NEW YEAR – NEW YORK (Part 1) “New York via Cycle!”

First, and foremost, I know it’s April and this blog about New York was supposed to be written and uploaded back in January. But more on that later…

Chrysler Building, New York, at night

The Chrysler Building, New York City

Like many people, New York is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit. My first real memory of wanting to go stems back to the mid 80’s and hearing about places like The Limelight, Studio 54 and seeing New York fashion and loft apartments splashed across glossy magazines like ‘Elle.’ It was through exposure to these kinds of images and interior design books that I developed my love of architecture and discovered The Chrysler Building. Upon learning about this Art Deco classic, it became one of my main reasons for wanting to visit New York.

As time went on I came to the realisation that if I was ever in a position to be able to afford to go, it could never live up to the glamour and style I had dreamed about as a teenager, not least because that kind of NYC is only accessible to the rich and famous. The Chrysler Building illustrated this to me. As far as I was aware, all the best bits were at the top and the only way to see them would be by helicopter like in the vast array of sweeping establishing shots used in umpteen TV shows and films. As helicopter rides were never going to be within my reach, over time, my desire to go waned.

Until last summer and a rather unexpected result in, of all things, a cycle race!

A couple of years previous, my husband and self proclaimed “social media bitch” (and from this point onwards referred to as ‘The Bear’) took up cycling.

Cobblestones on Paris Roubaix cycle race

Paris Roubaix cobblestones

Possibly in sympathy (or a wickedly sadistic streak!), he takes particular interest in the historic Paris-Roubaix cycle race due to the infamous cobbles that would strike buttock clenching fear into most cyclists! This year, due to an offer on one of those online betting sites, he placed a small bet on a rank outsider (400:1 at one point). However, due to a number of pile-ups and injuries the guy ended up winning!! Stunned to say the least, Bear totted up his winnings and declared he was taking me on holiday. So, Mat Hayman, thank you!

To be honest, I hadn’t given New York much thought in recent years. You know how it is, real life gets in the way! One of those distractions was a terminally ill father and it was with him in mind that I was very reluctant to go, especially as it was 6 months off and who knows what could happen in that time. But with much cajoling from The Bear, my Mum and the blessing of my Dad, I was convinced it was ok to go. And so, on January 12th 2017, The Bear and I set off from Kat Pearson Designs HQ to JFK for what I hope will be the first of many trips to this amazing city.

Like many travellers, we researched (well The Bear did!) NYC beforehand to try and make the most of our short time there. And, whilst the guidebooks were good, the most helpful source of info we found was Wolters World on YouTube. Great tips and suggestions, although he does seem rather obsessed with NY toilets! But we had our itinerary planned, tourist passes booked and even our train route from JFK to E 28th St memorised. It had taken 6 months but by the time we set off, I was pretty damn excited!!


QUICK TIP FOR FUTURE TRAVELLERS:

If you have the option when flying from the UK, fly to Dublin and go through US Immigration there*. Dublin Airport staff are really friendly (even a 6am!) and once you pass the huge United States and Homeland Security signs and armed police, it’s still really relaxed and friendly. Plus no queues! And, even better, no queues at JFK, just pick up bags and go.

*Worth noting though, this was the week before Trump’s Inauguration so worth checking to make sure he hasn’t made any significant changes to the US Immigration gate at Dublin.


View from plan window

Crossing the Atlantic

Long haul airplane flights are pretty boring and hopefully uneventful! We flew Air Lingus  and the cabin crew were lovely, especially the one crew member that was stationed near us and gave us loads of tips on what to see and do whilst in New York. I had planned to keep a diary of the full trip but, I’ll be honest, I was too knackered after Day 1 to keep it up!! So here’s just a snippet from the flight…

“After leaving Ireland, with long expanses of clear views down to the Atlantic below, our next glimpse of land was the snowy, scarred and desolate landscape of Newfoundland.

Following the coast down a long inlet, it was amazing to see how the black and white terrain resembled an expansive version of the tiny frost crystals forming on the windows.

Back above the startlingly bright ceiling of cloud cover, the onboard digital display says we are crossing the Gulf of St Lawrence, heading towards Nova Scotia. Meanwhile, I’m watching the new Ghostbusters on the inflight TV (Not as bad as everyone made out, just not as good as the original.) Hopefully the real New York will be slightly less ectoplasmic!”

Arriving in New York

Park South Hotel, NYC

Park South Hotel, NYC

No delays and due to going through immigration in Dublin, no waiting so straight to the Airtrain and our first experience of the New York Subway system.

“The subway isn’t that different to the London Underground, unless you can’t get the train you want because of rail incidents or being too crowded. Having landed at 1:45pm, walking to pick up bags (thankfully one of the first ones off and both made the transfer in Dublin successfully) and then walking to the Airtrain and then on to the subway, it took the best part of 3 hours to get to the hotel. Over 3,000 miles and we got stuck on the very last train, 4 stops from the hotel!!” 

Pizza and Truffle Fries

Pizza & Truffle Fries

Weirdly, that week in January was unnaturally warm and the trek from the airport with suitcases on the subway meant a quick freshen up was in order before heading out for a short walk round the area, just to get our bearings. Then it was back to the hotel and tea in one of the hotel’s two restaurants, Corvina. And yes, it’s TEA not dinner! We’re from the North and proud of it! In Corvina we got a gentle introduction to the world famous American waiter service and such a refreshing change it is too. Helpful, friendly and not overly fake or in your face. Although it is improving back home, service in the US is very different from the type of service you get in the UK. Having missed lunch due to travelling we were both pretty hungry and made the mistake of ordering a pizza each and some amazing truffle fries to share. The look of panic on our faces when both pizzas arrived must have been obvious as the waiter instantly reassured us we could bag up anything we couldn’t eat. Phew! The Bear, already well pleased with the craft beer selection, plumped for what seems to be a Corvina house special, pizza with Brussel sprouts! Yes, you read that right, SPROUTS! Not my cup of tea but each to his own and he said it was lovely. The prize for the best choice of the night though was mine with spicy honey pizza, which even The Bear agreed was mouth wateringly amazing! Fortunately, there was some left to box up and take away so I got to have it for my tea again the next night (thank heavens for hotel mini fridges!)

Chrysler Building New York

First glimpse of The Chrysler Building

After tea we went for another walk and, like I said, it was unseasonably warm in New York. Second week of January and people were walking round in shirt sleeves at 9pm at night! This time we went around the block and it was as we made the third left turn that I realised what The Bear had forgotten to tell me. There, straight ahead of us and all lit up, was The Chrysler Building! Now, ok, it was 14 blocks away but there it was in all its finery and to say there weren’t some little happy tears would be a lie. Seeing it right in front of us suddenly made it all real. we were actually here! The subways, well they’re like noisier, dirtier versions of the London Underground. The streets, felt strangely familiar, like the old parts of Manchester, just taller. And the yellow cabs? Well they don’t really exist anymore as they’re now just any car painted yellow. But here it was, the one thing that for the past 30 years had been the symbol of New York to me, and it was right on our doorstep! Well done Bear! xx

So, thanks to Mr Mat Hayman and his cycle, we were here in New York and dead set on making the most of our visit.

Part 2 to follow… New Year – New York Pt. 2 “Funerals and Flybys”