I’m officially back from my amazing holiday in the US and I think it’s safe to say I really don’t want to be! I had such an amazing time in America — more than I would have thought.
I’ve always been really “meh” about traveling to America. I’ve been to Europe three times because I absolutely adore European history, particularly Ancient Roman and British, but I’ve never felt that same pull to America.
But then, back in June/July, my sister and I were talking about going overseas “one last time” before we both got full-time jobs next year — one last time of just being like “bye” to work and scampering off overseas without any consequences. We were tossing about New Zealand, or Japan, because I really want to go there, and my sister was like “Japan is too expensive” … and then she suggested New York.
I immediately said “New York is more expensive than Japan” but agreed five seconds later. Hey, it’s a graduation present to ourselves! What better way to congratulate ourselves than New York?!
My sister has always been randomly obsessed with Boston — I think because she watches a lot of American Revolution shows — and she also wanted to visit Boston on our holiday because it’s not very far from New York. And so I thought, well Washington DC is also pretty close, and that’s how our American East Coast Adventures began!
Yeah, it was pretty spontaneous. God, I wish I were back there. 😭
Our flight was 20 hours — yep, 20 hours to get from Melbourne to LA then to New York. By the time we arrived, we were physically exhausted but mentally ready to go. We arrived late, at around 7:30 pm on the same day we left Melbourne — we time travelled! — but the second we got to our hotel room, we dumped our luggage and immediately walked to Times Square.
Times Square is unlike any place I’ve ever been, and I’ve travelled quite a bit. We were making our way out of the Disney store and at one point I looked out through the windows outside and it looked like it was daylight. We were in Times Square at like 10 pm and it looked like it was the middle of the morning, that’s how bright the screens are. It was amazing and so, so, so busy. There were people every where, trying to sell products and handing out pamphlets. My sister and I spent that first night with our eyes super wide, just trying to take everything in. It was surreal.
On our second day in New York, we went to the Rockefeller Centre. We didn’t intend to spend the entire day there, but that’s what ended up happening. It’s MASSIVE. And so unique too. NBC has its studio there, where they actually film TV shows, like Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
At the Rockefeller Centre, they also have hundreds of stores and we spent a good portion of the day shopping and eating. My favourite part of today was taking the famous Rockefeller elevator all the way to the top of the building and taking photos of that amazing New York skyline. This adventure is called Top of the Rock.
We also visited the famous Jacques Torres chocolate shop in the centre and gorged ourselves on massive cookies and hot chocolate. Then we went to the famous Magnolia Bakery which is the best bakery in the world. I’m calling it. There, we had key lime pie — which is DELICIOUS — and banana pudding. I will remember that pudding for the rest of my life.
Late that night, we went to Barnes & Noble!! This may not seem exciting to my American readers, but for international readers it certainly is. We don’t have Barnes & Noble in Australia — or in any other country outside of the US. It was such a dream to visit this store and wander the book stacks. I bought quite a few books from this store, which I will show off in my American book haul. But here’s some photos I took of the store:
On our third day in New York, it was Thanksgiving! Now, I don’t completely understand what Thanksgiving is as I’m not American. I think the entire day is based on a lunch or dinner that is supposed to have happened — although historians don’t actually believe it happened — between colonists and Native American people two hundred years ago. And since then, people have celebrated the day? Is that right?
Anyway, as we don’t have anything like this day back in Australia, my sister and I went to the Thanksgiving Day Parade. And it was just our luck that this Thanksgiving was the coldest in 200 years. It was 23F … which is -6C. Yeah, it was freezing. My sister and I got to the parade an hour early so we could get a good view and our legs all but froze. By the time we started walking again, the blood had stopped rushing to my legs and my legs actually hurt me. Here are some photos from the day — not the best quality because there was apparently 3 million people there:
After the parade, we went to Central Park and spent the day there. Once we started walking around, we didn’t even feel the cold anymore and my legs started working again. Central Park is gorgeous. It’s one of the most famous places to visit in New York and even though I built it up in my head, it still exceeded my expectations. Here’s a slideshow of photos from Central Park and the Zoo, because I couldn’t choose only a couple photos:
After spending the day wandering the Park, my sister and I had a very lovely Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant called Park Avenue Autumn. First course was pumpkin ravioli and pumpkin toast. Main course was turkey with beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, and stuffing. Dessert was praline dome with pumpkin sauce and Mexican chocolate creme brûlée. It was INCREDIBLE.
Our fourth day in New York was … DUN DUN DUN … Black Friday. Now, I’ve never experienced Black Friday before. Even though it’s not that big in Australia, we still “celebrate” it and I tend to always work on this day. Even if I’m not working, I still avoid the stores because I don’t want to be anywhere near the crowds. But this year, being overseas and in New York of all places, I wanted to experience this day.
I didn’t end up taking any photos on this day because we spent the whole day shopping, but we went to stores like Gap, Forever 21, Macy’s, Kiko Milano, Sephora and more. I bought some nice clothes, but didn’t go overboard. A lot of the clothing is very similar to what we have in Australia and I didn’t want to spend money for the sake of it. However, I did go wild in Kiko Milano. I love Kiko makeup — it’s the only store where I’ve found a foundation that matches my skin tone exactly — and for Black Friday, the store had a sale of buy 3 products and get 3 free. Yeah … what even!! I bought 12 items of makeup but only paid for 6 of them! What a steal!
Our fifth day in New York was our busiest yet — and was probably the busiest of our entire trip. We did all of Lower Manhattan today. Like … ALL of it. First we started our day by having breakfast at an Australian cafe called Hole in the Wall. It’s owned by an Australian AFL player and it’s the only place in all of the US that we got a good cup of coffee and a good breakfast.
Then we went to Wall Street! We found a massive statue of George Washington there but we weren’t sure why, considering that Alexander Hamilton was the creator of Wall Street so shouldn’t there be a statue of him? But that was ok, because we went to Trinity Church right after and got to see Hamilton’s grave. You guys probably already know I love the Hamilton musical and I love Hamilton even more, so seeing his grave was a profound experience for me. Here’s some photos:
Next, we went to a place I’d be looking forward to since the beginning of my trip: the Fearless Girl statue. This statue was erected last year for International Women’s Day to bring awareness to the gender inequality gap in Wall Street — what’s amazing about this statue is that she’s facing the Bull of Wall Street. It’s like the girl is standing up to him. It’s incredible.
Then, we went to Bowling Green, Federal Hall, the Alexander Hamilton US Custom House, and then had to wait in line for an hour and a half to take the ferry to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty. That was an amazing experience and I’m so glad we went there. At one point, my sister and I were just going to take photos from afar but the sea was foggy so we braved that hour wait time and the cold and went to the Island. Look how close I got:
Finally, late that night, we went to the 9/11 Memorial. I didn’t take any photos here (except for one) because I thought it would be disrespectful, but it was a haunting place. The Museum is at the site where the original Twin Towers were and the spots where the Towers used to be have turned into fountains of a sort. It’s basically a square hole with water flowing into it, surrounded by a fence that has the victims names on it. It’s both beautiful and heartbreaking. The Museum inside gives a very detailed timeline of the events of that day and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. I highly recommend visiting this Museum if you find yourself in New York. This is the one photo I took in the Museum, because the quote was so powerful and inspiring. It reads: “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” It’s by Virgil. The blue squares are the different shades of the sky, as the artist remembers — each square is a different shade of blue.
Our sixth day saw us in Brooklyn and, honestly, if I ever move to New York, I’ll be living in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is just so different from New York, even though it’s one of the boroughs. It’s much cleaner, for one, with no trash bags littering the paths. It’s also much wider, giving the cleaner appearance. We visited the Brooklyn Bridge and after walked around DUMBO, which is the coolest neighbourhood ever. It stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass — DUMBO. I love it. It was sunny that day, so our photos didn’t come out as good as they had previously.
Then we went back into the city, found Little Italy, ate a famous cannoli, and found the Flatiron building. I can’t remember what’s so great about this building, but it’s supposed to be some feat of architecture. It’s cool, anyway.
This was my favourite day we spent in New York. And that’s because we visited the Museum of Natural History!! Yes, the same museum from Night at the Museum! This was the most incredible museum I’ve ever been to. It was architecturally beautiful, but inside it was so interesting and fun. I highly recommend going to this museum if you go to New York!
My favourite part of this museum was learning about the evolution of humans. This has always been the best part of history to me, and I LOVE history. I gave a little scream when I found Lucy. Lucy is one of the only skeletons scientists have of Australopithecus, a group of primates that are believed to have been one of the first humans. I studied Lucy back in highschool and seeing her in real life was so surreal.
This is by far the coolest thing I learnt at the Museum of Natural History: apparently, millions of years ago, two Australopithecus (what’s the plural?) took a walk together and minutes later, a volcano erupted or something as strong as a volcano, and turned their footprints into stone — which have been found. These footprints are so important to history, because it shows the two Australopithecus walking really closely together, with one being smaller than the other. Scientists believe that they were either a mated pair, with the smaller being female, or perhaps a mother/father and child. Whatever their relationship, they obviously cared for each other due to how closely they walked — suggesting that Australopithecus had complex social hierarchies, interesting because they were still very much more ape than human. Here’s the footprints:
Here’s some more photos from the Museum of Natural History. Sorry for the overload, it was just such an incredible place!
That night, my sister and I went to a hockey game! You all know by now how little I care for sports, even though I enjoy reading sports romances. But my sister really wanted to attend an American sports game and I chose hockey, because it’s the fastest sport and I knew I wouldn’t be as bored as I would have been watching baseball. It was such an amazing night! We watched the New York Rangers defeat the Ottawa Senators, and I definitely would go again — even though I’m not a sports fan!
Our eighth day found us in the Upper East Side at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As soon as we got off the Subway train and into the streets, we could immediately tell we were in the Upper East Side. Already, the streets were much cleaner, along with the buildings. I felt very poor being there, which is why I dressed up for the day.
The Met was so beautiful. The building itself and inside. I had such an amazing time here, we spent hours wandering the museum. I didn’t want to leave. The statue in the middle is one of my favourite figures from history, Pharaoh Hatshepsut. She’s the only woman to rule as a Pharaoh in her own right. I studied her for four years, both in high school and university, and seeing her statue made me scream!
My favourite part of the Met was the Ancient Greek and Roman section. Ancient Rome is probably my favourite time period of history — particularly the Roman Republic — so seeing so much history in one place got me extremely excited, as you can see.
Now you’re about to see a very nerdy side of me. Please don’t judge me, but I had a photoshoot with a statue of Julius Caesar. I took a lot of photos with him; obviously, I’m not going to show you every single one of them, but I will show you a few of the highlights. What can I say? I love Caesar.
And then, finally, the night we had been waiting for for months, ever since we planned this whole trip: HAMILTON!
My sister and I were so very lucky to get tickets to see Hamilton: the Musical and I cried the whole way through, which is why I wore my glasses that night. Yes, it was quite expensive but, hey, when will I ever have the chance to see a musical about New York, set in New York, in New York? Never again. Not to mention, it will be years until the musical makes its way to Australia. Also, I bought so much merchandise that night! Here’s some photos from the night:
Our final day in New York was much more chill than every other day, which we sorely needed, because we were so tired. We spent most of the day at the Chelsea Markets, which are so lovely and fun. The markets are in a building, sort of underground, but they remind me so much of Melbourne — particularly, the alleyways of Melbourne. For those who don’t know, Melbourne is famous for its alleyways as they have a lot of cafes and restaurants there, and incredible graffiti, that the government pays for. Chelsea Markets felt a lot like that — it felt like home.
Then we spent the rest of the day walking the Highline, a long bridge that covers a good part of the city. We got some lovely photos on this bridge, and it was super relaxing to just walk and relax, instead of rushing to the next tourist spot, like we did every other day.
The next day we left for Washington D.C. …
I had the absolute best time in New York. I will be visiting this city over and over again, it was so incredible. But before that, here are some final thoughts about the city …
- It’s a beautiful city, but a very, very busy one
- The architecture is an amazing mix of historical and modern
- It’s not disabled friendly. I often wondered how disabled people live in that city
- There’s a lot of garbage on the street as the city doesn’t have dumpsters or trash cans, as they can be used in terrorist attacks. I understand that, but the city could be really gross at times, and it smelled a bit too
- Retail workers in every store were horrible. They ignored us and would congregate in groups, talking to each other, while one person served and the line was going out the door. I get they don’t work for tips, but still. Speaking of tips …
- Sorry, but the tipping situation in America is a joke. The service is no better than any other service I have received and I spent so much money tipping for average, and sometimes, really bad service. This is such a capitalist system that takes the onus off of the employer and government to pay a liveable wage, and puts it on the customer. Maybe it’s my Australian ignorance, because we don’t tip in Australia, but tipping is a bad system. The government needs to raise minimum wage — how dare restaurants legally be able to pay someone only $2 an hour?! It’s disgusting
- The Subway system is also a joke. Everyone told me the Subway is easy to utilise, but it wasn’t. The metro card (or whatever it’s called) is expensive, and when we looked up which train to catch, it never told us which way we had to go, so we’d often get on the wrong train, get off at the next station, and take the train back the other way.
But aside from these small issues, I had a wonderful time in New York, and I would be back there in a heartbeat!