New York, New York!

When you’re in a relationship, it’s wonderful to spend time with that person you love, but it’s also incredibly important to have independent adventures as well. Having your own solo adventures teaches you more about trust, commitment, sacrifice and most importantly, it gives you time to reconnect with yourself.

Not only are solo trips important, but so are trips with best friends. Last year I was invited to a wedding in New York. Not just any wedding. The wedding of the gorgeous, beautiful souls Robbie and Savannah. Robbie’s Mum, my friend, died in 2014 so it was an absolute honour to be invited to this delightful union and I was going to love every single second of it as much as Lynda would have if she’d had the delight if being here and being able to see her youngest son marry so joyously.

My friend Lucy’s husband works for BA which gave us the perfect opportunity to see The Big Apple together by popping ourselves on his friend’s and family list. Life is short and as much as we love what all we left behind for six days, this was going to be the girls holiday we had never had opportunity to do up until now. Why not? Life’s short!

New York turned out to be pretty awesome, especially for those who enjoy city breaks, walking (and oh boy, did we walk!), culture, history and exploring. Out first day, a fabulous first day of our adventure, consisted of Grand Central Terminal (a terminal not as station as it’s the start and end of a line and not a through station), getting caught in the most horrendous thunder storm ever, drinking gin whilst more wet than if we’d had an actual shower and powering through a very long day of travel to a decent time for bed! Oh boy was bed good…… We woke early which was handy because it meant we were out by 7.30 at at The Empire State Building by opening at 8am. We missed ALL the queues and were up at the 82nd floor by 08.10. It was a windy day but that didn’t spoil the phenomenal views. More breathtaking as an adult than the last time I had the pleasure of being up there when I was 15. We went on to explore a bit of the city before heading to World Trade Centre memorial. This to me was a respect visit more than anything else. As teenagers my Dad gave my brother and I the most special treat of being able to have a meal at the “Windows on the World” restaurant eating the most delicious food I have ever had still to this day. When that terrible day of horrific mass murder took place, it made me realise how very lucky we had been to have the pleasure of going there. Making memories together and coming away safely. And so, that was my reason for returning. To pay my respects to the chef that made that meal for us, that sadly didn’t make it out that day. Along with far too many others. I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming emotion that visit brought. I will never understand the selfie takers, or the groups of people smiling for photos at the site, but maybe that’s just the world we live in now. We have to have photographs of everything and everywhere to prove we were there. I will now not only remember the chef that made the best Steak Benedict I’ve ever tasted but the beautiful mother to be and her unborn child along with the other five people whose names I stood by that day.

We decided to head to Macy’s for the wedding list after such a poignant morning. Whilst here, we ate in Stella Trattoria where I had the best soup, cauliflower and truffle, I have ever tasted. It was divine! Full tums and raring to go again, we headed to Times Square. Personally I don’t know what all the hype is about. We were soon accosted by Minnie Mouse, a Storm trooper and Super Mario who took photos with us and then demanded $10 for the privilege – wow, I was going to plaster that picture EVERYWHERE when I had the chance having paid for it to be taken on my own phone. No social media would go unmissed with that one. I felt violated and “got” I never get “got” After a full day out in the sunshine we whipped back to the hotel for a quick change before heading for The Ride Experience. Unsure of what to expect really, it was an absolute hoot, educational and full of laughter! There hadn’t been any shortage of that anyway but wow did we chuckle on this tour!  THE RIDE is an one-of-a-kind interactive entertainment experience where the streets of New York City are the stage, and you’ve got front row seats! The comedic hosts welcome you aboard the moving theater which navigates a 75 minute route through Midtown Manhattan and Times Square. Your hosts are trained in improvisation so that each performance is fresh depending on what’s happening on the street that day. We rounded off the very busy day with too many cocktails, more giggles and a fabulous Panini from the deli across the road.

Our second day in New York was spent losing my American pancake with butter and maple syrup virginity on Lexington Avenue in “Eat here now”, exploring a tiny corner of Central Park, which was a sheer delight, (especially finding the fountain that “The Producers” was filmed in and “The Stuart Little” boating lake)  walking side streets and drinking gorgeous, refreshing Raspberry lemonade in East Pole on 133 E 65th Street. As it was Wedding day, it was time to head to the hairdressers and then back to the hotel to finish getting ready for the wedding of the year! Wow! It really was a stunner of a wedding that it was a total pleasure to be a part of.

I can’t lie, I rolled in very late (or rather early morning!) from the wedding as we had extended the celebrations from the venue to The Viceroy rooftop bar and therefore, I probably wasn’t as  fresh as a daisy as perhaps I made out to be on the Sunday morning. Still, I braved it out, we hopped in a taxi and headed to Pier 16 for our big yellow water taxi tour of New York and the best bit, The Statue of Liberty. Oh how I love her. I love her and The Chrysler Building like you wouldn’t know possible to love a building and a statue and I was so excited. Despite no longer being with us, my Gran in a round about way paid for this boat trip so it was a very special one indeed for me. One which I was going to soak up and love for all that it was in all its glory.  There was no such thing as camera phones or selfies when I was 15, so I was going to take SO many photos and selfies to remember these moments in time. There was a very special moment in time as we headed from seeing the statue back to Brooklyn Bridge. Our tour guide Heidi, was impeccable and her knowledge was immense. She had gone quiet and was giving everyone their opportunity for quiet moments or just general moments for photographs. Some music came on just as I was looking out to the horizon and having a teary moment thinking of Granny and how much she would love that I was on this adventure with my friend. Granny was a big Neil Diamond music lover. So much so, not long before she died, she couldn’t speak to me on the phone during “An audience with Neil Diamond”

“I can’t take now, Neil Diamond is on the television. Oh and it’s on until after my bedtime, I’m staying up late so ring me tomorrow” she said down the phone

“But you rang me Gran and I missed the call so I was just ringing you back” was my reply.

Gosh I miss that beauty! ?Anyway, I digress. Being such a lover of his music, we had Beautiful Noise at the crematorium after her funeral service at church.

On the boat, now in New York, thinking of my Gran and how proud she would be of me, the song was playing a tune I didn’t know but a voice I did. I turned to Lucy,

“Who is this singing?” I asked her

“Neil Diamond, America” was her reply

I got goosebumps from head to toe. The tears came and that was my very special holiday moment in time. I will never forget it. Or her. The rest of the day was spent walking and exploring, we walked trough the financial district, China Town, Little Italy, Soho and Greenwich Village. I adore street art and I was blown away by the beauty and variety of it as we walked through quirky little streets. I was in my element. Lucy’s little legs weren’t so much so but she soldiered on. Bless her to every one of my strides she was doing two. I’m convinced she must have done twice the amount of steps I did everyday!

We found a cute little tapas bar with the most glorious black and white tile art on the wall. We have a gorgeous grilled cheese and ham sandwich and churros. I had never had churros before and these were an absolute orgasm on the tongue! We carried on walking through the most glorious streets and by the most spectacular buildings I’ve ever seen. The architecture in New York really is something else. We had a big last night out planned courtesy of my Dad and brother. They bought me a voucher for Christmas for a restaurant called Del Friscos.

We had a fabulous  waiter that recommended the VIP cocktail. This included pineapple that had been soaked in vodka for 24 days. Well I like a social drink but two of these are all you need for a squiffy feeling (and at $18 each are probably all you want to pay for!) Lucy had a gorgeous vegetable platter and I ate  a steak that would have been fit for Henry 8th topped with Alaskan King Crab butter. We were greedy and had dessert. I hadn’t had a New York Cheesecake experience on this holiday so I opted for that and Lucy a creme brûlée. It really was a gorgeous meal and dining experience never to be forgotten but if you’re heading here, it’s pricey. Our bill was $255 with a 20% tip on top so it’s not a cheap option.

I had a night time liaison with the Chrysler building on the way home. I think she’s more beautiful by night than in the daytime if that’s at all possible!

Our last day was spent walking, relaxing and eating (again!) in Smith and Wollenskys. This was mainly due to that fact that The Lexington Hotel wanted to charge us $15 per bag for luggage storage a total of $60 and I quite simply refused. A totally ridiculous, overpriced and unnecessary charge for such service!

I chose Smith and Wollensky because this had been another place I’d visited with my Dad and Brother as a 15 year old. I told the waiter about this and he gave us a little tour of upstairs (as this is where we had sat as a family) and then brought us a free coconut cake dessert to share. Service with a smile!!

We headed back to the hotel lobby with our bags and people watched (something I love to do. I make up stories about their lives to go with them and what I think they’re doing there!)  before heading to JFK for our flight home.

I love Instagram and sharing snips of life on “Your Story”  (not always to my friend’s and family’s joy) but I had done plenty in New York and therefore had plenty of these stored. After watching these videos, it’s evident that Lucy and I had an incredible time exploring this American city. More importantly, we got to spend some much needed quality time together. Some of the best memories you can ever make with your best friend is when travelling together. It doesn’t even have to be far or for a long period of time. When you explore new places and try new things, these are the memories that stick out the most when you reflect on your life and what better person to bring along for the ride than one of your best friends.

Oh and a final note – Jet lag, something which I thought was mind over matter, is evil. It’s the actual Devil. I’m still not recovered 3 weeks later. I knew I’d given up long haul for a reason!

New York, until next time, thank you for the joy and the memories. You’re a stunner!

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