“I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out out of the West and reached the mirage. I could taste the peach and feel the soft air blowing from a subway grating on my legs and I could smell lilac and garbage and expensive perfume and I knew that it would cost something sooner or later — because I did not belong there, did not come from there — but when you are twenty-two or twenty-three, you figure that later you will have a high emotional balance, and be able to pay whatever it costs. I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month.” – Joan Didion
New York City, there’s no place like it.
New York Public Library – a thing of architectural beauty, inside and out. I was lucky enough to catch a photography installation when I was there, but I think there are exhibitions running all the time. It’s an achingly beautiful place inside and out. After you’ve explored the Library, take a moment to soak up the bustling city outside at Bryant Park (tip: there’s free wifi here for you to plan your next move)!
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge at sunrise, first thing, or at sunset. The bridge’s lights are switched off at sunrise but you’ll have the bridge almost all to yourself (save for a few joggers and photography enthusiasts). The lights stay on in the evening (so magical to capture at sunset!) but you’ll be jostling for position amongst tourists, so choose your own adventure.
Definitely walk the Manhattan Bridge – it still affords amazing views of Manhattan (including the Brooklyn Bridge) and there are no tourists! Hurrah! My favourite thing to do (if staying in Manhattan) is to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, spend the day in Brooklyn (go on a Sunday and visit Smorgasburg/Brooklyn flea markets), then walk back along Manhattan Bridge just before sunset. Manhattan Bridge will take you directly to SoHo and Chinatown which is handy if you happen to be staying near there. It’s in a more convenient location than Brooklyn Bridge because with the latter you’ll have to walk 2km through Wall St/Financial District to get back up to SoHo.
Meander your way through SoHo – my absolute favourite borough in NYC. SoHo has it all – postcard-perfect New York streets, amazing shopping, a huge number of great coffee haunts in close proximity to one another, and very instagram-worthy cafes. Shopping along Broadway (go all the way up to ABC Carpet and Home near Union Square) is a New York ritual!
Spend the afternoon in Greenwich Village – also one of my favourite NYC boroughs. Unbelievably dreamy tree-lined streets, quaint boutiques (Bleecker Street), Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, terrace houses with those unmistakable stoops, and just basically a New York dream. You can also walk to the Highline from here (it’s about a 8-10 min walk). There are little boutiques hidden down small streets so it’s the best place to set aside a few hours and just get lost.
Explore Central Park on a pushbike – at the very least, your feet will thank you for it! You can walk it, too, if you’ve a whole day spare. Bring your sneakers, though! Central Park is also close-ish to the MET so you could probably make a day of it.
For 360 views of the city, Top of the Rock is the place to go. Book your ticket in advance online to skip the queues. This is probably as touristy as I’ll get but the views are SO worth it and it’s relatively inexpensive, too. Once you’re up there, you can stay as long as you like. And there’s no heart attack-inducing hike that sights like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris imposes on you – you actually go up via an awesome elevator ride!
Wander through the pretty part of Brooklyn – Brooklyn Heights, Clinton Hill and Park Slope are just a dreamy dream. My favourite thing to do is to explore the neighbourhood at sunset then walk to the wharf and along the East River all the way to Brooklyn Bridge as the sun goes down. Then have dinner at the fancy pants Shake Shack there (or even better, Luke’s Lobster!).
EAT – CAFES/RESTAURANTS
Egg Shop, SoHo – I was so lucky to have met the owner and brainchild of Egg Shop at a dinner party whilst in NYC who convinced me to have brunch at her adorable café the morning after. Best decision ever. Aside from the egg dishes, the fried chicken and hash browns are a must, must try! There are some MAJOR queues on the weekend (about 2 hours’ long) so try to go on a weekday.
Two Hands, SoHo – love love love the avocado toast here and the coffee is pretty good too! Be prepared to line up, though – especially on weekends.
Jane, SoHo or Greenwich Village – everyone orders the avocado toast but the other items on the menu are just as delicious, like the meatballs!
Ippudo, East Village – crazy expensive ramen (after all the tipping and currency conversion) but crazy good – the noodles here are on par with its Tokyo counterpart and the service is equally as attentive. The price difference is stupidly crazy though – to give you an idea, a bowl of ramen at Ippudo NYC is around $25 (this is after tipping + currency conversion) whilst in Tokyo you’ll pay around $10 tops (and you get free pickled beansprouts haha).
Luke’s Lobster Bar, Brooklyn (near the base of the Brooklyn Bridge). I used to go to Ed’s Lobster in SoHo until I found out Luke’s is half the price (you’ll pay roughly $30 for a lobster roll at Ed’s). Nevertheless, I love the lobster rolls in NYC – I enjoy them way more than I did in Boston.
EAT – SWEETS
Momofuku Milk Bar – a New York rite of passage. There’s quite a few of them scattered around to make it convenient. Not sure about the other locations but the one in East Village always has queues!
Morgenstern’s Ice Cream – hands down my favourite gelato place in NYC. So many flavours, so much deliciousness.
Doughnut Plant – you haven’t tasted doughnuts until you’ve tasted Doughnut Plant. Not even kidding. It’s so good you probably won’t want to have doughnuts anywhere else again. And it’s so good, we bought half a dozen and carried them with us on the plane to Iceland. They were still alright days later (just goes to show the sugar content, ha)!
I used Trottermag’s new coffee iphone app to guide me to the best (and most photogenic!) coffee spots in New York.
My particular favourites include Happy Bones, Bluestone Collective, Two Hands, Gasoline Alley, and Brooklyn Roasting Company (my absolute favourite).
The Apartment by The Line – my favourite store in NYC and an interior dream! Even if you don’t buy anything (the whole ‘apartment’ is shoppable) you could easily spend a whole afternoon soaking up everything this beautiful space has to offer. It was almost surreal being here after stalking its online store for years!
La Garconne – I sadly didn’t have time to visit the store in Tribeca but if you’re a fellow Francophile who has always admired LC from afar (and by that I mean via the world wide web) it’s a total must-see/shop.
ABC Carpet & Home – an incredible home & lifestyle store showcasing a thoughtfully edited selection of homewares from Mad et Len candles to beautiful, handmade ceramics and wares you can’t find anywhere else. It’s a photography props dream!
SoHo – my favourite area in NYC to shop. I especially love the crazy beautiful COS store (it’s conveniently around the corner from The Apartment), the equally gorgeous And Other Stories space (on Broadway) and Wooster Street – such a charming part of SoHo!
H&M – I hear the biggest H&M in the world has just opened up on Fifth Ave! Perfect timing for that upcoming collab with Balmain…
Brooklyn Flea – I picked up a pair of awesome specs here on my last trip. The Flea is a great place to tinker around for the afternoon!
WHERE TO STAY
SoHo is my favourite borough to stay in – it’s just so convenient getting to uptown and it’s just so close to everything I love too.
Greenwich Village is lovely for airbnb apartments – it’s a lot quieter than, say, SoHo and has a more quaint, local and laidback vibe to it.
East Village – definitely stay here if you want a more upbeat New York vibe without all the tourists/people that descend on Times Square/Midtown. East Village has the highest concentration of bars in NYC, so you’ll never go thirsty (or hungry) if you stay in this borough.
For more (slightly) affordable options, Brooklyn is really great. We stayed at Aloft (in Downtown Brooklyn) and would absolutely stay there again. It’s on a quiet street and next to a Sheraton hotel, with a couple of main subway stations within walking distance. The room rate we paid (mid-April) was US$182 per night for a King Room. The wifi was kinda sketchy (which was frustrating for me as I was working every day from the hotel) but it may have just been our room.
Finally, if the thought of tourists getting in your way with their Nikons and Canons breaks you out in a rash, do not stay in Midtown or anywhere close to Times Square. Just sayin’.
A FEW RANDOM TIPS (because if you’re anything like me…)
Bloomingdales in SoHo has free wifi (it instantly connects once you’re inside!) and free restrooms, and the only thing it’ll cost you is to look as inconspicuous as possible. It’s in a super convenient location (backs onto Broadway/Crosby Streets) so I always camped out here when I got lost and needed google maps. Lol.
New York is a very walkable city but if you’ll be riding the subway, buy a metro card at any station. Subway fares are so cheap in NYC and you can use the trains as many times as you like within the allotted days. Also, please make sure you download the Hopstop app because once you’re in Midtown the chances of getting lost are very, very real.
Before you head to NYC (or while you’re there) visit ny.racked.com for all the sample sales that are happening in the city – it’s updated daily!
To get from JFK airport to Manhattan (or Brooklyn) it’s worth swallowing the pill that is the $60 taxi fare and catching a yellow cab. It’s about AUD$60 to Manhattan and $50 to Brooklyn (it’s closer to JFK) and as it’s an hours’ drive, you don’t want to mess around too much, especially if you’re arriving late at night. JUST MAKE SURE you catch a taxi from the official taxi stand outside the airport (it’s to your left as you come out of Arrivals). The most important thing is to ignore all the shady people stopping you in your tracks along the way to offer you a ‘cheaper taxi fare’ – it may be slightly cheaper but a lot of them aren’t insured or registered properly if something goes awry. And a word of warning – they are super persistent and very convincing to unassuming tourists.
As far as tipping is concerned, 18% of the bill is the bare minimum or you can probably get away with doubling the tax at the more casual sit-down places. Don’t tip if you get crap service, though!
Like Tokyo, New York is one of those cities with the very likelihood of you getting trampled on by locals if you stay still (or walk really slow…). It’s the little things like making way for people on their way to work on the subway or the Brooklyn Bridge that will make life a little less stressful for everyone. Time, life, and people go at extraordinary speed in NYC – things just go faster and you’ll either love it or hate it.
Finally, be prepared to line up everywhere in New York. I was naively under the impression that a big city with so many places to eat and things to do would be exempt from queues but I was so wrong. So plan accordingly and, most importantly, have fun!
Photography by Michelle and Jamie Lau with OM-D E-M1 | in partnership with Olympus Australia
Days go on, months pass us by, and each year turns into birthdays that begin to lose their lustre. It’s been a year since this post and it’s funny how when you turn 30, you think you’ve got everything figured out.
If I’ve learned nothing else, it’s that everything probably figures itself out eventually.
Grand plans, best friends, big dreams under the hum of the streetlights. Maybe sometimes they need to fall apart to fall together again?
photography by Nich Hance McElroy
It’s a little crazy to think that it was only three weeks ago when half the contents of my unzipped carry-on bag literally flew halfway up the street outside our Iceland hotel as we piled into the car en route to the airport. A tour bus load of passengers who – with much amusement apparently – witnessed me running after my Roshe Runs as they made for a great escape along with the ferocious wind at 5am.
I can’t begin to tell you about the howling and unforgiving Icelandic wind that morning, but let’s just say steel lamp posts were swaying rather precariously from side to side and it took no less than 10 minutes for my husband to successfully put one suitcase into the boot.
And if that wasn’t enough, my hands were jammed in my pockets out of fear they’d turn blue and fall off in -9 degrees celsius weather.
So I can’t begin to tell you how much I was looking forward to (and dare I say, earned) sun-drenched Santorini – and the daily overdose of vitamin D – to end our two month-long trip.
Of course, the excitement was kinda dampened when our airline lost our luggage on the way to the Adriatic coast – but that’s another story for another day (see, I wasn’t ever joking about packing that spare change of undies).
The short story is that eventually our suitcases turned up and the long story? Maybe I’ll just let these pictures speak a thousand words.
In collaboration with Topshop Australia | wearing Finders Keepers pinstripe top + culottes available at Topshop.
Photographs by Jamie Lau.