I first picked up a camera in 2006, but it wasn’t long before the weight of an SLR became a burden and my passion faded… By 2010, I relied on my smartphone alone to capture moments, and instead of compiling them into albums and sharing them with my friends and family with the stories that accompanied, each shot would receive a quick spot of editing and hit the relevant social media channel.
It’s a funny thing the way smart phones have played a role in changing, well, pretty much everything… But it’s something I find myself thinking about more often, and if I don’t make any changes to the way I live now then I will have no photo albums to share with my kids, and I may even miss the memories and stories as they happen. I don’t want to miss that golden Instagram moment after all…
From now on, where I go, the camera goes too (within reason). So far this year, I’ve set a new standard for globetrotting, hitting three different countries in the first three months, and the first trip of the series was none other than the Big Apple which presented a great opportunity to put this resolution into practice.
Travel footwear – Mind you, not even slightly suitable for the snow that was waiting at the other end.
In-flight bevvies. The air hostess was not keen on giving me two soft drinks at once though…
Wing shot, NYC bound.
A room with a view. It was hard to believe that I’d been higher than this when visiting The Shard, London, but being surrounded by endless high rises really warps your perception of size.
To set the scene, I’ve been dreaming of visiting New York since I was small. I think to most westerners, New York City is a pilgrimage that everyone has to make in their life time, but thanks to the influence Hollywood cinema, this was one I specifically wanted to make in the depths of winter – And, oh, did I get my way. Snow is one thing, but a snow storm in New York is another. High rise canyons create wind tunnels that whip every bit of exposed skin into submission, making anything higher than -23°C feel like a heatwave.
The trip itself was a celebration of epic proportions – highlighting not only Christmas and New Years, but also my birthday which had passed earlier in the month, my Mum’s birthday which would take place while we were out there, the year of my Dad’s 60th, and the general togetherness of being away as a family unit. My brother, Alex, was present with his other half, Sophie. My Mum, my Dad, and of course my partner in crime, Daisy.
Windswept and jet lagged, we hit up Times Square in the snow immediately after checking in to our hotel.
The proximity of our hotel to Times Square can literally be described as a stones throw, and no amount of cold was going to stop us venturing out into the city, starting with this cultural intersection in the heart of Manhattan. Iconified as the ‘The Crossroads of the World’, Times Square was already alive with preparations for the approach of Super Bowl XLVIII. As part of the celebrations, Times Square would transform over the next few days into Superbowl Boulevard, playing host to a variety of football-themed experiences and inviting key broadcasters to broadcast live from the central media hub, and it was already alive with excitement.
The first of many out-of-focus tourist shots.
Our first full day in the city invited new weather, too – almost. The same sub-freezing temperatures, fine, but a clear enough sky to appreciate the grandeur of the towering skyscrapers that enclosed our hotel, and a view of the harbour which served as a reminder that Manhattan is a city surrounded by water. Daisy and I were keen to make the most of the fact that we had arrived on a Sunday, and ventured straight over Williamsburg Bridge after breakfast in search of the infamous Brooklyn Flea Market.
We started out feeling fairly optimistic that morning, and had expectations that we would spend the bulk of our trip on our feet. Having spent most Christmases and winters in the Canadian Rockies, we figured we had experienced the worst chills the world had to offer, and that faux-fur lined hoods and Vibram soles would be sufficient defenses against the cold. We made it across 11 blocks before we caved and hailed a taxi… But the brief bit of fresh air meant I caught my first real glimpse of the contrasting architecture I had expected to find, and this SWMPY gem.
Brooklyn Flea Market was a breath of fresh air. While I enjoy my share of flea market shopping back home, the bulk of flea and vintage markets that the UK has to offer are fairly stale – You can expect to see a fair share of dusty plaid shirts, Barbour jackets and ‘worn in’ Converse. Williamsburg’s Sunday Flea, which takes it’s proceedings indoors through the winter, opened my eyes to an otherwise undiscovered level of craft, hosting a wide range of sellers that possessed visual merchandising skills that could easily rival Macy’s holiday window installations, and a selection of some of New York’s most inviting food vendors.
A coffee cup, wearing stripes and a beret.
Peanut butter pancakes.
Rice cake wrapped in nori.
New York City is a funny place… There’s something oddly familiar about almost everything that gives this city it’s character – Yellow cabs, the subway, sky rises, bagels… – in the sense that you’ve seen it time and time again in popular cinema and big budget US TV series’, but it’s still incredible to experience all of those things first hand.
Strolling through Brooklyn with my parents and Daisy.
Day two was a designated retail day. We started out as a group and met for breakfast at one of my favourite places to visit when in London (Le Pain Quotidien) before heading our separate ways. While that might seem like a bit of a cop out to some, their family sized tables meant the 6 of us could easily break bread and share stories from the previous day’s events. Mornings that start with good coffee and eggs in the company of my nearest and dearest will forever remain my fondest.
Daisy and I headed for Lower Manhattan and the West Village with my parents by exiting into the Meatpacking District via the High Line, an interesting walkway which runs between West 20th and West 30th on a historic freight rail line above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. The public space provides a unique way to escape the hustle and bustle of the New York streets, and hosts food vendors and cinema screenings during the better seasons.
After that, it was a case of ticking boxes. New York has been at the heart of the fashion industry for some time, most notably by playing a role in shaping the direction of the streetwear movement in the early 90s – A movement that I’m sure most wouldn’t predict would hit the main stream two decades later – so it was insightful to witness the same sights and sounds that influenced the generation that brought the whole thing to life, the same retail locations on the same streets.
APC, 131 Mercer Street, NYC.
Big Gay Ice Cream Shop.
Dog Walking on another level.
Cafe Habana’s infamous corn.
Fresh & CO was easily one of the best discoveries we made. Flavoursome fresh made-to-order food with good quality produce.
Nike’s 340 Canal Street Pop-Up was still present in the form of the NYC coffee truck floating outside Nike’s 21 Mercer location (although worth noting that it’s not actually rigged up to serve coffee), and The Big Gay Ice Cream Shop in the West Village was an interesting and accidental discovery too. The window decals were hard to miss – As was this guy tripping over dog leads. If my marketing career falls short, at least I know I can take my chances in NYC as a dog walker. Cafe Habana on Prince Street was an essential pitstop too, as the corn-on-the-cob is literally incredible.
Day three marked our last full day in New York, my Mum’s birthday and our only remaining opportunity to hit the key tourist spots before sunset (The timing was really important. My brother exercised his military precision and planning skills to ensure that we hit the middle of Brooklyn Bridge heading into Manhattan as soon as the sun went down). Our agenda consisted of breakfast at Ground Zero, followed by the Staten Island Ferry for a view of the Statue of Liberty, then a rush via any other missed locations, before a group wide rendezvous at the Brooklyn Heights Subway entrance and a scenic stroll back into Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge.
As romantic as the plan was, nothing prepared us for the bitter cold that would greet us at the half way point, and our PM plans to visit the Golf Club at Chelsea Piers was called short. Still, crossing the infamous landmark as the overcast sky faded to black and the city came alive with tungsten light was an incredible experience. One last subway ride home, and a stroll through Superbowl Boulevard before dinner with the O’Neill clan and our last night in the city was done.
World Trade Centre.
Chambers Street Station.
New York, New York.
Classic New York steam.
CDG Chucks Vs 70s Chucks.
Superbowl Boulevard post-transformation.
Our short stint in NYC meant that the bucket list was only half completed, but a late afternoon flight left a few remaining morning hours available for a desperate scramble to Grand Central Station, Central Park and the MOMA. We made the most of our last chance to eat at Fresh & CO, and flew through for breakfast and a quick lunch time pick up for the journey home.
Central Park was probably my favourite moment of the trip. Again, it’s another one of those places that I’ve seen so many times before in films and television that it had become almost trivialised in my mind. Seen it all before… But imagine trudging through miles of snow, fighting against a bitterly cold wind to the backdrop of busy New York traffic only to discover 778 acres of beautifully crafted park land slap bang in the middle. The contrast of this against the New York City skyline only emphasises how pure this park really is. Truthfully, it left me momentarily in awe.
It was the calm before the storm that was the journey home. The chance to dip my toe in all that New York City has to offer. But I’ll be back… Sooner rather than later too, I hope.
Museum of Modern Art.
LOVE, Robert Indiana.
Breakfast courtesy of Fresh & CO.
Superbowl Boulevard, Times Square.
Flight Home Essentials.