New York, United States of America

New York has always held a special place in my heart, and Maddy even more so. She lived just outside the city for a couple of years in her teens, and was dying to get back. This was also my first time in America as an adult. My parents took my brothers and I across the country, but all whilst I was young.

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We were lucky to spend our 10 days staying with our friend Wanja, living with her in Hartsdale, NY. Hartsdale was our base to explore the state and the city, and was such a relaxing place to enjoy New York from. Having lived in London for just over a year now, staying out of the city was a blessing.

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As soon as we knew we were going to New York, seeing a Yankee’s Game was our first priority. Having been in New York for less than 24 hours, a baseball game was the cultural baptism of fire we needed. The theatre of game and the stadium was entertaining, if not somewhat overwhelming. The actual baseball part was quite small. The guys yelling ‘BUD BUD-LIGHT’ whilst carrying 10 DOLLAR bottles of beer on their head, or the endless ‘Papa Johns Pizza Crowd Cam’ seemed to be the main event. We enjoyed it never the less…and we got the baseball caps to prove it.

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From our base, we popped into the city a few times, and hit all the major hotspots, including the Rockefeller Centre. Turns out this is the best place to see the city and the Empire State building. (I think most people go up the Empire State building, but you don’t actually get to see it and the beautiful skyline)

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My fondest memory of the city was running through Central Park with Maddy. At the time, I was half way through a 8-week 5KM Challenge, so we took the opportunity to keep my new fitness routine up, whilst seeing the park in a unique way. And what a way it was to see the park. Had we walked, we would never have seen the whole park, or probably found the hidden water fall at the end. The most awkward thing about the run was trying to find somewhere to shower afterwards. It sounds like a silly problem, but we ended up having to pretend that we’d just moved to the city, and that we wanted to try a gym.

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Food. The trip really did feel like a non-stop eatathon. As a self confessed pizza lover, the New Yorkers certainly didn’t dissapoint. Plus, the other food was pretty great too. I think the portion control was a bit…ridiculous, but again it was fun.

Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge was a real treat. The sun was beating down, but it was a refreshing change from the island. The scenery was beautiful, and we saw a few characters along the way. On Wanja’s recommendation, we hit Junior’s for the hands-down, best Cheesecake in the world. We didn’t realise the slices we going to be so massive. So massive, that we didn’t need lunch.

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At times, the city did feel exceptionally ‘tourist-ee’. Spoiled in fact. The MoMA was full of people either taking selfies of themselves in front of the art, or viewing it through the their camera, Time Square was like the tartan shop epidemic of Edinburgh, but way worse, and the World Trade Centre was people sitting on the names of fallen, taking selfies. I suppose this was to be expected, but luckily seeing the city was actually quite a small part of our trip.

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Outside of the city we took sometime to hit some of the local hotspots. I was surprised by how leafy and beautiful New York is, even just outside the city. One afternoon we visited a local brewery. A part of the trip which I particularly enjoyed. From the outside it didn’t look like much, but this small brewery created and served some fine drinks, and they did so with an inspiring passion. The brewers offered an insightful tour, and you exchanged poker chips at the bar for tasters of their beers.

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One thing couldn’t we miss, was visiting Maddy’s old home, which wasn’t too far from where Wanja lived. I have heard much about Maddy’s time in New York over the years, so seeing where she spent some impactful years was special for me too.

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As much as I hate shopping, I guess it was just one of those things we had to do. With an exchange rate of 1.6, I couldn’t help but get involved either. We both did well. Maddy did very well.

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I left New York with mixed feelings. It had been wonderful spending time with Wanja and I had quite possibly my most relax holiday yet. I did however leave feeling disappointed. My experiences of America when I was a child were very happy and exciting. I always thought of the country and happy, prosperous, and better than home. It wasn’t long before memory was scratched away. There was a distinct sense of superficial and corporate culture which I didn’t enjoy. The outward patriotism, yet stark social division I found quite unsettling and almost upsetting. I suppose that isn’t too different from home. I know if we had dug deeper, we would have fund more of what we were looking for, but we didn’t on this trip. I’m sure we’ll be back again, but I don’t know when.

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