Samuel whitaker

English Literature & Film Studies Graduate – Food- Coffee – Film

New York

New York, New York a city that big and bold they named it twice. I’ve been here for almost two weeks now and I’d be lying if I were to say this city hasn’t stolen my heart. It truly is incredible and you really have to see it to believe it.

I’m currently typing this post from my hotels open rooftop, sat in the sun with cookies and coffee. Sure is good for a Friday afternoon. I was on the subway this morning heading across town to the Chelsea Market to grab some fresh olives and it suddenly hit me; holy moly I’m still yet to deliver a blog post from across the pond. This lead to me facing a minor dilemma, do I either type up the events of the last two weeks separately or do I risk overwhelming the reader with a ton of content that they may potentially find themselves getting bored of. Purely for your benefit I opted for the latter, so apologies in advance if you find yourselves getting a little bored. Just joking #sorrynotsorry.


So I feel Sunday evening is a logical place to begin this posting. Spending the first week in the city with the boi’s Phil and Carl we’d not long checked into the hotel before heading down the block to locate the nearest Starbucks. I was seeking a medium sized Americano from the corner of the street and I wasn’t willing to pay anymore than $3.00… that’s when we met Sasha and Cinnamon. Joking aside I was in complete an utter awe, there we were three small town Brits walking the streets of New York in amongst these astonishingly tall tower blocks, and I know it’s gonna sound dumb but I was seriously taken back by the American accents that echoed around the city. Because you know, you’d never expect to hear an American accent in New York City would you? Sunday night was rather chilled, we walked around town for a while readjusting to the profound landscape before settling down in a lovely little beer garden situated in Union Square, beside the Flatiron Building.

Monday morning is where the adventure truly begins, we walked a couple of streets down 7th Avenue entering into Times Square. Carl had been here before, but Phil and I were witnessing the daytime city rush of Times Square for the first time and I can honestly say it was genuinely one of the most breathtaking sights I think I’ve ever seen, extremely captivating. After wondering around the Disney store and demolishing a humongous McDonalds we headed over to W77th street near Central Park and got tickets to enter the American Museum of Natural History, which is the same museum Ben Stiller escapes the ginormous T-Rex in the ‘Night at the Museum’ trilogy. On that note, I feel the highlight of the museum experience was grabbing a photo next to the Easter Island head statue; better known as ‘Dum Dum’ in the film series. Albeit the Natural History Museum was an incredible experience; the 4D Space cinematic show was superb and the Theodore Roosevelt statues were very cool, not forgetting the stuffed animal displays and dinosaur remains exhibited around the museum. At least I hope they were stuffed. We ended the first day in New York with a wander round Times Square in the evening, which was equally as alluring and even more magical as the lights were much brighter and more prominent during the night time. Finishing up in diner themed food chain Applebee’s, we strolled back to the hotel and it was officially confirmed – New York really is the city that doesn’t sleep.

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What better way to start a Tuesday morning than with a big calorific, mouthwatering American breakfast… rashers of bacon, scrambled eggs, hash browns and huge strawberry cheesecake pancakes… neatly served up at the iHop down on 2nd Avenue. Still stuffed from the breakfast we headed over to Battery Park, situated just below Wall Street on the lower east side of the city. In addition to offering stunning views and a beautiful wildlife park vibe, The Battery is also the ferry departure point for folks heading out to visit the Statue of Liberty. Luckily for us we were heading across sea to Liberty Island. Liberty Island was extraordinary and offered some beautiful views of the city, as well as the statue itself. Nobody could’ve prepared me for the stunning Manhattan views from the top of the statue, it really was fascinating. Afterwards we hopped back on the ferry and went across to Ellis Island, situated across the water from Liberty island. Not only does Ellis Island offer charming gardens, but it is also home to the enthralling Ellis Island Immigration Museum. The museum is a stunning building, but also includes a lot of information about the counties past. Following a shaky ferry ride back, we walked up towards Wall Street, unfortunately I was unable to capture a shot of the Charging Bull by itself; so excuse the random people in the shot. We’ll just go ahead and name them Daniel and Betty for arguments sake. A short walk around the valiant Wall Street lead us up on Greenwich Street which is where you’ll find the World Trade Center and the two stunning memorial pools. Admittedly it had been a long day and the New York sky’s were getting darker, making for some incredible views and shot opportunities of the the World Trade Center and memorial pools.

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I understand this is going to sound lame, particularly seeing as I’m in a city that is extremely famous for its fast food… but heck there’s only so many burgers and fries a guy can handle. So in search for something a little healthier we found ourselves prowling the lower Manhattan streets of Chinatown and what an enchanting little outing that was. We stumbled across a traditional Asian restaurant, I couldn’t resist trying some Chinese tea… which was quite smooth, but not a patch on Twinnings. Food wise I tried some of the best Chicken Chow Mein I’ve ever tasted, Carl had Squid noodles and Phil was quakers about his Duck noodle dish. As we walked out into the reception of the restaurant, I couldn’t help but notice there was something a little fishy going on. A few blocks up from Chinatown was Little Italy, which was the perfect location to chill with a beer in the 27degree heat before getting wonderfully lost on the bridge heading out to the Bronx on the way back. What can I say, got some stunning graffiti shots! That afternoon was somewhat emotional and unsettling as we entered the 9/11 memorial museum, although it’s incredibly touching it is also a beautiful tribute to the victims of the attacks and the towers themselves. I would definitely recommend the tour if you’re in town. A few blocks east on 6th st we spent the evening in a Tim Burton themed cocktail bar which is was extremely quirky and very impressive for film and cocktail fanatics alike. The Sweeney Todd character actor was simply the cherry on the icing.

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I’m extremely grateful and amazed at the beautiful weather we had whilst in New York, particularly seeing as were entering Fall here in the States. Nevertheless the sun was the perfect opportunity to explore Central Park, and what a charming place that is. So tranquil and calm, the delightful lakes and stately tress provide an element of security to this remarkable park. The horse and carriages, ‘The Notebook’ style rowing boats and Alice in Wonderland statues release a magical tone to this peaceful vortex of organic pleasure. We also had the pleasure of meeting some turtles as well as checking out a couple of the movie sets in the New York area. The sets include; the friends apartment block on Bedford St, the Ghostbusters fire house on Franklin St and the overpowering Plaza hotel on 5th Avenue featured in Home Alone 2. However the highlight of the day for me was enjoying a pint of Blue Moon in the McGee’s bar, also known as the How I Met Your Mother bar. Thursday evening was slightly de ja vu, we wound up in the Tim Burton bar again, this time eating though and I have to say the Sticky BBQ Sauce Chicken wings were to die for. Truly tremendous.

Wow Friday was a jam packed day, not only did we hit the Rockefeller Centre, we also checked out the Empire State Building too. It would be fair to say we spent the day in the skies checking out the daunting daytime skyline and the magical nighttime skyline. Although it wasn’t all spent up on the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building, we also spent the morning touring the Rockefeller centre which consists of 19 high pride commercial buildings, as well as 22 acres of land… pretty big huh? This includes various studios such as 30 rock and NBC, as well as Radio City Music Hall and of course the world famous Rockefeller Plaza. Between visiting the two high-rise landmarks we went to the equally famous Hard Rock Cafe located in Times Square, which is pretty awesome by the way and allowed me to break the short lived healthy eating routine! The Empire State Building is separated into three main floors, you have the 80th floor which is pretty much a museum, then you have the 86th open air observation deck which allowed me to take these stunning shots, then there is the observatory deck on the 102nd floor which is good actually and offered some fine views at the later hour of 00:30am. Remember when I said it’s the city that never sleeps?

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Saturday, now Saturday was an odd day as it was Carl and Phil’s last full day in the city, although they were here for a majority of Sunday, but be patient we shall get into that in a moment. We spent most of Saturday releasing our inner-child in Times Square hitting the majestic stores like M&Ms. Before we could go to the AMC cinema in Times Square to watch Kingsman: The Golden Circle, me and Phil had one last mission and that was to take Carl’s Five Guys virginity. That’s correct Five Guys on a Saturday, he’s pretty eager, right? Just kidding I’m talking about the burger joint here. Slight side note before hopping onto Sunday, Kingsman was incredible and I’d definitely recommend the IMAX experience!

Right, Sunday… where do I begin here? It was supposed to be a stress free day, the guys were planning on spending the afternoon in Starbucks whilst I headed across town to my new hotel on E51st st, 3rd Avenue. For the record our current hotel was situated on W27th st, Broadway… so there like 45 minutes and 24 streets apart from one another, but that’s all cool because I was gonna get the subway so I’d be there in minutes. I left Carl and Phil in Starbucks and planned to meet them in The Smith, a restaurant located on the corner of Broadway at around 4pm, please bare in mind they were getting a taxi to JFK at 5pm. So it’s now 2pm, I’ve checked out the Broadway Plaza, I have my case, I’m wearing my nice warm winter jacket in the 26degree heat and to top it off I’m carrying my Ted Baker man bag which is nicely weighed down with the tourist garbage I’ve come to cluster over the past week. It’s fair to say I’m fucking roasting and to top it off I’ve just been kindly informed by the kind member of staff at the subway I was about to get on the wrong line. Being optimistic I figured it’ll be okay, I’ll walk it. That’s right, I walked it. 24 streets in the boiling hot sun, but it was all good I had google maps on my iPhone, what could possibly go wrong… it’s not like I’ve got 4% battery to last 45 minutes is it? Daring huh? On the plus side, I had absolutely no clue where I was walking to and the cherry on the bullshit, the nicely laid out sheet with the hotel address on… that was neatly tucked away below a pile of shirts and pants in the oversized suitcase I was dragging through Times Square one curb at a time. I look up I’m on 47th Street, I’ve walked 20 blocks already… my feet are sore, my phone is dead… but hey only another 4 streets to go huh? You just gotta keep moving forwards. This glass half full approach lasted all of ten seconds, I looked down and I’d lost a wheel from my case. Shit. But it’s all good, focus… move forwards. I look up I’m now on 50th Street, nearly there. I look up once more and I’m now on 51st Street, the second wheel is clinging on and I’m feeling good. I walk a little further and I’m there, I’ve arrived at the hotel. It’s now 3pm, I check in, grab my free wine coupons, Christ I needed a glass of something and I head up to my room on floor 9. I charge my cell and it comes back to life, things are finally looking up. I get it to 20% and I head back downstairs. It’s now 15:30, I’m meeting the guys at 4ish if I head across on the metro I’ll be in the bar for 15:50, I’m somehow nailing it. The case is screwed, but I’m all good. For now. The metro system is a little odd, unlike the London tube system the subway runs via a letter coding, now I want to get to 51st Street… according to the City Mapper app I want to get on the ‘R’ line, so I confidentially head to the platform. I’ve changed from my sweat drenched shirt into a loose breezy t-shirt and it’s all gonna be good. The train comes in, I hop on. I look across at the kind faced lady sat beside the door, she’s wearing a blouse with a blazer… business like. She’ll be a safe bet for reassurance huh? “This is heading to 51st Street right?” She shakes her head “Uh uh honey, this is heading to Queens”. Shit. I have no other choice, I’m gonna have to get off at Queens and head back uptown, I was so damn fixated on the ‘R’ I forgot the whole ‘uptown’ and ‘downtown’ system. I feel that cold sweat return once more, I really thought it had left me in Times Square. My breath goes short, my voice stutters and my British accent becomes more apparent. I feel my stomach sink and it hits me, I’m alone, I’m on a train with strangers, with no clue where I’m heading and I feel like a fish out of fucking water. I glance around, everyone is staring, it’s like my fear is transcending down the carriage and then suddenly it hits me I have 40minutes till the guys leave the city. Then it’s me, just me. What have I so boldly dived into? I question my choices, I begin to feel a little frightened and somewhat insecure about my decisions. Pause. The train pulls into Queens. I get off. I stand still, slightly panicked. Groups rush past, I’m sweating heaps… I have two choices here. I either panic and crack or I figure out a way out of this mess, I grab my phone… it’s at 7% I somehow manage to navigate my way across town. I take a deep breath, bite my bottom lip and head up to the higher tier platform. Still unsure whether or not I’m on the right path, I take a gamble I hop onto the ‘R’ line. I pull my phone out and it’s dead. I panic for a slight second before pulling into Lexington Avenue, I’m heading the right way. I breathe again. It’s gonna be okay. I don’t know how I managed it and I can’t put into words the notion of relief I felt when I walked up the subway steps to discover I’d miraculously stumbled onto the right street. I see The Smith on the corner. I walked in and there they are, Phil and Carl. I managed to catch them in time, twenty minutes later they were gone and reality kicked in, I was alone in one of the wildest cities on earth.

The darkness of the night kicks in and the hours pass, Monday morning crawls up on me and the fear and insecurities of traveling alone begin to fade and the adrenaline begins to kick in. I walk to the sink and pour a glass of water, I sit up in bed and flip on the news. The headlines read ‘Mass shooting in Vegas’, ‘the biggest shootout in American History’ my head begins to cloud over and the fear makes a bashful return. I’m officially alone in a country that’s tackling terrorism, shootouts, what the hell am I doing? I begin to feel a little anxious, fragile, vulnerable. I flick the kettle, make a cup of tea. Then it hits me, the only way I’m gonna tackle this element of anxiety is by getting showered, dressed and leaving the hotel. I switch off the TV set and that’s exactly what I do. I walk across town to Grand Central and photograph the stunning widespread entrance, I then walk uptown to the New York Public Library. As I walk up the historic staircase, I suddenly begin to feel taken in by the beauty and character of this periodic building, it really is fascinating and genuinely feels like you’re stepping back in time. Being a literature geek, I felt a little at home and relaxed amongst the vast charm surrounding the courageous halls. I exit the library at midday and begin to walk a couple of blocks. That’s the moment I notice that nothings changed from yesterday or the day before, everyone is just getting on with their day to day life in the big apple. It’s working, I feel my doubts numbing and that feeling of excitement return. I’m now stood on Gansevoort Street, I’ve been walking for hours. I notice I’m near The High Line. I recognised the name as an old Costa customer had recommended it to me months before my trip, I see the steps and I decide to walk up. Before I know where I am, I find myself stood on this old elevated railway line that has since been converted into a beautiful garden pathway overlooking Manhattan. I take a deep breath, taking in the sea air that’s blowing over from the nearby piers. I look around, I see humans, strangers, people just pondering around and living. I put my earphones in, turn on the music and just walk. As I take in the stunning views that surround me I begin to realise that I’m living in the moment and my glass half full attitude returns, it’s going to be okay. I continue to walk along through this New York jungle and photograph the beautiful views. When I reach the end of the High Line I notice I’m on 12th Avenue which is minutes away from the beautiful piers overlooking the Hudson River and the west side of the city. I have a walk down and rest on one of the park benches on Pier 66, I look up at the clear blue sky and across at the park; I see children running with ice creams, New Yorkers jogging, Mothers pushing prams, couples walking hand in hand, business men with Starbucks and suddenly it hits me, none of us know what the hell we’re doing here and it’s a frightening concept I guess, that’s emphasised when you’re alone and so far away from home ground. But there’s actually a real comfort in that, sure none of us know what we’re doing here but we’re all just figuring it out together and it is that innocence and uncertainty that unites us all and that connection is really captured within a city that is as diverse as New York. Upon reflection, I think it was that sunny Monday afternoon in the park where I let the initial traveling nerves sail off into the Hudson, I was no longer gonna let my fears dictate my behaviour, because that would be selling myself real short, huh?

It’s strange really, I’m finally getting the hang of this whole avenues, streets and blocks ball game. I find that the more I walk around these streets the more comfortable I feel, the more I’m blending in and becoming another face in the crowd. The less I’m checking google maps, in fact the less I’m checking my phone at all. So many people have a habit of blinking and missing the moment because they’re too fixated on reading some trashy Instagram post or opening a snapchat, it’s kinda scary. The World is a big beautiful place and sometimes you’ve just gotta open those big eyes and take it all in. So in an attempt to find something only a New Yorker would know about, I stumbled across the New York City tramway which goes straight across town, right over the river and into Roosevelt Island. I had to get over the fear of the subway somehow, right? The Roosevelt Island is located in between Brooklyn and Manhattan and whilst there’s not a lot going on there, in fact it’s very much a desolated island, the views are incredible. There’s even squirrels there too. I got back onto dry land shortly after 2pm and drifted into the lively Times Square, this time I was standing still though and really digesting it all, Times Square is amazing, but in reality it’s really just a huge commercialised vacuum that sucks you in. I expect you’re wondering what I was in line for? A Big Mac? Dinner reservation? No Broadway tickets. Tickets for Chicago to be precise and to my surprise I actually managed to pick some up for that evening and they were good seats too. After standing in line I stumbled into McDonald’s for a nice big ass burger. It’s true what they say, you’re never any more than two minutes away from a burger in New York. They don’t actually say that, but it sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? And it’s probably true. With a few hours to kill I headed over to Macy’s which is a big department store in NYC… Similar to Debenhams. I was in search of a new suitcase after aggressively beating my previous one to death. I believe ‘death by curb’ is the real definition. $200 later I was walking through Times Square with a case for the second time in a week, sure it was a pricey mistake… but with the amount of bloody tax you have to pay out here, I was past caring. Seriously this place demands tax for everything, you even have to pay for a bloody conversation, I’d dared not get Tinder here… they probably have Tinder Tax too. The excitement of my new case soon faded and I soon found myself sat on the hotels rooftop bar, which by the way has become my second home in the last few days. There’s nothing more satisfying than sitting with a glass of wine and watching the world go by, a moment made even more satisfying when you’re eagerly awaiting Chicago. So Chicago was amazing and the whole Broadway tone was excellent.


So it’s now a little later on Friday night and I’m currently sat on the rooftop sipping a can of Budweiser and eating Chinese takeout, which is so good. The orange coated sesame chicken is divine. I guess I’ve just spent my last day in New York recovering from the fast pace of the last two weeks and of course yesterday’s Comic Con. As amazing as Comic Con was, I don’t really have a lot to say about it other than the fact that I dressed as Deadpool and met lots of cool, quirky individuals who just so happened to be wearing some awesome costumes! So yeah shortly I’m gonna stop waffling on and let you enjoy flicking through some Comic Con photos. But I’m gonna end on this note, living as a New Yorker for two weeks has allowed me to become somewhat observational and in a world where most people work so hard at being someone they’re not, I’m happy to be myself and be self aware, sure I’ve got a couple of flaws but one mans flaws are another mans quirks and that’s the beautiful thing about perspective. I’ve come to realise that two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different, so open those eyes and start seeing the magic of the world. I’ll hopefully be posting more frequently, so until next time, see y’all later.

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