I remember watching Bride Wars starring the talented Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson and telling myself that one day, just one day I would find myself walking the streets of New York. I would re-watch the movie over and over again, admiring the beautiful city on my little widescreen television, but I knew my heart I had to be there. Aside from having a dream wedding at the Plaza Hotel or going for a run in Central Park, as a little girl, I have always been captivated on visiting the Big Apple. From watching a ton of movies that took place in New York, I was inspired, captivated, and dreamed of being there- perhaps in my twenties. Little did I know, it would be at the age of sixteen.
Before I left to New York, I think I pretty much watched all the movies that were set in the city. From romance to thriller, you name it, I felt like a part of me was already there. I wanted to breathe the same air as the New Yorkers, hustle through the busy streets, and admire the city, but I knew patience was key.
The wait was finally over and I found myself on the bus to New York with some fifty other excited students that were ready to take on the city. It was another gnarled twelve-hour bus ride, so to kill time, most of us slept while others watched Lord of the Rings. Now, I’m not a huge of fan of Lord of the Rings (sorry, LOTR fans), so sleeping was a luxury. After all, I figured, I wouldn’t be able to get this much sleep when I’m in New York.
When we finally arrived at our hotel in New Jersey, you could already guess that we were all filled with excitement. Mind you, spending a night in the actual city is pretty expensive, thus staying in Hasbrouck Heights was the best option for us. In the vast distances, however, you could see the beautiful New York skyline, accompanied with colours from the various buildings, highways, and the Empire State Building! I remember my heart began to quickly pitter-pat as I was only sixteen miles away from the Big Apple! When we finished checking in the hotel, we quickly freshened up in our rooms and were gathered in a big conference room to enjoy late night complimentary pizza!
We spent a total of three days in New York/New Jersey plus two travelling days- one on-route and one to return home. It rained two out of the three days but I didn’t quite mind as I was in NEW YORK CITY! On a day by day basis, we woke up from our slumber and began our morning with a complimentary breakfast buffet before venturing out into the city. As I’ve mentioned in my Boston, Massachusetts recap, I cannot pinpoint the trip by heart, but we did hit most of New York’s prominent landmarks. I will go into detail of each landmark and attempt to recap my experiences to the fullest.
To be completely honest, I have never heard of Battery Park until I read it on the itinerary that we were going to be exploring the park. Located at the southern tip of Manhattan, the park overlooks the Statue of Liberty, as well as Ellis and Liberty Island. I remember walking along the harbour, watching New Yorkers fish and taking photos of the Statue of Liberty from afar. Since there was rain in the forecast, the park was a little gloomy but it was still beautiful as flower began to bloom and the air began to drift from the winter slumber.
Ever since I was six-years-old, I have always wanted to watch a real Broadway show in New York City. When How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Wicked was on the itinerary, my excitement grew immensely. Since I was a sophomore at the time, the seniors got first pick on which Broadway show they wanted to watch, thus Wicked was chosen. I really wanted to see Wicked live, but seeing as How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying starred Nick Jonas, I could not complain.
When we arrived at the Al Hirshfield Theatre (located on 302 W and 45th St), it was really hard to sink in at first that I, Ashley Doung, was going to watch my first ever Broadway musical! I have waited ten years for this and to have this dream come true at sixteen meant everything to me. Besides the ever so good-looking Nick Jonas, it was truly an experience to have been able to watch the musical! From the set to the cast, everything about the musical was magical and phenomenal!
Visiting this national historical bridge was like a breath of fresh air for me. Built to cross New York’s East River, the Brooklyn Bridge was definitely how I imagined it to be; beautiful, old, and majestic. As it links the two boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, the group stayed on the Manhattan side as we were on a time schedule. I remember it being gloomy when the group walked along the bridge but the pictures came out decent. Before heading out to Carnegie Hall, we were able to explore and take photos. At the time, some parts of the bridge were under construction, so we had to walk a little more to capture the New York skyline.
When in New York, a trip to Carlo’s Bakery was a must! Located in New Jersey, we got the chance to stop by Carlo’s Bakery on Carlo’s Bakery Way (yes, it’s an actual street). I didn’t get the chance to go inside as there was a two-hour line up from the door to the other side of the street, so my group and I decided to take photos in front of the bakery before grabbing lunch at the nearest pizzeria. The bakery itself, I must admit, was very small and seeing as I am claustrophobic, I wouldn’t have been able to manage. All in all, the cakes that were displayed in the front window were beautifully done!
I think for all musicians, a night at Carnegie Hall is a must when you are in New York. I was pretty ecstatic and cold when we first arrived at the hall, but I couldn’t wait to watch the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra perform. After climbing endless of staircases, we found our seats, got comfortable, and were ready to watch a magical performance. The hall itself was majestically beautiful! With beautiful carvings from one end to the other, I could not believe I was actually sitting in Carnegie Hall!
CENTRAL PARK and THE DAKOTA
Exploring Central Park is obviously something that must be done when you’re in NYC. It may seem like the basic, touristy go-to place, but Central Park was extremely gorgeous! From the greenery to the activities, there are so many things to do in New York’s most prominent landmark! I remember it being the first day in New York when I got the chance to explore the park. Following our tour guide, we entered the park from 1 W 72nd St, after visiting the Dakota where John Lennon was fatally shot. Our first stop in Central Park was Strawberry Fields; a memorial for John Lennon.
Here, we paid our respect before continuing along to the Lake, the Bethesda Terrance, and the Bethesda Fountain. As we were walking, we came across this amazing saxophone player, who built his own saxophone! Since us music students were captivated by his talent, he decided to play tunes for us before heading towards the Terrance. Once we entered the Terrance, I think I might have cried a little inside. Having seen a ton of movies set at the Bethesda Fountain, I couldn’t believe that I was really there! It felt like I was a part of my own romance movie- finding love at the other end of the fountain. JOKES, I just took pictures and admired how beautiful the whole entire Terrance was!
GROUND ZERO MEMORIAL
The way I felt when I visited Ground Zero is indescribable. I was filled with mix emotions while walking around the memorial, so my group and I decided to sit for a while. As we were sitting down, I took the time to truly admired how beautiful the memorial was and how much it meant to the city as well as the rest of the world. It was heartbreaking to read the names on the plaque, but it was a beautiful way to remember those who were lost on September 11, 2001.
LITTLE ITALY AND CHINATOWN
We stopped in Little Italy/Chinatown to shop for souvenirs, as well as grab lunch. Seeing as I wanted to purchase souvenirs for my family, my group and I decided to quickly eat at a two story McDonalds! I know I know, you must be wondering why I didn’t eat any authentic Chinese or Italian food but know that having a small time frame to eat and get shopping done, fast food was the best option for us. Since Chinatown and Little Italy are somewhat connected, there were clusters of shops and restaurants from one end of the block to the other. After lunch, my group and I decided to get souvenir shopping done and over with. Taking out my bargaining skills, I was able to purchase souvenirs at a much reasonable price than the suggested retail price, so I was pretty content with shopping. (The bargaining skills definitely came from my parents).
Times Square, to be entirely honest, was a little disappointing for me. After watching the ball drop for so many years, I imagined Times Square to be huge! When I first set foot in the square, I was utterly disappointed. Besides the LED billboards, I did not find Times Square to be that intriguing. Besides being disappointed, we had time to shop around so my group and I decided to shop at Forever 21 and Sephora! My goodness, the Forever 21 was HUGE! With four levels, I wanted to spend the rest of the day in the store just browsing and shopping around. Furthermore, we also had the chance to dine at my third HardRock Cafe, located at the heart of the square. The food, as I can recall, was quite delicious! Nonetheless, Times Square was one thing that I could strike off my bucket list!
The other landmarks that I got to visit included, the Rockefeller Centre, NBC Studios, and Staten Island. All in all, I am so happy and blessed to have been able to visit the Big Apple, hopefully returning in the near future!