Cool air hits my face as I emerge from the baking subway. Pressed against a pitched black sky, bright, glowing billboards scale the towering building, confusing every sense. Suddenly the gentle humming of the trains down below are drown out by the roaring river of people filtering down every steet. Precise timing is needed to join the correct current or risk being swept away, suitcase and all. It’s different. It’s overwhelming. It’s not home.
I have just returned from a three day stint in the magical city of New York. A trip I have wanted to go on for years and finally got around to booking way back in January. This was to be my first time in America, my first long haul flight and all on my own.
New York has always felt like an unreachable place. A city confinded only to the TV shows and movies, with very few of my friends or family mading the trek across the atlantic. In my head, it was a place I knew so much about, so many routes through central park and the maze of blocked streets. A place famous for it’s numerous landmarks that were scattered across the combination of islands. And I was about to set my very english feets on it’s surface.
I shall start my globe trotting tales with the first ‘first’ of my trip: The flight. The longest I have ever traveled on a plane is about 2.5hours when I flew to the Cheque Republic at the begining for 2018. A budget airline with the bare minimals to get from A to B. It’s wasn’t awful but you got what you paid for. For New York, I was flying with Virgin Alantic. I knew in advance that I would get a meal during the flight as I had pre-selected it months ago to limit any stress or anxiety might have been feeling regard food. Other than that, the whole experiance would be new and exciting. As you may know, I absolutly love freebies. Anything free, even if it’s just the illution that it’s free. So you can imagine the pure delight that spread across my face when I noticed a free pillow and blanket on my allocated seat. Utter heaven. The flight took off without a hitch and an array of movies were available on the little TV in front of me. I usually like to read a book during flights but like a typical tech obsessed zombie, I was lured to screen. The lady next to me however had decided to bring a book with her and was taking notes. I later noticed that the books title was “One Million Followers“…
As planned, food arrived and we were all kept watered during the 8 hours flight. Much to my suprise, We were also offered afternoon tea which, of course I gladly accepted. Pre-loading on free food meant I didn’t need to buy anything once I arrived so bonus all round.
The moment I left the airport and boarded the subway was when reality hit me that I was not only 4000miles away from home but also completely on my own. To get to the hostel, I needed to catch two connecting trains, meeting at 42nd street, otherwise known as Times Square. The above snippet accurately describes the moment I emerged from the station and entered the very real hustle and bustle of New York City. There were people everywhere I looked: tourists, workers, police and many, many homeless people were just a few that made up the streams of bodies that ran down each side of the road.
Seeing the flashing billboards stacked along all the buildings however, was such a sight to behold. Dispite the light pollution and the advertising being so big it was practically imprinting on my brain, it was oddly beautiful. The multicoloured flashes and videos baited passersby like captivated moths to a flickering flame. In some ways we were caught in a pitfall trap of advertising, struggling to find the way out. You may find a road, only for it to further tempt us into buying more stuff we don’t need and can’t really afford.
After taking some obligatory photos, I make my way to Hi NYC Hostle, my home for the next few nights. As hostels go, it was pretty decent. I only needed a bed for the night and somewhere I can occasionally bathe. The staff were all very helpful and my constant questions about activities around the city isn’t phase them. My temporary home was also only a few blocks away from Central Park.
My first full day was going to be my busiest. Heading out just after 7am, I made my way to Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. I was 8 years old when the Twin Towers were attacked and I can remember sitting in our living room with my mum, watching as the towers collapse. Every year, I watch the documentaries around the anniversary so while I wasn’t personally effected, like millions around the world who watched it, I feel a connection and a duty to pay my respects. Nothing quite prepared me for the surge of emotions I would feel walking around the memorial waterfalls. Roses were being planted into the names of the fallen, a tradition to mark their birthdays and nothing could be heard apart from the running water and distance beeping of car horns. The 9/11 Memorial Museum was just as touching. Several floors dedicated to the disaster, from the moment they were built, the 1993 bombings, that fateful day in september to the construction of ground zero. It was a lovely tribute and despite being almost 20 years later, it has never lost relevancy. I feel privileged to have been able to see it.
Later on that day, I walked down towards Battersea Park and the Staten Island ferry port. I had been adviced that catching the free ferry would be the best (and cheapest) way to see the Statue of Liberty in all her glory. You might remember that I am not a huge fan of open water and so boats are my least favourite mode of transport. However, there was no way I was going to compromise my experiance in NYC, especially as I was only in the city for a few days. As the big, bright orange ferry pulled into the port, goosebumps were running down my back. We filed in as if waiting to be evaluated and took a seat. Much to my surprise, the journey was a lot smoother and quicker than I had been expecting. Luckily the weather had held out to we were able to capture numerous photos of lady liberty framed by a stunning skyline. Throughout my whole New York experience, this was by far the most peaceful.
Once back on land following the return ferry trip, I decided to go for a wander around the streets of the world’s busiest city. I posed in front of the Brooklyn bridge (a bridge I usually see getting destroyed in any horror movie set New York.) As bridges go, it was rather pretty and traditional. I proceeded to get lost in China town for around two hours, thinking I knew where I was but limited by the lack of WiFi or mobile data. Somehow I managed to make my way back to the hostel after accumulating an ungodly amount of steps throughout the day. That evening, Hi NYC hosted a little comedy night down in the celler. I think it’s safe to say that American humour is very difficult to British humour and it was really the audience who received the most laughs. It was an enjoyable experience all the same.
The following day was again, jam packed of touristy things I wanted to do. First on my list was to explore central park. None of the movies or TV show can accurately portray how large central park actually is. I found a map and thought I had just walked around the big reservoir when in fact it was a smaller pond.
If I had received a dollar for every runner I saw in central park, it would have paid for my whole trip. It was crazy. It was also quite nice to see some animals amongst the swarm of people. I filtered my way down the park with the hopes of finding the Rockefeller center next. Little did I know that I had taken a wrong turning and ended lost again for several hours in 27 degree humidity. It was around about this time that I started to feel quite unwell and had to sit in the middle of a not to busy street. Not my finest moment. The date today was September 11th and while I was lost, I witnessed a line of motorcyclists from several different police and fire departments from around the state, riding in tribute for those killed 18 years ago. I had read about this procession while at the memorial museum. Every year members of the police, fire and healthcare departments ride from the crash site of United 93 in Pennsylvania to the pentagon and then finish at ground zero. It was very moving and must have been over a mile long.
Eventually I came across the Rockefeller center. Another one of NYC’s stunning landmarks, I was greated by a lobby of black and gold. Very classy and very dignified. This was everything you would expect from an upper class shopping centre and nothing you would expect from a tourist attraction, yet it delivered. Top of the Rock had also been suggested to me before I arrived as an ideal place to see New York from above as well as an opportunity to see the equily tall Empire State buliding. After going through security and a brief history of the centre, myself and several other tourists hopped into an elevator and began our 66 floor ascent. Less than a minute later we were on the first of 3 levels in the sky lobby. With the tempratures still unbareable, I only managed a few minutes outside before I needed to retreat and cool off. However, those few minutes each time were as breath taking as the last. The first two levels have glass protective panels preventing you from falling off but as the third level is smaller and doesn’t over hang, you were able to see the city exactly as it is. It is beautiful. One of the oddest things is seeing central park. Looking so isolated and lost within the concrete jungle. It is the lost land of time before humans tooks over.
I decided to revisit Times Square that evening, this time leaving my suitcase at the hostel. By this time I had gotten somewhat used to the basics of getting around the city. I had mastered the subway and knew to avoid speaking as to not catch the attention of any con artists praying on tourists. I took this opportunity to explore the Disney store and the huge M&M store. Both were magnificant but the M&M store was a bit more in my price range and there wasn’t as much… up selling. One Disney employee just wouldn’t accept that I wasn’t interesting in buying some earring that were 25% cheaper in store than in the Disney parks…
As dawn broke on my final day, I chose to spend most of the day in a more relax state. At this point, very sleep deprived and exhusted from the late nights and constant walking. I bid farewell to the hostel and once again began on my escapades around NYC. I hadn’t eaten much american food, so I ventured down to the lower east side in surch for a very large sandwich. Katz Deli to be precise. The legendary deli has featured on several different TV shows and I would have been a fool not to share the experiance. Nothing quite prepared me for the size of my pastrami sandwich which was more meat than bread. Cooked to perfection, the beef just fell apart and paired with a pickle or two, was a meal fit for a king. I could’t quite finish the entire sandwich but I gave it my all.
The rest of the day was spend back at Battersea park, watching the boats and ferrys crossing the Hudson river before heading to the airport. I needed this peace. New York City is an amazing place. Absolutely amazing and I am so proud of myself for going all that way on my own. In hindsight, it would have been nice to share the experiance with someone else and perhaps speak more than a few words a day but I got to go somewhere very few people I know have been. I got to see and smell the sights of NYC. I became part of the crowd, the stream of people. One more little ant towered over by buildings touching the sky. I was overwhelmed, I cried, I almost fainted but I did it. All, me.
I have not been paid to promote any of the companies featured in this blog. All opinions are my own and are honest to how I felt.