I’d been dreaming of visiting New York ever since I can remember. I’d grown up watching TV series like The Nanny, Friends and Sex and the City and been amazed by this city with tall skyscrapers, massive pizza slices and yellow cabs.
The occasion to visit never arose until finally in February 2014 I booked my trip to the Big Apple. For those who don’t know, February is one of the coldest months in New York, and I experienced negative temperatures, snow and ice while I was there… the wind was so cold it felt like a slap in the face- hence the title of this article!
So off I went to New York City for the first time and seriously felt like your typical tourist when I got there; wide eyed and taking photos of everything in sight! I honestly didn’t know where to look, with so much to see and so much to do. I did the whole tourist thing and got on a hop-on hop-off tour bus that took me around the city, visiting Uptown, Downtown, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Harlem, with friendly tour guides giving you the low-down about everything and anything.
Needless to say the five days I spent in New York were incredible and definitely worth a return visit. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to but I got to do most of the things I’d imagined doing in NYC over the years. Here’s what went down:
Where to stay
Bearing in mind this was my first visit, and I only had 5 days to enjoy myself, obviously I picked a hotel that would enable me to get where I wanted to without having to get a taxi. The Crowne Plaza in Times Square was just the right place for me! A four star hotel, with all the amenities you would expect and a beautifully comfortable room. As the name suggests, the hotel was smack bang in the middle of all the action and right next door to Hershey’s Chocolate World! The views from our room were great- Times Square, what more could you ask for? As soon as we walked out of the hotel we were in the middle of it all, with the impressive skyscrapers, the bright lights, the chaos and the buzz. I couldn’t fault this hotel on anything, which is saying a lot!
What to do
Everyone knows about NYC and all the tourist attractions, so it’ll come as no surprise that on my first visit, I wanted to see all these places I’d heard about.
As expected, the views from the Rockefeller Centre were breath-taking; it’s amazing how long you can spend on top of a building staring down at a beautiful city, an experience not to be missed.
As well as doing the hop-on hop-off tour around the city, I did a boat tour so I could see the city from the river and of course see the famous Statue of Liberty up close. The cruise was about 2.5 hours long and the tour guide gave us a lot of great information about what it was that we were seeing. Great excuse to take lots of photos!
As everyone knows, NYC is a great city for shopping. The downside was that I visited at a time when the weather was extremely cold- meaning I was wearing about 10 layers of clothing just to keep warm- not ideal for trying on clothes. The shops were extremely heated so it meant every time I walked into a shop I had to take off a few layers of clothing and carry it around… not fun! So yes, I visited Macy’s and Bloomingdales and all the other famous shops, but did I enjoy it? Not really…
Madison Square Garden is famous for hosting some of the most incredible concerts and games, and I was so happy to find out that the New York Knicks were playing during my visit! Of course, I happily bought tickets, a hat, and a massive hot dog to enjoy the game. My first live NBA game and I was not disappointed. To put it into perspective for those of us living in Europe who have never experienced a live NBA game; it’s not just about the sport! There was so much entertainment going on from a DJ set to cheerleaders to jazz dancers, acrobatics and live singing from The Jersey Boys, it was a full on spectacle! Definitely much more entertaining than sitting on a pew on a cold rainy day in England watching a football match, when the only thing to entertain you at half time is a long queue to get a beer or a pie…
Where to eat
Apparently this place is part of a chain of bakeries, even though it doesn’t feel like one; it definitely has that Parisian independent boulangerie feel when you walk in. The one I went to was within walking distance of Times Square, and just happened to walk past it when trying to decide where to go for breakfast. My eyes were instantly drawn to the variety of pastries, cupcakes and breads and I couldn’t help but walk in. The pastries are absolutely delicious! They’re obviously fresh and made in-house, incredibly crispy, full of flavour but not too sweet. I’d recommend the tarte de fraise (strawberry tart), the sweet potato pastries, red velvet cupcake and the mini croissants. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, try the cronut (a mix of croissant and donut). I ended up going to this place for breakfast almost every day, that’s how much I loved it!
This place is not central at all, and in fact took a while to find. But after having seen this sandwich place featured in Man vs. Food and Diners, Drive-ins & Dives, I had to see what all the fuss was about. It’s very confusing when you walk in as there are about 6 different queues for sandwiches and there’s a ticketing process for ordering and making payment- was a bit daunting when I first walked in. But after the security guard explained what we were supposed to do, it all made sense! The place is packed full of people and everything happens very quickly. We ordered a pastrami sandwich (which is literally just pastrami and bread) and a brisket sandwich. The sandwiches are simple; just the meat on fresh sourdough bread with a side of pickles. OH MY GOD! I have never tasted anything so delicious in my life! Not only do they pack the bread with as many thick slices of meat as they possibly can, but the meat is incredibly juicy, packed with flavour and obviously made with a lot of love and care! Best sandwich I’ve ever had, if you’re in NYC you HAVE to try this place, it’s so worth it!
This is a tough one. Because as much as I loved the breakfast at Norma’s I can’t get over how expensive it was! I went there because the reviews were so good but I didn’t check the menu before going. When we sat down they asked if we wanted orange juice and coffee, to which we agreed without asking how much it was. From the breakfast menu I ordered Norma’s eggs benedict which were absolutely delicious! Poached eggs sitting on a soft buttermilk pancake with beautifully grilled asparagus and bacon, topped with creamy hollandaise sauce and a side of fingerling potatoes. Yum! My partner ordered the same, plus 2 glasses of orange juice and a coffee- total: over $100! No doubt the food was great but was it worth the money? I’m not sure…
I was weary of a pizza restaurant located so close to Times Square- my initial thought was that it would be touristy; which usually means overly priced and not that great. But the reviews were so good and the location so close to our hotel that I had to try it. And I’m so glad I did! The atmosphere in this place is amazing- it really is ‘family and friends’ and the staff make you feel like you’ve just walked into their home for a nice family meal. We ordered a regular pizza with extra cheese and meatballs…. Amazing! The crust was thin and crispy, the cheese was beautifully melted and the meatballs were incredibly juicy, well-seasoned and just the best pizza you could ask for in New York! The chef comes out to check that you’re enjoying your meal and the staff really take care in looking after you and making you feel at home. I would recommend this place to anyone!
This is a small place specialising in mac n cheese. Sounds simple enough but the variety of flavours on offer make it difficult to choose! I ended up going for the Cheeseburger Mac n Cheese: cheddar and American cheese combined with seasoned ground beef. Each dish is made to order on a metal skillet so each batch is incredibly fresh and packed with flavour. You can choose from the set dishes or be adventurous and make your own. Although a simple concept, the food was delicious! Full of flavour, more than generous portions and at a very reasonable price. I’d recommend this place for lunch as it’s not something you want to be eating late at night. It’s good value for money, very tasty and way better than any fast food place out there.
So there you have it, this is what I got up to while in New York. I’ll definitely need to make a return visit someday, and hopefully when the weather is a bit warmer! Feel free to share your comments below; I’d love to hear from you!