The thing about New York is that it makes you feel as though you’ve been jumbled around in a washing machine and then sent bewildered and dazed into the frenetic throngs of commuters, tourists and New Yorkers. After a flight that wasn’t nearly half as dreadful as predicted, that was exactly the position we found ourselves in as we stood on a Chelsea pavement, sweltering in the heat and attempting to take in our incredibly busy surroundings. Trudging up approximately eight flights of the steepest stairs you’ve ever known and carrying a fifteen kilogram backpack (talk to me about leg day, folks), we finally arrived at our Air B&B apartment, a beautiful flat home to a ridiculously trendy (and presumably rich) young couple. Exhausted and too warm to function for a moment longer, we flomped into bed to await the riches that New York City would bring us the following day.
Eagerly in search of breakfast the next morning, we got the first taste of just how glorious food in the States could be. Arriving at BEC (B for bacon, E for egg, C for cheese – oh yes!), we tucked into what is possibly the best breakfast item I have ever consumed. Just as well that this was quite a large start to our day because we walked for miles upon miles upon miles.
Now, before I continue, a word to the wise from somebody who is distinctly unwise… you absolutely must take comfortable shoes on a trip to somewhere as vast and walkable as New York. I decided to buy some new Birkenstocks before leaving with virtually no time to break them in and I found that, rather than being the comfortable companions I had been assured they would be, they were actually like walking on two slabs of concrete. As a person who hates having sore feet in the slightest, I was physically desperate not to be on my feet at any point by the end of the day. So, don’t do what I did. You’ve been warned.
Okay, let’s continue. So day one was a whistle-stop tour of some of New York’s big hitters: Union Square, Fifth Avenue, Madison Square Garden, Flatiron Building, Empire State, Grand Central Station, Times Square, and the Central Library. As well as the amazing buildings and vast city, I was also beginning to notice was that, despite the thirty degree heat that immediately melted off my make-up and plastered my hair to my head, everyone else in New York seemed to look incredibly well put-together and glamorous which, honestly, made me feel a little like a potato. However, I tried to put this aside and enter full tourist mode rather than making any attempt to go native (I just knew I couldn’t pull it off). We didn’t fully visit all of the sights so some were just a passing reference or perhaps a photo opportunity. For example, we decided not to take the trip to the top of the Empire State simply because we were instead saving ourselves for the Rockefeller Centre later in the week. Times Square also wasn’t particularly high on agenda and we both found it to be pretty gaudy and overbearing which wasn’t the New York we were looking for. So, the favourite of the day for me was definitely Grand Central Station with its beautiful architecture and vintage feel. We stood atop one of the balconies and simply watched the buzz of passengers and visitors below us; a hive of activity and energy. Grand Central feels precisely like what I imagined New York was going to feel like; you’re amongst it all and immersed in this absolute whirlwind of a city.
Day two saw us entertaining yet another delicious breakfast (pancakes and berries for me) before a quick peek at the famous Friends building (which is a really quiet residential area and not at all how it seems on the show!) We then headed to the World Trade Centre Memorial and Museum which was a fascinating, yet harrowing, experience. It was unbelievable to see the foundations of what had been two huge symbols of business and finance within the city, and to hear the story of their significance and their place within the community prior to the fateful events of 9/11. It was quite a difficult exhibition to witness at times, but it’s definitely one of the museums I’d recommend visiting whilst you’re in New York. It provoked a lot of conversation between Greg and I so it had certainly left an impact on us anyway. We ended the day in a much more light-hearted manner with a trip to the Ghostbusters fire station which, by the way, is still an operating fire station complete with on duty officers as we discovered! They didn’t seem to mind the tourists snapping them and their station though which was a relief.
I got my first ever taste of live tennis on day three as we threw ourselves into what was undoubtedly one of my trip highlights. It was a beautifully sunny day as we started out towards Flushing Meadows and we had tickets for the esteemed Arthur Ashe court. We excitedly chatted about whether we might get the chance to see Andy Murray and provide him with some home support (in the form of me shouting ‘Come On Andy!’ at every single quiet moment which is precisely what happened). Incidentally, we didn’t bother using our Arthur Ashe tickets as we realised that Andy was actually going to be playing on a different court so, with a lack of reserved seating on that court, we plonked ourselves down and waited the day out until Andy’s match later in the afternoon. The day began in the shade so we enjoyed the beautiful weather and the first match feeling very comfortable and pleased with our good fortunes. However, as I mentioned before, the day was an absolute scorcher and, within an hour or so, we were like little potatoes being baked in the blazing sunshine. Now, I don’t need any encouragement to get burnt at the best of times and I knew that today was going to be a challenge for my poor translucent skin. I’m pretty sure there was one point during the afternoon that I actually thought I was going to melt and have to live the rest of my days as a sticky puddle on the floor of the Louis Armstrong Court. Greg and I set up a shift system so that each of us could have a break and go out into the main stadium for some fresh air and some shade without losing our seats – honestly we were verging on survival tactics by this stage. However, we got to see some great tennis and it was all worth it to see our very own Andy Murray and get to cheer him on (even though he lost; how inconsiderate after we came all that way).
My tired and aching feet got plenty more exercise on day four as we walked the beautiful High Line, trundled through a large chunk of Central Park, and escalated to the top of the Rockefeller Centre. The High Line is a delightful park situated on an elevated section of what used to be the New York Central Railroad and is full of installations, wildlife gardens, community gardens and all sorts of other wonderful things. Not to mention the fact that there is still evidence of what the railroad used to be as much of what was renovated has been incorporated into the park. The site itself is unique because of its great view of the city and how tranquil and peaceful the park is in comparison to the hubbub below. There were workers taking their lunch breaks there, artists selling their pieces, and lots of visitors simply there to explore the joy of the park. It didn’t take long to walk the whole thing and I’d definitely recommend squeezing in a trip if you get chance. We then swapped one park for another as we moseyed through Central Park. I mean, I thought we’d walked nearly all of it and I was astounded to look on the map and see that we’d covered only the merest amount. It. is. huge. However, the fact that there is such a huge green space dedicated solely to providing a place of solace in the midst of a complete concrete jungle is incredible, something which looked amazing from the top of the Rock which is where we went shortly afterwards. Taking the trip to the top of the Rockfeller was undoubtedly one of my highlights of the entire New York section of the trip. This was mostly due to the fact that we managed (accidentally) to arrive at sunset so we got to watch the sun fade to golden red and then slowly to night from our truly wonderful viewpoint. It honestly seemed like everybody up there was just enjoying sharing this beautiful sight together and we captured all of New York, from each angle, as we wandered atop our lofty little square and watched the renowned city lights creep slowly into illumination. It was incredible to see!
Okay, I have lots more to say but I think I’m going to have to leave it there for now because otherwise I might as well have begun to write a novel. I was completely exhausted after four days of New York so I presume you’re slightly weary of reading about it by this point too. However, I’ll be back soon with Part Two of New York, as well as what happened in Boston and Washington. In the meantime, let me know if you’ve ever visited New York and what you got up to. I’d love to share stories!
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