New York, New York - December 2016
After always dreaming of visiting the United States, finally my dream was coming true. New York at Christmas, could it get any better? I can’t even explain the excitement that was travelling through my body; I was like a child on Christmas Eve. Travelling with my girlfriend Mel, we boarded our plane at Gatwick and set off for our 8 hour flight to JFK.
Photography Kit taken was:
New York was an amazing experience and I would advise anyone who has the time and the money to visit this great place. It truly is a city that never sleeps; there is always something to keep you entertained. One of my favourite things about the trip was the food, it's everywhere and all super-size.
Day 1 – Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Tour
After a late arrival to our hotel (Hotel Edison) the night before, we got up nice and early. Before grabbing a taxi we visited the Starbucks across the street for a couple of coffees to wake us up. We jumped into our taxi and headed down to Battery Park to catch our ferry. When we got there it was freezing cold, so I was very grateful for the hat and scarf I brought in duty free before flying over. We were greeted by our tour guide Rachel who was brilliant. She was fun, bubbly, enthusiastic and entertaining. Once aboard our little ferry Mel and I went straight on the hunt for some food as we were both starving. This was the first time I had an American hotdog (Mel is Vegetarian) and both tried a pretzel. Whilst aboard the boat I managed to grab some pictures of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan Skyline.
Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty (Liberty Enlightening the World; French: La Liberté éclairant le monde) is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island. The copper statue, a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States, was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel.
The Statue of Liberty is a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess. She holds a torch above her head and in her left arm carries a tabula ansata inscribed "July 4, 1776", the date of the American Declaration of Independence. A broken chain lies at her feet. The statue became an icon of freedom and of the United States, and was a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving from abroad.
Ellis Island, in Upper New York Bay, was the gateway for over 12 million immigrants to the United States as the nation's busiest immigrant inspection station for over sixty years from 1892 until 1954. The island was greatly expanded with land reclamation between 1892 and 1934. Before that, the much smaller original island was the site of Fort Gibson and later a naval magazine. The island was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965, and has hosted a museum of immigration since 1990.
Long considered part of New York State, a 1998 United States Supreme Court decision found that most of the island is in New Jersey. The south side of the island, home to the Ellis Island Immigrant Hospital, is closed to the general public and the object of restoration efforts spearheaded by Save Ellis Island.
After we had finished our tours we went for a walk around to explore. We finally got a cab to take us back to where our hotel was, right in Time Square. As we were both hungry we decided to stop off at Applebee’s and still to this day I think that was the best burger I have ever tasted (Breakfast Burger: Burger, Fried Egg, Bacon, Hash Brown, Onion, Tomato Ketchup & American Cheese). We decided after going back to the hotel to freshen up that we would treat ourselves to a few drinks and whilst out we discovered our soon to be favourite bar “Tonic”.
After our night out drinking we wanted to find a traditional big slice of plain cheese pizza (or two) and decided on the off-chance to head into Ray's Pizza on 831 7th Ave. This was to become our favourite night-time snack place and we often ended up in here before going back to our hotel! This pizza became a bit of an obsession and we still laugh together at the memories of it! The pizza was truly amazing and very reasonably priced! I would definitely recommend visiting here, even just once.
Day 2 – 9/11 Museum, Helicopter Ride & One World Observatory
Day two and another early start, so we went to grab our morning coffees from Starbucks and then got our hotel porter to flag us a cab to take us down to the 9/11 memorial. We both wanted to get to the memorial nice and early before the crowds increased, so we could spend some time looking around quietly before the museum opened.
When we arrived and got out the cab it was very noisy, with the traffic whizzing past, the sounds of sirens and beeping horns. As we approached the memorial all the noise seemed to just disappear. It was a very surreal experience; all we could hear was the calming sound of the waterfalls from the memorial. The scene was something neither of us will ever forget.
When the museum opened it was a mad rush to get in as there were lots of people queuing. A quick tip to anyone visiting would be to grab a coffee to take with you, something we wish we had done! Mel and I found the museum fascinating, but also very moving and sad at the same time. If you ever get the chance to visit New York I would highly recommend visiting the museum, but would advise that you leave a couple of hours so you have plenty of time. When I was walking around one thing I noticed and was very interested in was the photography that was captured.
One photographer’s work that was on display was Andrea Booher. In 2001, she spent 10 weeks working at Ground Zero in the immediate aftermath of the World Trade Center attack. She was one of two photographers working for FEMA with unlimited access. Her work from 9-11 has been published in magazines, newspapers and documentaries worldwide.
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Mel decided for my Christmas present this year to get me something that would be a memory and also something that I could tick off my bucket list. Ever since I was a little boy I have always wanted to take a ride in a helicopter. What better time than to see the city of New York from a completely different angle. The flight was about 20 minutes long and was a brilliant experience, which allowed me to grab a couple of great shots of the city.
One World Observatory
One World Trade Center (also known as 1 World Trade Center, 1 WTC or Freedom Tower) is the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan, New York City. It is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and the sixth-tallest in the world. The super tall structure has the same name as the North Tower of the original World Trade Center, which was completely destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The new skyscraper stands on the northwest corner of the 16-acre World Trade Center site, on the site of the original 6 World Trade Center.
The building's architect was David Childs, whose firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) also designed the Burj Khalifa and the Willis Tower. The construction of below-ground utility relocations, footings, and foundations for the new building began on April 27, 2006. One World Trade Center became the tallest structure in New York City on April 30, 2012, when it surpassed the height of the Empire State Building. The tower's steel structure was topped out on August 30, 2012. On May 10, 2013, the final component of the skyscraper's spire was installed, making the building, including its spire, reach a total height of 1,776 feet (541 m). Its height in feet is a deliberate reference to the year when the United States Declaration of Independence was signed. The building opened on November 3, 2014.
Taking pictures was difficult to start off with as I didn’t have a tripod with me so firstly I tried to raise the ISO but found the pictures to be terrible. Then a light bulb went off in my head and I used my coat to sit my camera on, focused a third into the scene and used my camera self-timer to fire the shutter.
Day 3 – Empire State Building & Rockefeller Centre
Starting off day 3 was a little bit like déjà vu, up early and straight into Starbucks for morning coffees. We then decided to take a little walk to find somewhere to have breakfast, as we had a couple of hours to kill before going to the Empire State Building. After walking for about 15/20 minutes we decided to ask a security guard if he could recommend somewhere good to go. He gave us some directions to this brilliant little diner called The Red Flame, which was only a couple of blocks walk. We sat down and had a great breakfast there. One of the things I like best about American breakfast diners is as soon as your cup is empty of coffee they refill your cup straight away (that sort of service is worth tipping). They also had a great menu to choose from, including good vegetarian options.
After we had finished breakfast and paid, we flagged down a taxi and got the driver to take us to the Empire State Building. We went inside the building and started queuing to collect our tickets. When we went to the cashier to collect our tickets we decided to pay the extra $20 to go up to the ‘Top Deck’ which is the 102nd floor of the building.
When you go up the Empire State Building you arrive first at the observation deck which is on the 86th floor, from where you have a 360 view of the whole of Manhattan. The day we visited it the weather was a bit cloudy and hazy, but it wasn’t raining which was a nice bonus. We spent about an hour going around the whole floor, taking some pictures and admiring the view. Then we went up in the elevator to take us up to the 102nd. It was a brilliant experience and nice to be able to say “I have been to the very top of the Empire State Building”.
Here are some facts about the building:
In the evening we visited the Rockefeller Center. As it was snowing quite hard and we were going straight out after the visit I left my camera at the hotel, which was just as well as the visibility was very poor.
After visiting there we walked back to Times Square to watch the world premiere of Fast 8. We were waiting for about an hour until it came up on the screen; we were left a little disappointed as there was no sound to accompany the visual trailer and the cast members decided not to come down for a meet and greet due to the poor weather conditions.
Day 4 - Bus Tour
Early start once again including our usual Starbucks coffees. Prior to our trip, Mel had always wanted to eat breakfast at an iHop restaurant after hearing about it so much on TV. I was determined to help her tick this off her bucket list, so I searched on Google Maps for the nearest one. There was only one iHop in Lower Manhattan on 235-237 E 14th St, so we got our hotel porter to flag us a taxi to get there. Mel was pleased to finally see an iHop and we had a great breakfast although she was a little disappointed with the menu choices as she is vegetarian (she preferred the first diner we visited - The Red Flame).
After breakfast we decided to walk back towards Times Square which took us about 30-40 minutes. This was perfect for us as we were keen to burn off our food and take another moment to capture the sights as we continued to explore new streets and avenues. We found our way to the tour center to collect our pre-paid tickets. We were unsure which tour to do as there were a number of different routes to choose from. We asked for some advice, which we followed, leading us to our seats on the Downtown Manhattan bus ride. We were a little skeptical at first if we would see enough of the city on this route but we managed to see the majority of what we had hoped to see, plus a little more. The tour was very interesting and I had great fun capturing lots of images from the top deck of the bus.
When we collected our tickets for the bus tour, as part of the package we were given a pair of free tickets to the Times Square Comedy Club, of which we decided to check out. We were both incredibly skeptical about this, as neither one of us had ever been to a comedy show before and we were also concerned about hidden charges upon arrival there.
We were right to be skeptical about any extra charges as there was a minimum 2-drink order from the bar before the show was to begin (at $7 per bottle of cider) but we were so wrong about the actual show itself as it was truly incredible. A laugh out loud, belly chuckle sort of fun from the very beginning! The whole show was so funny and well worth the money! I would easily have paid more if I had to and I would have definitely watched it again.
Day 5 - The Intrepid Air & Space Museum and General Walkabout
As it was our last day we decided to make the most of it and agreed between us to go back to our favourite breakfast diner that we had both enjoyed so much. As much as we wanted to continue trying new places, the atmosphere and service in this diner was just too good! We were also keen to try something different from the menu.
After we had fuelled ourselves for a very busy day we decided to walk to the museum as I was keen to see the various aircrafts including the famous Concord. Whilst walking along I wanted to take as many photos as I could, for us to look back on at the end of our journey together.
The Intrepid Air & Space Museum
This museum was very interesting and I would advise anyone travelling to New York to pay it a visit. It is well worth the money, just make sure you give yourself plenty of time to view everything that is there.
Rather than describing our visit, these are some of the photos I captured of some of the exhibits.
When we left the museum we still had a couple of hours to kill before our pick-up from the hotel so we decided to visit the iconic Central Park. We both wanted to see the ice-skating rink, the bridge and the Royal Plaza hotel as we are both such fans of Home Alone 2. It was an amazing experience with breathtaking views and one of our main memories from our trip.
As time was drawing nearer we walked back to our hotel to collect our bags. Before we got there I captured a few last minute shots before we left the city. My only regret is that I did not get a shot of Times Square using my tripod as shooting hand held meant I had to use high ISO.
New York was truly a once-in-a-life-time experience and 4 months later we are still reminiscing on an almost daily basis of the fantastic memories we have kept from our first holiday abroad together. Everything from the food, to the shops, to the people and the scenery was amazing and we are so glad we chose to visit here together. Is it an expensive trip? Yes. Is it worth it? YES! We are definitely keen to visit again in the future.
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