New York, New York: a city so good they named it twice, the city that never sleeps, I wanna be a part of it! In so many songs we’ve heard, movies we’ve seen and books we’ve read, New York City has essentially played one of the lead characters. Like London, New York City has grit alongside the oyster – it has the energy, the diversity, the history, the possibility… we love it.
On a previous trip to New York City we had a day and a night which we spent walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, hanging out in a surprisingly cheap dive bar near Times Square packed with boxing paraphernalia, eating Nathan’s Famous hot dogs in Coney Island, strolling around beautiful Central Park, seeing a gig (Wavves, Dirty Projectors and Phoenix in case you were wondering) in the epic Madison Square Gardens, looking at the twinkling night time lights of the city from the Empire State Building’s observation deck, rooting around junk shops near Union Square and savouring McRibs. Well, it was mostly Josh savouring them. He adores them and hadn’t eaten one for probably 10 years previously. Well worth the wait.
This September we had even less time in the Big Apple. One night, most of a day, and a long lunchtime. We had to get our walking shoes on, get up early and do this thing. We arrived at JFK and stood in the immigration line for a while. Then a little while more. And a bit more after that. And then, a quick hop on the Skytrain and a train ride into Penn, we were thrust into the city. It was hot, really hot, there was a cacophony of smells and accents and noises: it was great. We dropped our bags at our hotel for the night, the good value Hotel Metro, had a quick peek at the Empire State Building from the roof terrace and then wandered in search of liquor.
We had a round of drinks at Ace Hotel bar. She: an Old Fashioned, He: a 21st Amendment ‘Brew Free or Die IPA’ and enjoyed watching people get drunk and start partying in the lobby. We took off for a walk through Times Square – past buskers, bright yellow taxi cabs, New York City cops, women wearing only body paint, Geishas posing for photos, neon, flashing lights, I heart NYC tshirt shops and at least a hundred thousand tourists (a conservative estimate). We enjoyed, and I do mean enjoyed, a quick burger and portion of very cheesey chips at Shake Shack, before sprinting off for a few more brews at the New York Beer Company – a sort-of Stock Exchange for beer – where Josh bought an amazing Vanilla Porter by Breckenridge Brewery.
And then back to the hotel for a brief sleep. The noise of the street, honking horns and people shouting, drifted up all 8 floors into our room. Truly, New York never sleeps. But before we knew it we were awake, at some ungodly hour like 5.30am, but we love squeezing every ounce of fun out of our roadtrip so after a carb-and-caffeine heavy breakfast we headed for the Rockefeller Centre.
Being the organized pair that we are, we’d pre-booked our ‘Top Of The Rock’ tickets for 8am and arrived there before it opened, which meant we were literally the first people of the day to get up there and admire the glorious views of New York City. And the view is something. We drank in the incredible panorama – including the Empire State Building, all of Central Park and even the Statue of Liberty, instagrammed and took zillions of photos before heading back down to the street.
It was a glorious, sunny day, perfect for a walk along the High Line. A public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. Open to the public since 2009 and beautifully exemplifying nature’s reclamation of man-made structures the High Line is a triumph. As we walked along we saw hundreds of plants, alongside birds and butterflies. There’s public art, a café, little shops, seats to recline on. It knocked our socks off.
We then caught the subway to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. As for so many people, September 11th was a traumatic and disruptive moment in our lives. Changing the way we felt about the world and shaking long-held certainties. The memorial consists of two pools located within the footprints of the Twin Towers with the largest manmade waterfalls in the United States cascading down their sides. The names of 2,983 victims are inscribed on 76 bronze plates attached to the walls that form the edges of the Memorial pools. White roses adorned the plates and people stroked the names and stood quietly. It is hugely moving.
The museum opened in May this year and contains various artifacts of September 11, such as the final steel: the last piece of steel to leave Ground Zero in May 2002, singed firetrucks and the contents of a shop entirely covered in a thick, grey dust from when the towers fell. The Museum has been debated and discussed at length in the press by critics, pundits and politicians. There have been controversies over the entrance fee, the gift shop and the design of the museum. It is, of course, a somber experience. It’s constructed of dark wood, cold stone and has huge ceilings. It felt very quiet inside. One room has the names of all the victims; and was heartbreaking. We didn’t know it at the time but among the items stored on the premises, though not open to tourists, are unidentifiable remains of the 9/11 dead. The museum is a fine tribute to the thousands who lost their lives, but the enormity of the event means it is hard to bring any kind of a personal element, in trying to tell the story of the mass murder of so many people the museum is a little cold.
We walked to the subway and headed to Katz’s Deli – home of the infamous “I’ll have what she’s having” scene in When Harry Met Sally”. Open since 1888, in the Lower East Side, it has a rich history and has been visited by loads of famous people; whose photos now line the walls. Selling mile-high pastrami on rye, it’s arguably the most iconic deli in the city. One of the deli’s catchphrases is “Katz’s, that’s all!”, which came about when a sign maker asked Harry Tarowsky what to say on the deli’s sign, and Harry replied “Katz’s, that’s all”. This was misinterpreted by the sign maker who painted the sign as it stands today on the side of the building. Our lunch (of latkes and a beef brisket in grandma’s gravy sandwich) was OK. Very expensive for what it was, but not bad. A solid “meh”. But fun to look at all the “Salami for the Army” signs and deli paraphernalia nonetheless.
After Katz’s we left the city for 5 nights, to explore New England. We returned for a final lunch with friends before catching our flight home. We had lunch at Bubby’s High Line which serves casual American nosh like pit-smoked BBQ, chicken and waffles, biscuits and grits. It was a fun last meal in a sweet location. And that was it. We squeezed as much fun as we could into our time in New York City but already long to return. Until next time…
Rate the State
Good for: a non-stop energetic iconic city, diversity, stunning architecture, varied food, great drinks, culture, the High Line – it’s one of the greatest cities on earth.
Bad for: very expensive and with a really rubbish subway system.