ALYSSA IN THE U.S.A. (Part 1): New York

New York. Before my visit, I knew it only as the city where Taylor Swift owns an apartment (and likes to step out on the daily to greet the paps with her cat – Olivia Benson – in her Swiftacular grasp), the place where Alicia Keys and the kids from Glee went to make their dreams come true, and most importantly, the setting for pretty much every fabulous Chuck-and-Blair moment on Gossip Girl. True, that’s still what I think about whenever someone alludes to the Big Apple. But I also have so many real-life, not-mediated-by-television memories to add!

For the first time in my life I was in another country. Add to the mix the vibrancy of Times Square lights at night, the immensity of The Mob spilling off the sidewalk, the loudness of sirens or taxis, and that unfamiliar experience of “jetlag” — and you’ll have an idea of what I was feeling. A.K.A. GREAT, HAPPY, EXCITED, AND QUEASY. Where do you go when you don’t know how you feel?

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The Hard Rock Cafe. And you are willing to wait for 40 minutes because it is Times Square and you will start this trip off right: with a burger and fries.

The first day:

Our New York initiation was one of those EXTREMELY TOURISTY boat cruises that circled Manhattan Island. While walking to the pier, I posed awkwardly next to a New York taxi:

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Then, from the boat, we saw Ellis Island, some buildings, some bridges, some tourists, and the Statue of Liberty.

It does NOT say "RSVP" on the Statue of Liberty.

It does NOT say “RSVP” on the Statue of Liberty.

Then after a very late lunch–where I realised that I was going to have a hard time finding a meal that didn’t come with cheese, or fries, or a pickle–I felt like I had lifted out of my body and slammed into a postcard when we saw this:

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Seriously. That is not from Google. That is a real photo, that I have on my camera, in reality. So cool.

The second day:

Two magnificent discoveries: wifi in the lobby and Forever 21. I could not go into one of those stores and walk out empty-handed.

But that wasn’t even the best part of the day! My friend back at home had recommended a food tour through the East Village and… Well. She had me at “food.” Our guide was this young college student with a love of eating and an American accent who I wanted to be my best friend SO BAD. She took us all over town, from Papaya King to Iggy’s Pizzeria, AND SHE JUST LET US EAT STUFF. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Can't you tell from the back of her head that she's just so nice and awesome?

Can’t you tell from the back of her head that she’s just so nice and awesome?

The third day (phew):

We did a “movie sights tour” (I know, I know) on a bus around New York. The guide, Amadeo, desperately wanted to be Joey Tribianni. He could recite every single line from FRIENDS (me too, man). Saw the FRIENDS building, the very very south end of Central Park, and the Plaza.

That night we visited Grand Central Station and I determined to return one day, to twirl in a ball gown.

The fourth day:

Blended in with the New Yorkers (despite the Aussie accents and anxious peering out the window so as not to miss our stop) be taking the subway. We were visiting the 9/11 memorial site, which was incredibly emotional and just…unbelievable.

Because my dad was a volunteer firefighter, mum kept pointing out every single fire hydrant we passed by. Every. Single. One. And when a truck went by, she’d whip out the camera so fast you’d think she had just witnessed her child’s first steps.

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I’ve still got Nashville, Memphis, Orlando, Vegas, LA and Waikiki to discuss (I can’t believe this trip either. It was once in a lifetime). Stay tuned for the next installment!

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