New York. It is the concrete jungle where dreams can come true, it’s the city that never sleeps and the epicentre of arts, dining and shopping. Despite these all being cliches, each and every one is a totally accurate way to describe this city. When I shared news of my trip to New York with anyone who would listen, I was the recipient of many oohs, aahs and somewhat green-eyed looks. Whatever your intentions are with New York, it is clear the city sits in prime position on almost everyone’s bucket list.
Well, start spreading the news, because New York is a city that doesn’t just live up to your expectations, it exceeds them.
It’s 10pm and the city is still open and wide awake, even if my jetlagged eyes aren’t. We are standing at the most recognisable spot in the city: huge television screens light up the sky and despite each screen being lit up with advertising, it is one of the most breathtaking sights I have ever seen. The streets are bustling with hoards of tourists, shoppers and Broadway-goers, dithering around but fizzing to experience the spot that is a backdrop to so many of their favourite Hollywood moments. Our nostrils fill with grill smoke that has caught the wind, it is mixed with the stench of week-old garbage that is dumped on the side streets out the back of some bar or burger joint. I stood there, withstanding the bumps and barging, watching the flashing lights and breathing it in because I was in Times Square, New York.
I think it is only fair I give you a full disclaimer before we continue: I thought I was going to cry from excitement when I arrived in New York. Not only am I obsessed with Sex and the City and various other TV and cinematic moments set in New York, but I am also one of these people that believe the adage that you can do anything and be anything in New York. It was that pinnacle place on my bucket list that I dreamt of experiencing, but never actually imagined myself with two feet on the ground. This is probably why our descent into New York saw me sweaty palmed and struggling not to squeal like a teenage girl who had just been given her first mobile phone.
You cannot truly understand the sense of New York until you are there, peering at the sky between the skyscrapers, a melodic tune coming from impatient motorists who believe a toot and a honk will ease gridlock. We arrived at our new home, the Barclay Intercontinental on Lexington and 48th Street, on a still, hot, summer’s night, which set the scene for our week. I felt like Carrie Bradshaw, Serena van der Woodsen and every other Hollywood heroine that made New York a dream for me. Undeniably one of the most luxurious and sophisticated hotels in New York, at least in my opinion, the hotel was conveniently located within a few blocks from Grand Central Station. It had recently undergone a 20-month $180 million renovation and it was not hard to see where the cash went, unlike our cash that seemed to be flying out of our hands and we had just arrived – New York puts you under a spell that makes spending a necessity rather than a need.
The highlight of our stay, for me, was without a doubt Central Park. When I told my boyfriend this, he looked at me like he does when I try to explain why chick flicks are the best – confused and a little disappointed. “It’s just a park,” he said. Already planning to take him on my next New York jaunt to prove him wrong, I tried to explain. The park is not only home to hundreds of cinematic spots, but it gives a real sense of what New York is all about. Hopeful street performers hustle a crowd and perform as if they were opening Madison Square Gardens, children and adults alike swamp the baseball pitches and cheeky tourists battle it out with local drivers for a spot on the through-road. As if this wasn’t enough, you get to stand in the park and see the New York skyline and iconic skyscrapers in the background with lush green trees, and an equally green lake, in the foreground. You get to take your shoes off, feel the grass between your toes and have a picnic while watching the true magic of New York unfold. It is not surprising that Central Park is the most visited urban park in the United States, with 40 million visitors each year.
When you enter the city that never sleeps, there are endless things you need to tick off your bucket list: Times Square, New York street food, the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge – on it goes. Each place is more wonderful than it looks on the big screen and each place has its unique sense of character. We were pleasantly surprised at how much we actually managed to see and here is a list that is far from comprehensive of things you should see, do and eat and, of course, places you should visit so as to give the plastic a workout.