In true Throwback Thursday fashion, I am going to share with you -over the next few weeks- some trips and things that I have done, been to etc. that happened pre ClaireySweetie which I feel I can’t not possibly share with you. I don’t have regrets but it is unfortunate that this blog wasn’t up and running back when these things took place but Amen to Throw Back Thursday eh!
We’re kicking off the #tbt series with my two visits to New York City! Enjoy.
I first ventured across the Atlantic to New York City back in October 2007, I was 20; Mum and I decided to finally go for it and booked the trip and saved hard for the months following until departure. Back then the exchange rate was amazing -$2 to the £1 so £500 of spending money turned into $1000! The second time it wasn’t quite so great but still, my first tip when going to the states is save save save! The clothing particularly is so cheap and when you visit somewhere as amazing as NYC, the site seeing is fabulous but the shopping is better. It’s worth going without for a few months before jetting off; you won’t regret it!
Although the shopping was important, my first trip was all about the NYC experience and doing as the tourists do -Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Central Park, Grand Central Station and the like.
We stayed at the Ameritania hotel situated not far from Broadway which was a lovely hotel. For breakfast we ventured into the city as most of the hotels don’t include brekkie but I wouldn’t worry about this, there are tons of places that will fill this void. The first morning I couldn’t finish my pancakes -they were huge- but I managed every other day of the holiday. The trick is once you know how big they are, you can mentally prepare yourself in advance. You also do so much walking you burn it off in no time! We never bothered with lunch -maybe just a light snack and a coffee/hot chocolate somewhere- and ventured out for dinner in the evenings. NYC caters for everyone!
For shopping, I am not going to state the obvious (it’s amazing!!) but where to go is kind of down to personal preference. One place I will absolutely insist you go to is Woodbury Common -a huge shopping outlet about an hour out of the city. You have to go here, I can’t emphasise this enough. You can buy Greyhound tickets before hand or on the day but you need to get up and down to the bus station early so you can enjoy a full day of shopping. Trust me, you need to go there!
When we visited it had been 5 years since September 11th and the city was only just in the beginnings of recovery -if such a thing can ever be said- and a pit still remained where the two towers had once stood. The area was still mostly fenced off but we managed to peek through a gap to see what was left. It’s a difficult thing Ground Zero… it’s a place of immense grief as well as being a site for tourists, of course that is what it has always been but it’s different now; you don’t look up anymore. Everyone visiting NYC has to go and see it, but as a sign of respect, not a photo opportunity.
Central Park is massive, you’ll never see it all. We left walking around until the last day of the trip while we killed time before we had to go to the airport. I insisted we hunted down two statues –Balto (Google it) and Alice in Wonderland which took us a while to find but we got there eventually and in my opinion, so worth seeking out.
At the airport before we flew home, Mum and I sat talking to a soldier from Texas about to do his first tour to Afghanistan; something he felt extremely motivated to do following September 11th despite leaving behind a family; he was in his 40s. Since that meeting I have never forgotten him and I know Mum is the same, we often wonder if he made it home safe and sound.
The second time I went to NYC -again with Mum- was in December 2009; we both wanted to experience Christmas in the city so off we jetted once more staying this time at the The Paramount Hotel (just off Times Square). As we had visited all the sites before, this visit really was all about the shopping and getting to do those little things that on a first trip you run out of time (and money) to experience. Having already visited we already had the knowledge of which shops and places demanded our time more… here’s another tip: the hype about Macy’s -in my opinion- is ridiculously overrated, Bloomingdales is where it all happens and where to spend your money over the two department stores. Opinion will differ here, mind. My favourite store is American Eagle, I just totally love their clothes and accessories and never come away having spent less than $200!
On this visit we took the time to get to the parts of the city that we missed first time (like the financial district) and also to see the areas that did something special at that time of year such as seeing the mahoosive Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center, and visiting Tiffany’s. We also caught a show -‘White Christmas‘ which seemed the perfect choice- and took a carriage ride around Central Park. We wanted to go ice skating as well but turned it down upon seeing the price; it didn’t seem value for money unfortunately. Of course though we still outlined a day to travel out to Woodbury Common!
Being over 21 we were now able to go to a bar in the evening but shit me, their spirit measures are vastly different to the UK, that or this particular bar was just incredibly generous?! Let me explain. We ventured to a little place not far from our hotel called ‘Don’t Tell Mama‘ (a piano bar) where many of the staff are actors between stints on Broadway so you are treated throughout the evening to performances. For drinks I kept it simple and ordered a vodka and coke but one sip and I reeled at the taste. Mum thought I was just being a wimp but after she took a sip she almost fell off her chair, I swear my drink was 90% vodka with a couple of squirts of coke, it was so strong I can’t tell you! Mum had to order another coke and I spent the rest of the evening trying to dilute the vodka, ha!
Ground Zero -now 9 years on- was different, it had progressed but pictures and messages of grief and sorrow still lined the walls of buildings nearby; it’s impossible to still not get a little choked up. The area had developed massively but despite this it’s still a place of huge loss and no matter what they build to remember it, the horror of it all will never fully be masked.
I think, if you want a proper magical experience, visit NYC at Christmas and time it well with some kind of sale weekend if possible -maybe not Black Friday though, that’s a bit too extreme but good luck all the same! Remember: You must go to Woodbury Common, in fact if you go anywhere in the USA always seek out the outlet stores; the bargains to be had are immense especially when those places have sales!
New York City is just an incredibly incredible place. You go once and you’ll want to go twice. Would I go again for a third time? …In an instant!
Let me know if any of you been to New York!
Until next time x