There’s nothing quite like ending a trip on a bang, so when I realised our cheapest way home from Vancouver was via the biggest hell hole in the world*, I started looking into other options. And being me, I came up with a crazy idea, which somehow worked out perfectly: a day in New York City!!
Being that I’m not a huge city fan, I find it curious that I love NYC so much. I can’t pin down what it is, but I think it’s got something to do with how iconic it is, and how much there is to do (like London, I don’t feel like I’d EVER manage to see all of NYC!), and how many cool places there are around every corner and IN every corner.
This time, though, I was excited / apprehensive / nervous to see if my opinion had changed. When I first visited NYC in 2008 as a timid teenager, I was awestruck by everything. Would I still love it now that I was almost 30 and well travelled beyond famous cities? I was excited to explore, and New York was going to be the perfect layover before we hit the UK.
*Toronto airport, in case you’re wondering.
Leaving Vancouver was hard. Way harder than I thought it would be, and a lot harder than it had been leaving Brisbane. I had been sad leaving Australia, but after 14 months I was ready to say goodbye. This time, after six months, I wasn’t. I left my house for the last time, took the skytrain into town for the last time, and had coffee & lunch with one of my favourite Vancouver friends… not for the last time, I’m sure of that, but it was an emotional goodbye to my friends and to the city that I’d learned to call home.
And then that was it. Vancouver disappeared into the distance and we soon descended into Seattle for our next flight to the other end of the USA.
It was crunch time – sleep on the flight, or be miserable and overwhelmed in one of the world’s biggest cities. I slept, but I was still pretty tired when we arrived early in the Big Apple and we had to navigate our way first to somewhere to store our bags for the day, and then into the city.
Given my track record in New York (I once ended up in Brooklyn by mistake and then every train I jumped on kept going further out, and I couldn’t figure out how to get back to Manhattan!!!), navigating into the city is easier said than done. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find the New York metro system really confusing. The lines go all over the place, and I never know which ones link up and none of it makes any sense to me.
Eventually, we decided to head for Ground Zero – I’m not sure why, but it felt like a good starting point, and meant we could meander over to Brooklyn Bridge and walk down towards Battery Park. Plus, being that the last time I was in NYC, it was still a building site, and the last time Ash was in NYC, the twin towers were still standing… it seemed a nice way to ease ourselves into the city and reflect.
But first – tea. I needed caffeine if we were going to explore a city, dammit. I spotted a Pret a Manger round the corner from the One World Tower, and we ducked in for breakfast (I know, really pulling out the stops in a city that can offer us literally anything). It did the trick though, and we perked up immensely for our walk.
The 9/11 memorial is both humbling and sobering. Everybody remembers where they were when the towers came down. I was at a friend’s house, and we were watching the news in horror. Two of her neighbours around our age joined us outside to discuss where we were going to build our bunker for World War 3. We were 12 years old.
But these people – all these thousands of people – were in the buildings, in the empty space in front of us. I just cannot imagine.
It was time, though, to head to the water, and we found ourselves a few minutes later at Pier 15. Or 16. There are a lot of piers, which isn’t really what you think of when you think of New York.
Once again, I was underwhelmed by Brooklyn Bridge. I don’t know what it is about it, but from a distance I don’t think it looks great. That said, I still haven’t walked across it, and I feel like that’s what you’ve got to do to experience its grandeur. If we hadn’t had any touristy things on our list, we might have done that and explored Brooklyn.
I also found a wall that was blatantly built for Instagram.
But we were on a time constraint, so we were sticking strictly to Manhattan. Except for… well, the next thing on our list, because Ash had never done it.
After a lovely walk along the river to Battery Park, we found our first sign of crowds. I had actually been loving New York so far – everywhere had been so quiet! It almost felt like something was wrong. (In fact, you know it’s quiet in New York when a car honks and it makes you jump!)
But no, here we were, faced with the Statue of Liberty tourists – while being ones ourselves – and now it felt like New York.
We still had some time before our tour, so we took a wander up to the bottom of Broadway where I found the charging bull. This would have been great if there weren’t SO MANY PEOPLE. Nobody was even getting photos with the bull on their own. There were two or three people in every shot at any one time. I was busily trying to snap the bull between the poses, but it was impossible.
Then somebody shouted, “CAN EVERYONE JUST GET OUT OF THE WAY FOR FIVE SECONDS, I JUST WANT A PHOTO OF THE BULL WITHOUT ANYONE IN, PLEASE!!”
Everyone stood back. About 20 people frantically took a photo. At least ten people cheered (myself included). What an experience…! Hahaha.
If Ash had been to the Statue Of Liberty before, we would never have bothered going – but I felt like we had to! Plus he was actually more excited for Ellis Island and the immigration centre, which is really fascinating. We looked our names up on the system – I found a few Linnitts! – and Ash searched for his grandad, who passed through New York at some point, though we suspect he may have been a stowaway!
I also had a massive travel fail, if I’m being dramatic. We had managed to score pedestal tickets (not quite crown tickets, but still!) for Lady Liberty, and as we were ushered through the airport-style security at the terminal, I chucked my ticket in the tray and noted that it had landed flat against the side of the tray so it was easy to miss.
Which meant, in the rush, that I left my ticket in the tray (yeah, who saw that coming?). I had a total panic outside and pleaded with the security guy to let me back in, but he told me not to worry and that they wouldn’t check tickets on the ferry. It wasn’t until we were ON the ferry that I remembered that we had freakin’ pedestal tickets.
I enjoyed our little ferry trip, and I really like the Statue Of Liberty, but to be honest unless I happen to visit NYC with someone who really wants to go, that’ll be the last time for me. Twice is enough. There is so much else to do in New York.
Which is obviously why we jumped on the metro and went to Times Square.
Times Square is as manic and overwhelming as it’s ever been. Ash hated it.
We were meeting a friend (the lovely Matt from Escaping America) nearby shortly though, so we checked out the Disney store – which was somehow more packed than the street – and then retreated to Bryant Park.
Had we not been meeting anyone, we would probably have seen the rest of the daylight in Central Park – but instead, we checked out the Christmas markets in Bryant Park, which strangely looked like they were in greenhouses, and when our friend arrived, we grabbed some delicious dinner in a really cool Belgian place literally a block away from Times Square. It was reasonably priced and not even that busy – an actual hidden gem thanks to our friend, which goes to show even in tourist trap hot spots, you can find great places.
I’m really, really glad we spent the day in New York. I loved it all over again, which was both a relief and a potential curse, because now I want to go back and spend more time there, and we all know how tear-inducingly expensive that can be.
We missed a few things (well, obviously we missed thousands of things), like I completely forgot that the Rockefeller Christmas tree might have been up by then (let’s hope it wasn’t), and similarly the oversized Christmas decorations were on my list, but they might not have been around. I REALLY wanted to visit the High Line, but I didn’t really know where they were – on a map, it looks close to Times Square, but it turns out it really isn’t! So that wasn’t convenient in the time that we had at all, sadly.
Central Park is definitely on my list to go back to, but more importantly, I want to get out of Manhattan – and not just when I get lost on the metro system! I especially want to explore Brooklyn.
It probably looks like we didn’t do much in a day, and actually although we didn’t really stop, we were never in a rush, which was refreshing and a little unexpected given the urgency of New York.
No matter what, I think it was a GREAT way to end the trip! After six months in Vancouver and over a month road tripping Canada and the USA, I was finally going home – wherever that might be.
P.S. literally the last photo I took on the trip was this: fitting or what?! Tim Hortons in a New York airport!
Have you ever had a layover in a city? Was it somewhere you’d like to go back to, or do you think you made the most of your time there? I’d love to know in the comments!
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