New York has always been one of those places on my travel bucket list.
Growing up, I was convinced I was going to move there to live permanently even though I’d never even stepped foot in the United States until I turned 21! With 2016 geared up to be a big year for us, James and I decided to book a well-deserved holiday and finally experience what New York City had to offer.
The holiday definitely started on a high note. We descended into JFK airport at sunset, witnessing the incredible skyline of New York City backlit by a hazy orange glow. Genuinely no iPhone photo from a plane window would ever do this moment justice (although you know I was trying my best through that little porthole!) Catching yellow taxi to the Hotel Roosevelt in Midtown, we were within walking distance of pretty much everything in Manhattan and planned to take in as much as we could.
We’d done a lot of planning in the run up to our holiday, but my main objectives were to experience Broadway, food, shopping and architecture! We’d booked a couple of things in advance, but the majority of our trip was left as flexible as possible so we could pick our experiences as they were presented to us.
Broadway was everything I’d hoped for and then some! We’d decided very early on that we wanted to see Cirque’s Paramour, so we had booked this before we left. Somehow, we’d ended up with VIP upgraded tickets, which got us into the VIP lounge pre-show along with complimentary glasses of fizz to enjoy during he show! The Lyric theatre was stunning and the show was perfect – the right balance of musical and circus show to keep us on our toes. James also surprised me with a souvenir programme, which came with a downloadable version of the soundtrack for us to listen to. It actually turned out that we were in New York during Broadway week, so they had plenty of 2 for 1 tickets on sale for a variety show. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the advert for this until halfway through the week and already filled our evening schedule, otherwise I reckon we’d have gone to see a few more shows. If you happen to be in New York in September, definitely check out Broadway Week and Off-Broadway Week for special offers.
As for food, our friends had given us plenty of pre-trip pointers on where to eat! We checked out Daisy May’s BBQ – the ribs and the sweet potato/banana mash are definitely worth a try – and the 24 hour Tick Tock Diner opposite Penn Station for blueberry pancakes all round. ‘Grabbing a slice’ of pizza was actually a little harder than I think we’d both expected it to be in New York, but on the two occasions we did find pizza, it was delicious!
Finding New York cheesecake was definitely a priority. Having realised we were nowhere near an shop or a cheesecake factory as expected, we did a quick Google search of ‘best cheesecake in New York’ and stumbled across Junior’s in Times Square – and it was seriously good cheesecake! The other priority was pancakes and the best ones in town were the cinnamon swirl stack at Lexington Brass. I feel I may be talking about those pancakes for a while they were that good.
The rest of the week, James was in charge of booking us in for dinner and picked some incredible places. We celebrated our anniversary at Gaonnuri – a top floor authentic Korean restaurant just off Times Square – with a pancake sampler to start followed by a table bbq for two. Our favourite meal of the week had to be Club A Steakhouse. The name really doesn’t do this place justice – it is super swanky with great service and the perfect atmosphere for a special date night. The prime porterhouse for two was spot on, as were our sides. We also got to sample some of the chef’s best dishes and desserts, as well as a champagne mojito that literally blew my mind it was so good.
Architecture is one of my passions, so I was really excited to see the Chrysler, Empire State and Statue of Liberty. The views from the Empire State building were breathtaking – and having opted to take the Statue of Liberty cruise tour towards the end of the week, we couldn’t believe our luck to find ourselves witnessing three US Ospreys circling round the statue on watch.
Shopping, as it turned out, was not going to feature highly on our to do list over the week. With Brexit causing a massive drop in the pound against the dollar, everything was significantly more expensive. That being said, we still visited a few specific stores. Sephora got a huge chunk of my holiday budget after finally getting my hands on the Kat Von D and Pat McGrath collections. We also took a tour of Tiffany & Co’s flagship store, which was as incredible as you’d expect. Poor James got dragged through the engagement ring floor so I could look at all the sparkly diamonds and satisfy my magpie tendencies. The real highlight of the store, however, was their incredible customer service and impressive subtle selling and skills. Oh, their marketing is very clever. I definitely learned a thing or two about my own business from my experience at Tiffany’s.
Instead of shopping, we spent most of our days exploring the museums and galleries that New York had to offer. Purchasing New York City passes, we had fast track, discounted entry into several attractions, including the Guggenheim, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Natural History and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. The Museum of Natural History was a definite highlight of the week, even beating the London museum. I spent a good hour taking photographs in the gem room (magpie tendencies again) before heading up to see the dinosaurs on the top floor.
One of the key objectives on James’ list was to go and watch a game at one of the stadiums whilst we were there. Although ice hockey would have been his preference, it was out of season, so we opted instead to go and see the Jets play the Bengals at the MetLife Stadium just outside of New York City. Having left buying our tickets until literally the morning of the game, we managed to get great tickets for a fraction of the price we would have paid in advance. And they really were great seats!
Whilst the game was an amazing experience, the best part of the day for me was the atmosphere. From the incredible tailgate parties in the parking lot before the game to the fully involved spectators (FIRST DOWN!) the atmosphere really cannot be likened to anything I’ve experienced in the UK. And yes, they really do know how to do snack food!
Of course, we had to see a burlesque show whilst we were out there, so James and I booked tickets to go to The Slipper Room on Sunday night. A very intimate affair, we found ourselves less than a metre from the front of the stage. This, of course, meant that James was subject to being picked on by the host Johnny Porkpie and got pulled up on stage. This seems to have become a regular occurrence for him. I fear this may be the very last time James to see a burlesque show with me…
On the Friday, we booked Amtrak tickets for a day trip to Washington DC. Grabbing an early morning train gave us about 7-8 hours of exploring time, in which we managed to see the White House, walk through the Constitutional Gardens over to the Lincoln Memorial and then back past the Reflecting Pool, WWII Memorial and Washington Memorial before spending the afternoon wandering down National Mall. The Smithsonian Institution offered so many incredible museums to visit, although realistically we only had time to do one that afternoon. In the end, we chose the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum as my parents had recommended going to see the original Apollo 11 command module. There is also a planetarium in the museum, which we paid to go into and relive our childhood memories of visiting the London Planetarium in Baker Street, which sadly closed back in 2006.
Saving the best news for last, the ultimate highlight of our holiday was GETTING ENGAGED! Thank you to everyone who has called or left messages of congratulations, I’ve had a permanent smile on my face at work all week and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in with some wedding planning soon!