Location: New York City, USA
New York City - The Big Apple!
Yes, I've been there...I've seen it! Last week, 12th November, I packed my bags (very lightly I must add, as the intention was ALWAYS for a lot of shopping!) and Betty and I headed to Heathrow for an evening flight to JFK, New York! We left Chris behind, much to his disappointment (and boy....didn't we hear about it!), but I'm not sure that a week of shopping in NY with two girls was quite what he was looking for anyway!!
So, after a few pre-trip insurance dramas, we made it to the Airport, checked in with the lovely people at Virgin Atlantic, and wandered around Heathrow for an hour or so. After a disasterous cup of coffee, we were looking forward to the home of Starbucks, and boarded our flight for the 7hr 45 min flight to JFK. The food was lovely, the staff were excellent, in-flight entertainment was exceptional....all in all, a great flight, given that we got an absolute bargain and only booked a few weeks ago! Can't say that we got alot of sleep, but it was an airline seat....so we weren't really expecting it to be that comfortable!
We arrived in New York at about 9pm local time, processed through customs and passport control, signed our life away on documents, fingerprint scans, facial recognition shots and criminal declarations....felt slightly over the top, but hey...it's AMERICA! Our luggage arrived....always a good start, and we headed to the Airport Train. After standing and looking at the platforms for a few minutes, someone was nice enough to help us out, and we were on our way. $7 to get from the Airport to our Hostel....very impressed! Along the way, we managed to meet an off duty NYPD and his fiance, who kept us informed and entertained. They were both very friendly, and gave us heaps of local and tourist tips, transport information, sightseeing, local dining....they really went out of their way to help us out, and I must say, sitting on the Metro with a cop definately helped us feel safe!! But in saying that, we travelled the whole week, wandered around the best, and some of the slightly dodgy areas of NY, and not once did we feel unsafe, or uneasy. The transport is super! Highly efficient, and CHEAP! $27, for a week of unlimited travel....you really can't fault that, especially coming from London!
So, we made it to our hostel, 1 block from the metro, great location, friendly staff, found our room....ready to collapse, very tired, time for a quick shower....NO HOT WATER! Man...I think Betty was going to cry! Luckily, it was a temporary problem with a boiler and was fixed the next day...phew! So yes, we had a cold shower on our first night, but not the end of the world! Slept well, waking up the next morning for our first day of exploring! New York...here we come!
We had our first Starbucks (YUM!) bought our Metrocards and headed to Times Square....where else as our first stop!! We were on an express station, so despite being mid-town, it was only 2 stops and a few minutes away!! After our first round of pictures on the square (yes...there were several rounds of posing!), took a quick look in the shops (Quicksilver t-shirts $18! They're £35 in the UK!!!), found the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co (Forest Gump movie anyone??), had our pictures taken with some lovely mounted policemen/women, and then, after being completely amazed at the SIZE of everything, we continued on our way to our next stop.
(P.S. Everything in NY is HUGE....buildings, meals, and people!)
Our second stop for the day, was the site of the World Trade Centre, Ground Zero. It was quite a surreal moment really...everyone was pretty quiet, and it is amazing to see just how slowly things are progessing there. They are still clearing rubble, concrete and steel framework still remains. It's quite a sad place, and definately has an 'air of silence' to it. Hard to explain unless you go there I guess. It's quite sad...they have moved all the tributes and pictures etc into a 'Tribute Centre' and you now have to pay to see it all. There's still walls with displays and information, but it's a shame that money is being made out of something that really should be viewable to everyone (I think it's not for profit, so maybe I shouldn't complain, but it would still be nice for people to be able to see it all, regardless of whether they have the $10+ to view the 'exhibition'.)
There is a really nice tribute at the fire station though, right next to the buildings, was one of the local fire departments, one of the initial groups that responded to the tragedy. They have devoted an entire side of their building to a brass wall display, which reads simply 'Dedicated to those who fell and to those who carry on. May we never Forget'. It is a really special area, and appears to be greatly valued and highly visited, despite not being in the main area. Anyway, enough of the sadness, I'm really glad that I went, it was a special place to visit and I think it will be lovely as a tribute site once it's all cleaned up, but there is still a LONG way to go!
After this, we wandered back towards Canal Street, the famous area near Chinatown, filled with designer goods (that just might not be 'designer'....think Proda, not Prada!!) We passed the Stock Exchange Buildings, and some other important places...well...I'm sure they were important...I just can't remember what they were!! Back in Chinatown, we wandered the markets, being offered dodgy deals, back street pricing, and rolex watches from the inside of the leather jacket...moves right out of a movie really. It was classic, very entertaining (quiet whispers of 'you want gucci, you want prada' seemed to echo wherever we went!). We bought a few lovely pieces of 'genuine' Tiffany....hmm, how dumb do they think we were....it was $12, we weren't expecting much, but still looks nice!! We then headed to Union Square (14th Street), with the intention of meeting up with Betty's friend, but unfortunately, plans had to be changed and it didn't quite eventuate. Oh well...shopping instead!! Back to the hostel, we went around the corner and had the famous NY Slice (again...huge!) of pizza, before heading in for a well deserved rest. No partying tonight...we were stuffed!
Woke up, had breakfast and off we went. 5th Avenue...here we come! Our aim for the morning, was an early start and straight to the Empire State Building. Conveniently located on 5th Avenue...that would then leave plenty of time to wander the shops afterwards! Having been warned about the queues, we didn't want to get stuck waiting for hours, and it was a beautiful clear, sunny day....15 miles of visibility, perfect for heading up! A short queue when we got there, but even still, it takes 45 minutes from when you enter the building, to when you reach the top. This includes security clearance, x-raying your bags and then eventually getting the lift to the top. It's extremely orderly, very efficient and you tend to move quickly, so didn't feel too long. Once we were up there, it was incredible, and definately worth the wait! You could see for miles, the sky was blue, the ocean perfect! Lady Liberty was waving at us! A bit windy...making for some lovely hair styling later, but otherwise, it was great! We stayed up there for about an hour, taking in the 360 degree views, before heading back down. After a quick drink, we wandered a few shops (viewing only at this stage...it's only day 2), before heading to meet up with our Tour. That's right....it's Sex and the City time!!
After a dramatic rush, we were late because of some stupid parade on 5th Avenue, we made it to our bright blue bus, and our lovely (if not overly enthusiastic!) American 'Sex Guide'. Not being a massive fan of the show, I'm sure a few jokes were wasted on me, but Betty seemed to pick up on them all, and even so, the tour of the city itself is well worth the money, if only to be taken around and shown different places. We went to Magnolia's Bakery, a few of the bars, parks, even visited 'Carrie's Stoop', which is apparently a 'big' thing to do! It was a great afternoon, complete with a cocktail to finish off the afternoon. Once we got dropped back, we wandered 5th Avenue again, taking in Trump Towers, Playboy Enterprises, the NY Library, Rockefeller Centre and a historic church, before heading to a typical American dinner at TGI Fridays. The food was great, although we stuffed up the tipping so I don't think they were too impressed with us. Who cares...the food might've been great, but the service wasn't that good!! We wandered 7th Avenue (otherwise known as 'Fashion Avenue', visited Macy's, before heading back for a night viewing of Times Square. Everything is open until midnight, despite being a Sunday, it's pretty awesome to go shopping at 10pm at night on a Sunday!! Back home, another late night....time for some sleep to continue it all again tomorrow!
The morning started early again...but obviously not early enough! It was our intention to head down to catch the Staten Island Ferry to view the Statue of Liberty. Despite our early rising, the clear and perfect day had everyone doing the same thing, and by the time we arrived at about 10/10:30am, there was a queue of over 500/600 people. It was at least a 2 hour wait...and to be honest, we just didn't want to waste and entire day queueing up, just to wave at the statue! So, we took some shoreside shots, had a look around Battery Park and the Clinton Castle before heading back on the Metro, and on to Brooklyn. In taking advantage of the lovely weather, today was also set aside for walking the Brooklyn Bridge. We had decided to start in Brooklyn, and then make our way over to Manhattan, saving ourselves having to back track. It was a good choice, as the views from the otherside are lovely, and looking over Manhattan made for some great pictures! We wandered across, took about 40 minutes, but that included quite a few snaps and a nice relaxing stroll. We then caught the train towards 7th Avenue, for a visit to Bloomingdale's. Via the Apple shop (AMAZING!) and then onto Bloomingdales (slightly over-rated as far as I'm concerned...but hey, you have to say you've been!)....we didn't buy a little brown bag, mainly because...they were plastic....and they were $20! Such a rip off, I can't believe they charge that much! Anyway, needless to say, we didn't buy one, and wandered back down 7th Avenue towards Madison Square Gardens. Unfortunately, there were no sporting events on for the week that we were in town (it was an 'away' week, and off season for a fair bit of sport). Oh well, such is life!
Back to the hostel, where we went out for dinner with two of the guys from our hostel, a Kiwi and a Brit, both nice enough and it was good to get out and about. Found a nice Italian restaurant, had some great food, headed to a bar afterwards and got harrassed by the locals (they LOVE foreigners! couldn't get them to shut up and leave us alone...but at least they were friendly I guess!). A late night, but well worth it...then back to the hostel for some sleep!
Today's morning wasn't an early rise thank goodness! After the last few days, we decided to take it easy and walk through Central Park. No alarms, just whenever we woke up and got ready....it was lovely! Being only a block from Central Park, we entered at 97th Street, and wandered down throughout the park to 59th Street. We took in the lake, baseball fields, horse and carriage rides (although we didn't get on one, we chose to walk instead seeing it was such a lovely day!) At the end of the walk, we ended up at Columbus Circle and the Trump International Hotel (very BIG!), the CNN Buildings and managed to stumble across an Aston Martin Convention, with all the cars streetside...quite impressive in a 'James Bond' style, red carpet, Black tie security....managed to grab some quick snaps though :)
We made our way down to Levi's, Diesel and other designer shops, picking up some cheap jeans and trying on a whole lot more. Who'd of thought out of ALL the shops in NY, Betty wouldn't be able to find a SINGLE pair of jeans that she liked.....fussy or what!?? Just Kidding :) We made our way back to Canal Street for some more shopping, and met up later that day with my friend from school, Jessica, who had messaged me when she heard I was going to NY and invited us out to dinner. We met up in Grenwich Village, a lovely area filled with streetside dining and restaurants and had a great meal of Indian, which seemed to cost next to nothing (in pounds anyway!). It was great to have a local's input into the place, and we gained a few tips for our remaining days. After finishing up a late dinner, we headed back to the upper West side, for another well deserved sleep!
Today involved all of our last minute shopping, and a re-visit to all the places that we wanted to go back to (mainly shops!). We went to Union Square again, before making our way to China Town, and the famous LOMBARDI's. Everyone had raved about this place, the BEST NY PIZZA, can't go to NY without going there, you get the drift, and yes...it was good...but I'm not sure it met the expectations that we had for it. Oh well...it was an experience anyway (2 girls, and a 20 inch pizza....who were we kidding that we'd eat that?) and at least we can say that we had one. Great place though, in a nice area as well, and very close to quite a few shops (we're girls...it's NY....of course this trip is all about SHOPS!) Later that day, we headed back to Times Square for our last night in New York. We visited M&M's World, and Hershey's World, posed with some cute NYPD's who are really just there to pose with tourists (we asked them...that's what they said!) bought some last minute presents and gifts, before heading home to work out how we were getting all our goodies back to London! Lucky enough, I was smart enough to buy a second bag (2 bag limit both ways....gotta love Virgin!) and it definately came in handy when I was trying to fit in my 4 new pairs of shoes, multiple pairs of jeans, jumpers, winter coats, t-shirts, handbags....you get the idea! I went over with 15kg, and came back with 42kg....so I think we did a great job with the shopping :) Everything is so CHEAP, it's hard to resist! After packing it all up a few times, we went to bed for our last night in NY....it's come to an end so quickly!!
Our last day, and the morning was eventful, after a guy in our room got arrested at 6am. Don't know the full story, but the police wanted him, and for them to come at 6am...it must've been something reasonably important. Nice to know that we spent the last 4 days with a criminal....fantastic! Hence the reason that I ALWAYS lock my stuff in hostels, even if I'm only going to the shower....people think I'm paranoid sometimes...but seriously, you can't tell...I thought this guy was okay....he even came out to dinner with us....sometimes, you just can't tell! Lucky we weren't involved though, no real issues for us apart from the fact that we got woken up early. Dodgy bloody Brit! So we got up, checked out of our hostel, managed to find a lovely diner for our last breakfast in New York, before heading off for the boring shopping. Lollies for work, chocolates for friends, shampoo and razor blades (half price vs the UK), you get the drift. None of the exciting clothes that we were used to looking at, but still things that were going to be half price, if not less, than what we are paying at home. Quite silly really that you can buy it for so much cheaper....it makes you angry at how much the UK market is ripping people off! Things are often 50-70% cheaper...and for what reason really?? But enough of that...we'll just have to go back to the US for next season's shopping adventures :)
We got to the airport, checked in, went through security after security, bag x-rays etc etc. Went through to the airport departures lounge, had a 45 minute delay on the flight, and then a LOOOONG trip home. It was shorter, only 7 hrs, but felt like forever! An overnight flight, no sleep whatsoever, we arrived back in the UK feeling tired, sick and grumpy to be back to reality. Don't worry...it didn't last! Just had to get home, open the bags and look at the shopping and it made it all worthwhile. New York was amazing. A great city, wonderful people. We had customer service that you wouldn't believe, people on the street were friendly and helpful. No-one was rude to us, we didn't feel unsafe, the weather was PERFECT. It was a great trip, and you can only hope that all travelling goes as well (apart from the whole, sharing a room with a criminal....). We spent a bit of money, had a LOT of fun, and managed to fall in love with another city, all in 6 days, with a result like that, who wouldn't be happy!
We'll both be back to New York, that's something I can almost guarantee. It's a great place, and I can only hope that everyone gets to see it at least once in their lifetime.
Our next adventure isn't too far away, Snowboarding in France for Xmas, and then off to Switzerland for New Years. Until then, it's time to save some money and pay for the next adventures, the bank balances are looking a bit pathetic!
It's been almost a year since I left Australia, and when I look back at what I've done in the past 11 months, it all seems pretty amazing. Let's only hope that the rest of the time here is as good, and that the fun continues.
Mum, I hope you've read all this....and that you'll stop harassing me now :)
Love to you all, hope you're enjoying the summer sun!! xoxo