For mine and Patrick's 13 year anniversary we spent it in New York. It was the first time that we had been to the states together so it was lovely to finally take a trip across the pond.
For the first few nights, we stayed at the stunning Viceroy hotel which was located in a prime midtown area of Manhattan, just a couple of blocks away from Central Park. The staff were fantastic and nothing was too much trouble. Plus the bed was literally the comfiest thing I have ever slept on in my entire life. For the remainder of our trip, we checked into the Nash apartments. Again, a great place which I'd highly recommend. The apartment was in another great midtown location - a few blocks from the Chrysler building and Grand Central Station.
During the 10 days we were there, we spent most of our time discovering the parts of the city that we wouldn't usually get the chance to see if we were only visiting the prime tourist locations. I've been lucky enough to visit NY 3 times in the past (the 1st time with my family when I was 16, and twice with uni when I was a fashion student) so I already been to the Statue of Liberty etc before, and as Patrick wasn't too bothered at all we decided to just hang out with friends, walk around, visit great bars and restaurants, and to just absorb the city as if we were living there. Still, we barely scratched the surface on what the city has to offer.
One of the things we absolutely had to do was to pay our respects at the 9/11 memorial grounds.
Many people say “you always remember what you were doing on September 11th, 2001”. I remember it clearly like it was yesterday. I remember where I was when I found out, I remember who I heard it from (as it was long before the days of facebook or internet on your phone), I even remember what I was wearing at the time. The shock and horror of the events were totally incomprehensible, and they still are.
The memorial’s twin pools which sit within the footprints of the original world trade centre towers are absolutely stunning and respectfully designed. I don’t think the photos you see really show justice to the sheer size that the towers once were, this in itself it just overwhelming. Each name that was lost in both the 1993 and 2001 attacks are inscribed into the bronze panelling. Flowers, small flags, and other sentimental items inserted into the names are solemn reminders that this is, in fact, a burial ground. As you wander round the pools just staring into the vast fountains, the new York hustle and bustle fade into white noise.
I wasn’t sure at first if I wanted to visit the museum. Upon completion, it was met with a lot of controversy regarding the commercialisation of a terrorist attack. Don’t get me wrong, I can understand why many may think it is a little too close to the bone - Recordings of final calls from relatives aboard hijacked planes, teddy bears belonging to children rescued from the wreckage and stories from the victims relatives, send shivers down your spine - It was an overwhelming and sobering experience, yet as you walk along the foundations of the original buildings deep underground, it’s still so hard to believe that it really did happen. After all, this time, it still seems so raw. I can’t actually justify it with words - I haven’t ever experienced anything so disturbing yet so humbling at the same time. Personally, I feel the exhibition and museum really pay tribute to those lives lost in the most tasteful way possible and although it documents the devastation very truthfully and visually, it also honours the lives of the individuals, their families, and the heroes who fought for them.
The experience is something that will stay with me forever.
When planning a trip to New York or somewhere similar, it's possible you may have googled in advance where you can go to find the best burgers, the best pizza, the best Steakhouse. For me, it was Steak, Burgers, Hotdogs and Delicatessen. (among others)
So here are 4 recommendations and reviews of each!
We had a recommendation for this place from a friend and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Established in 1887 and voted as “the best steak in new York” many times over, this place is somewhat of an institution. I wouldn’t say it was the best Steak I have ever eaten in my entire life but it probably makes the top 5. At over $100 for a ‘steak for 2’ it's certainly no budget restaurant but for UDSA Prime Porterhouse that has been dry aged for 28 days its well worth it – and it just melts in your mouth. Minus one rather unpleasant and slightly rude bartender who seemed to think he was doing us a favour by letting us sit at the bar and grumpily serving us a drink before we were about to spend a lot of money on a meal, the rest of the service and experience was great – efficient and fast, despite the queue coming out the door we even got seated before our reservation time. A meal with wine and side dishes will set you back around $150 - $200 easily with the tip included, and there is also no cards accepted (apart from their own Peter Luger card) so don’t come here without cash! Definitely recommended if you visit Brooklyn, but reserve in advance. It gets very busy and is extremely popular.
I LOVE burgers. Seriously who doesn’t? A couple of weeks before coming to New York I googled “best burgers in NYC” as I am sure many people have before. This place came up on a lot of the “top 10 places” and after a friend recommended it we felt even more inclined to go. “Hidden” (badly so) behind a curtain within the extravagant Le Parker Meridian hotel, this Burger Joint is the worst kept secret. Even if you were struggling to find it, the queue coming out the door and around by the side of the curtain in the hotel lobby is a dead give away. What is so interesting however is the extreme juxtaposition between the grandeur of the luxury 4-star hotel with its high ceilings and rich décor, to this ‘no frills’, grubby looking cash-only eatery. Business men in suits were queuing to get their lunch, and with a 30-minute wait for “fast food,” we knew it must be good and worth waiting for. The menu is basic and drinks are served in plastic tumblers. The food itself doesn’tlook fancy and it is served in a paper wrapping on a tray. The restaurant isn’t trying to be anything it's not, but what it is, is a place that serves a damn fine burger. The patty was cooked to absolute perfection and was far tastier than anything I have eaten in any fancy burger restaurant. Washed down with a Samuel Adams lager and some fries it was the perfect lunch and probably one of my favourite meals during the trip.
Ambrose Beer & Lobster - Fulton Street
We came across this place by mistake. I love mistakes like that – when you accidentally stumble across a gem of a restaurant or pub. We had spent the morning at the 9/11 memorial and came out and said to each other “I think we need a beer after that”. I’d never really planned to eat in or around the financial district as there were so many places I wanted to go to in the east village, the meat packing district etc, however, we were hungry and beer was calling so we wondered aimlessly to find the nearest subway station and ended up finding ourselves in a fairly desolate part of the city - the seaport district. In theSummer, this district is absolutely thriving but in the winter during the working day, it was eerily quiet. We walked up to the window of Ambrose and the menu looked great so we went in for a Hot Toddy (I had a mega sore throat and a cold coming typically) and a craft beer for Pat – which they have a great range of incidentally. I ordered the LA Hot Dog – Hands down, best hot dog I have ever eaten. With its all beef dog, spicy coleslaw, chipotle mayo, topped with avocado it was all kinds of amazing served in its crispy yet soft bun. Excellent service from a friendly bartender, awesome music playing and great beer - I would definitely recommend this place. Yummy!
Katz's Deli - Houston St, Lower East Side
You might already be familiar with this place, as it is a proper iconic NY destination and known for its Pastrami and corned beef sandwiches – and also the fact that it was the setting for the Meg Ryan’s famous fake orgasm scene in the 1989 movie ‘When Harry met Sally’. This no frills jewish deli is not cheap by any means - a Pastrami sandwich will set you back $20. It’s no average sandwich though. On a freezing February day we queued outside for around 20 minutes (this place is popular with tourists) and we waited inside a further 20 minutes for a table. The menu is fairly extensive of all the foods you would expect to get in a diner, however it was a no brainer for us. “3 pastrami sandwiches please” we said when the waiter came over – The signature dish of Katz. When my food came I couldn’t help but feellike Adam Richman on an episode of Man Vs Food. It was huuge. Between 2 layers of rye bread was enough meat to fill 6 normal sized sandwiches. Hot pastrami that melts in your mouth, English mustard and sweet gerkins was heaven – but I could not eat it all. It was FAR too much for me personally, but that didn’t stop it from being delicious, albeit slightly greasy. It’s not somewhere I would go again if I were back in the city as there are a plethora of other restaurants I’d still love to go to, but its absolutely one of those places you go to say you have been, and if you like pastrami sandwiches - you wont be disappointed. Just make sure you do not lose your ticket that you get given by security as you come in – lost tickets incur a $50 minimum fine. It’s a weird ticket system but it works for them.
So, as far as galleries/museums were concerned, the one we both really wanted to visit was the Guggenheim. Located on the Upper East side, looking over central park, the museum's architecture itself is a delight. Out of all the museums and galleries I have ever been to, I enjoyed walking around this one the most - all the way up the spiral floor, and all the way back down again. It's not overwhelmingly big, which is great as you get to see everything and there is no chance of getting lost. There were some great exhibitions on at the time went, including a fantastic selection of Kandinsky paintings.
Ok, so... Bars...we went to a few of them.
I REALLY wanted to get a decent shot of the Empire state building. I've been up to the top of the Empire state building a couple of times before and gotten some great shots of Manhattan, but then you are always missing one of the most iconic buildings of the NYC skyline. We thought about going up to the top of the Rockefella Centre, but decided in the end to head to 230 Fifth Avenue's rooftop bar. This way, we could get a nice big cup of warm cider whilst taking in the incredible views. For me, this place is ALL about the views. The bar itself is insanely overpriced, the decor looked like a Kardashian had threw up all over it and the music was diabolical. But the view - WOW!
Straight after we watched the sun go down, we headed to a proper pub for some excellent craft beer and good chat - Rattle N Hum
I think I have rambled on enough now... I could speak about this holiday forever. I will end with the rest of the photos and some more recommendations of places we visited that are well worth a visit.
The High Line - depending on which end you start from you finish in the uber cool Meat packing district. Whilst your here you 'may' as well check out...
Brass Monkey - for good beers, a fine service and chilled atmoshphere
The Brooklyn Brewery - (or just brooklyn in iteself) Don't just go over the bridge and walk back... discover Brooklyn - It's AWESOME!
Black Brick Coffee - Williamsburg in Brooklyn - best coffee I ever had :)
Joe Coffee - Another great coffee shop
Simple Cafe - Stunning little french eatery and florist in Williamsburg
Dos Toros - Burritos! amazing ones, and cheap!
I could go on.....