Having taken the bus from DC to NY, I didn't know how I would feel when I arrived in the Big Apple; illated to have finally completed my trip? Sad? Confused? Scared? To be honest, partly all of the above. It wasn't that I wanted my trip to end, not at all, I can't wait to see my family but in the same breath, I couldn't believe this was it. The thing that I'd worked so hard to save for was now over. Seeing my mum and my bro was strange. I felt like I was in a dream. We'd rented an apartment for us all (mum, Callum Laura and I) in a great spot in Manhattan. After grabbing a Chinese takeout for tea, I was ready to hit the hay. It was made even more appetising as American's don't do little beds...this bed was HUGE! If anything too big?
Our first day in NY started early to make use of our NYC pass. This is something that you must buy when you visit the city. It gives you access to up to 250 attractions over 3 days with the use of the hop-on-hop-off bus. We started at the famous Grand Central Station. What a beautiful building and certainly worth a visit. If you've seen the film 'Friends with Benefits' then make sure you spot the cafe opposite the station which is the exact one used in the final scene of their date. In the afternoon we wandered over to the Empire State Building to enjoy the magnificent views of the city followed by the Maddison Square Gardens tour. The latter is such an iconic building having staged some of the most famous singers and sports clubs in the world and it's obvious why it's important to the citizens of NYC. In the evening we headed to Times Square which is just a crazy busy place. For me, this wasn't a highlight of our time in NY NY but I'm glad I witnessed it.
The morning was spent wandering the local area. Mum managed to stumble across a Christmas shop so a little while was spent in there. In the afternoon, we on, we joined a bike ride around Central Park which was a lot of fun and made us realise how big the park is! We took photos in famous spots like Lennon's memorial and the long stretch which is featured in so many films. The afternoon was spent in Natural History Museum.
Another hot day in the city that never sleeps. We took the open top bus around the city. In my view, there is no better way to see an entire city included those quaint and quirky suburbs which get overlooked. We took the ferry across the the Statue of Liberty but unfortunately we couldn't get up into the crown as the limited tickets were sold out. Instead, we headed back to Manhattan via Wall Street but the pasty Brits had forgotten to put suncream on, resulting in some rather red faces!! I'll never forget mum lathering up in the middle if Walgreens. She put on so much cream that she looked like a ghost! Hilarious. We took the bus down to the 9'11 Tribute Centre and the World Trade Centre. It's a place that everyone should visit. It was made even more special as we joined by Danny and Dellyn who I'd met at a cooking course in Thailand. Danny had volunteered after the planes hit the twin towers so it was interesting to get his take on that days events; the day that changed the world as we knew it. That evening, Danny took us to a rooftop bar which had spectacular views over the city. It's not somewhere that you'd naturally find so we were very grateful to Danny for showing us. We then headed onto Calle Ocho for dinner. A perfect end to a great day or it was until I lost my Raybans. The single most frustrating thing to happen...
The morning was spent in the 'cop shop' reporting my lost sunglasses. Not the best start to my day and quite surreal as I felt like I was on the set of a Hollywood movie. As a result, mum and I opted to have a little fun and instead of taking the riverboat we opted for the jet boat ride. Put it this way, my hair didn't quite look the same afterwards. We took a couple of the photos of the Navy Ship docked by in the harbour for Uncle Steve then headed off to do some shopping at MSG. We'd planned to go the Top of the Rock in the evening but it was fully booked. Top tip: Book in advance! Instead we headed back to the apartment for a take out pizza (well you can't come to NY without getting a slice of pizza, now can you?)
We took the metro over the Yankees Stadium. Boy that metro system is confusing. London's underground is simple and easy to use and other cities should take note. It's for this reason that most people take cabs in NYC, at least this way you'll end up at your requested destination. In the evening we wandered up to the Top of the Rock to look at what was described by many travellers I met along the way as "the best view in the big apple". Unfortunately for us, the weather was wet and miserable, so the view wasn't quite how we'd imagined.
Most of our penultimate day in the city was spent shopping in Soho for an outfit to Morna's wedding which was successful. In the evening, I met up with the gorgeous Lizzie Daw and her husband Nick in Chelsea at a quaint French restaurant. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to see her. We laughed, giggled and reminisced about school, University and exchanged travel stories as they'd been living away for 2 years. Yet we all missed London. That city which has encapsulated our lives and one that can never be compared to others in the world.
Just before we headed to the Airport I managed to catch up with Alicia, another travelling friend that I met with Danny and Dellyn at the cooking class in Northern Thailand. Although brief, it was great to see her and reminisce on my time away. Mum and Laura had managed to get us seats on the upper deck of the plane home. Although it wasn't quite Business Class, it was a lot roomier than economy. The next day was a whirlwind, we landed, jumped on the Heathrow Express to Paddington, took the tube round to Euston, dropped off our cases at the hotel, eventually flagged down a cab to my job interview all in the space of a few hours. By 4pm the interviews were over and by 5.30pm we were back at the hotel getting ready to meet Ann and Daniel for dinner. To say the day was a whirlwind would be an understatement. My feet barely had chance to touch the ground. Saturday (6th) felt like it was never going to end. I've never been so happy to board a Virgin train to Holyhead. I knew it was only then that I'd feel I was truly home...
We pulled into the station, got off the train and all I saw when Ellie running towards me in tears jumping into my arms to provide me with the biggest hug imaginable. I was crying. Auntie Shelly was crying. We were all crying. We arrived back at Auntie Shelly and Uncle Steve to be greeted by a little party including a "Welcome Home Kirsty" banner, Balloon and a Colin the Catepiller Cake. Everything I missed when I had my birthday away. We ate my favourite Chinese takeaway and chatted with cups of tea in the living room. I felt like I'd never been away. You see that's the thing about living away from home, you can travel to many countries in the world, adapt as a result of experiences and people you've met along the way but life still remains the same once you've returned.
After all, home truly is where the heart is....