Sunday, 4 October 2015

My New York Diary

New York, New York! After a long wait since booking our trip to New York in January, last week it was finally time to pack our bags and explore this amazing city. So, grab a pumpkin spice latte and discover the Big Apple with me!

Landing in the Big Apple

Touching down in New York’s JFK airport, we were greeted with the longest ever queue at passport control. It took us about 2 hours from landing to make it to the subway station. Although we weren’t planning on being particularly thrifty on this holiday, we couldn’t resist making the best use of our $30 unlimited 7 day metro card (simply buy from the subway station when you arrive) straight away, and with a straight line from Sutphin to Essex Street on the J/Z train, why pay more. The subway (actually this line was over ground all the way) treated us to an amazing view of the New York skyline as we crossed the Williamsburg Bridge onto Manhattan.

Skyline views from The Ludlow roof

We were welcomed warmly at our hotel, The Ludlow, and our bags were tagged and looked after whilst we enjoyed a drink at the bar and waited for our room to become available.

After freshening up we grabbed a quick slice of pizza for $2 from a place on our street before a happy hour glass of wine at No Fun, one of so many trendy spots in our Lower East Side neighbourhood which we’d explore whilst we were here. Hungry and tired from the jet lag, we ate early at Masala Wala, a highly rated Indian restaurant just a street away. The food was delicious but sadly we ordered far too much. We learned our first lesson about watching out for larger portions!

Midtown and Yankee Stadium

Being up at 5am wasn’t so bad – I got to enjoy the beautiful sunrise from my bed and plan the day ahead. There as so many things to see and do in this city. We’d booked tickets to watch the New York Yankees play the Chicago White Sox at 1pm, so we had the morning to discover the city.

From our hotel we walked along the Bowery to Union Square and past the Flatiron Building. What an amazing sight! The triangular Flatiron Building us a feat of architectural design and is a sight to behold. It also symbolised the start of the Midtown skyscrapers and sights which also include the Empire State Building and Macy’s - we'd arrived!

We quickly moved onto Bryant Park and the New York Library. The park was tranquil amongst the hustle of the streets and has a tiny carousel which was playing an instrumental version of La Vie en Rose. It felt like we briefly slipped into Paris for a short second.

Bryant Park

At Grand Central Terminal we caught a connection to Yankee Stadium. The station didn’t disappoint. The ceiling was painted a gorgeous blue and dotted with constellations around the arches of the windows which would have flooded the room with light before being blocked by neighbouring taller buildings.

Arriving at Yankee Stadium there was the familiar buzz of excited fans and anticipation for the game ahead. Having never seen a baseball game before, but knowing was it was going to be long, we found our seats and settled into a beer and fried chicken whilst the game began.

The game was peppered with songs and soundbites, introducing the players at each bat, during the innings changes and to keep people amused during slower periods. This broke up the silence of make time fly. The best bit was the grounds team doing the YMCA after the 7th innings.

We cheered along with the rest of the supporters, foam finger in hand. It was a great experience which I think many people wouldn’t consider on a regular trip to New York.

Yankee Stadium

Central Park, Top of the Rock and a sunset sail

Our third day began exploring Central Park. This was one of the things I was most excited about seeing; the Mall, fountains and aimless wonderings were all I dreamt of. All that was missing was a little autumn colour, but it was still early in the season. The park is a perfect place for a little respite from the city, especially important for a country girl like me.

Bethesda Terrace, Central Park

Afterwards we took the weight off our feet at Rockefeller Centre and ate amazing steak sandwiches covered in cheese and sauce from Tri Tip Grill. A heart attack in a sandwich, but we earned it. With an hour to spare, we enjoyed the balmy weather with iced coffee in The Channel and indulged in a little people watching before it was our time to take in the views from Top of the Rock.

We chose to see the Manhattan views from Top of the Rock instead of The Empire State because we wanted to make sure Empire was part of the view as it’s such a symbol of New York. Once we arrived at the top, I was so pleased to see there was a glass barrier, not a wire one. This meant amazing views and no chilly wind! The views were amazing and really helped but the size of the city into perspective.

View from Top Of The Rock

Another great way to see the city is by water, and we’d booked onto Manhattan by Sail’s Twilight Cruise from Battery Park. The evening was warm so we were able to chill on the deck and watch the city lights come on as we sailed out to Liberty Island and back over 2 hours with a few beers. The crew even let us help raise the main sail, perfect excuse for a workout!

Me at the helm!

The Manhattan skyline at night is something everyone should see and this being the evening of the lunar eclipse it felt especially special.

Lower Manhattan lights

The Lower East Side

On our fourth day we meandered through the Lower East Side and Lower Manhattan, taking in Little Italy, China Town, and the Brooklyn Bridge. Lower Manhattan is a great place to hangout and discover a side of New York with a little edge, and makes a change from the Gossip Girl and Sex and The City scenes of the Upper East Side. The Lower East Side is older, and has a lot of character, not to mention some of the best neighbourhoods.

Brooklyn Bridge

We also visit the 9/11 memorial. At the memorial, I was astounded as the first memorial pond we approached had the name of a victim of the tragedy which was the same as my brothers. Suddenly the sadness of the tragic events what took place become all the more real.

In the evening we headed back north for a sky bar experience at Spyglass. We were toasting a success of mine with bubbles overlooking a slowly illuminating Empire State building before a steak dinner.

We finished the day in Times Square. Everything you’ve heard is true about Times Square. It’s unreasonably busy, the lights are blinding and you’ll love it! If there’s a centre of the city this is it!

Times Square

Chelsea Market and a hidden Speakeasy

Heading back off the tourist track again, on our 5th day, inspired by the Yankees game, we go to Chelsea Piers batting cages. There’s nothing like having baseballs lobbed at you to get your heart rate up, and I think we did a pretty good job! The piers have great facilities for sports and kids and I certainly recommend it as a way to blow off steam!

After, we joined the new High Line for the walk to Chelsea Market. The High Line has been created using an unused over ground rail line, which is now an oasis of grasses, trees and flowers. It’s becoming a cool hangout spot and is great for enjoying a walk without having to watch out for traffic.

The High Line

Chelsea Market is a foodie heaven, and is packed with international shops, artisan products and some amazing places to eat. For a quick lunch we grabbed a taco filled so much we could barely pick it up. We succumb quickly to the saucy mess and lap up every last morsel before hopping in a cab across town.


Mark is a big beer fan (no surprise) so we’re off to The Ginger Man, with its ‘changes by the day’ amazing selection of beers from around the world. Taking our seats at the bar I get a ‘Beer Flight’ of 4 smaller sampling glasses and Mark indulges his penchant for Bavarian style Beers.

My turn comes later at Amuse, where we make the most of Happy Hour at this lovely wine bar with the world’s best waiter and a rose wine flight with cheese and charcuterie. Mark goes with red wines and we chat UK/US mannerisms and politics over a free glass of prosecco with the barman.

Wine time at Amuse

Our night of drinking continues at one of New York’s speakeasies. I won’t give away its location, but it was in the Lower East side, and entry is only granted to those who know where to look and aren’t too scared to knock. There isn’t a menu, so you get a personal service from the bartenders who ask about the flavours you like then mix you a drink. They won’t be cheap, but the experience it worth it!

Liberty Island and the last bite of the Big Apple

On our last day the weather changes from the dizzying heat of the past few days to the cool autumnal chill we were expecting. Both refreshing and perfectly welcome!

After checking out we head down town to Battery Park to board a Statue Cruise to Liberty and Ellis Island. We don’t get off at Liberty Island we’ve enjoyed the view from the boat and time is of the essence today. At Ellis Island we do get off though to see the Immigration Museum. I’m surprised to learn that until fairly recently the gateway to America was left for ruin after closing in 1959.

The Statue of Liberty

It’s the perfect ending to our trip though to discover the process so many people went through before being welcomed to the United States. The US is proud of the immigrants and their cultures which have found a home and shaped modern America, which seems particularly poignant at the moment with the migrant crisis in Syria.

Back in Manhattan, we spend our remaining hours shopping in Soho and enjoying a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks before slipping out again the same way we came in.

We had such a fantastic time in New York and this barely touched on some of the experiences we had and everything we couldn’t do! I’ll be writing more about New York in the coming weeks so watch out for:
  • The Ludlow Hotel Review - coming soon
  • Central Park - coming soon
  • The Lower East Side and Lower Manhattan - coming soon