Over Spring Break I celebrated turning 21 by going to a country where turning 21 is still a big deal, America. As someone who had never left Europe, but has been exposed to American images and pop culture all my life, I had pretty high expectations. And the concrete jungle where dreams are made of didn’t let me down. Our home for four days, Hotel Edison, luckily found on deal, is amazing. Completely art-deco, it retains that old school charm, with a stunning lobby, original features, unique rooms and the most authentic feeling 1930s jazz bar. The Rum House really was a treasure in the trip; live music every night in a cosy bar with expertly made cocktails. It was clearly a hit with the locals too, as by the late evening it was always packed with New Yorkers and hotel guests. On our first morning, we were up bright and early and indulged at a very American diner. My plate was stacked high with (delicious) blueberry pancakes served with maple syrup and butter on the side. Really only one meal a day is necessary with American portion sizes. We spent the day exploring touristy Midtown. Times Square; Grand Central Terminal, which is like stepping through a time warp; New York Public Library, so ornate and an excellent shop; and MoMA, we only explored two floors of impressionism, cubism and early modern art but still saw some of the art world’s greatest treasures, and also paused for soup at the café, which may sound like an odd recommendation, but it was excellent and had a fantastic view of the city. Then just before sunset we went along to Rockefeller Center to get the view from the Top of the Rock. Opting for this rather than the Empire State Building meant that you actually get to see the Empire State Building, although the Chrysler Building was irritatingly obscured from full view.
Waking up the next morning in a city that never sleeps we ventured south, exploring the High Line and trendier areas around Houston Street (which is how the SOHO, NOHO thing came about – nothing to do with London Soho). The High Line is a park along what used to be a railway line carrying materials into the industrial heart of the city and now, on a sunny day, is home to hipsters and tourists wanting a different perspective on the city. It’s literally a different perspective since the track is some feet above street level. Some rather obvious advice – don’t bother with Kat’s Delicatessen. Yes, it might be fun to have a pastrami on rye and fake orgasm in the same booth as Meg Ryan, but the place now is a zoo. Queues out the door, a complex ticketing system and troops of tourists occupying the whole place. This ended up being a blessing in disguise for us as we stumbled upon a Ukrainian Jewish Deli which, instead of a menu on the blackboard outside, had a satirical cartoon about Putin.
My biggest regret of the trip is that I didn’t take a photograph. My mum and I split two sandwiches when one really would’ve been enough since they came with a side of sweet potato fries and a beer. But when good food is concerned, my stomach knows no bounds and we munched our way through bizarre Eastern European meats and bread with dollops of sauerkraut. Possibly the best meal of the trip. We checked off some other touristy sites: Wall Street, the Staten Island Ferry (which since it is free was most definitely worth it for the views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan), Madison Square Gardens, Union Square, Flatiron building (it really is so flat!) and the 9/11 Memorial. We had a small hiccup at the 9/11 Memorial because it is ticketed… that strikes me as twisted, but maybe there’s a crowd control necessity. Anyway we opted out of that and had our first adventure on the subway.
Still absolutely stuffed from our lunch, we went straight to see Chicago on Broadway and followed it up with a shared slice of cheesecake from Juniors. Which meant that we welcomed the long walk up through central park to the Upper East Side the next day to visit the Guggenheim and the Met. Yes, the Guggenheim is good, and has an interesting permanent collection of Picasso, Cézanne and Gauguin, but the Met is mind-blowing! I don’t understand how there is anything left for any other museum in the world. It has collections from all over the world, from all eras in history. We skipped through ancient Egypt and saw the Mayan longboats and American Tiffany glass and we barely scratched the surface. Instead, we accepted defeat and trundled down-town, all the way to Chinatown. London Chinatown doesn’t even compare to New York’s. Food stalls, clothes shops, restaurants transport you and slowly blend into Little Italy, which makes for a very bizarre fusion. Another place worth a mention by name was 230-Fifth, a rooftop bar with pricey drinks but a priceless view of the whole city, including the Chrysler building.
To finish off the trip we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and frenziedly shopped for presents at Macy’s – which had a 70% off sale! And where we had the worst American encounter – a women interrupted our purchase at the till to demand someone find the manager because her friend had been pricked by the security tag. She was yelling and postulating like this was an emergency of enormous magnitude. The walls weren’t being splattered with blood, he wasn’t screaming in pain or fainting, in fact he was queuing to try on trousers. Really, lady?!?! The pleasant surprise of the trip, was that I could count the number of rude encounters on one hand. For all the rep, New Yorkers were completely lovely and polite. Who knew?
Images sourced from Pinterest. Edited by Ruoting Tao