If you follow me on Twitter you’ll have seen that I’ve just returned from New York City – my favourite place in the world.
Last year, we stayed at The Plaza on Fifth Avenue and it was wonderfully luxurious. This year, we decided to go a little grittier and stay in Hell’s Kitchen at Cassa Times Square. It was a lot less touristy and a little more stabby. No, really, it was.
A homeless guy actually offered me protection for payment outside one of the Irish bars opposite our hotel ‘You look after me, I’ll look after you.’ he bargained. I stood there in bewilderment. Did I look like I needed protecting? Was I about to get kidnapped? ‘I go places even the cops don’t go.’ he continued. ‘I’ll watch your back if you watch mine. These (insert extremely racist, non pc word here) will kill you.’
I smiled politely, trying my hardest not to appear knee knockingly terrified, and swiftly walked back into the bar, leaving Batman to offer his services to another unsuspecting dude.
I took my seat next to FT who was chatting animatedly to our new friends Tiara, from the woods (Connecticut) John, from New Jersey and Hector, a local guy who interrupted FT with ‘I’m sorry, but can I say, you sound like Monty Python.’
Tiara then proceeded to tell FT and I that our teeth were far too perfect for us to be British, and then told me seventy five times how much she loved FT and how perfect he was. Get in line, babe.
But lets rewind back to the beginning. When we got there, we were tired, hungry, tired, ratty and did I mention – super tired?
We dropped off our bags at the hotel and went out straight away in search of food. It was night time and within our first few yards we encountered three homeless people. I know the city is rife with homelessness but I can’t remember seeing it to such an extent last year. I can only put it down to our location.
At first, I was a little freaked out, especially when one lady with obvious mental health issues started screaming on the corner of 42nd and 9th as I walked past her ‘You’re all fuckers. You’re a fuck and you’re a fuck.’ followed by manic laughter.
Oh, crap. I’d made a mistake booking a room in Hell’s Kitchen. Fifth Avenue was so much prettier, well mannered and reserved…
But…after a day of getting familiar with the place, it’s resident homeless people, getting to know which convenience store sold the best tea and which pizza places sold the cheapest slices, I actually warmed to the place. It felt real and the residents and store owners were so polite and welcoming.
Hell’s Kitchen is up and coming, so I keep being told, but I think it’s already up there. Yeah, the homelessness is an issue there, but it’s an issue in the whole of New York, and one that I’m glad I got to witness first hand. You can’t love the city if you don’t see it’s true colours.
New York is the city of dreams, but for a city where people have the legal right to shelter, the number of people sleeping rough; old, young, of all races – it’s hard not to think that this is an epidemic and one that desperately needs addressing.
Despite the sadness of the homeless issue, Hell’s Kitchen is home to lots of amazing restaurants of all cuisines and tastes, and there seems to be an Irish bar on every corner.
Rudy’s was a favourite of mine. It was a little dive bar that seated about thirty people at a squeeze and sold the cheapest beer I found. You can get a pitcher for $8 and a hotdog for $2. It was friendly, extremely busy and filled with locals and tourists. I suggest you get there around 7pm to avoid standing all night.
As we’d been to NYC the year before and did a lot of the touristy things like Top of the Rock etc, we decided this trip would be a lot more relaxed and that we’d spend our days wandering around without a plan, taking whatever took our fancy at that moment.
We got the subway to Tribeca and found the Hook and Ladder – the legendary Ghostbusters building. Sadly for FT, who was desperate to visit the location of one of his favourite films, the building was under construction and hidden by scaffolding.
We met up with Jordan, a friend we met last year during our twenty six hour delay at the airport. He took us round some spots last year but this year we met up with him at the tackiest karaoke bar in Times Square ‘Tonic’ (our choice) where we drank Sam Adams and ate burgers – taken care of by Jordan. He’s genuinely the nicest, most generous guy ever.
It was great meeting up with him again, hopefully we’ll meet up again somewhere next year – he’s a super smart, genius nomad type, in a good way! Rumour has it, he may be visiting the UK pretty soon. Lets hope so, so we can re-pay the favour.
During our trip, we drove to Boston, stopping off at Cambridge to visit Harvard along the way.
Boston, one of the oldest cities in the U.S, is brimming with charm and history – I was fascinated to learn more about the place.
We visited Copley Square, Boston Common, walked the Freedom Trail and stopped off at Quincey Market where I sampled some genuine, New England Clam Chowder.
A longer, more in depth Boston trip is on the cards soon. I couldn’t get enough of the place and there is a lot to get. Did I mention it’s home to Hotty McHotty’s such as Tom Hardy and Marky Mark (hey, I’m a 90’s kid – those Calvin ads, schwiiiiing)
Highlights of Boston included visiting the site of the first gay marriage ceremony in the US and rubbing the (wee eroded) shoe of John Harvard (although it’s not really him, just someone pretending to be him – read up on it)
Back in New York, we did Staten Island Ferry again, and walked over the bridge to Brooklyn where we drank cold IPA under the Manhattan bridge to cool off from the heat. We walked around the stores, picked out furniture in West Elm (that we couldn’t afford) and feasted on the best pizza ever (and I’ve been to Rome and Milan) in ‘Love and Dough’
I had the Four Kings whilst FT opted for a healthier option – the kale salad. The staff were so friendly and attentive and the food was insanely good.
Other highlights included walking The High Line and visiting Chelsea market as recommended by my gorgeous girl, @jenninscotland followed by a stroll around the gorgeous streets of the Meatpacking District and Tribeca.
It was an awesome trip, and despite my initial reservations, I actually enjoyed it more than last year.
Hell’s Kitchen is amazing, as is the entire city. Although I’ve only been twice, it feels good to have that familiar feeling, knowing the subway stops and where to go for a cold craft beer and decent hotdog. I’m sure I’ll be returning there soon enough.
New York, I loved you. I still love you.