So, it has taken me nearly 2 months to finally get round to writing about my amazing trip to New York in December! This was George’s present to me for my 21st birthday, and he literally could not have done any better. It was my absolute dream to go to New York for my entire life, and I couldn’t believe my dream was finally coming true! It really did feel like a fairytale, as cheesy as it sounds. I have split the story into sections because there are so many things to say (and photos to show!) and I want to share my favourite eating spots in a separate post, because food is too big a part of my life to be delegated to the sidelines… We travelled from Harrogate to Manchester straight after I finished work on the Sunday evening, and checked in at our hotel before heading out to Almost Famous burgers in the Northern Quarter. When we got there, it was quite difficult to find as it was above a bar of a different name, and there was a 45-minute wait for a table. We were starving and, although we had heard good things, the vibe was a bit too hipster for us (we’re pretty mainstream people haha) so we headed back and ate in the hotel restaurant! Luckily, I got staff discount as its the same company as the restaurant I work for ;) We bought some Ben & Jerry’s from the vending machine downstairs and tucked ourselves up for an early night before our flight the next morning!
The day finally arrived when I would set off on the trip of my dreams, and after a slight hiccup with trains to the airport being cancelled, we got there and boarded our flight to Heathrow. The terminal at Heathrow was amazing- all designer stores and classy restaurants. We were saving our money for the Big Apple, however, so we stuck with a good old meal deal before we boarded our first ever transatlantic flight with Virgin Atlantic!
I have never been outside of Europe before, and therefore never been on a plane that had two storeys and TV screens! It was so exciting getting on this ginormous plane, although it was BOILING on there until we set off- I was a little bit scared at the prospect of flying for 8 hours across the Atlantic, so this didn’t exactly settle me. However, once we set off I was so excited by all the free food and drink, the entertainment and the overall experience of flying with Virgin, which made me feel like a celebrity (although the Economy section isn’t exactly glamorous) that I soon forgot and enjoyed a thankfully smooth flight. It didn’t feel real when we landed in New York and went through the (pretty scary) American security at the airport. Being newbies (with a suitcase the size of me), we didn’t get the AirTrain from the airport, so we joined the 45-minute queue for a good ol’ yellow taxi. Once we were in the taxi, I was just so excited to get into the city and overwhelmed by the experience of being in an actual New York taxi with a TV screen in it. We went through the Lincoln tunnel and when we came out the other side, we were greeted by this…
The photos may be blurry, but seeing the NY skyline and the Empire State and Chrysler buildings for the first time was completely surreal. George said he couldn’t have hoped for a better reaction as I ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the city lights. Arriving at nighttime was definitely spectacular! There was quite a bit of traffic, and the taxi dropped us at the end of the street with our hotel on (they’re so helpful… oh wait, I forgot this was New York!) We were on the same street as the Port Authority bus terminal, so it was thankfully easy to find! I was so pleased when we arrived and found Distrikt Hotel- a gorgeous and modern boutique hotel about half-way down the block. George booked this all himself, and he did so well to find such a great hotel! The staff were friendly and helpful from the word go, and it was great to have the informality of a boutique hotel with the facilities of a classy, expensive one. Our room was spacious and we had free brownies and a proper coffee machine, as well as proper hotel robes! I wish I had some proper pictures of the room, but we were so tired when we got there that we pretty much recked it straight away sprawling out everywhere! I love the wooden carving in the elevator, with all the New York attractions on it, and I couldn’t resist snapping the typically American exit sign…
We were starving and absolutely shattered, but we knew we had to get out and see the city a bit before we went to bed. We went down to the lobby and asked them where they would recommend to eat- a proper American diner. Luckily, there was one at the end of the street so we headed there. It wasn’t anything special for a big meal, but we both ordered a ciabatta which was tasty, and I just fancied a beer so I had a Corona and so did George- when in NYC! I’d never had a beer to myself before, but since then I’ve enjoyed it a lot more as long as it’s not anything cheap and nasty. Whilst we were there, a group of NYPD officers came in for a meal- we were almost starstruck it was just like a movie!
We could have given up and headed back to the hotel, but as we were staying just a few blocks away from Times Square, we ventured there to get a real taste of NYC. On the way, we saw a homeless guy getting arrested after he tried to run from an NYPD van- we were completely gobsmacked as he got pinned against a wire fence, again it was just like a movie! I was so overwhelmed by Times Square and it remained my favourite place in the whole city. The Toys R Us is amazing and absolutely ginormous, needless to say we spent A LOT of time in there!
We managed to get on the Revlon Love Is On billboard, can you spot us?
The steam coming from vehicles and grates is so typical New York, I had to take a few pictures! The lights at nighttime are just something else, it looks like daytime out there when you’re inside a store! There’s a ginormous 4K billboard thats fairly new right opposite Toys R Us and the other stores, and it genuinely lights up the whole square!
The next morning, we headed out early in search of breakfast. Times Square still looked beautiful, even in the grey daylight! We stopped for a Starbucks on the way to keep warm- the most beautiful hazelnut hot chocolate! The Starbucks menu in the states is so much more extensive than the UK one- jealous much? We saw a billboard for Big Hero 6, which was already out in America at the time- I love big squishy Baymax chasing a football :)
We reached our destination- Pershing Square under the bridge outside Grand Central station. I had read so many good reviews of this place for breakfast, so knew it was fitting for our first breakfast in NYC! We were a little alarmed at the queue for the restaurant as we went in, then realised we could sit in the cafe area at the front straight away for a great street view, which still had table service. There will be more on this in my food post, but I am so pleased of this photo I took from the outside with the yellow cab in!
After a truly delicious breakfast, we hopped over the road to Grand Central. It is the most beautiful train station I have ever seen- imagine that being a part of your daily commute? They have a market and everything, which looked amazing but we just didn’t have the time to stay around. This is why I can’t wait to go back already!
Next stop: New York Public Library. We waited for it to open and were some of the first people inside. What a beautiful and grand building! I wanted to go inside the cloisters- the most famous part- but they were closed, so we didn’t want to hang around when we had so much else to see! The Christmas tree in the lobby was beautiful.
After our whistle-stop tour of the public library, we headed to the Rockefeller Centre to see the iconic tree and visit the Top of the Rock for the best views of NYC!
You can see my little Lego Movie Good Cop/Bad Cop keyring having a moment at the Top of the Rock! The views are literally amazing, and you can see the Empire State building so clearly- the pinnacle of the New York landscape. We took a few cheeky selfies The lights above are from this amazing installation between the top levels. Each person is assigned a colour when they walk in, and as they walk around the lights above follow them. If you intersect paths with someone, you swap colours- it was so cool!
After grabbing some pretzel bites back at ground level of the Rockefeller Centre, and watching them set up for the Christmas Lights spectacular the next evening (there were crew members and huge TV screens everywhere!), we headed down Fifth Avenue to Central Park. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the most beautiful and unusual church I have seen since the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona! I could see the church peeking out from the sleek shop facades and it instantly caught my eye. How beautiful is it?! There was restoration work going on inside, but even then it was still breathtaking.
We reached the end of the shops, and the start of Central Park. We could see how ginormous it was from the Top of the Rock.
It started raining and sleeting a bit while we were in the park, so we headed to the zoo for a bit of shelter. I have to say, I was pretty disappointed. There are squirrels everywhere in the park- we even saw a black one! They let you come so close before running away, so I got some great pictures. I don’t know if I’m just naive, but after watching Madagascar films, I was expecting lions, giraffes, hippos and zebras at the zoo, and there were none of these! I was however, very happy to see a red panda properly for the first time snuggled up in a tree whilst it’s partner roamed the ground below- they are absolutely ADORABLE! We met a student there who had to stay the whole day filming and observing them, and it was really interesting learning some facts about them from her. We also saw a King Penguin, which is like a mini Emperor penguin- they are so cool! Oh, and a very majestic sea lion ;)
We went into the amazing underground Apple store, and then into FAO Schwarz next door. Again, I was quite disappointed. Apparently, Toys R Us own the chain now, and I think that’s why it wasn’t nearly as impressive as they make out in the movies. We did get some pictures snapped with some life size Lego characters, but that was the most fun we had there. George looks less than impressed because I pretty much forced him to pose with Batman haha!
We were both starved at this point, so we abandoned the search for somewhere exciting to eat and wandered into Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, where we ate in the basement cafe. I just had a hot dog and George had a tuna sandwich, but it wasn’t much to write home about- we just needed a sit down! There’s a waterfall down the back wall behind the Christmas tree, and we sat right alongside it so I got some lovely pictures of the poinsettias around the edge. I loved Snapple juice drinks while we were there- there’s so many flavours too!
We went into Saks, and the cosmetics hall was gorgeous- look at the wintery branches along the ceiling! It is really luxurious in there- I was tempted to treat myself but instead we made a joint purchase- a little beaded taxi cab Christmas tree decoration- they’re all packed away now but I’ll always remember buying it from Saks Fifth Avenue!
This little display was in the window at Tiffany’s- the cab was moving backwards and forwards. When I walked past Tiffany’s in Barcelona when I went for the day, they had beautiful little individual window displays too- they really know what they’re doing!
When we got back to the hotel, they delivered us some cake pops to the room to celebrate my 21st birthday (even though it was in August, this was George’s present to me) and a really sweet little note. I don’t know what the doodle on the envelope was about, but I loved it. The cake pops were delicious, too!
George’s friend and colleague lived in New York for a long time a while ago, and he gave us a huge list of places to eat and visit. One of them was John’s Pizza on Broadway, which is in a converted church opposite the Phantom of the Opera theatre. Apparently, it does the best pizza in New York and, although we didn’t eat a lot of pizza while we were there, it was absolutely delicious! The Christmas tree there was beautiful, and the setting of the church made it quite an unusual yet very popular venue.
After our meal, we headed to the Disney store in Times Square- even at 10pm it was so busy! I loved the Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post hut from Frozen- I am a Disney addict and had an absolute ball! I bought my mum the little ‘Tsum Tsum’ Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore- they’re like little sausages and totally adorable :) So, there concludes our first two days in NYC! I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing what we got up to, and got some good recommendations if you’re visiting the Big Apple anytime soon.
Look out for the next post on Days 3 and 4 coming up in the next few days! Have you ever been to New York? Did you visit any of the places I mentioned so far? Anyone visiting New York soon?