A trip down memory lane and beyond - New York City

(Image courtesy of Unsplash)

14th May 2021

By Elle Summers

In 2019, I had decided to take a gap year between my A-Levels and going to university to give myself a break from the academic pressures. My best friend was simultaneously undertaking a scholarship in New Jersey, America and so I decided to save my money and head out to make the most of spring break. Having always travelled across the UK in my childhood, going abroad has always been a major novelty for me. And at the age of 19 the thought of travelling across the Atlantic by myself was enough to set my teeth on edge. Like a small child on Christmas Eve, I could barely sleep for excitement the night before. Despite the continuous fear of missing my gate, my happiness to be reunited with my best friend, and the prospect of being away from home for a month was exhilarating – the thrill of the adventure pushed my anxiety to the side, causing me to fidget with anticipation.

However, this feeling of adrenaline was soon quenched as once boarding the plane we were all informed that we would not be able to take off on time due to hailstones on the wings. The weather had changed within moments, if you blinked you would have missed it, yet it still resulted with sitting in an uncomfortable seat for an extra hour, initially killing the happy vibe. The thing about travelling alone is that you never know who you’re going to end up sitting next to! So far in my life I have been cursed with always looking like a 12-year-old and so this old man sitting next to me felt the need to take pity on my lone self and so I presume he was trying to make me feel better. How did this end I hear you ask? With a full-grown man talking on and off for an 8-hour flight to a stuffed animal he had put in the overhead locker, even in hindsight this experience does not get less weird!

One thing I wish I had been warned about is customs in the USA. On the plane a blue form was handed out to those who had items to declare. Being naive I presumed this would make my time in the airport at the other end shorter as I had nothing to put on the form – I couldn’t have been more wrong! Despite this form, everyone was ushered to join one queue where people who did have something to declare had their bags checked. I’ve never seen a line of people move so slowly! Eventually I was at the front of the queue waved on and I pushed through the doors to arrivals. Welcome to the United States of America.

During my time in New York, I stayed in an Airbnb in Brooklyn, a lovely little apartment which had great subway links to the city allowing my friend and I to spend the entire day out and about. First on the itinerary – viewing the city skyline from the One World Trade Center. Luck was on our side as we headed out on the first morning as the sky was clear – not a luxury I have always been afforded such as my times at the top of the Shard and Eiffel Tower. En route to the skyline experience we stopped off to walk halfway (yes, we are lazy) across the Brooklyn Bridge. Being on such a recognisable landmark made it really hit home that I was in America!

(Image courtesy of Elle Summers)

From here, we headed to the One World Trade Center – an experience I would definitely recommend. It began with a huge reveal video of the skyline before the backdrop lifted to expose the view. The lifts that took us up to the viewing platform were also very cleverly designed as they showed the audience moving pictures of how the skyline has altered over the years and how the buildings would look from the inside. The skyline of New York was a sight to behold, it was fun trying to point out different famous landmarks and just appreciate the city from such a great height. Upon exiting the One World Trade Center we wandered over to the 9/11 memorial which was very moving. All the names listed made the extent of it feel more real. I would recommend a visit if you’re ever over that way, it was a very humbling experience.

(Image courtesy of Elle Summers)

Next on the list was Times Square. I must admit, I was a little disappointed, mainly because it did not take my breath away. Instead, my main memory of Times Square is it being very over-crowded and there were too many people dressed as the Statue of Liberty for my liking! Whilst here, my friend and I were accosted by some man on the street trying to sell tickets to a Comedy Club. We were talking to him for ages and eventually were persuaded to get tickets. Which I’m glad we did. We were brought into this small intimate space of the club where a parade of small name comedians performed their sets – it was worth $20 as it was something I wouldn’t have planned to experience!

You can’t visit New York City without heading to Central Park! Despite my friend refusing to come to the zoo with me (yes I’m a massive child!) I’m glad to say I’ve been. My 13-year-old self was overjoyed at the chance to relive my Gossip Girl fantasies in some of the filming locations!

We ended the night by heading to the Staten Island ferry to appreciate the skyline from a different angle in the dark. The city was just as breath taking as during the day. It was a shame there wasn’t a balcony so unfortunately my photos were not of the best quality. After this entire fun filled day (yes this was all one day!) we headed back to the apartment to crash. Upon waking up the following day and having concluded that trying to do anything with all our luggage in tow would be a nightmare, we made our way to the train station. Fun fact when you book your train, they don’t tell you the platform number, instead you have to wait in a room until the train arrives and then everyone literally runs! For me this was goodbye New York, (at least for a little while, I’d be back!) and hello Philadelphia.

If you’ve got any travel stories to share about time you’ve spent in New York or anywhere else, we would love to hear from you! Check out our Facebook and Instagram page, or get involved in the comments below.