Big Lights Will Inspire You │ New York inspiration

The super sweet Big Apple. We had five days to see, do and experience this fabulous city thanks to a lucky break on Capital FM London. I leave New York City feeling the same way I did ten years ago though – as if I haven’t seen enough, done enough. It’s such a big space with so many dynamic pockets and amazing things to experience – unfortunately there’s just never enough time (or money!). The energy of New York is fantastic, very similar to London (but ‘American’… which is cool), so every experience is a good one.

New York inspiration

Upon arrival, I had music on my mind and a vision of bright lights across the Manhattan skyline, as we traipsed around town searching for the ultimate New York City rooftop bar experience. Only problem was, I was coming down with a cold, the weather was chilly for April, and nothing was reflecting my Sex and the City dream. Certainly, I’d done my research, but as we trudged from one metro stop to another, in and out of venues that in reality didn’t match up to Internet imagery, we feared the sun would set on our first NYC bucketlist item. Ever the trooper, I insisted to my very obliging-despite-being-jetlagged man, Cooper, that perhaps this last address might be “it”. We counted numbers along the very fancy Fifth Avenue, and as we turned a corner at 230, gazed up − and up − a glimmer of hope surfaced; when the elevator doors opened at the top of 230Fifth, somehow Cooper and I both knew − we’d found it!

By “it”, I mean a lavish, open-air designer space featuring a number of chic bars and comfy seating, surrounded by the skyscrapers of Manhattan, and next door to the Empire State. Remarkable is an understatement. Danced-up 80s and 90s tracks and the sound of cocktail shakers set the tone, as we kicked back on a comfy couch at the top of the world, and sipped appletinis (best I’ve ever tasted − and did you know it only takes two to cure the common cold?). Snug red robes were handed around to keep revellers warm, and I’ll remember forever, the dazzling matinee that Mother Nature presented. It’s one of my very favourite moments of travel, as the sun set over the extraordinary city that is New York; sunny skies faded to a golden glow, gradually blending to a cerulean blue, only for the skyline to then entirely transform into a magical, sparkling cityscape.

That pretty much sums up New York – big, bold, bright, glittering and enchanting – and yours for the taking. Aside from taste-testing cocktails in a sexy rooftop venue as the sun sets over America, what else is a Manhattan first-timer to do? I’d suggest:

Starring role

In my mind, New York is synonymous with film and television, so what better way to get your bearings than by jumping on one of the popular TV & Movie Sites tours, beginning and ending in iconic Times Square. During the adventure, you’ll see Washington Park (Sesame Street, among hundreds of other productions), The Trump International Hotel (Crocodile Dundee and more filmed here), New York Library (Spiderman, Suddenly 30, Sex and the City), Tiffany’s, the Soup Nazi’s kitchen (Seinfeld), the Friends apartment, and many other fun recognisable locations. Taking a tour of any description however, will give you an idea of what’s where, and those areas you might like to revisit.

Lady Liberty

This historic landmark signifies freedom. I personally found it exciting to see first-hand – it’s a real reminder that you’re in the USA! If you’re disorganised and forget to book a tour (my fault), or keen to avoid lengthy tourist queues, do as we did following advice from a friendly NYPD officer, and catch a ride on the free, local Staten Island Ferry, which passes by the famous lady and presents spectacular views of New York’s boroughs.

Guarding the entrance to Lower Manhattan since 1886, Lady Liberty is positioned to gaze sternly across the waters at ‘unenlightened Europe’. Known as the ‘Mother of Exiles,’ the statue serves as an admonishment to the rigid social structures of the old world. ‘Keep your ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ says Lady Liberty’s famous poem. ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”
–Otis, Lonely Planet New York Encounter (2010).

Central Park

On a sunny day, there’s nothing better to do than explore this serene urban wonder. Be prepared to be accosted by street salesmen pushing tickets for horse + buggy and pedicab rides – lovely options, but it’s just as easy to wander on foot or hire a bike. Central Park is vast – there is rock climbing, baseball, playgrounds, performance stages, lakes, food stalls, even ice skating (in winter). It’s an extraordinary space, offering welcome respite from big-city chaos. There’s a new discovery to be had daily, and on our stroll we passed a wedding, a Voguephoto shoot, and a poignant memorial to peace and John Lennon in Strawberry Fields.

Eat at the High Line; Shop in Soho

Of course there’s shopping everywhere in New York City, but Soho’s a cool area full of coffee shops where you can fuel-up before discovering some of the city’s flagship retail stores like UniQlo, H&M and Mango, along with a number of stylish and unique boutiques. From Soho, you can cab (inexpensive in NYC) or take the metro to the Meatpacking District, an area that enjoys rejuvenation year-on-year, and where a fabulous foodie precinct, Chelsea Market, is situated. Above the market overlooking this bustling metropolis and the Hudson River, complete with craft stalls, wooden sun lounges and gardens, is a delightful meeting place – the High Line – built on a 2.5-kilometre-long elevated rail structure which was originally a freight line, 1934 to 1980.

Down to business

Our accommodation was actually near Wall Street, one of the world’s most important financial districts. Along with historical buildings sprinkled across some of the oldest streets in Manhattan, intriguing east-coast architecture and sensational river views towards Brooklyn, we found a nice row of pubs and restaurants around Broad Street and Exchange Place. We’d also recommend exploring the nearby waterfront shopping and dining precinct, South Street Seaport, which boasts beautiful close-up views of the Brooklyn Bridge. The World Trade Centre memorial site is around here too; a landmark that symbolises an event that was to forever change yours and my world. Reflect for a moment when you’re here, and be thankful for our freedom – a state of being which this city has represented to millions of immigrants for hundreds of years. New York, New York; city of lights, big dreams and grand escapades – too many to even begin describing here. It’s a place where you can enjoy the world’s best stage shows, be a live-television studio guest, dance with a “Naked Cowboy” surrounded by a sea of yellow taxis, and indulge in cosmopolitans with a real chance of Sarah Jessica Parker taking a seat next to you. There’s only one problem. One visit – just like one appletini – is never enough.


Back in the Big Apple

I remember the opening scenes of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911: A black screen, silence, then a massive explosion. The picture opens up as another plane flies through the World Trade Centre – silence but for that terrifying image. I had to turn it off because it was upsetting. To see something that terrible in my lifetime was sad (still is). I remember watching on television, seeing smoke, ash and debris flying through the Manhattan streets that I’d briefly visited. Brief, but like anyone who has been to New York would say, life changing. The colour, lights, people, energy, opportunity… the Big Apple was exciting and wonderful to me in 2000. We’ve seen some purely awful things recently in the form of natural disasters Mother Nature has cast upon us – heartbreaking but part of our world. What I never understood was why people could devise such events as 9/11, to attack other people, who had welcomed them into their home, their city.

Arriving back to New York yesterday we struck up conversation with our very local shuttle-bus driver. We had just turned down by The Hudson River, heading towards the Financial District in Manhattan where we are staying, when he asked if we’d been to the city before. It’s Cooper’s first visit to the city, but as I answered that I’d been here briefly just over ten years before, he said, “so before the Twin Towers were hit” – ie. the day that changed the world as we knew it.

As we chatted a little further we drove up alongside a vast area that is under construction, similar scenes to any other big city in the world. This area he pointed out was different though – “that’s Ground Zero” our driver told us, “I was on the other side of the river there when that first plane hit”.

Ten years on, that tragic day is evidently still very close to the people’s hearts here, understandably so. My brother saw Ground Zero about a year after 9/11 and he said he was humbled by the experience, seeing and feeling all that residual sadness in this block. Stopping and looking now, we too couldn’t help but fall into silence. Evidently the VERY LARGE space is being thoughtfully redeveloped into a series of buildings that will pay tribute to the lives lost within the space ten years ago.

The city that never sleeps has mostly moved on, and was certainly moving yesterday, regardless of the rain. We are staying at the Andaz Hyatt on Wall Street which is gorgeous – very chic, large rooms, complimentary everything! It’s also perfectly situated – the area itself is not as hectic as Broadway, is full of amenities including Pier 17 within walking distance which offers shops and restaurants, train stations and ferries. Today we will buy a Metro Card which offers similar services to your usual Oyster Card / city transport card options, and we’re about to head out on a fabulous Film & TV themed tour of NYC.  

Best keep moving… will write more following visiting The Soup Nazi Kitchen and Friends apartment!


NYC Fire Station Mem DSCN2035 [800x600]



On the overground heading home to London Fields, iPod pumping Alexis Jordan pop like it’s a Friday afternoon… but it is Thursday – the day I’ve been counting down to for 9 weeks. In between has been stress, tears, a move, a staff departure, a new baby born into the family, and some new opportunities on the horizon.

There’s a little girl sitting across from me with a painted face and a big, carnival-like gold floating horse – she looks like how I feel! Being kept a bit later at work didn’t bother me. Even the train stalling now at a red signal isn’t p*ss*ing me off like it usually does. Tomorrow is the beginning of something new, then we get internet back (living without it is like having your arm cut off!) on our long weekend… And then there’s New York! Stay tuned…