Wednesday, June 14, 2017

New York- Part One

I don't even know where to begin writing about New York. I was trying to think what way I was going to structure these posts, I took about 900 photos and I didn't know whether do just do one big post or split it up into the areas we visited or just do some kind of photo diary with minimal text. In the end I decided to split it up into 3 posts and then one that's just about food. Most of my food photos are from my phone so I wanted to combine them all into one big post and that way it's more like a guide of the places where we ate. 

Obviously this isn't going to interest everyone, but I read so many blog posts about New York before we went and I found it so helpful that I thought it would be good to just share our experiences in the hopes of helping someone else. We stayed for ten days which is longer than most people so I think it's good to have a different kind of experience to share. 

I've wanted to visit New York for years. I had never been to the US or even left Europe, but I knew my first visit to the States would be to New York. My boyfriend and I have talked about it for the past three years as he had never been either. So last year when I turned 30, he booked the trip as my birthday present. 

The major thing we had to decide was where to stay. We were going for 11 nights and 10 days and everyone who we told was shocked that we were staying that long but we figured neither of us had been and we didn't want to cram everything in to a 5 day trip and be exhausted. We wanted to relax a bit and take our time but still see a lot of the city so it made sense to go for a longer time. 

We knew we wouldn't be staying in Manhattan. 11 nights would have been too expensive and because we had more time we didn't mind be a bit outside of the city. Instead we looked on Airbnb for apartments that would have a bit more room, a fridge, a small kitchen and close proximity to a Subway station.  At first we thought we'd stay in Brooklyn, we looked at places in Greenpoint and Williamsburg but there was so many areas to choose from, it was hard to know where to start. My brother had stayed in Astoria, Queens for a couple of months when he visited New York on a J1 and told us a bit about the area, how close it was to Manhattan and that it was a bit less expensive than Brooklyn so we narrowed down our search to that area and it made things so much easier. We found an apartment we both loved after reading lots of reviews. It was great to have our accommodation booked and finally feel like our trip was becoming a reality.

I'm not a big planner (when it comes to trips at least) I'm more of a go with the flow person for the most part. We didn't plan out our trip too much, we both had a mental list of things we wanted to do and places we wanted to see and I was happy with that. This was going to be my first transatlantic flight, the longest flight I'd been on before that was about two and a half hours so the idea of getting on a six hour flight made me nervous. I used to love flying so much and had even considered a career as a flight attendant but in recent years I've become more and more anxious about travelling, especially by plane but I refuse to let it stop me from travelling. I try not to think about it too much, but as the trip came closer I found I wasn't able to fully enjoy the build up. I knew I wouldn't feel happy and excited until we arrived in New York.

Thankfully the entire journey to New York went perfectly. I was so preoccupied on the flight with all the various meals and snacks and the novelty of watching films on a plane, that I wasn't as anxious as I thought I'd be. When we arrived we got an uberPOOL to the apartment which was about a 25 minute journey from JFK and meant we weren't spending lots of money on a taxi. When we arrived at our Airbnb the apartment was even nicer than it looked in photos. It was so spacious and had a big balcony with an incredible view of the Manhattan skyline including One World Trade Center, the Chrysler building and the Empire State building which you'll be able to see in the photos below.

We arrived in the afternoon and we were exhausted from travelling all day so we just settled in and unpacked and then went out to wander around the area and pick up some basic supplies for the evening (beer and water, just the essentials). Astoria is quite a residential area, but it has so many shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, supermarkets and a lot of places are open 24 hours so we were spoiled for choice. Our first night the weather was awful, it was super windy and raining and we were starving so we had to venture out for some food. We decided to stay in Astoria rather than venturing into Manhattan when we were so tired. The weather was so bad that we had to turn around and go home because we couldn't find the restaurant we were trying to get to (as it turns out we were going completely the wrong way). So we went home and waited for the weather to die down and then Simon went out and got us some Mexican food to take away. We had a relaxing night in so we'd be fresh in the morning to begin our first full day in New York. 


The next day after a late, we got the subway (which was a five minute walk from our apartment) to 5th Avenue at the corner of Central Park and walked all around the area for a few hours. We saw the Plaza hotel and Tiffany's (and Trump Tower). We had a look around the shops on 5th Ave, I got some stuff in Uniqlo which I was very excited about because I've wanted to visit one of their stores for years. We walked around Times Square with an obligatory stop at the M&M store, then on to Broadway and the Rockerfeller Center (where I had to get something from the NBC shop) and Radio City Music Hall. We stopped off at some random little pizza place for a quick slice and then got the subway home. We went for dinner and drinks in Astoria in a place called Sweet Afton that night, but more on that in my upcoming New York food post. I loved our first day because we didn't do too much but we saw lots of proper tourist spots and covered a large portion of midtown. 

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I was very excited for our second day because we were booked in for a HELICOPTER RIDE!! It was a very generous gift from my boyfriend's parents and something I never imagined I get to do in my life. We got the subway to Whitehall St and walked along the river to the heliport. There was an hour and a half delay because the weather was bad that morning so we went off to walk around while we were waiting. We sat beside the river and took some photos of the Brooklyn bridge and then wandered down to the Staten Island ferry to see how often it left because we wanted to go on the ferry after the helicopter ride. 

Once we got back to the heliport we waited another 45 minutes or so before our turn. We were in the helicopter with 3 other people, we were sat in the back so the view wasn't as good as the people who were in the front but I won't complain too much because it was such an incredible experience. We flew around Governer's Island, Libery Island and Ellis Island and then up the Hudson with a view of New Jersey on our left and Lower Manhattan and then Midtown on our right. Then down the river again and back to the heliport. The whole trip was about 15 minutes and I could have stayed up there with that view for so much longer. There was so much to see I didn't know where to look. It was honestly one of the best experiences of my life!

After that we headed to the ferry, grabbed a pretzel before getting on board and took a relaxing ride over to Staten Island. I was told by a few people that this was a great way to see the Statue of Liberty for free and it only took an hour there and back so it was definitely worth it since we were in the area anyway. After the ferry we hadn't got any plans so we looked on our map to see what was in the area. We decided to walk to Wall street just to see it and then on to the World Trade Center memorial. On the way we stopped off at Eataly in Westfield World Trade Center to get some lunch which was delicious. 

It felt very surreal being at Ground Zero. I didn't really think about how it would feel being there, but looking up at the Freedom Tower and all of the surrounding buildings all I could do was imagine what it was like that day. I really didn't expect to feel as emotional as I did, but seeing where the towers were and how big the memorials are with all of the names around them, it was overwhelming. 

We saw the Oculus and were intrigued so we wandered in and had a look around the shops and got some coffee. The Oculus, which I hadn't heard of before is essentially a giant, crazy looking train station/shopping centre. There was a Sephora there which I of course had to have a look around, but I got overwhelmed with everything and left without buying anything. 

After doing a lot of walking we got the Subway home and that night we went out to a restaurant called Salt and Bone which had literally just opened in Astoria. More on that in my food post!

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As you can see, our third day was spent exploring Central Park on what was one of the hottest days of our trip. I was incredibly excited to visit Central Park, it was high up on my list of must-see places (obviously). We strolled through the park to the Bethesda Fountain and then to Strawberry fields and the Imagine mosaic. We exited at the northwest corner of the park to see the Dakota hotel where John Lennon and Yoko Ono lived (and where John was murdered, morbid!). It was great to see a building with such a rich history having been built in 1882. Some of the early photos of it are crazy because there were no buildings around it and now it's probably one of the smallest buildings in the area. 

We got pizza for lunch again and Pinkberry for dessert which was such a relief in that heat (I think it got up to about 28 degrees that day). We went home early because Simon had booked us tickets to the Secret Loft comedy show in Brooklyn that night. 

We got the subway to the Jefferson Street station in Bushwick and walked around for a bit taking photos of the graffiti. We then went for food in Tres Hermanos, a little Mexican place and then onto a bar for some drinks before the show. This was one of those hugely trendy events where they email you on the day to tell you where the address of the place is. We walked around some quiet streets in Bushwick looking for this "secret loft" and I was getting a bit worried but we found it and it ended being such a fun night with beer and free pizza in some guy's converted loft with about 6 or 7 hilarious female and male comedians. We got an uber home because it was only a 20 minute drive back to Astoria and it was quite late so we didn't want to navigate the subway when we were so tired. If you get a chance I'd highly recommend getting tickets for the Secret Loft. I think it's on once a month but it's such a fun and inexpensive night out and it was such a unique experience for us. 

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I hope this wasn't too long and boring, I hope if you made it this far you enjoyed my recap of the first few days of our trip. I'm so excited to share the rest of the photos and our experiences. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask, hopefully some of this was helpful if you're planning a trip to New York.

I'm hoping to have part two next week so keep and eye out for that!

Emma x

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