While in London, I did a lot of exploring in the City of Westminster. What is the City of Westminster? It’s an inner-city London borough, but also holds city status. Confused? Me, too. Almost any London site you can think of is in City of Westminster.
To celebrate my birthday a bit further, I organized a Dim Sum and tea brunch at Fong Mei with family and friends on Sunday. Dim Sum is especially fun with a big group, ordering a lot of dishes you can share with everyone! We’re lucky to have such a great Chinese restaurant closeby – Antwerp is actually the only city in Belgium with an official Chinatown.
So excited to have Christina and Rafaël in Anwerp for a few days! Sunday Rafaël had to be in Brussels, so Christina, Koen and I planned a day in the city.
Last month Chris and Hannah got married! After more than 10 years together, they finally tied the knot! Koen and I wanted to do something special for them, so we came up with the idea of a Sushi Workshop Bridal Shower – a honeymoon theme because Chris and Hannah were leaving for Japan after the wedding. Bridal showers are traditionally only done in the United States and United Kingdom, so we wanted to bring our version to the Netherlands – a fun way to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of our good friends!
After the wedding, Koen and I had a couple of days to explore NYC. Last year we didn’t have time for Coney Island because it was too far from where we were staying, so we wanted to make sure to go this trip. I am so happy we planned it in. Coney Island is unbelievably beautiful and iconic. It was like walking onto a movie set. The sunny weather also helped! Because we were staying in Park Slope in Brooklyn, traveling to the bottom of the borough didn’t take too long. We started our day at the NYC Aquarium. Then we walked along the boardwalk until we found the original Nathan’s Famous that opened in 1916. If you don’t know, the hotdog was invented in Coney Island in 1870, so of course we wanted to have hotdogs for lunch! After lunch we went back to the boardwalk for a cocktail to-go, which we enjoyed on the pier. In the photos you will see the amusement park, but it is only open on the weekends after the summer holiday. Because it wasn’t so busy, we had a nice, relaxing day!
Koen and I were finally able to visit Ellis Island! We really wanted to go last year, but because of Hurricane Sandy, the museum was closed. Koen and I visited Ellis Island with Christina and her family, Ashley, and Meredith. This was a special visit because Christina’s father’s father and grandfather (so her grandfather and great-grandfather) entered the United States via Ellis Island and both of their names are commemorated on a plaque. Koen and I visited the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp recently, which is about leaving Europe for the United States, so we felt like we came full circle visiting Ellis Island and learning about entering the US.
For the second year in a row I was able to celebrate my birthday in New York City! Christina just happened to be getting married September 14th in NYC, so Koen and I made sure to plan my birthday (September 9th) into the agenda. Unfortunately I didn’t think it out very well, because we arrived on my birthday and we were exhausted. We still made it out to Cocoron, a Japanese soba noodle restaurant in Chinatown, for dinner and to Molly’s Cupcakes, the best cupcakes in NYC located in Greenwich Village, for dessert. After our cupcakes we headed back to Park Slope in Brooklyn, where we were staying for the week, to sleep off our jetlag. Unfortunately our hosts were sick and at their parents’ place most of the trip 😦
Day 13 was our last full day in NYC because we needed to head to the airport after lunch the next day. So we spent our last real day eating my favorite lunch again from the trip – Banh Mì from Saigon in Chinatown, and then heading back to Midtown to buy presents. I also wanted to visit the Ralph Lauren stores on Madison Avenue as well as his daughter’s candy store, Dylan’s Candy Bar. As a thank you to Christina for letting us stay with her so long, we spent our last evening seeing Mamma Mia on Broadway! The next morning we needed to pack and get our things together. For our last lunch we decided to go back to San Gennaro’s for steak and mozzarella sandwiches. Luckily we planned a lot of time between leaving Christina’s apartment and our flight. It turns out the exact time we wanted to head to the metro station was during the huge parade for San Gennaro! The crowds were gigantic and we were both with two suitcases trying to fight our way through. Then we had to talk to the police officers to try and convince them to let us cross through the parade because if we had would wait another hour it would be too late. So rather than taking 5 minutes to get to the metro station it took us 30 minutes – but we made it! At the airport we decided to have one last burger from the Shake Shack! Now we are both looking forward to going back to NYC in September!
Now that we had explored a lot of Manhattan, we decided on day 11 to meet up with some friends in Brooklyn. We met up with our friend Matt in Brooklyn to see another side of NYC. First we explored Williamsburg, walking around and stopping at the park to look at the view of Manhattan and the Williamsburg Bridge. Matt also took us to Five Leaves where I of course ordered a Brooklyn beer, because it was only fitting. For dinner we headed to Bushwick to meet Danny at Arepera Guacuco and I tried arepas for the first time! After dinner we met up with my friend Meredith for drinks in Bushwick.
On Sunday, I had dim sum for the first time! To take advantage of Christina being off from work, we started the day with Dim Sum, followed by a visit to The Frick Collection, where on Sundays from 11 – 1PM you can pay what you wish to visit, and then a beautiful ferry ride from Battery Park to Staten Island (which passes Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and also happens to be free). When we arrived back in Battery Park, we went to Nathan’s for hotdogs and corndogs. Christina had to go back to work, but Koen and I enjoyed the view of the Statue of Liberty and the nice weather. My birthday was the following day, so we stopped by Di Palo for delicious Italian treats and wine. And of course, a birthday dinner isn’t complete without dessert, and we went for a walk to the Little Cupcake Bakeshop in Nolita for cupcakes.