It might not be Thursday, but recently I’ve had a serious case of wanderlust and am therefore throwing it back to last summer, when I lived out a dream of mine – to visit New York. It’s true what they say about the city that never sleeps and I instantly fell in love. Here’s a diary of my travels.
Following a brief delay to our flight due to a problem with the engine, we arrived at JFK mid-afternoon and were promptly whisked away by a yellow taxi cab to the Lotte New York Palace [yes, the one from Gossip Girl], our residence for the week. The interior of this historic building was beautiful, the service was impeccable and our room was spacious, comfortable and, located on the 20th floor, had a wonderful view of nearby streets. I couldn’t picture myself staying anywhere else.
After checking in and unpacking, we ventured out to discover the surrounding area including the dangerously close Saks Fifth Avenue and Times Square, the second of which is by far the busiest place I’ve ever been and quite frankly makes Leicester Square look like a quaint village. I wasn’t a fan. Of all the places we visited, it’s the only one that I was truly disappointed by. I guess it’s a place you should experience, but only the once, never again.
Not long into our wander we were exhausted, returning to our hotel for the night and ordering room service for dinner.
We started our first morning in the city at Ess-a-Bagel. It wouldn’t be a trip to New York without a freshly baked bagel and this place supposedly does the best. We took them back to the hotel for breakfast al fresco in the iconic courtyard where Dan waited for Serena so many times.
We then pondered over to the Rockefeller Center and up 70 floors to the Observation Deck for an unrivalled view of the city (yes, it beats the Empire State Building hands down) and some stellar picture opportunities. Scroll back through my Instagram feed to check them out.
And on our morning of being shameless tourists, we then headed to Grand Central Station. The great thing about midtown is everything is fairly close together and, trust me, a 10 minute walk certainly beats the subway, albeit a 10 minute walk in 35°C heat. Grand Central Terminal is pretty much the most beautiful building I’ve ever been in and buzzing with life.
We spent the next few hours perusing a selection of midtown’s finest shops including Mood of Project Runway fame (I was lucky enough to run into Swatch, who is just the sweetest dog ever), Free People and Sephora. Aside from Mood, the shops were not particularly unique but simply brands I love that aren’t easily available in the UK.
We then got on the M train downtown to what felt like a completely different city and visited another favourite of mine, Glossier. The beauty brand’s showroom was a millennial pink dream! We then headed for dinner at downtown’s most Instagram-worthy restaurant, Pietro Nolita. The exterior was dreamy and, despite a few negative reviews, I thought the food was delicious and just the right portion size to fit in a trip to Dunkin Donuts for pudding afterwards.
Anybody who knows me knows I am not a morning person and on our second full day I was a bit of a brat and demanded a lazy morning. When I eventually got up we grabbed breakfast from Pomme Palais, a wonderful bakery located in our hotel, and enjoyed pastries and the most expensive orange juice I’ve ever purchased ($13, seriously?!) in the courtyard.
We then wandered round the Upper East Side for a while and visited a few Gossip Girl locations including Dylan’s Candy Bar, Lincoln Center and The Museum of the City of New York, which acted as one of the facades for Constance Billard and St Jude’s, the schools attended by Serena and company.
And, in typical Bec fashion, we spent the remainder of the day shopping on Madison Avenue and I was left pretty much wonderstruck. The collections available in these stores are truly incredible and the five-story Louis Vuitton flagship left me weak at the knees. It has also apparently replaced Rodeo Drive as the most expensive shopping street in the world, which explains my seriously drained bank on my return home.
Our time in the area ended with a trip to Sprinkles Cupcakes on Lexington Avenue for a sweet treat before we headed back to Midtown. The millennial pink bakery features a rotating menu of cupcakes, cookies and ice cream and a 24-hour cupcake ATM. Just like a bank ATM, you make your selection, swipe your credit card and your cupcake is dispensed in the sweetest pink and brown box – a truly unique experience. I chose the vegan red velvet cupcake (egg intolerance *rolls eyes*) and it was absolutely delicious with the perfect amount of sweetness and a huge dollop of frosting.
We spent a somber morning at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in Downtown Manhattan. It was a beautiful tribute to the victims of the attacks and I was in awe to see how many Americans chose to spend their fourth of July paying their respects to those who lost their lives in this tragic act of hate. One World Trade Center was also awe-inspiring and, although we didn’t visit its observation deck, I can imagine the view of Downtown being incredible.
We then caught the train back to the Upper West Side and chose to walk through Central Park to our next stop, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The stark contrast between the streets and the park was incredible and I can truly see Central Park as a place of escape and relaxation for Manhattan’s locals. At the Met, we saw Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, an exhibition I can only describe as awe-inspiring.
We enjoyed dinner at the iconic Shake Shack, which serves the best burger I’ve ever tasted then headed over to the Hudson River and 43rd Street to watch the Macy’s 4th of July Firework Show: apparently the biggest display in the country. It was super exciting to be in America for Independence Day and everyone coming together to celebrate was a really cool experience.
We started day 5 by taking the train across to Brooklyn because crossing the Brooklyn Bridge is a must-do (I mean, how else would you see all of Manhattan?) but doing it twice in 32°C heat would be ludicrous. The view from Brooklyn Bridge Park (located east of the bridge) is insanely good and great for some killer #OOTD shots. Walking along the bridge itself is tiring but, in my opinion at least, completely worth it. It’s an architectural marvel and I believe I captured some of my best pictures here.
Whilst Downtown, we also took the Staten Island Ferry for the best (and free) view of the Manhattan skyline (see first picture). Stand on the right hand side of the ferry travelling towards Staten Island or on the left travelling to Manhattan for incredible views of the New York City skyline and the Statue of Liberty, the latter of which is nice to look at from a distance but not something I specifically wanted to visit.
Staying Downtown for the rest of the day, we visited more shops and bakeries in the area. This included the Bond Street location of insta-favourite clothing brand, Reformation – a high-tech showroom featuring iPad stations allowing you to add items to a dressing room, which, once ready, revealed a closet full of your chosen items. The dressing rooms were also equipped with lighting options to create the right ambience, a phone docking station and speaker to get you in the mood and a further iPad from which you could get more clothing delivered straight into your wardrobe, Clueless-style.
We also visited Erin McKenna’s Babycakes, an allergen-free bakery and favourite of mine after visiting it for the first time in Orlando, Florida and Cupcake Market for the most epic Frida Kahlo cookie – it only felt right to be eating her face on the day before her 111th birthday!
We started our final morning at the beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral just across the road from The Palace before heading to the Empire State Building. Whilst the view from Top of the Rock is undeniably better, as the tallest and most iconic building in the city, it would have felt wrong not to visit. The art deco design was stunning and a nearby restaurant named Little Italy served the greatest pizza!
The heaven’s opened around 1pm so we escaped to MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) for the afternoon to see pieces by the likes of Jasper Johns, my girl Frida Kahlo and Vincent Van Gogh before heading to JFK to fly back home to good old Manchester. In art class when I was six years old we recreated Van Gogh’s The Starry Night so it was very cool seeing one of my earliest experiences of modern art in person.
Upon my return to the UK, I finally understood why those t-shirts are so popular and, although I’d rather die than wear one, I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment: I LOVE NEW YORK! It’s probably my favourite place I’ve ever travelled to and in moments of wanderlust like these, there’s nowhere I’d rather be!
Peace and love, Bec