Back in January I made an impulsive decision (and by impulsive I mean I thought about it for a few days if not a week at least). British Airways was having a sale on flights to the USA – one of my good friends had moved to Jersey City a few months before and visiting her was one of my tentative plans for 2020. So I went ahead and booked myself a trip to New York (and Jersey City) for March 2020. Little did I know that I would be coming back to a completely different life (more on that later), but, for what it’s worth, the few days I spent in New York and New Jersey were amazing.
I went to New York in 2016 (one of my best trips ever, you can see my posts about it here, here and here) so this time around I didn’t feel like it had to be a super touristy trip – and as my friend was living in New Jersey, I luckily also got to experience Jersey City and Hoboken. Of course, I had a little list of things to tick off (mainly Sephora, Sephora and Sephora) – and while I can’t make this post a guide as such, I still want to give a few pointers as to what I did and especially, where I ate… because food is life!
What I Did
I had two very clear missions on my agenda – I really wanted to visit the Whitney Museum of Art and live out my millennial fantasies in Brooklyn. Luckily, I got to do both. The Whitney Museum did not disappoint in the slightest – I loved the exhibition “Vida Americana”, which focused on iconic Mexican muralists, its permanent collection and the pretty cool NYC views you get from the museum’s terraces.
Various works of art at the Whitney Museum of Art – the first row are paintings from the ‘Vida Americana’ exhibition.
And I couldn’t not go back to Central Park. The weather was amazing and the blossoms were blooming – it was so, so good to walk around and relax in this city oasis. I loved revisiting Bethesda Terrace – it was surprisingly not that busy, and as rough-looking and beautiful as I remembered.
Moments from Central Park – the third photograph is at Bethesda Terrace.
As for Brooklyn, I’d been last time but couldn’t wait to go again. I found walking along Brooklyn Bridge once again ridiculously fun in spite of the mad crowds. I loved walking around DUMBO and wandering along the beautiful pier amidst the tourists, Chinese wedding shoots and Quinceañera parties. I saw some street art, bought a secondhand book (The Girls by Emma Cline in case you were wondering) in a fabulously cool bookshop called Book Thug Nation in Williamsburg and took in so many iconic views. It was a pretty damn perfect day.
Snaps from Brooklyn: the bookshop Book Thug Nation, Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn’s pier.
In terms of shopping Sephora was all I needed (although I regret not going to the Glossier showroom or even checking out Everlane’s store) – I went to at least four different Sephora stores and bought something in every single one. Maybe a Sephora haul is due?
My friend and I were also planning to go to the spectacular-looking Hudson Yards (I’d actually not heard of it before), but unfortunately that wasn’t meant to be – next time!
Where & What I Ate
One of my absolute favourites was Big Daddy’s – unapologetically cheesy and fantastically decorated, this diner was so damn fun to eat at. I loved the adorably cosy and sweet cafe on Cafe Panino Mucho Giusto on Hudson Street, perfect for a quick hot drink and something-savoury-and-or-sweet spot. We went to the Sugar Factory in Chelsea for an insanely sweet fishbowl cocktail that we just couldn’t finish – bear in mind I had never heard of this place before and went because of a friend’s recommendation, I almost died when the waitress asked if we wanted to film her pouring the cocktail. Hell yeah! I wouldn’t go back as it’s really not my kind of place (not to mention that I’m probably about two decades too old for it), but it was still super fun.
A huge (and comforting) meal at Big Daddy’s.
The sugar-infused fishbowl cocktail at The Sugar Factory.
On the day we went to Whitney we stopped by Kobrick Coffee – again, very nice setting and not bad for a drink and small bite (I’m not a coffee girl but FYI they make their own coffee). I also loved the burger and beer joint Black Tap (we went to the Broome Street location) – the food was so, so good.
A chicken burger and milkshake at Black Tap.
I loved having lunch in Egg in Brooklyn and treating myself to a cupcake in One Girl Cookies‘ location in DUMBO. I also had what I think was a tasty rugelach at Woops‘ location close to Bedford Avenue Station, Williamsburg (I loved that whole area).
Delicious dishes from Egg.
A chocolate cupcake from One Girl Cookies.
A rugelach from Woops in Brooklyn.
What I Did
Upon landing in JFK I headed to my friend’s place in Jersey City – and was instantly obsessed, even though I didn’t get to explore much of it throughout my stay in the US. Does New Jersey have a bad rep? Well, I freakin’ loved it. I loved the wide streets, the New York-esque buildings and very relaxed city vibe. But I have to admit that what probably made me fall in love with Jersey City twice as much was the incredible street art. The quantity and quality was amazing – I felt pretty spoilt!
Pretty buildings and streets in Jersey City.
Spotted: street art embellishing the streets of Jersey City.
As well as Jersey City, I got to see a little bit of the up-and-coming neighbourhood of Hoboken, from which you can get some very good views of New York’s skyline. But with loads of characterful restaurants, shops and businesses, Hoboken has plenty of personality.
Posing by Hoboken’s pier and wondering: “Am I a Hoboken Girl yet?”
Where & What I Ate
On my first night in the US we had dinner at Cellar 335, a gorgeous Tiki-inspired restaurant. The small dishes and cocktails were delicious! And a bit of moody lighting always does it for me. I also did a mini stopover at Prato Bakery‘s Jersey City location; it’s a lovely cafe that specialises in Italian and Tuscan baking.
Delicious tapas-style dishes at Cellar 335.
And because I’m no stranger to a hype, I couldn’t resist treating myself to a delicious chocolate chip cookie from Bang Cookies, which looked like it had just opened its Jersey City location thanks to the pretty long queue (has the British tradition of queuing rubbed off on me?!). The wait was only a few minutes, and the cookie was amazing. Plus, I got a pretty cool picture – neon lights always make a difference.
Neon lights and a delicious cookie from Bang Cookies.
I love empanadas more than anything so it was nice to have some Argentinian ones at Empanadas Cafe in Hoboken. Afterwards I walked past Carlo’s Bakery – I’d never heard of this place but hey, apparently it’s famous. I bought a doughnut and a croissant – I devoured the doughnut and, somehow, the croissant made it to London.
Tasty and mini empanadas from Empanadas Cafe.
Beautiful sweet treats from Carlo’s Bakery.
Sadly I can’t reminisce on this holiday without addressing COVID-19. In all honesty, I was in a little bubble of bliss – and ignorance really is bliss. The streets were probably a lot quieter than usual. Restaurants and bars began to close. I heard a sweet waiter at Cafe Panino Mucho Giusto saying to a customer that the venue was never this empty. I attempted to go to the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology – despite having checked its website on that very same morning to see if it was still open (it said it was), it was closed up when I got there. The Whitney closed a few days after I went there, if not the next day. I was keen to see The Met Cloisters, but that was closed too. Day by day things were changing. I think I had been in New York for two nights or maybe even just one when it was announced that all flights from Europe to the USA were being banned. UK was the exception. Strange, I thought – how long will that last? On Saturday night it was announced that flights from the UK to the US would be banned from Monday onwards. My return flight to London was meant to be on Tuesday. I started getting texts from people in the UK. “Are you going to be able to get back??” was the general vibe of these texts. “Well, I’m flying back TO the UK, so I’ll be fine, right?” was my initial reaction as an attempt to not lose my cool and freak the f*ck out. Oh believe me, I was panicking – but a part of me (the part that wants to be a little impulsive, take a bad risk or two, or is basically very stubborn, stupid and wants to stay in a bubble of ignorance) wanted to “ride it out” until Tuesday evening. However, let’s just say that common sense (or pure unadulterated panic) kicked in, so I changed my flight from Tuesday night to Sunday night.
So that was it – my trip to New York was cut short by two days. I came back to a different world – some people had already been isolating for weeks, and leaving the house no longer felt quite right. I was back in London on the morning of Monday the 16th of March, and the UK lockdown was made official on the evening of Monday the 23rd of March. The weirdness and fear had started long before that – and I kinda felt like I was late to the party.
Trust me when I say I’ve battled with my conscience about having gone to New York – while I could never have predicted quite how bad the situation would become (or already was), I was wondering if my flight there would get cancelled. When it wasn’t, I was relieved. I would 100% be lying if I said I regretted those moments of naivety and that little bubble of escapism I experienced before lockdown. I won’t ever forget that sense of normal escapism in one of the world’s most charismatic cities – amidst all the incessant paranoia, I stupidly didn’t know those really would be my last dinners, brunches and walks with friends for the foreseeable future. Trust me, looking back now I couldn’t feel any more stupid or irresponsible – but New York is one of my favourite places and this experience will live on as both a strange and beautiful memory. Until next time NY – and in the meantime, let’s “ride this out” and daydream about our next getaway.
All pictures taken by me and my friend between March 11th and March 15th 2020 in New York and New Jersey, USA.