NYC: A city full of wonder, culture and intensity.

Now, it’s been a good three years since I visited New York. But I can remember it as though it was yesterday. The freshness that seemed to flatter the air as I walked out of the airport. A city unlike any other. A city like a dream, wonder and anticipation.

I don’t even know where to begin with this city. Or how to begin. New York has always been a city I’ve dreamt about, a city I never expected to visit in my lifetime. But when the opportunity arose, I grabbed it as quick as I could. How could I let such an exciting opportunity go? Who could? As a child, New York was everywhere from my favourite TV shows to novels and even across my small town in the North of England. It was everywhere and I had to see it.

It’s a city like you would never expect. It’s so much more. It has everything you could ever dream off, from the people to the buildings to the adventures. I remember the feeling as we drove towards the big city, I could see it in the distance and even from afar you could see how substantial the city truly was. It was mesmerising. The buildings higher and taller than I ever believed, you could sense how truly hectic the city was.

Now, I went with my College so I was aged around seventeen – eighteen and to a young adult adventuring into an immense city, a trip without parents for the first time was a big deal and completely nerve-wracking. But I wouldn’t change my experience for the world. The city was looming over us as we drove towards the big apple and as we entered. My god, I couldn’t even explain the feelings that ran throughout my body. I expected to see businessmen and women clattering about, rushing with cups of coffee in their hands as they raced to their jobs. But no, to my surprise we entered the city during Gay Pride. Therefore, the city was packed with such a diverse culture. Men and women danced around the streets drinking beers and wine in celebration of such a positive stance against discrimination. Bright colours illuminated from building and floating parades that made their way down the streets.

However, due to the pride, it made it extremely difficult for our coach to make its way through the NYC streets. Ultimately, we had to grab our luggage and attempt to find our hotel by ourselves. And there we were. Twenty-something students stranded in the middle of New York without any clue on where to go. Luckily, our teachers had visited the same hotel on a previous trip and had a slight idea where to go. Nevertheless, that did not help. The group ending up splitting with some students rushing as they followed the teachers with some including me who stopped, sat on their suitcase and watched the parade float by. I had just got into New York. There was no way I was missing such an experience. Unfortunately, at this point, I had my camera packed away and wasn’t able to capture any decent images. But I did get a few videos on my phone.

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I went with my English Literature class during my A-Levels so the trip consisted of seeing landmarks that related to the novels that we had read. Such as The Great Gatsby. Therefore, we saw the Plaza hotel an iconic and truly historic building built in 1907. I and a few friends walked to Queensboro bridge to view how monumental it truly was, and I don’t exaggerate when I say it was colossal and honestly so magnificent. We took a bike ride around central park, viewing sites such as The Ramble and Lake, Strawberry Field’s Imagine Mosaic, which honoured The Beatles John Lennon who lived and was killed at the Dakota Apartments just across the road from the sight and the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain. All, which was such a sight to see and definitely worth adding it to your to-do list. Also, I would advise catching one of the bike rides around the park. Depending on the person you get and how you deal with it, it’s very cheap.

Of course, NYC is such a big city and it’s just impossible that you are able to see all the sights within three days. But you can see an awful lot if you plan it carefully and stick to it. Other sights that I saw that I think any first time tourist has to see would by Times Square. The square has a vibe to it, a vibe that I can’t quite pinpoint – it’s almost surreal, as though you are not actually there. The large buildings tower over you almost making you feel light headed when you glance upwards. The lights – especially at night are so bright I honestly believe you would still need to wear sunglasses. Next is the Empire State Building, which is probably the scariest experience yet. You don’t actually realise how high up you are until you look over the edge and see the city. It is breathtaking and definitely hair-raising. But 100% worth it.

Another sight I would make the time to see is the world trade centre memorial. The memorial is in the former location at the World Centre sight, the former location of the twin towers, where on September 11th, 2001 suicide bombers crashed two planes into both buildings killing 2,996 people and injuring over 6,000. The sight itself was eery almost – extremely quiet and peaceful. Yet, beautiful all at the same time. It’s the perfect way to pay your respect to those who lost their lives whilst learning as you go.

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Amsterdam: A city full of canals, coffee shops and the Red light district.

I’ve been to Amsterdam a fair few times now. Purely because my uncles live over there and how I can’t thank them enough for introducing me to such a beautiful and historic city. The first time I ventured across the English Channel and into the Netherlands, I never knew what to expect. Of course, I was young and wasn’t able to experience all the things that the city is known for in the younger culture of England. I’m sure you can guess what that is. Getting high and the Red light district. However, I experienced a lot whilst exploring the city, ranging from antique coffee shops, the most beautiful bricked and tilted houses, restaurants to walking down the canals and seeing everything nature had to offer in the most exquisite parks.

(I also feel I should apologise for the quality of the images shown. I was young and unexperienced with a camera at this point)

The second time I visited, my uncle met us at the airport and we traveled via a double decker train – much to my surprise and amazement that double decker trains even existed – to central Amsterdam. From here, we boarded onto a tram on our way to my uncles apartment. As we got off, my mum and sister somehow managed to get themselves stuck on the tram and was left stranded without the tour guide that was my uncle. Upon realisation, my uncle, myself and my mums girlfriend sprinted after the tram – suitcases heavily trailing behind us in order to catch up with my mum. Who eventually made it off the tram and to my uncles Apartment.

If I were to tell you to explore anything. It would be everything. Explore as much as you can because everything that the city has to offer is worth seeing. Amsterdam’s world famous floating flower market, Bloemenmarkt is a must see if you’re in love with nature. It stretches along the Singel canal, Muntplein and Koningsplein square in the City’s Southern canal belt. Something you can’t miss even if you wanted too. It is such a beautiful sight. The market consists of 15 florists, garden and souvenir shops as well as some small cafes where you can sit and grab a bite to eat or a cup of coffee whilst watching the many tourists swell amongst the flowers.

As well as this, I would advise you take a boat trip down one of the city’s many canals. Upon doing this, you’re able to pack more sights into a small amount of time, alongside being able to sit back and relax as the city floats around you. On my little journey I saw a variety of boats owned by those who lived within the city. Some large, some small but all equally intriguing and unique in their own way. We floated past the Anne Frank museum. Although, I didn’t go inside I would most definitely put that on my to do list the next time I visit the city. Most spectacular – I saw a floating Chinese restaurant on Lake IJ. Again, something I never had the pleasure to experience but definitely want too in the future.

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(Again, I can’t apologise more for the quality of these images)

If you are the type of person looking for excitement and party I would definitely advise you take the trip in April where you can experience a full day of day drinking on Queens day or now known as Kings day considering ‘Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, the longest reigning Dutch monarch, announced her abdication after 33 years on the throne’. For those who haven’t heard of the event. I’ll give you a brief overview with the help of a little research. It’s a day and night event set in a carnival like setting, stretching in the depths of the city, along the canals and within the parks. The event attracts more than 700 tourists each year, and who is surprised? It’s an event fulfilled with fun, dancing and drinking! What more could you want? From my experience, it was a hectic day with people swarming the streets. Though the event was more than overfilled the atmosphere itself was chilled and relaxed and I would be more than happy to experience the event now I’m old enough to actually understand it.

If you’re thinking about visiting Amsterdam and are unsure. I would cast aside your doubt and 100% make the trip. I believe that the city is a must see for all. It has everything for everyone. Who doesn’t want cute bike rides along the canal and getting high in chilled out vintage coffee shops? It’s an experience you’d never forget. Trust me. And you can do all this on an extremely tight budget or with all the money in the world. So, students, looking for a quick trip away after your exams. Give Amsterdam ago.