Getting off the plane after leaving Europe for the first time, I was met with a cold blast of air like nothing I’d felt before, as temperatures of below -19°C hit New York in February of last year. It was so cold that I now feel grateful for the ‘cold’ temperature of 1°C I might get here in Bristol.
Funnily enough, New York was drastically colder than my visit to Moscow the preceding February, where quite the opposite occurred — a ‘heat wave’, with (wait for it) temperatures of up to 6°C!
If you think weather forecasts in the UK are dramatic, take a look at American TV. Broadcasts of the people of Boston trapped in snowed-in houses, followed by an escaped convict turning himself in. Reports on the risk of the cold to homeless people and general health warnings permeated every television channel and newspaper headline in the country.
Staying in the heart of Midtown, a road away from the Empire State Building, my family and I were lucky enough to be able to pop in and out of our Airbnb apartment to see local sights rather than take cold, laborious journeys on the metallic metro out of Manhattan. The cold days meant stark blue skies that never failed to make even some of the more mundane concrete buildings impressive.
A walk through the streets of New York could normally be a somewhat fashionable occasion; a chance to show off your ‘street-style’ in the hope of photographer Brandon Stanton calling you over for a feature in his Humans of New York series. Yet passers-by were dressed head to toe in thermals: sunglasses to protect their eyes, hats on and scarves up to the sunglasses, and at least two pairs of socks and gloves. Even dogs were wearing strange shoes. Taking your gloves off for a second resulted in ten minutes of panic while you waited for colour and feeling to return to your fingers.
Yet it wasn’t all bad. Central Park looked astonishing coated in a white blanket. The sparkling snow decorated the tree branches and the ponds froze over. There is something magical about being in a city covered in snow, although this was much more enjoyable from inside — the cold also provided a wonderful, timely opportunity for exploring the many thrift shops in Chelsea. Piled high with dirt-cheap vintage clothes, we dove in excitedly, fishing for the occasional treasure.
‘City Bakery’ hold an annual hot chocolate festival every February — the perfect way to warm up. They do a new flavour every day, including quirky flavours like lemon, beer, s’more, cinnamon, bourbon and peanut butter. The list goes on. As it’s a hot chocolate festival, anyone would have to be crazy not to go.
Despite the High Line — a disused railway-turned-public-garden — being famous for its blossoming flowers, it was covered in snow, which still didn’t inhibit the amazing view of the city. The yellow taxis stand out beautifully against the red brick buildings. You really get a sense of the immensity of the buildings from this angle.
We of course visited ‘Top of the Rock’ at the Rockefeller Centre: after entering a tiny lift along with other tourists, we were whizzed to the top to discover some of the most amazing views across the city. A viewpoint from inside meant we didn’t have to stay in the cold for too long while we appreciated the stunning views. The best thing about going up the Rockefeller centre as opposed to the Empire State Building is you can actually see the wonders of the Empire State Building in your view of the cityscape.
Removing our gloves to freshly manicured nails was a welcome sight as we relished the opportunity of a stop-off and gossip at the nearest nail bar. Chatting with local New Yorkers was hilarious and insightful, as they told us about their love of the city and their own personal struggles. It is easy to forget about day-to-day sufferings when on holiday, but it doesn’t hurt to open your eyes once in a while and listen to someone’s stories.
The strong-willed weather complemented the determined faces of children and their families as they trudged through the snow-covered Brooklyn streets back to their iconic Brownstone houses ready to have snowball fights. The sheer power of the weather also reflected my great enjoyment of my first trip out of Europe; an exaggerated picture of a must-see city that is guaranteed to touch the hearts of any of its visitors in one way or another.