North America,  Travel Journal

The Big Apple

New York has been really high on my bucket list for a very long time so when British Airways had a sale I couldn’t help but take a look at their holiday packages for the Big Apple for June 2014. Our five year anniversary was coming up and I thought that could be the perfect excuse for a holiday so when I found a good deal we booked straight away!

Given this was our first trip to New York we wanted to pack in as much as possible so I wrote an itinerary for us to follow, which if I’m honest was based mostly around the places we wanted to eat. It was a pretty intense itinerary requiring us to be up at 6 am every morning giving us time to just about fit in all the different things we wanted to do. So here commences our day by day breakdown.

Central Park, Cheesecake and The Top of The Rock

We arrived on Wednesday afternoon and got a taxi to our hotel. We were too early to check in so dumped our luggage ready to explore. We had found a little bakery that apparently had the best cheesecake in New York called ‘Two Little Red Hens’ and this was our first stop. We grabbed a delicious 99c slice of pizza from a kiosk and started walking up Park Avenue towards Central Park.

New York is so easy to navigate by foot and one of our favourite things to do in the city was walk around. On our very first day we walked from our hotel on 28th Street all the way to the bakery on 86th Street. It was a really enjoyable walk, especially through Central Park and the cheesecake was absolutely delicious.

We really enjoy seeing cities from high up and as New York has the Rockefeller Centre and the Empire State Building we thought we’d do both, one in the daytime and one at night. On our first night we took a walk through Times Square and took a venture up The Rock. The views were breathtaking but we were struggling to keep our eyes open after a day of travelling and our long walk so decided to call it a night.

Taking a walk around Central Park

Chocolate French Toast, MoMA and 360 Degree Bars

On Thursday I had booked us in for breakfast at Norma’s following me having seen it on a show on the Food Network. Only later, did I find out that it featured on Gossip Girl and in fact Nate was sat at the exact same table where we had enjoyed our breakfast. I chose to have the chocolate french toast which was made of three huge pieces of chocolate cake french toast, strawberries, cream and pistachios. I tried my absolute best but don’t think I even managed to finish off one of the pieces! Alex had a slightly healthier breakfast burrito which also looked and tasted delicious.

Although we enjoy going to museums, neither of us are particularly cultured when it comes to art galleries. However, as New York has so many iconic galleries we decided to spend a few hours in the afternoon exploring the MoMA and I have to say we did really enjoy ourselves looking through all of the art work. We then took a walk down 5th Avenue, via Trump Tower to the Grand Central station where we grabbed a spot of lunch and a cupcake from Magnolia Bakery – I did say the itinerary was based mostly around food!

The rest of the afternoon was spent walking around and exploring, before grabbing a spot of dinner and ending the night in the bar at ‘The View’ which is at the top of the Marriott Marquis hotel. This is the coolest bar I’ve been to as it rotates so you get full 360 degree views of the Big Apple. We didn’t make a booking ahead of time but we were really lucky as we didn’t need to wait too long to get a window table. We enjoyed our cocktails whilst watching the ever changing view – a very cool experience and one I would highly recommend.

Diabetes for breakfast anyone?! This chocolate french toast with strawberries and cream from Norma’s was so delicious!!!!

9/11 Museum, Helicopter Ride and Top of the Strand

On to Friday. Once again we woke up nice and early and got ourselves out as we had booked tickets for the newly opened 9/11 museum. What an experience. Neither of us have ever been to a museum for something we have lived through ourselves and it was just astounding. Nobody forgets where they were on the day it happened and watching the footage, listening to voicemails left for people and seeing the names of the victims on the memorials is such a harrowing experience.

It seems strange to say we enjoyed the experience as I did cry my way around it but the museum has been very respectfully curated, depicting the events of September 11th in chronological order. Naturally, there are people who have very different opinions of the day and they can be found outside of the museum but in my opinion the museum has done a great job at preserving the memories of the many innocent lives lost on that awful day.

Memorial fountain at Ground Zero

After a very emotionally charged morning we took a walk along Wall Street towards the TKTS booth at the South Street Seaport. The Seaport area was really cool, with lots of quirky shops and bars. Our plan had been to get tickets for a Broadway show but we actually decided that we weren’t keen on any of the shows on offer. We instead, decided to do a helicopter tour of New York.

I’ve never been in a helicopter before and I thought it would be quite a scary experience but actually the ride was so smooth and the views were simply breathtaking. Rather annoyingly there was a queue and so we had waited about an hour in the ‘terminal’ to get on the helicopter only for it to rain as soon as we got in it! When I say it rained, there was a full on thunderstorm so we couldn’t go too far over Manhattan and ended up turning around and exploring more of the Brooklyn area on our helicopter tour. Despite the weather, it was still an unforgettable experience.

We then walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and explored Brooklyn by foot stopping for a spot of dinner at Grimaldi’s as we’d heard about their famous pizza. Just as we were leaving Grimaldi’s, the thunderstorm started up again so we jumped in a cab headed to the ‘Top of the Strand’. It was actually really cool driving around in a thunderstorm especially when we saw the lightning coming down and hitting the Empire State building! Top of the Strand is a bar opposite the Empire State building so we continued to watch the rain whilst sipping on some cocktails.

Statue of Liberty, High Line and Chocolate

On Saturday we grabbed a bagel with schmear breakfast on our way to catch a ferry to Liberty Island and Ellis Island to get a close up view of the Lady of Liberty herself. We visited both islands and got ourselves audio tours to learn a bit more about the millions of immigrants that passed through New York. We actually spent most of the day exploring these two islands.

The amazing view of Manhattan from Liberty Island

When we got back to Manhattan we went for a walk along the High Line towards the Strand Bookstore. The High Line is a disused elevated railway line transformed into a beautiful park. On to dinner – I had booked us into Max Brenner which is a chocolate restaurant!! We decided to get a starter and main to share allowing us to enjoy our dessert without being too full. We got a dessert cocktail each and a sharing fondue dessert which came with some marshmallows we could toast ourselves. Absolutely delicious, I’m drooling now thinking about it!

Empire State Building, Central Park and Bike Tours

We hadn’t actually planned anything for Sunday, leaving it free in case we had missed anything during the week. We started the day with a trip up the Empire State building and enjoyed the fabulous views of downtown Manhattan.

The weather was by far the best on Sunday, no more thunderstorms so we took a walk to Central Park where we hired some bikes. We completed a full circuit of the park and enjoyed a slightly more relaxed day compared to our previously jam packed days. Cycling around the park, stopping for ice cream along the way whilst doing a bit of people watching was so incredibly fun.

View of Central Park from the Empire State Building

Usually when I go somewhere, I think about returning but perhaps in ten years or so. There’s so many amazing places to visit that I usually can’t imagine myself returning so quickly for another holiday. New York is an exception and I could have returned the following week. I didn’t, but I cannot wait to go back and explore more. The trip also gave me a new lease of life as at the time I was going through something quite conflicted with work and New York was the perfect remedy. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t been for that trip! Take home message – get yourself to New York ASAP.

Alex’s three favourite things about New York

1. The 9/11 museum – a truly unforgettable experience.

2. Walking across Brooklyn Bridge purely because it’s such an iconic thing to do.

3. The helicopter. This one doesn’t need an explanation.

Have you been to NYC? What would you recommend if we were to visit again? Leave us a comment!

The Rambling Travellers

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