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NYC Travel Diary: Part 1

Buckle up folks, this is going to be a long one! I’ve been writing this ever since we got back (nearly a month ago – whoops!) However life got in the way, we got our first apartment and I’ve started my new job and am dealing with the exhaustion of working full time and 12 hour days. I had to finish these posts because I want to be able to look back on them and remember what we did. Everything we did and everywhere we visited was also brilliant and worth doing, so please remember some of these places if you go to New York!

Please read on if you want to hear all about what we did, our mishaps and our adventures on our best holiday ever.

Day One:

We were really lucky with our flight times, we arrived at 3pm USA time so we had time so settle in and get changed. On our first night we had booked a Yankee vs Mets baseball game at Yankee Stadium with my family. We kitted ourselves out in Yankee merch, grabbed a massive beer, and admittedly stood with ponchos in the weirdly hot rain. It was a really fun experience, despite the rain. Deffo try and go to a baseball game wherever you are in the US.

Day Two:

We’d earmarked this day to get all the 9/11 things done. We woke up early and headed over to the memorial and museum. For breakfast, we stopped at the Oculus Centre, a huge shopping mall opposite the memorial. It is full of very expensive shops and amazing cafes, and everything is immaculately white and beautiful.

I really struggled to keep it together that morning. I’ve been to the memorial before so I could prepare myself, but the museum was a first for me and it was very emotional. The memorial is beautiful, pristine and very moving. The fountains are surrounded by Callery Pear trees that mimic the Survivor Tree, the only tree that survived the attacks. I knew the museum would be sad, but I was not prepared for the eerie atmosphere and the coldness throughout.

The museum sits in the place where the towers fell, and features original stairs, foundations and metal beams of the Twin Towers. You can sense the terror that was felt on that day, the coldness of the building perhaps meant to remind you. I expected to watch the events of that day unfold again, see bits of the building that remained, and learn about the rebuild of One World Trade.

What I didn’t expect was to see personal mementos of every individual that was killed both on the planes and in the towers. The museum also incorporates the victims from the 1993 World Trade Centre Bombing. A whole Victim Room with floor to ceiling pictures of everybody, as well as iPads where you can click on everyone’s faces and learn more about them.

One item in particular set me off crying was a perfectly remodelled motorbike. A fireman was nearing his retirement when the Twin Towers collapsed, and had bought this old motorbike as a project to do up when he retired. Tragically, he died trying to rescue people from the building and his crew finished the bike for him. Even thinking about it makes me well up.

There was also a room dedicated to the dogs of 9/11. Dogs are my weakness, so I was tearing up before I even read anything. There was a huge acrylic painting of a labrador, Sirius. The only dog killed in the 9/11 terror attack, not the rescue mission. Sirius was working the day it happened, checking everyone’s bags for drugs. He was killed by debris when the first tower fell, (actually crying now).


We had booked the One World Observatory for later in the day. I’m glad we did because I was so emosh after the museum I needed to go and cheer myself up for a bit. As sad as this morning was, you have to visit the 9/11 site, even if you don’t go to the museum. It’s amazing, I was 4 years old and on the other side of the world when it happened. Yet, going there makes you grieve as if you were there on the day.

It unites humanity, and I will never forget going there. Whilst we were waiting to visit One World, we hopped onto the subway and went to Times Square for some light relief. Matt was dying to see it and we fancied a bit of a walk round after the museum, so it was a good break. After a ginormous slice of pizza, we headed back to One World.

It. Was. Amazing.

We watched the most hilarious fight between two men about pushing in whilst we were waiting to go through security to go in. In all the tall buildings, they really push buying photos and gifts throughout the experience, but I didn’t mind too much. In the lift they have a video on the ceiling and walls that shows One World being built and the height of it. When you step out of the escalator you immediately watch a video of it being built, then the whole wall lifts up and you’re surrounded by glass.

You can then go up another floor, which is the better one because there’s more room to see with 360 degree glass. There is also a big restaurant and shop to hang out in.

I never realised the depth of meaning behind this iconic landmark. Of course it marks the tragedy of 9/11, but this is carved into every intricate piece of engineering, architecture and artwork throughout. The building has 8 sides, in order to portray the Twin Towers merging together. It is also 1,776 feet high which symbolises America’s signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

I think after this experience, we developed a bit of a bug to do all the tall buildings ASAP. Once we got fed up we headed back uptown to the Empire State Building. I think that this one was my favourite. It’s so beautiful, low lit and marbled. The staff also wear lovely, old-fashioned outfits, but prepare for several micro-managed queues. It feels very Disney-esque! I enjoyed going outside, although the fear of dropping my phone completely took over, even though I didn’t hold it out through the fence *shivers*. It was so windy I could hardly see my hand in front of my face because of my hair, but when I could, the view was amazing.

NYC is the most magical city, even from thousands of feet above you’re looking down on rooftop adverts, tennis courts and bars. It’s a whole ‘nother world up there, lemme’ tell you! We tended to do one massively touristy/bucket list day, then a more relaxed day. Can you guess which one this day was?

After the Empire State, we headed over to Grand Central Terminal to find the Tiffany and Co. shop. If you can kill two birds with one stone, why not? Grand Central is beautiful, although always busy so look where you’re going when admiring the ceiling. The ceiling is covered in intricate constellations, it makes it hard to avoid banging into someone when looking up. I wanted to buy myself something special in New York, because it was my best holiday ever.

We went to celebrate our 21st, graduation, and our 2 year anniversary all in a matter of months. It was our first holiday just us two, and we also had the best time with my Aunty and cousins who I only see every 3/4 years. In honour of all of this, (and thanks to my amazing Aunty who gave me the money), I bought myself a Tiffany necklace. I chose the New Yorkie charm on a classic chain, as it’s got NYC in the name, and it also looks a little like my dog. I’ve worn it every day since, and every time I put it on, I think about this day.

In the evening we just walked round. We went back to Times Square to see if we could get into Ellen’s Stardust Diner (we couldn’t), then we visited the docks in downtown Manhattan. We actually found a boat called the Wavertree, Liverpool – where we lived for 2 years in Uni! As you can probably imagine, we were absolutely exhausted after all of this so we headed back to our apartment for a shower and a lie down in a dark room.

Day 3:

We started off this day really early. On the previous day we tried to go to Ellen’s for dinner, but there was a mammoth queue all round the building. Instead, we went for breakfast, and it was probably even better than dinner service. It was fairly busy, but the staff weren’t rushed off their feet so the performances were amaaaaazing. For those of you who haven’t heard of this place, it’s a typical american diner where all the waiting staff are Broadway stars in training. They literally sing into a microphone while they walk round with food, make drinks and print receipts. I’ve never enjoyed being at a restaurant so much in my entire life, and Matt almost had to drag me out. (I’m a bit of a show tune geek). We also checked out Carlo’s Bakery, from Cake Boss. Very expensive slices of cake that basically tasted the same as each other but still nice! The shop is full of merch though.

After this, we used our New York passes (find out about them in my post HERE), to get on a Hop On Hop Off bus tour for an hour. We rode this all through the city to Central Perk. Now, this is where the day started to go slightly downhill. Matt made us rent bikes.  I hate bikes. I didn’t before, I just disliked them, but now “hate” is the appropriate word. Unfortunately, I was given this ridiculous yellow bike that wasn’t fitted to my height, no helmet, and I had to walk it for probably half a mile through throngs of people in the city before we even got to the park.

I haven’t ridden a bike in donkeys years and the last time I did, I went over the handlebars AND a fence. I’d rather walk any distance than bike, but for some reason the romantic in me thought it would be cute to ride through Central Park together.

The reality was far from the side by side laughing and joking ride I thought we’d have. Instead, Matt was about 30 feet ahead, turning round to laugh at me every few seconds. Everyone overtook me, I had to avoid pedestrians, potholes, horse and carts, kids on scooters, dogs, ducks, OAP’s, literally everything that moved got in my way. The city was super hot that day so I imagined that travelling at speed would make me all cool and my hair would look all windswept and beachy. Oh no. Instead, I turned into a sweaty, dreadlocked, angry mess.

I made Matt stop at the first place I saw that sold alcohol and we had a very strong gin at the Loeb Boathouse so I could recover. (After we managed to tie our crappy bikes up with our equally crappy shared lock). The Boathouse is a beautiful and huge bar overlooking the lake and the city. Nothing like a bit of Dutch courage to potentially soften the blow of plowing into someone on a rickety bike. I actually hoped someone would just rob mine so I didn’t have to bike back. We went to the bit in Home Alone 2 where the pigeon lady throws seed over Harry and Marv, which was really pretty actually.

I tried to stay positive, we visited the Alice in Wonderland statue which I didn’t get the chance to do on previous holidays. It was beautiful, but you had to wait for ages for nearly everyone to have a full blown photoshoot on it to actually get a good look. I had the squeakiest brakes ever on my bike and every time I rode between people or other cyclists, I had a mini panic attack, so after we saw the statue I had had enough. After another stressful walk with the bikes back to the shop, I was knackered.

We decided to walk the High Line, an abandoned railway track that is now littered with greenery and little stalls. It has amazing views of downtown Manhattan and the Meatpacking District. We weren’t sure how long the whole thing is so we weren’t on it for too long, took some photos then headed down to the Chelsea Market. I had a list of things to do and food places that weren’t as touristy, and Matt organised the tourist sites to visit.

One of my main things was the Chelsea Market, a really cool and indie indoor market. I bought a cheap bracelet and some charms to make my own personalised bracelet which I have worn every day since. It’s kind of like the Baltic Market, but for soap/jewellery/food/clothing/artwork stalls, it was really cool. I got some purple glitter “Magic Noodles” from Thaimee Magic that looked way better than they tasted (gross).

We then headed back to the docks for a Statue at Night tour that came with out NY passes. I’m not a boat person, really, I get boat sick on anything smaller than a ferry and I’m terrified of the sea. That said, I really enjoyed this cruise. Once the boat was moving I hardly noticed the rockiness, and the view made me completely forget about it. It’s honestly amazing how small the Statue looks from the city, yet massive up close. I’d recommend at least going to see it up close, there isn’t a lot to do on Ellis Island so we just did the boat tour, but I learnt so much. Did you know that Lady Liberty was a gift from France? I didn’t!

We also went right under the Brooklyn Bridge; the boat tour really ticks a lot off your list. I can’t even describe the view looking back at the city, it almost brings you to tears. You can see everything, and you feel so small in comparison that everything else seems almost significant. You also can’t help but remember that you’re looking at the last route taken by the plane that hit the first Twin Tower.

Day 4:

We were staying in Harlem in NYC, so on this day we started off with breakfast at Harlem Shake. The food was so nice here, and they walls are covered with signed pictures of celebrities. In America they have about 10 different options of egg, which was a bit confusing, but the breakfasts are so nice. ‘Home fries’ are something else, like special mini potato wedges, and we had to try an infamous Harlem (milk)Shake.

We then decided to visit a few places we’d seen on tv, we went to the Friends apartment for me, and the house from the film Panic Room for Matt. (He didn’t recognise it at first and had a photoshoot beside the wrong house at first – lol). If I’m honest, the Friends apartment was a bit underwhelming. With all the tourism in NYC, I expected at least a gift shop or even a plaque on the wall but there wasn’t really anything. Ah well, I’m still really glad we went!

After these two places, we went to the renowned Dylan’s Candy Store in Times Square, and for two grown adults we spent a lot of time in there. (Matt’s fault). We tried pretty much one of every weird American sweet we could find – it was brilliant.

The morning was pretty relaxed and we headed back to the apartment pretty early because we had tickets booked for Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. I cannot even tell you how excited I was about this. I’ve grown up with Phantom, dancing and singing to the songs, listening to the soundtrack in my dad’s car, watching the film. My aunty was in the West End version at one point, and my whole family is pretty into musicals so Phantom is really close to my heart. I’ve wanted to see it in theatre since I was 10, ever since I was first taken to see Fame on the West End.

I swear I was close to tears throughout the whole thing, it was PHENOMENAL. I have never heard voices that good, live, ever. Admittedly, the american accent was a bit odd at first but the cast were all flawless. It was the quickest few hours of my life and I’d go and see it again in an instant.

Day 5:

We were kind of killing time on this day until we could go to my family’s house. After dropping our luggage off, we went back to Central Park without the bikes. Central Park is so much bigger than you’d expect, it’s actually huge. We started at the further end and walked for a bit. By this point, we had done so many things that we could barely walk we were so exhausted.

After a couple of hours of stress, missing trains, trying to get luggage, ticket machines not working, phone calls etc. We ended up putting our cases back in storage and going to sit in Mustang Harry’s bar near Penn Station to wait for my family. Once they turned up, we all went for some food and drink and headed to my cousin’s show. It was the most ridiculous and brilliant thing I have ever been to. His band was amazing, but the mosh pit of smelly men doing cartwheels was less so.

I think that will be all for this post! It’s long enough aha. I’ll save the stories of our second week for Part 2 of this post. This week was all about the city life, my next week was more relaxed and beachy. I hope you liked the photos that are less insta-worthy too. Please subscribe to my posts if you like this kind of thing!


Grace x


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