New York is on the bucket list of many travellers for different reasons: the food, the fashion, the vibe, the history. Mine was Bergdorf Blondes. Ever since I was a teen, I dreamt of going to NY and experiencing the life of a champagne bubble about town, mixing it with modelisers and MITs, shopping at Bergdorfs and Saks and getting NY facials.
Of course, I am a realistic and practical person and I knew my trip to NY would not be like this. Nonetheless there’s always a certain glamour about NY – only the toughest survive this concrete jungle.
You can’t help but be impressed when arriving into NY. The lights, the buildings, the activity. However, after spending a few days there I have to admit I was disappointed. Not in the city, but in the general joie de vivre or rather, the lack of it. After being in Paris, where everyone is happy (as they should be) it was a shock coming to NY where there was a completely different vibe. Don’t get me wrong – it wasn’t a bad vibe, it was just different to what I’d expected.
Regardless of this, I enjoyed being there – after all you can’t hate the fact that you’re in NY! What really took my breath away was the endless options available – I couldn’t complain about not having enough as there was so much to choose from.
Highlights and hints:
- Research, research, research – NY may be small, especially Manhattan but there really is so many things to see and do. Make sure you research the city before you go – the boroughs, the museums, the shopping, restaurants, cafes etc. Have an idea of what you want to do, otherwise you’ll end up wandering around endlessly and miss all the best bits.
- Bring your walking shoes – unless you plan on catching a lot of cabs, leave the nice shoes at home. Walking around NYC is really nice and something you should do anyway to burn off all that food you’ll be eating!
- Go to the top of at least one tall building – whether it’s the Empire State or the Rockefeller (the one I did), you have to see NYC from the top of the world. It’s so beautiful and you really appreciate how amazing this city is. NYC at night is the best.
- Skip the hotel – I stayed in a hotel and in an Airbnb apartment and I enjoyed the apartment more. Even though it was a bit more out of the way, I appreciated having the space after spending a whole day in crowds. Most neighbourhoods have everything you need so there’s really no need to be in the inner city. I stayed in Brooklyn (close to Williamsburg) and there were laundromats, restaurants, great cafes, grocery stores and even a great massage place.
- Visit the September 11 Memorial (located in Financial District) – a moment that will stay with me forever is visiting this memorial and really understanding the impact of this single act of terrorism on the world’s psyche. I would compare this to visiting the killing fields in Cambodia – it’s so heartbreaking yet inspiring as it’s not only a memorial for those who died, but a statement to terrorists everywhere: you will not beat us. Make time to visit this place – you won’t regret it. They also have a museum which I didn’t go to but have heard is recommended. The queues are super long so patience is required.
- Talk to people – everyone has a story, and in NY the stories are great. Everyone I chatted to in NY had an interesting story to tell, regardless of whether they’re NY born-and-bred or if they’ve moved there. NY is a city filled with secrets so who better to learn those secrets from than the locals?
- Try all the foods – and I don’t mean the ones in the restaurants, I mean the ones in the grocery stores! I couldn’t get over the things you could buy there – hello flaming hot chips! PBJ, cheese in a can, jalapeno cream cheese (yum) and all the hot sauces you could dream of.
- Hipster coffee is best coffee – it’s no secret the coffee in NY is terrible. Blergh. Thank god for hipsters! Even if you don’t like the hipster movement, in order to survive you should only buy coffee from hipster cafes. The best coffee can be found in Williamsburg – I recommend The Blind Barber for some dreamy coffee.
- Don’t be afraid to try the small eateries – the best food I ate in NY were in the small, blink-and-you’ll-miss restaurants. I had an amazing kimchee soup in a Japanese place in Soho, great noodles from our neighbourhood Thai restaurant and the biggest serving of delicious granola in a random hipster cafe in Williamsburg.
There’s a reason why there are so many tributes to NY – it is a wonderful place and will always be. It’s exciting, tough, inspirational and home to so many people. It will overwhelm your senses and take your breath away. Love it or hate it, you can’t deny it’s got style and you’ll never forget your first time.