Sunday, 28 November 2010

New York, New York, it's a helluva town - Day 1

I forget when the idea first popped into our consciousness but by January this year (with the massive expenses of the wedding, honeymoon and Christmas over and done with) we had started saving for a big first wedding anniversary celebration trip to New York. We saved hard, knowing how expensive it would all be, and although our bank balance took a hit a couple of times when just-past-their-warranty appliances decided to give up the ghost (sod's law), in June we were finally able to book the hotel and the flights – how freaking exciting!

I then spent almost every day between then and mid-November trawling through the New York Trip Advisor forum for ideas on what to do and the best ways to do them, scanning Menupages and Yelp for good restaurants in our budget and generally researching and planning our trip. I think my dedication to cause may have concerned the Yorkshireman at times (he's much more a "wing it" personality) but the more I researched, the more I found I wanted to do, and the fuller our itinerary grew. It became clear that if we wanted to see even half of what we wanted to see, we would need to plan with almost military precision. There would be no time for our usual half-assed "I don’t know, you decide" moments on this trip!

By the time we were finally packing to leave I felt prepared: I knew to give the yellow cab driver the cross streets of our hotel instead of the name or address, and how much to pay the driver including tax and tolls; I knew where our closest subway stations were and how to use the subway; I knew where we might get a nice meal for dinner and a nice breakfast in the morning; I knew how close we were to Times Square. I also felt so excited that I could hardly get to sleep the night before our flight, which is never a good thing when you have to get up at 4am again!

Finally the morning (if you can call it that) arrived and we left our house in Belfast at silly o'clock and made our way to Belfast City Airport, then on to London Heathrow with BMI and then on to JFK with Virgin Atlantic. We travelled with Virgin on our honeymoon too and really enjoyed the experience. Well, they have great seatback entertainment (sometimes on-demand) and a free bar onboard, so what's not to love? We certainly enjoyed the free red wine and actually the food was pretty good too. I watched a few movies during the flight, namely The Other Guys (which I quite liked), Dinner for Schmucks (again quite good) and The Kids Are Alright (which was just meh).

We landed at JKF mid-afternoon and we had caught a quick glimpse of Manhattan out the window so I was pretty excitable and couldn’t wait to just get out there and start our holiday already. Unfortunately the queue for immigration was insane and we were there for almost an hour and a half. By the time we finally had our fingerprints scanned, our photographs taken and received the stamp of approval, the carousel with our bags on it had long since stopped rotating and they were just sadly abandoned. Poor suitcases, it's okay, mummy and daddy are here now.

We claimed our deserted luggage and found an ATM to withdraw some cash and visited a news stand in the arrivals hall to get some change. I bought my first white chocolate KitKat here – man do we need those here – so yummy! Then we headed out of the terminal to join the 20 minute queue for a cab outside. Eventually I was giving the cross streets to the driver (all proud of myself for sounding like a pro) and we were off, noses pressed to the window as we made our way down the Van Wyck Expressway. I couldn't help but notice how the houses kinda looked like those in Ugly Betty – I’ve always loved those houses.

Before we knew it we were going through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and suddenly we were in Manhattan! I eagerly watched the street signs pass so I would know when we were at our hotel. And then there it was! 26th Street and 7th Avenue. We got out at the corner of the street and walked the 50 metres or so to our hotel, Fashion 26. Check-in was a breeze and within 10 minutes we were up in our room with our cases, hooking up our laptop to the free Wi-Fi, while I oohed and aahed over the awesome coffee machine we had.

It was still only early evening by the time we got settled in, so we decided to make the mile-long walk up to Times Square and see what all the fuss was about. I really liked the area we were staying in – it was quiet enough not to give you a headache but busy enough to keep you interested. Not so for Times Square, which was just plain crazy! Still I'm a city girl at heart so I quite like big lights and crowds... in small doses. We checked out the JumboTrons (and waved at ourselves on the Forever 21 one), figured out where the TKTS booth was for later in our trip and took a few photos.

By then we were pretty knackered, having been up for around 22 hours, so we walked back to our hotel via Gingers Restaurant and picked up some yummy Chinese takeout to bring back to our room. I took great but sad delight in the dinky little rice containers ("just like you see on TV!") and the fortune cookies, while the Yorkshireman humoured me. After that it was straight to bed - we had a city to see the next day after all!

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