Emily Luxton runs one of my favourite travel blogs and she kindly let me right an entry for her “Postcard From…” feature on my trip to New York. Thanks Emily!
Rachel is a 24 year old travel enthusiast from Kent in England. Over the last year she has gone from English Literature Graduate to London professional. She created the blog Rachel Tries Life to share her adventures and musings about anything from living in London, cooking up new recipes in the kitchen, to travelling the globe. You can get in touch with Rachel on Twitter and Instagram @Racheltrieslife.
Welcome to Postcard From, Rachel! Where have you been lately?
On 18th November Sharni, a friend of mine and I, caught an eight hour flight over the Atlantic for a four day city break in New York. We had a good planning session before we left to make sure we’d be able to fit in everything we wanted to do from the Statue of Liberty, Times Square and Central Park whilst of course leaving ourselves with plenty of time for shopping! I had been once before when I was a teenager but the neck-achingly tall sky scrapers and bright lights still managed to make me giddy with excitement.
New York is, in part, exactly what you would expect it to be; vibrant, busy, and full of fast food and fast moving people. However it is also charming, logical (sometimes I wish London was set out on a grid!) and broken into areas which have their own distinct quirks and personality.
Put quite simply, I love it!
New York in November – that sounds chilly!
Everyone had been warning us about how cold New York is at this time of year so we were ready for brutal minus temperatures, especially with reports of huge snow fall in other parts of the state. In reality it wasn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be. Yes it was cold and yes we both invested in new woolly hats from Century 21 (US’s answer to TK Maxx) which were a much needed investment but actually, the sun was shining every day we were there and when the wind died down it was really quite pleasant. The Staten Island Ferry trip was the only time we felt completely frozen to our bones!
That’s lucky. I visited in February a few years ago and remember being frozen all the time! Where did you stay?
We stayed in a little studio apartment in Efuru Guest House just north of Central Park in Harlem. Many people would warn you against staying in this part of the city and if you’ve got a bigger budget than ours there are swankier places you can find closer into the centre of Manhattan but it suited our needs perfectly. We were five minute’s walk from the express metro station that got us to Times Square within fifteen minutes, it was warm and comfortable and the house manager was incredibly friendly and helpful. If you research exactly where you are going to be and pay attention to the reviews online, Harlem is a good cheaper alternative to the big hotels. I wouldn’t encourage you to walk around on your own late at night but I wouldn’t recommend doing that in any city.
Very good advice – and I often find that areas like that aren’t always as bad as their reputation! So, what did you get up to in the Big Apple?
We split up our trip to focus on a different area each day. On Wednesday we started by going down town and caught the Staten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty. The rest of the day we spent winding our way through Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho and Greenwich Village, we also stopped by Ground Zero, the 9/11 memorial which I recommend everyone go, it’s too important to miss out!
The second day we dedicated to Macy’s and 5th Avenue which burnt a rather large hole in our pockets and in the evening we went to see the musical Kinky Boots on Broadway which was absolutely fantastic and I would thoroughly recommend it. It absolutely deserved every one of the six Tony Awards it won in its first year.
On Friday we unleashed our inner tourists and did the rounds of Grand Central Station which is currently holding a Christmas market, the Chrysler Building, we went to the Top of the Rock observation deck in the Rockefeller Centre and to Times Square. A long day that we finished by going to see a comedy show at the New York Comedy Club – be warned though, you can get a good deal on tickets but there is a two drink minimum in the club and the drinks are a little pricey!
On our last day we finished off our shopping and had lunch in Hooters, which is as “tacky and unrefined” as their slogan says but their own awareness of this gives the whole place a great sense of humour. We spent our last afternoon in Central Park. We took a rickshaw ride around to all of the famous sites with an incredibly knowledgeable guide who explained to us the history of the park and about all the buildings around its perimeter and gave us plenty of opportunities to stop and take photos. You get far more for your money with this experience than taking one of the horse drawn rides around the park which last for a fraction of the time.
Then we hopped in a yellow cab with our significantly heavier bags back to JFK!
I loved Hooters – fabulously tacky! What was your highlight in NYC?
The whole trip was incredible but there are a few things that stand out for me. Firstly the view from the Top of the Rockefeller Centre is just incredible. You shoot up 67 floors in a lift and climb the next 2 floors for panoramic views of the entire city. We chose to do this rather than the Empire State Building and were not disappointed.
Kinky Boots is definitely a highlight in my books as I’m a big theatre fan and really hope it makes its way over to the West End.
My other favourite was Central Park. It’s so different from the skyscrapers and hectic bustle of the rest of the city, especially at this time of year when the ice skating rink is up and there’s a big pile of autumn leaves to jump in.
Did you hunt out any good food while you were in New York?
We didn’t focus on the food as much as we thought we were going to. We got so caught up in everything else we were doing we inadvertently became true New Yorkers in our eating habits, just grabbing on the go pretzels and burritos than actually sitting down for proper meals.
I would however recommend Andi’s Deli on the corner of Broadway and Reade Street for a fab burrito and Hooters do some fabulous sticky BBQ chicken wings!
My other recommendation that we discovered too late is the real food market underneath the Time Warner Centre which on the South West corner of Central Park. It’s an amazing little supermarket and deli full of fresh produce utilised by many locals.
Did you have any disasters on your trip?
We had an almost disaster on our way to see Kinky Boots. We realised after popping home to drop off our day’s purchases that the show actually started half an hour earlier than we thought. Which was fine, we’d allowed ourselves plenty of time to get there, or so we thought.
When we wound our way to 42nd street, the strip that is home to all the Broadway shows, the theatre which our booking confirmation had stated was actually home to Motown the Musical, we started to panic. After asking someone nearby who was as much use as a chocolate teapot, we re-read our confirmation which we realised had the names of two theatres. We made a beeline for the other theatre where, thankfully, we saw the huge red boots glistening up in lights that meant we had found the right place.
We sat down, a little puffed, just on time for 7pm!
Phew! Do you have any tips or advice for anyone headed to NYC?
If you’re going to be visiting New York for a few days then my biggest recommendation would be to make yourself an itinerary and research the places you want to go. This really helped us make sure we weren’t going to miss out on anything we really wanted to see. We moved things around and adapted it to each day but we came back feeling like we’d got the most out of our time there.
Other more specific tips would be:
- Take the Staten Island Ferry. You will get offers of tourist boat trips that will take you out to Liberty Island but you will need to pay for this privilege, whereas the commuter ferry is absolutely free and not only do you get a great view of the State of Liberty but a great shot of the Brooklyn Bridge too!
- If you want to climb something tall to get a great view, I would recommend doing the Rockefeller Centre over the Empire State building. This way you still get an amazing panoramic of the city with the Empire State Building in your view! I would also recommend booking this in advance either online or in person and coming back though as you’ll have a while to wait if you just join the queue.
- If you want to take ride around Central Park the rickshaws are for more worth your dollar than the horse carriage rides. You get a much longer ride with tours lasting about an hour and a half usually, you get all of the knowledge of your guide and they also allow you time to get off and take photos at the iconic spots. Although the horse carriage rides have that more romantic element they only last around 15 minutes, you don’t get all the detail the rickshaw drivers can give you and you don’t get the photo opportunities.
And to wrap up, my newest (and favourite) question; what were you reading on your trip?
I just finished The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. It is narrated by a 39 year old autistic university professor who is not aware he is autistic, and the project he designs to find himself a wife when he meets the unlikely and incompatible Rosie. It is really funny and I’d recommend it to anyone and the characters even take a trip to New York so was great timing with my travels!