New York, I love you but you’re bringing me down
Bringing me down because I’m back in England and I miss you, but New York, you were insane. (Check the tune out as well, 10/10 would recommend.)
Anyway, as I mentioned in my last blog post I went to New York for my 21st birthday which just so happens to fall three days before christmas, meaning my first trip to New York would be over the holidays! So many ticks on that non-existentent but equally mental bucket list.
We’ll ignore how much it costs to go at that time of year and how my hotel was seconds from Times Square, but I only went for five days because I went by myself. My logic was, being by myself, I’d get a lot more done because there was no one else to compromise with, everything was how and when I wanted to do so. It was a whirlwind five days and I’ve realised that you could live in New York, spend a lifetime there, and that would probably still not be enough time to explore everything this place has to offer.
Given it was my first time there, I wanted to get done all the touristy things. I’m a sucker for that sort of stuff, and I really love museums and galleries, so what an absolute field day I had. Although, I only managed to visit the Guggenheim, the American Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Modern Art. I spent over two hours in each which was not enough, I would have preferred a good half a day/full in each, but time was not something I had. Just means I need another trip back, right? Which will be on the cards for another day!
As I mentioned, December is a very expensive time to go to New York from England, so I booked my flights from Dublin which saved me a few hundred. With that in mind, I planned to spend a weekend in Dublin beforehand to make the most of being there rather than just a layover. Keep your eyes peeled as I’m going to have a separate post for Dublin!
I flew into JFK and I’d recommend checking out this website for shuttle buses to and from your hotel. Taxis are a flat rate from JFK at $70 I believe, and a £40 return was a lot more budget friendly for me! I stayed in Hotel Edison which was seconds from the hustle and bustle of Times Square. I only went properly into Times Square a handful of times because this place was teeming. It was pretty magnificent though, there was no doubt about that.
I purchased a three day New York Pass before I arrived and this is something I’d recommend if you plan on doing a lot of touristy things. I did get 20% off and it cost me just short of $200 which sounds like a lot, but it more than paid for itself with everything I did. It gives you free entry into over 80 attractions, although the One World Observatory isn’t included (that was the only thing I paid for) but if you use it, it’s more than worth it. Included with the pass is a 48 hour pass for the Big Bus Tours which offers a hop on hop off service for four (I believe) different routes- Uptown, Midtown, Downtown and Brooklyn. Conveniently how I planned to split my trip, bar Brooklyn, there was just no time.
My first full day I went downtown, I did three skyscrapers on that day and had a banging headache to show for it, and three different but amazing views! I started with the Empire State Building. I actually got really lucky with the weather during my stay. It was cold, like minus temperatures but so sunny everyday! The observation decks were blinding. I then saw one of my favourite buildings ever- the Flat Iron building! I find it so funny, I absolutely love it, it’s hilarious.
I continued heading downtown towards the 9/11 Memorial which really was something. If you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean but it’s quite eerie. It was very chilling but equally as beautiful, I can’t really explain. I think it was the flowers in the names of those whose birthday it was that day. Behind it is the Oculus which is a train station and loads of high end shops. In a weird way, it reminded me of a spine and some ribs. I really liked it though, it was pretty weird. Skyscraper number two, aka the One World Trade Center had views for days. Like I mentioned, this wasn’t included in my pass and entry was around $37 if memory serves me correctly, beyond worth it though. It’s a 360 view at the top and I believe it’s a fifty miles radius you can see. It was absolutey crazy, the views speak for themself and the camera doesn’t do them justice.
The final skyscraper of the day was the Rock. I’d decided between the Rock and the Empire State Building that I was going to go up one in the day and the other at night, and this was the way it fell. I think it was a good shout and you can see the Empire State from the Rock. This was nearly a ten minute walk from my hotel and it was amazing. Amazing is very much a key theme in the Big Apple. As cliche as it is, I just felt so inspired being there, I actually struggle to put it into words. That famous Christmas tree and ice skating rink in the Rockefeller Plaza, it was nice but after seeing it in films, most noticably, Home Alone 2, I expected it to be a lot bigger than it was. Slightly disappointing but it was still pretty.
My next full day I spent Uptown, including going past the Dakota building (where Lennon was shot), around Harlem and back down museum mile to name a few. I actualy stayed on the bus for nearly it’s entire journey so I saw a lot before getting off at the Guggenheim. I’d wanted to go inside that place for years, it’s just so clever, like the architecture is incredible outside but inside is just something else. I then walked through Central Park to find my way back to Strawberry Fields and the bus stop outside of the Dakota building. This was the first and last time I didn’t get lost in Central Park, and that happened to me a few times to say the least.
I got back on the bus and went back Uptown, past everything I’d already seen. It’s pretty amazing how you can see something or do the same route many times, but every time it’s different. That’s the vibe I got around New York. In the freezing temperatures as we pulled up towards the Cathedral Of Saint John the Divine, I debated actualy getting off and going inside or just going past it for a second time. A very big ‘ahh sod it’ as the bus stopped and I’m glad I did. If you know me, you’ll know how much my athiest self enjoys and appreciates the architecture and interior of places of worship- this was certainly not one to disappoint. Also inside to go along with the festivities was the peace tree- a christmas tree decorated with paper cranes. That was pretty impressive.
I spent all of my evenings exploring midtown, purely because it was close to home and there was so much to do and see, especially given it was christmas. This light display from Lord & Taylor on Fifth Ave was unreal, walking under it with buskers around was just something out of a film, it truly was!
My 21st birthday I decided was going to be a museum day. I’d used up my 48 hours of the Big Bus and didn’t want to purchase another 24 hours. I can’t even explain how easy New York was to navigate, especially given how much I’d mental mapped from the buses. I knew where I was going and how to get there. I started with the American Museum of Natural History and that was amazing. I was there pretty much as it was opening and it was heaving, also with about fifty school trips going on as well. I only spent a good couple of hours there due to time but saw all the exhibitions that I wanted to- the American mammals, ocean, space, northwest coast Indians and the dinosaurs. Just incredible. Especially the life size blue whale, that was beyond a highlight. The oragami christmas tree was pretty spectacular as well.
Excuse the pretty terrible picture. The lighting was a lot more than an iphone could handle.
Then I went to the MoMA! I was pretty excited for this because there was a Dan Flavin exhibition that I’ve wanted to see, that just so happened to coincide with my trip. The MoMA is also the home to Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’ which is an iconic piece no doubt about that, but after seeing it in the flesh, it was a lot smaller than I expected it to be. There’s also a few more Van Gogh pieces dotted about, plus an entire floor (I believe) dedicated to the 60s. Amazing. Jackson Pollock’s ‘One: Number 31’ also lives here.
Another evening stroll found me in Grand Central Terminal (if you know, you know) and the ceiling was the most impressive part of this place- alongside commuters moaning about tourists, always makes me laugh.
Finally a miscellaneous of my hotel’s decor. Edison, you were a beaut.
I’m so happy I’ve finally been to New York. Exploring it for the first time on my own was defintely the right decision for me, the place was so inspiring and I cannot wait to go back!
Bless you, Big Apple, you were a dream.