Saturday, 17 August 2013

Travel Supermarket Holiday Postcards Competition: New York

I was recently contacted by Travel Supermarket and asked if I would like to take part in their Holiday Postcards competition. The competition gives one lucky winner the chance to win £1000 towards their next holiday, and one of their holiday snaps turned in to a postcard. To be in with a chance of winning, all you need to do is write about your last holiday and what made it memorable to you. You can find all the details here if you fancy participating. This is my entry...

My last holiday was to New York just over two years ago, between the 1st and 8th of August 2011, which was about a month before I injured my back and had to put my life on hold. Even though it was two years ago, the memories of that holiday are still so clear in my mind, and remembered so fondly. It's impossible to forget the holiday of a life time.

I had never been to New York before, nor had I stepped foot in America, or even left Europe. By the time I'd got off my very first long haul flight at JFK airport, I was able to cross four goals off my bucket list.

I'd dreamt of visiting The Big Apple since my childhood, after falling in love with the iconic city in countless movies and TV shows, like Home Alone 2, Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, and Sex and the City, but I never believed I'd actually see it for myself. However, see it I did, and it was even more incredible than I ever could have imagined. It was overwhelming and surreal to be there amongst the iconic landmarks we knew so well from TV and media, but I also felt right at home and so content; I felt more like myself there then I had in a very long time.

My sister and I were there for a week and managed to experience so much in that time.

We stayed in a gorgeous boutique hotel called The Muse, just off Times Square (located  half a block down the road between the Mamma Mia sign and TGI Fridays), which I have to mention as the staff were so friendly and helpful. The concierge were particularly lovely, and the night before our flight home one of the lovely older gentlemen found us before his shift ended to tell us it was a pleasure to meet us and wished us a safe flight home! It's little details like that which made our holiday so memorable.

We were able to absorb the wonderful atmosphere and bright lights of Times Square daily, which was like nothing I'd experienced before. The atmosphere was almost electric; bubbling with friendly people from all walks of life no matter the hour of the day or night. It never slept! It was fantastic for shopping and eating out (even at midnight).

I personally will never forget how fluorescent Times Square looked when we arrived that first night in a taxi. Never. I'd never seen anything so vibrant in my life, nor do I imagine I ever will again. It was so bright we both exclaimed 'WOAH!' in unison and had to shield our eyes from the glare!

On our second day, we took a trip over to see Lady Liberty, which was so surreal. It was lovely to be out on the water on a scorching hot afternoon, where we had wonderful views of the Manhattan skyline and the bridges, as well as the great statue. She was smaller than I'd imagined, but beautiful, and we spent an hour or two dawdling around the island, taking photos, enjoying the views, and eating soft pretzels. We also posed for souvenir photos... but  forgot to buy them. (Which we accidentally did at a further three locations! Memories like sieves, I tell you!)

The views of Manhattan from the island and the ferry were breath-taking.

We travelled the streets of the city in numerous yellow taxis and guided tour buses, taking in all the sights, learning things the guide books don't tell you, and gazing up in awe at the height of the colossal sky scrapers. The tour buses were such a valuable part of our New York City experience; we learnt and saw so much.

One of my favourite parts of the holiday was the night tour, which was a guided bus tour of the city in the evening. There are no words to describe how blown-away I was to see  the New York skyline lit up in the dark for the first time. It was breath-taking. It don't think the fact I was actually in New York had sunk in until that moment. We took the night tour three times in total, and on one evening, as we were gazing up at the skyline while we travelled across the Manhattan bridge, a fireworks display lit up the sky across the water, as if it was there just for us. It was the perfect moment.

Another memorable moment was visiting the Empire State Building late one evening, at about 10:30pm. There will never be another experience like standing a thousand feet and 86 stories up in the sky in the dark of the night amongst the clouds while it rained, looking down at a shadowy concrete jungle peppered with dots and rivers of light which stretched on for miles. It was a wondrous sight, a world apart from my quiet life in The Cotswolds.

We spent some time enjoying the view and reflecting, before leaving and trying to hail a cab- and failing. A rickshaw pedal cab driver spotted us and asked if we needed a ride, but being two larger ladies, we refused as we didn't want to burden anyone and cause him or the rickshaw any damage. Now, this man was a legend; he insisted we weren't too much to handle, and after we reluctantly accepted and settled back in the cab, he spent the journey complimenting our maxi dresses, jokingly making fun of our English accents, and made my sister's day by calling her and larger ladies beautiful. The man had stamina; we were flying along the busy city streets, peering out at the city from underneath a tarp there to shelter us from the rain as we swerved in and out of the traffic. It was hilarious and one of the funniest, oddest experiences of my life. We were soaked by the time we returned to our hotel, but we didn't care. How often can you say you'd returned from the Empire State Building by rickshaw?

We also paid a visit to Top of the Rock in the Rockefeller Center to admire the views of the city by day. We could see for miles beyond the city, and it was picture postcard perfect. The wonderful thing about Top of the Rock is that you're given flawless views of the Empire State Building and Central Park, which cannot be experienced from the Empire State Building, obviously. We took dozens of amazing photos, but again, forgot to go check out the tourist ones we posed for with the photographer.

Of course, we also made the time to visit Ground Zero to reflect and pay our respects. The memorials weren't ready for viewing then, but I found just being there incredibly moving and emotional. 

These tiles were hung across a chain link fence in The Village, made by school children as a memorial for the victims of 9/11. Seeing them brought a lump to my throat.

We took a long carriage ride around Central Park with a lovely Irish guide, and a beautiful horse named Chester. We ambled along the roads of the park under the trees, which gave us some relief from the scorching heat and humidity for an hour or so, and were given a guided tour of all that can be seen from the roads.

Afterwards, my sister and I headed in to the park on foot, where we had a picnic of food from the local Rockefeller farmer's market, and Pret in the avenue above. It was blissfully peaceful. We intended to spend the rest of the day exploring the park, but it was so hot that we needed to get out of the heat. We intended to go back another day, although we ran out of time. Instead, we headed off and bought tickets to Phantom of the Opera.

One of the best places we ate at was easily Serendipity 3; the restaurant slash general store made famous from the romantic comedy- yep, you guessed it- Serendipity! I'm a bit of a movie geek, and had wanted to go there solely because I love the film. It was difficult to find, although we eventually discovered it was around the corner from Bloomingdales, and we had to wait quite a while for a table as the queues were out the door, but it was worth it. All I can say is, their Frrrozen Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate is to die for.The portion sizes are ridiculously huge, so go on an empty stomach or better still, just go just for dessert. You will not manage three courses!

During the week, we booked tickets for a movie tour around the city on a coach, with several stops to visit certain locations by foot. It was fun, even though our guide was a bit obnoxious and kept plugging his acting career resume, but we got to see the Friends building, The Cosby Show house, the house from I Am Legend, and the Ghostbusters fire house, amongst others. This was the Washington Square Arch which is across the road from the I Am Legend house, and is seen in countless films and TV shows.

The house behind me is where Will Smith's character, Robert Neville, and his dog Sam lived in I Am Legend. 

And I'm sure most of you can recognise this building! This is the Friends apartment building! I can't tell you how excited I was to see it, being a big Friends fan.

These are just some of the experiences which made our first holiday to New York so memorable and incredible. It was truly the holiday of a life time, which I will never forget, and I can't wait to return to experience more of what it has to offer. I don't know what it was about that city, but it's left a mark on my heart forever.


  1. truly amazing pictures Louise, I really hope you win x

  2. it look fabulous ! you can see you were having a great time good luck ! xx

    1. It's an amazing city, and I was! I had a bad cold and no straighteners, but I didn't let that stop me from having a ball! xx


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