I have never been so last minute in my life.
Most of you know that I like being very organised and planning ahead. Especially when it comes to holidays, I like booking and organising things at least 3 months early.
But sometime in May, I ended up looking at flights to New York. Yeah, New York. The city I have gone on and on about throughout the years on my blog, the one that I have admired for its beautiful skyline and dreamed of exploring one day… New York. At first, it was just a crazy idea, “ha, imagine if I travel to NYC this year. That’d be cool”
Only to realise that I could actually make it happen. I mean, why not?
Nothing was stopping me. I had annual leave left to use up, I had enough money, the only the thing I needed to do was book it. And I did.
After a Twitter poll naturally, of course. 😆
Once I got everything confirmed at work, flights and the hotel were sorted and I found myself less than a month to plan the biggest trip this year. Whilst planning it, I couldn’t believe I was scheduling in time to go up the Top of the Rock (yes, I have a holiday calendar, don’t judge 😅) Looking back now, it all still feels like a weird dream but I have metro tickets, receipts, left over American money and a hell lot of photos and videos.
Also, Matt is a great travel bud. 💑
This is a long blog post, I will be summarising five days today and the next five days in a separate post. You can quickly navigate to each day here:
Day One: A long flight, “I don’t get jet lag”, confusion, “it smells like park in here”
If there’s one thing I learned about Matt, it’s that he likes surprising me. 😆
On our way to the airport, Matt surprised me with all his photo/video/documentation equipment.
— Pauline P. Narvas (@paulienuh) June 16, 2017
Yeah, it’s a lot. But did we get amazing shots? Yeahhhh we did. 😂 The flight was long and not one that I’m used to at all, but it was really fun. We got into some conversation with an old American couple next to us who was impressed by mine and Matt’s “technical backgrounds” and talked to us a lot about how they travelled all the way to England to find lost family which was interesting.
Matt also downloaded all the High School Musical trilogy (after I had mentioned how I watch it at once every summer #tradition) so we watched it pretty much until we got there. This really inspired us to break out into songs throughout the trip 😅
Storytime: After a lonnnnnnggggg hour in JFK once we landed, we headed to take the AirTrain to Manhattan. Hamdah would know this but I have a tendency to always walk ahead when I’m exploring, I can’t help it, I get super excited 😆 I was a little ahead of Matt and jumped on the next AirTrain. We were both slow and tired from travelling, and next thing we know the AirTrain shut and I find myself in it alone! It wasn’t such a big deal but I do get anxious when I’m alone in a place I’ve never been to. Thankfully the last stop was my stop so I didn’t have to worry too much, Matt sent me very reassuring messages too 😅
From Jamaica Station, we bought a week Metro ticket and got on the subway to Manhattan. My immediate thought looking at the subway map was “what the fuck” In my previous trips, Hamdah would have all of public transport sorted. She has a secret talent of understanding the system really well and really quickly!
Both Matt and I hadn’t much of a clue but we sort of just yolo’ed to one that was going to the general direction of Manhattan. We needed to switch to another subway from Penn Station towards Central Park (where our hotel was) but I ended up falling asleep. Matt was super tired and didn’t realise we missed our stop 😆 We ended up at the One World Trade Centre (which we didn’t realise at the time)
We may have gone slightly over our $10 budget in one meal 😝 pic.twitter.com/LdSRBZFTXs
— Matt Burman (@_mattburman) June 17, 2017
Once we finally got to the hotel, I was super hyped to drop off all our stuff and get some food! We decided to get pizza – which by the way was HUGE – and eat it at Central Park.
We found a place to sit by the Lake, it was fun watching people on the boats. There was one guy who was proper into it and was whizzing around and another couple who clearly had no idea what they were doing, the girl looked a bit panicked like, “what have we done” 😂
Day Two: Don’t trust Elmo, Am I in a movie, rain, Macy’s
On our first full day, we decided to start the day exploring Central Park. Matt had been to NY before but said that he didn’t get to spend as much time in it as he would’ve liked. Luckily our hotel was literally a 2-minute walk from the park so we could visit it every morning or on our way back to the hotel at the end of the day.
As we were exploring Central Park, I recognised a few spots where my favourite movies were shot. It was surreal walking through!
Our route was: Strawberry Fields > Bethesda Fountain > Literary Walk > Playmate Arch > Umpire Rock
We then walked down towards Times Square. You know you’re getting closer to Times Square when you see the flashing screens of ads cover buildings. Up until getting to Times Square, I didn’t really believe I was in New York. The yellow cabs were a reminder but what really struck me was when I sat in the centre of Times Square, people watching and felt the NYC “vibe” unfold before me.
It was buzzzzzing! 🐝
Storytime: Matt pointed out that there was a group of people dressed up as Elmo, Olaf, Hello Kitty. Once I spotted them, I got really excited and rushed to them for a photo. I quickly realised when they kept telling me not to be so “worried” about my bags, they were really dodgy. They offered to take a photo of us which we had taken, but they then suddenly started refusing to give back his phone. Luckily, I was really assertive and took the phone back and started to quickly walk away. They kept following us for a bit asking for money but we got away from them in the crowds. It was quite scary but I’m glad that in the moment I was really aware!
It started to rain a lot soon after so Matt and I went to the Disney store nearby where I bought my Disney-themed New York pin for my backpack!
The Disney stores in the UK has nothing on the one in NY. Every corner was so magical and Matt caught me on video being amazed by everything 😆
THE HYPE IS REAL pic.twitter.com/5pRA1YezJF
— Matt Burman (@_mattburman) June 17, 2017
My favourite part was going up to the second floor (I KNOW RIGHT, THEY SPOIL NEW YORKERS!!???) and looking up where there were the lights from Tangled decorated all the way up. And you all know how much I LOVE that scene.
There was also a magical mirror where when you tapped a wand near it, a short clip from a random Disney film would show up. I nearly cried. 😂
When we left the store, it was still raining so we decided to eat somewhere nearby. We went to Applebee’s for lunch.
It was still raining a lot for the rest of the day so I suggested that we would go to a mall and have a look around, we ended up at Macy’s which we spent most of the time chilling at a Starbucks (and not spending money on anything!) It didn’t really interest us. 😆 It was interesting to everyone in a trance with buying all the things~
Once the rain stopped, Matt wanted to show me Grand Central Station. On our way there, we went to Bryant Park. A park where outdoor films show in the summer which is pretty cool. I liked how it was in the middle of the city, we got some awesome shots! I’ve always been a fan of seeing a mix of nature and city – much like my own hometown! We also came across a lot of wedding photo shoots which was super cute!
We also came across a lot of wedding photo shoots which was super cute!
Grand Central is exactly like, you know, Madagascar.
There was another wedding photoshoot going on – can you spot them in Matt’s video?
I was referring to Madagascar the whole time. Seriously though guys, IT’S JUST LIKE MADAGASCAR??!!! Was expecting Marty to jump up at any moment 👀
There were these two security guards who were super nice, I noticed that they were quite keen on taking photos with tourists so I jumped at the chance! Whilst having my photo taken, they asked if I keep up with the football back in the UK. Unfortunately, I don’t. 😆
Day Three: Adventuring in Central Park, falling in love with Shake Shack, Flatiron is real, Sunset
We spent most of the morning exploring Central Park – uncovering lots more beautiful places!
Since Matt and I are extra asf, we waited for a bit to have this photo taken. There was a bunch of tourists doing all sorts of things – gotta do it for the ‘gram!
Matt tried flying his drone here because it was the only place in Central Park that didn’t have that many people. But the drone did start following some bypassers so there was a moment of panic where we had to chase after it and switch it off 😆
Thao commented on one of my Instagram photos (this is why I love posting on the go!) and told us to look for the castle in the middle of Central Park. After walking around the Great Lawn Oval (which is pretty damn great!) we figured out how to get up the castle.
It had an awesome view of the lake and the city!
We decided to go to the Natural History Museum after this – but decided took a different path down from where we came up. We found some cute spots – I especially like this one, I felt like I was a video game character discovering a secret area 😍
Natural History Museum
We spent quite a while in the Natural History Museum, it was nice looking at all the different exhibitions. Note: I overheard that the displays don’t come alive at night.
I especially enjoyed learning about Filipino history!
Once we left the museum, the weather dramatically changed. It was the first time since we arrived that we saw blue skies. A lot of our friends back home had been sharing the rare weather in Sheffield (typical when I’ve left!) and was teasing us! It was strangely satisfying sharing photos of NYC with blue skies and the sunshine 😉
Madison Square Park, Shake Shack, Flatiron Building
We headed down towards Madison Square Park where Matt was raving to me about Shake Shack. I hadn’t heard of it at all before but since I came back from the States, it’s all I’ve been thinking about and researching! A big shout out to Micah for telling me that there is a Shake Shack in London (SERIOUS HYPE)
On our way to Madison Square Park, we passed the Flatiron building. I posted my reaction to it on Instagram and Snapchat, so some of you might already know this but I was SUPER excited. Up till recently, I honestly thought the building wasn’t real at all – sort of like those images you see online that you know are modified in some way but boy was I wrong. The Flatiron building is flat and pretty legit. 😂
I was super fascinated by it and took a TON of photos from different angles, probably enough to create a 3D model! 😅
In the late afternoon, we got on the subway to One World Trade Centre. We still weren’t very confident in the subway system, ended up getting on the wrong subway and ending up in Brooklyn… oops. It didn’t really help that it was a Sunday and lots of the subways systems had changed services. We ended up talking to a fellow Hackathoner though, which was super cool! Matt pointed out that she was a Hackathoner because of her t-shirt – it was pretty cool and reminded me of how communities are connected worldwide!
One World Trade Centre
I found the One World Trade Centre beautiful but did sadden me a little bit. Matt told me that every time it is one of the victims birthdays, they would leave a rose by their name. I spotted a few roses!
Our route from the One World Trade Centre: Down Wall Street > New York Stock Exchange > Charging Bull > Battery Park
I had completely forgotten that the Charging Bull was in New York! When Matt mentioned it, I was pretty excited to see it in real life. Photos I had seen in real life looked great – I remember seeing the little girl facing the bull too on social media and feeling super inspired.
When we got there though, there were so many tourists that we couldn’t get a shot of the bull or see it for that matter! 😆
We waited a little bit for this photo (which I thought was extremely creative but it turns out everyone was doing it – haha!) but it was worth it! You go, girl, keep doing you!
The evening was spent at one of the best places in New York to catch beautiful sunsets: Battery Park. Battery Park slowly became one of my favourite places in NYC.
🌆It’s so beautiful, super thankful ❤ pic.twitter.com/rIGLYWYhmO
— Pauline P. Narvas (@paulienuh) June 19, 2017
This was the first time I saw Lady Liberty in real life too. And she was looking fine that day. 😁 We get a closer look at here the following days but from a far, she was real. Matt had to repeat this a few times throughout the 10 days, I was clearly overwhelmed! 😂
Day Four: Yellow submarine, Spanglish, Mystic Village, Thunderstorms
We planned to go to Connecticut to meet up with some of Matt’s family. We decided to skip breakfast in the hotel and grabbed a Starbucks to take on the train with us! Georgie and Holly had mentioned the Whispering Walls on Twitter so before we got on the train, we decided to try it out. It was very interesting – it actually worked!
The train ride was quite smooth and went by quickly – I always enjoy looking out the window to see the changing scenes whichever train I take! We were blessed with some awesome views. On our second train to CT, there was a lady beside us who was just singing her heart out. It was funny to us because it doesn’t happen in the UK at all – everyone sort of just keeps to themselves quietly.
This wasn’t the first time since we arrived that we witnessed someone was singing out loud in English and breaking out in rap in Spanish, it happened on the first few days too! Love New Yorkers/Americans.
Our day was really fun, we were spoiled with the best doughnuts ever (no exaggeration) from Flanders Donut, Bagel and Bake Shop, the best wood fired Pizza and ice cream from the little village we went to in CT called Mystic Village.
Matt had been here when he was younger so it was a nostalgic experience for him. We went into one of his favourite shops – Sticky Situations – where we tried a range of different honey and vinegar (such an interesting mix!)
Matt’s family also took us to the New London Naval Submarine Museum where we to a little self-guided tour of life as a submariner (I totally made that up! What do you call people who work/live on a submarine?) We actually went into a little submarine (where the exhibit was) – it’s not ideal for people who are claustrophobic though.
We had woken up pretty early to catch the train to CT so on the way back to NY, we were exhausted and slept for most of our train back. It was forecasted to rain and thunder that evening, once we got back to NY it was pouring it down! On our way back to our hotel, we decided to walk through Times Square and catch the subway from there. It was nice to see it calm(er) compared to during the day.
Day Five: Chelsea, Central Park
Visiting Chelsea (a neighbourhood on the West Side of Manhattan) was one of the main things I was really looking forward to seeing! Originally, we planned to participate in some group activities and events taking place in the High Line (which is, by the way, a cool railway-turned-park) but woke up a little late and missed the meditation and tai-chi class we signed up for (we were EXHAUSTED after travelling to CT) But we still checked it out anyway, we got a glimpse of the tai-chi class and found that they were all older people taking part.
Whilst we were up the High Line, was took a stroll towards the VaynerMedia building. Matt had recently introduced me to Gary Vee, I can confirm I am a big fan so it was awesome seeing his building in real life after binge watching his YouTube and Instagram videos. I recommend you check him out for that daily motivation!
We walked to each end of the High Line and was blessed with more amazing views – you all know how I feel about views 😍
After the High Line, we went down and walked to the pier where we had an awesome view of New Jersey from Hudson River Park and Pier 45 – both great places to hang out, chill and have an hour nap under the sun ☀ There were a lot of people who were doing HIIT, running, doing their cool down and stretch by the pier – it was really motivating. I kept saying to Matt I couldn’t wait to get back home just to workout (for some reason, I can’t workout whilst I’m on holiday – it never feels ‘right’. Plus, I didn’t bring any workout clothes anyway!)
For lunch, we headed to Chelsea Market where I introduced Matt to the best thing ever: Chicken Adobo at Takumi. Chelsea Market was PACKED with people – there was food everywhere. I think there is an upstairs (they had elevators) but when Matt and I tried to explore, the lift didn’t go up at all and a guard just started saying “there’s nothing upstairs, nothing, nothing!” But why have elevators? 🤔
If anyone knows the mystery of the upstairs Chelsea Market let me know! I’m still curious xD
We decided to spend the rest of the day exploring my favourite place; Central Park.
Our route: North Woods > The Blockhouse > Huddlestone > Upper East Side > 96th Street > Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis > Alice in Wonderland
It was a long walk but we had plenty of breaks! I began to realise that I loved being surrounded by nature and surprised myself – initially I thought I would love the city so much and just want to spend the whole time there (and not as often in parks!) but I learned that although the city is great and I love that buzz, the green spaces made me feel the happiest, the most content with everything and just really enjoyed seeing so many trees and wildlife.
I started appreciating Sheffield a little more for always giving me that green space (something I had taken for granted up to this point 😅)
I hope you enjoyed reading the first five days of my NYC experience, I can confirm, it’s so American. You can read Part 2 of the trip here.