The US Part 4: New York City

Saturday, 30 August 2014

We woke up early on the Sunday, and I was relieved to feel the first effects of the antibiotics kicking in. It was important that I was on tip top form for the next 6 days, because we wanted to eke out as much as we could from this next magnificent, eclectic, cosmopolitan, magical, romantic stunner of a city. We were off to NYC.

It is difficult to describe the emotion I had when we finally touched down in New York for the first time. As a Noughties teenager, I grew up on a diet of Friends, Sex and the City and Gossip Girl. For decades, I had dreamed of watching a show on Broadway. And as a girl whose dream day would involve walking hand in hand with the love of my life through a pretty park, followed by some shopping, eating and sight-seeing, this city appealed to my every sensibility.

I felt like we'd come home.

We dumped our things in our pretty little boutique hotel

And headed out.

Within 2 minutes, we were lying in the dappled shade under the trees of Madison Square Park...

Looking up at the famous Flat Iron which towered above us as we planned the week ahead.

Which didn't take long as it happens as Jim had already done most of the hard work for us. Having lived in the city for half a year, there wasn't much that he didn't know about what to do with 6 days there, and he'd put together a pretty extensive itinerary for us so that we didn't miss a single thing.

We waited for him to arrive over a couple of cocktails in our hotel's ultra trendy new bar

And then suddenly he was there, suitcase in hand, fresh off a flight from visiting his girlfriend in Norway, and the 4th leg of our holiday had officially begun.

The next day Jim treated us to a whirlwind tour of the Big Sights, which started with an early morning Subway ride.

Bleary eyed, we emerged from our first stop and while us sluggish, lazy expats tried to keep pace with our guide, who had rapidly picked up the typically New York gait of a racing lion, we caught our first glimpses of some of the buildings that NYC was notorious for.

The Empire State Building

Wall Street and the NewYork Stock Exchange

And Ground Zero and the Peace Tower.

All of that trotting around after Jimmy Jitterbug was thirsty work, and naturally, we needed constant replenishment. A great excuse to sample some of New York's finest coffees.

First, gorgeous freshly ground coffee from the pretty as a picture cafe, Toby's Estate, which I loved all the more when I found that it led onto the cutest little book store and my favourite shop EVER, Club Monaco. Books, coffee and clothes - a dangerous combination for my bank account.

Next up came Robusta Espresso Bar, where we ordered 3 divine Nutella Mochas and spent the next 5 minutes in blissful silence as we scoffed them down.

And finally, Starbucks, just to check it was the same as everywhere else (it was).

It's really important, of course, that they get your name right when you visit Starbucks to save any confusion.

We trundled after Jim past Fulton Market and into a square where people were reclining in deck chairs as they watched some comedy.

And then the close buildings suddenly opened up, and we were looking out over New York Harbour and the famous Brooklyn Bridge.

After soaking up some viewz and some rayz from the seats at the end of the jetty, Jim had to pop into the office for a bit, so we did our own piece of exploring and headed to the bustling market on Union Square, stopping briefly to make friends with a chap from back home on the way.

After a shuffle around the little stalls, we felt a thirst coming on again. But this time for something a bit stronger. Taking a side-street, we found ourselves at a bar that was so cool that it could only belong in NYC. We couldn't not go in. At the bar, we turned our noses up at the weird sounding 'Picklebacks' (cocktails made from whiskey and pickle brine) in favour of the more traditional G&T, but we were gutted when we later found out that they were a New York institution - a little reminder not to wimp out on trying anything new when you're travelling!

Jim met us at the bar after work, by which point we were all starving. Which was lucky because he was about to take us on the mother of all NYC food tours.

1. Vanessa's Dumpling House where we scoffed hot, juicy, freshly filled duck and pork Chinese dumplings

2. Artichoke Pizza which sold delicious white pizza smothered in...Artichokes no less

3. Porchetta for an out of this world pulled pork roll

4. Crif Dogs, a quirky little place which had been around since Prohibition times and had a speakeasy out back, for an A.Mazing hot dog

5. The infamous Butter Lane to collect a box of divine cupcakes

6. And finally Lassen and Hennigs to order another box, this time filled with sweet Italian pastries.

We sat and ate these last two items on a bench in Brooklyn, as the sun dipped below the sky scrapers of Manhatten in front of us, and eventually the twinkling lights began to come on one by one across the harbour.

I challenge anyone to find a more stunning, iconic or romantic view to end a day on. 

We wandered along the sidewalk to find a yellow cab, past some tap dancers who had found the most inspirational spot in the world for their Monday night practice sessions...

And went to sleep that night dreaming of bright lights, big city. It had gone to our heads a little.

The next day, we had breakfast at the lovely Sarabeth's (a place we may have returned to a couple of times as those eggs are sooo good!)

Before spending a lazy day ambling through the historic Central Park, interspersed with plenty of breaks to sit under the trees to read and watch the happy couples in rowing boats glide about on The Lake.

We loved all of the park, but got particularly excited by the Friends Fountain (totally its official name).

As the evening set in, we walked over to the Loeb Boathouse to meet our American friend Maggie, and Jim.

We had a great catch-up over a few glasses of wine. Followed by a few more at a pretty al fresco dining spot down the road.

As the sun went down, the twinkling fairy lights came one, and it was another pretty end to a perfect day. We were rapidly falling in love with this city.

After all this sightseeing, eating and catching up with friends and family, the next day it was time to get serious.

We started with a hearty lunch at The Dutch.

And then it was time to shop.

Anyone who lives in Qatar knows that the shopping experience out here isn't anything to write home about. There are a few token High Street stores, but it often feels as though the stock is made up of Britain's and America's cast-offs, all with a hefty mark-up in price. New York on the other hand is a shopaholic's heaven.

Needless to say, the afternoon ended like this:

After a much-needed restorative post-shopping power nap, we got dressed up and went to meet Jim at Porter House.

On the way out, I met the man of my dreams

But unfortunately he was a  bit steely so I decided not to copper off with him, and stick with the man I have.

Our night ended with more yet more bright lights, as we braved the throngs that had come out to play for the evening in Times Square.

The next day our alarm went off far too early. On any other day, we would switch it off, roll over and catch a few more zzzs before we finally dragged ourselves out of bed. But not today. 

We raced to the metro, noting how we'd beaten the commuters and had the platform all to ourselves for once, and hopped onto a train for a quick snooze.

We met Jim at the other end, and trotted down to a little harbour where little dinghies and yachts were moored. We were heading out on a watery adventure.

As the men shot off at full speed in front of me, I had a slight nervous wobble. It was a stormy morning, the waves were choppy, and in order to get round all of the sights in the time, we'd been told we needed to average at least 35 mph - which, take it from me, feels ridiculously fast when you're surrounded on all sides by the deep blue.

But then this beauty came into view

And suddenly I didn't care any more. I was ready.

Throwing caution to the wind, I shot forward at full throttle, whooping into the wind. I don't think I'd ever felt this free or full of life before. We ragged it down the harbour, racing each other and pushing the jet skis as hard as they could go, and then rounded the corner, and there she was in all her glory...

A lot of people say that the Statue of Liberty is gimmicky, or that she stands for everything they hate about America, but from this vantage point, framed by the moody clouds and rising sun behind, with the open water spread out in front of her, and away from the crowds of tourists, standing proud and tall, she looked as picturesque as you could imagine.

Across the harbour from where she stood, the now familiar view of Manhatten stretched out before us.

And we were there just in time to see the orange sun peep its way through the clouds on the horizon.

Exhilarated, we sped off to the safety of the shore, home, a bath and bed for a few hours.

But that was only the beginning of what was rapidly developing into my favourite day in New York yet. 

After lunch, we rushed to the top of the Rockefella building to take in the breathtaking views over the city.

We then had a little peruse of Tiffany (mainly for the free champagne and cake)

And rounded the day off by watching my favourite musical on Broadway.

We headed home via the pretty Bryant Park

Hopping on a train back to the hotel at the beautiful Grand Central Terminal.

That night, I went to sleep literally smiling.

We only had two days left and we had to make the most of them. Having barely scratched the surface of New York City, we resolved to come back to finish everything off properly sometime in the future (what a shaaaame!), but we still wanted to pack in as much as we could. By that, I mean pack as much into our stomachs as we could.

This started with breakfast at Eataly's Nutella Creperie.

Anyone that knows me well knows that as a youngster, I basically lived off bananas smothered in anything treacley or chocolatey. And Nutella was one of my staples. There's always a pot on my desk at work, and there's always at least 3 in the cupboard.

This place didn't disappoint. Nutella jars filled the shelves from floor to ceiling, creating the feeling of being in a Nutella library (pretty much my heaven), with recipe cards and little fact plaques filling every space (who knew Nutella is pronounced 'New-tella'?!) that wasn't taken up by a jar.

When we sat down with the Wall Street Journal and a couple of banana and Nutella crepes, I was in my element.

After a bit more shopping (I told you we were making the most of our last few days!), we stumbled upon one of the coolest restaurants I have ever been to at the top of Bloomingdales - Le Train Bleu, which is decked out like a real dining carriage in an old fashioned steam train.

Very Harry Potter / Hunger Games.

The last meal of the day was at Unami Burger. Now, I know this is big chat but here I was lucky enough to sample the Best. Burger. I. Have. EVER. Eaten. And I have eaten at some excellent burger joints.

This burger was served in a soft brioche, branded with Unami's famous 'U'. And it had truffle in it. 'Nuff said.

And it wasn't just the burgers, the whole set up was pretty awesome.

We left the place as three very happy customers.

That night, we laughed off the calories at the Laughter Factory, and danced them off with some live music down the road. 

Until things started to get a little blurry. A fitting end to our last night in the city which never sleeps.

On our final day there was only one thing for it. Brunch. 

Slightly hung over, we gorged on Bloody Marys, eggs, bacon and other breakfasty goodies at Cookshop.

And afterwards, full and happy, we walked to a place I had wanted to visit ever since it opened in 2011. The New York City High Line.

For those of you that haven't heard of it, this 1.5 mile long linear 'park' is built above the city on a section of the old New York Central Railroad. It's simply breathtaking, with pretty scented flowers and herbs lining the gravel walkway, with reclining benches and vantage points for adults to laze on, fountains for children to play in and sculptures for all to marvel at.

On a sunny day like that day, there wasn't a more perfect place to be in NYC.

We left the High Line and ambled around the interesting Meatpacking District and Chelsea Market.

We had a final cupcake for good measure at Empire Cake

And then, against our wishes, it really was time to say goodbye.

We are so grateful to Jim for showing us one of the best weeks of our entire lives. I don't think we could have packed much more in (and yes, I'm mainly talking about our stomachs here).

New York City is everything I thought it would be, and more.

We were shattered and needed another holiday.