Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.
Sunday 1st February
So excited, just about to get on the plane to New York, the city that never sleeps. New York City has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember and this year I had the opportunity to go. Watching the weather app and news, I heard there was a snow storm happening on the East Coast and flights were being cancelled. I sat in hope that my flight would be unaffected and thankfully it was.
Having landed in NYC it was like something out of a film. As soon as you leave the airport there are a string of yellow taxi cabs that I have seen so many times it was as if I’d been there before. Although, ride in a yellow taxi was on my to do list, it was in fact a yellow SUV but I still had to do it, classic tourist. The taxi took me from JFK International to the New York Palace Hotel, a 55-storey high hotel situated in Midtown Manhattan. The historic hotel was built in the 19th century and had plenty of character within such a modern city. The hotel was fantastic, the location was even better.
Arriving in the middle of the afternoon, I quickly dropped my bags and headed out to explore. Having such a good location, shopping, the Rockerfeller Centre and St. Patrick’s Cathedral were all on my doorstep. I walked through the city, trying to absorb it all in while making my way to Times Square. Times Square I have to say was not my favourite, it of course is a must do when you go but for me it was a bit too touristy. It was absolutely heaving with people all of the time. Yeah the lights and what not are impressive, but for me the tacky shops and hustlers dressed as characters ranging from Woody from Toy Story to Batman all trying to persuade you have your picture taken with them was not really my cup of tea. Although, I am still glad I saw it. Walking through Times Square I made my way to Grand Central Terminal, the iconic train station. Grand Central Station is yet another impressive building that has places to eat and drink as well as shop. Having travelled all day I was starting to get tired and hungry so decided to walk back and find somewhere to eat. The 1st of February happened to be the Super Bowl final and so many of the restaurants and bars had offers on. I chose Bill’s Bar and Burger because it was close to my hotel and seemed a nice place. It was a great experience being in America and watching such an iconic game. Walking back to my hotel, it started to snow.
Monday 2nd February
And snow it did! Shopping in snow was the plan of the action for Monday. I really enjoyed looking at all the flagship stores and walking around the city. St. Patrick’s Cathedral was located just outside my hotel and was awesome, it was my favourite building in the city. The architecture and craftsmanship was simply stunning. Unfortunately, there were building renovations happening and so some of the cathedral had scaffolding up, which was a shame but still didn’t detract from the beauty of the building. The day ended with another must do in NYC, a slice of pizza. Delicious.
Tuesday 3rd February
Central Park was on the agenda for Tuesday, once again in the snow and it was beautiful if a little on the chilly side at -8! Walking around the quiet park in the middle of the bustling city made a nice change. The park offers some great views of the city as well as the landscape. As I walking around the 843 acre park I saw a television show being filmed which was very interesting and cool to see. The park also has a memorial for John Lennon known as Strawberry Fields, which I visited whilst I was there.
Located at 167 West 74th Street, on the Upper West Side neighbourhood of Manhattan is a little known bakery called Lavain Bakery. This little shop that sits in the basement has cookies that are superb and exactly what I was looking for on this freezing day. Having purchased the chocolate chip walnut cookie I headed back over to the park and enjoyed this giant of a cookie that was more like a cake. Rib sticking goodness!
Heading back to the hotel through the city, I came across Five Guys Burgers and Fries so I had to try what New York had to offer. Five Guys have become something of a cult when it comes to fast food burgers and so I had to try it. I chose the Little Bacon Cheeseburger and fries with still lemonade to drink. It was good but not the best I have ever had.
Wednesday 4th February
The Statue of Liberty is located on Liberty Island in New York Harbour and is one of the most famous and iconic monuments around the world, a must see. Making my way to Liberty Island I had to catch the subway, which was quite the experience. I expected it to be very similar to the London Underground which is clearly labelled and laid out so you know exactly where you are and where you are going. The New York Subway on the other hand is a different story. The trains, for a start, are weirdly labelled with random letters and numbers and the subway stations only go to certain places and so I had to ensure I knew exactly where I was going, which train to catch and which subway station to use. Having said all this I managed to catch the correct train and made to my stop. When leaving the station you are greeted by ticket touts spotting the tourists and offering “free” information and then charging you for tickets.
To see the Statue of Liberty you have a few options. I chose to catch the Staten Island ferry, which is free of charge and takes you right past the iconic monument or you can visit the island itself and go up the statue and view the city from the crown. This unfortunately wasn’t an option for me as the weather was so bad it was closed for viewing. When you reach Staten Island you leave the ferry, walk around the port and get on the returning ferry to head back the city, seeing the statue again as you do so. This turned out to be a very economical way to see such a famous monument and tourist hotspot.
Visiting New York City is great and there are loads of things to do and see but New York has seen its fair share of disasters, most notably 9/11. While planning my trip, I knew I wanted to pay my respects and so I went to visit Ground Zero. This was a incredibly moving experience and one that really affected me. The city is bustling, noisy and buildings are packed so close to one another but when you get to Ground Zero it is an open space of 16 acres, which is eerily silent, with two memorials for the Twin Towers. The memorials are two large waterfalls with reflecting pools that stand where the Twin Towers once stood and around the waterfalls are the names of those who lost their lives in the attack. I walked around each of the memorials and said a prayer for those who lost their lives.
I decided to then walk back and reflect on what I had just seen. I ended up walking through Chinatown and Little Italy. Chinatown was much bigger than I expected and I didn’t really like it. I eventually made it to Little Italy which was better and where I decided to eat. I had a homemade lasagne which was very tasty.
Thursday 5th February
Staying in such a good location, I wanted to explore it a little more. St. Patrick’s Cathedral was, as I stated earlier,my favourite building and so I wanted to go back. This time I was able to stay for the service and music, there is just something about a church organ I find very moving. I explored the Rockerfeller Centre a little more, as well as the NBC Studios which I found very interesting. Radio City Hall was also only a stones throw away and so while walking around, I had a little explore there too. The day ended with a fantastic meal at Havana Central, a cuban restaurant which had live music and a great atmosphere. I ordered the guava-glazed Havana style ribs. They were delicious, fall off the bone good.
Friday 6th February
Yet another packed day. The Brooklyn Bridge was the first call of the day. On a friend’s recommendation, I decided to walk the Brooklyn Bridge and am so glad that I did as you get a great view of the city and the Statue of Liberty while walking over the iconic bridge. As it was February and snow storms were truly in force, it was absolutely freezing but this still didn’t detract from the great experience. I walked from the Manhattan side to Brooklyn over the East River and then back again from Brooklyn to Manhattan.
Just wanting a little warmth, I then headed for the Chelsea Market, which is a hub for great food. I had a sandwich and brownie from an all natural bakery but there are many different types of restaurants to satisfy many a craving.
Having refuelled, Top of the Rock was the next port of call. Top of the Rock was an awesome way to see the city. There is an elevator that thankfully takes you to the top, which is 70 floors high, where there are two observation decks spanning the city. You are able to clearly identify Central Park, the Empire State Building and so on. This is a must do because it gives you a real sense of perspective and takes advantage of the height of the building.
Saturday 7th February
Saturday was my favourite day. In the morning I went back to Times Square to purchase Broadway show tickets at a discounted price and I queued up for tickets to watch Jersey Boys. When I visited London I saw the show at the West End and loved it. Jersey Boys is a fantastic show and one I would recommend to anyone. The day ended at Ted’s Montana Grill, a restaurant specialising in bison. Having never experienced bison before I was little nervous but ordered the No. 11 burger, which was slow-braised bison, horseradish cheddar, mushrooms and horseradish sauce. It was the best meal I had all trip and one of the best burgers I have ever had.
Sunday 8th February
Home time. Every trip has to come to an end and so it did. I packed my suitcase and had a little extra time and so I walked around the city a little more, taking in the sights. I headed to the Flatiron Building, originally the Fuller Building, which was very impressive and after a week of skyscrapers you would think I have seen them all but this was something special. I walked back passing Grand Central Terminal, the Rockerfeller Centre and so on. I checked out of the hotel, got a taxi back to JFK International and said goodbye to the city that never sleeps.