Friday 20th April 2018 - Start Spreading the news, I'm leaving today...
Before we boarded our Virgin Airways flight we booked into the VIP lounge at Manchester airport to start our trip off in style! We deffo got our money's worth. Few glasses of Prosecco for Fi and I and Whiskey for the boys along with some gorgeous food and lots of cake. A really relaxed start to the holiday. (Well...after I'd been questioned by security about my brand new hand luggage showing traces of something flammable note to self, don't bleach your toilet before you go on holiday then pick up your hand bag, apparently soap and water doesn't get bleach off.) They did see the funny side and asked me if I'd changed my bedding too - obviously, that's a yes!
Virgin were fab - my first time flying with them and the least anxious I've felt on a flight in ages ( strange for someone who spent a decade working in travel to be scared of flying, but, hey ho). I'm putting it down to the copious amounts of free wine, the anti anxiety crystal in my bra and the fact I was about to visit the city I've been dreaming of my whole life.
Flung our bags in the hotel - the Dylan - quick change then straight out to explore. Our first night in New York was spent around Times Square, on the walk up through the streets as the sun was setting, passed the Central Library, passed The Empire State Building and these amazing skyscrapers that were so tall they made my neck hurt, what struck me was the sun bouncing off the buildings as it sunk lower in the sky - this was exactly what was on the 12ft long NYC poster on my bedroom wall when I was 15, seeing the city like this took me right back to my teenage dreams that one day I'd go to New York. Finally one day had arrived.
Times Square is insane, its like an assault on the senses, your eyes, your, ears, your nose - all in a good way. It's so vibrant, full of lights, music, people and just the general vibe of excitement. The lights in Times Square are so bright it almost feels like someone's turned off the lights as you leave the square (which actually is more of a rectangle, but I guess that doesn't has the same ring!)
By this time it was 1am - 5 am back home, so we grabbed a jet lagged meal of and omelette and home fries at Scotty's diner just by our hotel, then it was straight to bed ready for our first full day tomorrow...
Today we took the Subway (get me, turning all American!) downtown to the south tip of Manhattan Island. Our plan was to get the Staten Island ferry out to Lady Liberty - and it is right about what everyone says, she's smaller than you think! She stands not far from gigantic red cranes which make me think of my Liverpool home. The queue was like everything else in this city - huge, about 3 hours, so we decided to pop back on Monday when hopefully it would be quieter. Weather is beautiful by the way, the sun is shining and it's so warm. We decided to walk along the East River to get a good view of Brooklyn Bridge. We spotted a boat ride for $2.75 which would take us up toward Central Park which was also on our plan for the day. The boat trip was awesome - it took us right under Brooklyn Bridge, the American flag blowing in the breeze (they love flying their flags over here, I like that!) Completely felt like I was in a movie. We got chatting to some locals who asked our plans, we said we were going up the Empire State Building, the suggested Top of the Rock ( Rockerfeller Centre) instead as it gave the best views of the Empire State building - oh and to go at sunset.
The park is so familiar you still feel like your in a movie, we headed into the Plaza (Home Alone) and thought we saw Rod Stewart but it was a fake! We headed back up to the hotel via 5th Ave and Tiffanys, tried a bracelet on for $3,500 - Mark disappeared at that point! (Lost in New York!!!) Our hotel is not far from the Chrysler building which looks so beautiful lit up and we are right by Grand Central Station too - a stunning building steeped in history. We headed there for Saturday night cocktails ( I know, can't imagine doing that at Lime Street!)
The building is beautiful, the 12 constellations are on the ceiling, magnificent piece of artwork. We got chatting to the manager he told us some of the history, its the 3rd most protected building in NYC and Jackie Kennedy invested a lot of money into it when it was under the threat of closure. There is a black brick in the ceiling which is a reminder of how dirty it was before it was restored. We then went to Campbell's Apartment, an exclusive cocktail lounge, also within the station. I have never been somewhere so glam and luxurious, with it's low lighting and eclectic atmosphere, the Obama's could've been sitting next to us and we wouldn't have had a clue! I felt like one of my rockstar characters. Went to bed tired but happy!
22nd April 2018 - In a New York Minute
Wow - what a day! Thought we couldn't top yesterday but New York it the city that just keeps on giving. Another beautiful day. We walked to the west side of the island and towards the HIghline - but before we did that we stopped for muffins in the meat packing district and went to Greenwich Village looking for the Friends apartment. We stopped at an artisan market (I picked up an NYC journal to write down all my memories). The Highline is fab, it's an old overhead rail track that was left to rot, it became an area for crime, then it was turned into a green space, you walk along it and just like it's old rail roots you can 'get off' at various stops. Its a weirdly peaceful calm area of an energetic city.
We also visited the Freedom Tower, the new building in the footprint of one of the World Trade towers, it was an eerie feeling as we stood in the sunshine looking up at this new building whilst standing next to the memorial, which is stunningly beautiful. It's crazy to even try and imagine what happened that day, but it felt important to visit here and acknowledge the lives lost.
The Empire State building was next on our list (FUN FACT - sandstone from Birkenhead Park was used to clad the top of the Empire State Building.) I did the Buddy the Elf thing in the revolving doors, earning me a 'look' from the security guard! In reception there is a model of the building and it highlights what colour the top will be each night - tonight is green for world earth day,
Tonight was AMAZING - we went to the Rockerfeller centre, did the tour of the history of the building, then got in the lift to the top. The lift was like going into hyper space, my ears popped, the roof of the ceiling is made from glass with fancy Star Wars effects. When we reached the top I was just speechless (a rarity for me - I know!) I have never seen anything like it, the view was breath taking and we were on top of it. The Empire State building was right in front of us bathed in green light, the sun was setting and we had a perfect birds eye view of when the day disappeared and the sun sunk into the Hudson River and New York turned on her sparkly lights. The view literally changed in a New York minute. I keep asking Mark what his favourite thing about New York is, and he keeps saying my face. I love that New York was always my dream, but he is loving it as much as me...I never want to forget this moment on top of the rock. Fi said 'This is so perfect, all, we need are fireworks.' As a cruise ship sailed by the Statue of Liberty far off in the distance - it was like the 4th July, fireworks filling the night sky. What a moment.
After all that energy and excitement we couldn't just go back to the hotel to bed, we needed to debrief and reflect on an amazing day, so we stopped for cocktails and popped in the Annie Moore bar next to our hotel (named after the first immigrant to step foot on Ellis Island - a 13 year old Irish girl). Can't believe what we've fitted in, in such a short space of time. Last full day tomorrow - need to make every moment count.
Monday 23rd April 2018 - Empire State of Mind
Last full day, but still fitted loads in. The vibe on a Monday feels different, the city feels busier, more hectic and the relaxed vibe of the weekend is replaced by people dashing around. We headed back down to Battery Park to get the ferry over to Lady Liberty - yet another b-e-a-utiful day! We were mistaken to think the queue would be smaller - if anything it was bigger. We didn't want to waste our last full day queueing (not very British of us, I Know). Si remembered seeing a water taxi when we were on the East River, you could book it on line, so we did, which gave us an hour to spare. So what else was there to do than sit in our I heart NY T-shirts at a bar on the prom with a view over to Liberty Island and drink Prosecco - there are worse ways to spend a Monday!
We had lunch again in Central Park - this time by strawberry fields, you can't be a scouser and not go there! As we walked through the park,a guy walking towards us had spotted out T.shirts and shouted 'NY hearts you, thanks for visiting our city, come back and bring your friends, all your family, bring everyone.' It made me laugh - I'd heard stories of New Yorkers being unfriendly, everyone we'd met had been lovely. Our last night in New York was spent on Broadway watching Chicago - we even had second row seats, we have felt like VIP's all through this trip. We have certainly packed loads in, love this place.
Tuesday 24th April - Concrete jungle were dreams are made
Last few hours, we had a beautiful breakfast in a restaurant opposite our hotel - I had eggs benedict, my fave. New York certainly knows how to do food well. Although we hadn't managed to find cheesecake yet. So we asked in the restaurant and the nearest place was Grand Central. So despite having only just had breakfast, we headed off to the Magnolia Bakery - the most delish cheesecake since records began
Before we knew it, our cab had arrived to take us to JFK. We drove through the concrete jungle where dreams are made and over Manhattan Bridge leaving NYC behind. I took in the view of Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty - quietly thanking them for an amazing experience. We drove through Queens, again I tried to commit the houses, schools, shops to memory. Just as we pulled into JFK I strained my neck to see if I could see any of the Manhattan skyline, but I wasn't in luck.
We sat at the airport bar, having a quick bite to eat and a drink, then it was time to board. We were lucky on the way back, we had a window seat so as we roared down the runway - the Freedom Tower, Rockerfeller Centre and Empire State building stood tall, I felt like I was watching a magical city and I had been given the keys to explore it and call it my own for 5 days. I watched as a plane came into land and now it was someone else's turn to have the key. Thank you New York, you were everything I dreamed of and more. Will I be back? You bet your bottom dollar, I'd be back in a New York Minute....