jenniferkoliver: (Stock | Balloons)
Jennifer K. Oliver ([personal profile] jenniferkoliver) wrote2013-12-23 08:21 pm

Back from New York with pics. Plus GYWO 2014

I'm back from New York, feeling exhilarated and happy and very refreshed. Now I'm home it feels like a dream—I can't believe I was there just a few days ago. Me and a friend flew out on Friday 13th (we figured there would be fewer superstitious types around that day) and came back on Saturday 21st. And the only thing I wasn't too keen on was the flying—everything else was incredible. My New York rambles include photos so I'll cut this for length.

Yes, so flying. I don't like it. But the flight from London to NY was smooth and pleasant, even though we left an hour late. When we touched down at JFK around 4pm, the airport seemed deserted and a little surreal. It hadn't really hit me that we were in the US, not until we got a cab—our first yellow cab ride! After about twenty-five minutes we entered Midtown, Manhattan, where we were staying at The Grand Hyatt Hotel, right next to (and above) Grand Central Terminal. EPIC.

Though we were tired, that first night we were restless, so we headed out into the chilly city for a brief walk along 42nd Street down to Bryant Park. There was a picturesque Christmas Market in the park, and a giant tree lit up in all colours. Lovely! But since we wanted to get lots done on Saturday, we sensibly headed back to the hotel for some rest.

Saturday morning we made it to Times Square, where we went on a chocolate spree in Hershey's and M&Ms World.

On Saturday morning I experienced my first hotdog from a street vendor—perfect for a cold, snowy day. Mostly we marvelled at the buildings (without looking up too much and betraying what massive tourists we were!) and shops, and all the lit-up billboards. I honed in on a couple of shoe shops, but held back somewhat because it was only the first day. We were almost certain we'd be the oldest people in Forever 21 but surprisingly there were loads of non-teens and I liked a lot of the clothes. This is also where we fell in love with American Eagle Outfitters. On the way back from Times Square we stopped by the Bryant Park Christmas Market for a proper look around, and I bought some cute hand-made earmuffs. We then went into the New York Public Library, which is huge and beautiful and warm. There were so many people poking around the library I'm amazed anyone actually goes there to work/study.

At this point we were struggling to get to grips with the exchange rate and small change. Gah, cents and dimes are just as annoying as one and five pennies in England. Still, things were generally cheaper in the US, for which a shopaholic like me was thankful. ;)

Saturday night was also the night we ventured beneath our hotel and discovered the tunnels full of shops and the entrance to Grand Central Terminal. There's also a food concourse down there. Convenient cheesecake is the best.

On Sunday we got up early and went to the Empire State building. Now, before flying out, many people warned us not to bother with the Empire State because of horrendous queues and crowds, and advised us to instead go to Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Plaza. But when we got to the Empire State building it was quiet, there were no queues, and we basically went straight in, picked up our tickets ($27 each), got into the elevator and went on up. And up. And up. Here's the view from the top deck:

I loved every second of being up so high where it's silent and freezing and the city looks like a vast play mat covered with toys. The cabs were teeny, tiny little yellow bugs scuttling below. I would have happily stayed more than 20 minutes if it hadn't been so cold.

Back down to Earth, and we hit Macy's where I fell in love with and subsequently bought this:

We checked out Madison Square Park, too, where there are squirrels! This was all followed by an extended debate about WTF a "nickel" was. (We figured it out eventually. ;))

At this stage I was struck by how lovely and helpful people were, particularly those working in shops and anyone on the street we talked to. But I truly understand why people get pissed off at folk who stop suddenly in the middle of the sidewalk or in shop doorways. God, it's annoying. And it happens a lot. *shakes fist*

Monday we went to Rockefeller Center and decided not to pay $27 for Top of the Rock since we'd done the taller, more iconic Empire State the day before. The plaza ice rink was sadly deserted, too.

So we moved on to Central Park. It was peaceful (there's a lot to be said for an early start in NY—you really can go anywhere with the least stress if you get out before everyone else!) and beautiful with a generous layer of snow, the cold winter sun beaming and lighting the bare trees in gold, and harried squirrels and birds dashing about. The horse-drawn carriages were already shifting people around the park, but we preferred to wander through.

We visited the American Museum of Natural History for some brain food, and then meandered slowly home, stopping for hotdogs (yum!), a giant pretzel (ew!) and finally cupcakes at Cake Boss Cafe (omg!).

On Tuesday it snowed again, much heavier than Saturday. We did a lot of shopping in the morning, ducking in and out of warm, cosy stores, went down to Grand Central to take photos-

-and dropped by the food concourse for a lunch sandwich at Junior's. Junior's is also the place for heavenly cheesecake. I got a slab of chocolate mousse cheesecake as a treat for all the walking we did the day before:

Seriously, this thing lasted me like two days.

We also checked out Bloomingdales and felt totally out of place among the price tags. :)

Wednesday we headed to TKTS early and picked up tickets for the matinee showing of Jersey Boys on Broadway. It's wonderful! Such a good show—talented cast, smooth scene changes, quirky set, catchy tunes, and a bittersweet story. I would highly recommend it (even if it's not your era).

On Thursday we braved the Subway, travelling down to Brooklyn Bridge. We walked nearly all the way across, pausing to take pics of the East River and distant Statue of Liberty.

Back in Lower Manhattan we took a brief stroll into Chinatown, followed by pizza and chocolate milkshakes before the Subway back to Midtown. For our last evening, we went out for dinner at Pershing Square Central Cafe, just across the street from our hotel and Grand Central.

Friday we did a tiny bit more shopping in the morning, before jumping into a cab and heading back to JFK with heavier suitcases and anticipation of seeing our families again.

I'm about caught up on sleep now, just in time for Christmas. And I'm already wondering when I can go back to New York for another round.

Random observations / tips from last week:

- The winter air and hard water in NY was great for my skin and body.
- Walking miles every day was great for my legs and butt.
- Unlike in England, in NY I didn't mind being regularly cold and damp.
- Sales tax is a bitch when you're not used to it. Keep it in mind before checkout!
- Depending on where you go, food is generally much cheaper in the US.
- There are way too many tacky "I ♥ NY" stores. And they're all identical.
- It's not cool to wear tacky "I ♥ NY" stuff while in NY.
- It was better to give small change to charity boxes than try and spend it.
- US television ads are hilarious.
- The Weather Channel is oddly addictive.
- Don't get too excited if you find a cafe that sells "English Breakfast Tea"—there's a chance you'll be served vaguely milky warm water with a teabag dumped in that doesn't steep properly. Stick to coffee, or take your own teabags and DIY.
- Careful about accepting anything on the street "for free". Make sure you know what it is and what they want for it.
- Careful of people dressed as cartoon or movie characters unless you're happy to pay to have photos taken with them (yes, even if they use your camera).
- You can easily lose half a day just wandering around shops. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but you'll lose time rapidly if you don't plan or set a specific shopping timeframe.
- Christmas is a busy time and it's very cold. But it's also stunningly beautiful, there are amazing offers and sales in the shops, and life generally feels festive and special.

Oh, and P.S. [ profile] getyourwordsout will be back for 2014! Sign-ups have begun and will remain open until 20th January. This is such a good challenge, especially if you want to increase your yearly word count. The community hosts tons of encouragement, games and discussions should you need them.

Sleepwalking, by Photek feat. Linche.

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