The City with the Same Name Twice (New York Travel Tips)

 

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At the end of April I flew out to New York, this was a big deal for me having developed a fear of planes and the fact I cannot get off them. New York is like a postcard of different films, I feel like I relate every bit I have seen to part of a film: the pond in Stewart Little, Grand Central from Madagascar, Midtown from Ghostbusters, Friends, Sex and the City, Night at the Museum… it is incredible how much you recognise.

Day 1: The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and some serious drizzle.

I wake up at 5 after not sleeping at all. By 7, when my friend is awake, we head out for breakfast and a meander down to Battery Park – which is a very long way. I tend to prefer walking when on holiday as it is easier to see things, but in hindsight, New York is little big to do this all the time.

It is miserable weather, which makes for dramatic pictures of the view and windy pictures of us, but we board the boat to the Statue of Liberty (we had pre-booked) and braved the weather. It was fascinating, but the real gem of the trip was the Ellis Island Museum. If you are not interested in going to Ellis Island, get that free Staten Island ferry which has a pretty good view of the statue.

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The Ellis Island museum is incredible, with such a rich history. Someone told me that you could feel the ghosts in that place, and I kind of agree – those walls have seen so much and the building is astonishing. I wish we had done the hard hat tour of the hospital wing, but we didn’t know it was available at the time.

We spend most of the day here before heading back out to the city and doing some more sightseeing. We go and see the Stock Exchange and aim towards the 9/11 memorial. We also stumble across the Federal Hall which is an unexpected gem – a small free museum about George Washington’s inauguration. Definitely worth a look if you are near Wall Street.

On our way to go and see the 9/11 memorial, it is raining so hard we can’t even get close. Before choosing to get the Subway back we dive into Century 21 and hide in the Westfield outside the Trade Center. We didn’t manage to see the memorial, unfortunately, so hopefully, we can go back another time. After a soggy subway ride and a quick traipse through Grand Central (gorgeous!), we have a rapid dinner at the first place we can find and head back to the hotel.

Day 2: Central Park and the Natural History Museum.

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After once again waking at 5 and waiting for my friend to wake up herself, we have breakfast at The Comfort Diner, which is a diner in midtown just off Lexington Ave. It’s pretty good value for money and was the first of many indulgent breakfasts in New York. We meander for the first part of the day, checking out Times Square and buying broadway tickets before heading uptown to Central Park and the Natural History Museum.

Central Park is stunning – massive! New York such an incredible example of city planning which you just don’t get in Europe; most cities in Europe have just expanded as necessity demanded and this is why most tourist spots are pretty close together. In America, things have been planned, space has been allocated, this park was designed – it is both baffling and awe-inspiring. Central Park has so many facets and we barely did half of it – there were parts where it felt like I was in a forest! I would love to go back on a nice day and just walk the whole thing.

I wish we had more time in the Natural History Museum – two hours was not enough. The planetarium is well worth it though, even if only to enjoy sitting down for a few moments. We saw the dinosaurs and had a quick zip around the other floors on our way to the exit. We also recognised some famous galleries from Night at the Museum, including the maoi statue in the Margaret Mead hall of Pacific Peoples which was so surrounded by tourists we didn’t manage to get close. That whole gallery, however, was fascinating.

We ended the day by seeing Amelie on Broadway at the Walter Kerr theatre after dinner at a Mexican Restaurant a few streets east of Broadway (I can’t remember the name unfortunately – it was really nice though and pretty good value). It was lovely and the rush tickets (only $40 each) were really good seats – we were right at the front but because the stage design was minimal I could see everything easily. It was very twee (not that I am massively surprised) and the songs were ok, but it was good fun and I enjoyed the experience.

Day 3: More Central Park, The Met, Chelsea and the High Line

As it is still raining we went to the Met, which is bigger than any museum I have ever been too – we barely did a quarter of it before we were exhausted and had to leave, I am desperate to go back and see more.

We walk across Central Park again and head behind the Natural History Museum by a few blocks to discover the best bagels ever at Bagels & Co, followed by insane ice cream and visiting Knitty City  – my friend is a big knitter; I am both bemused and charmed by this lovely shop.

We then get the subway to Chelsea, having learned our lesson on Monday. Chelsea is beautiful; we walk on the High Line then pop into Chelsea market (which is much smaller than I expected) before going to see the Friends building and Carrie’s stoop (it was too close not to go!). This is by far my favourite area of New York, if and when I go back I would like to stay down in the Chelsea/Greenwich village area or a few blocks back on the West Side of Central Park – might need a bigger budget for that though!

We aim back towards midtown, stopping to sit in a park in Greenwich village for a few moments before heading north to Union Square. By pure accident we have dinner at an NYU student bar – it is pretty rowdy for 7pm on a Thursday night! Students will be students I suppose…. And so endeth the third day.

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Day 4: Finally some sun, the Empire State, shopping and home

Our final day dawns and we can finally head up the Empire State now that the weather is less rubbish. Tip: get there before 11, we got there about 10 and there were plenty of people but the line never stopped moving. When we left about an hour later the line was around the block! It is a cool experience; obviously, if you go up the Rockefeller you can see the Empire State in the skyline but I am quite glad we did the full NY experience with the Empire State – apparently, there was originally going to be a dirigible mooring post! And it was built in less than a year – insane! The view is pretty good, but I’m not sure it is worth going all the way to the top as you get two viewing points anyway and there isn’t a lot of difference in them.

We then do some mooching and shopping. Macy’s is my favourite store so far,  I hit up Sephora with a serious budget (America is expensive! And I kept forgetting to add the tax on in my mind…). We went into Saks and touched absolutely nothing, and we had a look round Tiffany’s – the people in there were very nice and very tolerant of us having a look around despite the fact we could obviously afford nothing. It indulged my desire to have a Breakfast at Tiffany’s moment anyway.

After having dragged my poor friend around New York the night before in search of Dough Doughnuts (only to find it closed) we eventually manage to locate a different Dough in a small food market next to Grand Central – honestly, they’re just giant doughnuts, not that amazing but perhaps I was too tired to appreciate it. This area of Grand Central was amazing though, it had such fantastic vibe (it reminded me a little of Boxpark in Shoreditch) and the food was quick, cheap and hot (all sorely needed) it was simply a great place to people watch. We grabbed a bite to eat here on the way back to Penn too.

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So that was New York, it was such a good trip and I highly recommend going if you haven’t been. I can’t wait to go back and I can’t wait to travel somewhere new – my next goal is to travel somewhere alone. I’m thinking a weekend break in Europe – perhaps Amsterdam? Does anyone have any suggestions or tips for travelling alone for the first time?

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