Tuesday, 12 July 2016

USA Road Trip: First Stop New York City

First stop on our road trip is New York City. We arrived into JFK on a hot summers day. For those of you who don't know, JFK is quite a distance from the city, and even further from Jersey city where are staying. It was certainly a challenge finding our way to our accommodation though the 10 hours travelling from Dublin certainly didn't help. We found an apartment on air b n b in Jersey city. We found accommodation in Manhattan very expensive so we decided to stay a little outside the city. The area wasn't quite what we expected. It was definitely a poorer area. While we had no problems, we did feel a little uncomfortable walking through the area at night.

We used the subway to get around the city. However a disadvantage to staying in Jersey city is the fact that you need a separate ticket to ride on the Path train which travels under the Hudson river. Using the Subway several times a day can be quite costly with $2.75 a ride. We discovered the hard way that it's much better value to buy a 7 day Subway pass for about $30 and the same for the Path. We used Über which is considerably cheaper than taxis. We couldn't have gotten around the city without the City mapper app. This app tells you how to get from A to B using public transport. FYI we bought an American prepay sim to have internet  on the go instead if relying in free Wi-Fi.

You certainly won't be short of things to do in New York! We were in the city for 6 days and there was still plenty we didn't get to see. Firstly we didn't realise how big the city is. There was no way we could have seen the city by foot. On our first day we decided to book on of the city bus tours. Our 2 day $52 ticket included Brooklyn tour, Uptown Manhattan, Downtown Manhattan, a night tour, and boat tour to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. To be honest this was a lot see of sight seeing to do in two days and we didn't get around to doing all of the tours. The main problem with the bus tours was  sitting on top of the bus in 30 degree heat! But the tours were a great way to see the city and the tour guides gave us tips about other attractions in the city. We went into the city in the evening for the night tour before dinner. We discovered the queue for the night tour went back about 2 blocks from the bus stop. Although seeing the city lights at night would have been worth seeing, we didn't think waiting 2 hours was worth it either. So we walked around Times Square and surrounding streets instead. The bill boards at Times Square at night is definitely a must see.

We visited the Museum of Natural History. You might know that this was featured in the film Night at the Museum. You walk into the Museum and you are greeted with two huge dinosaur skeletons. The Museum was quite spectacular and was worth a visit. Something to note would be to visit the museum on a weekday when there are less visitors than at the weekends. It can get very busy. There is no set fee into the museum. There is only a suggested fee per person but you can pay any amount you wish.

Chinatown and Little Italy are also worth a visit. We stopped at a restaurant called Shanghai, a top rated restaurant on TripAdvisor, known for its soup dumplings.  We ordered the soup dumplings and the chicken and sweet corn soup to start. These were both huge portions for a starter and I would recommend ordering them both to share. The service was fantastic and very quick and the food was delicious. I would definitely recommend this restaurant if you're looking for a bite to eat in Chinatown.

There's definitely something for everyone in New York City but there is something for everyone. For those of you who are still trying to eat reasonably healthily and on a budget, Pret a Manger is a good choice. Although it's a chain, there are several throughout the city. They serve great coffee, a great selection of good quality salads, sandwiches be soups. We are here a number of times in our trip.
We wandered down to Hell's Kitchen. What was once known as one of New York's notorious neighbourhoods, is now packed full of tourists and restaurants. We stumbled upon a  trendy Thai restaurant called Next Door. The food was of a high standard and the cocktails were amazing.
The Ellington in the Park was recommended by a family friend. It's situated in Riverside park on the upper west side. It's a lively bar that serves great burgers, fajitas etc. There's a great view over the Hudson river, perfect for drinks on a Summer's evening. Ellington in the Park is owned by an Irish woman. She also has a second restaurant, The Ellington which is located nearby on Amsterdam street.

We didn't know what to expect from New York City initially, but we were still blown away by the city even in the hot, sticky, Summer weather. We would love to visit the city again, perhaps in the Winter.