New York is a powerful city. It’s the most famous city in the world. We’ve seen it immortalised in film, crooned about in song and entice traveller’s year in year out. At any time of year, New York is heaving with travellers and tourists who come to the Big Apple for a slice of the action. I had been to New York for 5 days when I was 19 but I was eager to return. It seemed like the whole world and his dog was going to NY in 2016 and I wanted to be one of them in 2017.
I’ve already written about my adventures in Las Vegas but New York predates this trip and is a beast of a very different kind.
I decided to start my New Year on a high as January can be such a bleak month and better to be depressed in NY than at home, right?
Arriving in NY, I took a cab from JFK to my hotel. Initially, I wanted to take the subway but I was dog tired from the flying and although it was raining, it’s still exciting to see the cityscape of Manhattan emerge as you drive closer. Arriving from underground didn’t have the same allure. It’s a bit like popping up in Venice via a manhole. Part of the fun is in the approach.
I checked into my room at POD 51, a friendly, funky place with a rooftop garden and bar. The rooms were small and the bathroom was positioned close to the bed but as I didn’t spend much time in the hotel it didn’t matter. Besides, it had everything that I needed. If you’re spending your holiday in your hotel room, you’re doing something wrong.
I decided to go out for a late-night walk and ended up in McDonalds (when in Rome…).
Two things I love about NY are:
1) The tall buildings that make you feel like a bug and;
2) The almost cartoonish nature of Americans. It feels like every personality trait is exaggerated. If they are friendly, they are very friendly. If they are rude, they are the rudest people you’ve ever met.
The following day, I woke up early and went exploring. I stopped by the Rockefeller Centre, Times Square and wandered my way through Central Park before exploring all the key districts of New York: Greenwich Village, East Village, Little Italy and Chinatown. There were certain landmarks I was looking out for including the Chelsea Hotel (the exterior was used during filming for Leon staring Natalia Portman and Gary Oldman) and Katz Deli (a famous eatery from Man Vs Food).
I tucked into the restaurants signature dish: a pastrami sandwich with an Everest of pickles. The walls are lined with the deli’s famous frequenters (apparently, Leonardo DiCaprio had been there only a few weeks before) and you could even sit at the famed table from When Harry Met Sally (I’ll have what she’s having…)
Current events are changing America’s political landscape and I found myself immersed in a women’s march which wound its way to Trump Tower. My feet were killing me but I tried out a few further American junk food staples and headed to Grand Central Station which was just stunning (the photos don’t do it justice).
The following day I took the ferry from Staten Island (a free alternative to boat tours) to see the Statue of Liberty herself. Clouded with fog, the ride was atmospheric and quite mystical. It was hard not to imagine the journeys of Irish and Italian migrants traversing the long distance from Europe to North America. I then headed back to Times Square, the hub of New York, to hunt down the famous toy store from Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, FAO Schwartz but unfortunately, they have been closed down. Fortunately, I did get to play on that Piano from Big back when I visited at 19.
That night, I drank prosecco and beer at Salvation Burger close to my hotel before taking a shared taxi back to JFK and returning home.
What I took from this trip is that there is an awful lot that you can squeeze into a long weekend. You can see, do and experience a lot more than you think you can. If you’re wondering if a weekend to New York is worth it, I would say yes. Of course, the longer you can spend somewhere the better, but any time spent somewhere new is tantalising and when time is short, we tend to make the most of it.
New York is a fascinating place. There is so much to see, do and eat and each district of NY has a unique flavour and feel to immerse yourself in. In NY, you can feel important and also anonymous all at once. Everywhere you go, you spot buildings, restaurants and sights that you will recognise from films and television. It’s a famous city, the leading character in its own story.
I am looking forward to returning to New York at some point in the future. This time in the Spring. I think Central Park would be far prettier with the sun shining on it.
When: 20 January – 23 January
Flying from: London, Gatwick
Flying to: JFK, New York
Flying with: Norwegian Airlines
Staying: POD 51
All my love,