“Winter is coming” they warned me in 2011 as I prepared for my first Winter in New York.
2011- the same year that Game of Thrones first aired on HBO.
2011- the same year that Game of Thrones also warned me for the first time that “Winter is coming”.
During that visit to New York, I had a fake ID and not enough warm clothes to enjoy the Winds of the Winter.
Six years later, I was back in New York. Six seasons later, Winter was finally here in Game of Thrones and oh, how things have changed.
So dear fellow reader, brace yourself because
Winter is Here.
*Cue Game of Thrones intro theme*
“I won’t be able to let you crash at my place anymore” said Haley’s friend, just 40 minutes before we had to board our flight.
“Wait, what?! First of all, you couldn’t have told me earlier?..”
“Are you kidding me?!” Haley said as she furiously typed away at her iPhone.
“Shit.” I thought as I nervously wiped the sweat from my forehead.
“Okay,” said Haley, “let me hit up a few of my friends and see if we can crash with anyone else for the weekend.”
Angel City Beer Bar, LAX Airport, 9pm
I waited anxiously for good news.
Time ticked away and our housing situation started to look grim. I began to look for hotels, which were all unsurprisingly REALLY expensive. Then, Haley started browsing for places on AirBnB and Couchsurfing.com (we were getting desperate).
“Haley, you can stay for free if you let me give you a massage and cook you dinner 😏” A creepy guy on Couchsurfing said. The pressure continued as a flight attendance announced over the PA:
“Flight DL1435 to JFK NEW YORK boards in 30 minutes!”
“Oh look! Here’s a nice place!” I said. “Actually, nevermind, they won’t get back to us until 24 hours. What about this one? It’s in Williamsburg, cheap, and close to the subway.”
Okay, on second thought, maybe not. Take a look at these reviews:
- “DO NOT STAY HERE. Awkwardly enough, the couple fought loudly until 4 in the morning..”
- “I got rashes from their bed sheets”
- “Sketchy neighborhood”
After refreshing and scrolling through the AirBnB listings for what seemed like an eternity, a place in Bushwick, Brooklyn popped up. We read the reviews below:
- “You won’t find a better deal in Brooklyn”
- “Extremely friendly hosts! They even took us out for coffee in the morning and drinks at night”
- “Rooftop has a great view of the city”
Should we do it? We glanced at each other.
“WHY NOT. We’re outta options.” I said.
Haley quickly put in a request for the place. The sands of time trickled through the hourglass as it neared time for departure.
Just as we were about to be homeless for the night, a notification popped up.
“Your request has been accepted”
NO WAY. Was this a glitch? A glitch in the matrix? Afterward, we received an email with directions to the airBnB.
It was fate. It was DESTINY.
“OKAY. BE RIGHT BACK. I’M GOING TO GET A BURGER BEFORE WE BOARD,” Haley said before running off.
THIS was just the beginning of our trip.
John F. Kennedy Airport, New York – 10am
“Welcome to New York” the pilot announced as we finally landed from our redeye flight.
We stepped foot into New York as Taylor Swift’s Welcome to New York played in the background.
“Welcome to New York. It’s been waitin’ for you, welcome to New York!” Tay Tay sang.
*Stop the record*
Our Taylor Swift wildest dreams faced further obstacles on the way to our airBnB. After taking the AirTrain there and following step-by-step instructions to retrieve the keys from the orange taped lock, we discovered it was empty.
“Ugh, I knew this was too good to be true.” I thought.
Maybe the airBnB double booked us? Or maybe Haley accidentally selected the wrong dates?
Please, Dear Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, let there be a key in the other lock.
We tried the next lock and what do you know? Empty as well.
Haley called our host as we waited outside the airBnB. Meanwhile, I stood anxiously beside her for another 30 minutes, hoping the airBnB host would respond.
“Let’s go get beer and not stress about this,” Haley said. “We deserve ice cold beer.”
Somewhere in Brooklyn at 12pm, we were homeless and thirsty…
We stopped at Lantern Hall, a spacious bar stocked with craft beer, games, and local art. Buzzed and curious, we walked into a thrift store.
“Any response from the host yet?”
The beer was a good idea. It made the steamy and humid walk with our bags in gentrified Bushwick manageable. Additionally, the murals that graced the cheap industrial warehouses were also a nice distraction from being homeless.
At this point, we returned to the airBnB. This time, I prayed once more to the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms as we tried to open the locks. The Lord must’ve heard my prayers because the keys magically appeared in both locks!
*Find Suite Number 202 and enter the passcode into the top lock. Then type the 2nd code into the bottom lock*
Beads of sweat rolled down the side of my forehead. It felt like we were in a labyrinth, unlocking the puzzle to our next destination. The lock flashed green and the door opened. Bingo.
HOMELESS NO MORE!!!!!
With 8,000+ reviews on Yelp, Ippudo Ramen in East Village was probably the most reviewed restaurant I’d been to.
Exhausted and hangry from the voyage we had just been through, we were able to skip the normally long infamous 1-hour line.
I savored every slurp of the rich, warm, fatty broth. The yellow noodles and pieces of juicy pork melted in my mouth.
Additionally, the pork buns were recommended but I had no more room left in my stomach.
Ippudo Ramen did not disappoint.
The humid weather along with the breeze permitted for a somewhat relaxing stroll after our Ramen Coma. We walked off our food babies through Greenwich Village to Washington Square Park, where most people were out and about.
After wandering through the Village, passing through pubs, parks, and NYU buildings, we took the stairs up to relax on the rooftop before heading out to Vandal Lounge for the night.
The next morning, we woke up surprised by rain drops falling on the window pane, despite a sunny weather forecast that week. It was typical volatile New York weather- bipolar and unexpected.
Downstairs, a hip coffee place seemed like a cozy pick me up.
“Game of Thrones fan?”
“Yup. I’m Team Khaleesi” I said as I shamelessly took a photo of the tip jars.
“Haha, can you take a picture for us too?! For our boss.”
“Yeah, of course!”
After taking the photo, I handed her phone back and was about to pay for the cappuccino I ordered when she said
“Don’t worry about it. It’s on the house. Thanks for the picture 😊”
Oh New York hipsters.. you were being too good to me already.
Next was our quest for the perfect pizza at Roberta’s 🍕🍕🍕.
was potentially the reason so many people were there that day. TOO many people at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. Free entry to the MOMA on Fridays from 4-8pm.
Or maybe that’s just how packed New York is all the time.
Whatever the reason, there were a lot of interesting people there. Like this hip asian man rocking a chain necklace, a camo hat, and a solid purse that read “SUPERMARKET”.
Or this girl in a kimono taking a picture of her friend in front of the Warhol painting of Marilyn. To the left, a man taking a selfie. But the real question is.. who has the picture of me taking this picture of these humans?
This museum was pretty much a zoo with people clamoring for Van Gogh’s Le Starry Night.
“Meet you downstairs at 5?” Haley texted me as we lost each other through the hordes of museum goers.
I continued to wander the MOMA by myself.
Back out into the rain we went. The city was a work of art.
Even in the rain New York, you are beautiful.
I hadn’t seen her since we studied in Europe. 2 years ago, we were partying together in Madrid. 2 years later, Daisy is livin’ it up in the Lower East Side of New York City.
Daisy: How are you liking it here so far?
Me: I love it.
Daisy: You should move here. I can tell you love it.
Me: I know but I don’t think I’m ready..
Daisy: Nobody ever IS really ready. You just have to do it.
We took a Lyft from Daisy’s apartment to Hotel Chantelle- not a hotel at all, but rather a multi level floor nightclub in LES with a rooftop and banging music.
It was a solid night there with Daisy, reminiscent of our times of partying in Spain. However, Haley and I were, simply put, REALLY drunk. Drunk from the cranberry vodkas people bought for us at Hotel Chantelle and drunk from the New Amsterdam and OJ at Daisy’s apartment before beginning our night.
In hindsight, we should’ve stuck together since Haley’s phone had battery issues all weekend AND she had the keys to our airBnB.
At the very least, we should’ve figured out a solution for a worst case scenario like this one, but we didn’t.
Riding on the subway back to our airBnB, I stepped off to transfer trains and turned to look back for Haley.
“HALEY!” I shouted.
She was still sitting on the subway.
“HALEY!!!!!!!” I shouted once more as I started running toward her.
The subway doors began to close. She finally turned to look up at me as the doors closed. And then, the subway took off.
Haley had the keys to the airBnB. How was I suppose to get inside now? I stood there dumbfounded, staring straight ahead at the empty subway station.
“Okay call her.” I thought. But her phone was dead.
I stood for a second, trying to figure out what to do next while Taylor Swift’s “All You Had to Do Was Stay” played through my head.
“All You Had to Do Was Stay. Why’d you have to go and lock me out when I let you in just STAY!”
I figured I’d just head towards our airBnB in hopes that we’d somehow magically run into each other. I prayed to the Lord of Light that she wouldn’t spend time looking for me in the subway where we last got separated.
After about 15 minutes of walking from the subway stop into the streets of Brooklyn, a black car approached me.
“Hey little girl, are you lost? Do you need a ride?” A man smiled creepily at me from his black car.
“No, I’m fine” I said as I kept walking forward.
The car was still parked along the sidewalk and waited. Suddenly, it drove a few feet forward and stopped right next to me again on the sidewalk. I was scared- Scared that I could have been robbed or attacked so I walked faster and crossed the street. Paranoid, I looked for other people I could surround myself with.
“Okay, stay cool, calm and collected. You got this,” I said to my drunk confident self.
It was nearing 4am and there was nothing around me open. Haley’s phone was dead and I didn’t know who else to call at that hour. I decided to call my new friend that I just met the night before- my New York Club promoter Rilo.
“Hey what’s up? You good?” Rilo said, probably wondering if I was booty-calling him at 4 in the morning.
“OMG can you stay on the phone with me? This black car just approached me and is following me!!”
“Are you okay? Do you need help?”
“Yeah yeah I’m good. Can you please just stay on the phone with me?”
Alone, I kept walking and finally saw a 24-hour grocery store in the distance. My eyes lit up. I should have read the signs! The hip asian man must have been trying to warn me with his purse that read “SUPERMARKET” at the MOMA earlier that day. Foreshadowing forsure.
“Hey Rilo, I found a 24-hour grocery store so I’ll be okay.”
I hung up, went into the 24-hour grocery store and hid my drunk ass next to fruits and vegetables for an hour.
Finally, after 1 hour of slowly pacing up and down the different aisles of the 24-hour grocery store, pretending like I was going to buy something, Haley called me from the airBnB.
“SANDY. WHERE ARE YOU?!”
The following morning, I woke up safe and sound in bed although dying of thirst.
“I NEVER THOUGHT I’D SEE YOU AGAIN..” I said to Haley.
“I’m so sorry. 😭😭😭😭😭“
We sat up in bed, trying to piece together the parts that led to our self destruction.
From Haley’s perspective, she recalled:
“YOUR FRIEND LEFT YOU!” they shouted to her. Luckily, friendly people in New York at 4am helped her get home.
After recovering from our hangovers, we made plans that evening to meet up with Vincent and Hue at The Standard in Manhattan, but got sidetracked at The Williamsburg Hotel. How could you say no to free tequila shots?????
Williamsburg was the place to be. We stopped by Output. Then Kinfolk where we grooved to hip-hop jams all night.
In the morning while checking out, I met Renee, a young woman from San Francisco.
Renee also stayed at the same airBnB as us.
She said: “I flew in by myself on Friday for a friend’s engagement party. I went to the MOMA on Friday for free and Roberta’s for pizza!”
“Whaaaaaaaat? So were we!”
After small talking, the three of us quickly became friends after talking about our passions for traveling. We wished we had we ran into each other earlier.
Up on the 15th-floor rooftop bar of Hotel Indigo, Mr. Purple gave us unobstructed views of the city.
The place was modern, sunny, and trendy and we were high up- so high up that I forgot about the rancid smell of piss and pollution at street level below. It was the perfect meet up spot for yes- more drinks, with Mr. Vincent himself.
When it was time for Mr. Vincent to catch his flight, Haley and I went to Central Park to get away from the noise and chaos.
Underneath a bridge in Central Park, a violinist played a medley of Coldplay songs.
She concluded by playing the Game of Thrones theme song, below.
The last time I visited, I had a fake ID and not enough warm clothes to enjoy New York in the freezing Winter of 2012.
Six years later, we’ve almost come full circle as I was back in New York since my first time there. Six Game of Thrones seasons later, Winter was finally here since it first premiered.
My housemates almost ruined the Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 7 for me in the living room at our airBnB, but I managed to dodge the spoilers.
Aside from this, other random moments on our trip consisted of:
- $1.50 for 4 Dumplings at Vanessa’s Dumplings in East Village
- A self-serve beer bar where Billie the Bartender swapped dating stories with us and gave us drinks on the house
- Radegast for German beer with Nathan, Victoria, Haley & Victoria’s friend
- Scallion Pancake with Popcorn Chicken at Smorgasburg, Williamsburg
- Chillin in East River Park in Williamsburg
- Eating meatballs to loudly blasting Drake songs at The Meatball Shop
- Random open warehouse in Brooklyn with DJs on deck
- Oh, did I mention I almost got kidnapped in Brooklyn?
The seemingly never ending forms of self expression were everywhere on the city walls to the sidewalks.
To the buildings in Greenwich Village, 24 hour foul-smelling subway stations, sprawling skyscrapers, and delicious food that graced every block, New York was full of zest and energy for life. The place hooked me in. I was so curious to explore this vast place and my time spent wandering never felt wasted.
There were too many things going on for people to worry about you. And that’s what I loved about New York- the ability to be unapologetically yourself, alongside humans just as strange and peculiar.
I couldn’t quite put my Little Finger on it. It just seemed like people were free to do whatever their hearts desired. I could’ve worn my yellow crocs and I’m sure nobody would have given a single damn.
Unpolished, unashamed, and unapologetic- The city’s power and pull continues to draw me in to confront the unexplored despite its pressures to survive.
It was a city that was welcomingly open but challenging to live in- Winter or not. Several people I talked to here worked two jobs in order to pay rent. “A rat race” is what many would describe New York’s expensive lifestyle as. They don’t call it “The City That Never Sleeps” for nothing.
As daunting and intimidating as the steep rent prices were, I was still intrigued.
After having our last meal in Brooklyn, Haley and I stood at the intersection of a Popeye’s Fried Chicken, Burger It Up, and a Dunkin Donuts. A rap song blasted from speakers of a black SUV that sped by. The satisfying taste of a cold IPA and spicy buffalo wings lingered in my stomach. We stood there underneath the electrical wires with shoes dangling above cloudy skies.
Our time to go came just as quickly as it began and alas, our Lyft arrived to take us to JFK airport.
The smell of Bushwick in the summer of metal, trash-covered streets, and Popeye’s fried chicken permeated the air. Haley and I took in one last breath of it all and looked at each other. We weren’t finished with this place.