So we arrived in Manhattan (via a wonderful wedding in New Jersey) right after two pretty massive goings-on in the US: Hurricane Sandy, and the Presidential election. Luckily Obama won, otherwise the atmosphere in New York may have been a little sour. Yay! Obama!
I couldn’t see any physical traces of the storm in the city itself, but people were super friendly and inviting to us – and each other – everywhere we went. The total lack of the stereotypical hard-nosed New Yorker led me to wonder if this recent bonding experience had loosened people up slightly.
Anyway, you wouldn’t guess there had just been a hurricane from the amazing clear blue skies and crisp Autumn sunshine we enjoyed every day – as you can see in this picture of us posing on our hotel roof! Although part of me was looking forward to a magical snow-covered New York a la Home Alone 2 or Elf, it’s undeniably much more fun trekking around the city and taking in the sights when the sun’s out!
This city has an energy like no other. It may not have the architectural beauty of some European capitals, or the stunning geographical setting of somewhere like Rio de Janeiro, but there is an excitement in the air that makes you feel as if a new adventure is waiting for you around every corner. To me, it’s a city that is full of stories – stories from every type of person from every corner of the globe, all crumbling together in this majestic metropolis. The idea that there are so many people and so much going all in one place is what gives the air such a giddy, adrenaline-fueled feeling.
Our hotel, the Pod, was based in Midtown, very close to Central Park and in walking distance of the MoMA and the Met (which I both loved). It’s a bit of a tourist trap round there – I stayed in the meatpacking district the first time I visited four years ago, which is much prettier and more chilled out – but this was perfect for us in terms of what we wanted to do, plus there were excellent transport links.
How incredible are these colours in Central Park? We wondered around going ‘ooooooh! aaaaaaah!’ like we were at a fireworks display.
Talking of ‘oooh aaah’ moments, on our first morning we sat down for an all-you-can-drink brunch at a drag club. I ate salmon eggs florentine and Mister chowed down on a cheeseburger while we drank jugs of bloody marys and mimosas and were entertained by these ladies. All in a venue that they themselves describe as ‘Ken and Barbie’s dream house on acid’. Amazing. Go there if you’re visiting.
As the weather was so gorgeous we spent an entire afternoon wondering along the high line – an old railway track in downtown Manhattan that’s been converted into a park. It goes all the way to the art galleries in Chelsea, most of which are free to visit – a great way of spending an afternoon (or perhaps a whole day or two).
(Ok, maybe it was a bit windy at times after all!)
It was interesting to stumble across pieces of the Occupy Wall Street movement, such as this public art project on the high line. Occupy Sandy, the volunteer-run hurricane relief project, also seemed to have a lot of prominence throughout the city. People think of the States as much more right-wing than the UK, but it felt to me as if movements pushing for positive social change were far more present than they are at home. However, I guess this could have been because it was around election time.
Once we were fully de-jet-lagged we were keen to check out some watering holes too – the highlight of which was definitely a visit to a tiny jazz bar in Harlem. The music was amazing and the people were incredibly friendly and welcoming – sadly I don’t have any pics as, being typical tourists, we were nervous about carrying cameras round the area! We also checked out one of Manhattan’s famous secret bars, located behind a hidden door at the back of a hot dog shop.
I think it’s a rule in America that you have to be completely gluttonous when you visit. Our favourite meals during this part of the trip were dumplings and barbeque in Koreatown – so yummy and so cheap – and Japanese at Momofuku, which was possibly one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. This was followed by a trip to The Milk Bar, where I had the most intense sugar experience of my life in the form of a candy bar pie – yes, it was as full-on as it sounds. And of course, you can’t beat a good all-American diner.
Next stop after Manhattan was Brooklyn – a very different but just as amazing experience. I’ll be sharing my photos and stories in part two very soon!