Last updated on June 21st, 2021; Published on August 1st, 2019
I have always wanted to visit New York for as long as I can remember. I wanted the see the city that inspired or served as a location for some of my favourite movies, music and TV shows. Thankfully, my chance to do so came this past June when Mark and I embarked on a three week holiday across five states in the US. The first stop on our itinerary was New York City and I was really excited to be there.
Going through Immigration…
Once we arrived, we went through immigration. While Mark went through pretty quickly, I had to stay in a really long line for about an hour. I’m not a big fan of immigration control anywhere in the world. It probably has to do with my passport but I almost always get jittery every time I have to pass through.
I have been through immigration in the US once before, during my visit to Houston, Texas in 2014 and that was pretty intense. There were dogs sniffing bags at the airport and armed officers parading the area. To make matters worse for me, a security officer pulled me aside because of something they had found in my bag! I had brought several packets of chicken flavoured noodles with me for my stay. I thought they’d send me back home after that but they had allowed me entry after confiscating the food items.
At the JFK airport in New York, the atmosphere was less intense and intimidating but the immigration officers were no less so. For a split second, I thought again, that I would be denied entry and sent back home. But you’ve all seen the pictures, I wasn’t. 🙂 They let me in and Mark and I went on to have 4 wonderful adventure-filled days in New York City.
Day 1 in New York – Grand Central Terminal, Manhattan, Times Square & Dress Shopping 🙂
Once we were through with immigration, we rode on the AirTrain from the airport into the city. We got our tickets for the subway and decided to head out to Manhattan while waiting to check in to our Airbnb. Our first stop after grabbing a quick bite was the Grand Central Terminal.
The terminal hall was like a beautiful minimalist art gallery – with a lot of people. I loved it! I thought the murals on the ceiling were gorgeous and I loved seeing the stores within the terminal building. After hanging out there for a bit, we left and headed out to see other parts of Manhattan, making stops at a few parks, food trucks, stores (in search of the perfect wedding guest dress) and finally Times Square.
Times Square was just how I pictured it to be. Busy, bright and very flashy. Mark had planned for us to visit twice so I could see it during the day and at night. It reminded me of the Jemaa el-Fnaa square in Marrakesh which also took a different outlook depending on the time of day.
We capped our day at Times Square and headed to our Airbnb afterwards. Then we woke up the next day to do it all over again.
Day 2 – Staten Island, Manhattan, One World Trade Center, Brooklyn
We began our second day bright and early by taking the free ferry to Staten Island. We had decided to skip the tour to Ellis Island and just simply enjoy the views across the Upper New York Bay. From the ferry, we could see the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island and the beautiful skyline of Manhattan.
Our next stop after the ride to and from Staten Island was the One World Trade Center. We grabbed some food items from Whole Foods for a breakfast picnic and hung out around the tower grounds. Being at the 9/11 Memorial was a sombre and emotional experience for us. I can imagine it was even more so for Mark.
As we walked around, quietly observing the names engraved on the memorial, fresh memories of the tragic events that occurred about 18 years ago came to mind. Every American can remember where they were and exactly what they were doing when the attacks happened, Mark told me.
We took a moment to reflect. I thought about how intense security in New York was. About the airport and the coast guards that followed every Staten Island ferry. At first, these had a counter effect on me because, rather than making me feel safe, seeing that level of security made me worry more about our safety. But after we visited the 9/11 Memorial, I got a new sense of appreciation for the details put in place to ensure that this tragic event never happens again.
We left the One WTC and popped into the Occulus to try once again to look for a dress for the wedding. I enjoyed being in the dove-shaped building and popping into a few stores to try on dresses. Unfortunately, I still couldn’t find ‘The dress’. We then decided to take a break from sightseeing and dress searching to go try the famous New York Pizza and to meet up with my friend, Fola, who was on her way out of NY.
I’m not a big fan of Pizza but I thoroughly enjoyed the one we had at Saluggi’s. Our waiter also told us that we looked like New Yorkers. I interpreted this to mean we were extremely fashionable and artistic people. So, yes, I definitely enjoyed having pizza there. We met up with Fola after that and then took a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Once we got off the bridge, we made another attempt to find the perfect dress. This time, we were successful! To celebrate, we went to have dinner at a lovely French restaurant on the Upper West Side. We found Amelie Wine Bar and ducked in just as it was about to rain and this restaurant was a gem. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was quite delightful.
To top the experience off, we found out that our waiter had moved to the US from Togo. He was equally excited to learn we were travelling from Nigeria and had also visited Togo before. Might have been my imagination, but I could have sworn he topped our glasses with a little extra wine 🙂
And so Day 2 ended on a high – literally!
Day 3 – Central Park, Museum of Natural History, NY Street Food, Colombia & Harlem
Day 3 began with food, lots of it. First, we stopped by a food truck to get what I thought for several days was a New York bagel. Apparently, it was a bun but in my defence, it had been sliced when Mark handed it to me.
Anyway, we went ahead to Pick a Bagel to get an actual bagel – which was delicious. Then we went to Central Park.
Central Park was a highlight for me. I would never have imagined that such a busy city would have that much space allocated for a park. We walked around for quite some time, watched some street performers and just simply enjoyed the scenery.
After our time there, we walked across the road into the Museum of Natural History where the fascinating exhibitions left me astounded. I would admit though, that I was quite mortified to learn that the animals exhibited in the museum were real, killed and preserved through taxidermy. I’ve read that the museum has since discontinued this. Once I was able to get over that, I did have a wonderful time here, poking fun at the theory of evolution and dabbling into conspiracy theories about dinosaurs just to annoy Mark!
We indulged in more street food after spending a few hours at the museum. Then we took a train to Columbia to see the university where Mark went to school at. After that, we walked down to Harlem where we had dinner at an Ivorian restaurant. We ended the day after stopping by two more restaurants in Harlem to have drinks and ice cream. Legend has it that I am still shaking off all the calories I racked up from day 3 alone!
Day 4 – Times Square, Phantom of the Opera Play
Day four was pretty relaxed – sightseeing wise. I was meeting Mark’s Parents for the first time and the nerves were setting in. So, in that sense, it wasn’t very relaxing for me, haha. Turned out I had nothing to worry about. I’ll try not to gush too much about them here 🙂
They met up with us at a local pub, then took us out to dinner at Sardi’s, a lovely Italian restaurant in the city. Sardi’s is famous for its collection of caricature images of celebrities that adorn its walls, among other things. We had a wonderful dinner there and when we were leaving, I held up the door for someone who unbeknownst to me, was Ben Vereen. That was officially my first celebrity sighting in the US. Mark and I later watched David Spade perform live at the Comedy Store in LA. (Name dropping, haha!)
After dinner, we went to see a play on Broadway. (I’m still so excited that I can say that I saw a play on Broadway!) We saw the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ in the most magnificent theatre I have ever seen. It was a well-produced phenomenon and I loved every minute of it!
And with that, our stay in New York came to an end. Mark’s parents drove us to their home in New Jersey, where we spent a day before driving off to the wedding in Maryland…
Our travel costs and trip breakdown for our stay in New York City is coming up next in this series. In case you missed the first part, you can catch up here.