Riding into Manhattan from JFK has always strangely felt like arriving home to me. I have no American family, no relatives who have moved here and not a large number of friends based in the U.S.
But regardless, I’ve always felt some kind of magnetic pull to the 24/7 hustle and bustle vibe which is New York City. At every hour there’s something to do, somewhere to go or even someone to talk to, a huge contrast to London or Edinburgh. I asked a woman on the subway (sorry London, I mean tube) how to get to somewhere and we ended up riding the whole journey together, chatting about where she was from, where she wants to retire and even her own personal experience of 9/11. I can safely say this would never happen in London, you’d be breaking at least 5 social, tube-etiquette rules if you dared speak to someone on the underground.
So, being a chatty, inquisitive (and yes probably slightly attention seeking) person, I love New York. You’ve got the perfect combo of people recognition (aka smile at someone if you bump into them, and the potential possibility of a spontaneous conversation striking) but not too overly friendly tell-me-your-problems situation.
My holiday is now coming to an end, but if you’re heading to the states soon and want some insider tips about where to check out in NYC then get yourself a notebook, pen (who am I kidding, screen shot this page) and keep reading with a coffee in hand like true New Yorken style.
Boxing seems to have taken over the nation’s fitness as the latest and trendiest new workout class. Shadowbox in NYC is the perfect workout spot if you’re with a friend and looking for a fun atmosphere to sweat it out. The classes are dominated by young women who all chat outside the boxing room in an open space completed with a very Instagram-able boxing ring (great for those poised boxing shots and even completed with the classic white wall). When the class begins you head through to the dark, large room lit up with coloured lights and reflected on the mirrors covering the walls, resembling a night club… Except filled with over 20 boxing bags. If you have had no experience boxing before then not to worry, you’re taken through a demo of 4 hits (jab, cross, hook and upper cut) and a couple sequences by the energetic and badass teacher. (Very badass, are you Ronda Rousey? Kind of badass). After some drills of push ups, squats and planks you’re ready to go and you’re taken through the class by sequences which the teacher shouts out as she walks around the room and you follow.It’s simple, it’s fun and it’s sweaty. Easy to follow for beginners and a good workout if you’re experienced and ready to let out some frustration.
Pro: Very motivational atmosphere
Con: Wasn’t 100% sure what the sequences were at times
- Barry’s Bootcamp
Barry’s in my heart of hearts will always be my favourite workout class to hit up when I don’t have a gym around. With a cool, motivated and supportive atmosphere this place is great if you’re looking to workout on your own and are ready to get into your head space and push some psychological and physical barriers. This class is tough but it’s also an option from beginners to advanced levels as you can control your speed and incline at which you walk, jog or sprint to. The class is split into 4 parts, whereby you switch it up from either the treadmill to the floor, alternating between HIIT sprints, jogging, weights, body weighted exercises and a couple more exciting things. The atmosphere is incredibly fierce and you can tell people come to Barry’s to face their demons, the overhead dark red lighting definitely helps.
Pro: Tough physical workout
Con: $40 a class
- Soul Cycle
The U.S. is known for it’s team spirit so if you’re keen to get a taste of what that’s like in a spinning style then head to Soul Cycle. Known for its cult-like community you definitely feel the bond between spinners as you walk through their doors. If you’ve got the confidence to strike up a conversation with fellow riders then you’re bound to fit in with the energetic and youthful atmosphere. If not, then be prepared to potentially feel a little bit isolated until the class starts. You’re given water and spin shoes before heading into the air conditioned room and set up on your bike by a good looking 20-something year old. (Notable point here, a lot of workout spots leave their rooms a little toasty giving the illusion that you’ve done a harder workout from all the extra heat-sweat). The classes are full of energy and competitive with Soul-addicts riding to the rhythm. I’m an experienced spinner but having never done a class that rides to rhythm this class felt brand new to me and slightly uncomfortable. That being said, being put of of your comfort zone is exactly what you need in a workout and it means there’s always room for improvement. With pumping loud music, dark lighting, and a young crowd Soul is reminiscent of a night club, especially because riding with the rhythm usually means you’ll be bopping along to the beat.
Pro: Uplifting, young and engaging atmosphere.
- Con: Too dance-like for me. I came to work hard and I didn’t feel like Soul was that challenging.
- Jack’s Wife Freda
- If you know New York then you’ll know about Jack’s Wife Freda, this is probably the busiest brunch spot in town located in West Village and Soho. The restaurant is small, busy and vibrant serving a range of delicious food with a Mediterranean spin. Ranging from fried zucchini chips, eggplant, kofta kebab to even having pancakes and spiced cheesecake this place’s range is awesome. I definitely recommend it if you’re meeting a friend for breakfast and want to catch up over some fresh cantaloupe juice, (the juice is a must). Jack’s Wife Freda is a genuine place for New York foodies, it’s not trying to be anything its not so in turn attracts a lively and real crowd.
- Pro: Great location, perfect to wander the area afterwards.
- Con: Over 2 hours waiting time if you’re going for brunch so make sure to book.
- What I had: Chicken Prego sandwich, a bit too much bread but amazing tasting chicken with great chips.
- Recommendation: Chicken kebab, comes with fresh chopped salad and cous cous (or) Rosewater waffles.
- Cafe Clover
- Located in New York City’s West Village this is definitely a cool, shishi more upmarket place for dinner. Bear in mind Cafe Clover is all about health, so get rid of the break basket and make room for flax crackers alongside some squash hummus. It’s a lot of health words I know, but trust me, as soon as you try it you’ll be over the no-bread stress. This place may be expensive but it’s not trying to be anything it’s not, whilst serving top quality food the layout is still complementary to New York’s busy atmosphere. With small tables and a royal blue theme which runs across an American-style booth, Cafe Clover is a great place for a casual special occasion or Friday night glass of wine to toast to the weekend.
- Pro: lovely outside seating, healthy and delicious food, very ‘Instagram’.
- Con: Me and the person I was with both picked up the staff bird watching our table so they could clear it. So FYI you may be finished with your dinner within 30 minutes.
- What I had: Meiller farm burger bun (sweet potato rosemary bun with pickles + cheese) + broccoli as a side.
- Recommendation: the burger, genuinely one of the most delicious burgers I’ve ever had. However, this was also the most unhealthy thing on the menu so if you’ve got fitness goals in mind then I recommend the farm grilled baby chicken with spring beans.
- The Fiat Cafe
- A cute, pastel coloured Italian breakfast spot in a cool and artsy neighbourhood. Located in Mott Street, Manhattan amongst the graffiti wall paintings and sitting in the shade, the Fiat Cafe offers every kind of breakfast at modest prices (for New York). If you’re looking for a simple place to whip you up a hearty omelette, or egg white omelette in my case, served with a drink for under $10 then this is your place. If you’re visiting in Summer then try get one of the small tables outside on the street end enjoy your breakfast whilst feeling the buzz of the city. P.s if you’re a bacon fan you’ve got the choice between regular or Canadian (as a Brit I have no clue what’s the difference but enjoy!)
- Pro: good amount of food for money.
- Con: Only takes cash.
- What I had: egg white omelette with sauteed garlic spinach and avocado.
- Recommendation: eggs benedict with bacon (or) maple pecan granola with a side of fresh fruit.
- Cantina Rooftop
- If you’re looking for a fun place to get some Mexican and refreshing $13 cocktails (standard cocktail prices for NYC) before heading out to a bar then this place is perfect. Cantina Rooftop is not surprisingly on a rooftop and with the majority of the tables outside it’s the perfect spot to watch the sun go down over the cities skyline. With such a bubbly and relaxed atmosphere you’ll easily find yourself ordering 2 or 3 cocktails to go alongside easy and delicious Mexican finger food. Definitely recommend to anyone looking to have a fun, drinks-dominated dinner which is also affordable and tasty.
- Pro: rooftop view and happy hour (tues-fri, 5-8pm)
- What I had: Longanisa (Mexican chorizo taco), Maya shrimp ceviches
- Recommendation: Maya shrimp ceviches, avocado salsa taco and Chilean sea bass.
- 212 Hisae’s
- As a student this is probably my favourite spot that I’ve come across in East Village, hell probably in NYC if I’m honest. And it’s all down to primarily one thing: $4 cocktails. Generous cocktails, alcoholic cocktails, delicious… Okay I’ll stop there. But if you’re on a budget then get your ass down to this place, whether you’re getting in some drinks before going out or just chilling with a friend and want to get a little tipsy this is the place. It’s apparently happy hour most of the time at 212 Hisae so you don’t need to start drinking at 5pm, I went on a Saturday night between 10-11pm and it was still happy hour. The atmosphere is lovely and as it’s dominated by students there is a vibrant and young energy the the opportunity to overhear interesting conversations and meet approachable people. Not to mention it’s a Japanese restaurant so feel free to engage in passionate political discussions over some edamame. Mmm…. edamame.
Places to stay
- Row NYC
- As a student, staying in New York is going to be expensive anywhere I go so for $209 a night, Row is genuinely an amazing option to stay at. If you’re heading to the city on your own or with one other person then their clean and simple rooms completed with a bathroom, TV, closet, comfy bed and desk is pretty much all you need. Row is definitely caught up with the times with the ability to check in on your phone you can easily skip the pain of waiting 20 minutes for reception. ‘City Kitchen’ is Row’s sophisticated canteen with 7 different kitchens to chose from you’ve got the ability to grab a bite to eat if you’re running late or if you’re in the mood for an early night watching a movie with a box of sushi. They’ve also got cyc spinning studio right next door, a blow dry bar, photobooth and small gym so the hotel facilities are pretty much perfect.
- Pro: price, it’s inexpensive and you get your moneys worth.
- Con: Times Square isn’t a great neighbourhood but at least you’re in the centre of NYC.