Although I came to the UK to mainly explore Europe, even I couldn’t ignore the pull of Black Friday sales and being only six hours from New York. So as a birthday treat to myself I booked five days in Manhattan in January to try and get as much of my NYC bucket list ticked off as possible.
The flight over was fairly uneventful, although I’ve learnt to not bother prepaying for food on a Norwegian Air flight (unless of course you enjoy paying £25 for crappy sandwiches). I sat next to a lovely fellow nerd from New Jersey and we had a good chat about Doctor Who and Torchwood. When we landed it took ages to get through customs, so when I got to the hotel I crashed straight away.
The next morning I had a long list of great coffee shops and cafes to get through, all recommended to me by a good friend who used to live in New York, so I got up early and went in search of Hole in the Wall Coffee on Fifth Avenue for a latte and a croissant (which was amazing). Next on the agenda was the Empire State Building. It was a freezing day but perfectly clear, and I spent about an hour up there admiring the skyline.
Continuing my quest to eat my way through the city, I walked up to Times Square and had a massive stack of blueberry pancakes in an old school American diner. For the rest of the afternoon I wandered around Central Park, paid my respects to John Lennon, then wandered back to the hotel to get ready for Sleep No More.
If you haven’t heard of Sleep No More I suggest you google it right now. In a nutshell it’s a fully immersive production of Macbeth (with a bit of Rebecca thrown in), set in the fictional McKittrick Hotel over six levels and takes about three hours to get through the whole thing. All the audience wear creepy plague masks and aren’t allowed to speak, and then you’re set loose in the hotel to make your own way through the story. If you want to stay in one place and let the action come to you, you can. Others chose an actor to follow around, and would literally run after them through the sets.
It was all incredibly detailed – from psych wards, doctor’s offices, to techno witches, to a graveyard, hedge mazes, bedrooms and a ballroom for the final scenes – you could spend hours just admiring the effort that’s been put in. I spent most of my time wandering around at my own pace and watching the action as it passed, and even got a special one on one performance after I was kicked off the elevator on my own at the start of the night.
It’s very strange to describe, and I don’t want to spoil too much, but it was an amazing experience and I would fly back to New York tomorrow to go again!
I spent the next couple of days during the usual touristy things – Staten Island Ferry, Trinity Church, Wall Street, Battery Park, Brooklyn Bridge, New York Public Library, Radio City Music Hall – as well as some not so touristy like the High Rise in Chelsea, the Morgan Library and the amazing Strand bookstore. And of course in proper New York style on the day of my birthday I bought a cake from Magnolia Bakery and went to a show on Broadway – Arthur Miller’s A View From the Bridge, starring one of my favourite actors Mark Strong.
One unexpected thing that popped up on my last couple of days was getting stuck in the middle of the Jonas Blizzard. I know it was an incredible inconvenience for regular people, but I had never seen proper snow before so I was loving it. I wandered around for as long as I could stand the cold, grinning like a little kid and playing in the snow. It was so beautiful and peaceful – I mean how often do you get to wander around a virtually empty New York?
The next day the snow had stopped, but the city was still a lot quieter than it usually would be. I walked up to Central Park again and watched as everyone was either tobogganing or building snowmen, and tried and failed to avoid stepping into slush puddles or fall over on black ice. Then that was that and I had to go back to reality. I had a blast and can’t wait to go back!
Listening to: Bruce Springsteen
Watching: Resident Evil
Reading: The Girl on the Train
Current man-crush: Oded Fehr