For my birthday in December, I decided to make that long wanted trip to New York. What better time to visit than for a ‘big’ birthday and New York would be buzzing for Christmas. I can’t believe it took me so long to go there! We flew from Dublin to JFK going through pre-clearance in Dublin. I was surprised to find once we got off the plane, that we were in the main terminal. No more customs or security checks to go through.
We got the air-train from the airport to the subway station and tried to figure out where we needed to go (we are used to the London tube, so how hard could it be?). It wasn’t as easy as we thought, a little confusing, but we managed eventually. It didn’t help that the subway we needed to take, wasn’t running and we had to find a bus that would bring us to another subway station. We had no idea where we were and there wasn’t much information from anyone (including the bus driver)!
Our hotel was located in midtown Manhattan and we eventually arrived there about 2:30 in the afternoon. We stayed in Executive Le Soleil on West 36th Street. The location was perfect!
The hotel was nice and our room was on the 16th floor and had the most perfect view of the Empire State Building. Now that’s a view!
Unfortunately, check-in wasn’t great, the young man behind the desk, while he wasn’t impolite, didn’t smile once and I got the vibe he didn’t like his job. Worse still, we were made to hand over $400 as a security, despite the fact, he pre-authorised my credit card for our 6 night stay. I handed over the $400 in cash, (begrudgingly) which he assured me, I would get back on checking-out. Pfft, not much good to me on the day I was leaving! There was no prior warning from the hotel, that they would do this and to be honest, $400 is a bit much! While we were waiting to check in, another couple was having the same issue, they didn’t have the money to hand over and left. I am not sure where they went and if they ended up staying there. To be honest, this ruined my first night in New York, as I was so pissed off! However, after leaving our bags to our room (no offer of help from reception man who disliked his job) we spent our first evening and night, wandering around, getting our bearings.
New York was everything I thought it would be. I felt I had been there before. However, it was only familiar because of the movies I had seen (and Sex and the City). The city is buzzing. I never expected to feel as safe there as I did. There was no-one stabbing people in the subway or shootings on the street. I felt safer in New York than I had in other places. Granted, I was in midtown.
The Rockerfeller Christmas tree is huge. It is impressive and the ice rink is full of mad people skating, it just looked so Christmassy.
Of course, we had to go to the Top of the rock to the 70th floor and got the most amazing views of New York City at night. We opted to go when it was dark to see the Manhattan in all its glory with all the lights. It was very cold, but breathtaking.
Grand Central Station
Grand Central station is beautiful. Its not just a train station, but a place to dine and shop. It is definitely the most impressive train station I have ever seen.
The Campbell Apartment is an old-fashioned cocktail bar just off Grand Central terminal. It made me feel like I was back in time to the 1930s. We had a lovely afternoon in there. I sat with notions about myself and had a couple of delicious Moscow Mules. Hubby went for the Vesper Lynd cocktails (because he is in love with Eva Green in Casino Royale….don’t ask.)
The Chrysler Building is just beside Grand Central Station and is probably my favourite building in New York City. I love that its done in the Art Deco style, my favourite. I was surprised at the amount of buildings in the Art Deco style from the Empire State Building to hotels, they were all beautiful! There is no access up to the top of the Chrysler Building for the public, but the foyer is impressive and very fancy.
New York Public Library
As we were staying just off 5th Avenue, I visited this library a couple of times. I loved it. I bought some books here and asked them to stamp them with a library stamp, which they were happy to do. There were some security checks in buildings such as the library, Trump Tower (which was very plush and had the poshest public toilets I ever saw) and St Patrick’s Cathedral. Its not surprising though, in light of everything that has happened in NYC.
There are plenty of options for shopping in NYC. Five mins walk away from our hotel was Macys. We got some great bargains there as there was an extra 30% off most things, our first day there, as well as the 20% off they already had on most things. I’d advise to go to the Visitor Centre to get extra discount on showing your passport.
Tiffanys, immortalised by Audrey Hepburn is at the end of 5th Avenue, near to Central Park. We had tried to get a breakfast in the blue box cafe there before we went to New York, but it was impossible.
Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island
The day of my birthday we got up early. In fact, we were awake at 4am, as our bodies were still on Irish time. (This was the case for the next couple of nights) We went for breakfast (really hard to find many places for breakfast), then got the subway down to Battery Park to get the ferry to Liberty Island and Ellis Island
It was a beautiful day and the ferry only takes about 20 minutes to get to Liberty Island. After spending some time on the island, we caught the ferry to Ellis Island. How weird it felt, walking where my great-grandparents and great-great grandparents had walked 100 years before.
World Trade Centre
Central Park is beautifully maintained and just off 5th Avenue. We bumped into a real interesting guy and listened to his amazing stories about his family and the Vanderbilts. He told us his great Grandfather was Frederick G Bourne, a prominent man in New York in the late 19th Century, part of the New York high society set. He told us that Robert Ludlum had based the name Bourne (Jason Bourne) on his great Grandfather. Now, I don’t know how true his stories were, but they were very entertaining! We stayed chatting to him on a bench in Central Park for about an hour.
On leaving Central Park, we walked to the Met, after about an hour, I realized I had left books on a bench in the Park! We rushed back to where I sat and couldn’t believe that my books were still there!
St Patrick’s Cathedral
St Patrick’s Cathedral is one of New York’s finest buildings, it is beautiful and located on 5th Avenue.
About 3 minutes after we left the Cathedral, I remembered I had left behind a bag on one of the pews! Oh God, not again! I rushed back in, Mass was underway and there I was walking up and down looking for my precious Tiffany bag (yes, I know! How careless! A Christmas present from hubby) No luck, I couldn’t see it anywhere! It had gone. I was raging with myself. New Yorkers had been so honest in Central Park, they hadn’t stolen my books. Now here I was, IN CHURCH, and my bag had been lifted, stolen, thieved! By someone who I had decided was not full of goodness, religiousness and honesty.
I walked back to the entrance of the church, despondent, sad at the loss of my lovely necklace (a tiffany box charm on a silver chain), completely feeling sorry for myself… and there… with security…..was the most perfect tiffany blue bag! What?! My bag was found! Hooray! Not one of the wonderful, good, honest people in that church had taken my bag after all, a lovely person had picked it up and brought it to security! Phew, I also then spotted my glasses with the bag! Jaypers, I didn’t even realise that I had left them as well!! So I grabbed them quickly and said to the Security Guard, “they’re mine as well”.
What an eejit I was! I would be lost without my glasses, how could I have not noticed I had left them behind too! When we got outside I carefully put my glasses back into its case, but errrr…….my glasses, well, they were already safely tucked in there. I had stolen someone’s glasses!! And from church!!! I would go to hell! I was so mortified I sent poor hubby back in to return them to security. I think he just thinks I am completely insane at this point.
I love New York, it was very cold (it was December after all) but so interesting and buzzy. I felt safe there and the buildings are amazing. We visited a New York City parks such as Madison Square Park, just beside the Flatiron building above which was lovely. We also really liked Bryant Park, which is behind the Library on 6th Avenue. When we were there, a Christmas market was in full swing. I will tell you, I have never seen so many Santas as I saw in New York. They were everywhere, ringing their bells. In fairness some were groups of friends/colleagues dressed as Santa hitting the pubs….sorry bars.
It is not easy to find somewhere to eat though, which is a pity. There is always at least a 45 minute wait (and queues) for any restaurants. There is no middle ground either, its either really top end Restaurants that are very expensive or burgers and pizzas. Breakfast is fine, nothing special, but they do like to overcook the bacon, now I like my bacon cooked well, but I still want to be able to put a fork in it to pick it up! I found the food to be quite expensive for ordinary plates. I don’t remember getting one decent coffee either. Cuisine in New York isn’t what you go for though I suppose. It’s a cool place & I will be back.