Jet-lag creeping in on us, at first it was hard to follow the enthusiastic chatter of the taxi driver taking my family and I to the apartment. Turning a corner into our street, however, our tiredness turned into full-blown excitement. There it was, emerging on our right-hand side: the breath-taking skyline of New York City glittering under the cool night sky. Hundreds of shining skyscrapers lined up, competing to see who can tower up the highest. The city looked so misleadingly civilised from the other side of the river Hudson.
We ventured into the city first thing in the morning. The bus dropped us off at Times Square, one of the most iconic sites in New York. Located in Midtown Manhattan, this surprisingly small intersection is a shock to the system. Your eyes try to adjust to the myriads of brightly lit billboards, flashing and colourful, desperate to catch your attention from a few feet above you. You hear music from buskers blending with the sound of impatient commuters honking their horns, and a babel of languages spoken by locals and tourists alike. We were soon to discover that, at night, the site is even more mesmerising. With a bit of rain and questionable white fumes emerging from underground tubes, Times Square made Blade Runner’s predicted future a reality.
After our first interactions with the hectic chaos of the city centre, we discovered some calmer spots to enjoy. At an impressive height, the fancy rooftop at Rockefeller Centre mutes the noisy streets below while offering some fantastic views. From there we admired the hearty green 843 hectares comprising Central Park, as well as the Empire State Building in all its geometrical beauty. Outside Manhattan, a trip to Staten Island took us to New York’s Chinese Scholar’s Garden. From its delicate white marble bridges to its fish ponds and bamboo forests, every corner of this mesmerising pavilion collection inspires awe and contemplation. Not bad for a free ferry ride between Manhattan and Staten Island, which also passes by the glorious Statue of Liberty.
For a splash of culture, New York is home to some of the best museums in the world. Tickets are controversially pricey, with a Student ID getting you in for $18 (£13.70) on average. For the low budgeter, the Metropolitan Museum ticket offers the best value for money. For three consecutive days you can visit the largest art museum in the US, covering masterpieces from every historical period and almost every region. If that’s not enough, the price includes a visit to the Breuer Museum and the Met Cloisters, a hidden Romanesque gem nestled in a scenic park bordering the Hudson.
From site to site there are plenty of places to indulge in mouth-watering food. For some succulent mushroom and shredded beef Ramen, or some curry flavoured Chinese noodles made on the spot, Chelsea Market has got you covered. Classic American cuisine can be found at Park Café, which treats you right with maple syrup fluffy pancakes and a variety of burgers. Feeling adventurous, we once tried a burger with crispy bacon, creamy peanut butter and sweet strawberry marmalade. Delicious though it was, this meal is not for the faint hearted.
New York delivers the thrill and excitement promised by many movies while managing to exceed your expectations. We left the city in bewilderment, with plenty of fond memories to reminisce and an eagerness to book another flight for next year.
[Natàlia Fernández Ashman]
[Image Credit: Natàlia Fernández Ashman]