It’s now been three weeks since I got back from New York, although it feels like a lot longer. Still, that’s a long time to get round to writing a proper blog post about it, so I’d better do it now, before it starts to fade from my memory!
Where do I even begin?
It’s big. Everything is just very, very big, from the moment you emerge from Penn Station and you’re right on Seventh Avenue, surrounded by skyscrapers. It’s also noisy. Yellow taxis everywhere, constantly blaring their horns. People everywhere, talking and shouting. Music. Sirens. Drills. It’s just bigger and louder than anywhere I’m used to, even central London. Paris is an oasis of calm by comparison. Of all the places I’ve been before, the city it most reminded me of is Bangkok. Not in its culture or architecture, but in its sheer volume and pace of life.
Jess and I arrived mid-afternoon and lugged our suitcases ten blocks downtown until we arrived at our hotel, the Chelsea Lodge. Our bedroom was tiny, with paper-thin walls and a shared bathroom on the landing, but from our window we could see the top of the Empire State Building if we looked up, and the beautiful leafy neighbourhood if we looked down.
The Chelsea area of Manhattan is full of quiet, tree-lined streets and beautiful town houses. I was a little bit in love…
On our first afternoon we went for a walk along the Chelsea High Line, an old railway line which has been turned into a sort of garden. It’s quiet and peaceful, and the noise of Manhattan is still audible, but strangely muted.
Dinner on our first night was in this great little organic burger restaurant called Bareburger, which I would thoroughly recommend (particularly if, like Jess, you can’t eat wheat but you miss burgers, as they have various gluten-free options). I had a Roadhouse bison burger with onion rings and it was absolutely delicious. No pictures of dinner though, because taking pictures of burgers in restaurants makes me cringe!
Our first full day was packed with sightseeing. We walked round Manhattan, checked out Times Square, and visited some of New York’s beautiful famous buildings, such as the public library…
…and Grand Central Station, which was without a doubt one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever set foot in.
In the afternoon we went to the Museum of Modern Art. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t really my cup of tea. I enjoyed seeing Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, but apart from that I could pretty much take it or leave it. I’m the same in the Tate Modern and the Pompidou Centre… modern art just doesn’t really do it for me, and I just end up looking at the people rather than the art…
By the time we got back to the hotel in the evening, we were absolutely shattered. We had a long list of restaurants which had been recommended by friends, but we both knew we didn’t have the energy to go far, so we just looked on Tripadvisor to see whether there were any highly-rated places in the area.
What we found, I would loosely describe as a gluten-free Mexican gay bar. Chelsea is well-known for being popular with the local gay community, and in the streets near our hotel we saw more rainbow flags than American ones (and that’s saying something… the Americans love their flag!) The Rockinghorse Cafe was no exception, with its name spelt out in rainbow letters across the door. When we arrived, the atmosphere was buzzing, but as we waited to be served at the bar, a couple of guys vacated their bar stools and we gladly took their spot. We ended up eating our dinner sitting at the bar, which turned out to be the perfect place to get chatting to the bar staff and various friendly guys.
The atmosphere and people in this place were fantastic, but the food deserves a special mention. I had pan-fried sea bass on a bed of garlic mashed potato, topped with avocado salsa (and washed down with a gorgeous glass of Argentinian red). You know when you’re eating something so delicious that you try and eat it as slowly as possible because you just don’t want it to be over? When something is so good that you almost want to cry when you’ve eaten the last mouthful? Yes, that.
The next morning we decided to get out of Manhattan and explore a little further afield. We spent a couple of hours in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens…
… and then stopped for a spot of lunch, before walking back across Brooklyn Bridge.
In the afternoon we took the (free!) Staten Island ferry, to get a closer look at the Statue of Liberty.
(Fun fact: she was a gift from the French to the Americans, and I used to work for a family who live in the street where she was built.)
I still have a few more photos to share with you, but this post is now pretty long, so I think I will call it a night. But please come back for Part II, which I shall write very soon! (No, really, I will. I promise!)