New York has always been a dream location for Angi and me. We’ve visited a few different locations in Europe, most recently Paris and Barcelona, both of which were incredible. The idea of visiting New York has always been a step above our European trips though, but it’s much further away and is quite a bit more expensive, and is a big place for a couple of country bumpkins like us! We’ve often said that we’d visit one day, but I think we both thought that “one day” would never really come. One September evening we were browsing the usual holiday websites and we decided there and then to book a trip to New York on a whim.
240 days. Two hundred and forty long days. That’s how long we had to wait until May 18th when we left. Gradually the days ticked by and we began to get ready by reading about all the places we wanted to visit and all the things we wanted to see (and all the things we wanted to eat!!)
Day 1 - Arrive and Central Park.
I’ve never flown from London Heathrow before, but it definitely wasn’t as busy and hectic as everyone told me it would be. After a few hours in the car and a lot more hours on a plane we arrived at JFK airport and began the frustratingly long process of going through US customs before catching a taxi to our hotel on West 57th Street.
After a quick rest at the hotel we decided to have a walk around Central Park for a couple of hours as it was already mid afternoon. The plan was to get an early nights sleep as we were still on UK time, and then get up nice and early the next morning ready to hit the sights.
I've seen photos of Central Park and figured it was pretty big, but unless you've walked through it, you really can't wrap your mind around just how big it is! We walked for about an hour and a bit at a pretty leisurely pace taking lots of photos and we only got up to about 75th Street, which is about a third of the park's entire length!
Day 2 - Times Square, Empire State Building and Brooklyn Bridge.
We left the hotel nice and early at 8 o'clock as we wanted to go to Time Square before it got really busy with tourists like us. We were surprised how busy it was so early in the morning, I'm not sure my home town is that busy on Saturday afternoon! A few minutes looking at all the huge display boards and screens and we started making our way towards the Empire State Building, keen to see one of the cities (and the worlds!) biggest attractions. We had to make a quick pit stop at B&H cameras, as the battery in my Bronica ETRS has decided that the best possible time for it to die on me would be on my first day in a city where I'd rather have no shoes than no camera. Turns out B&H is a pretty big place that has a heck of a lot of vintage cameras that you can gawp at on the top floor, but I was able to resist the urge to buy one. I did, however, take the opportunity to buy another ten rolls of Ektar 100 before we left as it's a bit cheaper than at home.
Now this is probably going to sound really stupid, but it took us a few minutes to find the Empire State Building when we got to 34th street. Big buildings are easy to spot when you're looking at them from a distance, but in a city that's full of giant skyscrapers, the view is easily blocked when you get closer! Luckily as we got there at about 11 am, we didn't have to queue more than 20-30 minutes or so before we stepped into the elevator on the second floor, and stepped out less than a minute later to one of the best views in the city. We stood at the top and admired the view from each side before heading back down the elevator and carrying on our walk downtown.
We walked past the Flatiron building (Hello, Spiderman!), past New York University, through Chinatown and over towards Brookyln Bridge. Wow, what a walk. After several miles walking in the baking sun we arrived at the Manhattan side of Brooklyn Bridge and stood there for a few minutes, in shock at the amount of people on the bridge. The crowds of people crossing the bridge were so thick that all you can do is join the back and walk slowly behind everyone else until you get to the other side, diving to the side a few times for the obligatory bridge selfie and photo opportunities on the way.
After crossing the bridge we made our way to the junction of Water St and Washington St, just a 2 minute walk away. Since we booked out trip I really wanted to get my own shot of the iconic view of Manhattan Bridge between the buildings. It took a few minutes of waiting mind, as half a dozen other tourists had the same idea.
We mooched about in Brooklyn for another hour or so, and got a coffee at Starbucks, before making our way back to the hotel in the evening. My fitness app on my phone told me that we had walked a little over 15 miles so far, so I was keen to try out the subway instead of walking all that way back again!
Later that night we went back down to the Empire State Building to see the city lit up at night. The ticket was valid any time after 10 pm, and we arrived at about 10:05 hoping to beat any queues and get to bed at a decent time. Unfortunately I think that everyone else had that same idea as the queue was well over an hour long and it took us a long time to get to the top.
Day 3 - Top of the Rock and Coney Island.
Thursday morning was another early start as we wanted to go to the Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center and avoid any long queues. The Rockefeller Center and the Empire State Building aren't actually that far apart, but the views from the top of each could not be more different! The ESB has great views looking downtown towards lower Manhattan, but the Top of the Rock has the advantage of having great views of the Empire State Building one side, and a partial view of Central Park on the other. If I was totally honest I would say that the Top of the Rock was better in most ways than the Empire State Building, but both are definitely worth visiting!
After the Top of the Rock we hopped on the subway for a quick journey downtown to Battery Park where the ferry for the Statue of Liberty leaves. By the time we got to the ticket office the queue for the ferry was insane. It went through the big security building to an outside queuing area, round the ticket office building before trailing off into the distance towards the southern end of Battery Park. Thankfully the ticket office queue was much shorter so we picked up our tickets and made the decision to come back the next morning, a decision which was made much easier when the ticket office attendant told us it would be well over an hour wait for the ferry!
So, with out tickets for the Statue booked for the following day, we decided to take the subway down to the famous Coney Island area of Brooklyn. It didn't take long to get there, less than an hour or so, and best of all it still only cost the standard price of $2.75 to get there!
Coney Island is well known as an amusement park and beach resort which was very well known and popular in the early half of the last century, but declined and became neglected in later years. The old boardwalks and many of the old rides are still there however, and they look great sat on the edge of the beach. Many of the rides, such as the Parachute Jump, are easily recognisable from films and tv shows all over the world, and the wonderful bright colours on the rides and signs look great captured on Ektar film, which is known for its high saturation.
We wandered around and took a great deal of photos, then had a beer and a cheese dog from Nathan's Traditional, and then made our way back to Manhattan on the subway, after a quick stop at the souvenir shop to buy a couple Coney Island t-shirts. We eventually arrived back at the hotel with bellies full of beer and hotdogs, a camera bag full of exposed film, and slightly sunburnt faces. I don't think afternoons get much better than that!
Day 4 - Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Hard Rock Cafe.
Another day, another early morning start to avoid the queues! (If you ever visit NYC, this is my one tip to remember- see the big sights early on when the queues are small and then do other things in the afternoon). We managed to get to the ferry at Battery Park shortly after 8.30 am, and the area was very quiet. We walked straight up to the security building, zipped straight through the scanners and security checks, and then boarded the ferry a couple of minutes later. I really couldn't believe how different it was to our visit the day before!
We quickly grabbed a seat on the upper deck of the ferry, and then soon the boat began moving away from the dock and headed for Liberty Island. At this point I remembered how much I disliked boats, as the side to side movement and rocking motion of the water made me feel a little queezy (I'm actually not much good on anything that moves at all; cars, boats, trains, coaches. I'm not too bad on planes though). After a few minutes we got up and walked to the rear of the ferry so that we could get some great views and photographs of Manhattan as we left.
Soon we were docking on Liberty Island and disembarked. We were not able to get tickets to the crown (they sell out well in advance), and we didn't have tickets to the pedestal, so we admired the statue from below. Liberty island is also a great place to get some more photos of Manhattan, although as I was only armed with an 80mm lens, I could not get as close as I would have liked. After walking around the island for a bit and looking up at the statue (and taking an obligatory selfie or two) we grabbed some pizza from the cafe and boarded the ferry again, which took us on to out next stop: Ellis Island.
Over twelve million immigrants to the US passed by the Statue and stopped at Ellis Island, which marked the end of the Journey. Unfortunately we didn't have a huge amount of time to spend on the Island as we wanted to have a walk around Manhattan before going to the Hard Rock Cafe later on. We went inside for a quick tour round the museum and then went back outside to take some photos of the building.
Ellis Island's main building is truely beautiful and it's style is unlike anything else we saw on our trip. I could easily have stayed the whole day just taking photos but it was again time to board the ferry to take us back to Manhattan.
Day 5 - 9/11 Memorial and American Museum of Natural History.
After leaving Ellis Island the previous day we went over to the 9/11 museum and memorial, but unfortunately the queue to the museum was incredibly long so we decided to go back early the next morning. The queue was virtually non existent we literally just walked straight in.
I decided not to take any "proper" photos with my ETRS in the actual museum as it didn't really feel right in such a somber place, and I didn't want to disturb other visitors. I took a few photos on my phone to remember the place, but they're just snapshots that aren't going to make an appearance in my journal. One particular display in the museum which was particularly poignant was a mangled wreckage of a fire truck that was hit by one of the towers, and it's front end was completely unrecognisable. All of the firefighters that rode this fire truck to the scene were killed rescuing people from the towers. I would 100% recommend this museum to anyone visitng NYC; it's a very moving place and shows the worst and best of the human race.
We left the museum and walked around the memorial for a few minutes. These two massive waterfalls have the names of all the victims engraved around the edges, a few of which have had roses and flowers placed in the gaps by relatives and loved ones.
After leaving the memorial we caught the subway to the American Museum of Natural History, but again I didn't take any photos with the ETRS in there as I decided to just enjoy the time there without a camera.
Day 6 - Central Park and Home.
Our flight home wasn't until the early evening so we had the whole morning to spend in the city. We didn't feel that we spent long enough in Central Park so we checked out of the hotel and made the short walk up to the southern end of the park before walking along the maze of paths going (more or less) northwards up through the park. I was really surprised to see how many statues there are in the park, 29 in in fact. I took the opportunity to take some final photos in the city and tried to capture all the different parts of the park, and all the different things that were going on there.
Sadly, it was then time to catch the subway to JFK airport and make our way home. I was sad to be leaving such a fantastic city, but excited about seeing my photos after the films were developed. We will definitely be going back to the US again in the future! Perhaps San Francisco next time?
A Few Extra Photos
Not all of the photos that I took during the few days we were there were taken at the attractions we visited. Many were taken as we walked around Manhattan and so I haven't included them in the days above. In total I used 13 rolls of film (12 C41 and only 1 B&W), but could easily have used much more.