It’s no wonder that New York is known as ‘the city that never sleeps‘ because it never actually does sleep, things are always moving and there’s always that same continuous pace regardless of what time of day it is. I myself live in a city so in a way I’m used to city life, however, nothing quite prepares you for life in a city like this. With the constant noise of traffic and sirens all throughout the night, despite our room being located high enough from the streets below, my first night’s sleep in New York was far from a success, and as a result one of my main priorities the following day was finding a local store to purchase some ear plugs for drowning out the city noise – if your room isn’t completely soundproof then I’d recommend doing the same because for the remainder of the trip I slept like a baby.
Anyway, after a ‘sleep’ that doesn’t even deserve that title, I was so ready to properly explore the city after a quick Starbucks… I can imagine you reading this right now and being like ‘really? you went all the way to New York and went to Starbucks?‘. Yes I know what it looks like, but it was literally on our hotel doorstep and we wanted a quick on the go breakfast so that we could head to the first stop on our busy itinerary (note: the itinerary was planned down to a T so it was full steam ahead for us, no time to lose). Starbucks wasn’t the worst choice in the world, the breakfast/food options in America were much better than back home. UK STARBUCKS STEP UP YOUR GAME!
FLAT IRON DISTRICT
First up within the Flat Iron District was the Flat Iron Building, a triangular 22 story building, whose shape makes it a distinct feature in this area, making so many people adding this to their New York to do list. I had seen some amazing pictures of this online and so was excited for seeing it with my very own eyes, however, upon arrival, the building was quite obviously having work done to it, covered in scaffolding and netting meaning that we didn’t get to see the building in all of its unique form.
Once you’ve admired the Flat Iron Building, I suggest heading to a craft lovers paradise, Michael’s Store. Something I enjoyed during my years at university was scrapbooking, and with all of my recent travels I’m looking to start a travel album to document my trips and keep the memories alive. This was the perfect excuse to make a pit stop at Michael’s Store. This place will fulfil all of your arts and crafts needs, with all things scrapbooking under one roof. I got several packets of travel related embellishments for my travel album, whether travel accessories, quotes, flags, famous tourist attractions and country names, this was perfect and had me looking forward to a wine and scrapbooking night when I returned to the UK. I could have spent all day in this store and I can’t wait to collect more craft items over the years to remember my travels. If the CEO of Michael’s is reading this then PLEASE, PLEASE PLEASE bring a store to the UK or at least ship to the UK, thank you.
NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
From here we headed to the New York Public Library, and I can truly say I have never seen a library quite like this one. It was grand, with opulent ceilings, and looked like everything but a library. What amazed me was that a must see place like this was completely FREE. As I hiked up the marble stairs I couldn’t help but think of the Sex and the City moment when Carrie Bradshaw was stood up at her own wedding and left heartbroken and confused in the middle of the New York Public Library in a Vivienne Westwood dress (at least my time at the NYPL was a little bit better).
If you head to the top floor you’ll find the quiet study areas and I couldn’t quite get over how lucky all of the students and researchers are in this city. I would have loved a library like this during my studies, nothing but complete silence in the most beautiful surroundings. You New Yorkers have it good.
GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL
Once you’ve wandered around the library, take a short walk to another place close by that will leave you in absolute “awe”, Grand Central Terminal, and on the way look out for the famous Chrysler Building.
Grand Central Terminal has the WOW factor. How can a train station have you feeling this kind of way? It was like something out of the movies (partly because it is featured in so many movies, including one of my favourites, Friends with Benefits). If you close your eyes you can almost picture yourself running into the arms of your lover after returning to the city after some time apart. For me, this was a true Gossip Girl moment, imagining Serena van der Woodsen arriving back in New York after going MIA for a year. Grand Central Terminal was in the very first episode of GG that had me hooked and craving that Upper East Side life, and now I was part of that.
ST PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL
One of New York’s finest churches is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, stood in the heart of Fifth Avenue. Apparently five million people visit this cathedral every year, and it’s no wonder why. It’s not the typical kind of building you’d expect to see in the heart of New York City, but it is and it’s beautiful. It brings something different to Fifth Avenue and is worth a visit if you’re passing by.
THE NEW YORK PALACE HOTEL
Just across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral is where you will find the New York Palace Hotel, and for any Gossip Girl fans this is another key filming location as it’s where Serena lives in the programme. Now unfortunately Serena wasn’t in at the time (very funny Holly), but the hotel itself is open to the public, so of course we had to go in and have a little sneak peak of how the other half live and pretend that we had enough money to afford a night in the place.
This hotel is swanky, sophisticated and screams Gossip Girl standard, the only thing I could have wished for was if we were able to have properly seen around the hotel (as in a little private Gossip Girl tour), or that the bar offered Gossip Girl themed cocktails…a girl can dream.
PIZZA, RADIO CITY AND HOPE
Being on the go in a big city has you burning all sorts of energy, so food, coffee, and water stops are a regular MUST. One thing about New York is that you’re never short of food places, especially when it comes to pizza. Whilst on route to Chelsea Market, a place destined for food lovers, we passed Teresa’s Brick Oven Pizza and Cafe, a place packed with people stood at the window eating what looked like the most amazing pizza ever. Busy means good right? YES. We went in and ordered, excited for our first bite of NYC pizza, although we ordered just the one slice because in America one slice is the UK equivalent of 3 slices. I always wondered why Joey from Friends loved pizza so much and if it tastes anything like Teresa’s then I now know why. I went for a slice of the thick crust pepperoni pizza and I stood outside the place in absolute heaven whilst dripping tomato sauce all over the sidewalk.
After quickly inhaling that slice of pure deliciousness outside one of New York’s iconic venues, Radio City Hall, we headed to take a quick look at the Hope Sculpture. Created by artist Robert Indiana this sculpture isn’t hard to miss, located in the middle of one of New York’s busy streets. Although it’s not the end of the world if you don’t visit this, it’s definitely a good photo opportunity. Note: it’s very difficult to get up on this sign to sit on, the pictures my friend snapped during my attempt were horrendous and as a result never made the New York photo album. Also note: It’s no wonder it’s difficult to get on the sign, as after doing a quick photo-shoot we soon seen a sign warning against climbing on the sign, thank god the NYPD weren’t nearby as I can imagine the telling off we would have gotten.
One slice of Teresa’s pizza could have turned into 10 it was that good, however, we were headed to Chelsea Market, a food hall located in the very sophisticated area of Chelsea. As well as shops, this is home to many varieties of food, making it a food lovers haven, whether to local or international foodies. This is somewhere you couldn’t possibly get bored of, and you could spend the majority of your day here without even realising.
Whilst Sangeeta ordered food from Beyond Sushi, a very good option if you are vegan, I went for Japanese inspired Mexican from Takumi Taco. Sounds an unusual combination right? Well it was different but certainly delicious. I got the Japanese curry beef taco, with a crispy gyoza shell. A M A Z I N G. Had I not of had the pizza prior to this I would have got a little something from each of the food places located in Chelsea Market but I was stuffed and I didn’t want to feel disgustingly full considering we were going a walk along the High Line straight afterwards.
THE HIGH LINE
The High Line is a public park located in Manhattan’s West Side. The cool thing about this is that it’s actually built on an old railway line above the city. There are some picture perfect moments throughout the high line as well as art to stop and gaze at. Despite being in the middle of the city, with it being an elevated railway line you almost feel like you’re merely just watching the world below rather than being a part of it.
I can imagine just how popular this would be in the Summer and if I was a New Yorker myself I could vision myself walking along this urbanised walkway on a regular basis. Unfortunately for us, it was the middle of Winter and about 20 minutes in to our leisurely stroll the torrential rain hit. As a result we didn’t get to experience the full length of the high line or we would have probably caught pneumonia.
ELLEN’S STARDUST DINER
After heading back to our hotel to dry off and wait for the rain to die down, we headed out for dinner. Now if there’s one food place you’ll hear about in New York, it’s Ellen’s Stardust Diner and for very good reasons. Previous nights the queue was around the side of the diner and scattered down the street, with hungry diners wanting to experience the magic, and we wanted to experience it too. I don’t know whether it was due to the weather that evening or the time that we went (around 6pm) but to our surprise there was no queue and we were seated straight away at one of the tables facing right into the centre of the diner, meaning we had the most incredible view and would never miss any of the action. If you don’t know about Ellen’s Stardust dinner then here’s a brief explanation:
- If you like musicals then this place is for YOU
- Singing waitstaff. Can it get any better?
- Basically your own intimate broadway show but cheaper and a better view
- You may even be lucky enough to see one of the worlds future stars as some of the staff have gone on to be featured in some of the biggest Broadway shows
We were seated at exactly the right moment as two of the staff were stood on the walkway between tables belting out the last verse of a song, whilst the place erupted in cheers and confetti. I had goosebumps, I had tears in my eyes, it was not just simply “going out for dinner“, it was an experience I will never ever forget. What’s impressive is that the waiting staff are still doing their jobs whilst belting out some of broadways biggest hits, and I mean filling up drinks whilst singing, clearing up whilst singing – they deserve an award in multitasking if you ask me.
After sitting in complete and utter disbelief at the talent we were witnessing, we finally got to ordering. Sangeeta went for the Macaroni Cheese and I went for the Penne Alfredo, with us both sharing some waffle fries. This delicious food was washed down with a Sex and the City cocktail as it seemed the appropriate choice given the fact we were in Manhattan. Everything from the entertainment, service, and food was absolutely spot on, dinner just isn’t the same anymore when there’s no one singing Disney songs within touching distance. I HIGHLY recommend setting some time aside and visiting Ellen’s Stardust Diner, whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner. This place doesn’t take reservations so be prepared to queue, and please do queue because it’s worth the wait.
As you can see we managed to fit quite a lot into day 2 of our trip, and the trip only got busier from there onwards, you can read all about day 3 here.