new york

New York City round two! by Jessica Lee

This story starts way back in May of this year. Or if you want to be even more specific, it starts in the year 2007, when I was in high school and had just discovered one of my favourite musicians of all time, Butch Walker. You may know his name from his production work with some of the biggest pop musicians of today such as Pink, Taylor Swift, Avril Lavigne, Fall Out Boy, etc.

Anyway, he had a few shows with Ryan Adams in New York City and I was thinking of going.

I had never been the type to travel from city to city just to catch my favourite musicians - the furthest I had travelled for music was from Toronto to London, Ontario. But alas, they weren't playing a show in Montreal and so it was between Toronto (my hometown, at Massey Hall, a venue I had been to countless times) or the more exciting option, New York City.

Sometime between late Summer and Fall, I must have have mentioned to my friend Olivier that I wanted to go to New York City for the concert because he booked a hotel for the weekend and suddenly it was set.

New York City was kind to me this time around. I spent the weekend walking around Manhattan, jetting around the city in taxis (the way locals do it), taking in the Christmas spirit and eating a lot of gourmet food. I recently moved in with two serious rock climbers and everyone's always watching what they're eating, so I decided to take a break weekend in New York.

Our first day in New York, we walked around Lower Manhattan, visiting neighbourhoods the neighbourhoods of Little Italy, Chinatown and NoHo.

We stumbled into a New York rollerblading group called I Roll NY and watched a competition for a while.

Then, we found a Christmas Market and all these European Christmas Market memories came flooding back.

Of course, there were key differences between the New York City Christmas market and the European Christmas markets - the main one being the food focus of European markets and the artisan focus of this one.

We ended our first night at the Village Vanguard, enjoying jazz music in a basement and knocking back some brandy. It seemed like the appropriate thing to do in New York.

The next morning, we started our hunt for breakfast and by chance came upon Eataly, a gourmet Italian food market by Madison Square Park.

I first heard about this market by its recent cookbook being featured in all the bookstores in Canada. To all the marketers out there: writing a book with beautiful pictures is an awesome way for self-promotion.

We consumed all the pastries with our eyes, but eventually settled for a sit-down meal of fresh pasta.

I enjoyed my meal of tagliatelle with short rib ragout very much.

Next, we headed to Chelsea Market, which might be my favourite place in New York City.

There's an incredible contemporary artisan vibe at Chelsea Market. The place is made up of exposed brick walls and beams, but finished with crisp glass windows and design-driven typography. It seems like an ideal place to spend a morning with friends, eating your way around the different stalls and restaurants.

After a quick tour around the market, we made our way to the High Line, a pedestrian-only structure above the city that allows visitors to view the city without traffic or bike interruption.

The High Line used to be a means of transport for goods throughout New York, but when the trucking industry gained popularity in 1980, they shut it down and turned it into a walking path instead. While they were redeveloping the neighbourhood, it became trendy and new apartments were built along the way.

There are park benches, picnic tables and a million different places to view the sunset - which is exactly what we did.

As night settled in, we rushed to Hammerstein Ballroom to see the concert which had brought us to New York. If you squint, you can see me in the second row of the floor on the left side of this photo taken from Ryan Adams' twitter.

It was a good concert, but both Butch and Ryan didn't play my favourite songs! I suppose it doesn't matter too much. The concert was a fantastic and fairly legitimate reason to visit New York and I'm glad I finally caved.

Off a post-concert high, we went to Shake Shack and had our first Shack burgers, then disappeared into the night in the city that never sleeps.

New York, New York by Jessica Lee

Ah New York. The place where people go to chase their American dreams.

I landed in New York at the end of my European tour in February. This was my second time visiting, and though I could see why many fall in love with this city, I knew it just wasn't for me.

Maybe New York and I started on a unfavourable terms this time around because it was frigid and I was already thinking of going some place warmer.

Nevertheless, I was drawn back to this big city to see if I felt the same after so many years. I first visited the big city when I was 15 over winter break with my mom. It was mostly a shopping trip. At 15, I was impressed by the big buildings, flashing advertisements and all the bright lights. There were also American and international brands in New York that I saw in magazines which I couldn't buy in Toronto.

When I got back to Toronto with my luggage full of new clothes, friends and classmates would compliment me on my finds. New York was cool simply because it wasn't available in Toronto. Now that I've taken up minimalism, New York isn't as exciting anymore.

Regardless, I still found things to do. Breakfast first of course, at Clinton Street Baking Co.

I had been craving North American-style pancakes since eating nothing but crepes and pastry in Europe and Morocco (I know, what a difficult life), and these blueberry ones were perfect. I added a side of maple bacon and hot maple butter apple cider, and it was exactly what I needed.

Then I had a stroll around Manhattan.

I spent most of my time in New York in museums, but also wandered into some shops. Some of the merchandizing in the stores here is absolutely incredible, comparable to art galleries; and the best part is that it's free to see.

I wandered to Central Park, but it just didn't live up to the hype of what I had been expecting.

Check out this cool, curved building.

And of course, the iconic yellow New York City taxis.

Then, I headed to my first museum of the day, the Guggenheim. I loved the architecture, but the exhibition wasn't really my cup of tea.

Later in the night, I headed over to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa).

In between all of this, I took a few subway rides during rush hour. I have to tell you this story of how I squeezed myself into a packed subway car and my bag was sticking out of the door so the door wouldn't close, but I didn't know it was because of me. And this bloke said "Miss, you're holding all of us up." And I thought this bloke was so rude because of his tone when he told me, but it's probably just what New York is usually like.

I was in Montreal last summer and someone threw away all my unopened food that was labeled in the communal fridge of the hostel I was staying at, and I was pretty ruffled because I didn't get an apology from the front desk staff. Some guy asked if I was from New York because of my attitude.

I've travelled around the world and dealt with some rough situations, but I'm not sure if I would last a month in the harshness of New York City. Growing up in Toronto, people were pleasant and generally nice to me and so I've developed assumptions that people are kind - which is generally true. I imagine the lifestyle to be either like the movie Inside Llewyn Davis, where I'd be shuffling around in the cold in a thin jacket or like the movie Frances Ha, where I'd be constantly worried if I was going to make the astronomically high rent that month. 

I'm visiting New York City again next weekend. This time, I'm hoping to spend time in jazz clubs and visit neighbourhoods such as Greenwich Village, West Village and walk the HighLine. Maybe my opinion of New York City will change. I guess we'll see...

Sailing a regatta in Geneva, New York by Jessica Lee

I finished my last sail of the season with calm waters and a flamingo pink sky.

But it wasn't all smooth sailing that day.

We were in Geneva, New York at Hobart William Smith College for the Middle Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association Regatta. The day started with really light winds. We had to pump our sail to get to the actual course.

I didn't get to take photos while we were on our boats because well, we were sailing. And I don't own a waterproof camera.

Unfortunately, you don't get to see photos of the strong gusts we had.

It looks pretty calm in the photo below, but don't let that fool you.

The wind soon picked up and we went from skipper and crew sitting on opposite sides of the boat to balance the weight to both skipper and crew hiking out on one side to keep the boat flat.

I sailed with Rachel, who is a first-year student. We had a miscommunication and while we were gybing (turning the boat against the wind), our boat capsized, spilling us out into the open waters of Geneva, New York. The fall dampened our spirits both literally and figuratively.

You really don't realize how nice everything is when you are not drenched from head to toe. I mean, sitting in lecture or sitting on the bus may seem boring, but at least you're not shivering in wet clothes in 10 Celsius weather in a lake with the wind blowing on you.

It was at that moment I realized I am probably a summer sailor.

Through an arduous process (we flipped our boat once and it flipped back the other way), we managed to right our boat and with some help from the race committee, beluga-whaled back in. It was not sexy.

For those of you who sail, our centreboard was not clipped in and slid out the other way, so poor Rachel had to go underneath the boat while it was turtled and push it back up while I caught it.

Sailing just isn't as enjoyable when you are shivering and thinking you are going to catch pneumonia. I did not have my wetsuit as it was still shipping by seamail from my earlier sailing adventures in Australia. I was only wearing foul weather pants and a spray top.

To make matters worse, it started to rain and from the capsize, we had lost our bailer into the lake and now we had a half-full bathtub of water in our hull. We came in last place in the subsequent race.

Things picked up later on however. The sun came out and with it, also a double rainbow!

It was just beautiful. I wished I had a GoPro to record the moment because the rainbow came out of the water and was vibrant. With the sailboats sailing towards it, it was like a picture out of a fairytale. The sun illuminated the sails of the boats, and the different colours of the writing on the sails matched the rainbow. I almost forgot my clothes were soaking wet and that I was miserable.

Here is a photo my friend Aaron took to prove that this happened:

Trust me, it was much more gorgeous on water.

We soon came in for lunch, I changed my clothes and we continued to sail.

We sailed 16 races that day! Usually for this type of regatta, you sail eight races one day and eight races the next day. For some reason, the organizer wanted to condense everything into one day. It happened, but at the same time, we were all extremely exhausted afterwards.

The racing finished at around 5 pm and we packed up our motel and started driving towards Toronto at 7 pm. I got home a little before 1 am.

It was a fun and interesting experience and now I have a good story to tell. But would I like to relive this day this again? Probably not. (But maybe in sunnier weather)

Here a few photos of us (the University of Toronto race team):

Readers: Do you have any stories about trips you enjoyed but wouldn't repeat again? Leave a comment!

Impromptu road trip to New York by Jessica Lee

When I woke up this morning in Toronto, I didn't know I would be going to bed tonight in New York.

I started my day the way I usually do except around noon, I got a message from Sarah, the University of Toronto sailing team coordinator, saying someone had dropped out for the weekend regatta in Hobart and would I like to go?

Umm... YES!

And so, I hurried to the university, finished my midterm, rushed back home, packed, ate and registered in a matter of 30 minutes (a new record) and met with the team downtown.

Five hours of driving later, we are settled in a little motel on the outskirts of Geneva, New York.

Here are some things I have learned about Geneva so far:

1. The food is cheap

Check out how much it is to buy Ben and Jerry's ice cream here, which is a staggering $16 in Australia, and $8 in Canada.

I know, crazy right? Guess who has a pint of Ben and Jerry's Pistachio ice cream in the motel fridge right now.

2. You don't actually need a physical passport to cross the Canadian border to the U.S.

One of the girls on the team forgot her passport, but had a photocopy of it. The guard let her through and we breathed a sigh of relief.

I'll leave you to this practical fact for now. I need to get to sleep. There is lots of sailing to be done tomorrow.

What are some cool things about the U.S. that I should check out?