Steve and I like to use birthdays as an excuse to go away whenever possible. His birthday is in May, so it works quite well for spreading out two trips in a year. Sometimes they are small weekend excursions and sometimes they’re a little bit more adventurous. We’ve been to the Lake District, Disneyland, Snowdonia and London all in the name of birthdays over the past couple of years. It’s a little bit like buying someone a present that you also get to enjoy, so we are totally okay with that. Also, experiences over material things any day – even if more expensive than a pair of socks.
This January, Steve surprised me with a trip to NEW YORK for my birthday. Which made me feel incredibly spoilt, but also, because i’m an anxious little bean, it also made me feel super…anxious. You can read more about why in my last post but I’m just going to focus on the fun stuff here.
I did originally write this as one 3000 word post, but that’s as long as my dissertation and no one is going to read all of that! So i’ve split it into 3. I’m way too much of an oversharer.
We flew out on the Tuesday in the early afternoon so we didn’t reach New York until late evening. We dropped Magnus off at my mums and then drove to Heathrow, parked the car and made our way through bag drop and security. We went to Giraffe and had fish and chips to keep us going on the flight and then boarded the plane. I felt instantly better after the initial anxiety once were at the airport.
The flight wasn’t too bad, with only a few brief moments of turbulence and a super cute baby smiling at us occasionally. We watched Bridget Jones’ Baby together and then I re-watched Wild on the in-flight entertainment screens, followed by a documentary about Fernanda Maciel climbing/running up and down Aconcagua mountain in less than 24 hours which was pretty awe-inspiring. Finally I watched ‘Swim’ a sweet documentary about channel swimmers. These and the odd game of Tetris kept me occupied during the flight but it still felt like it took forever. It was my first time on a long flight like this so I wasn’t sure what to expect but the whole in-flight service was really good from British Airways and the food was not too bad.
We took a yellow taxi to our hotel, which was the Paramount Hotel near Times Square, where we checked in and then had a quick bite to eat in the hotel restaurant. We were really tired and as it was technically bed time in England, we decided to go straight to bed in the hope that we’d get a good nights sleep and wake up nice and early for our first day exploring.
In the morning, we woke really nice and early after a slightly unsettled night (New York is LOUD) and decided to try the hotel’s buffet breakfast. This was to save time looking for food so we could just get on with exploring, plus it sounded pretty good! We knew we’d only have breakfast there once as we don’t like to eat more than once at a place if we can, especially when a big part of visiting New York is trying all the food! It was a buffet but I was content with the french toast with bacon and maple syrup which was delicious, but I sampled a few of the other warm options. The hotel waiter was really friendly and recommended us a good jazz bar to try during our trip and answered some of our questions about things to do here.
After breakfast we walked into Time Square and took in the insane size of the buildings and the array of big screens. We grabbed a chai latte from a street van and made our way to central park. I thought central park was huggeee and really nice. I bet it’s so much better in the summer though, much more green. We walked along the length of the park, petting dogs and chatting to their owners and getting a feel for the place. It would have been great to take a boat out on the hugggeeee lakes in the park but unfortunately it was out of season.
I really enjoyed reading all the memorial benches in the park, I took so many photographs of sweet and insightful plaques but the one below really made me chuckle. We left the park in search of a toilet and discovered that there is a severe lack of working toilets in the city. We tried at least 6 places with closed toilets and things were starting to get desperate. Once we’d managed to talk our way into some sort of museum without a ticket to use the toilet, we decided to get some lunch before heading to the Natural History Museum. We’d done so much walking in the first half of the day (my FitBit recorded over 20,000 steps already) we were going to get a taxi, but then I spotted a Samoyed across the road and, like the crazy dog stalkers we are, we let the taxi go and ran across the road to meet Kola and his lovely owner. In true Samoyed style, he wasn’t the least bit interested in us, but his owner was really lovely to chat to.
After meeting Kola, we went to a bagel place that Steve had been recommended for a lunch time bagel. It. was. the. best. place. ever. It wasn’t the swankiest of places and if you didn’t know about it you’d probably overlook it, but my god the bagels were delicious. And, it had about a hundred kinds of ‘Gourmet Cream Cheese’. It had so many I couldn’t even comprehend, but the apple and cinnamon cream cheese sounded particularly good. I’d love to try making my own now i’m home! I actually went for a boring salmon and traditional cream cheese bagel, telling myself i’d go back for a half blueberry half apple cinnamon one another day in the trip. It was literally the most yummy bagel i’ve ever had. Steve had a glorious melty cheesy one which gave me food envy.
After bagels, we went to the natural history museum which was super fun but again a lot of walking. We went in a butterfly house for the first time and Steve made a new friend called ‘Albert’ who took a liking to riding on his backpack. There were so meny beaaautiful and giant butterflies in there. It was so hot and I was wearing a big winter coat, but I could have stayed in there forever. It was here that a young girl gave me my first ‘I love your accent’ compliment. American’s DO love the British accent…
We stumbled into a kids area a bit later on when exploring the museum, which I totally didn’t realise and just looked around. A guy in there offered to let me hold a cockroach but I hastily declined then kinda regretted not being more a yes girl. Going into the kids bit was actually one of the best bits because someone who worked at the museum invited us into this special area behind a velvet rope and up some stairs where a bunch of guys were studying things in a microscope and there were lots of interesting critters in a tank. A really lovely smart man chatted to us about what they were doing and allowed us to hold a stick insect.
The whole museum was really interesting, but apart from the butterflies, my favourite bit was an area with lots of information about trees. There was a huuuge Sequoia ring mounted on a wall and then this AMAZING piece from a tree which was over 4,500 years old. In-cred-ible. We sort of ran out of time a little as the museum began to close, so we whizzed around the dinosaur area before making our way out into the cold to look for somewhere for dinner.
We were recommended by several people to try Ellen’s Stardust Diner, which is owned by Ellen De Generes and is the workplace of aspiring broadway stars who work as waiters and sing in the restaurant in the hopes of being discovered. It didn’t disappoint. It was super crammed in there and I was sort of tucked into my table by the greeter, with no hopes of getting up if I wanted to. It had such fun and busy vibes and the food was kind of second to the entertainment, but still good eating. I had a sloppy Joe and an awesome coconut rum and white chocolate milkshake. The waiters sang show tunes and Disney favourites including an amazing rendition of that song from Frozen, to which confetti fell at the end. I also had to embarrassingly take part in an awkward shimmy in front of everyone, along with other diners who were there to celebrate a birthday. We were super tired after a long day of being on our feet so afterwards we went back to our hotel and got a pretty early night.
Stay tuned for part 2 in the next few days!