We spent a couple of days after our wedding soaking up the last moments with our families before saying goodbye. Although I always hate goodbyes, this time felt different since we were all still on a high from the celebrations. We’re also planning a trip back to the UK at the end of the year and it certainly seems to help having a date in the diary for the next visit.
Another big thing keeping us from feeling too sad was that we were due to fly to the states for our honeymoon!
In contrast to the relative ease of choosing a wedding venue, we struggled to decide on a honeymoon location. There were just so many places on our collective list and we toyed with them all over the course of last winter:
A multi-city Japanese adventure was at the top of our list and although we kept returning to the idea, it felt like the kind of trip we would need to be full of energy for, which we didn’t expect to be after the excitement of the few weeks proceeding our wedding.
We dreamed of an island getaway to Tahiti but quickly realised that we could probably only manage a few days of dreaming before we got itchy feet. We are city people at heart and our ideal honeymoon would include our morning ritual of getting coffee together.
As gelato fans the Amalfi Coast was obviously in the running, but it was important to both of us that we jet off straight after the wedding in early March – a little too early in the season to get the full experience.
After months of deliberating, the decision was surprisingly easy when the right place came to mind. Oliver and his brother were visiting their grandparents in Adelaide when he text me after watching the movie Sully that he couldn’t wait to visit New York together one day. As a favourite place of both of ours, but one we had not yet had the chance to explore together, it was suddenly the obvious choice and we were sold. Although March is technically the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere, we knew it would be pretty chilly so decided to tack on a few days in Hawaii on the way home to warm up.
Other than being one of the best cities in the world, New York proved to be a no-stress honeymoon option; once our flights and accommodation were booked we didn’t need to plan a thing more. Certainly a benefit when also wedding planning!
So with that, we boarded our flight as newlyweds. Destination: New York City
After back-to-back 10 hour flights, with five hours killing time (napping) and a reluctant Starbucks flat white at Honolulu airport, we landed at JFK on a cold, rainy Tuesday morning. We were too excited to be bothered by the weather as we drove into Manhattan and towards our hotel, The Intercontinental Barclay in Midtown. Due to our early morning arrival, we weren’t able to check into our room for a few hours, but needed to refuel before we could venture outside. We settled in at the Intercontinental’s beautifully decadent Gin Parlour for hot drip coffee and bagels, which were presented with smoked salmon and capers on a tiered plate stand with worthy of an English afternoon tea. We couldn’t wait any longer, so we wrapped up and headed out to get our bearings.
Our Midtown location was perfect for our anti-itinerary of wandering and exploring for the next couple of weeks. Located only a couple of blocks from Grand Central Terminal, we headed there first to admire the zodiac ceiling in the main concourse and for me it was the first moment of realisation that after months of talking about it, I was in New York City with my new husband.
A short walk across 5th Avenue, we ducked into the New York Public Library to escape the drizzle and check out the Lou Reed exhibition. The stunning marble building with study rooms straight out of a movie almost made me wish I was had something to study. Almost. It had stopped raining by the time we left so we checked out Bryant Park, one of my favourite green spaces in the city, before heading back to our hotel to finally shower and rest up after our long journey.
Refreshed and unpacked, we strolled over to Times Square to check out the lights and keep jet lag at bay. Needing a sweet fix on the way home, we ended up back at Grand Central and ventured underground where we found Shake Shack. I was very happy to introduce Oliver to their concretes – a vanilla frozen custard mixed with malt, chocolate crunchies and toffee – which we demolished on the way home.
Maybe I was physically exhausted from the last few weeks, or it might have been the marshmallowy luxury of our hotel bed, but I managed to sleep in until 9am on that first morning.
We made our way downtown from 48th through Washington State Park to Jack’s Wife Freda for brunch. As soon as we stepped through the vestibule in the cafe, we were struck by the warmth and the welcoming atmosphere. The fun illustrated menu was so mouthwatering that I pre-ordered their new cookbook as soon as we got home to Sydney. Oliver opted for the Madame Freda – their signature twist on the French classic that substituted ham with duck prosciutto – while I couldn’t pass up Maya’s seasonal grain bowl. We were both pretty smug about our choices, and the fact that we had found good coffee.
It was a beautiful day, the sky clear blue and the sun shining so we meandered through SoHo and south towards the One World Observatory which we had spotted standing proud from miles off. On floors 100-102 of the new One World Trade Center, the observatory has the most spectacular views of the city and the building itself, a feeling of hopeful defiance. As we looked out across the five boroughs, I was struck by the overwhelming sense of positivity and beauty in a place of great tragedy.
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum, built directly underneath the original Twin Towers, is a moving tribute to those who lost their lives in that every spot in 2001. The impact of the attacks were felt worldwide and I left with a deeper respect for the people of New York, who were all obviously impacted directly.
Needing to take time to absorb our thoughts following everything we had seen and read, we began the long walk uptown. As Oliver paused to capture a mural that caught his eye, a septuagenarian in a smart trench stopped him to comment on the rarity of seeing a ‘real camera’ in the era of the smartphone. We got to chatting and spent the next hour learning about a New York-born, Jewish attorney named Iva.
Our mood somewhat lightened by the wise, yet surprising, older gentleman, we ducked into Dos Caminos in SoHo for an early dinner. I had been introduced to their guacamole and margaritas by Lucy a few years ago and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see if it lived up to my memory. It did! The blue skies had turned to darkness while we’d feasted and we stumbled across a march to mark International Women’s Day as we crossed Washington State Park, made all the more impressive given the backdrop of the Empire State Building lit in pink for the occasion. We joined the march for a moment before stopping to grab dessert of a under the marquee lighting in Madison Square Park. DAY THREE
Living in Sydney we are pretty spoilt when it comes to good coffee and I admit we can be a bit snobby about it. Having accepted that we might not always find a flat white to live up to our morning brew, we were pleasantly surprised to find it around the corner from our hotel. Urbanspace reminded me of London’s food truck events, yet inside and minus the wheels! It immediately became our go-to coffee stop every morning and ensured that we didn’t have a bad coffee the whole trip.
The weather forecast threatened snow the th the coming days so we seized the comparably warm day and walked west along 34th against the wind tunnel coming off the Hudson to find the top of the High Line. A well-known success story of regeneration and an example of innovative urban design, the High Line provides a unique view of the city, from a disused elevated train track that runs between Chelsea warehouses to its conclusion in the Meatpacking District. Viewing auditoriums and wooden lounges along the way invited us to sit and take it in, which we did despite the chill.
Back on ground level, we stopped for juices at The Butcher’s Daughter, a vegetarian cafe with a New York meets Los Angeles vibe that calls itself a ‘vegetable slaughterhouse’. The juices were richly coloured and hearty, and the setting bright and fresh with an abundance of greenery trailing from the overhead pot rack.
We made our way to SoHo, via the stoops of Perry Street, and popped into Dominique Ansel Bakery on the off chance that they might not have sold out of their world famous cronuts. It was our lucky day! They switch up the flavour monthly and March’s creation was blackberry brown sugar with toffee, which we devoured in the sun trap courtyard out back. It was every bit as good as the hype, and although the croissant meets donut formula has been recreated in cities around the world, the original was the best I had tried.
After exploring the cobbled streets of SoHo, we picked up takeaway burgers, hot dogs, cheese fries and shakes from Shake Shack at Grand Central (that’s right, three visits in three nights) and ate our American feast in bed while watching American Psycho. The kind of indulgence you can only get away with on holiday! DAY FOUR
Despite weather warning being on the news all week, I was surprised to wake on Friday morning to snow falling softly outside our window. Disappointed it hadn’t settled, we wrapped up warm, braced ourselves against the icy wet flakes and took a subway to the Upper West Side. As we emerged from the subway steps at the Museum of Natural History, it took a few moments to believe my eyes…the museum grounds and trees were blanketed with snow and across the road, Central Park was a complete whiteout. The long-dead creatures in the museum could wait, we ran into the park to play. Other than at ski resorts, Oliver had never seen snow and ran around like a child, laughing with joy and throwing snowballs while I dodged and giggled along with him. It was the most magical moment watching my husband fulfilling a bucket list dream – a memory I will always cherish.
When his gloveless hands had reached their limit, we headed up the steps of the museum past President Roosevelt on his trusty steed and spent a few hours admiring the fossils. When we emerged, the snow had stopped falling and the sun was coming out, illuminating the park in a scene straight out of a movie. We picked up a slice of crack pie from Momofuku’s Milk Bar Bakery and the sweet gooey texture of the filling and crispy crunchy pie base kept us going just long enough to make it home for a nap.
Waking up starving (always), we tried out The Smith for a hearty dinner and were not disappointed. The buzzy Friday night atmosphere woke up and warmed us immediately, and the food was comforting and delicious. We started with the chicken meatballs and butternut squash rings and moved on to the brick chicken for him and the lasagnette for me. I need to try to recreate those meaty mushrooms in a creamy, citrusy sauce at home this winter. DAY FIVE
Saturday was the day I realised today how soft I am and how much I struggle with being cold. Oliver jokes that I can’t really be English, but this was unlike the grey cold of London winters, it was a biting bitterness that I felt in my bones. Still, with too much to explore to let it keep me inside, I pulled on extra layers and we made our way across the river to visit our friend Duncan in his Brooklyn home.
After a small issue with Oliver’s map app, which lead us to walk for thirty minutes in the wrong direction and cemented my place as the map reader in our marriage, we found Duncan’s place. He showed us around his three-storey complete with yoga studio/sports bar/movie room before taking us to his favourite local brunch spot, the Aussie-style cafe Milk Bar. Although full from egg and avo dishes all round, being a firm believer in two course breakfasts, I dragged the boys into Doughnut Plant for dessert. Recommended by my friend and ultimate foodie Katy, we ordered the creme brûlée doughnut with a crunchy torched sugar top and the banana and peanut butter filled doughnut. They were incredible and reminded me of London’s Crosstown Doughnuts that I miss so much.
The sugar hit was probably responsible for keeping my blood pumping in the cold and the high may even be the reason we decided to brave the bridge despite my weather app confirming it was -7°. I am so glad we did – the view of downtown Manhattan from the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge is something to behold. DAY SIX
Sunday was equally freezing but the sun was shining and we were determined not to let the cold keep us from exploring the city on foot. I’d made a brunch reservation at Jane, as recommended by Katy, and we sat in the window watching the world go by after our long walk, in no rush to go back out into the cold.
As part of an International Women’s Day campaign, a bronze sculpture was installed in New York’s Financial District to celebrate gender-diverse investment firms. The sculpture, titled Fearless Girl, depicts a young girl standing proudly with her hands on her hips and her chin up. Her placement, facing the Charging Bull at Bowling Green, makes this comparably small statue all the more powerful. The sculpture was originally intended to stand for just a week, but the residency was later extended to 30 days and now there’s talk that she will be there for a year. Who knows how long she might stay or where she will end up, but I was really glad we had squeezed through the crowds to experience what felt to me like a moment in history.
Since we had made it this far downtown we continued to Battery Park for a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. We had had every intention of taking the Staten Island ferry to see her upclose, but the icy wind coming off the Hudson kept us firmly on solid ground for the remainder of our trip. One for next time for sure.
Our trip coincided with Duncan’s stand-up comedy graduation show, so we spent the afternoon at Caroline’s on Broadway cheering him on and laughing until we cried. I am fully in awe of anybody who can stand on a stage and elicit such a response from an audience, I don’t think I’m brace enough to even try.
Exhausted from another day of walking, we made it just as far as Juniors around the corner to grab a slice of carrot cake cheesecake (as recommended by Dawn), which we ate in the comfort of our hotel room. DAY SEVEN
The weather, walking and indulgence had got the better of me and I woke up on Monday morning aching and exhausted. I had been determined not to succumb to a cold but finally realised I needed to listen to my body, so I stayed in bed and got some rest while Oliver headed out with his camera.
It was just what I needed and I felt so much better in time for a night of ice hockey at Madison Square Garden. Like true tourists, we bought team hats and settled in with our hotdogs and cheese nachos to see the New York Rangers vs Tampa Bay Lightning. DAY EIGHT
Another day, another snowstorm. Although this time the snow had settled and the city was brought to a standstill. Only a couple of days before I had suggested that a movie we were watching was unrealistic as the actress walked on thick snow covered pavements among landmarks. I reasoned that the city’s services would be so used to adverse weather that roads would be cleared before causing any disruption to traffic. Oh how wrong we were!
Turns out that New York is as vulnerable to a blizzard as anywhere else. Everything was closed, even Starbucks. We carefully picked our way along the snowy sidewalks past the closed stores of 5th Avenue to MoMA, while New Yorkers sensibly stayed inside in the warm! It must have been the only place open as it seemed that every other visitor had the same idea that day, but we spent a few hours taking in the gallery exhibitions before we had to brave the treacherous pavements again.
For the second night in a row, we were back at Madison Square Garden – this time to watch the New York Knicks take on the Indiana Pacers. As a huge basketball fan growing up, I would set the VCR to record the one game per week that was shown on British television, which my friend Sarah and I would watch while flicking through the monthly NBA magazine in a bid to keep up with the teams. My first ever game didn’t disappoint – it was fast moving, energetic and the circus of the cheerleaders, music and t-shirt cannons was exactly as I imagined. So much fun!
We walked home that night through a very different Times Square to the one we had experienced a week ago, as this time it was foot deep in snow. DAY NINE
We felt lucky to have experienced the magic of snow in New York and in order to see it from a different perspective, decided that today would be a perfect day to go to the Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center. Unsheltered from the elements, the icy wind was biting but the view was as spectacular as we could have imagined. While on the ground, the snow that had not already been cleared was beginning to dirty from car exhausts, but from above we were able to see the untouched rooftops and the whitewashed Central Park.
Next up was one of the highlights of our whole honeymoon and without a doubt the best meal we had. The day we had arrived, the concierge had delivered a wedding gift from our wonderful friends Laura and Andy, a voucher for a meal at The Spotted Pig. Already on my radar, a recommendation from my dad and the generous gift cemented it’s place at the top of our to do list. We had originally planned to visit for dinner, but a wintery afternoon felt like the perfect time to check it out. We were seated upstairs in a corner booth overlooking the West Village streets below and no sooner had we stripped off our numerous layers than the snow began to fall softly outside the window. Absolutely spoilt for choice with a menu of decadent comfort food, Oliver ordered the chicken liver toast to start and the famous burger for main while I chose the intriguing gnudi. Oliver’s face was a picture when the enormous burger arrived, almost buried in a mound of the finest shoestring fries and oozing with roquefort. I was equally delighted by my plate of ricotta gnudi with brown butter and crispy sage – what can only be described as ‘delicious little clouds of cheese’. Our Irish waiter couldn’t have been more accommodating pouring glasses of red wine as we enjoyed the cosy surroundings and reflecting on our honeymoon so far. Given the quality of our lunches, we couldn’t resist when he offered us a slice of banoffee pie for dessert. Nor did we regret it for one second, it was perfect.
Perhaps buoyed by the wine and full bellies, we drifted towards Bleecker Street and a tattoo parlour that Oliver wanted to check out. Lucky for him they had a walk in appointment available so we spent the next couple of hours chatting to an Iranian journalist and a DJ turned tattoo artist from New Jersey, while Oliver got the logo from our wedding invitations permanently inked on his bicep.
Having got last minute tickets, we spent Thursday afternoon watching the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. A first for me, it had been on my list for a while and it was a brilliant show (although Les Miserables remains my favourite).
After the show we headed uptown to the Sprinkles bakery for a treat. I’m not a huge cupcake fan if I’m honest, but I am a sucker for a gimmick and wanted to try out the Sprinkles ATM. Yep, an ATM that spits out cupcakes instead of cash – only in America! We opted for coconut and carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, both of which were really good. With all the excitement of the ATM, I hadn’t noticed the Sprinkles ice cream parlour next door, that serves ice cream sandwiched between two halves of a cupcake. Maybe we’ll check out their LA store when we next go to California. DAY ELEVEN
New York’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations are arguably bigger than even Dublin’s, so we had to partake just a little. We joined the thousands of people lining 5th Avenue – some claiming very dubious links to Ireland, others just along for the ride – to watch the Paddy’s Day parade. Having spotted the first drunken teenager passed out on the street before noon, we escaped the crowds and jumped on the subway to Bedford Avenue.
Williamsburg felt like an entirely different world to the one we had left behind, the low buildings exposing more sky than we had seen for a few days and a sense of local community which is hard to find among the high-rises of Manhattan. We stopped for lunch at Reynard at the Wythe Hotel and marvelled at yet another incredible view from the rooftop The Ides – this time, of midtown Manhattan across the Hudson.
The temperature snuck above zero for the first time in a week, so we made the most of the sunshine and walked to the Manhattan Bridge seeing another side of New York along the way.
Duncan had planned a night of comedy for us and after meeting him at his office, we ate a dinner of bao buns to a soundtrack of hip hop at Baohaus which fuelled us for the night ahead.
First up was a musical parody fit for my nerd husband – Star Wars: The Farce Awakens at The PIT – very funny and very well done, even if I am relatively new to the franchise and deliberately mix up the character names to get a laugh out of my nerd.
Next up was the Simply Unemployable Live improv show downstairs. As part of the show they asked the audience if anybody was celebrating that evening and Duncan didn’t miss a beat when he announced that we were on honeymoon. That did it, we were pulled onto the stage to answer their questions while my face turned increasingly redder. After returning to our seats we were treated to a recreation of the major milestones in our relationship from meeting over lunch, to me moving to Sydney and our engagement under the Harbour Bridge. The characters were spot on and I cried with laughter watching their interpretation of our love story. A very memorable wedding gift from Duncan.
After another long day I was beginning to wilt but we had one more show to see. We jumped in a cab to Raines Theatre for The Infinite Wrench by the Neo-Futurists. An attempt to perform thirty short plays in just sixty minutes, the energy was electric and the audience participation enthusiastic. As they completed their final play as the timer counted down to zero, we left on a tired high. DAY TWELVE
Happily exhausted by the adventures of the last few weeks and content that we had made the most of our time in New York, we opted to indulge in a lazy day spent reading and watching movies while we sheltered from the rain. We ventured out for one last dinner after getting ready for our early morning flight to Honolulu.