Today, I am going to be posting the first part of my NYC trip report. I wasn’t actually going to post this, as my Florida one last year went down like a sinking ship…
These trip reports take a hell of a long time to write, and my motivation to complete the Florida 2016 report was completely lost, no matter what I tried to do. So, I’m going to start fresh with this one instead.
With most of the basis done, I feel like this report will hopefully be more successful. Plus, there’s only 5/6 days included here rather than 15.
As I’ve touched on previously, this holiday was an absolute dream come true; one I never expected in a million years. I couldn’t be more grateful to my Mam, Tom and Susan for making this happen. I love you.
I’ve decided to combine the first and second day together in this post, as there isn’t much to say about day 1 (travel day). Just a warning, these posts will be loooooong! I am going to split the rest of the days up in parts so it’s easier for you to read, but this post is going to stay as was. Grab a coffee, a snack, a dog to cuddle, whatever helps you get through.
Anyway, I hope you all enjoy reading what we got up to in NYC!
Love from, Jess x
Day 1 – Wednesday 6th September:
Well, the day had finally come after a long 5 month wait – for my Mam, Susan and Tom. So, let me re-word that. Well, the day had finally come after a long 11 day wait…
Everyone but me had known about this holiday for a while now, and had been planning and plotting and getting excited for months. I had only found out less than a fortnight before – a massive surprise for my 21st birthday! How on Earth they had managed to keep the holiday a secret for all these months I just don’t know, especially due to how much I constantly went on about my dream to visit NYC whenever anything slightly New York related would come on TV. Apparently, there were so many times they almost let slip and gave the game away.
They had secret meetings to plan and book things and I honestly just had no clue at all. I discovered on my birthday just how hard it was to get me out of the way; one Saturday I took the day off work to spend some quality time with Tom, only to discover that I’d completely messed up their plans to have a meeting with a travel agent in Debenhams during my work hours. I had been wondering why Tom didn’t seem as happy to spend the day with me…
The big reveal on my 21st birthday was just as exciting for the three of them as it was for me. Apparently my reaction ‘was priceless and worth all the secrecy’. It took me all day to realise what was happening, it just wouldn’t sink in that my dream was coming true, in less than two weeks may I add!
I only had a few days to get used to the idea, decide where I wanted to go and pack – but the day had arrived and although we weren’t flying until tomorrow, this was the start of our holiday.
We were flying from Heathrow to JFK, so Tom had agreed to drive us down south the day before and we were to stay in an apartment that night. We had arranged for Tom and Susan to come and pick us up at 9.45am to allow for plenty of time to get down there (allowing food and coffee stops). However, online check in issues meant this original plan went out of the window. After almost losing the computer out of the window, shouting and swearing under breath, we eventually were checked in and the first stress of the day was dealt with. Whilst we were waiting for Tom and Susan, we finished the last minute jobs and packing. I was really quite stressed this morning, I wanted everything to be perfect and I guess choosing between two mascaras was too much for me to handle…pathetic.
Tom and Susan arrived just after 10.30am, and then we had the difficult task of getting our luggage in the car. Tom’s BMW has a huge boot, but we (I) over-packed slightly which made it tricky to fit everything in. Leaving Tom to navigate the bags, my mam and I said goodbye to Chester and Cassie (our bunnies), we felt sad leaving them despite only being gone for 6 days, but we knew they’d be in good hands while being looked after by my superhero bff Charlotte.
Boot crammed shut, we set off around 10.45. We went through the Tyne Tunnel, down the A19 and then onto the A1. Tom had made a good playlist which everyone enjoyed, luckily because my mam and I don’t exactly have the same music taste…
Our first stop was at Wetherby at about 12.30 because we were all starting to get hungry and craving a stretch of the legs. We all got something to eat and a hot drink from Costa(fortune). We all really like Wetherby services, there is loads of choice and it’s really open and clean. We stopped there for around an hour before clambering back into the car.
During the next two hour car journey, surprise surprise, I fell asleep in the car. This shouldn’t be a shock to those who know me, as everyone knows I am terrible for napping. Needless to say, when I woke up in Peterborough I didn’t have a clue where I was. This was a very nice service station, and we had some treats and a lovely sit down.
While we were relaxing, we somehow got onto the topic about the US dollar and how bad it was. It was at this point Tom and I realised we had been absolutely ‘shafted’ by Thomas Cook. I’m not going to go into this in too much detail, as after the trip we got compensated after a lot of arguments with the manager of the branch we went to. However, their mistake was not good enough and I have no doubt we will never ever get travel money from there again.
Back on the road the traffic was OK, until we approached London, then it got gradually worse. Trying to get off the M25 to go to Hayes where our hotel was, was a nightmare. Caitlin (the Sat Nav) was trying to take us a weird route, so we ended up switching her off and following the road signs instead. Amazingly, we managed to get ourselves to the hotel (Stay City Aparthotel) around 6.30pm.
The room was alright. A bit of a trek from the lobby and a little tired and worn but other than that, absolutely fine. It was clean and the bathrooms were really nice, I completely rate hotel rooms on bathrooms.
There were no takeaways or restaurants nearby, so we visited the Tesco Express next door to get some nibbles for tea. After attempting to sort out the issue with Thomas Cook (we couldn’t until we got home from our trip), we sat together to eat and relax, before having an early night. We couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning.
Day 2 – Thursday 7th September:
When our alarms went off at 4am this morning, instead of grumbling and putting my pillow over my head, I woke up immediately eager to start the day. Today was the day. I would be seeing my favourite city in the whole world for the first time. Nothing could contain my excitement, not even the fear of the flight. Nobody really slept in this morning, everyone was getting ready pretty sharpish.
Once I was dressed with my makeup done, I gave my stuff to my mam so she could repack the cases, because apparently I do it ‘wrong’. We left the room, began the long walk back down to reception and checked out just before 5am. There was the usual jigsaw puzzle of trying to get all of the cases back into the boot, but with that achieved we all piled in and set off to find the NCP car park at the airport.
We had the usual shenanigans with Caitlin, who was in a right flap so we ended up going around in a circle for a few minutes, but soon she sorted herself out and we actually found the car park with no further issues! Luckily, the hotel was reasonably close to the airport, so it only took us about 10 minutes to get there.
We used all our might to pull the cases from the boot of the car and onto the waiting airport shuttle bus while Tom parked the car. About 5 minutes later, we set off to the terminal.
Heathrow Airport is huuuge and although we were parked right on the edge of the airport, it took us about 15 minutes to get to Terminal 3. It wasn’t even 6am at this stage, so the ‘Check In’ desks were still setting up, but we were right at the front of the queue and were attended to within minutes.
The whole experience at Heathrow was quick and efficient; alongside the ease of check-in, we also got through security in a flash which was incredibly handy. After sorting some other arrangements out, we walked through Duty Free and entered the departure lounge. My mam and I have flown from here once before, when we went to Australia in 2009. I can’t really remember much but my mam describes it as ‘a long, dull grey corridor with one restaurant, a couple of coffee shops and a couple of high end shops’ – not the best entertainment for a 12 year old. It’s a lot nicer now, much brighter and more modern.
We had a look at what some of the coffee shops/restaurants had to offer and Tom and Susan went to ‘Pret et Manger’ for their breakfast and my mam and I went to ‘Eat’ for ours, and we met in the middle!
There were no tables left, so we plonked down on a row of seats and ate our breakfast there. Tom and Susan got porridge and coffee, my Mam got an egg, cheese and mushroom roll, I had a bacon sandwich and we both had tea. We all enjoyed our breakfast, especially myself as I love my brekkie!
After eating, we had a wander around the shops. We ended up splitting up again as we wanted to go to different places. My mam and I went to Duty Free to do the obligatory spray of perfume before going to WH Smith to pick up some drinks and mags. We then went to find Tom and Susan who were doing some wandering of their own, buying books and mags for the plane also. This killed some time, and just after 8am, our gate number was finally displayed and announced. We headed over there pretty swiftly as apparently it was a 20 minute walk as we were due to take off at 9.05am.
There was a big queue at the gate while the staff scanned boarding cards, but the queue appeared to go down reasonably quickly. We’d just got into the lounge when we were told we could begin boarding so we immediately hopped on the plane and found our seats in no time.
Our seats were good, in 2’s behind each other about 2/3 of the way down the plane. We had paid extra to secure seats with extra leg room and I’m glad we did this as it was soooo much more comfortable!
I sat with Tom behind our two mothers, which was nice as we were all together. I had never been on a plane with Tom before, so I’m glad we sat together. We got ourselves settled and the remainder of the passengers boarded and at about 8:50 we started to taxi to the runway. I don’t know exactly what time we took off and the wheels left the ground, but it must have been bang on time.
It was a smooth take-off which was relieving (I get really nervous about this), and I’m sure Tom was also relieved as the feeling flooded back into his hand. At first, my TV screen wasn’t working. Apparently Virgin were having a lot of trouble with some of the screens and I was really hoping mine would fix myself. Just before we’d reached cruising altitude however, the screen magically fixed itself to my relief. Not like I ended up watching anything but it’s nice to have options, you know?
Our first meal came about two hours after take-off, just as I was in the midst of dozing off. My main was really yummy, I got pulled pork with mashed potato and beans and Tom got a paneer curry which unfortunately he didn’t really enjoy.
For the rest of the flight really, I just listened to my Spotify ‘NYC’ playlist and dozed, I was really tired from getting up so early, and wanted a rest anyway to conserve my energy for the exciting day ahead.
However, a couple of hours in, I started to feel really, really ill. I never used to suffer from air sickness when I was a little girl, but I’ve just gotten worse over the last few flights. Travel sickness tablets unfortunately don’t even help me, they unbelievably make me feel even worse, so I didn’t even bother with them this time!
What really didn’t help my sickness, was the rocky turbulence we suffered for the last hour and a half of our flight. However, we’ve had a lot worse so it would have been bearable if I hadn’t have been feeling ill.
The flight overall actually went extremely quickly; it was a seven and a half hour flight but I managed to keep myself entertained for most of it. Before we knew it, we were beginning to descend…
We came into JFK airport over the East coast (of the USA) and Long Island. We had a fantastic view of Long Island and the beach coastline which was really nice to see. It was a very smooth landing this time (unlike our Orlando flight last year when the plane was almost on its side), and New York was a sunny 22°C at 11.35am local time.
Immigration sorted and bags picked up, we were soon waiting for our Carmel taxi to take us into Manhattan to our hotel. As we went outside the airport doors to the pick-up point, warm air just hit you in the face (a nice change from the pretty crappy summer we had had).
Once our taxi arrived, we pulled away from the terminal and began our short car journey. I was absolutely exploding with excitement at this point, I couldn’t believe we were here.
It took around about 30 – 40 minutes along the Long Island Expressway to get to our hotel. I thoroughly enjoyed the car journey, it was amazing looking at all of the typical American sights. Just before entering the Queens Midtown tunnel, we saw our first view of Manhattan, and it certainly impressed!
We got to the DoubleTree Hilton hotel on Lexington Avenue around 1.30pm and a kind bell hop pulled all of our bags inside for us ready to check in.
The lobby of the hotel was just incredible. Obviously my mam, Tom and Susan had seen pictures of it already, but it absolutely blew my socks off. Upon check in, the lovely lady who served us gave us four, warm and gooey chocolate chip cookies which were so tasty (better than Domino’s, and that’s me saying that!) As we were celebrating my 21st birthday, we are pretty sure she upgraded us as our rooms were on a high floor and a lot bigger than expected!
My mam and Susan’s room was just along the corridor from us on the 17th floor, which was really handy as we were very close to each other. The two rooms were both amazing, each kitted out with a safe, a huge flat screen TV, a beautiful bathroom and extremely comfy beds.
We unpacked a little and settled into our rooms, but we were all hungry so decided to go and find something to eat. We didn’t venture very far and instead decided to check out the ‘Fresh & Co’ deli next door. This ended up being a favourite throughout the holiday – the food was all fresh ingredients and mostly organic but most importantly, delicious. We all got some food of some description and grabbed some tables outside on the ‘sidewalk’ of Lexington Ave. It was lovely to sit outside in the heat, to observe the huge buildings in the distance and to watch the famous yellow taxis zoom by…
After a quick stop back in the room (in which time I learned I was sunburnt from just 20 minutes sitting outside), we decided we didn’t want to waste the sunshine while it was out. It was explore time.
Before the holiday, everyone (except from me), had discussed things they wanted to do during our visit. My mam made a rough plan to allow us to do what we wanted, and this afternoon was to check out some typical NYC landmarks.
We followed maps and my mam’s intuition down several blocks to Grand Central Station; we were all so excited to visit this fantastic place. We didn’t actually end up turning onto 42nd street to enter the station, and instead found an entrance further down Lexington, so we first encountered the Grand Central Market before coming to the station. The market had everyone you could have ever wanted, if we had more time I could have easily browsed the place for hours and hours. It had many stalls selling all sorts of vegetables, alcohol, cakes, pastries, cheese and candy. In a way, I wish we hadn’t just eaten as I would have loved to try some of the food on offer. Instead I took many a photo and left with my eyes bigger than my belly and my mouth drooling.
The main concourse of Grand Central was breath-taking to say the least. It was everything we had imagined and more; the artwork plastered over the ceiling was stunning and it was huuuge. It certainly wasn’t Newcastle Central Station.
We didn’t explore too much as we didn’t have a ticket to allow us access to other parts of the station, but my mam and I had a sneak peek at the tracks/platforms and it was so identical to scenes in particular movies and TV shows. One film that came straight to mind was ‘The Taking of Pelham 123’.
After being fascinated for a while and using up a decent chunk of photo storage on my phone, we exited through Vanderbilt Hall which is also beautiful. The walls and floors are marble and the chandeliers hanging down from the ceiling are something to gape at.
We exited Grand Central on 42nd Street, and from here we had an amazing view of the Chrysler Building which was beautiful. The architecture in NYC is out of this world and like nothing I have ever seen before.
As we began walking up towards 6th Avenue, I spotted the first Sephora shop of the holiday. As most of you probably know, I am OBSESSED with Sephora and was dying to go and spend some birthday dollars in there. However, it was only the first night at this point and I decided I could wait. I know, what?!
We then passed the New York Public Library which was another incredible building with marble exterior and gigantic Romanesque columns. One of my greatest regrets is that we did not venture inside, I would have loved that. Unfortunately, you just don’t have the time to do everything. I’m sure we’ll go back.
We saw so many wonderful buildings on our first walk in NYC. But undoubtedly, the most spectacular of all was the ‘Grace’ building. It was extremely tall, and soooo trippy as the exterior curved inwards. It’s so hard to explain, so here’s a picture…
We were starting to realise that everywhere you looked in Manhattan, you were in awe of something.
A little hike later, we turned onto 6th Avenue (the Avenue of the America’s) and walked until we arrived at Radio City Music Hall. This was another sight that was surreal to see. With NYC being such a popular city, it is featured in a hell of a lot of films and TV shows. You don’t realise how many of these iconic sights you have seen before through a TV screen. The outside of the popular concert destination was beautiful, the mosaic above the main entrance was fabulous.
Finding what would now be our go-to route around the local landmarks, we then turned down 50th Street and walked along the side of Radio City until we reached the Rockefeller Centre. We were especially excited to see 30 Rockefeller Plaza, as we are a great fan of the TV Comedy ‘30 Rock’ starring Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey.
We all really wanted to go to the observatory aka the ‘Top of the Rock’, so we bought our tickets for half an hour time. In the meantime, we decided to explore the area outside of the building.
At the front of ’30 Rock’ there is a sunken plaza, which is famous for its outdoor cafes and restaurants in the summer, and the outdoor ice rink and huge Christmas tree in the winter. The plaza was shadowed by a solid gold statue of ‘Prometheus’ and around 200 flagpoles where different UN member country flags whip in the gentle breeze.
We could have stood here for hours soaking in the atmosphere, but it was now almost time for us to head up to the top of ’30 Rock’. We were all quite nervous about this; it wasn’t just the height that set butterflies off in our stomachs, but also having to go that high in a fast-moving lift also. But, we were in New York, we had to do this.
To get to the observation deck, you had to take two lifts: one to the 7th floor, and one to the 67th floor. However, there were security checks along the way which made us all feel a bit better about ascending that high up in the air.
It only took 43 seconds to get to the 67th floor. Yes, 43 seconds. To be honest, it didn’t feel like you were going to rocket launch out of the top of the building, but it was certainly no multi-storey car park lift. The cool thing about this lift (as if I’m saying that), was the pictures of Radio City and NBC studios projected onto the roof of the lift with accompanying music. This was a lovely 43 second presentation, and before we knew it, we were there.
On the 67th floor we exited onto a glass enclosed observation deck. We couldn’t believe our eyes at the view. You had a 360° view of the whole of Manhattan which was like nothing we had ever seen before. However, the only downside to this floor was that the glass enclosure proved for blurry and poor quality pics. We only spent a little while here and then got in another lift up to the 70th floor which was much better.
This was one of the highlights of the whole holiday for me, and we’d only been there a couple of hours! It was a beautiful day and you could see for miles and miles. We took so many photos and even paid to use the telescope to view ‘One World Trade Centre’, ‘The Statue of Liberty’ and ‘Ellis Island’ in the distance.
We must have spent an hour on that top platform, no matter how long I stared across Manhattan, I just couldn’t take it in. You could see absolutely everything, and it was the warmest welcome to my city of dreams. Dragged away kicking and screaming, we caught the two lifts back downstairs.
With everyone in an incredible mood, we decided to call it a night and walk back to our hotel. It was only 7.30pm, but we were all shattered from the long day of travelling and were jet-lagged from the time difference.
Back in our rooms, we basically got ready and went to bed around 9pm. Tom and I chilled and reflected on our first day before collapsing into the extremely comfy beds.