New York for a third time

Last week there wasn’t my usual Thursday postcard because instead of being stuck at home writing about travelling I was actually off doing some – jetting off for four days in New York City.

I’ve now been to New York three times and to be honest, I’m just a little bored of it.

I know, I know, cry me a river.

This time more than any other time I’ve been it struck me that despite all the hype and romance, it’s just like any other city – big, noisy and dirty. And that’s just not my thing. As distinctive as the New York skyline is to see out of your window, I’d rather have some rolling hills, a gentle stream and maybe a couple of sheep.

I was also feeling deprived of history. My favourite holiday activity is a trip to something, anything, with a bit of history – a strange thing for the girl who hated history at school and until she discovered Philippa Gregory couldn’t name more than four English monarchs and definitely no foreign ones. A day out at a castle is a guaranteed vacation highlight. For my holiday to the south of Spain later this year I’m already plotting out the schedule for da trips to the Alhambra in Granda and the Alcázar of Seville. New York, and the USA in general, just doesn’t have many places like that. No Tudor buildings or places where people from history have walked – just a sea of concrete and glass. 

But before you all threaten to throttle me in the comments for being so damn miserable about a trip to the holy grail of city break destinations, I should perhaps segue into talking about my three highlights.

Bateaux Dinner Cruise

This is by far one of the fanciest things I’ve ever done. There were people wearing bow ties for crying out loud. Thank god no one cheesily proposed because it was exactly the kind of place where I could imagine that happening. And for good reason because the champagne was flowing, the food was great, there was live music, the Manhattan skyline and a sunset. What more could you want? I imagine it was hugely expensive (my mum is a bit of a splurger when it comes to holidays) but if you can afford it, do it. And make sure to order the chocolate and salted caramel tart for pudding.

Ellen Stardust Diner

There’s definitely a food theme going on here… Unsurprisingly really when America does have the best food in the whole world. Italy? Pff. You can’t get french toast at 9pm in Italy. Ellen Stardust Diner is, as it sounds, a pretty regular American diner, just off Broadway, serving burgers and fries and milkshakes and all that American goodness. What sets it apart is the waiting staff who are all out of work Broadway actors and they take it in turns to sing while they serve you; a mix of songs from musicals, chart hits and classics (the best of the night was Party Like It’s 1999). It all sounds kind of cheesy and I was a little apprehensive going in – after all, I am British, and this did not sound very stiff upper lip. But it was just amazing. And clearly I’m not the only one who thinks so because we went at 3pm, hardly prime time, and queued for 30 minutes to get in. But totally totally worth it. Don’t bother forking out for Broadway tickets – just eat here every night.

Bryant Park


This is a park with a library in it. I repeat, a park with a library in it. Granted quite a small library but they had enough Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy to keep me going for months. And it’s really pretty with coffee shops (for the necessary food purchases), metal tables,bumbrellas, flowerbeds and an old-fashioned carousel. We visited once on a dreary Friday when it was practically deserted and again at lunchtime on a sunny Monday when it was rammed with office workers escaping their cubicles. And for a moment it made me want to move to London and get an office job, just so I could come and eat my Pret salad with views of the Empire State Building. But only for a moment.

Five things I will absolutely be doing when I am next in New York

It’s only two months until my next trip to New York and I’m starting to get excited. Actually, I’ve been excited for the past three months, I’m now getting very excited. Which is  a little strange because the previous two times I’ve been to New York I wasn’t exactly enamored with the place. Oh it’s spectacular for sure and one of those must-see-before-you-die kind of destinations; I’m just not sure it’s worth three visits. But I was offered a free trip by my aunt so how could I refuse?

In my first two trips I ticked off most of the big tourist attractions – Empire State Building, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn, Highline – and although I’ll be doing some of those things again, there are also a few new things on my list. Continue reading “Five things I will absolutely be doing when I am next in New York”

Postcard from The Empire State Building

This is a photo of what you would see if you were standing at the top of the Empire State Building and looked up. I have this and many other photos of various views from the top of the Empire State Building saved on my laptop and I’m sure they’re very accurate representations of the effect you get standing there. I wouldn’t know. I have been to the top of the Empire State Building but once I was up there discovered my fear of heights was not something that would be easily overcome. So I left my friend to take photos and point out all the things she could see and I concentrated on looking nowhere but my feet, breathing deeply and reminding myself that there was no possible way the Empire State Building would choose this exact moment to topple over.

Reading New York

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In really exciting news, on May 15th 2016 I will be boarding a plane to spend four nights in New York. This will be my third trip to New York and although it’s not my favourite city I’ve ever been to, probably not even top ten, it does have a certain magic about it.

But no matter how many times I visit New York, even if I lived there, I could never understand it from as many different perspectives as it’s possible to through reading. Not just throughout history but rich and poor, local and outsider, all the different locations and cultures and backgrounds. Which is, I suppose, the magic of reading.

Until I started thinking about all the different books I’ve read set in New York it never occurred to me how many of them were going on at the same time. Valley of the Dolls, 84 Charing Cross Road, The Catcher in the Rye and Brooklyn are all 1950s New York. Eillis Lacey and Holden Caulfield could have passed in the street. Helene Hanff could have been to see Neely O’Hara perform. But the completely different tones of the books mean that I have a really hard time reconciling this. How could there be all the hedonism that’s going on in the New York of Valley of the Dolls, and to some extent The Catcher in the Rye, and at the same time the sweet simple stories of 84 Charing Cross Road and Brooklyn? How can one city contain that much diversity?

But outside of that one specific decade and the books I’ve read that feature New York are really quite limited. Excluding The New York Trilogy because I only read part one and then threw it aside, condemned as the worst book I’d ever read, the only other examples are Gossip Girl, The Luxe and The Great Gatsby. So I’ve set myself a little side project – reading as many New York themed books as possible before I make my third visit.

The list below will, I’m sure, grow a lot before I actually reach the deadline. And I’d love your suggestions of other great, New York based novels that I absolutely have to read.

  1. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote
  2. Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
  3. Let the Great World Spin – Colum McCann
  4. The Best of Dorothy Parker
  5. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  6. The Age of Innocence – Edith Wharton
  7. Bread Givers – Anzia Yezierska