Ahhh holidays… adventures…. travels. Whatever you may call them, many of us (me included) have wanderlust and so we should. After all, in the wise words of… erm… Pinterest, ‘travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer’. In a pursuit to find balance, the opportunity to travel and enrich the soul is surely a must, even if it does mean an unbalanced week before hand prepping and working your ass off so you can concentrate on pure exploration.
I’m ever such a lucky ducky to a) have wonderful friends and b) to have wonderful friends who live in wonderful places. One such fantastic friend is a complete babe I met in my first year of uni over 10 years ago. We were in fact flat mates in halls (the – lets say – less odd pair in the group) and since our friendship has remained strong. Esme is a beautiful woman inside and out and I am always in awe of her zest for life and how she seems to live with intention and in turn, things manifest for her – a great person to just be around (and she has perfected the slut drop… am I right?!) Well, one such opportunity manifested itself when her husband was offered a job in New York City – they moved out almost 3 years ago and hey presto! a new travel destination to keep in touch for yours truly.
So this February half term the boy and I packed up our warmest clothes and camera and headed to the city that never sleeps. Although this was the 2nd time for me visiting Esme in NYC, it was the boys’ first so we did a mix of the typical tourist spots (mainly the first day) with a generous splash of the road less travelled (mmmm my favourite). I’ve got to say that the majority of recommendations came from Esme, staying with a NYC resident really has massive positives.
With a post like this, I feel that photos will tell the story best so here you go – enjoy!
Tip 1; whatever country I’m in, I always walk EVERYWHERE as you see so much and stumble across the best places, but all the same grab a metro ticket for the week – a steal at $31 and the city opens up to you in a big way. The buskers on the subway are awesome too.
I probably don’t need to tell you this but brunch is a really big deal in NYC – great for me as I’m such a fan of breakfast foods (plus the bottomless mimosas are a great incentive) We chose to start our first day on the Upper West Side so we could wind our way down Manhattan as the day went on. If you find yourself in that area I highly recommend ‘Good Enough to Eat’ – perfection with eggs on, bottomless coffee (questionable filter coffee if your used to a Smallbatch Flat White) , biscuits (basically scones) and strawberry butter… yes you heard me right. STRAWBERRY BUTTER. Tip 2: You’re not supposed to spread the butter on your eggs.
After brunch we took a trip in the jewel of the crown, Central Park. It’s weird as it’s vaguely familiar even the first time you go, as are a lot of places in NYC, as it has been extensively covered in films and tv series. Nevertheless its not to be missed. I get the feeling it looks stunning at anytime of year, but with the sun shining and the temperature low enough for a frozen lake like it was when we went, it was quite magical.
As a huge Beatles fan, Strawberry Fields (The John Lennon Memorial) is of course a must too…
So far, so predictable I hear you cry! Well yes, but you can’t go to New York without doing the obvious. So… Here we are at Times Square too
…..aaaaand at the 9/11 memorial.
We followed this with a trip to an Irish Bar – O’Hara’s where we ended up sitting next to a couple of guys who turned out to be Firefighters who were there at 9/11. It was a pretty emotional moment – not in a crying way, but in a way that makes you stop in your tracks. Tip 3: get chatting to the locals, they’re super happy to talk ma’am.
Another great spot to hit (and not many folk always do) is the HighLine Park. The High Line is built on an elevated section of a disused New York Central Railroad. Its at an awesome hight so you get a great vista of those New York Streets and Avenues and is just generally a really amazing design idea.
Hitting the West Village is always a must. Magnolia Bakery on Bleeker Street has THE BEST CUPCAKES. Also – Carries Stoop (SATC) then Greenwich Village to get the Friends vibes too…
We hit a great place for lunch. Jacks Wife Freda is a lively all-day bistro executing American-Mediterranean cooking & classic cocktails in understated digs.
We finished day 1 with a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. I love a bridge for many reasons. One, the symbolism of connection, progress and stability and two, the view point and the whole walking over water bit. Cool. Oh and then Pizza at Grimaldis (best in Brooklyn) … Pepperoni and jalepenos as hot as the sun.
Day 2 started with pancakes. Holy Crap – these pancakes tasted like angels had made them out of clouds. Fluffy and soft in the centre then crispy on the outside and covered in maple syrup. My mouth is literally filling with water just typing it. Hit up Cafe Luluc for the heavenly experience. Next up we went to Wall Street.
As we took in the classic sights here we found the coolest street – Stone Street was one of the first paved streets in New York, people eat alfresco on the cobbles and the bars and taverns feel like they have stood the test of time. I loved it here… funnily enough it felt quite european (you can take the girl out of Europe… doesnt quite have the same ring does it?). The cobbles, the strings of lights and mismatched buildings feel out of place against the massive shiny skyscrapers and this appealed to my eccentric side.
China Town was also full of sights, sounds and… smells. It could be the inner Asian in me but I love the hustle and bustle of places like this. It feels like stepping into a completely different country when you’ve just crossed a road. Brilliant. From sponges to frogs in buckets, you find anything here.
Another day, another bridge… this time the less walked (by tourists anyhow) Manhattan Bridge. A completely different vibe to Brooklyn Bridge and the less obviously pretty of the pair, but I highly recommend walking it. Theres awesome graffiti, brilliant views and a ‘Real New York’ feeling about it as the unmistakable sound of the subway trains chunttering by right next to you.
Another reason to cross the Manhattan bridge is because it takes you directly to DUMBO (the name stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Once largely deserted, inhabited by a few arty types living in lofts; today the area is awash with art studios, technology companies and luxury apartments, amazing homeware stores, edgy independent bookstore, designer boutiques… you get the gist. Again, not normally on the bucket list for a flyby visit to NYC but I really liked it here. We grabbed the most expensive sandwich ever and a trendy type jasmine tea from a place called Atrium which I imagine would be a romantic dinner kind of place and with its fairy lights, was pretty…
But not half as impressive of the view from outside (if you’ve seen Bridge of Spies you might recognise this…if you haven’t seen Bridge of Spies, watch it ’cause its awesome, then come back to me)
Yum. I love this photo. Just the Empire State Building poking through – (it’s so attention seeking!) but also it reminds me that we completely lucked out with the weather. A couple of days before it was -14 degrees, face hurting weather. We had glorious sunshine and a spring like climate throughout – perfect for adventuring.
Other eats and drinks
– Williamsburg is a must (think Shoreditch vibes with beards and exposed brickwork) and also the East Village. We went to a great underground cocktail bar there (and I mean you literally go down a fire exit) called Lovers of Today. Think candles, nooks, fantastic (strong) cocktails…
I WISH I had more photos of the next place. I blame the cocktails before hand. Which brings me to Tip 4: American drinks are STRONG. No tiny shot glasses or measuring jiggers here. Free-Pouring, unforgiving, hard liquor. So be careful…. or not. Whatever. Anyway the next place was one of my favourite places in Manhattan. Its called Miss Lily’s – an authentic, vibrant Jamaican restaurant, the only places I’ve eaten and danced simultaneously.
Fantastic reggae beats with food to match. Not to mention ‘Jamaican Margaritas’ (which are nothing like real margs) which compromise of Rum, Pineapple juice and Jerk Seasoning on the rim. Lethal. The following photo is a result of being ‘MissLily-ed’…
Another fantastic place is Fat Cats NYC – a live jazz bar which also houses stack loads of pool tables, shuffle boards, ping pong. But don’t order anything but beer as the barman might eat you.
So after a night of eating, drinking and dancing – I awoke the next morning only to be found in charge of a weapon. Well, when in Rome and all that. Probably not recommended on a hangover, but we took an archery class and in all honesty it felt KICK ASS. Katniss Everdeen after one too many beers is a sight to behold I can tell you. The only thing holding me back from shouting ‘I volunteer as tribute!!’ was the fact I might barf. Probably a blessing in disguise. I definitely recommend it and will be doing it again (sans booze breath)
My final tips are; Tip 5- remember to tip. Its a pain in the arse but you don’t want to be a dick. $1 per drink in a bar, 50cents for a barista, 20% of the bill anywhere else. Tip 6: Americans are super friendly and happy to help so ASK if you need directions or anything. Don’t be British about it. And Tip 7: Find the less obvious views. If you’re on top of the Empire State Building you can’t see the Empire State Building. So try heading to a roof top bar in Williamsburg or head to Brooklyn Bridge Park. You won’t be disappointed.
So there you are… My only other tip is my rule for travelling anyway; make plans and break plans. Its always great to have things in mind, other wise you’ll end up in the classic tourist trappings. Think about people heading to Brighton and only going to the pier. You miss so much that way. But also be flexible – see where a road takes you and say yes to anything new. Cliche, maybe but it works.
Until the next adventure…