New York City is somewhat of a novelty to me. It’s the absolute opposite to my hometown in the Welsh Valleys and that’s what makes it all the more amazing for me! This will be my fourth trip to the Big Apple and I never tire of the place! However, anyone who has travelled to New York will know that getting through security takes FOREVER! About 2 hours it took to get through security. No order or organisation. It was a free for all market! So leaving plenty of time for this is advisable if you have transport arranged. We planned to see a Broadway show that night but we arrived into New York too late as the shuttle bus from the Airport to the middle of the city takes approximately an hour. You know when you arrive into New York when the bus gets swallowed up by the massive skyscrapers around you and you hear the horns ringing out from the infamous yellow taxis as we take our place on the busy Manhattan roads. The weather is extraordinary in New York. Throughout our stay, we were hot under the sun but the air was so dry, it was strangely refreshing and it hit us beautifully in the face as we got off the bus and lugged our luggage towards the subway.
Subways: Where it is perfectly acceptable to start breakdancing or singing in front of strangers on their daily commute…
Aah the subways. When I first visited this incredible city, tackling the subway system felt like the scariest thing I had ever done in my life. I was with a friend from back home and we were useless. We had never caught a subway or an underground train in our lives and I felt like a drowning blackbird. Small, lost and totally out of place. But with anything you encounter during your travels, you grab the bull by the horns and you just do it! In time, I started to understand the different routes, and how local and express trains work and whether it is an uptown or downtown train I needed. Think I have it sussed. I think. No more getting lost of random trains at 3am in the morning like before!
We had three days in New York. I know! Not long at all to see everything but we managed to tick off a few of the essentials. Our only priority that night was seeing Times Square in all its glory. I know it’s like the touristiest thing to do in New York but the lights and the atmosphere at Times Square never fails to make me squeeze myself with happiness!! The flashing adverts. The constant stream of people lining the streets, the slow moving yellow taxis tracking the worn out roads, the buzz of music and excited chatter. We soaked it all in. Then we realised we hadn’t eaten in hours so we went to grab some cheap New York pizza from a nearby Food Market. A slice of pizza in New York is practically the size of a small personal pizza back in the UK and at $2.50 a piece – Sold.
Jet lag is a bitch. We crashed after our pizza and woke up at 6am local time. Not hanging about, we got straight out, grabbed a Dunkin’ Donut breakfast and rode the subway down to 42nd street where we walked across towards Pier 39 to get tickets for a water cruise! One of my highlights from my previous visit to NYC was getting the boat to see the Lady Liberty herself. She’s mesmerising. And the icon of New York City which makes her pretty damn important. We decided to go on the New York City Sightseeing Boat Cruise as it had a hop-on and hop-off option and it was a good choice as the tour guide gave us some great facts, information and tips for sightseeing in New York. The most interesting thing I can recall from the tour guide was that Liberty has seven spikes on her crown to represent the seven seas and continents of the world and 25 windows in her crown to represent the 25 gemstones of the earth. Pretty cool.
Battery Park: 9/11 Memorial
Halfway through the boat cruise, we were able to stop off at Battery Park and walk over to the Freedom Tower and the 9/11 Memorial. Gigantic waterfalls in the ground to mark where the twin towers had fallen in 2001. Around the waterfalls were the names of the people that had lost their lives during that time. The names were imprinted into the marble so mourners could leave items to mark their respect or remember their loved ones. We also visited the 9/11 Memorial museum which was haunting and devastating. A recording of the news bulletin that day declaring the attack on the twin towers echoed around the building as you read statements and information on the attack as well as take in the wall of photographs of people that perished and people that were never found or seen again since that day.
Times Square is the ‘core’ of the New York apple and also a great place to get cheap last-minute Broadway tickets. It takes a while to get to the ticket booth but if you get there early enough, you shouldn’t have too much of a wait. As we waited, we were caught on one of Times Squares cameras and broadcasted on the side of a building. That was an awesome tick of the New York Bucket List. Within minutes of that happening, the New York Bucket List made another appearance when I met THE Naked Cowboy!! Any Nickelback fan would understand my exaggerated excitement when I saw him. For non-Nickelback fans – watch the music video “Rockstar” and you’ll get it.
Rockerfeller Center: “Top of the Rock” vs. Empire State Building
To finish off our day, we went up to say ‘”Hey, what’s up, hello” to New York from the Top. Visiting New York and seeing it in all its glory does not get any better than this. Previously, I went up the Empire State Building at night and the seeing all of the lights from the skyline of New York was breath-taking. But also, seeing the city by day was also an incredible sight. If I had to choose? I would say to visit the Empire State Building by night. The lights of New York against the darkness knock you for six. It’s nothing like you’ve ever seen before. Also, the Observation Tower at the ESB is a more traditional ‘touristy’ place which has been open for much longer than the observation tower at the Rockerfeller Center. If I can recall, the prices are practically the same.
We’re On Broadway!
Finished our second night running through the streets of Broadway looking for the Imperial Theater and running late for Les Mis! The workout was so worth it. The best musical I have seen by far! I absolutely love Les Mis and seeing it on Broadway was another one for the ever appearing bucket list! The tickets at face value could set you back $150+ but by getting the tickets on Times Square on the same day, we paid $80 and had brilliant seats in the Orchestra section. When the show ended, jet lag struck again and as much as I wanted to stay out and explore Broadway by night, I was currently keeping my eyelids open with matchsticks. So we grabbed more pizza and hit the sack.
The next day, we were joined by two other friends who we met last year at summer camp and were also returning this year. They had also explored a lot of New York previously so we decided to go somewhere different, away from the tourists. We chose Chinatown. Specifically Canal Street. I’m not a fan. There didn’t seem to be much going on and I was comparing it to Chinatown, San Francisco which is bustling with people, markets, smells and haggling. New York Chinatown presented very quiet and almost just like a regular neighbourhood town with Chinese language everywhere you turned. So we walked on down to Little Italy. Little Italy is getting smaller and smaller and is only made up of a couple of streets now but the shops and restaurants are really quirky and worth a visit if you like Italian food and gelato!
We also explored Madison Square Park and surrounding areas which were great, the weather was amazing so we grabbed a salad from a local salad bar and ate in the park. We visited a museum or two before making our way over to Central Park.
Back in South Wales, we have our fair share of parks and they’re often associated with being child-orientated and a place where you walk your dogs, cats, whatever. Central Park however, is completely different. Yes, there are children around but the majority of people in Central Park are adults engaging in physical activity such as running, cycling, walking, skateboarding, rowing boats, etc. And it’s busy. Obviously. I’m in New York. So we decided to rent bicycles and cycle around the park. Bit of advice – DO NOT go to the rent-a-bike shops. They will charge you full price! Instead, find a representative who are based on every corner of every avenue (they’re everywhere trying to entice you in!) and haggle your price. We managed to get our price down to $10 for two hours. I lost the girls during the bike ride so took the opportunity to plug in my music and ride around this magnificent park. I stopped several times to take pictures of the Reservoir, Bethesda Fountain (another “tourist hotspot”- watch Home Alone 2), Cherry Hill (watch Big Daddy) and Strawberry Fields which pays homage to John Lennon as he was shot and killed not far from his home which is in the border of Central Park.
Our last night, we chose to eat at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. This place is unique as the waiting staff sing to their diners as they serve food and drinks. It was a different dining experience and really enjoyable. Couldn’t help myself to sing along with our waitress who sang Kate Bush “Wuthering Heights”. Whipped the NYC Bucket List out one more time when we finally managed to hunt down Junior’s Cheesecake which is in on 42nd Street. THE best Cheesecake I have ever tasted in my life. Proper authentic New York Cheesecake. TICK. We then went to meet up with some friends from our previous year at camp on the East side of Manhattan to catch up with each other before the craziness of Summer Camp kicks in! Tomorrow’s location: LAKE GREELEY CAMP!