New York, New York

Y’all, I am officially and irrevocably in love with New York City.

I didn’t expect to be. I hate crowds, I get claustrophobic, and NYC has twice the population of New Zealand crammed into it. I was fully expecting to grit my teeth and bear it for the sake of ticking a city off my bucket list.

But… I loved it. Absolutely loved it. We stayed at an AirBNB in Brooklyn because it was about 5 million times cheaper, so we got to navigate the subway system. What we didn’t quite think through was that we wanted to be in central Manhattan by 8:30am&mash;so we were in the middle of Monday morning commuter traffic. But, we survived, and we made it to Gray Line to start our two days of bus tours! We started with the Downtown loop, which we broke into two parts when we had to switch buses. Then we stopped for lunch before jumping on the first part of the Uptown tour. Then we jumped onto the Bronx tour, before returning to where we started for the remainder of the Uptown tour. Jumping between buses was fascinating because all the tour guides had different interests and different areas of focus—one told us where all the celebrity houses were, another told us where to get local/non-tourist-trap food, another talked a lot about history.

By this time it was about 4:30pm and we didn’t want to do the night tour until it was close to dark. So we stopped off in Starbucks for a while for coffee, non-coffee for me (who is allergic to coffee), as well as a NYC Starbucks mug (which I collect in every city). We nursed these for a while until it was a reasonable time for dinner, when we decided to try that cultural US staple, TGI Friday’s.

A few drinks and appetizers later, it was time for the night tour! This tour guide knew so much about all the buildings and the periods they came from, it was absolutely fascinating. Plus, seeing New York City lit up at night was absolutely breathtaking beyond belief. Once the tour was finished, we took the subway back to Brooklyn at around 11pm. That was… fun.

On Tuesday, we got the ferry from Brooklyn, past the Statue of Liberty, and on to One World Trade Center. That was a stunning trip and we got some amazing views of Liberty Island! Seeing the crowds lined up at her base, though, I think we made the right call not going right to the island.

Once we got off the ferry we headed to the One World Observatory for views of the entire city. And oh, boy, were they some views. The observatory is over 100 floors up, so you can see all of Manhattan, the Bronx, and a fair chunk of New Jersey from up there.

Then it was time for lunch, so we decided on that high cuisine, Burger King. Y’all. Y’all. They had table service and served beer. I am so confused.

After lunch, we visited St. Paul’s Chapel. Unfortunately the chapel itself was closed for renovations, but we could walk around the grounds. This chapel has a fascinating history—George Washington attended service here after taking his oath of office, it’s survived multiple fires with barely a scratch, and despite being just one block from the World Trade Center it didn’t sustain a single bit of damage on 9/11. It’s part of the parish of Trinity Wall Street, where Alexander Hamilton is buried.

Then we jumped on another bus tour, this time of Brooklyn. The tour guide was a Brooklyn native, and very biased towards his hometown—which was actually great because he knew everything. A very cool way to see the city!

After this it was time to head to Broadway, because we had tickets to Hamilton. It was my first Broadway experience, and it was a cracker. I’m still somewhat incoherent with joy and am struggling to fully articulate my joy at seeing this show live. Suffice to say, Javier Muñoz (the new Alexander Hamilton) has a fucking incredible voice, and everything about this show was pretty much perfect. It was an experience beyond all belief.