Holidays, backpacking, city breaks it’s been a while! It’s a bit of a tradition that Matt and I go away at the beginning of the May, one because it’s May Day bank holiday but two (mainly) because it falls near my birthday. This year was no different, celebrating the big 30 in New York City, and my first time in the United States of America.
We flew out on Thursday 5th May, due to arrive at JFK at 19:00 a mere 7 hour 45 minute flight made longer with some in-air delays. After a bit of a queue we made it to Border Control, we’d been warned about how brash the American border control could be, however we must have struck lucky, his question amongst other checks was “What brings you to New York?” my reply was “Here for my Birthday” to which our New Yorker implored Matt and I to have an awesome time, which we had to state in our most energetic happy (jet-lagged) states!
We then endured yet another queue for a Yellow Taxi to our friend Will’s apartment. Rush Hour lasts most of the evening in New York City, but what a journey, a ride in a yellow cab was on my list so you kinda have to cross it off, for the way they drive, the road rage from the rest of the commuting New Yorkers and the views… The views of approaching the City, that journey would never get old. Some many hours later we arrived and went for a stroll in Will’s neighbourhood for an evening explore before rightly so crashing out!
It’s Spring time in NYC, yet it felt more like Spring in the UK, it was wet, very wet, then on checking the weather back home you were all enjoying a mini heatwave – to the contrary though we are in NYC so Taz – 1, UK – 0.
As it was a Friday, Will had to work, however we joined him for a coffee at the Gotham West Market before walking in the direction of Will’s office and 7th Avenue. It was nearing Brunch time so with a recommendation from Will we headed to Carnegie Deli, I ordered eggs, bagel with their speciality fries and a side of cinnamon toast – goodness I love cinnamon toast.
Carnegie comes with an outstanding reputation for curing and smoking their own meat products and well whilst you’re looking at the celebrity wall of fame you’ll see the mammoth Pastrami sandwich come out – it’s huge, wishing I swapped out my eggs! An American couple were seated next to us and unlike us Brit’s who don’t make eye contact, they started up a conversation, telling us that not all American’s were fat and stupid and they didn’t support Trump – thank god for that. They also very kindly purchased our brunch for us – thank you!
After our Brunch, we carried on with our foot tour of a slightly damp Times Square, round many blocks to the Rockefeller Plaza. A big part of what made New York so great for me was just soaking it up for free, walking the city streets taking in the views – admittingly for the first day, some were obscured by the view of my umbrella!
Our next free tourist spot was Grand Central Terminal, opened in 1871 and well it is very grand and it really is exactly like you see it in the many movies. Now is it Grand Central Depot, Station or Terminal? The original building was Grand Central Depot, it then became Grand Central Station after renovation and expansion in 1901. The new building unveiled in 1913 is what’s known as Grand Central Terminal.
Grand Central Terminal
After Grand Central Terminal we had a mosey around the Market before having a foot rest in Starbucks – there really are Starbucks everywhere! I don’t even really like Starbucks coffee.
Those who know Matt will know that he loves his comics so it was only right that we visited Midtown Comics after our coffee break – the only issue then was that Matt probably wanted to purchase everything so he settled on a T-Shirt.
We then headed to Grand Central again, to board the Subway to Fulton Street, NYC Subway is an experience – unlike our underground back home I received smiles.
Our next visit was the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Plaza. The Memorial Plaza itself is thoughtfully done, a somber and reflective place. The Twin Pools have the names inscribed in bronze of every person who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and those of February 26, 1993. A moving and majestic tribute. I had never seen the Tower’s before but I remember the Day when the Towers fell, it takes you back and there are plenty of moments for reflection. Though most of the people were respectful around the two pools, there sadly were people taking selfies – I just don’t get it. Why would you want to selfie at a memorial. It felt odd to take a picture of the memorial, so we took the most tasteful one we could.
Rose, Memorial Plaza
We then purchased our ticket for the Museum ($24) and made our way through the exhibitions, unable to process that were I was standing was were the base of one of the towers. The hardest exhibition for me was the Historical Exhibition which takes you through the Events of the Day, Before 9/11 and then After 9/11. If one person had asked me if I was OK I would have cried, I walked around it with a sickening feeling in my stomach and a lump in my throat, I am an overly high empathetic person and I felt every bit of that exhibition. If you visit New York, I recommend that you visit the Museum and Plaza, but maybe in the afternoon or towards the end of your trip as it’s emotionally wearing, but a must.
NO DAY SHALL ERASE YOU FROM THE MEMORY OF TIME
To finish our day we walked back through Tribeca and all along Hudson Street, it’s funny how the various areas of New York change as you walk through the different districts.
We then picked up The High Line – unlike any other public park I’ve seen, this one is built on an historic freight rail line elevated about the streets of Manhattan’s West Side, it runs from Gansevoort Street to West 34th Street. It’s a little gem for Manhattan and it’s art scene. On our visit the “Wanderlust” exhibition was on and we saw Tony Matelli’s Sleepwalker.
The High Line Park
Happy Birthday to me! To start my birthday in style we headed to a local diner and I had yummy Banana Pancakes with Nutella – two thick and large pancakes with a filling of banana with a side portion of nutella – yummy but I couldn’t finish it. Think I’d need a few more weeks to finish those portion sizes.
The weather was still a bit grey so we decided to head over to Brooklyn Bridge via the subway, our stroll started down Park Avenue (midtown Manhattan), through the Helmsley Building – a 35 story building built in 1929, impressive architecture wise, we then headed through MetLife Building – 59 storey skyscraper into Grand Central. It’s odd to think a grand terminal can stand beneath these skyscrapers.
On arrival at Brooklyn Bridge station there was a crowd gathering around some B-Boys so we watched their performance before starting our walk across Brooklyn Bridge. The Bridge itself is one of the oldest types of cable-stayed/suspension bridges in the United States, completed in 1883 connection Manhattan and Brooklyn with a span of 1,595.feet. The views are impressive, from the buildings on both horizons, the East River and the Bridge itself. Just make sure you do not step out onto the bicycle lane, you will get shouted at by the locals!
Once over the Bridge we headed to Brooklyn Bridge Park, Fulton Ferry Landing – we didn’t board a ferry but walked along the Park’s “coast” and among its pier’s. The park itself stretches Brooklyn’s East River edge by 1.3 miles, I’d recommend exploring it all if you have time.
Moi on Brooklyn Bridge
The sun was finally making it’s way out from behind the clouds so instead of getting the subway back we walked back along the Brooklyn Bridge.
We then hopped back on our subway, back to Will’s apartment to collect our belongings to stay at the Novotel Hotel for my birthday night in Times Square. We celebrated with some cocktails, some beers or three whilst exploring the nigh-time craziness of Times Square/Broadway.
#12.59 miles walked!
Spring is finally back and the Sun was shining! Our first stop was a walk to Central Park, it’s odd to think not not so many years ago Central Park and many areas of NYC were unsafe to visit, throughout the whole city I felt perfectly safe. Comparing New York to our home cities you do miss some “green” though there are rooftop gardens and some plants scattered around you do sometimes feel that it is a giant concrete jungle – but one with space and sidewalks.
Central Park is key to New York and the New Yorkers, to escape the city noise and well it boasts 863 acres worth of things to see and do. Our Central Park visit started off with a slice of Pizza from Francescos (you gotta right, the slice was bigger than my face!) and we then stumbled across the lake and turtles – I can watch turtles all day, we were entertained by an adult and baby turtle argue over a tiny branch. We then carried our wander around the Lake and then chanced upon “Japan Day” within Central Park, lots of Japanese, stalls and things to do.
Turtles at Central Park
I would wholeheartedly recommend picking up a map and allowing a full day to explore Central Park, from Boating on the Lake, visiting the Zoo to sitting on the Great Lawn it’s a treat for New Yorkers and tourists alike.
For our afternoon headed along 5th, past the William Sherman monument all the way to my favourite building of NYC – The Chrysler Building. We’ve seen it before but it was awesome to check out the art deco-style skyscraper without rain and cloudy skies.
We then headed into The Empire State Building, ($32-£52) we had purchased the New York Pass so we upgraded our ticket so we could do both the main and upper observation decks. There was a bit of a queue but the views are totally worth it, don’t forget to check out the art deco ceiling murals before you take the lift up.
I love a trip up any tall buildings, it’s where you can really feel for the city/place you’re visiting and take in 360 views like an eagle in the sky. The main floor is the 86th – you can walk around and see everything New York has to offer from Times Square, Statue of Liberty, how huge Central Park is the Hudson River, East River and various Bridges. We then headed up the Top Deck – 102nd floor – a slightly cramped smaller enclosed view point but the lift is hand-operated so that was kind of retro and cool.
A walk back to Will’s and we then headed to The Meatball Shop for wait, no you guessed it some absolutely delish meatballs – a funky place where you’re handed a laminate to tick off what type, under and side you want as well as any extra sliders. We polished off with an Ice Cream sandwich – yum.
#10.86 miles walked!
We took the subway to South Ferry to board our Miss Liberty ferry to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. ($25 excluding tours and crown – free with New York Pass). Despite getting there early the Monument tickets had sold out and as for the Crown, if you want to make it up the Crown you have to book at least 3 months in advance. The ferry journey of course if the only means of making it to the Islands but if you can make it on top deck the views of Liberty coming closer and Manhattan slowly disappearing are worth it.
The Statue of Liberty symbolises freedom, given in the 1800s by France to the United States, though not a skyscraper it’s 93m tall and impressive to see up close.
We then boarded the ferry to go to Ellis Island – it’s hard to think that Ellis Island “closed” in 1954 – processing over 12 million immigrants since 1892. The museum sits within the main building and there are many exhibitions to explore if you have the feet for it, very informational though of course geared to America bias. Make sure you start your trip early and allow half a day.
We then hopped on our ferry back home and walked through Battery Park for a Starbucks foot break.
Saving our feet, we hopped on the subway to the Financial District, our subway jouney this time involved some performing dancers making use of the small space and hand poles for entertainment.
Every district of New York is different, walking along Wall Street (and any every other street) you really are in every single movie that’s been made.
We then headed uptown on the Subway to the the Met Museum of Art (suggested $25, free with NY Pass). We arrived a little late and the museum closed at 5.15 but we managed to explore 1/4 of the exhibitions.
We then headed down one of our favourite avenues (as we seem to walk it so much) – 5th Avenue to Rockefellers – this time for Top of The Rock.
To purchase our ticket was a bit of a fiasco as their systems were down, we had to wait an age to purchase a ticket – think it’s that technology curse that I carry around with me even when I’m not working. After a good 30 minute wait we managed to purchase our ticket and had another 30 minute wait before our allocated slot (another Starbucks!).
The experience itself takes you through the creation and history of the building, the famous photo of construction workers eating lunch on a beam whilst being goodness knows how high up from the ground and then it’s lift time up to the 67th floor. The lift is pretty fast and you have a theatrical ceiling to view as it counts up through the floors. 67th and 69th floors have a glass wall where you can see 360 views of New York, 70th is the Top of The Rock and most importantly where you can get the view of The Empire State – though outsized by the Rockefeller Building, it’s a marvel in its own right. We stayed and watched the sunset over Central Park and the lightshow commence on the Empire State.
View from Top of The Rock at Sunset
Home day 😦 We started with a walk to Carnegie Deli again for breakfast – had to have a fix of cinnamon toast again.
We then went to Carnegie Hall for a tour ($17 or free with NY Pass), Carnegie Hall is one of the most prestigious venues for both classical and pop music. Our tour led us through the Circle seats, down to the main stage were we were taken throughout it’s history, the renovations and restoration of this venue since it opened in 1891. I’m very glad it’s still here and didn’t get knocked down to be replaced by the awful “red building”
After our tour we headed to Madame Tussauds in Times Square ($30, free with NY Pass) as something free to do with our New York Pass. I have to admit that though the wax works are impressive, I also get a little bit freaked out by them.
And that was that… Our little City Break was complete, we had to then head back to Will’s to collect our stuff for a train from Pennsylvania station to Newark Airport 😦
New York, New York – was a fabulous city. Make sure you take comfy shoes and just walk as many blocks as you can and take it all in, the Skyscrapers, the parks, the history and of course the food! The New Yorkers are friendly and actually this trip has made me think that maybe I should get the rest of USA ticked off my bucket list quicker than I thought.