10 days and 10 things I loved about New York
The first thing you realise once you step foot into the Big Apple is that everything they say about it is, in fact, true. There truly is no place like New York. I've had the delight to spend a wonderful 10 days there this past June and boy oh boy did the city that never sleeps deliver.
Walking around NY felt at the same time familiar and exhilaratingly new. Familiar because I've seen those streets, landmarks, parks,... times and times again in movies and TV shows.
New because I was finally walking in the footsteps of my favourite characters from the big and small screen and could experience everything in real life, not through a screen.
By now, whether you've ever been or not, we all know the sights to see, the things to do and not to miss around New York. So instead of me creating yet another city guide for a city that has it all, I thought I'd share the 10 things that I've enjoyed most and which have stayed with me about my ten days in the Empire City. So, without further ado let's jump straight in.
1. The People
I can't stress enough how absolutely friendly, warm and welcoming the people of New York have been to me/us. This is one that actually surprised me. In the era of Trump and, let's be honest, of the stupidities we hear coming from the US, I really did not expect to be greeted and treated so well upon arriving in New York. I'm happy however to report that I couldn't have been more wrong.
We had the warmest welcome from the immigration officer who kept cracking jokes all through the process of checking us into the country. I've had people come up to me in the streets to offer help when I looked visibly lost being a tourist and all, I've had some very interesting conversations with others in parks or in shops. People recommending places to go and things to see left and right. Of all the people I've met, my favourite has to be Raj who I stumbled upon in Washington Square Park. He is a magnificent dancer and performer who's insta stories have kept me in awe ever since. Look at this magnificence and tell me you wouldn't have stopped dead in your tracks as well upon seeing such a masterfully laid and styled wig?.... Exactly!
On our second day of the trip, with no jetlag and my belly full from the most scrumptious GMO infused American breakfast, I had the, at first, not so brilliant idea to explore New York by Citybike. I drove a moped around Thailand and can live to talk about it, how hard could it really be to cycle the streets of New York? 🤔
Now let me tell you something, if you want a fast track pass at becoming a New Yorker, hop on a bike and hope for the best.
That first day alone, we ended up cycling from Midtown all the way Uptown to the Upper West Side and then all the way downtown over Williamsburg Bridge into Brooklyn and back to Midtown where our hotel was. Again, hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!
I fucking died, I died so hard I resurrected and died again. I died!!!!!
Despite all this dying, I was so proud of myself for surviving in the unforgiving New York traffic, of which the worst part are actually the pedestrians, that we ended up doing 90% of our sightseeing by bike. The one encounter I had with a taxi driver almost ploughing into me saw me veer into a parked rickshaw to avoid death by yellow cab and a scar on my hand that I now proudly carry as a souvenir from my first NY trip. 🤟🏾
Despite this, cycling around NY is the best idea I've ever had as it made getting used to the layout of the grid so much easier and quicker to navigate. It gives much better spacial awareness of the city than riding the subway or being driven around in taxis. I also felt I got to see much more of the city than I would have if I were just hopping around with public transport from one attraction to another. So if you're ever in NY I'd highly recommend getting yourself a Citybike and exploring at a leisurely pace.
3. The Food
Foodies of the world, rejoice because New York has it all. I have eaten so much delicious food in the span of 10days that ... 🤷🏾♀️I don't know what else to say really. I have just stuffed my face and cycled around for 10 days. I've eaten food from all 4 corners of the world in all 4 corners of the city. I'm better at eating food than I am at describing it, so I've made a compilation of me stuffing my face with food over on my insta if you want to check that out. You can thank Bae for that, he takes some special pleasure in watching me and filming me eating. Here's a peek:
Some of my favourite places in no particular order were, Big Daddy's Diner on Park Avenue, Carmine's Italian with huuuggeee portions on Times Square, SoCo, southern style comfort food in Brooklyn and the mean spicy margarita and guac from Santos Anne in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Shout out to the 2am New York pizza slices I had while high after a black-tie dinner. Sadly I was too far gone to think about saving the location, sowwy. I did however feel like Chrissy Teigen traipsing her designer gowns over the floors of late-night fast food chains after an award show, albeit less rich, less glamorous, minus grumpy Kanye and my gown wasn't designer, but hey... still living my best life. Can you tell I was loving that pizza?
4. New York Cheesecake
This one deserves a category of its own because boy oh boy, New Yorkers know how to make a great cheesecake.
Cheesecake is my all time favourite dessert. I have strict rules about the sanctity of cheesecake. It can't be baked, ever! Baked cheesecake is a blasphemy. I do not stand for baked cheesecake....
That is until I sat down at a diner 4 hours after landing in New York and was presented with the heavenliness that is New York Cheesecake. How a cheesecake can be baked and chilled and creamy and airy all at the same time still baffles me. How can such a soft sturdy mass touch your tongue and then feel like air, while kissing the insides of your mouth like the best lover you've ever had and leaving the most romantic after taste of dreams come true in your entire existence.... *exhales orgasmicly* I. DO. NOT. KNOW.! But it did, and I was blessed to have been alive to taste it. I wasn't worthy!
5. The shopping
If you are a recovering shopaholic, you might want to stay away from New York. If like me you're in denial and your motto in life is "money returns time doesn't" then credit/debit cards at the ready.
The two places I've done the most damage where the skincare aisle at Sephora and The Strand Bookshop. By the 5th day of our trip, I made the top tier of Sephora's membership program (if you know you know, if you don't google it). By the end of the trip, I've had to allocate my entire carry-on to just the books that I bought throughout. Luckily I still had 3 suitcases left to fill (1 of mine and 2 of Bae's) with everything else.
6. The Art & Architecture
I did expect New York to be a city with an exquisite art scene, what I didn't expect however is to be awed by some of the architecture it hides. We all know the iconic brownstones and high rises we see on TV, but what I noticed while cycling around is that New York really has an eclectic mix of architecture dotted around street corners and down unassuming side streets. You can very much read the story of the city and its people through the mix and match of buildings. The Cathedral of St John The Divine, for example, is one that completely surprised me. It has the shell of a classic Gothic era catholic church, but on the inside, it looks like another church altogether has been built in its shell and hidden from prying eyes. It felt completely surreal to see both the original wall as well as the new walls of the new church side by side.
We had also been gifted with a private tour of both The Lincoln Centre and The Plaza hotel which revealed two completely different eras and demographics of New York life and history.
Art-wise everyone knows New York is home to some of the worlds most famous and revered musea. There isn't much to be added to this other than get in as much as you can while keeping in mind that you'd need a couple of lifetimes to see it all, so don't fret either.
A quick tip on the musea: Your ticket to the MET is valid for unlimited entry for 72hours and grants you access to both the MET and the MET Cloisters in Harlem. Both are very much worth a visit.
The Museum of National History has free entry every day for the last hour. So it might be worth planning accordingly if you're spending more than a couple of days in NY.
7. Washington Square Park
If I had the means to live anywhere in New York, the area around Washington Square Park is probably where I'd choose to settle. The the park famous in the movies for its chess players and it's proximity to the intellectual and avant-garde NYU campuses. It's bustling with life and at the same time offers tranquil oases to hide away from it all. Our hotel happened to be just 4 blocks from the park and I've enjoyed strolling around the neighbourhoods many times on my own.
8. Times Square
Now to be honest with this one, I've had a love and hate relationship while there but I've settled on love because at the end of the day it remains a hallmark of American extravagance. I hated it because I cycled through and nothing is more infuriating than having to navigate past Times Square when you've got places to be. I loved it because it was like nothing and no place I had ever seen before. Nowhere in the world represent what capitalism stands for more than Times Square. Though you can argue about the pros and cons of capitalism, that's not the point here. Love or hate, Times Square is one of those places that doesn't leave you unmoved in one way or another.
9. The views
When in NY you need to get up high at some point and see the magnificence of the grid in action from a higher vantage point. Especially from sunset to dark the views are magical. Some of the best ones are from the Empire State building which is open between 8 am and 2 am every day. The least busy time to go would be after 11 pm.
The next amazing views is from the Brooklyn Bridge, towards Brooklyn during the sunsets hours when it is still busy and then back towards Manhattan after dark when there is virtually no one anymore but you get a great view of the Manhattan skyline.
The best view on land however, I am not a liberty to divulge as I don't want to get our kind insider in trouble for showing it to us. It's one you only get to see when you're part of the 1% literally sitting on top of the world with a 360° view ruling everything, and I must say I get what the fuss is about.
Sadly I doubt that those that get to have that view on a daily basis really know how to enjoy it. But hey...
Last but not least, my favourite of all views was that of Manhattan at sunset from the Staten Island ferry. I'm afraid I don't have any words that can do this sight justice, so I'll just shut up and let you take it in below. No filters necessary.
Pro tip: The Staten Island ferry is completely free and passes by the Statue of Liberty as well so you get a full view from the East River. No need to pay expensive tourist boat trips unless you really need to be on Ellis Island or Liberty Island.
This view leads me straight into my next favourite thing about NY....
10. The sunsets
The sun seems to really like NY and I am a sucker for sunsets. I much prefer them to sunrises on the account that they usually don't require me to be up at the crack of dawn often in the cold. Cold and waking up early are two things that really don't agree with me.
That being said, New York seems to have a special way of reflecting the sunlight which I don't remember ever seeing in any other big city I have ever visited. I've often walked or cycled around, mesmerised at how the sunlight plays up and reflects against the buildings, the streets, the cars and the people.
New York is also home to a unique natural phenomenon called Manhattanhenge, where the sunset lines up perfectly with the street of the grid East to West. This happens usually around the summer months, where when you look to the West Side on any street (not the avenues) you can see the sun sets perfectly in the middle of the street into the Hudson.
And there you have it, my 10 days in New York recapped in the 10 things that have marked me the most. New York is very full on and intense and after 10 days I was ready to go back to my quieter South London village life.
That being said, I am already eagerly planning my return and can't wait to delve deeper into this magnificent city and its people (all puns intended) and really get off the beaten path next time.
Have you been to NY? What stayed with you the most? If not, is NY on your bucket list of places to visit? Also, do check out my IG TV channel for a mini vlog of my NY Trip.