It’s long been a dream of mine to go to New York. I mean, for years. So in December last, myself and Ray bit the bullet, packed our bags and headed over there for the last weekend before Christmas. When you have wanted to go somewhere for all your life, there’s a real danger that it won’t live up to your high expectations but New York – you did not let me down. What. A. City.
The atmosphere, the people, the energy, the food – every time, you turn a corner in New York, there is something new and wonderful to explore. Instantly you feel and know, its a city where exciting things happen and dreams really can come true.
I thought about trying to put together a City Guide for NYC but being honest, five days is just not enough time to even scratch the surface and do proper justice to what this glorious and exciting city offers but what I have done is put together some of the highlights of our trip and what we really enjoyed the most. If I could offer one bit of advice when visiting New York: bring your most comfortable walking shoes because there is a hell of a lot of ground to cover and trying to do at least some of it by foot means you take in as much as possible.
1. Central Park
We started our walk of Central Park at the Fifth Avenue entrance. There are loads of operators that offer the horse-drawn carriage experience but they are pretty pricey so we donned the walking boots. I should set the scene at this point – it had snowed the night before we visited and even by the following afternoon when we visited, the were so many parts of the park where the snow was still untouched. It was like stepping into a postcard.
Flanked by skyscrapers, Central Park is quiet, calm, peaceful and offers a solitude from the bustling city that surrounds it. Although the snow made for spectacular views and super photos, admittedly it did make it a little tricky to get around the park which was quite funny. We strolled down towards Bethesda Fountain, The Loeb Boathouse and even witnessed an impromptu marriage proposal by one of the lakes. Central Park was a magical experience. What’s exciting about it also is that I’m sure it’s atmosphere would be completely different in the summer time and hopefully that’s something that I won’t have to wait too long to experience.
2. Ground Zero – 9/11 Memorial Museum.
Located in the lower west of Manhattan, we visited Ground Zero on our first morning. I still remember very vividly where I was on 11 September, 2001 when I heard that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Centre. I was sixteen years old and on my way home from school the day before I would receive my Junior Certificate results (GCSE’s). We went to the nearest house of one of my friends and watched in silence and disbelief at the events that were unfolding before our eyes. I must admit, Ground Zero is not one of those places that you “look forward” to visiting in the traditional sense but it felt wrong to visit New York and not take the time to pay our respects and learn more about an event that ultimately changed New York and the world forever.
Ground Zero really is quite surreal. What struck me is that despite being located just blocks from Wall Street, the bustling financial centre of the United States, its eerily quiet. It’s surrounded by skyscrapers but the big open vacant space serves as a reminder that something is missing. Crowds filter through in silence paying their respects. The 9/11 Memorial Building appears at first quite a small building but is interestingly built in layers underground. The Museum itself inside is almost laid out in reverse of the events that happened. It starts by highlighting the political fallout after the attack and ends by bringing you back to the point that the planes crashed into the Word Trade Centre. Listening to the various stories, those of survivors, families of the victims, all the time being acutely aware of where you are, its hard not to shed a tear. Adult Entry is $24 per person.
3. Staten Island Ferry
If you want to see the Statue of Liberty then I would highly recommend the Staten Island Ferry. Sure, there are ferry companies that do tours back and forth to Liberty Island and some may include Ellis Island too, normally ranging $25-$40 per person, but I had read that the Staten Island Ferry covers much of the same route AND its free. The Ferry goes right by the Statue of Liberty and gives you great opportunities to take some snaps. One thing: the Statue of Liberty is actually tiny but you can’t possibly go to New York and not give her a visit at some stage. For me, the real unsung hero of the crossing on the Staten Island Ferry was actually the beautiful views of Lower Manhattan on the way back. I remember just taking a moment to really appreciate that I was seeing it all live and right in front of me. We did the crossing at about 4.30pm so it was just getting dark but I’d say the views are even more amazing at night. This really got the thumbs up from me.
4. Carrie’s Stoop
I have been the BIGGEST fan of Sex and The City since my teens. It always brings back fond memories of chilling with my big sister on Saturday afternoons and binge watching the show. We absolutely loved it and often dreamed of the day that we would actually visit New York and see it all in person. There are official Sex and The City tours that you can do in New York but for me, there was only one thing related to the show that I wanted to do – and that was visit Carrie’s stoop. Located at 64 Perry Street in Greenwich Village, it was super easy to find. When we visited, we were the only people there which was kind of surreal. It was amazing to be there and have the time too to take it all in. Its actually someone’s real house but they don’t mind you taking pictures. Not only is this Carrie’s stoop, its also a really beautiful building in an absolutely gorgeous and swish part of New York so it’s worth the find to take the walk through Greenwich Village (which if I had a couple of spare million euros, would be moving too asap).
There are so many other things that I loved about New York, the friendliness of the people, the fact that it’s a city that never sleeps, it’s a food lover’s dream due to the massive portions and of course, the amazing history of the city. We did loads of other things such as walk the Brooklyn Bridge, go to the top of the Empire State Building at night, pay a visit to Grand Central Station, take in Times Square and ate posh cake in the Plaza Hotel but the above are my personal highlights. After being away, I always look forward to going home but New York, for me, was one of those cities that made me want to go back straight away and I’m already looking forward to the day we that we do.