You know that way when you spend months building up these expectations of something in your head and then when it finally comes down to it you’re left disappointed? Yeah, well New York was nothing like that.
As I pulled up to the airport on a cold, wet Tuesday morning I was left wondering how on earth I would cope with the horrendous journey that lay ahead. For the sake of saving a few hundred quid I had opted to travel through not just one, but two Canadian airports adding a couple of extra hours on to my trip and a bucket load of extra stress. After very nearly missing my last flight I was understandably relieved (and kind of exhausted) when I finally touched down in New York and after a very emotional reunion with Geraldine we hopped in to a taxi towards our little B&B in Brooklyn. By this point we were both shattered, me to the point that I felt drunk, so we grabbed a pizza from a nearby takeaway and collapsed in to bed ready to hit the city the next day.
To say we packed a lot in to our first day would be an understatement, I’m still amazed by just how much we managed to fit in.
We hopped on the subway for a couple of stops to take us up to the Brooklyn Bridge which we then wandered across in the sunshine to head in to the city. This was my first proper view of the Manhattan skyline and it was just as incredible as I’d imagined; if not more so. Having never experienced a city on the scale of New York it had been difficult to put it in to perspective in my head, but as we walked towards the towering skyscrapers it was a pretty surreal moment.
After taking hundreds of pictures on our walk across – and dodging lots of other tourists – we continued on past the City Hall towards One World Trade Centre and the 9/11 Memorial. I’d seen pictures of the memorial before, but actually being at the site was an entirely different story. I was in my second year of primary school when the attacks happened, but I still remember hearing the news for the first time and am apparently part of the last generation likely to. Standing on the site where it actually happened and reading the names of the people who didn’t make it home that day was a humbling experience. There was something really calming about the memorial, the flow of water is mesmerising, and it’s something I would wholeheartedly recommend seeing if you’re ever visiting the city.
On one of Geraldine’s previous trips in to the city she had been visiting for the TriBeCa Film Festival and was keen to show me the area that she stayed in and ended up loving, so we headed along towards Pier 25 before making our way down the riverside passing by the Irish Hunger Memorial and eventually ending up at Battery Park. We had intended on joining the queue for the ferries over to the Statue of Liberty, but after seeing the sheer enormity of people gathered we decided to leave it for another day and stopped for lunch instead.
After filling ourselves up with pasta and bread (the usual) we decided to walk up Broadway and visit Wall Street and Trinity Church before hopping on the subway towards Times Square. I had wanted to get a picture with the Charging Bull, but it was barely visible for the crowds of people around it. A common theme in New York, we discovered. Wall Street was nowhere near as big as I expected so I was quite surprised by that, but it was still cool to stop and see for a moment nonetheless.
Being rather big fans of Gossip Girl we just had to make a stop at Grand Central Terminal to see the incredible main concourse for ourselves. We grabbed a Starbucks (so much better in America, I miss the iced teas) and sat on the infamous steps where Serena is first spotted whilst reading about the station on my phone. It sounds weird, but Grand Central has some seriously interesting history. Not only is it physically stunning, with a beautiful granite structure – which actually emits radiation – and an elaborate astronomical ceiling, but it also boasts secret staircases, a hidden bar, an abandoned platform and a tennis court. It even housed a Redstone Rocket back in 1957! It puts Glasgow Central to shame…
Once we’d had our fill of people watching in the station we took advantage of the shuttle service straight to Times Square and before we knew it we were standing in the centre of the iconic scene. It was always going to be a fleeting visit that day, so after my first Sephora stop of the trip we skipped on over to Rockefeller Plaza. The first day was forecast to be quite cloudy, so we had planned on leaving Top of the Rock until the following afternoon, but as it had turned out to be a really clear evening we decided to make the most of being their and picked up some tickets. Whilst we waited for our allotted time to roll around we explored the stunning St. Patrick’s Church and soaked up the sun on the steps.
Seeing the sprawling city from Top of the Rock was on an entirely new level. The view was breathtaking and I could have happily sat up there for hours soaking it all in. Definitely worth the ticket price, and a real highlight of the trip as a whole. The view of the Empire State Building was just surreal and I still can’t quite believe that I’ve actually witnessed it for myself. Even though I’ve seen it I’d love to go back again, I don’t think I’d ever get enough of that view. I’ll need to see it at sunrise, sunset, night time, Christmas… I wish I could wake up to that view every day.
Day two of our trip was by far the hottest day, so it made perfect sense to head to Central Park. We grabbed pastries and iced coffees from the Food Hall in the Plaza Hotel to fuel us for the morning and set off to see as much of the park as we could. Being in such a green space in the middle of a bustling city is such a strange contrast, but I loved it. The size of Central Park is something else, it could be a city in itself. There’s so much to see in the park and we barely even scratched the surface!
The one thing I’d recommend everyone does in the park is without a doubt the boating lake, it was probably one of my favourite moments from the entire trip. Spending a blissful hour in the sunshine floating around a lake shared with turtles with the city skyline just behind the trees has to be one of my new favourite ways to spend the day. I also particularly enjoyed the view of the Bethesda Terrace which is home to an iconic Gossip Girl episode.
After grabbing lunch at The Boathouse and eating it whilst sitting on the grass befriending puppies and squirrels alike, we started to head straight down Fifth Avenue towards Washington Square Park, taking in all of the huge stores as we went. Cue another trip to Sephora, because it’s me.