New York isn't really our usual choice for destination - too showy, too loud, and too full of idiots. But it is definitely interesting to be there, and there's so much to take in you almost get drunk on eye candy. My favourite part is always the architecture, particularly the older buildings. So much detail and craftsmanship went into those buildings, in a time when you couldn't exactly bust out your dremmel or your black and decker. Being so ornate and stunningly decorative, and yet dwarfed by hideously bland skyscrapers from the modern age. They feel so forgotten and everyday tucked away down side streets and behind signs for Rite-Aid. But that's progress, apparently...
Tip: going to the top of the Empire State building is ok, but you can't see the most iconic building in the city, because you're on top of it. Go to the Top of the Rock instead, around an hour or so before sunset. There are three floors so it's less crowded and you can stay up there as long as you like, so you can catch the daytime and the nighttime scene, including the Empire State.
Tip: The Grey Line service is the longest running and so in our opinion the best service to use for bus top sightseeing. They have more buses and you can catch either red or blue, which is handy when you're waiting in the cold. Try and sit at the very back because there is a gap in the plexiglass that covers you, so it's better for taking clear photographs if you stick your camera out.
We got off at the harbour and headed out to Ellis Island to go see the museum about Immigration. For those of you who, like me, were previously unaware of Ellis Island and its significance, it was where the immigrants first landed when the arrived in New York. Here they would be processed and given the thumbs up or thumbs down. The building has since been converted into a museum that documents immigration as far back as the 1500s. It's definitely an eye opener - the things we used to do to each other, it's a wonder there were any of us left to carry on the species... It's nice to be reminded that despite all the terrible things that still happen in this world, despicable acts of barbarous torture are at an all time low for the human race. Great work, everyone!
Tip: Ellis Island closes fairly early, and the last boat back to Manhattan is around 5.15pm. The same boat goes to Ellis Island and Liberty Island - where the statue of Liberty is. It can get pretty hectic up there though, and the boat definitely leans to one side as it goes past. If you prefer things a little quieter and stories of human suffering and depravity are not your thing, take a free trip on the Staten Island Ferry across and come straight back. You'll get a view of the Statue of Liberty - although further away than the Ellis Island boat - and a really great sight of the Manhattan skyline.
Mum had asked me in advance what I wanted to do for the day, and the answer was easy - something very low key, but that I really enjoy. If I were to pick a time in my life when I have been at my happiest, it would be layering the jam on thick atop a heavy mountain of clotted cream on a warm scone, enjoying a steaming pot of earl grey tea. With milk in it, etiquette be damned. So that's what we did - Afternoon tea at the Ritz- Carlton, on the corner of Central Park. By that time the snow was really carving through the city, but from our cosy nest of cakes, cups and a little champagne we happily watched the world go by in a gorgeous flurry of white.
Our final day started early - Mum and the rest of the family had to leave for their flight at 4am, so it was a teary farewell at the crack of before dawn. Our flight wasn't until the late evening, so after a little bit longer in bed we headed out to enjoy one last day in the city. Walking right down Broadway we visited my favourite building, the Flatiron. There's a great little shop nearby called Fishs Eddys that sells amazing ceramics and glassware, be sure to check it out if you're nearby.
No doubt we'll find ourselves back there one day, and maybe we can learn of a few new things to see and do that are a little more out of the ordinary. But for now I'm happy to be back in my own bed, in our quiet apartment next to the sea. On the West Coast, where it's much, much warmer.