I have visited New York City four times now. In fact, NYC was my first ever trip abroad as a teenage university student, with £199 burning a hole in my pocket ready to spend on a return flight with Kuwait Airways. There were definitely some interesting moments on that trip (I could write a whole blog post on it), but they were the moments that gave me the travel bug and the desire to explore the world. I also have fond memories of visiting the World Trade Center pre 9/11, memories I will always cherish.
For my second trip, I stayed with a friend – a true New Yorker brought up on Roosevelt Island (that sliver of an island between Manhattan and Queens that the cable car from the Spiderman film goes to). She was living in the Colombia University district when I visited, so it was nice to get a feel for that neighbourhood. She also introduced us to some more local, and less touristy places.
My third trip, a fleeting two night visit while on a 1,600 mile road trip visiting the cities and theme parks of the North East saw me drive into Manhattan for the first (and probably last) time. Challenging is a good word. Who would think a grid system could be so stressful.
Anyway, I digress (get to the photo’s I hear you say). For my pre-40th birthday celebration we decided a trip to New York in December would be a great idea. I had only ever been in the summer, you see. Turns out that in the freak weather of December 2015 we had temperatures of up to 18 degrees C. Waste of time packing the winter clothes, and not a hint of the snow scenes I had daydreamed of.
The streets of downtown Manhattan (and Brooklyn)
We opted to stay at the southern end of Manhanttan – Tribeca to be precise. Tribeca sits in between the Financial District to the south, and Soho / West Village / Greenwich Village to the north. I always found it was difficult to find a good local bar for a drink in Midtown in the evenings, so the villages seemed like a much better option for good evening vibes.
Our hotel choice was the Sheraton Tribeca , mainly for the location and the views. We booked a room on a higher floor and were not disappointed. Unobstructed views across Midtown meant we never once closed the curtains during our stay. Why would you? Seeing the twinkling lights at night and the hazy sunrises from the comfort of your bed is quite the luxury.
Having not spent much time in the downtown neighbourhoods on my previous visits, it felt like a great place to be based. The streets felt vibrant, safe and never too crowded (unlike those of midtown), with great architecture and street art at every turn.
Sometimes, walking around a corner where the streets were free of traffic you could almost imagine that you had stepped back in time.
I’m going to mention some breakfast restaurants at this point. One of my favourite things about visiting US cities is searching out that great little breakfast joint – the places that locals go to, or the diners that look like dives from the outside, but are just amazing once you are inside. Our favourite spots for breakfast were Square Diner on Leonard St (a classic old railway diner) and Cupping Room Cafe on W Broadway which was just fantastic. We went back on our final day.
Of course, downtown isn’t all about the historic buildings, cool vibes and street art. In contrast, the financial district is packed with gigantic, gleaming skyscrapers. If terrorists choose to destroy the twin towers, then this city will go right ahead and build an even taller, more impressive building in their place. And quite right too.
One World Trade Center, is literally the shining beacon (see photo below) of the city. At 1776ft, it stands high and proud above the beautiful 9/11 Memorial Fountains and Museum. They have an Observatory at the top with great views over the city.
We have all seen Brooklyn Bridge on the TV or in the movies. When you are a tourist in NYC you have to walk across the bridge, right?
The only problem with walking across the bridge, is ironically, all of the people walking across the bridge. And cycling. They don’t half get in your way! But the bridge gives some opportunities for some great shots.
Over on the Brooklyn side of the the bridge you can take a stroll around the streets of the DUMBO district, which again gives fabulous photo opportunities of both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. There are also a few coffee shops, bars, restaurants and shops to peruse before your walk back across to Manhattan.
I will leave it there for Part One. We still have the High Line, Midtown and Central Park to cover so stay tuned for Part Two which will be coming soon.