My time in New York was one of my favourite parts of the trip, partly because it was the first time I’d seen Jack in 3 months, but also just because New York is fabulous. Okay, so we stayed in a dodgy area in Harlem where people ate rice out of woks on the pavement and someone found a rats head in their Popeyes chicken, but hey it was a 20 minute subway ride to central NYC and we didn’t have any bad experiences there. Apart from that time we thought a crazy man with a bong was going to kill us on the train. Harlem-based drama aside, I absolutely loved the feel of New York. The impression you get of NYC is busy and fast-paced so I was expecting it to be similar to London, but it differed in a lot of ways. The trains weren’t as overcrowded, the streets were wider which made the city feel less claustrophobic, and the people were friendly. Our first few days were disgustingly humid which meant we had to return to our apartment (with limited air-con) twice a day to shower and change, but after that it cooled down to a lovely September temperature.
Obviously one of the best things about NYC is the abundance of food and drinks available. We had quite a variety of food, from fast food like the Shake Shack to rustic meals in Little Italy to $1 pizza slices (most days for dinner, gotta save that dolla). We also had great snacks like Emack & Bolio’s ice cream, Dough’s donuts and Levain cookies. Oh wow all of the foods. You’d think with the wealth of food offered we would try new things all the time, which we did, but I still had to take Jack to good old Denny’s. You can’t beat a $4 breakfast and their yummy frappes.
One of our greatest food discoveries were garlic knots; obviously we knew they existed but they are everywhere in New York and so great! Our first experience was at Stay Classy, a Will Ferrel themed bar, where a customer brought some in and shared them around. They probably tasted better because they were free, but also covered in cheese and omg soooo good. That bar was great in so many ways, Will Ferrel films playing everywhere, Will Ferrel quotes for cocktails, and a peanut butter chocolate flavoured Guinness that I had in a carbomb. Oh wow. Terrible idea when only eaten garlic knots but I could not say no to that one. The waitress became our best friend as we inhaled Whale’s Vaginas and Whore Islands at the bar until closing time.
We found a lot of good places simply by exploring different areas within Manhattan. We were drawn to the meatpacking district because of the rooftop bar at Le Bain, but we didn’t stay long as it was ridiculously overpriced and pretentious. We were actually made to give up our seats because we had moved them and ‘it didn’t please the aesthetics’. However, leaving Le Bain led us to the discovery of a fantastic little bar called Gaslight. We bagged a sofa, ordered plentiful wines and garlic knots (obviously), and danced all night long to the great tunes provided by the resident DJ.
Half Paddy’s Day fell whilst we were in New York so we decided to do an Irish pub crawl of sorts, starting at your standard sawdust-on-the-floor pub then moving on to a pub with a live band and enjoying their rendition of Wagon Wheel. We then discovered a three-story bar with horrendous Karaoke in the basement, so moved next door to a small pub where the bartender gave us multiple mysterious shots. Unfortunately on this particular occasion our assumption that trains ran all night appeared to be untrue, so we spent about 3 hours in the subway station (most likely sleeping at some point) before giving up and sitting on the pavement. It took us a ridiculously long time to realise we should just order an uber… must have been perfectly happy on that pavement at 7am. Oh yeah.
Central Park is obviously a must-see, must-do in New York. We went twice – once for a picnic where we observed a first date which was excellent people watching, and once to cycle around. The lanes are so confusing we ended up cycling in the wrong direction for a significant amount of time, but we saw some lovely views of the lake and got our workout in the humidity!
We explored Greenwich Village, saw the friends building and had scrummy brunch. We did the standard sightseeing activities and went up the Empire State building and Rockafeller Centre, as well as taking the trip to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We walked around Brooklyn, mainly Williamsburg, and decided it was a great place and we should stay there next time. Sadly we were hungover so didn’t experience the many pubs and bars on offer, but we saw some very cool shops and had a great Thai curry.
As well as general exploring and a LOT of walking, we did a few activities. One was the sunset river cruise, where we stood on a boat with drinks and music whilst it toured around the harbour offering sunset views of the statue of liberty, Manhattan and Brooklyn. It was such a lovely experience and the music was great, especially when they played ‘New York, New York’ as we went under the Brooklyn Bridge – bit of a movie moment!
I also wanted to get tickets for us to see a sporting event so had booked basketball tickets a month previously. It wasn’t until later that I realised the game was women’s basketball… Typical Joy error! However it actually turned out to be great, it was cheaper and we still got the experience of a game at Madison Square Garden and all the ridiculous American traditions that brings. The build up to the game was hilarious: flames, disco balls, emotional versions of the national anthem, and multiple entertainment performances. At half time they brought out an over-50s hip hop group that performed a routine that was slightly scarring… Of course we had to get a hot dog and beer (at $12 a beer not sure it was worth it but hey novelty) and we wore our NY Liberty T-shirts home, cos y’know, we’re longstanding fans and all that.
Unfortunately we did experience a newsworthy crisis whilst in New York… The one time we went to Chelsea happened to be about 15 minutes after the bomb went off there. We emerged from the subway to see massive amounts of police, helicopters, all the roads cordoned off and of course crowds everywhere. As we had no WiFi it took us a while to figure out what had happened, and we woke up the next morning to lots of worried messages! If we had left a little bit earlier who knows what would have happened, but luckily we were safe!
Ten days seems like a long time to spend in one place, but New York is so full of things to do and places to explore that I could have spent longer! I want my next visit to coincide with Christmas-time excitement and festive cheer, even if it is freezing!