This time six years ago Jen and I were in New York, as a treat to ourselves for our thirtieth birthdays. For some unknown reason the photos from the trip stayed unprocessed in my Lightroom catalogue – until last week! So I decided to do a #throwbackthursday post. Neither of us had been to New York before, the closest being dashing through Newark airport on the way back from Costa Rica – it was also my first time staying in the USA, rather than just transiting through the airport.
I distinctly remember two things from our shuttle journey from the airport – seeing the huge pick up trucks on the road and that first glimpse of the iconic Manhattan skyline! After checking in to our hotel, the Library Hotel, we went straight to Times Square, which was as mad as we expected – a good introduction to NYC, but a bit much to take in after a long day travelling! Especially given that two days prior I had woken up in Tokyo. For dinner we decided to walk to Grand Central Station. We were pretty tired so we just grabbed some burgers from Shakeshack – to this day still one of the best burgers I have ever tasted! I liked Grand Central station, it seemed a lot calmer that similar large stations in London for example and I feel that it balanced the retail/restaurants better than its newer namesake in Birmingham.
After breakfast at the hotel, we spent most of our first full day in New York exploring Central Park, including the Zoo, which disappointingly did not feature Alex the Lion from the “Madagascar” film. As zoos go it was pretty small, but I particularly like that I could photograph sea lions with skyscrapers in the background. We barely scratched the surface of Central Park, but it was good to spend the day walking around, after a long flight the previous day.
The only fixed plan we had for our trip was visiting the Statue of Liberty, as we had to prebook our trip a few months in advance – it was worth it though! On our way to catch the boat we passed the site of the World Trade Center. At the time the new One World Trade Center was still under construction, but still looked suitably impressive. Exploring the statue and Liberty Island was one of the highlights of the trip, the views back across to Manhattan were impressive, but unfortunately did not photograph well, coming out very hazy (even the new dehaze tool in Lightroom could not rescue the photos). Certainly a view that I am glad to have seen though! I also enjoyed the stop at Ellis island on the way back to Manhattan, where we learned about the history of immigration to New York. On the way back to the hotel we walked through China Town and Little Italy, stopping for a pizza – it was not a typical New York pizza, but it was still good! In the evening we visited Korea Town, which is just behind the Empire State Building, for a Korean BBQ. I was glad to be able to take Jen, as the Korean BBQ in Iwaki City is one of my favourite places to eat when I am on business trips to Japan, and until recently they haven’t been easy to find in the UK. We now have one in Coventry though!
The main plan we had for my birthday was visiting the Top of the Rock – the observation area at the top of the Rockerfeller Center. We had been advised to go up before dusk, to be able to enjoy the view in daylight and by night, so we spent the morning exploring Fifth Avenue before heading to the Rockefeller Center mid afternoon. it seemed a bit busy as we went in, but we thought nothing of it as we went up the lifts to the observation area. The views were suitably impressive, both to the north over Cental Park and to the south past the Empire State building, especially as night fell and the lights lit up. We had planned to have dinner at the Rockefeller Center, but when we came down the lift everything seemed to be on shutdown, with huge crowds everywhere. We later learned that it was because the Christmas lights were being switched on, which is a big deal in the US – it is televised nationally and they even had Mariah Carey singing! We ended up having dinner at the hotel restaurant, which turned out to be really nice.
We started our last full day in New York with a walk across Brooklyn Bridge to check out Brooklyn, I was surprised that such an old bridge (construction started in 1869) was still in daily use! I was not too taken by Brooklyn, but I expect that we did not find the cool spots, so we got the subway back to Manhattan, and ended up having lunch at a diner in Chelsea. After our lunch we discovered Chelsea Market, which had an array of interesting looking places to eat, and then the High Line – a disused elevated subway line which had been turned into a linear park/walkway. Both were great, and completely unexpected finds. In the evening we walked past the Rockefeller Center to check out the lights that had caused all the fuss the previous evening. As we were in New York it would be rude not to take in a Broadway show – we manage to get seats for the Lion King, I vaguely remembered the story, and songs, from watching the Disney Movie as a child, but I really enjoyed the show.
We had left visiting the Empire State Building until our last morning, which turned out to be a mistake – the clouds had come in, we could barely see the ground from the top! However it was interesting looking at the architecture, especially considering it was built the same year as our house! When we got to the observation deck on the 86th floor it was sleeting! Despite the weather, we still went up to the 102nd floor, which we had almost to ourselves. After the Empire State Building, the last thing we did in New York was have lunch at the Relais de Venise – we had been to the original in Paris earlier in the year, and thought it would be interesting to check out some of the British/American clones. The New York restaurant was much bigger than the Paris one, but the food was similar. We still haven’t got round to checking out any of the British restaurants…
Overall, I thought New York was a great city to visit, with a bit of everything to see and do. A lot of it felt familiar from films and TV, but as it was my first real trip to America I picked up a lot of subtle differences from European cities. We ate really well, breakfasts at the hotel, street food lunches, snacks, cheese and wine at the hotel, then some nice restaurants in the evenings! We did a lot of walking around to burn it off though! I would love to go back to New York, probably when the boys are old enough to appreciate it and ideally in the spring/summer, as it was really cold when we were there!