Jet lag is a hell of a thing. When you find yourself sat on a balcony at 5.30am, already having been to a coffee shop, to watch the sun come up over the Williamsburg Bridge and you’ve not even considered going back to bed despite having a completely full day planned, you know its hit you. We’d landed the day before at about 11.30am New York time, after getting up at 4am UK time.Despite it taking 1.5 hours to get through passport control and lugging our bags across a hot & sweaty Manhattan, we pushed on, grabbing food at Tiny’s Giant Sandwiches while we waited to check in, and freshening up super quick so we could make the most of the afternoon. The buzz of arriving in New York helped us power through the tiredness that kept threatening to hit. We’d only found out a couple of weeks before that we’d even be doing this trip, having won it through the post I wrote on London’s food scene, and in a couple of short weeks we’d organised our flights & hotel and created a list longer than all of our arms combined of things to do and places to eat.
Knowing that we’d be tired we only intended to do something quick on the Friday, so after unpacking in our glorious hotel, The Hotel on Rivington (where we were lucky to have a High Corner King w/Balcony), we jumped on a subway and went down to the southern tip of Manhattan to take a trip on the Staten Island Ferry. As far as a trip to NYC goes, this is one of the big ‘must do’s. It’s free, takes about 25 minutes each way and gives you incredible views back across Manhattan and goes right past the Statue of Liberty. In fact, this gives you the best views of the statue you could possibly want, and based on what a great many people have said, there isn’t much point in going closer. With Maddie wearing an outfit that saw her match the ferry it was a strong way to start the weekend, and only whetted both our appetites for the site-seeing to come. Maddie in particular, as she’d never been to anywhere in North America and was about to tick off one of the big ones from her bucket list, you know, the kinds where you make a list and go back over and circle, asterisks and repeatedly underline the key ones, this one would probably have been glowing. We actually had plans in the evening to meet with my friend Nessa, as well as the Kayla, who blogs at Kayla’s Five Things and won OpenTable’s return competition and will soon be coming over here to spend some time in London. We went for Artichokes Pizza (we shared a Vodka Pizza Pie) and then to a bar where Nessa forced a Pickleback down my throat. It was around this time our 21 hours awake hit us however, so we had to call it an early night, to make sure we could make the most of the few days we had there.
As I alluded to earlier, we actually ended up waking up at about 5am. We realised we couldn’t get back to sleep, due to a mixture of jet lag and just plain excitement. We decided to just roll with it and after popping around the corner to get a coffee from McDonalds we sat on the balcony in our PJs watching the sun come up, casting a beautiful red glow across Manhattan. The fact our hotel had the views it did, and the fairly unique for Manhattan selling point of balconies, made this even more special. Slightly wired from our large coffees we set out to try ByChloe, a vegan eatery we’d been recommended, for breakfast. Opting for the Flat Iron branch I tried the Morning Glory and Maddie had the Sunrise, we shared a portion of quinoa hash browns. I found mine a bit dry and not particularly flavourful but Maddie’s Sunrise was significantly better. As we were round the corner from the Flat Iron building itself we went over to take some touristy snaps before jumping on the subway to spend the morning in Central Park. Our first 20 or so minutes in the park, which was a slow ramble in the south east corner, included a ‘runner’ who made about the same amount of progress as us in that time due to stopping every meter to try and get *the* perfect pre-run selfie. In fact, by the time we left that part of the park she hadn’t actually started any running.
We knew there was a chance of the weather turning later in the day, the sticky feel of the city just highlighted this, so we made our way up towards the lake, and in particular the Loeb Boathouse so we could rent one of the rowboats they have available. It was still only about 10am at this point, so the park was only just starting to properly come to life, and the lake wasn’t too busy. It was about 30 seconds in that I realised I wasn’t exactly a good rower. After 5 minutes or so I had the knack of using the awkwardly fixed paddles, but Maddie still had many a laugh at my expense over the next hour. The way back was particularly tricky, as it was slightly later and more people were arriving in the park there were more people in the early parts of the lake and navigating back to the drop off for the boats was slightly awkward, we almost crashed (at a snails pace) into another boat. Knowing we had a full afternoon and evening ahead we spent another half hour meandering around the park before heading back to the hotel, somehow managing to avoid the day’s only rain shower while on the subway. We napped, because 5am suddenly felt like a long time ago, before getting ready to head out for quite literally the rest of the day.
Our next stop was Smorgusburg, the famous street food market in East River State Park, Williamsburg to eat as much food as our bodies would allow while overlooking Manhattan from the park’s beach. I tried a Lobster Roll (wonderful) from Red Hook Lobster Pound, Seitan sandwich (poor choice of bread, the seitan itself was great) from Monk’s Vegan Smokehouse and Shaved Snow from Woolys (not as good as expected, wish we’d queued for Wowfulls Waffle Cones) and grabbed a doughnut from Dough. After we’d eaten all of this we explored the streets of Williamsburg while our food settled. Walking past the Brooklyn Brewery (which I visited on my last trip) and the Wythe Hotel (which one day we WILL stay in). It’s after all of this that I finally got to tick something pretty major off of my bucket list. I got to go to a major WWE live event in the states. That’s right, wrestling. If anyone follows me on twitter or instagram, they’ll know that wrestling is one of my big interests, well watching it is anyway. Managing to line up this trip with Summerslam Weekend gave me a massive opportunity. While Summerslam itself was far too expensive on the tout sites, NXT Takeover Brooklyn was very affordable, and still had a couple of my favourite wrestlers on the card. It was a fantastic experience, and only whetted my appetite. I’m already looking at options for flights to Orlando for Wrestlemania in 2017. After all of this, we were exhausted and dragged ourselves back to the hotel for bed.
I’ll be picking up from the Sunday morning in part 2, which’ll be coming along shortly after a couple of recipes. In part 2 there’ll be a complete round up of best food, coffee and my key “must do’s”.