New York, New York 🇺🇸

Four days in the Big Apple 🍎

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This was, by some margin, the longest trip I’d made for a few days away. A city which sums up Western culture, New York was next on the list of travels.

Sat in Newcastle Airport at 4:30am, I can tell you that the excitement was there on the inside even if we looked half asleep on the surface. The 2 and a half hour wait for our first flight to London Heathrow didn’t help this either.

This first flight only took 50 minutes; therefore it felt as though we were barely in the air. The sun had fully risen by the time we touched down in London; at this point we had plenty of time to make our connecting flight. This time was shortened a fair bit when our plane was stuck outside the terminal waiting for a place to park up. Slightly frustrating, but we didn’t need to fret; even if the gate for the second flight was some distance away.

A shuttle train goes between the gates at Terminal 5. We needed to stay on for the two stops, once at the gate we noticed we’d arrived just before the boarding announcement was made. Once on board, we made our way through the enormous Boeing 747 to our seats. Getting comfy for the seven hour flight was the next main task.

Not to sound too easily pleased, but thundering down the run way was something pretty special. It was phenomenal to think how something this big could even get off the group, but there we were on our way over to North America.

The journey was smooth enough to continue writing with very little turbulence. A novelty in these aircraft is being able to follow the 5500 kilometre journey on a map in the small screens in front of each seat. The route took us over the Atlantic Ocean, over Canada then down to Portland, Boston before landing at John F. Kennedy Airport at 11 am local time.

The travelling took its toll on me; if the hour long transfer to the city was any longer then I’d have been out for the count. Fortunately we arrived at our hotel just in time. Located in Times Square and with two subway stations within a ten minute walking radius, we were in a prime location to get around the city. Our first walk out was for dinner at the famous Hard Rock Cafe. It feels as though I’ve been to a branch in practically every new destination, I’ve got the shirts to prove it.

We weren’t to be out late, but it was nice to take in New York; even if it was only the smallest of glimpses.

A nine hour sleep in the comfiest beds ever was desperately needed after the tiredness had beaten us the day before. it was an early start in order to get as much done as we could, by 8:30am we were soaring through the subway destined for Battery Park. This was the meeting place of a tour whch would take us over to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, a three hour excursion neither of us could wait for. The meeting point specifically was outside of Starbucks, a place which I later found out were ten a penny in the Big Apple, where we met our guide, handed a speaker and headphones before being whisked over to the ferry.

The first of many airport style security checks occurred before getting on board, but safety is the top priority these days. Once on board it was just minutes before we swung around in front of Lady Liberty herself, a sight which I wasn’t counting on seeing this early in my life. Surprisingly, she’s smaller than you might think. Yet i just pictured those millions of immigrants from Europe who must have been star struck upon seeing her on their arrival in their new country. She’s an almighty structure, to say the least.

The ferry drops you off at the back of the statue then, after a second security search, you get the chance to walk up to the top of the pedestal which places you right under the feet. We got a cracking view back towards Manhattan all the way across to the far end of the harbour and towards the Atlantic Ocean. There is also a small museum within the pedestal where you can see the original lantern the statue held as well as a life size replica of her face. Pretty neat stuff.

Once we’d been up close and personal with Lady Liberty, if was time to hop back on the ferry and head over to Ellis Island. Here, we were able to walk in the footsteps of those people over a century ago who moved everything and everyone they loved to the United States. The museum and buildings of the island are immense and also very beautiful, reminding us of how New York came to be so culturally diverse. The main reception building feels as though it’s hardly been touched in well over a century, the whole structure is quite basic but it would have been a rich beacon of hope for millions back in the day.

An extra part of the tour which we unfortunately were unable to take part in was a hard hat tour of the islands old hospital and mental institution, this undoubtedly not being something for the faint hearted.

The third and final ferry trip took us back to mainland Manhattan. From here, we headed up Broadway to find a place for lunch. We found a pizza place down a fairly secluded street just past Wall Street. The pizza pie at the top of the menu grabbed my attention, for 30 dollars we split a huge pizza which went down an absolute treat (especially as it was washed down with some real Brooklyn beer). With all the walking we needed to make the most of our breaks, pizza and beer helped us enjoy them so much more.

Our plans for the evening focused on a tour by night of the city. Starting in Times Square, we passed many of the unique structures. The Flatiron building was one of these buildings. Built in 1902, it is a bizarre piece of work. This is mainly due to the fact it only has three sides. It dominates Fifth Avenue with it’s 20 stories and it feels as though it could be an optical illusion from some angles.

The open top bus was a great idea which I thoroughly recommend, perhaps for when the temperature is a bit higher than it is in late March. If you do make the plunge you will be able to witness a phenomenal view of Manhattan whilst heading over one of the many bridges which stretch the Hudson River. I’ve said this many, many times before but this view of the towering structures is one which the pictures do not do justice. The night tour is great for this; you leave the city at dusk and return to the sensory tsunami which is Times Square at night. It feels like the middle of the day when you’re surrounded by hundreds of bombarding advertising boards. The smells of street food and the sounds of bustling crowds and vehicle horns make the whole experience incredibly intoxicating. When you’re wiped out from a day of walking, Times Square feels like a dream.

It was an equally early start for our second day. First on the agenda was a walking tour of Ground Zero and the 9/11 memorial. We met our guide at St Paul's Chapel, a building we later found out was miraculously survived the horrific events thanks to being protected from debris from a fallen tree. We were taken to the site of Ground Zero to see what is now in place of the twin towers. The new World Trade Centre 1 building dominates the area; on a cloudy day I doubt you’d be able to see several of the top floors. A brand new shopping centre/ train station in the shape of a dove taking flight has also been erected. Costing $8 billion (100 % over budget, I might add) its glass window

spine gives a phenomenal view of most of the world trade centre. Our guide told us of how, for the duration of the attacks, the glass windows are opened every year on the anniversary as an example of how the city can be vulnerable as the events are still so fresh in the minds of many people.

As well as building for the future, the city of New York has created permanent reminders of the past. Two memorial pools stand where the twin towers once stood. They are even more poignant as they are lined with plaques inscribed with the names of all those who died in the attacks, with a small white rose accompanying those names whose birthdays falls on each day. It’s a small but powerful token which helps those victims live on throughout the year.

Once our tour came to an end, we headed back to Times Square to grab some food and a sit down mainly, as a fair bit more walking was on the cards in the afternoon. It was a wonder to a certain Empire State Building. Obviously, you can see it from quite a few streets away; when you’re on the other side of the street and look up you can’t help but feel very insignificant. We headed into the building at the second time of asking, after being briskly redirected from the entrance which was unbeknown to us only used for those who work at the building.

An animation plays in the ceiling of the elevator showing you climbing through the building as it was constructed. This gives a small look into the building itself and the views it provided, although there was some low cloud which threatened to spoil any chances of seeing towards the Atlantic ocean. Fear not though, it will take some serious bad weather to obscure the sights with the East River to the Hudson river and everything in between; all of which we were lucky enough to see as the sun eventually shone. Take plenty of pictures too, but that goes without saying.

Sadly, this walk around the observation deck couldn’t last forever. We headed back onto the streets for some exploration of New York’s finest shops, it would be rude not to, right? I mean everything else had a price in the city, but the views at the top of the building were superb and couldn't be burdened.

The final day in NYC was more of a half day, so it was even more important to cram in as much as possible. There was a constant drizzle to greet us on the streets, but New Yorkers flood the streets come rain or shine.

It was still pretty wet by the time we got to Grand Central Station. The outside of the famous old train terminal is pretty modest by New York iconic structure standards. However, the main reception area lived up to the lofty expectations I’d held. The staircases make for a great position for photos and to people watch, with trains going all over the state and beyond it was great just thinking where all of these thousands of people will be heading off to. It was pretty gloomy outside still, yet the city could have been kissed by the brightest summer sunshine and there would still be a lack of light. the station is huge, of course, but it doesn’t half feel badly lit. Still, as long as you can make it to your train all of this lighting jargon will be elementary…

We spent more time in this hall than probably most commuters; you can spot the tourists from a mile off too. With the clocking ticking on towards departure, it was off to Central Park.

It is a fairly straight forward walk to the park from Grand Central, a planned route which was carefully devised by Steph. Passing Trump Tower and its range of very new security bollards and paraphernalia, we were soon making our way through possibly the most famous park in the world. Surrounded by the standard New York sight of towering sky scrapers, it is a classic juxtaposition of concrete jungle and natural wonderland. I couldn’t help but think what a hot summer’s day in this park must be, but by this time it had stopped raining so it wasn’t all bad.

Ideally, we would have spent a lot more time in this park. Unfortunately, time and weather was against us. The brisk walk around the paths and over the bridges may have been only a glimpse at what the park is well known for; yet it was better than not being able to make it at all, which would have been regrettable.

That pretty much brought to an end our stay in New York City. It had been a whirlwind from the minute we landed. I’d just like to add a bit at the end here for my parents. They were supposed to join us on this trip but were unfortunately unable to. I can speak for Steph here by saying we were hugely grateful for the chance to get to a magnificent city. I’m sure you’ll both enjoy it so much when you do get there and that it’s sooner rather than later.

The journey home was always going to be less fun than the outbound trip, and it took a good few days to get my sleeping pattern sorted, but the trip to New York was everything I hoped it would be and so much more. The city is a lively, vibrant metropolis and everything about it makes you feel as though you’re in a film; I need to head back over to the USA at some point soon but getting my degree might just be my next priority. Work placements and job searches are on the horizon now…

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I am a journalist with an honours degree from Coventry University. Passionate writing about politics, culture, sport, society and more

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