Planning a journey is one of the most exciting tasks coming by around summer and I’ve always loved all the hype that comes from visiting a new place, sunglasses on and free from the busy everyday life. Until uni I used to be the one organising trip schedules and transfers while travelling with friends (no complains about visiting museums accepted, though!) and I totally was the one buying travel guides and reading them through obsessively. Today time is a lot less and I have learnt to let things go, partly planned and partly rustled up, also enjoying when someone else offers to plan for me. Nonetheless, I’m still the ‘travel bug’ that gets excited about a trip and, although I am a bit of a procrastinator sometimes, I love planning and researching when I know I’m visiting a new destination.
I have rambled about our American coast to coast trip quite enough during the past months, so I wasn’t going to talk about it much more other than maybe putting together a little eating guide of NYC (let me know if you guys would like it!). But then a friend asked me some advice about how we hit NYC in 5 days and how we lived the city so I thought it might be of interest to write a whole post about the journey itself, how we decided the plan and how we moved across America.
<A LITTLE DISCLAIMER BEFORE STARTING:
In my mind this was going to be a quick and easy post with many pictures, little descriptions and a lot of bullet points. But then I started writing and now that I am towards the end it’s getting to something like 7 pages… Ehm, ehm. I suppose I got caught in it. That’s why I’ll divide the whole article in 3 episodes so it doesn’t make anyone collapse into sleep.
Also, excuse me if the few pictures of me you’ll see will most be taken with my phone.. You see, I’m the official photographer of the couple which usually means little to no cool pictures of me at all while travelling. Lucky girl! Now, without further ado, let’s jump into it!>
LET’S TALK NUMBERS:
We travelled for 17 days (+ 1 unplanned – delayed flight & missed connection flight, yep!), took 6 flights, visited 5 states, hit 9 cities, stayed in 6 hotels + 1 flat and drove for more than 3300 km (2100 miles). How did we plan it all? Our first and foremost criteria for deciding where to go and how long for was the fact that two of our best friends where respectively living in New York and Plano (TX) at the time, thus there was no doubt we wanted to see them and spend as much time as possible with them, which immediately shaped the holiday on a different path than the classic Chicago – Los Angeles via Route 66.
This was also the first time we were visiting the States and we really wanted to get the best out of every second, so our initial – a little ambitious – coast to coast plan was to start from NYC, move down south towards Washington and Florida and then head west through at least Texas, Arizona and Nevada and finally reach California. Of course we knew that 17 days were not even slightly enough to get to each destination so we decided for a couple of compromises:
- Cover long distances by plane
- Downsize the number of destinations
- Use Texas as a little break in between the two major moments of NY and West countries
- Accept the fact that with so many stops we would only be able to cherry-pick attractions – we consider it a first recon trip to fall in love with America (no wonder!) and plan our future adventures there
- Be prepared to sleep little and see a lot: where we hit we hit hard!
THE MAIN STOPS:
- New York
- Grand Canyon
- Las Vegas & Hoover Dam
- California (from south to north)
The city that never sleeps and the capital of the world – how to get to see everything in bare five days? Clearly impossible! What I did instead was an extensive research online on the best attractions, things we couldn’t miss out, peculiar routes and put everything on a list. I read a lot about the most important topics (bless destination websites, travel blogs and Wikipedia) and created my little hand-made guide, which combined with a classic travel guide book gathered a lot of info and anecdotes. Then, map at hand, I grouped everything I listed based on the location and I had the plan ready to go. Again, we knew we weren’t going to see each museum, each attraction and each neighborhood, so we chose what meant the most for us already mentally taking note a new trip to NY has to happen soon.
In terms of eating and shopping, I wanted to live the true spirit of the city rather than getting caught in the fast-food / souvenir shops situation, so I flicked through every possible blog and read what other travelers and locals tried and loved. Guess what: I came up with a super long list but we’ve definitely found some pretty gems both in terms of having the best breakfasts (and lunches and dinners!) as well as spending my fortunes hitting the shops, but with intention!
WHAT WE DIDN’T MISS OUT
– Starting from lower Manhattan, where we had our hotel, and working our way up north –
In LOWER MANHATTAN:
- Wall Street
- New York Stock Exchange
- the Charging Bull
- the Federal Reserve Bank
- World Financial Center
- National September 11 Memorial
- Trinity Church
- Brooklyn Bridge
- walk around the residential area across the bridge
LOWER EAST SIDE:
- Little Italy
SOHO and GREENWICH VILLAGE
We wandered around as a little break from monuments, peeking at the typical suburban streets and houses – six or seven stores, high ceilings and iron ladders crawling up facades ‘til the top. The perfect place to grasp the Sex & The City feeling that still fascinates many of us (and in fact, Carry Bradshaw’s flat is located at no 64 of Perry Street).
- Madison Square
- Flatiron Building
- New York Life Insurance Company
- Empire State Building: we visited at sunset time and enjoyed a breathtaking view directly from the 102nd It is expensive guys, but it’s well worth the purchase. It can get really packed though, so if you have a thing with photography, be prepared to get creative with exposure in a busy environment!
- Chelsea Market
- Madison Square Garden
- High Line
- Times Square
- New York Public Library
- Chrysler Building
- Grand Central Terminal
- 5th Avenue
- Trump Tower
- Patrick’s Cathedral
- Lotte Palace Hotel
- General Electric
- Lexington Avenue
- Waldorf-Astoria Hotel
- Plaza Hotel
- Dylan’s Candy Bar
– Yes, in my young days I have been a victim of Gossip Girl too –
In the UPPER EAST SIDE:
- Metropolitan Museum (and its famous stairs)
- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
We traversed it starting at about the height of the 85th Street and descended towards Plaza Hotel stopping to admire its numerous lakes, the Belvedere Castle, Bow Bridge, the Bethesda Fountain as well as the hundreds of New Yorkers that crowded the park on a Sunday afternoon, someone reading, others playing, girls making giant soap bubbles for kids and newlyweds taking pictures under the Bethesda Terrace. Ice cream was a must here too!
We took a nice, chilled walk in this colourful and quite neighborhood while trying to attend a Gospel mass. We didn’t manage to, so that’s back on my to-do list for next time.
The last morning, with our flight taking off in the late afternoon, we took a boat tour on the Hudson and saw the island from afar. We greeted the Statue of Liberty, crossed the city’s bridges and realized “skyscraper” isn’t just nickname in New York where buildings are so tall that, on rainy days, their ends disappear in the soft fog of clouds crowding the grey sky.
SOME SHOPS I PUT MY EYES ON:
- Sephora US (beauty)
- Shops in Korea Town (beauty)
- Paper Presentation (stationery)
- MUJI (stationery)
- Paper Station (stationery)
Left New York, there we were in Texas, ready for a warm welcome and the chilled atmosphere of the Lone Star State. While we slowed down from the fast-paced rhythms of the city and recovered from the jetlag, we spread our knowledge across three directions: cowboys, science and food (eeehaa!).
- Forth Worth
- Grand Prairie Outlet
- Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center – Houston (N.A.S.A.)
- Shops around
To be honest we had actually planned to visit Dallas and a ranch too, but again, we didn’t want to rush the whole stay. And it’s been a wise choice considered the all-in-one-day 10 hours drive that took us from Plano to Houston and back to visit the N.A.S.A. Space Center, which put us to the test quite enough as well (but of course, skipping N.A.S.A. was not an option for my pal although I have tried to convince him). So, not having too much stuff on the plate ended up with missing a couple of stops, but all in all we’re still very happy about our mid-holiday relaxing discovery of Texas.
WORTH A VISIT IF YOU’RE INTO LOCAL RESTAURANT (LUNCH/DINNER):
– and when I say local I mean big big steaks and spectaculars BBQs –
- Hard Eight Pit BBQ in Coppell
- Billy Bobs Texas in Forth Worth
- La Hacienda Ranch in North Dallas
- Sprinkles Cupcake ATM in Plano (and in Dallas, Houston & Austin too!)
PH LILY’S COLOURS
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