The City That Never Sleeps

When I was in the first grade, I did a presentation about the one place in the entire world that I wanted to visit: New York City.  My mom took me the summer afterwards, and ever since then I have always felt a pull towards New York. There’s this unexplainable energy that I get whenever I am among the bustling crowds, seemingly endless skyscrapers, diverse foods and people, and energetic pace of the city. This past month, I went back to see my family. I had a lot of fun visiting some tourist spots in the area and wanted to share them.

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view from the one wtc

The first day my family spent in New York City, we had arrived early in the morning on a redeye flight from San Diego. Our first stop: Chelsea. Located in the lower westside of Manhattan, Chelsea is home to the High Line Park, Chelsea Market, Whitney Museum, and lots of cute shops and restaurants.

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I wanted to highlight the Whitney because it’s a spot that I had never visited prior to this trip and I loved all the exhibits that were open. The museum features thousands of modern pieces from the 20th and 21st centuries, and represents a variety of art. My favorite exhibit was called “David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake At Night.” Wojnarowciz never stuck to one medium, with the Whitney’s website describing his art as “adopting a wide variety of techniques with an attitude of radical possibility.” He was queer and later diagnosed HIV-positive, and focused on the idea of the outsider for his subject. He became a huge advocate for people with AIDs, and his work demonstrates the difficulties of the late ’80s and ’90s with the AIDs crisis and culture wars.
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view from the whitney

The hotel we stayed at was called The Empire Hotel, an upscale spot across the street from Lincoln Center. It was only a couple blocks away from the famous Central Park, and we decided to spend a day riding bikes on the six-mile path that goes around the entire park. It was an easy, hassle-free process; we rented bikes from a spot right outside the park and even got them to match the price of a cheaper place down the road.

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view of central park facing the south side

It was a fairly overcast day, but it was humid. And the bike path is not easy. There are lots of turns, steep hills, and foot traffic on the path so it was difficult to navigate at times, but it was a lot of fun and was a great way to see the park. We stopped by the Strawberry Fields, which is an area that is dedicated to former Beatle John Lennon, and other spots like Sheep’s Meadow as well as the Bethesda Terrace.

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‘imagine’ mosaic in the strawberry fields

Having visited New York in the past, I saw the One WTC when they finished the water memorials that mark where the Twin Towers previously stood and when they built the museum underground as a memorial for 9/11. But I hadn’t seen the observation deck, so we decided to visit it on a relaxed day spent wandering around the city. It was expensive at around $30-40 per person, but was definitely worth it for the view.

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view from the one wtc observation deck

After stopping by the One WTC, my family and I decided to go to Brooklyn since it was nearby. After a 10-minute walk to the beginning of Brooklyn Bridge, we did what the typical tourist would and walked across. There were tons of other people so it was a little overwhelming but definitely a cool experience with the view of the Williamsburg Bridge to the left and the hustling car traffic underneath. The walk across took about 10-15 minutes.

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the brooklyn bridge

After making it to Brooklyn, we went to the famous Grimaldi’s per recommendation of my relative for some classic New York pizza. It was really good. There was a line outside of the door and a bouncer ushering people inside when space opened up. But just down the street was Juliana’s, and we were curious about it so we searched it up. Apparently there is a huge debate in the area about which one is better. Juliana’s has 1,000+ reviews on Yelp with an average rating of 4.5 stars, while Grimaldi’s has 4,000+ reviews and 3.5 stars… so next time we’re in Brooklyn I need to try out Juliana’s and make the decision for myself!

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one of the pizzas we ordered from grimaldi’s

On one of our last days in the city we visited the Met, also known as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We had visited the museum in the past, but it is HUGE. There are all kinds of exhibits and thousands of pieces that you can’t see everything in one day. And the museum knows it, so the ticket gives you admission for three days. I didn’t take many pictures here, but I wanted to the include the one below. We were walking around the sculpture by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux called “Ugolino and His Sons.” It’s a beautiful marble sculpture from the early 19th century. There was an older man sitting on a stool sketching it from a side view with charcoal. It was fascinating to watch and it was clear he was talented.

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These are some of the highlights from my New York trip last week. It’s my favorite place to visit and if you haven’t been already, I definitely recommend checking it out! There is a lot more to the city than what I’ve mentioned and it’s great because you get to encounter so many different walks of life by simply wandering around. I’ve still got New York on my mind…

Check out my NYC Instagram story highlight HERE to see more photos from my trip!

Eight Days in Estonia

Before spending eight days with my family in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, I had never heard of the country. It has a population of just over one million people, but I quickly discovered a love for the quaint town and its mix of modern and historical architecture, national parks, and good food.

Estonia is half-covered in forests and its terrain is relatively flat. It’s a largely innovative country with a fast-growing economy, and it has the highest number of startups per capita and has a program called e-residency, which is a digital ID that can be issued to non-Estonians. Citizens of Estonia have access to universal health care, free education, and the longest paid maternity leave in the OECD. They do their taxes and they vote online.

Tallinn’s Old Town is a well-preserved historical site, listed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1997 as an example of “a medieval northern European trading city.” We spent the majority of our time here and had the opportunity to get to know the area intimately.

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On of our last days in town we went to the top of St. Olaf’s Church, the city’s biggest medieval structure. We had to climb hundreds of small stone steps, but the view was well worth it. There was a small platform surrounded by fence that allowed you walk all the way around the tower.

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One of the best parts about Tallinn is how clean the food is in town. Everything is locally sourced and organic, and almost all restaurants make everything from scratch including their bread and butter. Rataskaevu 16 was my favorite restaurant. I had chicken breast and some peppermint tea with some of their homemade sunflower bread, and it was delicious.

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While the heart of the city is Old Town, Tallinn has a lot more to offer further along the coast. During the first week we were there we took a bike tour and saw Kadriorg Park, which is about a 20 minute walk outside the city. It is filled with museums, gardens, and palaces.

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But even further outside of Tallinn is Lahemaa National Park, characterized by its bog walking and small fishing towns. We were able to walk on Viru bog and it was one of my favorite parts of the day that we spent in the park. The platform was the width of two small wood planks.

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We visited two small fishing towns: Käsmu and Altja. In Käsmu we climbed a tower at the edge of the water and had a home-cooked meal with salmon, potatoes, and bread. Some Estonians live quiet lives in these small coastal towns complete with preserved fishing net sheds and farms.

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These are some of the highlights of my time to Estonia. The country has so much more to offer than what I have mentioned and it has a fascinating history, but I wanted to share some of my favorite bits from the trip. If you are ever in Europe, I highly encourage you to check out Tallinn! ♥