The Travel Post #7: Discovering New York City Part 1

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I think it must be on everyone’s bucket list to visit the city that never sleeps and at the end of last year, one of my best friends Emily and I took our first trip to the big apple to celebrate our birthdays. It’s a cliché but I definitely fell in love with the city, and during our 5 days there we packed loads in including the really typical touristy stuff that you have to do on your first trip to NYC and some more local New Yorker style chilling!

Since we were there for 5 days, I thought it would make sense to split our trip into 5 parts, the first installment will take us up to day three so you might want to grab a cup of tea because this is going to be a long one!

Day 1 – Settling in as a New Yorker

Naturally our first day was spent mostly on the British Airways flight from Heathrow actually getting there and we landed at JFK at around 2pm New York time. We booked the flights on the BA website and managed to get a really good deal at just under £400 return including taxes. I think the key with getting cheap flights is to keep an eye out for sales and price it up on a few different websites such as Cheap Flights and Skyscanner. If you can be flexible on dates then that will help too! Once we had got through customs, we hailed our first ever yellow cab and headed to the hotel. We choose to stay in The Wyndham New Yorker and this again was approximately £400 for the 5 nights, which is an insanely cheap price for New York accommodation!  We booked it through and that price also included an upgrade to a queen size bed each, which is so worth doing as it meant we got some additional space with the majority of New York hotels having only teeny tiny rooms. The hotel is also in a great location, roughly a 5 minute walk away from Times Square, and right outside Madison Square Gardens.
Once we had unpacked and settled in we headed down to Times Square to grab some dinner and take a few selfies. This was our first taste of the New York buzz and I loved it. Everywhere you looked there were bright lights and big dreams – it’s weird because it is literally just like the movies! With wide eyes and some giddy excitement we headed into the world famous Bubba Gump restaurant to get our hands on some American sized portions for dinner.  We had a great table right by the window looking out on time square so we spent a couple of hours stuffing our face and people watching at all the tourists and locals milling by.  Then it was time to head back to the hotel and chill out ready for the next few days of our big city adventure!

Day 2 – Exploring the history of NYC

A touch of jet leg meant we were up seriously early on our second day so we grabbed a Starbucks to go, attempted to navigate the subway and headed off on a Leo Dicaprio style commute to Wall Street for Breakfast. After paying a quick visit to the stock exchange and the raging bull which was surrounded by snap happy chinese tourists we headed off to George’s, where Trip Advisor assured us we could get the best pancakes in the financial district  - boy were they right! Em went for chocolate chip and I opted for blueberry but we had the genius idea of swapping some toppings so we had a mix of both – genius! Washed down with a second cup of caaafffffeeee (new york accent) we were now well and truly set up for the day.
Next we paid a visit to the 9/11 memorial and the recently opened commemorative museum. 9/11 is something that has always felt particularly poignant to me, as I’m sure it has to many people, as I have such a clear memory of sitting and watching the live images when I was really young with my dad and brother just feeling so shocked and sickened at what was happening.  Visiting the memorial was a really sobering and incredible experience and is definitely something I think you should try and do if you visit New York.  The museum was also incredibly touching and so tastefully constructed. 9/11, as horrific as it was, is now an integral part of the history of New York and the museum in a very refined and beautiful way honours the events and victims of that day.

From there it was time for us to grab a gigantic slice of pizza to go and take a trip over to Staten Island to see the leading lady herself, the statue of liberty! We decided that we weren’t too fussed about going up into the crown and instead just wanted to see her from the water. You can get over to the island using the free Staten island ferry, but after a combination of being a bit short of time and getting reeled in by the tourist scouts that stand outside we ended up paying for the tourist hour long cruise that circles Staten and Ellis island and then returns to the pier. Although we definitely paid over the odds (considering the other ferry was free!) it actually worked out pretty perfectly as our very very windy hour long tour corresponded with the sun setting so we managed to get some insane views of new york from the water and the statue of liberty with the sunset in the background.

Our last stop for the day was an evening stroll over the Brooklyn bridge, which again offered breathtaking views of the bright lights of Manhattan and a few close shaves when we wandered into the cycle lane – New York cyclists take no prisoners!

To finish off our first full day we spent the evening at a small comedy club called Stand UP NY, which turned out to be a charity night where everybody knew each other apart from us and a group of three Albanian travellers – luckily they got picked on a bit more than we did! It was really nice to end the day doing something a bit less touristy - just having a few drinks in a laid back new york bar and by the end of the night I definitely felt I got a taste of the American Humour – I think I’m more of a British sarcasm kind of girl!

Day 3 – Living in an Empire State of Mind

Our third day in the big city started with a trip to the top of arguably the most iconic building in NYC, the empire state building. Although we had all the best intentions of being at the front of the que for when it opened, two nights of not much sleep and early starts meant that we actually didn’t make it there until about 10.30am. We treated ourselves to yet another Starbucks expecting to be waiting in a whacking great big que but weirdly we walked straight through! In fact one thing that really pleasantly surprised me about New York, was how quickly we could get into the main attractions – not once did we have to wait for longer than 30 minutes which I thought was brilliant in one of the world’s busiest and biggest cities.

When we reached the top, the views were genuinely breathtaking. There is something about looking down on a city from above and imagining all the different situations and stories that are happening below you right that second. It was a beautiful clear day and we could see for miles and even though we were freezing our frickin butts off it was so worth it!

Next on the agenda was a part of the trip that Em had organized, the On Location TV and Movie Tour. We booked this reaaaally to see all the famous Gossip Girl and Friends spots (obv) but also it was a really good way of getting a tour of the city with a bit of an added twist. The route, which took 3 hours and included 5 stops, took us all over the city visiting the famous friends building, the McGee’s pub fro How I Met Your Mother and the homes of famous celebs like Jay Z and Beyonce.
After a quick pit stop at the hotel we spent the evening on Broadway visiting the famous Ellen’s Stardust Diner and going to see Emma Stone perform in Cabaret. If you haven’t heard of it, Ellen’s is a diner where all the waiters and waitresses have a dream to make it on Broadway and whilst serving you your food, they all take it in turns to sing their favourite songs from the stage. Although this might not be to everyone’s taste, I bloody LOVED it. We had heard the food wasn’t amazing so we just went for dessert but in reality it is the experience that you go for, rather than the food, and I would 100% recommend taking a trip there just for that - there rendition of Les Mis was so good!
We topped off an amazing day by seeing the (seriously!) drop dead gorgeous Emma Stone perform as Sally Bowles in Cabaret. I have heard that her interpretation of the character was very different than the norm but since this was my first experience of the show I couldn’t really compare. But as a performance in its own right I loved it – passionate and believable she was stunning. Getting lost in the bright lights of Broadway was the perfect way to finish off the day!

Check back over the next few days where the next installment of our trip includes hot dogs at The Knicks, some serious Fifth Avenue shopping and a trip to Harlem to listen to a gospel choir.

I now have serious NYC blues - is it time for me to go back yet?

Charlotte x

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  1. Ah this makes me want to go back to New York so bad!! Especially to that Broadway diner. I've never heard of that before

  2. Ahhh it's so fun! You should definitely go if you are ever back in New York x

  3. it looks like such a beautiful place!

    from helen at

  4. Charlotte Lucy Philpotts5 February 2015 at 12:42

    It's amazing - it should definitely be on everyone's bucket list! x