It happened as I was cruising towards downtown Manhatten in a yellow cab – I saw the New York skyline for the first time. It was amazing – just like I had seen on TV, but better. The sun glinted off the crystal clear water and the buildings were beautiful, tall and perfect. My dream of visiting New York had finally come true and I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in the glamour of the city. Home suddenly seemed a very long way away.
As the cab screeched to an abrupt stop outside Hotel Pensilvannya on Seventh Avenue, I was enthralled by just how grand the sky-high buildings were. But more than that, what struck me most was how bustling it was. The atmosphere was electric, even at 5pm on a Wednesday. The streets were full of people hurrying around, the air was filled with the smells of hot dogs that street vendors were selling, sounds of honking horns as cabs tried to navigate their way through the city and music pounding from the shops in Times Square. It was manic.
Whoever said that New York is the city that doesn’t sleep is completely right – the noise and bustle never dies down. Walking around Times Square on our first night was a completely eye-opening experience and would have been overwhelming if it wasn’t so amazing. The whole area was completely illuminated with so many lights that it was just like being there in day-time. Excited theatre-goers bustled around, hoping to get tickets to the latest Broadway show as music pounded from nearby restaurants. The sights and sounds were nothing short of thrilling and it was then that I fell in love with New York City.
We booked onto a bus tour for our second day. As much as I hate to appear like a tourist in a city that I am visiting, it was a good way to get our bearings. The Grayline Sightseeing tour cost $88 for a 3 day hop-on, hop-off tour with a pass to the Empire State Building, a Statue of Liberty cruise and a pass to the Seaport Museum (I had no idea what this was). The host of the bus tour was an elderly man called Arthur, who delighted in telling long, rambling stories about each sight we passed. His knowledge and enthusiasm was catching and as we cruised through Soho, Greenwich Village, the FlatIron district and the Financial District with the gentle breeze blowing, a warm feeling of happiness washed over me and I felt that if I blinked for one second I would miss something. New York was simply amazing.
We decided to get off the bus at Central Park and as we entered the vast greenery of the massive park, it was hard to believe we were still in the city. Known as New York’s “backyard”, the park is massive – 843 acres to be precise. As with the rest of the city, there is something to see at every turn. The park has hills, rivers, statues and restaurants and as I watched people floating boats on the river, I realised that the park was a calm haven from the bustle of the city. The sun was shining and after walking for what felt like miles, we came to The Boathouse. It was as beautiful as it looked on the movies. After stopping to sunbathe for a while (to a Scot, sunbathing in October was a completely foreign concept), we continued on our journey around the park. We soon found ourselves completely lost and found an exit which brought us face to face with a huge, familiar-looking building. It was beautiful and grand, with flags waving and a huge fountain opposite it. After trying for ages to work out where I knew it from, I soon discovered after reading the sign that it was, in fact, The Plaza! Knowing that I would most likely be chased out if I tried to enter it, I settled for sitting outside gazing up in awe and taking photos, all fears of looking like a tourist forgotten.
Of course, no trip to the Big Apple would be complete without a shopping trip and New York has some of the best shopping in the world. Fifth Avenue boasts all of the exclusive designer stores, but I preferred to stick to SoHo for the quirky fashion stores and of course, Macy’s, the biggest department store in the world. It is worth waiting at the visitor centre on the 1st floor to obtain the visitor card, entitling the holder to 10% discount throughout the store.
It is difficult to know which tourist attractions to choose if only in New York for a short stay, but the Empire State Building is well worth a visit. Choose a morning during a weekday to avoid queues. The views from the top are spectatular. We also enjoyed Rockerfeller Centre, which boasts shops, restaurants and of course the famous ice rink. Magnolia Bakery is also in this area, famous for it’s delicious sweet treats, but expect crowds and queues before you are presented with that well-deserved cupcake.
New York was a dream come true – there was literally not enough time to fit everything in. If you’re looking for a fun-packed, glamorous city holiday this summer, New York is the perfect place.
Magnolia Bakery cupcakes image courtesy of Dominic Deluque (http://www.flickr.com/photos/domdeluque/)