New York illustration

New York is like a punch in the face. I'm not sure who originally said that, but damn were they right. The second we got off our airport bus at Port Authority, it was like a wave of excitement, noise and a hell of a lot of people came over us. As my feet hit the pavement, sorry, sidewalk, whilst being absolutely petrifying and overwhelming and disgustingly hot, it was one of the best moments in my life. I'd done it. I'd made one of my biggest and oldest dreams come true. *Cue Frank Sinatra*

I've been obsessed with New York City for as long as I can remember. I had my heart set on it for years, even to the point of crying whenever that famous skyline appeared on tv. And did you know that happens quite a lot? Especially when you grow up watching Friends, but we'll get to that later. I'm a bit of a cliché that way. A girl studying fashion wanting to work in the big, bad city, even if it meant spending 12 hours a day carrying Starbucks orders from skyscraper to skyscraper. Whatever I was doing, wherever I was staying, however I was getting there, I knew I just had to go. After almost 23 years of waiting, it's safe to say New York did not disappoint.
illustration of Brooklyn bridge and Manhattan skyline
One of our priorities when initially booking the NYC leg of our great American road trip, which you can read more about in my travel blog section, was finding a cheap place to stay. After all, New York isn't exactly known for its bargain hotels. We eventually settled on a small Airbnb in Brooklyn, thinking Brooklyn is quite a trendy place now, and it doesn't matter if it's tiny, as long as there's a bed and a shower it'll be fine. Well, it was fine...but it wasn't exactly what we had in mind. Whilst some parts of Brooklyn are most definitely the trendy, gentrified places you see on Instagram, wherever the hell we were staying, was not. So much so that we ended up getting a cab home each night, or at least getting the subway to the Barclay centre and then getting a cab from there, just so we felt safe. Expensive, but at least we made it home each night. Lesson learned though, sometimes a pricier hotel or apartment is worth it, because you'll only end up spending the difference in cabs anyway. Saying that, I know a lot of people have this idea of New York being rough and mean, but we both felt completely safe in Manhattan, at all times of day and night. The streets are always too busy not to!

tiny Airbnb Brooklyn with a room as long as a person

Just look how small our room was! We can laugh about it now, but we definitely won't be making that mistake again. Williamsburg and Dumbo though, I would come back to Brooklyn just for you. We didn't get to explore Williamsburg too much, but we made sure to stop off at Smorgasburg food market (which is where I took this selfie). Not only was it worth it for the endless amounts of street food, but getting to sit on a small beach overlooking the NYC skyline whilst eating mac'n'cheese with my bestie was worth what we paid for the entire trip. Genuinely one of the happiest moments of my life. Doesn't take much, does it? Sarcasm intended.

illustration of girl drinking lemonade at smorgasburg food market in Williamsburg overlooking Manhattan

Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn bridge

On our first full day in New York, me and Beth got the subway to Dumbo, found the ~hippest~ brunch place we could, then ticked something off the bucket list: crossing the Brooklyn bridge. Words can't quite describe that feeling you get when you first walk across the famous crossing from Brooklyn to Manhattan. That iconic skyline feels so close you can almost touch it. If you go, stop for a second. Take a moment to soak it all in, maybe even FaceTime your family feeling smug against the greatest backdrop of all time, like we did. I saw a piece of graffiti on the old metal structure of the bridge that read "you are now in the centre of the world", and never were truer words scribbled.
illustration of a Manhattan street with skyscrapers and nyc cabs
Of course, once you're in Manhattan, you're in the heart and soul of it all. Manhattan is the most exciting place I've ever been in my entire life. It's complete sensory overload, with crowds and big lights around every corner. Everything is like a movie scene. Because, well, most of the time it is. We stood gazing at the beautiful Grand Central Station (sorry commuters) and kept listing all the pop culture references we could think of. And singing that verse from Telephone, of course. And you just know we trekked dozens of blocks to find Monica's apartment. Despite Friends ending 14 years ago, there was still a queue of excited people waiting to take their picture under that famous fire escape on Grove St for the 'gram. Yep, another thing to tick off the bucket list.

illustration of friends apartment, Monica's apartment grove street New York
I really wanted to share some kind of NYC guide with you all, but our trip was cut short thanks to hurricane Irma (you can catch up on all the holiday drama in my travel vlogs) which meant we had approximately 100 hours to spend in this amazing city. So, I'm definitely not able to give you any kind of guide, because obviously this city is huge, and no one can explore it all in that time. Instead, I thought I'd give you this rambley style of diary post. Hopefully the ecstatic mood I was in the whole time we were there shines through and makes you smile, anyway.

One area I can recommend though, is the upper west side. You always hear everyone talking about east, but I loved this corner of New York. We headed up there to find two places: Levain bakery, as recommended by NYC dweller Tar Mar for their out of this world cookies, and Joanne Trattoria, Gaga's parents' restaurant. Sadly, we did not bump into Lady Gaga as we were enjoying our spaghetti, but the fact that we were there was a bit of a pinch-me moment for two little monsters. We spent a good portion of the day wandering around the streets lined with classic brown stone buildings, sipping on strawberry lemonade from the Colombus Avenue festival. This felt a bit like being back in Liverpool, actually. There was a real sense of community, with small businesses out on the street selling handmade goods with bloody good food and drink.

amsterdam avenue Columbus festival nyc, blogger strawberry lemonade

illustration of girl in upper west side, nyc
It's been hard to pick one highlight of our first trip to New York City, never mind the best moment of our whole USA adventure. But there is one moment that is a contender. On our last night in New York, we finally got to the top of the rock. There are no words to describe this view. Standing on top of the Rockefeller centre genuinely brought me to tears. You spend ages waiting in the queue (or don't, if you're smart and book your tickets in advance), zoom up in the elevator, step outside and this is the first thing you see. The Empire State building. Just over to the right, that's Times Square. Just out of shot to the left? The Chrysler building. WHAT?! If you are ever in New York, fork out the $35 to go to the top of the rock, spend as much time as you like up there, take all the pictures you want, and I can guarantee you it will be worth every penny.

view from the top of the rock at night including the Empire State building

And, that's it. That was my whirlwind first trip to NYC. Minus trips to the met, museum of natural history, Central Park and Fifth Avenue, but you can see all that in my New York vlog. Can you tell I fell even more in love with the place? I'm itching to get back over there, and yes, I've done a few cries about it since I've been back in the UK. Next time, I want to go in the snow, go to the Guggenheim, the Frick Collection, see more of Brooklyn and go for drinks in a swanky roof top bar. Not too much to ask, right?

I'll be back with another travel post in the next few weeks. If you have any questions or anything you want to know more about from our massive US trip, make sure to leave a comment down below!

Good vibes guys ✌🏼