The United States has been on my book-it (or is it bucket?) list for quite some time, and since COVID and the awful travel restrictions, that desire has only magnified itself ten-fold. Now I like to pride myself on being a well-travelled individual, but if I typed out a list of countries I’ve visited, almost all of them are European. So when restrictions lifted and life returned to relative normality, I was very keen to change that.
Chatting with friends and discussing a potential holiday in 2022, there was only one destination that was continuously mentioned. New York. The time had come and with flights and accommodation booked, I boarded my very first long-haul transatlantic flight in 26 years.
The lads had briefed me pretty well and I’d consumed countless hours of Casey Neistat vlogs, but the sheer scale of this city still shocked me as we arrived in mid-town Manhattan on the Saturday. Skyscrapers stretch tall and wide all around the streets between 6th and 5th avenue where our tiny studio apartment was based.
Landing at 2PM and arriving at our apartment by 4PM, we were straight into the thick of it. A few months previous, we’d bought tickets to Katie Taylors history making fight against Amanda Serrano in Madison Square Garden so excitement levels were through the roof. Irish flags draped over our shoulders, we sat in a roof-top bar and relaxed, taking in the hustle and bustle of one of the worlds largest cities.
I’ve been at quite a few sporting events but none had the atmosphere MSG had when Taylor claimed victory that night. The noise was literally deafening and I reckon at least 75% of the crowd were Irish. By pure chance we’d managed to coincide our trip with this event and it set the tone for the week ahead.
We woke early on Sunday morning, suffering the effects of jet-lag as our bodies were running on Irish time. Coffee drank and bagel eaten, the long stroll up 5th Avenue to Central Park began, taking in famous landmarks along the way.
Central Park is huge, so much larger than I expected it to be. Oddly, though, it is half the size of the Phoenix Park in Dublin, although if I never knew that fact, I’d have bet on it being the other way round. Perhaps it’s the fact it seems almost out of place, located bang slap amongst hysterically tall and skinny skyscrapers.
In the mid-day sun we walked through the park, visiting various famous and over-photographed pin-points as we went. Evening time came and we were pretty spent, tiredness setting in. NYC is so much larger than it looks on paper so covering it on foot was energy sapping stuff.
Monday arrived with some mist and drizzle that hung low over the city, buildings disappearing far into the greyness. We walked to Hudson Yards, a newly developed quarter of the city, located on the West Side Highway. As we were close to the Intrepid Air & Sea museum, we decided to visit it and kill some time on this glum day. While it was nice to see, I wouldn't be rushing back.
That afternoon we strolled back into the heart of Manhattan, eating authentic street-food and grabbing an afternoon drink in the stunning Grand Central Station. Once again, with over 30k steps under our belts, fatigue was setting in and we retired to the AirBnB for a well earned rest before dinner.
Tuesday welcomed us with some beautiful sunshine and we were keen to make the most of it. Stuart and I got up early and walked down to Madison Square Park, to grab a photograph of the Empire State Building. Once the others were up, we rented city bicycles and headed south into the financial district to see the 9/11 memorial, Wall Street and Brooklyn.
Taking the subway under the Hudson, we grabbed some lunch at Timeout Market, under the Brooklyn Bridge. This is an absolute must-visit food spot and the views of the Manhattan skyline while you eat are absolutely outstanding. Lunch finished, we walked across the bridge, got back on the bikes and pedalled up through the various districts in south east Manhattan, experiencing the culture.
We finished a very busy day on the Top Of The Rock at nightfall, one of the most impressive sights I've ever seen. Queue up U2 - City Of Blinding Lights please, because that's all I could think of looking out across the skyline.
With most of the sights now seen, the pace for the remainder of the week slowed and Wednesday was purely for shopping and eating. We visited Chelsea and West Village, by far my favourite districts in the city, ate good food and browsed the designer outlets.
Good weather returned on Thursday, an absolute scorcher of a day which was spent exclusively in Central Park, chatting to locals and relaxing in the sunshine. We managed to snag a late booking onto one of the skyline cruises, viewed from a boat in the Hudson. A personal highlight of the week for me as I was able to bag some of my favourite shots.
While the week came to an end with two bleak, wet days, our experience of this city was anything but. The 9/11 memorial consumed much of Friday afternoon and was a truly humbling experience. I was a bit apprehensive about visiting it at first but now I am so glad I did.
My first time in the States had been incredible and it's only made me more keen to go back, not to New York, but to America. NYC is a crazy place but its lunacy is part of the appeal and it was amazing to taste a little bit of what life is like in the most famous city in the world.
PS, huge s/o to the seven top lads who put up with me for the week, I wouldn't have wanted to share this trip with anyone else. Big love.