Tuesday 4 September 2018

Rachael Takes On NYC

New York has always been one of those places I have been longing to visit. It features in so many films, programs, and books that it always seemed so faraway and far too magical to ever even dream of visiting. So you can imagine my excitement when Philip sprung on me that we would be paying the Big Apple a visit within months. Best surprise ever?

Having to get up at ridiculous o'clock to drive to Dublin didn't phase me, and at this stage I don't think it had fully dawned on my that I was actually going to be visiting New York. It did hit me like a tonne of bricks however when I was going through the airport clearing, where they quiz you on your intentions for visiting America. If you've never experienced this and you plan on going, be prepared for a very straight faced individual asking where you are staying, why you are going, who you are with, is it your first time, when are you coming back, do you plan on meeting anyone else whilst there... It was a bit like Anne Robinson on the Weakest Link; quickfire, ruthless, and very intimidating. Anyway, the seven hour flight was a lot more bearable than I had anticipated, and after proclaiming that he 'hates' Tetris, Philip was addicted and training for the World Tetris Championships on the Aer Lingus in-flight entertainment screens.

On arrival at J.F.K, we collected our bags and ordered an Uber to take us into the city to the Roosevelt Hotel where we would be spending the following four nights. I will take this opportunity to mention that the taxi ride into New York was like being on a roller coaster with your eyes shut. A little tip is don't look out the window, they swing in and out of lanes, brake so harshly you nearly face plant the seat in front, and shout profanities you probably have never had the displeasure of ever hearing, at each other. Although I do feel it added to the whole N.Y. experience...

The Roosevelt gives you a very 1920's New York feel, with an extremely fancy lobby and hallways that reminded me a bit of The Shining, but in a good way (if there's such a thing).

When we arrived it was early afternoon, so we took full advantage of the rest of the day and embarked on an adventure out into the extremely hot, humid streets. Of course when I spied Sephora from across the street, Philip had no choice but to follow. After watching so many YouTube personalities, bloggers, and celebrities talk about it, here I was standing in the middle of this absolutely jam packed store full of amazing cosmetic brands, flinging dollar bills in all directions. It was slightly overwhelming, but in a good way and the staff are very attentive and friendly. This was of course only my warm up visit, I planned to revisit the store later in our stay.

The Empire State Building
This is one place I was extremely excited to visit partly because it features so heavily in the film, Elf. It really did not disappoint, and you can see for miles and miles across the city. You're so high up that all the other skyscrapers look tiny. It is quite busy so having bony elbows and a zero tolerance approach to other tourists is a must.

Times Square
It's pretty much as you expect it to be: garishly lit, noisy, and brimming with tourists. We ate here on our first night in a restaurant called the Olive Garden. If you like eating so much that you have to carry your main course home in a cardboard box, feel free to visit. They ply you with food, even things you really did not order, with the intention of stuffing you so full you have to roll yourself home along the dusty footpaths. Delicious though.

Central Park
I totally underestimated the sheer size of this place. It's extremely picturesque and if you're lucky you might spot the odd cute squirrel scurrying about. You can get a horse drawn carriage around the park, or cycle if you choose, but we avoided both as you can go off the main paths and explore as far and wide as you like on foot. I was so excited to see the hotel situated right beside the park that many of the scenes for Home Alone 2 were shot in. Another thing ticked off the bucket list! We walked so far in Central Park, my knees were sore for days after but it was extremely enjoyable and it's hard to believe you're still in the middle of the city.

9/11 Memorial & Museum
The 9/11 memorial in downtown Manhattan was top of my list of places to see in New York. After watching so many documentaries and remembering the events like it was yesterday, I was so interested in visiting the museum and seeing the site for myself. The two memorials where both the north & south towers stood are engraved with the names of every victim from both September 11th and the World Trade Centre bomb in 1993. A white rose is placed on a person's name to mark their birthday, and some even had small photos attached, making it all the more real.

The museum is the most hard hitting part of the whole experience. They have collected and saved over 10,000 artifacts from that day, including a fire engine completely destroyed by the attacks, stairs from one of the towers, and the last standing column that is still covered with flags and posters of those who were missing. For me the most interesting part was the section that had personal belongings of victims, seat belts and passenger windows from the planes, and even a water boiler used by those on flight 93 to pour boiling water over the terrorists. They also have audio material of voicemails left by those on the planes, and a handwritten note from someone trapped in one of the towers, who in desperation had thrown it out the window, hoping that someone on the streets below would find it and be alerted of their whereabouts.

If you ever visit New York, I highly recommend taking the time to go to this museum. The queue outside almost put us off, but the twenty minute wait to buy tickets was soon forgotten once we were inside. I learnt so much after thinking I knew it all, and the hall containing photos of every single person who perished makes it all the more emotional as you start putting faces to the numbers. Just prepare to see a lot of things that show just how tragic the day's events were.

Saint Paul's Chapel sits behind the site and was the only building close to the towers that suffered no damage from that day. It was also open to emergency service staff for nine months following the attacks, as the huge clear up began.

One World Observatory
Situated at the top of the World Trade Centre (the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere), the observatory boasts amazing views of the city. It is quite expensive, but it is New York after all. They also give you a short history of the World Trade Centre, and once the presentation finishes, the screen slides up and you are greeted with breathtaking views across the city.

Brooklyn Bridge
To get to this iconic bridge we had to get the subway. Think of London's tube, but a bit more confusing, and a lot more humid. After boarding the wrong train and realising three stops in, we had to jump off and find one for the other direction. You've just got to ensure you know whether you are heading uptown or downtown, but if you do happen to end up going in the wrong direction it's easy enough to hop off and get another train back in the right direction.

The heat at Brooklyn Bridge was something else, but there are plenty of people selling bottles of water along the way, you can't miss them as they literally shout it from the top of their lungs. We walked about a quarter of the way along it and made sure to get plenty of photos and videos, as the view was amazing. It's another place I have seen so much of in films but actually being there was pretty spectacular. There was even an ice cream van for us to get ridiculously huge cones from after our trek along the bridge.

Grand Central Terminal
Featured in the film The Untouchables, Grand Central is the second most visited destination in New York (second to Times Square). It has loads of little places to eat, and this is where I got this awkward looking snap with two NYPD officers. They do look quite unapproachable, but they were actually very friendly. I think their serious, "we mean business" faces came out for the camera.

Bryant Park
Philip and I intended to go to Macy's this day, but somehow ended up sitting in Bryant Park drinking the most expensive, strong vodka and lemonades (Felix the bartender must have used a whole bottle of vodka). If something was a bit expensive we were both like, so what, we're in New York, which is exactly the right mentality to have. You've got to enjoy yourself, right? These drinks were followed by a late night trip to Five Guys, and then getting lost as far from our hotel as we could possibly get. I think this day was the highlight of the trip!

I feel that everything ran reasonably smoothly considering it was my first trip to America, and it was just as amazing as I had anticipated. It is obviously extremely busy all the time, and uncomfortably humid this time of year, but I enjoyed every second and it also helped that my travelling companion was easy enough to get along with... He also takes quite good photos on his iPhone that he never gives over about, but let's not tell him that because chances are he probably won't read until the end of this post, so he'll never know.

Here's some extra photos to make you feel like you were there too...

$140 pizza? We'll take it!

We walked our socks off through Central Park and then Philip's hungry brain set in and he was adamant he would hunt out a good pizza place nearby. However, nearby to Philip can be anything between a block, and nearly veering over the state lines into Connecticut. So after wearing my Nikes down from walking that far, we found Serafina's; an authentic Italian restaurant that wasn't full of tourists. Getting into the New York, Upper East Side spirit, I ordered a $12 drink and Philip followed suit. Living our best life, we had the greatest pizza to ever pass our lips, and the most delicious desserts. Everything was fabulous until the bill came. $140. But we were on our holidays, right? We've since discovered Serafina's is popular amongst celebrities such as, Leonardo DiCaprio and Lady Gaga. So, I guess we're famous now?

Now onto the most important part, what makeup did I buy? Well, Philip was mentally prepared for me being totally overwhelmed in Sephora, filling numerous baskets, and spending my savings that I've had since the age of four. However, I feel like I was quite restrained and only paid two visits to Sephora within those five days. Many of the brands stocked are available in the store where I work, so I wasn't too bothered about those as I can get them cheaper here. I was very excited for brands such as Huda, Natasha Denona, and Pat McGrath though. Oh, and Sephora's own range too of course.

I purchased the Pat McGrath MTHRSHP palette as at one stage it was all over Instagram, and violet eye shadow is my weakness. I also got two Bite Beauty lipsticks, a Sephora lipgloss and bronzer, a mini Kat Von D setting spray, a Natasha Denona lip gloss, the new Anastasia Beverly Hills Norvina palette, one of their super shimmery lip glosses, and a Make Up For Ever eye shadow. Phew! I spent most of my money on food, touristy things like tickets for attractions, and make up. Money well spent if you ask me.

So there we have it! A quick lowdown on all things New York. Would I go back? Definitely! I was unsure whether the hustle and bustle would appeal to me, but I loved every second and the atmosphere of the place is unlike any other. I had the best time with the most ridiculously annoying (jokes) human being, and explored so many different attractions within those five days, that I feel like we really made the most of our stay. I feel like I laughed from start to finish, apart from when I got home and weighed myself. Here's to our next adventure!


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