In my twenties, I would eagerly await each showing of Sex & The City and watch, with avid wonder, Carrie Bradshaw swaying around Manhattan and Brooklyn. With so many movies leaving a young woman dreaming of romantic strolls or carriage drives in Central Park, New York had absolutely left an impression on me.
I’ve always wanted to see the bright lights of Times Square, the blossoms of Central Park and explore the small yet typical American diners. So when Jason surprised me with a trip to New York for my 30th Birthday, I was bubbling with excitement! In a small jewellery box he bought me an NYC keyring. I was pretty confused at first and looked at it and said “A keyring. Thanks…?” Which had him howling with laughter and he had to explain it to me. That is what you get first thing in the morning pre-coffee to be honest!
When the day came for us to travel, the excitement was beginning to bubble over. The journey to Heathrow was not lacking in ‘excitement’. Plenty of traffic meant the time we had to get there was eaten away but thankfully we had booked valet parking. Stress levels had peaked by the time we had got through to the gate and I was wondering whether it would be considered undignified to walk onto the plane and ask for one of those little bottles of wine before take off. I settled for a handful of the Haribo Jason had thoughtfully brought with him.
We landed at JFK at 3pm. Hoping that our bad luck had now depleted, I happily strolled into the queue for passport control. 3.5 hours later I finally made it to the front of the queue and was allowed in. An hour in a taxi and we arrived at our hotel, a five minute walk from Times Square. By this point, it’s well past 8pm and we’ve lost half a day. Hungry and tired, we opted to grab something to eat close to the hotel to start afresh the next day.
Day two & three.
Over the next two days, we split our time between sightseeing and exploring. We decided to walk from Times Square to the Financial District and planned to visit The Empire State Building and the 9/11 Museum.
Before setting off anywhere, we headed straight for Apple Jack’s diner and ordered a very typical American breakfast; waffles, pancakes and syrup. We were not disappointed! Strawberries and smothered in syrup, these pancakes were divine. Surrounded by photos of famous people such as Alan Cummings, this quaint diner was the perfect first start to our NY tour.
Walking from Times Square down to the museum is a long walk but one I would recommend doing. There is so much to see and take in on the walk such as the Flatiron building, Greenwich Village into Lower Manhattan, Chinatown and the trendy Tribeca. There are plenty of gorgeous independents and flower shops, but obviously what I was really interested in was the bookstores. On the way, I made it key to stop off at Barnes & Noble. Visiting a Barnes & Noble absolutely felt like a rite of passage and was more than I had expected. Rows upon rows of stories on two floors, my tbr grew at great length in the space of 20 minutes! Jason ushered me out before I could spend our budget all on books much to my dismay.
We had a very brief stop at Wall Street. I was surprised by how small it was! All the movies and TV series painted it as this vast expanse of luxury and highly sought after office buildings and that was cartainly not the case. We stumbled onto Wall Street, had a quick look around before heading off to our next stop.
Walking down Greenwich Street and onto Ground Zero, you are hit with a sense of sorrow. It is a rather eerie feeling to be in a space so wide and empty yet surrounded by skyscrapers. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the museum & memorial. It was heartbreaking and full of warmth all at once. The memories of those who died are still remembered to this day, and their memories will hold for generations more. Although beautiful, it is exceptionally sad. For those of you who have not been, I encourage you to do so. You’ll really begin to understand the gravity of what had happened that day.
After all the walking from day one, today we decided to have a more leisurely day around town. On the list was the Rockefeller Center, the Empire State Building & Central Park. Greeted with beautiful sunshine and clear skies, we headed straight out of our hotel towards the Rockefeller Center. On our way we did plenty of window shopping and once inside the Rockefeller, we did some more. The Rockefeller is a maze of little shops, cafés and restaurants. There was one little shop, Sugarfina, which with our sweet tooth, was a tough task tearing ourselves away from. With its baby blue banner, you’ll certainly not miss it.
On to our next stop. The Empire State towers over you in all its golden glory and when we arrived there were no queues and we went straight up with no fuss. One woman commented on how well we timed our visit and we explained it was sheer luck! Something was going in our favour it seems. At the top, the view was incredible. You can see for miles and the weather was perfect for it – if not a tad windy all the way up there!
Whilst we were looking to find a place to eat, I decided to stop in at McNally Jackson independent bookstore. I really loved McNally’s layout and what they had an offer. Everything from the well known American authors to Nordic authors who are up and coming. Little corners of escapism filled with well crafted recommendations, McNally’s is absolutely a store you need to visit.
Day four & five.
Today was the day to explore Brooklyn before a night of watching basketball. Before heading across to Brooklyn, we visited the Statue of Liberty. Next to these enormous skyscrapers, the Statue of Liberty holds her own. No matter how small she may now look, the icon of America looks glorious in the sunshine. You can grab a ferry ride here and explore up close and personal, or you can explore around the area and gaze at her from afar. I’d recommend getting a CityPass to get access to the various tourist locations; including the Empire State & the Rockefeller. CityPass comes in a range of tiers for you to be able to consolidate the cost of visiting some of the key landmarks. The lowest one starts at £80 per person and gives you entry into three landmarks. This may seem steep but paying for each one individually mounts up, and this option also reduces the stress of it all. Definitely worth investing in.
From here, we decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I would recommend making the walk instead of getting a cab over and if you’re walking down to the bridge from midtown or above, it is a long walk so I’d suggest getting a taxi down to save your legs! Brooklyn was a complete step-change from the big city lights. Brooklyn had a vibe both Jason and I loved; it was relaxed, unassuming and creative. With the headquarters of Etsy based here, what more could you expect?
We explored Brooklyn by following the graffiti trails (all routes are outlined on various tourist checkpoints) before finding one of the best bookstores yet.
The Center for Fiction is an independent bookstore. Typical tables filled with books are dotted about but the winning view is the floor to ceiling bookshelves. Just stunning. For your 5ft 2” girl over here, I was dwarfed! Jason kindly pointed out there was a ladder should I want to try to scale them but I didn’t fancy giving him the opportunity of filming a possible mishap! Over two floors, and glass on two sides of this building, it was a different take on your typical bookstore and one I would recommend adding to your list for a visit. The selection was varied and intriguing and I came away with even more suggestions for future reading.
We ended our last day with a night of Basketball at the Barclays Center before heading back the big city lights and our hotel. As Carrie Bradshaw would say; And just like that this whirlwind of a trip was over. I can absolutely see the appeal of the big lights and buzz of city life, but I was glad to be heading home to open fields and my dogs. I would highly recommend visiting New York and if you are, you probably wouldn’t need more than 5 days in the Big Apple. You’ll find yourself exhausted but open to a new world.
As ever, happy reading!
Love, H x