Friday, 25 November 2016

My NYC experience

Hi guys,

I've just got back from one of the best trips of my life - New York City!! I feel so blessed that I was able to visit such an amazing city, even more so that this was one of my 21st birthday presents.


I went with my Mum for five days, six nights and it was incredible. We stayed in the amazing Roosevelt Hotel just off Madison Avenue. It is an incredibly beautiful, old fashioned hotel filled with chandeliers, velvet chairs and doormen in traditional dress - some of them even wore top hats!

 
 
 

The hotel itself was very central - less than a five minute walk to 5th Avenue and Grand Central Terminal and around ten minutes from Times Square. This is the perfect location especially for your first time to New York.

I wanted to share my amazing experience with you. I apologise in advance for the long post as my blog is also a great way for me to document my travels so if there is a specific attraction that you want to read about, I have headed up each activity clearly.

So, what did we do?


SUNDAY

Times Square


We arrived in New York early evening on Sunday and once we had unpacked, we walked across to Times Square to see what all the fuss was about.

Although Times Square was extremely lit up and vibrant, it wasn't as impressive as I expected it to be. Nevertheless, it is definitely a place to visit - you can't say you've been to New York and haven't visited Times Square!

 

We ate at a lovely traditional American diner called the Brooklyn Diner, right in the heart of Times Square. Eating at a diner is again something you just have to do when you visit any part of America in order to immerse yourself into true American culture. Even my Mum ate a burger, which I can assure you, doesn't happen very often!



MONDAY

Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island


We wanted to start our first day on a high by doing a tour and seeing one of the main attractions in NYC and we definitely did just that! We purchased a ticket through Thomson before we left which included both a tour of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island's Immigration Centre.


The tour started at Pier One where we all gathered and were introduced to our tour guide Amanda. 

 

STATUE OF LIBERTY

Once we had all arrived, we walked across to the edge of the pier to board the ferry across to Liberty Island where we had our first view of the statue.

 

This part of the tour started with a museum on the history of the building including why and how it was built, where the design came from and who by. This was really interesting and showed the structure of the design and building period. 

The most interesting part for me was that the central structure of the statue is actually made in the exact same way as the Eiffel Tower and was built by Gustave Eiffel, the man who designed and built the Eiffel Tower in Paris. This was something that I didn't know so I found it fascinating. It was also interesting to know that the statue was actually originally a bronze colour and is now green due to oxidation.

The museum included replicas of parts of the statue, including its face and feet, to emphasise the sheer size of the statue.

 

The museum also contained the original torch of the Statue of Liberty which was replaced for safety reasons for its 100th anniversary.

  

After the museum, we were able to climb nearly 200 steps to reach the pedestal. Unfortunately we weren't able to climb all the way up to the crown of the statue as there was a five month's waiting list but the view from the pedestal was amazing in itself.


We were then given the opportunity to take some close up pictures of the statue and have our pictures taken with it.

 

ELLIS ISLAND

After we had finished at Liberty Island, we took the ferry across to Ellis Island. Between the late 19th century and early 20th century, all immigrants were processed at Ellis Island in the hope of moving permanently to live in America.

 

During the first part of this tour, we were put into the shoes of the immigrants at the time and taken through their process. The Registry Room (pictured below) was absolutely beautiful but I was shocked that up to 11,000 people would have been in this room at one time in order to be registered as an American citizen.

 

We were then able to wander around the immigration museum which explained the history of American immigration and certain stereotypes and prejudices over the years. The most interesting part of the museum for me personally was learning where words in the American/British dictionary originated from - words that we use everyday without a second thought actually come from all over the world.

 

Overall, I found this tour really interesting and I would definitely recommend it. If you're not interested in visiting Ellis Island, you are able to just visit Liberty Island and see the Statue of Liberty.

Top of the Rock


If anyone knows me, you will probably know that I am the worst person EVER to book anything and, once again, I booked the wrong ticket. Luckily we were able to purchase the correct ticket to get to the top of the Rockefeller Centre (phew).

 

The view was absolutely incredible as you were able to see a 360 degree view of the city including the Empire State Building and Times Square. It really did emphasise the sheer size of the buildings and the city itself.


St Patrick's Cathedral


We sort of stumbled across this as we were walking back from the Rockefeller Centre and it was as breathtaking as I had been told it was. I love the gothic design of the church and the level of detail is incredible. I am so glad that we managed to visit such a beautiful building and say a prayer for family members.

 
 


TUESDAY

O'Reilly's Pub


The weather was quite bad in the morning - no one likes torrential rain - and we were still quite tired from our travels so we took the opportunity to have a lazy morning. Early afternoon we visited O'Reilly's pub and had a drink and bite to eat. I say a bite but the portions were huge!

 Obviously I had to visit here during my time in New York!

 

Greenwich Village


So my Mum decided that she wanted to go and visit Greenwich Village which we later realised that she had confused with the Greenwich in London, the apparently up and coming "trendy" area. Anyway, we were there and so we decided to make the most of it.

Greenwich Village is mainly a residential area and has been home to lots of celebrities over the years. Although some of the apartments don't look like they could be anything special, this is a very expensive area due to the calm and tranquil vibe it has with it being away from central NYC. This is, of course, an opinion of New Yorkers...

This area is apparently a popular choice for many people when they want to settle down and raise a family, again due to it being less busy.

Greenwich Village is also home to the famous Washington Square Park, an idyllic park in the heart of the neighbourhood. 

 

One of the main features of Washington State Park is the huge arch towards the edge of the park, known as the Washington Arch (pictured below). This arch was modelled on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

 

Although, I will admit, we were slightly uneasy at the thought of being in an unknown residential neighbourhood at night, I am glad that we went. We managed to salvage our trip and came across this beautiful park and a residential village.

Little Italy


Next we visited Little Italy. Little Italy was where the majority of the Italian immigrants settled when they came to America and has hence been known as Little Italy from then on.


I had been told about the Little Italy area by several people that had visited New York and it sounded amazing. Real, traditional Italian food - nothing can beat it!

Unfortunately, me and my mum had already eaten and so we opted for the cutest little Italian cafe and had some amazing antipasto and of course, prosecco!

 

Oh, and a lovely homemade Lemon Tart...


Little Italy also had the most amazing Christmas shop which really did make me feel super Christmassy! We even found the cutest bauble for our Christmas tree at home.

 


WEDNESDAY

Pulitzer Fountains


While waiting for the Sex and the City tour to start, we got the opportunity to see the lovely Pulitzer fountains and, even better, they had been decorated ready for Christmas. 

 

The lit up Christmas bush was such a pretty touch and definitely made me feel Christmassy!

Sex and the City tour


Like many girls/women, I love Sex and the City and what better way to see all of the hotspots than to take a tour?

The tour was a 3.5 hour coach tour with four stop offs. We had the most hilarious tour guide, Melissa, who was so funny and mildly inappropriate (as I was with my Mum) but the tour wouldn't have worked as well with someone of a different personality. The tour took us through central New York and the smaller areas showing us the places used for the SATC series and the films.

STOP #1

The first stop was the Pleasurechest, a sex shop featured in the series.

 

This was slightly awkward as I was with my Mum but so were many other people and it made the whole experience hilarious. Probably the funniest thing was that a solo traveller called Marty, who was in his late sixties, had bought a variety of sex toys... wait for it... as Christmas presents. I just could not cope.

STOP #2

The second stop was at the restaurant, Buddakan, which was used for Carrie and Big's wedding rehearsal dinner in the first film. This is an Asian fusion restaurant that is a bustling, vibrant spot in NY.


This restaurant was beautifully designed with lots of aztec designs throughout. One of my favourite parts of the restaurant was the dining area used for the rehearsal dinner in the film. I love the multiple chandeliers above the table - it gives a very vintage, authentic look.

 

I also loved the bar area. The large, quirky photo gives the bar area a unique and individual feel and makes it different. I also love that the bright blue from the photo has been pulled out and used on the bar stools. 


STOP #3

The third stop was to see Carrie's apartment. 

 

It is interesting that Carrie is only ever seen on the steps of the apartment or either entering/leaving the apartment. This is because the inside of the apartment seen on the screen is actually a film set. 

The family that originally lived at the apartment were paid quite a bit of money for SATC to use the front of their house for the show. A new family now lives in this apartment and as the series/films have finished (for now), these steps are not currently being used. However, there are tours every day for SATC and so their apartment does get a lot of visitors still. 

I think this apartment is so pretty but I can definitely say that I was shocked to learn that this apartment would sell for several million dollars!

There were also a lot of shops around this area including the Michael Kors Limited Collection store which showcased all of his designs for the catwalk, using more premium fabrics and leathers. 

STOP #4

The fourth and final stop was, of course, for a Cosmo! The famous cocktail throughout SATC which the girls always drank.

 

Again, this bar was featured in the series so we ticked off two boxes at once! I loved the interior of this bar - the lit up trees near the windows were such a pretty touch.

 

If you are a SATC fan like me, I would definitely recommend this tour. You can visit the hotspots yourself but it is fab to do this tour with lots of other people and an amazing tour guide that will add humour and context to each destination.

Bryant Park



Bryant Park is a small park just off Fifth Ave where there are food stalls, seating areas and a small space filled with ping pong tables.

We were lucky enough to visit in mid-November when New York is preparing for Thanksgiving and the Christmas period and so there were additional attractions ready for the festivities. There were lots of little pop-up shops scattered around the park selling handmade jewellery, clothes and lots of other bits. We picked up the best hot chocolate from one stall which is honestly the best hot chocolate I've ever had! There was also an ice rink especially for the Christmas season which was really cute.  

I loved the pop-up shops/stalls - the items were all really cute and quirky. Although I can't say I was too happy when I picked up what I thought was a faux fur headband to find out it was rabbit fur - not OK!

I had the most incredible waffle from a little waffle hut which was with marshmellows, strawberries and drizzled nutella. It was dreamy and filled me up for the rest of the day!


Central Park


Central Park - one of the most famous parks in the entire world and featured in so many films to this day. As I had jam packed all of our days, we didn't have the time to leisurely wander round as I've been told that you need around 5-6 hours to see everything. Instead, we took a 50 minute horse and carriage ride which enabled us to tick off two things on our list: a horse and carriage ride and a visit to the park showing us the main attractions.

 

We had the cutest horse called Billy and our tour guide was really informative, pointing out all of the attractions in the park and explaining the history behind it all. He was also a fab photographer - I basically had my own photo shoot at one point!

 

Empire State Building


The Empire State Building is my favourite building in New York - it is just so pretty! The top of the building makes it look so feminine and the interior is amazing.

 
 
 

I chose to see the city lit up as I thought that it would look amazing and I was right. The view was absolutely breathtaking - I could have stood there all night if it wasn't so cold (and if I was allowed).



Spyglass Rooftop Bar


 

Living in Manchester, I am definitely one for rooftop bars. There are quite a few really nice rooftop bars in Manchester that I have visited quite a few times and so, in one of the prettiest cities in the world, I had to find a rooftop bar to visit.

I came across the Spyglass bar online and I am so glad I did - as you can see above, the view of the Empire State Building is insane. The bar was above the Archer Hotel and was a small but busy bar with a really good atmosphere. All of the staff were super friendly and I absolutely loved visiting here!

To make it even better, we found seats looking out to this view all night which was amazing! There was also a balcony that you could go out to which gave an even better view of the Empire State in all its glory.


THURSDAY

Helicopter Ride


I have to say that this was probably my favourite attraction of the whole trip - I can't even explain how incredible an experience it was. I was surprised that for someone who isn't a huge fan of heights, it wasn't as nerve racking as I expected. Probably because the view distracted me!!

 

I arrived at the Manhattan Heliport at Pier 6 in preparation for my trip. Upon arrival, I went through security and was then given a life jacket to wear around my waist. 

Once the helicopter was ready, I was taken to the helicopter with five other passengers and strapped in ready for take off. The propellers were extremely loud but we were given headsets so that we could hear the pilot explaining all of the attractions to us along the way. 

 
 
 
 

Overall it was amazing and I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to experience New York to the fullest.

Brooklyn Bridge



On our way back from the Heliport, we had a good view of the Brooklyn Bridge. It looks amazing from afar and up close - hence why it is one of the most famous bridges in the world.

We didn't have a lot of time as we were due at the 9/11 memorial tour so we weren't able to walk the whole way across the bridge. Even if, like me, you don't have time to walk all the way across, I would definitely say that it is worth even walking a little bit of the way and seeing the bridge up close.


  
 

9/11 Memorial


The 9/11 memorial tour was really sad and I couldn't begin to even try to imagine how it felt being there on that day, witnessing the tragic events or worse, being victim to it.

Our tour started with some context as to the events of 9/11, told by our tour guide, who personally witnessed it happening. We then went across to St Paul's Chapel which was a significant building during the events of 9/11 and for a little while after.

 

The chapel was directly opposite the World Trade Centre yet, remarkably, was the only building in that vicinity that wasn't damaged at all. Not even a single window shattered. On this day, a large tree was guarding the building and actually fell as a result of the falling towers (which was said to be equivalent to an earthquake reaching 2.4 on the richter scale).

As a result of this, and the location of the chapel, St Paul's was used for a number of different things. Initially, the chapel was used as a hospital for injured victims as it was much closer than taking each person to the hospital on the other side of New York and meant people were seen to immediately. The chapel was later used as a shelter for firemen who would take it in turns to take shifts clearing the rubble from the towers and sleeping. This allowed them to clean everything within eight months, which seems a long time but it would have been considerably longer otherwise.

In addition, St Paul's is was used as a tribute centre for family, friends and citizens wanting to pay their respects.

We also visited another tribute centre, the Ground Zero site. Ground Zero has two large square tributes, each filled with water fountains. These tributes signify the two towers: the North Tower and the South Tower. 

 

On the side of each tribute are the names of all of the victims who lost their lives through 9/11, including firemen who were trying to rescue people from the towers. Something that I found really touching was that the names on the tributes were not arranged in alphabetical order but through association so that friends, co-workers, people that were fond of each other, were all listed together. 

It was a really strange feeling to stand where the Twin Towers originally stood and it really did sink in the amount of damage that occurred. 

We also had the opportunity to visit the new iconic World Trade Centre.


The design was absolutely incredible and like nothing I had ever seen before. I also couldn't get over how big the building actually was inside!

 

This building is now used as a central terminal which has both a train station and a subway station inside it - making it one of the most accessible places to travel to/from in New York.

There are also other buildings being built around this area. The building pictured below is 1 World Trade Centre or "Freedom Tower". 


It is interesting to note that each tower built will be built completely differently but all will contain a similar, central structure - making the buildings a lot more substantial.

Once the tour was over, we were able to have a wander around the 9/11 museum. 



Unfortunately, we didn't leave ourselves enough time to complete this - we were under the illusion that it would be part of the tour - so we had a whistle stop look around. I would say that you do need at least 3/4 hours to complete the museum if it is something that you are interested in doing.

Eataly



This restaurant was recommended to us by our tour guide for the Statue of Liberty. Eataly is a chain of Italian restaurants in New York and we were lucky enough to visit an extra special restaurant at the top of a shopping mall which also was an Italian food store. 

Inside Eataly there was the pizzeria and pasta restaurant, the fish restaurant, the bar, the pizza take-away and the shop itself.

 

The Lion King


I have always been one for the theatre but watching a show on Broadway is just something different entirely! As part of my birthday present, my mum booked for us to go and watch the Lion King at the Minskoff Theatre and to make it better, we were on the second row!!

 

The show was absolutely incredible but what really blew me away was the costumes. I wasn't sure how they were going to bring the animals to life but it was amazing. 

I was also lucky enough to meet some of the cast which was great.


If the Lion King ever comes to a theatre near you, or you are wanting to watch a show in New York, I would definitely recommend this!


FRIDAY

Fifth Ave


When in NY, you've just got to go shopping on Fifth Ave! We were lucky enough to have the most amazing weather this day - there wasn't a cloud in the sky and it was so warm - a perfect day for shopping.

Saks Fifth Avenue was such an amazing shop. Firstly, can we just admire the decor outside?! I adore it! I wish that the UK made this much effort to decorate their shops - especially at Christmas time.

 
 

The inside was equally as pretty, with glitter wreaths hanging from the ceiling and wrapped around counters.

 

I also fell in love with outdoor decor of another large department store, Lord & Taylor, which was just perfection. You walked under a large arch made out of wreath and decorated with lots of lights - the perfect Christmas decor.

 

The New York Public Library



This is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful buildings in the whole of New York. The stone pillars at the front of the building make it look so grand. I particularly love the carving into the stone on the outside of the building - the detail is incredible.

 
  
 

Inside is even more spectacular - the ceilings and walls are carved with tributes and intricate designs.

 

Grand Central Terminal


The main train station in New York and an iconic attraction in itself. Filled with incredible decor, shops and restaurants - Grand Central Terminal is definitely somewhere to visit.


 
 

I wish we had visited here earlier on in our holiday as we definitely could have enjoyed some good food in here when we wanted to eat quickly. 

They also have a lovely restaurant called the Oyster Bar which has received really good reviews online and is listed on several websites as one of the best restaurants to eat at. Unfortunately, with our jam packed schedule we didn't get chance but it is definitely a restaurant to consider. It is definitely one for the fish lovers but you'll be happy to know, it does serve much more than just oysters.

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So there you have it, my amazing five day experience in New York.

I hope that you've enjoyed reading and if you have any questions/comments, I would love to hear from you! You can contact me either by sending me an email: xthelifeofm@outlook.com or via Instagram: @xthelifeofm.

Love,




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