I Heart NY
Paul and I had been contemplating visiting for New York for a while. Having only travelled abroad for the first time aged 34 (2 years ago) America always seemed like a long way to go. We’d done Europe a few times, but the hustle and bustle of a big city like New York had always put me off. It looked so big and fast paced, but after putting it off for so long we booked it.
We decided to fly from Manchester via Amsterdam to JFK with KLM. We’d never flown long haul so we never knew what to expect, but KLM were excellent. The air hostesses didn’t stop the whole flight, they were attentive and were always on hand with drinks/food/help if we needed it. I’d highly recommend flying KLM if you haven’t already.
We decided to stay in AirBnB accommodation in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn. We rented out a basement, hosts Thomas and Gaby lived above. The basement was self contained and had a mini kitchen, TV and Wi-Fi, everything we needed for a comfortable stay. Thomas and Gaby were lovely, the flight from Amsterdam had been delayed so we didn’t get to Brooklyn until around 10pm EDT, they had left us some food and drinks in the fridge in case we were hungry and something for breakfast. There wasn’t much to do on day one apart from sleep, so we went straight to bed.
Day 2. We awoke excited and visited the American Museum of Natural History. Although we liked it we were way too tired to enjoy it properly. The dinosaur part is particularly brilliant, my 11 year old really loved it. Being jet-lagged we headed back to Brooklyn to recharge.
Day 3. We paid a visit to the 9/11 Museum. If I’m honest the thought of a visiting a museum where such devastation happened didn’t sit well with me. The twin memorial pools where the towers once stood now stand in the shadow of One World Trade Center and are inscribed with the victims names.
Despite the crowds and noise the atmosphere was sombre as people from all over the world paid their respects.
For me, it wasn’t until I had entered the museum and saw some of the artefacts that the magnitude of what happened that day really hit home. Fire trucks crumpled, steel poles bent from the damage, clothes covered with debris and the damaged spire that once graced the towers, destroyed.
There were voice recordings from victims calling their loved ones to say goodbye. One, a lady who had left a voice message for her husband. She spoke of how she was fine, her voice strong, she said that she loved him, then her voice cracked as she told him to tell the children and her family that she loved them too, it reduced me to tears and now writing this, it’s done the same.
We spoke with a lady called Kathy who worked there, who had one important message, she said that despite the tragedy, hate and chaos the world saw that day she wanted people to know of the love that came from the city. People helping each other, with no regard for their own well being, strangers pulling each other from the rubble, the message of hope and love that I guess we’re sometimes too blind to see. Her words of love for the people of New York City that day gave me goosebumps and I cried once again.
Later that day we went to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Aircraft carrier Intrepid fought in World War II, survived five kamikaze attacks and one torpedo strike.
The ship later served in the Cold War and the Vietnam War. Its home to 28 restored aircraft, a British Airways Concorde and Space Shuttle Enterprise, the first orbiter of the Space Shuttle system. The whole place is brimming with history and was enjoyed by Paul, Kaiden (11) and myself.
The next day we decided to stay in Brooklyn and meet our friend Rob for brunch. Rob, born in Merseyside now resides in Brooklyn, it’s quite weird to see someone you socialise with at home in a different part of the world. We met Rob in Tom’s, a circa-1936 American eatery serving breakfast & lunch on Washington Avenue. The food and service was exceptional, quite obvious from the queues of people waiting to get a table. I opted for chocolate chip pancakes. Delicious.
We had purchased tickets that day for a NBA game, Brooklyn Nets vs New Orleans Pelicans. After seeing basketball on TV for many years we wanted to experience it first hand, and we weren’t let down. Despite The Nets being near the bottom of the table they thrilled us with their game, even though they lost. The atmosphere was electric, and the fun doesn’t stop when they call time out either. Dancers, T-shirt giveaways, audience participation, it was insane. I’d highly recommend seeing an NBA game if you get the chance.
Day four. Rain. Typical. This was the day we were going up The Empire State Building (ESB) and Rockefeller Center. It didn’t put us off though, we’re British, we’re used to the rain. We started in the ESB. As you make your way up through some of the floors you’re greeted with the history of the building, which is quite interesting, you get to see that despite ESB being a huge skyscraper she’s actually quite energy efficient.
You take the lift to the 86th floor where the view of NYC even on a cloudy rainy day will take your breath away. A view like I’d never seen before, cars so small the looked like Micro Machines, you can see for miles. After we left we headed up Fifth Avenue towards the Rockerfeller Center.
The Rockefeller Center is the headquarters of NBC. Much like the ESB, the floors leading to the observation deck are rich of history and well worth the time.
After visiting ESB I didn’t think I could be wowed any more. Wrong. For me the 360 degree view from Top of the Rock was superior to ESB, the main reason being that you can see the ESB from there, a building and a view I’d seen in countless films and TV shows was there before my very eyes, it was incredible. You get an amazing view of Central Park too, even if the clouds are grey.
On day 5 we’d planned to visit Carlos Bakery in Hoboken, NJ. This was a place I’d been eager to visit since Buddy Valastro and his Cake Boss team landed their TV show. I’d read that queues for Carlos Bakery were huge and that people sometimes lined up for hours, so imagine my happiness when there wasn’t a queue at all! We’d arrived between 10-10.30am, and although there were around 20 people in the bakery after we decided what we wanted we were served promptly.
I decided to go for a red velvet cupcake, which was divine, and a Boston creme donut. Paul had a Boston creme donut and one of their legendary cannolis, Kaiden opted for 2 cookies. I’ve eaten some cake in my life, but believe me when I say that the items we had were out of this world, it’s no wonder people queue.
I was lucky enough to meet Maddalena, who was the loveliest of people, she took the time to ask where we were from and chatted for a few minutes. I was stoked.
After our quick visit to Hoboken we went on a Circle Line Cruise around the island. I’d been particularly excited about this because you get to see Lady Liberty herself.
I’d seen her from afar when we visited the Intrepid Museum and it was then I knew I was in New York, so to sail by her close up was something I’ll remember forever. We sailed the Hudson past many wonderful sites, the NY skyline is gorgeous – but not a patch on the Liverpool one for me.
Our tour guide David was great, full of facts, he even mentioned Wavertree in Liverpool, his Liverpool accent – not so good, but he tried. As we approached The Statue of Liberty, I was in awe of her, she’s beautiful and bigger than I expected.
We took in the Brooklyn Bridge, we’d travelled to the island each day by train so had never seen her before. Sights like The Yankee Stadium, The Bronx, UN Headquarters and loads of little gems. It was a great way to see parts of the island we’d have never seen.
Day 6. Going home. Insert sad face here. We started the day with a stroll through Central Park, joggers on their morning runs, tourists taking in the sights and people walking their dogs on this bright, crisp sunny morning.
Confined in the park its hard to believe you’re in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the world.
We crossed the park for our final stop, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the largest art museum in the United States, and among the most visited art museums in the world. “The permanent collection includes works of art from classical antiquity and ancient Egypt, paintings and sculptures from nearly all the European masters, and an extensive collection of American and modern art. The Met maintains extensive holdings of African, Asian, Oceanian, Byzantine and Islamic art.” There was so much to see, some of which we didn’t get around to seeing because we had to get our flight back home. We did get to see the Marie Antoinette paintings by Vigée Le Brun, which were nothing short of awesome.
After a day of travelling we arrived back in Liverpool. I managed to bring a souvenir back with me – flu. Most people decide on keyrings or a I heart NY t-shirt, not me, I started coming down with flu the day before we flew home. Nice. Verdict – I loved it, the hustle and bustle, the sights, the people, everything. I’d go again in a heartbeat.
My tips for NYC?
NY City Pass – Discounted tickets to the major tourist places, it saved us money for sure.
Comfy shoes – It’s a big city so there’s lots of walking involved, you’ll need them.
Public transport/ Metro card – Don’t be put off by what you’ve seen or heard about the subway, we loved it and used it all the time. It’s busy, especially when people are heading to and from work. We downloaded an app called Mtro NYC, it shows the train lines which is helpful.
Places to eat – Carlos Bakery (obviously), 5 Napkin (burgers) and the Amish Market.
Ask locals – If we needed to find out which train line or bus we needed we simply asked someone. They might look unapproachable but the ones we asked were more than willing to help, and they were so polite.