Aaaaand...she's back! Back on the blog, yes, but also back in the UK from a highly entertaining and mind-blowing trip to none other than...NYC! I was so lucky to be able to jaunt across the Atlantic and spend a whole week soaking up the sights of the Big Apple with pals Sam and Zinat. We crammed in a heck of a lot each day, ate some dodgy grub, witnessed the beauty of Central Park in the snow and celebrated my birthday halfway through the holiday. Needless to say, it was an eventful time!
WARNING: If you are planning a trip to New York, just know that it isn't necessarily going to be a relaxing one!! Like most city breaks, your time is spent gallivanting from one attraction to the other, and if you're from London you know that it's difficult to switch off. Well, New York is like London on steroids. Everything is so much bigger - the architecture, the food, the prices...but it's an incredible experience and there are endless things to do. You HAVE to visit it at some point in your life.
Day 1 We had a long journey to JFK via Geneva, but once we landed it was only around 2pm, meaning we still had some of the day to enjoy. A yellow cab took us right to our hotel's doorstep for around $60 ($20 each.) We stayed at Moxy NYC Times Square, which is just one of the several Moxy hotels dotted around the city. Moxy sits under the Marriot umbrella and is described as boutique; it was certainly bustling, trendy and no doubt designed for the younger generations. Having said that, there were a number of families staying at the hotel and larger groups who were, I assume, over in America for hen parties or birthdays etc. We stayed at Moxy for 4 nights and it was perfectly comfortable, though perhaps a bit of a squish for 3 people. They have several restaurants and a bar, but we were determined to get out and enjoy local food. Speaking of which, our first mission was to find nearby grub and get a feel for the place. Midtown is incredibly hectic and is where a lot of the action of NY is. The streets are overwhelmingly large, there are great places to shop and Christmas lights to admire. We wanted to explore Koreatown, as I'm pretty sure London doesn't have one of these! We found a wonderfully crazy restaurant called The Kunjip, which is well-known for a good old meat feast (in which I actually did not partake.) There were queues left, right and centre for this place, so it's obviously popular with locals as well as keen tourists. Our portions were absolutely massive and they gave us a bunch of other stuff for free, which was insane - and also fun because we had no idea what anything was! Gutted that I couldn't finish everything but would totally recommend. We wandered up to Times Square, which is obviously a must-see. It was absolutely rammed, but this was to be expected. I would say get there for 11:50pm for a little billboard surprise...
Day 2 After a good night's sleep, it was up and out...for a solid 7 hours or so. This was the first time we realised how freezing New York was. I'm glad I packed strategically - layers upon layers were needed!
We went to a nearby eatery for breakfast called Market Crates, which I believe is a chain. Really great place, with lots of healthy and hearty options, serving both hot and cold food. Lemme tell you, we took advantage of the coffee in New York! It's also pretty cheap, surprisingly.
Then we walked. We walked and walked and walked, past the Flat Iron building, to Grand Central Station, along Fifth Avenue, past Trump Tower, Carnegie Hall and the Plaza. Lunch was a slice of classic New York pizza. You can find these pizza places all over the city - some of them do slices for 99 cents!
The weather took a bad turn at this point, so we made a run for Columbus Circle, which is apparently the point from which official highway distances from the city are measured. It's right next to Central Park and boasts a number of shops and eateries. We dodged all this and headed for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where we sat at the swanky bar for a couple of hours enjoying the view and sipping on horrendously overpriced drinks. You gotta view what you gotta view.
I was excited for Monday's breakfast. We had been recommended Best Bagels and Coffee by the hotel, and it was only about 5 minutes away on foot. Stepping in, we could already tell how good it was going to be by the number of people standing around and queuing! They had so many different types of bagels, which they baked on the premises, and lots of different fillings. My goodness, these bagels were large...and tasty.
As the library yesterday was closed, we made sure to fit in in today. It was stunning both outside and inside, with a beautifully decorated Christmas tree in the foyer. The weather had already started to get bad so we made the decision to do most of the museums on this particular day, which worked out well (although everyone else had the same idea!)
For this trip, my friends and I each purchased a New York city pass, which I would 100% recommend if you are visiting the city for the first time. You basically save a heap of money with this pass, and it allows you quick access to some attractions. Luckily we managed to get this on sale as it was Black Friday just before we went! You can choose how many days you want to activate the pass for, or how many attractions you want to see. New York has a whole host of museums on offer; we went to see the Guggenheim and the Met on this particular occasion. Both are 100% worth seeing. The Met, however, you could walk around for days, no joke. We saw some of the Egyptian history, a fashion exhibition that was on show and some of the later European art, including works by Picasso. When we left the Met it had snowed and Central Park looked absolutely stunning, so naturally we had to have a quick photoshoot.
Dylan's Candy Store is worth a visit if you are into buying American sweets. They have a crazy amount of stuff, and we got a small discount with our city pass on sweets. I would recommend checking out the supermarkets though - it's a lot cheaper.
That night, Sam and I went skating at the Rockefeller Centre, something which I've been dreaming about since I was a kid! It was still snowing, and the experience was pretty magical. Horrendously expensive, but so worth it.
Day 4 It was a gorgeous day, so we took advantage of the sunshine and went on a boat ride to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. It's really nice to get out onto the Hudson and see some different views of the city. Ellis Island is super-duper interesting as it showcases the rich history of America's immigration. I think something like one third of Americans can trace their ancestry back to people who entered the country via Ellis Island!
We had some truly amazing ramen for dinner but unfortunately our starter gave the three of us a touch of food poisoning! Such a disappointing experience, but I guess it doesn't matter where in the world you go - eating out is always going to be risky.
We also went to Top of the Rock on this day, which is a viewing platform at the top of the Rockefeller Centre. Needless to say, it was pretty damn stunning. You really get a feel of New York being a concrete jungle up here.
Day 5 This was the day that we left the hotel and made our way over to Greenwich Village to escape for a couple of days. I say 'escape' but Greenwich is still on Manhattan, it's just a bit out of the way and more quaint, which I liked. We were lucky enough to stay with an aunt of mine who has lived there for about 30 years and who is right in the heart of the village, which consists of winding streets, lovely coffee shops and independent restaurants. Most of the day was spent walking around and taking in the area. It was also nice to walk right up to Chelsea Market and the High Line, which is an elevated, linear park created on a former railroad spur. Like I said, for something a bit more chill, it's worth just spending time in one of New York's many neighbourhoods and seeing how the locals live. That's what I was most interested in, anyway. I love walking around new places - it's the best way to see things. As it was my birthday we went to see The Phantom of the Opera in the evening on Broadway, which was nothing short of magical.
Day 6 Zinat and I walked all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge, which took us almost half an hour, and then crossed the famous landmark! It was a decent day as well, which made it all the more enjoyable. The views from the river are excellent. We crossed over and visited the Instagram-worthy Dumbo area, which is tucked away on the streets of Brooklyn. We walked down to Brooklyn Heights and spent some time just wandering the streets, stopping for coffees along the way. Zinat and I were so enamoured by all the brownstones and the artwork - I'm a sucker for architecture! There were some really cute shops that we went into in Brooklyn - perfect for present shopping or souvenirs.
We also wanted to go up the Empire State Building before our pass expired, so we did that and just missed the sunset, which was bloody annoying. Well, we got a glimpse of it whilst standing in the queue but it wasn't the same, I tell you that.
Day 7 Our last day was spent in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We did some last-minute shopping and tried to take it easy in preparation for the long flight home.
And that was that! I honestly can't believe how much we managed to squeeze in each day - it was totally exhausting but also absolutely wonderful. I had an absolute blast and would jump at the chance to go back. New York is an expensive place and America is the land of tipping, so make sure you bear this in mind if you’re planning a trip. Unfortunately people who work in the service industry don’t seem to get paid enough and they rely on tips. It’s just a normal procedure, so be prepared, but also make sure you have enough cash on you at all times. Make the most of New York’s rich and diverse history. So many people from all over the world arrived on the east coast and made it their home; the fusion of cultures is really exciting and one of the best ways to experience this is via the food. There is an endless amount of grub to try so don’t shy away. I hope you guys enjoyed this post and I’m excited to share more travelling stories soon! Have you guys been to the Big Apple?