We spent the next part of the holiday staying in Williamsburg. This was a part of the holiday I had been apprehensive about, as we were staying in an appartment that had been recommended by a friend – but is basically a room in someones flat that he rents out to tourists for £50 a night (unHEARD of in NYC!) and so I was a little nervous about what awaited us as his emails had been a bit terse and I was having Hostel-like fears that it did sound like the start of a horror movie scenario! When we arrived – the tiny graffitied door in what looked like a car garage didn’t exactly ellay our fears!
Luckily, behind the door lay a sprawling, bright and airy appartment with the most amazing decor and the guy renting the room was absolutely amazing. Our room had a slight prison-cell feeling (no windows!) but was huge and right in the heart of everything going on in the big W. I absolutely ADORED Williamsburg and think if I was to (fingers crossed) get to relocate there at some stage for work, it would be there that I would flat hunt. It had a young, modern, laid back vibe with tons of amazing street art, little nookys and crannys filled with vintage shops and flea markets. All the cafes and food was quirky and homely and we met some of the friendliest folk there.
Here is my absolute favourite NYC outfit of mine: daisy playsuit (from Primark!), geek glasses from ASOS and bronze ballet pumps. We picked a pefect blue-sky scorcher to walk across the Williamsburg bridge to the Lower East Side (recommend this to everyone!) and we even spotted Tobey Maguire jogging past us & Chloe Sevigny riding her bike.
Once in Lower East Side we stopped off at possibly my favourite New York location…
So, even if you aren’t a fan – you have to go and check out Peanut Butter & Co’s Menu. Luckily I AM a huge PB fan, in any form, any how and so this place was a little slice of heaven for me and my belly. It was a tough choice but we decided to opt for sampling The Elvis (apparently his all time favuorite sandwich? if so I can see why he was heart-issue bound) which was Peanut Butter, Bacon, Honey and Banana! And it was dee-lish. The second was they Bagel of the Week which was Peanut Butter, Cream Cheese and Apple. Again it was a taste sensation. The whole cafe is decked out in old PB adverts, packaging and there is a huge shop where you can buy just about every type of Peanut Butter going. We then spent the day people watching in Washington Square Park before passing through Grand Central station which as with most well known tourist/film locations was slightly underwhelming in some ways but still absolutely beautiful.
That night we headed to a modest, unassuming little bar and food place in Williamsburg called Fatty Cue. We walked in to a rammed bar expecting to have to perch in a corner, but were instead led through a warren of narrow corridors into a beautiful half-outdoor eating patio. This actually turned out to be the best meal of either of our entire lives! So if you head to NYC, it is worth a trip over the bridge for. The food was un-catagorisable but just quirky, exciting and modern and all with a waiter on hand to guide on how to eat it (lots of using your fingers) and I sampled my first lavender cocktail which seemed to be the thing in NYC – and it definitely made me view the herb in a different light than old lady perfume and draw liners.
The next day we went to the World Trade Centre site. I had ummed and aahed extensively about if I even wanted to visit ground zero. A huge part of me felt slightly ghoulish and dis-respectful somehow. But a bigger part of me felt as someone who never visited pre-9/11 it would be dis-respectful to spend time in this incredible city and not dedicate any part of it thinking and reflecting on this amazing architectural feat and building, then the huge event that took place there, and the impact it has had. At first ground zero, weirdly, to me looked just like a huge building site. I was struggling to connect the horrific memories and images to this mile of cranes and foundations.
But we then visited the WTC Trribute Centre and it was an experience unlike anything else I have ever experienced. Obviously in no way was it comfortable but it left me humbled and definitely feeling that life had been shaken very much back into perspective. The most admirable part was that it was created by relatives and friends of those lost at the WTC and a substantial part of the gallery is dedicated to immersing you in what life was like at the WTC before the tragedy. It was educational and really interesting, but also made everything feel even more heartbreaking as the WTC represented such hope, such pride and such community. The rest of the gallery contains details of the day, artefacts, missing posters, news reports and items such as one of the recognisable gnarled, burnt windows from one of the planes. It also has a wall with photographs of the majority of the victims. I’m actually crying just writing this because it really did personalise an event which although shocking, has always felt quite distant to me. Seeing that wall of smiles, families, memories… it was just too much. The memory of that emotion will never leave me. The gallery space has about 7 boxes of tissues dotted around on benches. Standing with a room full of strangers, most with tears rolling down their faces, is very surreal.
After spending a couple of hours in there, walking back out into the sunlight and seeing the site with completely new eyes was hard. I only took one photograph, which is of the two original steel tridents from the twin towers (which formed part of the entrance) which had just been returned 2 days earlier for use in building the Memorial Museum.
As I stood gazing over at the site, in silence, wondering how the hell we could just get on with a normal day now… I noticed what I thought was litter in the sky. As I squinted, I realised it was a HUGE butterfly. It flew around in front of me, and then around the men building, and the girders of the Freedom Tower, and then back close enough for me to take a photograph of before flying away. Take from this what you will, but in a second of despair, that butterfly comforted me and gave me hope and it felt like a really profound and fortunate thing to happen.
I’ll leave this there; bored of my NYC ramblings yet? Only one more I promise, then normal service will resume! It’s really more for my sieve-brain benefit than anything so apologies if you are thinking snore.
DON’T forget to enter/tweet my NYC Giveaway! it closes TOMORROW!