With lots to celebrate we head off to the Big Apple for a week!
Back in January I asked Charlotte how she would like to celebrate her 30th birthday, without missing a beat she said she would like to celebrate it in New York. Her birthday falls at the end of August and from past experience we know that September is a lovely time to be in the Big Apple.
So, at the end of August we took our first family holiday together for years.
We stayed at Morgans on Madison Avenue which is just four blocks from Grand Central Station and a short walk from Bryant Park. Morgans is a small boutique hotel that Charlotte and I stayed in on our last trip 6 years ago, although it's looking a little tired in places it's still a great location and quieter than many New York hotels.
Planning ahead Charlotte had researched a restaurant for our first meal and of course it had to be burgers. Black Iron Burger serves antibiotic and hormone free burgers, not something that I had ever paid enough attention to but has now made me wonder what I've eaten in the past! It was a great choice and it's definitely worth having directions ready for your first meal to save you walking the streets looking for somewhere to eat.
As I mentioned the hotel is close to Bryant Park which is well worth a visit; small and beautifully formed the park has several bars and the lovely Bryant Park Grill restaurant overlooking it. There is also a statue of Gertrude Stein, author, poet, novelist, playwright and wise woman. She is quoted as saying 'we are always the same age inside'; I think we can all relate to that.
The World Trade Center
The last time we were all in New York as a family we were there to celebrate my 40th birthday. It was during the October half term in 2000 and we have a photograph of us all at the top of the World Trade Center. Less than a year later we saw the horrific events of 9/11 unfold as we watched live as the plane hit the second tower. Since 9/11 we have visited Ground Zero and experienced the still quietness and seen the sheer destruction. Visiting the new memorial I was taken by the calm, peaceful atmosphere and sympathetic way in which the people who lost their lives were honoured. Sadly several people said they thought the ponds were ugly and not a fitting tribute. I disagree, it's so difficult to please everyone and the ponds show the scale and location of the buildings while the water gives you a focus for reflection and remembrance.
The World Trade Center Memorial
We took the ferry to Staten Island as I had never seen the Statue of Liberty, it does seem a little crazy to have been to New York several times but never actually seen the statue. The statue was an amazing sight but as far as I can see Staten Island has nothing to offer, we got on the first ferry back. The ferry is free and runs every half an hour so well worth jumping on and off just for the views.
Eataly and the Flat Iron Building
Located close to the Flat Iron Building, Eataly is a gourmet delight, a huge warehouse of delicious food to eat in or take away. We have in the past bought a picnic and taken it across the road to Madison Square Park but this visit it was for wine and ice cream – not together I might add!
The Flat Iron Building - every which way!
So much choice at Eataly. And spotting a Big Bird in Central Park!
Grand Central Station
Cocktails in Grand Central Station were always on the agenda and as Charlotte and Leon got engaged on the Monday we had even more to celebrate. Cipriani Dolci offers a taste of Italy while watching everyone rushing for their trains. Just the scale of the station is worth seeing even if you don't stop for cocktails.
Brooklyn and the Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge from below
We chose one of the hottest days to travel to Brooklyn by subway. After a long walk through mainly industrial areas we arrived at Juliana's, famed for their coal fired thin crust pizzas. The meal was delicious and worth the short wait in the queue. This was followed by ice cream, a great way to prepare for the walk across the bridge.
It only takes about 30 minutes to walk across Brooklyn Bridge but the views are so breath-taking that you'll want to stop and take photographs. It was really hot that day and thanks to Nikki's suggestion of Skin Ceuticals sunscreen (see our July video) my face didn't burn. We walked more than 10 miles and all felt pretty exhausted by the end of it. Having visited New York several times, this was the first time I had walked over the bridge, I highly recommend it if you visit.
From Brooklyn to Manhattan
A day to shop!
The boys took off for the day to visit the aircraft carrier Intrepid which houses the Sea, Air and Space Museum on the Hudson River while Charlotte and I went shopping. With the poor exchange rate everything was quite expensive. Combine this with the fact that the world is now a smaller place; we kept seeing things we could easily buy at home and often cheaper. We did enjoy Chelsea Market which has a mix of great places to eat with a small amount of artisan products for sale and the perfect place to shelter from the one day of torrential rain.
The High Line
The High Line is a disused freight railway line which is elevated above Manhattan's West Side. The line has been rejuvenated as a raised park with beautiful planting and spectacular views, it's open quite late during the summer so if you time it right you can see the City by day and by night.
Views from the The High Line
MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art is always on my list of things to do. If you are travelling to NYC on a budget make sure you visit MOMA on a Friday evening or you'll be paying $25 for an adult entry ticket. Packed with some of the finest modern art the museum is vast and also has one of the best gift shops.
Food and Coffee - always high on the agenda!
We ate in several diners, Big Daddy's being a favourite with its totally authentic décor and generous portions, we also loved the calm relaxing atmosphere of Fika coffee shops, you can find these all around New York and they have the most delicious selection of chocolates.
No visit is complete without a walk in Central Park which was quite different to I expected, it's not flat like London Parks, it's hilly with large rocks scattered around it, I even caught a glimpse of Big Bird!
After seven days together we were all still speaking, we walked more than 50 miles, saw some amazing sights and ate some delicious food.
New York is a great place to celebrate – good choice Charlotte!
If you have any top tips for places to visit in New York please leave them in the comment box below.