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A perfect tourist day in New York City

Last month, I surprised my boyfriend - or should I say my bae? (I am almost 28, so probably not) - with 4 nights away in the big apple to celebrate his 30th. I know, I'm a keeper. (At least some of the time, when I am planning birthday trips. Less so when I am smashing phones, spilling pancake batter all over the kitchen table and blaming everyone else like I was this morning; but, as Dolly Parton said if you can't accept me at my phone smashing finger pointing worst then you don't deserve me at my NYC birthday trip planning best. Off topic. Moving on, sorry.)

Planning and keeping the surprise was the most fun. I had asked his family whether they minded me nicking him for his birthday weekend in October, booked the hotel in November, and our flights in December, so keeping the whole thing a secret and acting cool all the way til mid March was tricky for a natural sharer who likes to publicise most thoughts she has on the internet. Case and point.

I'd tricked him into thinking we were going to a spa or somewhere in the UK for one night (mainly to ensure he packed essentials, rather than begin our holiday with a stressful foray around Boots in Gatwick airport, looking for the right moisturiser, he really cares about moisturisers). He feigned moderate excitement about the spa, but I knew it wasn't exactly what he would have requested to celebrate turning the big three oh.

What a turn of events then, to be ringing in a new decade with a glass of champagne on the 65th floor of the Rockefeller centre in Manhattan, only a handful of hours after we'd met in Costa coffee in Bank and he'd been all like “why have you packed a whole suitcase for 1 night in a spa” and I'd hyperventilated, “because it has got 4 nights worth of stuff for you and me because we are going to New York. Now!” Oh the thrill of it all. Ever since then I have been trying to find any excuse to plan surprises. “Your work colleague's mum just bought adopted a kitten, aaaah let me throw her a surprise cat christening!” Too much. But the New York time it was one of the best things I've ever done, and I fully recommend splurging on someone you loves’ special occasions once in a while. I know we'll be talking about that trip for all the landmark birthdays to come.

As you may be able to tell by the fact it has taken me 4 paragraphs to get to the point of this post, I can easily be driven off course in a blog post and fill it with waffle. Thus to keep myself on track, rather than listing recommendations, what I liked what I didn't like yaddy yaddy yadda, I've planned a little day itinerary with my faves. Because also I bloomin love an hour by hour itinerary, I pretty much do one every day, normally filled with working on a spreadsheet in the office/life admin/going to the gym rather than pasta tasting menus and Brooklyn pizza tours, but the former would make for a less fun Sunday morning post…

Now a final disclaimer, I didn't do all of this in 1 day, I would defo have broken around the 2pm mark and needed to retreat to my hotel bed with a belly full of beer and pizza for a nap, but I did do everything recommended, and these were things I particularly loved, and aren't just me copying and pasting the top 10 activities in New York from the Lonely Planet. I don't live in New York, this was only my second time there, and I am not travel writer, but I just think if you were in New York for a few days, all of these are insert the emoticon of the hand making the a-ok sign here things to do, and I recommend you squeeze some in.

9:00 - Up and at em!… as New Yorkers, or indeed any English speaking people may say. Start the day with a cycle all the way central park. Rent a bike from a nearby place (we used Central Park Bike rental which were around $20 for 2 bikes when we booked about 20 mins ahead online). You can also pick up the NY equivalent of Boris bikes, but I think they may be tricky with some of the hills. It only takes around an hour to an hour and a half to ride round the whole park at a leisurely pace, and that includes time to stop and eat pretzels and drink coffee, take pictures, and push your bike up some of the aforementioned hills. (My handbag was in the basket and it made the bike heavy ok).

11:45 - Catch the subway, or a yellow cab south to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn for Scott's Brooklyn Pizza tour. Hells you may even want to get off the subway early and walk over Brooklyn Bridge if you've pedalled extra fast, or you got up and out the hotel before 9am, though goodness knows why you would do that, you are on holiday. My colleague recommended this tour company to me, started by Scott who is a pizza obsessive (and holds the record for the most pizza boxes in the world). We chose the Brooklyn one, as I wanted to channel my inner Lena Dunham and gallop around Brooklyn, but didn't know where to start. This tour was great: we were the only non New Yorkers on it so even the locals do it. We got 3 delicious slices of pizza from 3 different only-in-Brooklyn places, our guide was rofls o' clock and I learnt a bit more about the second most famous borough in NYC. Following on from this, have a wander around Brooklyn, and pop into all the lovely boutiques, craft beer and cocktail bars and brunch places, and hang with their patronswho give Shoreditch hipsters a run for their money.

16:00 - Head back to Manhattan and walk off some of that pizza and booze on the New York Highline. This was recommended to me by everyone I know who has walked it since its opening in 2014, including by a native New Yorker I met at a wedding in the Phillippines last December, as her one must do thing in New York. This may indeed be in Lonely Planet’s top 10. Cripes so is most likely Central Park. Oh gosh. Anyhoo, the Highline is an old freight train railway which has been turned into a garden walkway above the city. It means you get lovely views of the classic NYC blocks, and just as importantly get to see right in to lots of cool NYC-er's apartments. It runs all the way through Chelsea from the southern part of Hell’s Kitchen down towards the Meatpacking District and Greenwich Village, but if you are running short of time or your legs are sore from all the cycling and pizza walking you can just pop up, with entrances at several blocks. We walked through it leisurely, just stopping for photos and it took around 45 minutes - 1 hour.

18:00 - Completely nicked this from one of my favourite bloggers and native New Yorkers, Joanna Goddard, from Cup of Jo, who is unbeknown to herself, one of my life gurus. Going to New York, one of the first things I did was check out her NYC guide, which has so many more great tips in it, and I am so sad we didn’t manage everything. The thing I loved about Babbo, was that apart from being delicious it was so classic New York. Will and I enjoyed the traditional tasting menu with matched wines (I tried to convert him to the pasta tasting menu, but we ended up with 2/7 pasta courses instead of 5/7, it wasn’t all bad). I can’t think of anywhere in London that would have such an Italian tasting menu, that was so relaxed whilst having that formal tasting menu quality. It was delicious. Bookings open 1 month in advance, and you have to be there right on the day to secure a table, this place is popular with New Yorkers too.

22:00 - There are plenty of bars round Greenwich Village so maybe it makes sense to hang out there, rather than head uptown, but then this is mean to be “the perfect tourist day” and I really don’t think a perfect tourist day would be complete without a visit to SixtyFive, the bar on the 65th floor of the Rockefeller centre.

Last time I was in New York, with my family about 7 years ago, we went up the Empire State Building. This time I researched Top of the Rock (the 67th floor of the Rockefeller) vs Empire State Building to help me choose which high building to go up. I’d decided on Top of the Rock, on the basis that although the Empire State Building was quite literally something out of Sleepless in Seattle and the Mindy Project, Top of the Rock was less crowded, had shorter queues and provided arguably a better view - one with the Empire State Building in it. Then a couple of days before I found a recommendation (cannot remember where) for bar Sixty Five, two floors down from Top of the Rock, with its own private terrace. 

And so after checking in at our hotel, Will and I turned up (un)fresh from the plane, and without reserving, or queuing or buying any sort of ticket, walked straight into a lift, went up 65 floors and were plonked on a table next to a window with all of NYC right there. For the price of an observation deck ticket, we bought a glass of bubbles and cheered in Will’s 4th decade….

00:30 …before heading slightly tipsily to Katz Deli. The classic New York deli is famous for being the place where Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm in When Harry met Sally, and for serving the best hot pastrami sandwiches in town, albeit massive ones. (You can definitely share one). What is a holiday without 4 square meals a day ey?

Hope you have a fabulous lazy Sunday, with no smashed phones, and pancake batter only falling into hot frying pans.

Vicky x

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