad we’d brought along our Canon camera for moments like these where very close zoom-in shots are required. The picture of the Statue of Liberty was taken by the Canon camera. Think it looks pretty sharp ya. Don’t bother trying to take selfies hoping to catch the statue in the background. It would appear very small.

Around 25mins, we had reached Staten Island. Have no idea what’s on Staten Island. Anyway, we did not plan to spend any time there. Now that we had approached the island, the question is whether to stay on or disembark the ferry. One might assume that the same ferry would pick up some passengers right away and head back to Manhattan. My colleague said to disembark and walk just “a round” while another person- a sales lady at Bloomingdale’s who spotted the hubby poring over the city map at corner while I was browsing through some skincare products- had advised to stay on the ferry.

Now who’s right? Well, I do not know what’s the usual situation since this is our first ferry trip. I would suggest, listen to the announcement made. For the ferry which we were on, they had announced for all to disembark cos the ferry isn’t going back to Manhattan. Maybe at some point but not at the moment. At that time, we’d noticed there’s another ferry docked in an adjacent bay with passengers boarding. Hence, once we’d disembarked, we turned all Speedy Gonzales and walked really fast to the point of almost running, to catch the other ferry. Now I’d understood what my colleague meant by walking “a round” cos we literally had to make a slight U-loop just to get to the other ferry. It’s hard to explain here but there are signages that would point to the other bay.

Next stop is Wall Street. It’s within walking distance. Locate Broad Street and walk upwards.

Wall Street is really just a financial district with very tall buildings that loomed over you. It wasn’t that interesting to me. It’s buildings after buildings. Typical concrete jungle. There were also quite a bit of construction going on, hence the numerous barriers around, and hoards of tourists, mainly from PRC. So we’re just going to check out the Federal Hall National Memorial, where George Washington took the oath of office as the first President, and the “Charging Bull” (or “Wall Street Bull”) sculpture, and move on.

Oei, what the hell… There were barriers around the bull! Wah, the bull looks pissed and can’t wait to charge through the barriers no?

We had watched a travel documentary on local celebrities leading tour groups. There was an episode where a local TV actor had brought a group to NY, Boston, DC and some other places nearby. Wall Street was highlighted and I don’t recall seeing any barriers around bull. This actor had also added that touching the bull would supposedly enhance your financial luck. Oh really? I also wanna touch the bull!!! *Bawl* Haha…

Eh, what’s the hubby looking at? Oh, by the way, we had bought a selfie stick specially for this trip. I used to find it amusing when I see someone holding such a stick and trying to take a selfie (or “wefies” for a larger group). Actually, it’s really useful. Previously, we would help each other take individual pictures. Unless we really want a picture of ourselves against a certain backdrop, we would ask for assistance though we were usually quite hesitant, in case the person fled with our phone. With this stick, it’s DIY all the way. We’d just need to mount the phone on the stick, turned on the timer and *click*. Not sure if this is an Asian thing, maybe for now, cos our stick had turned a few curious heads (mainly non-Asian). One of them had even asked us on where we had bought this stick. Lol!

There are several of these traditional shoe-shine services around. Check out this guy in his hat and suit, very wall-street style, reading his papers while getting his shoes polished.

The next location is a rather sombre one. Who can forget the tragic event that had happened on 11 Sep 2001, or 9/11? On that day, the world was shocked at the terrible terrorist attacks on the twin towers of WTC and the Pentagon. Around 3,000 innocent lives were wiped out by these senseless acts.

Hence, the 9/11 memorial and museum were created in remembrance of this tragic event as well as an earlier attack on the WTC in 1993 where 6 lives were lost. The twin reflecting pools and cascading waterfalls were built within the footprints of the twin towers.

The names of those who died in 1993 and 2001 were inscribed in bronze around the perimeters of the pool. Extracted from the 9/11 memorial brochure: “The arrangement of names is based on layers of “meaningful adjacencies” that reflect where the victims were on 9/11 and relationships they shared with others who were killed that day, honoring requests from victims’ families for specific names to be next to one another.”

To digress, at the time of the attacks, it was late evening in Singapore. I recalled attending a function and was about to leave when I heard some people muttering about an attack on World Trade Centre. Note at that time, we did not have smartphones where we could easily read the news online. But there were traders and brokers in the function who had these pagers which they could keep track of prices as well as the news. One person had even thought that the World Trade centre refers to the current Harbourfront, which the latter is the new name. It’s only when I got home, turned on the news, and saw footages of the planes slamming into the twin towers. I was shocked. I cannot imagine the fear and desperation of those stuck in the buildings or the last moments of those who knew they would have no tomorrow.

The visit to the museum had brought back some of these thoughts. I was particularly moved by the courage of the first responders, recovery workers and volunteers, who had put others before themselves, even losing their lives, in the process of rescue and help. There was a story about a civilian, who had worn a red bandanna over his face to protect against the smoke, staying in the tower to help others. The tower collapsed and he didn’t make it but they found his bandanna. There were other recounts of such selfless and courageous acts.

By 5pm, we left the museum and head towards Chinatown. Gary insisted in adding Chinatown in the itinerary.

Chinatown is really like a china town, dominated by Chinese restaurants and shops with signboards in Mandarin. Such a stark difference when compared to say, Greenwich Village or Soho, where the only similarity is the design of the buildings with the stairs (for fire escape) on the facade. Kind of reminded us of a street in Hong Kong. Even the signboard for McDonald’s is in Mandarin. Guess the Cantonese were the first to settle and establish this enclave? Noted the heavy Cantonese-accented English from most (if not, all) of the service staff we had encountered in Chinatown.

We had settled dinner in Chinatown, and had one of the best and juiciest xiao long baos. There are some good Chinese restaurants here.

Had walked past the entrance to “Little Italy” on the way to the subway station. It’s getting late so we didn’t explore that part of town. Am also feeling a little tired. We had quite a long day.

Checked pedometer: 22,393 steps. Woah! That’s the highest number of steps recorded on a single day for the entire trip. No wonder my feet seemed to ache more than yesterday.

Despite the ache, I am actually glad to walk a lot. Cos we ate a lot too so all these walking would help burn off some of the calories of whatever we had eaten. Lesser guilt psychologically too. Hehe..


It is a day of parks and chilling’ out!

There are a couple of parks in NYC. Whether large or small, they make great spots to have a bite or drink, read a book, hanging out, take a break…That’s provided the weather is nice and cool. Back home, we do have some green spaces, with more coming up, in the neighbourhood and town. Unless you want to scramble your brains under the hot sun, people would rather stay in the cool comfort of an air-con environment. I do like to lie on the grass and be with nature sometimes but the weather is just too hot. In minutes, you’ll be all sweaty and sticky. Urgh..

We had passed by Bryant Park, located behind the NY Public Library, on the way to the subway station. Oh! There were a couple of scenes from “Sex and the City” that were shot at this park.

I am such a fan of “Sex and the City” that I had searched on the locations in NYC where some of the scenes were filmed. Bryant Park was one of them. And Miranda had lunch sitting on the steps outside the entrance to NY Public Library. We didn’t check out the restaurants featured in the show but we did revisit this particular bakery along Bleeker Street. Will come to that when I talk about Greenwich Village.

Ha, a friend had sent me a link on FB on the 10 creepiest places in NYC. Guess what? Bryant Park and Washington Square Park (which we had visited later) are on the list cos they used to be cemeteries! But I wasn’t spooked out cos these 2 parks are pretty popular and there are always people around so that reduces the spooky factor. There are other places in the list which appear to be deserted today or in shambles. Personally, I think places that are built over cemeteries are not as nerve-racking as those with a tragic or violent history.

We had alighted at 72 St station and reached Central Park at the entrance nearest to “Strawberry Fields”. Nope, there were no strawberries. It is a memorial dedicated to John Lennon who was shot outside Dakota Apartments, directly across the park, where he had lived with his wife, Yoko Ono.

Central Park is huge. It would be fun to cycle around the park but the rental rates are too pricey. We had walked past the lake where some people had rented boats and rowed leisurely (think some effort is still required). There was a 4-man a capella band belting R&B songs. They even have their own CDs on sale. The mood in the park is just so relaxed!

We’d walked on further to the Bethesa Terace where the centrepiece is the Bethesa Fountain. There were a couple of street buskers near the fountain. One was dressed in a colourful poncho and strumming some instrument (not a guitar). Another guy was making huge soap bubbles!

Actually, we had walked southwards of the park towards mid-Manhattan. If time permits, we would like to check out the other side of the park where the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir is.

Our final stop was at “The Sheep Meadow” where the only “sheeps” were people. In fact, dogs and bicycles were not allowed in this part of the park. Guess they want to keep it clean and quiet. Definitely a juxtaposition with the backdrop of buildings where it’s all hustle and bustle over there, and chill and peaceful here. Saw a lot of people just laying on the grass, looking completely relaxed. What a nice place to spend quality time with family and friends with a little picnic and some games.

After Central Park, we had moved on to another park- Washington Square Park. To get there, stop at W4St station. Yup, that’s the other creepy place in that list. Apparently, there’s a tree known as “Hangman’s Elm” which still exists and was used for public hanging with the last known hanging to be in 1820. Well, we didn’t deliberately go search for this tree. Some things are best left alone.. *shudder*

You know you’d reached the park when you’d spotted the Washington Square Arch. Looks like the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile in Paris. Like many other parks, there were be people playing chess, reading, hanging around… There’s an old dude sitting on the bench with lots of pigeons perched on him and everyone was crowding around him like it’s some performance. Is he wearing a sweater made out of bird seeds??

The park is within Greenwich Village. Now, we moved on to check out the rest of Greenwich. Of all the places in NYC, Greenwich Village is my favourite. There is laid-back vibe about this neighbourhood fused with an eclectic mix of bohemia and old-school charm. Quite a varied mix of shops and good restaurants (some of the best pizzas can be found here).

Unfortunately, there’s only so much we can eat. Even if the hubby is able to stomach more food, I had to stop him especially when we’re talking about food heavy on carbo and fats.

I read that the TV show “Friends” was based in Greenwich Village and we’d finally found that building which Monica and Rachel, plus Chandler and Joey (since they lived across the hall from them), had stayed!! Ok, it’s actually the exterior of the building that was featured in the show, not the actual building cos most of “Friends” were filmed in LA. Anyway, this building can be found at the inter-section of Bedford St and Grove St; the same building with “The Little Owl” at the ground level. If I’m not wrong, “Central Perk” (the cafe which they regularly hanged out and where Rachel used to work as a waitress) is supposed to be where “The Little Owl” is right?

Can you spot me leaning against the lamp post? :p

As I had mentioned earlier, we had accidentally chanced upon “The Magnolia Bakery” (401 Bleecker Street, W11th St) which was featured in Season 3 of “Sex and the City”. It was a scene where Carrie and Miranda were chomping down these cupcakes. So are these cupcakes really that good?

Tell you the truth, we love the cupcakes so much that we had made 3 (!!) trips to this bakery. Of all the cupcakes we had tried in NYC, hands-down the cupcakes from this bakery are the best. It’s not the cupcake that’s delicious but rather the rich and generous frosting slathered on each cupcake. Firstly, these cupcakes were not stored in very cold temperature (like the ones from “Cake Boss”, icky) cos that will harden the frosting and totally ruin its taste. However, the texture of the frosting for these cupcakes are just nice. Soft sweet swirls rather than a gooey mess.

There are tall stacks of layered frosted cakes as well but we prefered the cupcakes. I never know I could go ga-ga over cupcakes, and not just because they were featured in “Sex and the City”. I’d used to scoff at cupcakes, thinking they are nothing more than overpriced tiny cakes decked with colourful sugary frosting, and people can’t help buying them cos they look so pretty. “The Magnolia Bakery” had changed a little of that perception but it’s only for that bakery. It doesn’t mean I am a cupcake fan.

That’s it for Day 4. The next day, we woke up early to catch the tour bus for Niagara Falls. We regretted choosing this lousy tour. Will leave our complains in another entry. In any case, we had seen the fall so that’s great. After Niagara Falls, we stayed in NYC for another night before taking the train to Washington DC for 2 nights. Will also reserve our DC travel details in another entry.

For the remaining 2 days of our trip, we had spent 1 day at the Woodbury Commons outlet. Had purchased the bus tickets online and spent almost a day there. Got ourselves some really good deals. Just to rattle off the list- A couple of CK and DKNY jeans between US$29 to US$70 (that’s more than 50% less than what we would have gotten in the shops back home), a fuschia Kate Spade bag large enough to store my laptop at US$121, some shoes (Tory Burch, Cole Haan) and a couple of shirts and socks for the hubby. I don’t understand why Coach is such a hit. The designs in the outlet store were not to my liking and I don’t like to just get some cos they are cheaper here. That’s shopping without control.

On the last day, we revisited Greenwich Village again, Soho and the Brooklyn Bridge.

We didn’t have time to check out all of Soho, so we had concentrated along Broadway St instead. I’d find Soho more of a shopping haven than Greenwich Village. I don’t know. There seems to be more shops in Soho.

Did some last-minute shopping. Got a climate cool top from Adidas at 50% off, and some hair products.

It started to drizzle by mid-afternoon. Of all the days spent here, it felt the coldest on our last day. If not for the drizzle and mainly lack of time, we would have walked to Brooklyn Bridge.

After an early dinner at Soho, we returned back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and made our way to the airport. Our vacation had ended! *Sob sob*. Thankfully, we have the long weekend to rest before going back to work.

Some post-trip thoughts:

1) Let’s be honest, NYC is a dirty city. The subway stations and streets were old and sometimes littered with rubbish. There’s also a rancid pee stench in some parts of the stations and streets. Thankfully, most of the restrooms (my no.1 pet peeve) are still quite decent.

2) There are also a lot of homeless people sitting around especially during the late evenings where along certain streets, a line of them would be sleeping on cardboards. It must be really dreadful during winter. We had also passed by quite a few cray-crays whom many of them would engaged in a lively conversation or debate with themselves. What happen to these folks?

3) In some ways, the service level in the shops and restaurants are similar back home. That is, there isn’t much of a service. Sure, they would greet you, often a lacklustre, “Hi, how are you?” (which is fine cos a lot of them don’t even bother to greet you back home) and that’s it. No smiles, no nothing. Anyway, being in the service line is a tough job so no service is better than crappy service. You know, the kind where the person gives you some attitude. Of course, you can always hold back the tip.

The above are just a general summation. We had also met some nice folks around. Like that Bloomingdale’s sales lady who had given us some tips on where to go, what to do…

Nevertheless, I still like NYC. Certain things, especially when they are built upon certain influences (in this case, from favourite TV shows), would be entrenched in your minds for a while. There’s so many interesting sights, places and food which we didn’t manage to experience in this short duration of a week. Guess we would visit NYC again and likely to add other places (Boston?) as well.

It was a good break. We had enjoyed ourselves very much, so returning to work would be difficult for the first few days. Guess we won’t be going anywhere else at the end of the year. I don’t know yet… Perhaps a short weekend getaway? Hmm..

Panna Cotta with Wildberry Compote

I’ll be turning 38 in a few hours time. Another year older, hopefully, wiser. Sigh, every year I would say that to myself but don’t think that’s happening in reality. Oh well…

Instead of a birthday cake (had made myself a devil’s cake last year), I’d decided to go with something easy this year. Was thinking along the lines of a fudgy brownie (just mix it up and bake) or jelly. Then I had a lovely panna cotta for dessert on Fri night and *ding ding ding*, I know what I’m making.

Panna cotta is one of my favourite dessert. I love it but never thought about making it. Not sure why but I’d always assumed it’s too much work but in actual fact, it is one of the easiest and fastest (exclude the chilling part) dessert to make.

You’d just need the following ingredients:

Panna cotta

  • 1 litre of heavy cream or whipping cream (which turned out ok for me)
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1 to 1.5 tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tbsp gelatine powder
  • 3 tbsp water

Wildberry compote

  • 250g of frozen berries (I’d bought a 1kg pack of frozen wildberries from Phoon Huat. You can use other types of berries (strawberries, raspberries etc) per your preference
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar (can be reduced to 1/4 cup if you like it less sweet)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence (optional)

1. Bloom the gelatine by sprinkling the powder on the surface of the water. Let it sit for around 5 mins. Do not attempt to dissolve the gelatine at this point.

2. Heat up the cream and the sugar in a saucepan. While the mixture is simmering, stir in the vanilla bean.

3. Remove saucepan from the heat. Stir in the gelatine. By now, the gelatine would look like coagulated gel. Ensure that the gelatine is well-mixed and had dissolved in th warm cream mixture.

4. Pour the mixture into jelly moulds or little clear glasses/cups. Chill in the fridge for 2 hours or longer.

For the wildberry compote, simmer the frozen berries and the sugar in a pan until the sugar had dissolved. Stir the berries until the juices are released. Pour the compote into a jar or container, and let it cool down before chilling in the fridge.

Once the panna cotta had set, remove the panna cotta from the mould onto a serving dish. Spread a dollop of the compote on the surface of the panna cotta. Enjoy!!