New York, New York

It was around 1am when we eventually made it to the refuge of our hotel room, exhausted and in need of a shower. The bright lights, towering skyscrapers, and iconic landmarks beckoned outside, but in the city that never sleeps…we slept.
Millions of people visit New York City every year, and in Januray 2008, I, along with my friend Floss, became one of them. For as long as I can remember, New York had been at the top of my list of places to go, and as a post-exam celebration (and of course after revising so hard), the three-day trip was booked - we were going to take our first bite of the Big Apple.
On our first day, we awoke rejuvenated, cleansed, and eager to explore the city. Stepping out of our hotel (on the north-west corner of Central Park) into the bitingly cold air, we grabbed juice and a croissant for breakfast, and headed uptown, towards the Hudson River, for a brief stroll through Harlem and Morningside Heights. Passing Riverside church and Columbia University, the buildings that dominate the area, we walked along Broadway, a street that stretches across the whole of Manhattan, bisecting the island diagonally in its lower half. After walking past shops with fruit-lined fronts and photographing buildings and street signs, we headed back towards Central Park, noting the glistening icicles that dangled from rocks at the edge of its 843 acres.
The American Museum of Natural History was the first main attraction we visited, and after buying our (greatly appreciated) student tickets, explored the extraordinary holdings that comprise some 30 million specimens and cultural artefacts. From the giant Barosaurus in the foyer, to the mesmerising displays of African mammals, the museum is an incredibly diverse and fascinating place.
After the Natural History Museum, we strolled through Central Park on our way to the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Horse-drawn carriages trundled along paths beside the frozen lakes, while numerous squirrels and birds squeaked and squawked their way up trees and through bushes.
We were on our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which, like the Natural History Museum, lies on the edge of Central park. After having a quick (and very late) lunch, we only had less than two hours to explore the building that holds over two million items before it closed. With time being short, we dashed round European Painting before heading to Musical Instruments and Egyptian Art. Though we barely scratched the surface of its holdings, the “Met” too was an extraordinary place.
It was now early evening, and so we ambled down Fifth Avenue - with our target being the iconic 102-storey Empire State Building. After stopping to watch ice-skaters at the Rockefeller Centre and gaze at the New York Public Library, we had reached our destination. Towering above the city, the art deco building offers spectacular 360-degree views of New York, and after making our way through the security system, (not unlike U.S Customs) and going in several elevators, we were able to see them. The honking taxis synonymous with New York were silenced, and we now dwarfed the skyscrapers - their glittering lights now flickering like candles in a dizzy haze. After absorbing the sights and warming ourselves at window-ledge heaters, we headed back down to the streets of Manhattan. We grabbed a takeaway dinner of fat sandwiches and cakes from a deli, before embarking on a bitterly cold walk uptown, resting our feet and satisfying our appetites for the night, in our hotel room.
On day two, we began the morning by walking along the north side of Central Park, going down Madison Avenue towards Midtown, and peering into the windows of the countless designer boutiques as we did so. In the freezing winter air, we searched for somewhere to buy hot chocolate and croissants and headed to Fifth Avenue, where we stood on the corner of one of the most famous stores in the world…we clutched our drink and pastries, shivered, and had breakfast at Tiffany’s.
After recreating a classic Hollywood film, we went east to look briefly at the headquarters of the United Nations, before turning back towards Midtown. Along the way, we explored the beautiful art deco lobby of the Chrysler Building, and then the aptly named Grand Central Station.
From there, we walked downtown towards the triangular-shaped Flatiron building that stands proudly where Broadway meets Fifth Avenue. After walking through Union and Washington Squares, we decided to give our feet a rest and hopped on the subway to the World Trade Centre Site. Unsurprisingly there wasn’t actually much there - a few information boards telling of plans for a museum of some sort, but it was interesting to see the area, and try and begin to imagine what it must have been like on 9/11.
We then walked towards Lower Manhattan, where we stepped aboard the (free) ferry to Staten Island, and photographed the skyscrapers that towered behind us. The ferry is a great way to see the Statue of Liberty, and offers fantastic views of Manhattan and Brooklyn, and like so many others, we just hopped on the returning ferry almost immediately to head back to Manhattan, where we would make our way to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), which, to our delight, was free on Friday evenings. We spent two or three hours exploring the gallery, awestruck by van Gogh’s "Starry Night", Picasso’s "Les Demoiselles d’Avignon" and Andy Warhol’s tins of Campbell’s soup.
On our way back to the hotel we once again picked up dinner from a deli, eating it in the comfort of our room. Later though, we headed out for a cocktail at Monkey Bar, where Carrie Bradshaw hung out with Mr Big in Sex and the City. Propped against the bar was a friendly American named Steve, who very kindly bought our drinks. After chatting to him, we decided to just go back to the hotel and replenish our energy in preparation for our last full day in New York.
The third day saw us once again walk along the north side of Central Park and down Madison Avenue. On the way down, we went to see the Frick Collection - the mansion of industrialist Henry Clay Frick that houses works by Vermeer, Rembrandt and Titian.
Afterwards, we popped into the department store Bloomingdale’s, and then strolled along Fifth Avenue, indulging in a spot of retail therapy along the way (I forgot I was wearing pyjama bottoms to fend off the cold so trying on clothes took longer than usual). We then headed towards the madness of Times Square - a frenetic explosion of neon lights and vendors trying to sell tickets to comedy clubs. Originally called Longacre Square before the New York Times built a 25-storey tower there, the area is famed for the surrounding theatre district and its New Year’s Eve celebrations.
By now our feet and legs had all but seized up, and so we decided to spend a restful evening in the hotel in front of the TV - irreverently empathising with the people on ads suffering from fibromyalgia.
After wrestling with our bags to get the zips closed, on our last morning we marked the occasion by having a waffle, bacon and maple syrup breakfast, washed down with milkshakes (I went for the peanut butter and banana "Elvis") in a typical American diner.
We then quickly looked at the nearby Macy’s and Madison Square Garden before making our way to the airport.
As the train sped away from the city, I gazed, exhausted yet exhilarated, out of the window at the incredible Manhattan skyline in the distance.
And it is only when I left that I realised what an amazing place New York City really is.
I had taken my first bite of the Big Apple, and couldn't wait to go back for seconds.


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