Weeks 45-48 (19th Dec-5th Jan) – New York City

Having left 28 degrees in Mexico, we were greeted by a -4 degree stinging wind in New York City. We spent our first night in the slightly insalubrious Brooklyn. The following day, we crossed into Manhattan and our first glimpse of the city was Freedom Tower (or One World Trade as it’s now known). We got the PATH train across the Hudson River to Jersey City, and in true New York style, grabbed our first yellow cab to the cute apartment we’d rented for Christmas.

The following day was the Panthers vs. Giants game, and we discovered that despite being only 10 miles away, it was going to take an hour and a half via public transport—thank god for Uber! It was a freezing day, but we were delighted with our 6th row endzone seats. After being up 35-7, we had a questionable 4th quarter again and ended up winning on a last second field goal! It was our final Panthers game of the year, but we’d been incredibly lucky to choose the Panthers best season ever and see four wins.

For the next few days, we went into Manhattan and saw the impressive Empire State, the bright lights of Times Square, Radio City, the Rockerfeller Christmas tree, and the ice rink in Central Park—everywhere adorned with Christmas trees, lights, and decorations. We bought ourselves a few Christmas presents in Macy’s from Miracle on 34th Street.

We visited the World Trade Centre memorial pools, which were incredibly serene, but were disgusted by the number of people taking pouty selfies by them—how disrespectful. We got soaked in the New York rain, ate $1 pizza (though the best pizza is from Bleeker Street Pizza at a crazy $3 a slice!), saw the Friends apartment building, the Ghostbusters fire station (which is a real fire station!), One Police Plaza from Blue Bloods, and the most beautiful building in publishing—the Flat Iron. We went to a classic rail-cart diner, The Square Diner—it’s a shame there’s not more of these classic diners left across America.

We bought a Christmas tree and decorated the apartment, a we bought real Paxo stuffing and Bistro gravy (as Americans don’t do stuffing and gravy properly) from an English shop called Tea & Sympathy that resembled Open All Hours. Despite the Christmassy feel of the city, it was uncommonly warm—a staggering 22 degrees on Christmas Eve—t-shirt weather! On Christmas Day, we skyped our families and Peb cooked a delicious Christmas dinner. He even made his own Yorkshire Puddings as Aunt Bessie’s doesn’t exist in America, and after the first two attempts set on fire, he succeeded. In the afternoon, we headed into the city for a quiet walk around Central Park, but were pretty surprised to discover that the city was packed with millions of people waiting for the Saks 5th Avenue light display, so we quickly gave up on that idea.

Just after Christmas, my mom and Aunty H were due to arrive and we moved to a bigger apartment. We watched the Panthers game in a bar, losing our first game all season to a rubbish Falcons team, then were even more disappointed to find that mom and Aunty H’s flight had been delayed by a whole day. We spent the rest of the day sulking, then the following day, got the bus through Newark to the airport. A few years ago, our flight home from Florida stopped for a few hours in Newark and we made the mistake of going into the city, where we were eyeballed by people with guns tucked into their pants. It was as horrible as we remembered, but we were quickly cheered up seeing mom and Aunty H come through the arrival doors! After almost a year of being away, it was lovely to see them.

In the next few days, we went into the city and did some shopping on 5th Avenue. The whole city was rammed full of people and it had suddenly got freezing cold! We saw the pretty Chrysler building, had tea in Grand Central, talked to the Whispering Wall, and saw the new Star Wars at the AMC on Broadway. We stopped for tea in lots of nice places and had lovely food in Grenwich village and the Rockerfeller centre, and delicious cakes from Magnolia Bakery. Aunty H cooked us Indian food, which I’ve really missed!

For New Year’s Eve, Peb and I had debated going to Times Square to see the ball drop, but many a New Yorker had informed us that it’s no fun, so we went on a luxury Hudson River cruise. Everyone dressed up smartly, and we had a delicious 5-course meal while enjoying stunning views of the Manhattan skyline from the boat, then docked at the Statue of Liberty at midnight to watch the fireworks. It really was the best way to spend New Year’s Eve!

On New Year’s Day, we took a frosty walk over Brooklyn Bridge, then had dinner in Taphaus in Newport with an amazing view of the Manhattan skyline from our table. The next few days, we admired the city from the Top of the Rock, (though it was arctic up there!), had lunch in the Plaza hotel from Home Alone 2, walked around the lovely Central Park watching the street performers, including an incredible Opera Singer, and went to the Guggenheim art museum, which looks like a giant teacup.

We saw Wall St, the guerrilla art Charging Bull statue (left overnight outside the Stock Exchange after the Wall Street Crash as a present to the residents of New York), and Battery Park, where we got the ferry to the Statue of Liberty. Of all the things in New York City, the Statue of Liberty is my favourite. She’s quite spectacular up close, and much bigger than I’d imagined! What’s more, there are wonderful views of Manhattan from the island and the ferry.

From the island, the gap in the skyline where the twin towers once stood is even more noticeable. We visited the 9/11 museum underneath the memorial pools, which was very well done but indescribably sad. Inside, among many other things, there are photographs and mementos from the victims, voice recordings of the people on the flights, and huge lumps of twisted metal from the buildings where the planes hit. There’s so much to see and read that’s it’s quite overwhelming, and left me with the prevailing feeling—how could any human do that to another human?

On our final day in NYC, a bitter minus 12 degrees, we had the amazing experience of taking a helicopter ride around Manhattan! The skyline is even more impressive from the sky, and you can really see how many buildings are packed on to one strip of land, built all the way to the edges—it was incredible! After a wonderful Christmas and New York in New York City with family, we all headed to the airport together. Thankfully, there were no sad goodbyes this time as we’d be returning home in a mere 10 days. Just one country to go…

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