Travel Blog

  1. A mini-adventure of Downtown Manhattan

    posted by Colm Hanratty | 0 Comments


    Last June I visited a travel blogging conference in Keystone, Colorado. I’d never been to that part of the States before, but I’m glad that this conference triggered my first visit. It’s a stunning part of the world and, apart from feeling ill on occasion due to the elevation, I’ve only good memories of it. But prior to that, I visited New York City. I’ve never been to America and not visited NYC – I just don’t feel I’ve been to the US unless I make a quick pit stop in the Big Apple.

    My most recent trip certainly was that – a pit stop. I arrived at 2pm on a Thursday afternoon and stayed in Midtown. I spent the day exploring the city, taking photos, fact-checking our free pocket guide and more.

    On the Friday I travelled to the conference, before returning on Monday evening, this time staying in Chinatown. It was the next day that I realised this - even though New York City might seem like an enormous city, you can see a hell of a lot of it in a short space of time. Let me explain how...

    Two of Manhattan's best-known ethnic neighbourhoods

    My mini-adventure of arguably the world's most famous island began on Mulberry Street. While it's better known for Italian eateries (Mulberry Street is where you'll find Manhattan's Little Italy), this well-known street also runs through Chinatown. So within just ten minutes, the soles of my shoes had been through two of Downtown Manhattan's most celebrated ethnic districts. Between the two areas I witnessed Chinese restaurants on every corner, a close-knit Chinese community, and a street full of restaurants specialsing in anti-pasta and pizza.

    Another well-known street separates these two neighbourhoods - Canal Street. As the stores that can be found in the streets around Times Square, here you'll find endless tourist-kitsch up for grabs. There's also a plethora of mobile-phone shops if you need to pick up a SIM-card.

    Walking west along Canal, I hit Manhattan's most famous thoroughfare - Broadway. While the avenues in Manhattan run directly from north to south, Broadway cuts through Manhattan Island. Beginning in the north west, it ends in the south east. The particular segment I was on, in another of the city's famous neighbourhoods called SoHo (standing for South of Houston), is known for three things - shopping, shopping and shopping. If you're in the market for a new pair of sneakers, this is the right part of town to pick a pair up. Sadly, I wasn't, so I moved on.

    Little villages in the biggest city in the world

    Just as I never visit the US of A without visiting NYC, I never visit NYC without checking into Greenwich Village at some stage. As the sub-heading suggests, it truly is a village. I love walking the tree-lined streets, enjoying the lack of sirens, taking pictures of the specialist shops, and calling into friends (a girl from back home owns a bar in Greenwich Village called 'Slane' where you'll enjoy a beer if you pop in for a cold one). It's probably my favourite part of Manhattan (Greenwich Village...not the bar).

    Just minutes away from it is the West Village. This is a far more residential affair, where some of the Big Apple's wealthiest people call home. You'd recognise it from TV shows such as Sex and the City (Carrie's house is in the West Village) and the 'Friends' apartment block which is also there.

    Cool Manhattan

    Ask anybody living in Manhattan 10 years ago what the coolest part of the city was and they'd tell you it was the Meatpacking District. Some of the world's most innovative designers have stores there and it's full of bars and restaurants frequented by the city's beautiful people. While it mightn't be the hippest part of town any more (that moniker has been given to the Lower East Side), it's where my mini-adventure of downtown Manhattan began to end.

    Just like the Meatpacking District was the talk of the town in terms of areas, ask any local what attraction you shouldn't miss and many won't say the Empire State Building, or the Statue of Liberty for that matter. Instead they'll suggest you walk The High Line - a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side.

    There are many things to love about the High Line. For a start, it's extremely peaceful up there. Even though you can still hear the taxis and traffic and subways from below, there's something very calming about the fact that all that commotion is below you. Secondly, it's free. Walking the High Line won't cost you a dime. Thirdly, there's a great view of Midtown Manhattan from up there. Finally, there are cools things to see along the way that are actually up on the High Line - namely graffiti and the High Line Zoo. And did I mention it covers Chelsea too? If you're planning a trip to New York make sure to pencil this into your schedule.

    A lot seen in a short space of time

    I'm not sure if you've counted, but in this post I've mentioned seven of Manhattan's most famous neighbourhoods. On top of that I've also talked about an extremely famous street and one of the cities newest and top attractions. This is what I saw in three hours in Manhattan. This is why I love this city. Aside from the obvious attributes like being the 'city that never sleeps' and the 'capital of the world', it's a city that may seem daunting when you think about covering it, but by planning your itinerary right, it's a city that isn't as big as you think.

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