As most of my regular readers will already know, Adam and I recently enjoyed the holiday of a lifetime in New York City. Of course, a trip to the ‘Big Apple’ is pretty exciting in itself but the main purpose of this particular adventure was to tie the knot – an occasion that very nearly didn’t happen after an eventful first day…
I’ve already shared the story of our wedding day and Chester Zoo wedding reception with you but realised that I never posted about the rest of our trip. It’s a long one so grab yourself a coffee, get comfy and enjoy the ups and downs of our special American adventure.
We headed to Manchester airport in the early hours of a chilly October Monday morning. Fuelled by pre-wedding nerves, excitement and coffee, we waited around for a couple of hours to board our flight. Thomas Cook airlines had actually upgraded us to premium class, free of charge, as a treat so I was excited about this prospect, having only ever travelled via economy before.
Settling into our seats, we could certainly tell the difference. With more leg room, unlimited complimentary drinks, blankets and movies on tap, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever want to go back to economy class again (my pitiful bank balance ensures that I most definitely will be flying economy in the future – I momentarily forgot that I’m not actually Richard Branson). Eight hours later, we landed at JFK airport.
Soon afterwards, we arrived at our Air BnB apartment. This had been advertised as ‘a cosy, open plan apartment in a friendly and welcoming Manhatten neighbourhood. Just a short ride away from Central Park and within walking distance of the Subway. Local amenities close by.’
To say that this was an exaggeration is an understatement. The location was a long subway trip away from anywhere remotely central and the neighbourhood was frankly, pretty intimidating. It was a far cry from the Hollywood version of New York City that we’d been led to believe prior to booking. We also learnt upon our return that a lot of Air BnB rentals in NYC are actually illegal according to the city laws, so please do be mindful if you’re planning a trip!
As I unpacked my wedding dress and attempted to settle in our windowless, basement room, the combination of tiredness, long-distance travel and disappointment built up and the tears began to flow.
I couldn’t help but feel that the trip was doomed and dramatically declared that I was going home the next day, that this had all been a huge mistake etc, much to the shock of my soon-to-be husband! I began looking at flights back to England as Adam attempted to reassure/rationalise me, whilst agreeing that he also felt rather uncomfortable. We decided to sleep on it and make a decision the next day.
We woke up early and decided that neither of us was particularly thrilled at the idea of staying in the Air BnB room for the entire duration of our trip. After frantically budgeting and cutting back on planned activities, we managed to find a cheap hotel in Times Square for the next two days, just so that we could spend our wedding night somewhere a little more convenient.
To ensure that we could legally marry in New York City, we had to apply for our marriage certificate at the City Clerks Office at least 24 hours before the ceremony. We made our way over to 141 Worth Street at around 9am and, armed with our passports and other essential documents, collected our ticket before joining several hundred other people in the waiting room!
After around two hours, our number was eventually called and went to the relevant desk to finalise the last bits of paperwork, ensuring that all the information we’d provided in our online registration was correct. We paid $35 and left with our licence. I’ve written an in-depth guide on how to get married in NYC and have covered all of the formal requirements so if you want to know more, take a look.
By this point, we realised that we hadn’t actually eaten since we landed in NYC and were in dire need of food so made a pit stop at Denny’s. Adam and I both ordered the ‘Honey Jalapeno Bacon Slam’, consisting of two fluffy buttermilk pancakes, two strips of honey jalapeno bacon, hash browns and two eggs, finished off with a bottomless coffee. We smashed through the entire thing within about 20 minutes and left happy!
We’d pre-booked a slot at Meow Parlour, a local cat cafe (you can read all about it here) so wandered through the hustle and bustle of China Town, taking in the sights en route. After spending an hour in cat heaven, we made our way back to Times Square.
We’d each purchased a five day ‘New York Pass’ online, giving us discounts and access to plenty of local attractions, so decided to collect them from Madame Tussauds. Adam has never been to a wax museum before so was instantly intrigued and we explored several floors of famous faces. Some bore amazing resemblances – others not so much – and I particularly enjoyed ‘seeing’ Anna Wintour, Albert Einstein and Johnny Cash. Adam is a big ‘Ghostbusters‘ fan and we were lucky enough to be in NYC as Madame Tussauds held an exhibition dedicated to the movie.
Exhausted from walking over 16 miles, we grabbed a slice of pizza from a little pizzeria in the Hells Kitchen district and headed back to our hotel to get some much-needed rest before our wedding day!
We woke up on our third day in New York City in a flurry of excitement. Looking out of the window and seeing Times Square right below us was breathtaking. It also happened to be our WEDDING DAY! I wrote an entire post dedicated to our wedding day here so I won’t bore you guys by repeating myself.
The next day, we decided to use our city passes to take a bus tour through Manhattan. After waiting for around an hour, we finally boarded the open-top bus and got moving! One of the first iconic views we came across was the New York Times Building, swiftly followed by Hurst Publishers (C. Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd). For most, these aren’t sites of particular interest, however, for me, it was one of my personal highlights.
After a while, Adam and I decided to stop at the Central Park Zoo. A smaller zoo than most, however, the setting was beautiful. It was a crisp, Autumn day and perfect for exploring. The first thing we were greeted with was the sea lion enclosure. I was amazed that we were allowed to get so close these awesome animals and this guy (below) was more than happy to pose for the camera!
We also saw our very first bear in ‘real life’ which was an incredible experience. I mean, obviously, I knew that bears were pretty big fellows but to see one up close was something else; the size of its claws was quite an eye-opener! Along with two beautiful snow leopards (again, I am a cat lady to the core. Tigers, domestic cats, lions – I’m utterly amazed by them all) emperor penguins, lemurs, red pandas, snow monkeys and various other animals, we thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon.
Heading back to Times Square, we spent the evening taking in more sights and of course, shopping! The M&M store was first on the list and we browsed for at least an hour, buying souvenirs for family and a few treats for ourselves in the process.
Macy’s is somewhere that I’ve always wanted to visit so we stopped for a coffee and continued our mini shopping spree. I’ve had a love affair with Kate Spade products for as long as I can remember but, sadly, they’re just out of my budget. When I spotted the Kate Spade concession stand, I genuinely got butterflies. Superficial perhaps but true. I spent a good half hour fawning over the beautiful handbags and purses before stumbling upon the Holy Grail Of Handbags; a sale section!
I was instantly drawn to a gorgeous red shoulder bag. Wincing, I checked the price tag. As it was last season’s stock, it had been reduced from $230 to just $56! There was no question that this beauty now belonged to yours truly as I snapped it up there and then. I also found a mint green satchel bag reduced from $290 to $98 so this ended up coming home with us too.
After grabbing a hot dog, we made our way to the Empire State Building. Approaching the ticket booth, we went to hand the cashier our city passes…but couldn’t find them! We stepped out of the line and hunted high and low, through our pockets and bags. They were nowhere to be seen. Given that entry was free with these passes, we were reluctant to pay out again so decided to call it a night. After much deliberation (and possibly bickering) we gave up any hope of finding them.
We went back to the Air BnB and, walking down the metal steps, through the broken front door, secured only by an outside gate and into the room we realised that neither of us wanted to stay there another night. We’d been very kindly gifted some money before we left the UK as an early wedding present and reluctantly used the remainder of this to go back to the hotel for the rest of our stay.
After ending our fourth day in New York on a less than ideal note, we headed back to the City Clerk’s Office the next morning to legalise our marriage. As we reside in the UK, we needed to have an extended licence to ensure that it was recognised outside of America.
This involved various steps and visiting several different government buildings. We’d assumed this process would take a couple of hours and tried to get it out the way early so that we could enjoy the rest of our day. Wrong! We were so very wrong. After travelling on foot to said buildings and queuing for what seemed like an eternity, this actually ended up taking us over five hours in total.
To salvage some of our afternoon, we took a trip to the Natural History Museum. We had visited the London one earlier in the year but the American Natural History Museum was a real ‘bucket list’ destination for us, being geeks and all. After queuing for over two hours (you’d think that being British, we’d be used to queuing but the American ones were so slow) we finally got inside. We’d bought a map to find our bearings over the five floors and started with the famous dinosaur section.
After wandering for a few hours and spotting some familiar faces of ‘Night At The Museum’ fame, Adam and I decided to take a look around Central Park. Whilst making a pit stop for ice-cream, we found ourselves standing right outside the Dakota; the apartment block where John Lennon and Yoko Ono had resided (Yoko still does). This is also a landmark for all of the wrong reasons, as John was murdered in the archway outside of the building in December 1980. Opposite the Dakota is Strawberry Fields; an area of Central Park dedicated the man himself. We wandered through and sat on the grass, providing a welcome hour of respite from the chaos of the city.
We made our way back to Times Square and headed to Madame Tussauds again, in order to buy another two city passes after ‘losing’ ours the day before. As we explained what had happened to the cashier, she promptly produced our original passes and explained that they’d accidentally been left there on our first visit! This saved us forking out yet more unallocated cash from our budget and we celebrated by successfully paying the Empire State Building a visit.
After queuing for about 90 minutes, we hopped into the elevator and up to the 86th floor. To be fair, the wait was completely worth it. The building was decorated in a gorgeous art deco style and the views were absolutely stunning. I was excited to see just how good this glorious city would look from our next destination; the 102nd floor. I noticed that Adam had gone unusually quiet and didn’t seem to share my enthusiasm. After a while, he admitted that he’d fallen foul to a newly-discovered case of vertigo and couldn’t carry on. As he became alarmingly pale, we swiftly made our way downstairs and back onto solid ground.
By now, it was past midnight so we headed out for more pizza and stopped by the hotel bar for a drink. We got chatting to an Irish businessman who recognised our English/Welsh accents. He bought us drinks and we found ourselves getting steadily drunk whilst exchanging life stories, despite only intending to stop for a nightcap. We ended up pretty shit-faced and I have no idea what time it was when we finally rolled into bed.
Initially waking at 7am, we subconsciously turned the alarm clock off and enjoyed an impromptu lie in until lunchtime. I think the combination of a long, busy day and boozy evening may have been a contributing factor. Annoyed that we’d ‘wasted’ a morning, we promptly headed out and grabbed breakfast before deciding how to spend our afternoon.
Adam and I walked through the financial district and found ourselves facing ‘Ground Zero’. A sombre and surreal sight, we chose the visit the 9/11 memorial and museum. Obviously, the events of that fateful day were utterly tragic but I don’t think I ever really understood the true, horrific severity of 9/11 until that very moment. I found it hard to hold back the tears as we learnt of the stories behind the victims, how the events unfolded and seeing the resulting carnage in front of our very eyes.
After this, we didn’t really feel like doing a great deal so headed to Shake Shack for a quick bite to eat then back to our room for the night, to catch up on some much-needed sleep.
This was our last day in New York City. We were due at the airport at around 3pm so didn’t want to venture too far out, just incase we couldn’t get back in time (with the volume of traffic in the city, this was a very real possibility). We decided to do some last minute shopping and catch a movie at one of the numerous cinemas.
We opted for ‘The Accountant’, starring Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick. After purchasing our snacks – I say snacks, the portions in America are huge – we settled in and enjoyed the film. It was a great choice; so much so that I wanted to watch it again when we got home, but it wasn’t being released in the UK until later in the year.
We made a stop at Carlos Bakery, off of ‘Cake Boss’ fame, and indulged in a cannoli before packing up and making the journey back to JFK. I was genuinely saddened to leave New York City behind. Being an anxious introvert (that’s a fun combo at times) I wasn’t entirely sure how I’d feel, being in one of the biggest cities in the world. New York has a distinct kind of atmosphere that I’ve never felt before when travelling, an indescribable, magical feeling that flows through the air.
In this iconic city, it almost feels like you’re standing right at the centre of the universe. With so many districts, recognisable landmarks, cultures and people from all walks of life, it turns out that I fell utterly in love with the ‘Big Apple’ for an array of reasons. The people, the sights, the food, that strange atmosphere and everything else that makes this place so famous. If it wasn’t for my responsibilities and lack of funds, I would relocate to NYC in a heartbeat.
We’re planning to take the girls on a trip to New York City in a few years time. There were so many things that we didn’t get the chance to do, such as visit Staten Island, Coney Island, explore more of Brooklyn along with the many restaurants on our foodie bucket list, so it’s the perfect excuse for round two!
If you have any tips on how to make our next visit to New York City even more memorable, then please do share in the comments section below.