Part 2. Where dreams are made of

As you all know from my last post, Empire State of Mind was my chosen theme song for the trip, and I was lucky enough to have an experience in New York that was truly what “dreams are made of”.

I’ve been a fan Samantha Wills jewelry for quite a few years now, and even more of a fan of the woman behind the designs. An Aussie girl hailing from Port Macquarie, Samantha is one of my idols, a talented, hardworking entrepreneurial business woman whose jewelry-making has grown from a hobby that started on her coffee table, to a world renowned brand with a bohemian luxe feel. Her designs were even featured on the Sex and the City movie, which well and truly put her on the map!

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Samantha is now based in New York, and through a serendipitous turn of events I was given the opportunity to meet up with, and interview her, for the website I write for.

We met at a little place in the West Village called Café Cluny, apparently a regular hangout for celebs. I was so nervous and excited to meet her, and when she breezed through the doors, tall, tanned and stylishly dressed in all white, I was immediately star struck by her. She still had that Aussie beach babe vibe, and was so down to earth and genuinely interested in finding out about me. We started the interview and I awkwardly tried to sip on the coffee I’d ordered without pulling too many faces. I hate coffee but had been too nervous to think of anything else to order after they told me they didn’t do Chai.

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After the interview, Samantha handed me one of her signature carved wooden jewelry boxes, and inside was an ornate gold and turquoise bangle (Samantha Wills of course) with the words “Adventure into the wanderlust” inscribed inside. I left the interview on an absolute high, with the experience giving me a glimpse of the ‘magic’ of New York City, and I then understood why they say it’s a place “where dreams are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do”. Thanks again, Alicia Keys.

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After meeting Samantha, I met up with my cousin Simone, who I was travelling with and we visited Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment. Nestled in between other apartments on the picturesque, tree lined Perry St, the Italian style brownstone would definitely be my ideal New York City living arrangement. Numerous photos later, after posing at the bottom of the stoop, we headed uptown to check out some shopping. Lets just say, I’ll never be able to shop in Australia again. NYC definitely lives up to its reputation as the fashion capital. Yes, there are beautiful designer stores on every corner of 5th Avenue, and yes I still can’t afford to shop in them, but even the more ‘high street’ stores were filled with endless amounts of things that I wanted to buy (and that I COULD actually afford!!)

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Every time we went shopping it was guaranteed that we would come home with bags. Apologies in advance for the following commentary on my love affair with NYC shops, I’ll try to keep it short and sweet….

My favourite places to shop were Urban Outfitters – my housemate (who had also travelled during the holidays) and I agreed that it’s basically General Pants on steroids but so much better, and more bohemian than hipster, which I love. I’m so over hipster fashion, no offence to any hipsters reading this through their black framed glasses, currently spitting out their organic soy chai latte minus the soy and with almond milk, because they are so offended right now. But yeah, Urban Outfitters, I’m in love. I’m even more in love with another branch of the Urban Outfitters family, Free People, which is slightly more expensive but everything is beautiful and if I could fill my wardrobe with Free People I would one happy gal. Bloomingdales (America’s version of David Jones/Myer) is also filled with a variety of high-end and more affordable brands, and was where I discovered my new favourite pair of J Brand Luxe Sateen black jeans. Ok, getting too technical, I’ll stop now… that wasn’t so bad was it?

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We finished off a perfect day with dinner at a beautiful little Italian restaurant along the Bowery on the Lower East Side. It was there that I tried my first NYC pizza, and it certainly lived up to the hype.

Stay tuned for more of my New York adventure – I promise I will try to keep the shopping commentary to a minimum!

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Part 1. The City That Never Sleeps

Until two and a half weeks ago, I had never been overseas and had only experienced a plane flight twice, to QLD and back. So the thought of being up in the sky for around 20hrs was something new, and a little bit daunting.

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New York was my destination, a city of dreams, and infinite possibilities, at least, that’s what the movies and songs all tell us. So it was only fitting that after 20 hrs of flying, I switched my iPod to Empire State of Mind as we descended into the glowing expanse of NYC lights, grinning like an idiot, and wiping away my tears. Literally, I cried, I was that excited.

As we made our way through the airport, the first sign indicating that we were really in America was a wall adorned with a framed photo of Barrack Obama, beside the words ‘U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Welcome to the United States.”

The skyline as we drove into New York
The skyline as we drove into New York

My beloved Jay Z and Alicia Keys theme song came on again later, as we drove down through the NYC streets to our apartment, and I asked the taxi…. I mean… cab driver… to turn it up, which he happily complied with whilst doing the universally recognized hand gesture for ‘raise the roof’. Loved him.

The first morning we were there, I ventured out by myself to find some breakfast. We were staying in the Financial District for the first 6 nights at my cousin’s apartment (an Aussie expat). I spent most of my walk tossing my head from side to side like I was doing some kind of solo tango, trying to take in as much as I could.

The Freedom Tower
The Freedom Tower
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“No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” The blue squares represent the colour of the sky that day, September 11.

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We visited the 9/11 Memorial and Museum that day, and it was an absolutely surreal feeling standing there where such an awful thing happened. I still remember the day it happened, watching the two planes hit the World Trade Centre on TV before I went to school. I was in Grade 3 and since then I’d always had this fascination with what had happened, so to be at the site of it 13 years later was the weirdest feeling.

It was mesmerizing to watch the water streaming down in to the voids in the middle of the two huge memorial pools, one in each location where the buildings had stood. The sheer size of the pools amazed me, knowing that the two skyscrapers that had once stood there had been reduced to rubble.

The museum was very moving – we saw the Last Column, the Survivors Stairs, wreckages of fire engines and listened to voice messages that had been left on the phones of loved ones by some of those who had lost their lives that day.

The supporting columns where one of the planes pierced through one of the Twin Towers
The supporting columns where a plane pierced through one of the Towers
The Survivors Stairs
The Survivors Stairs
The Last Column
The Last Column

One message was from a man to his wife, telling her he was in the other building, had witnessed the plane hitting the first building, but that he was ok and his building was secure. Little did he know 😦

The Financial district is also home to Wall St, and I half expected to see Leonardo DiCaprio strutting into the Stock Exchange, Jordan Belfort style. Other than that, Wall St is not overly exciting, just a whole bunch of tourists wearing matching t-shirts and cameras round their necks.

That night my cousin took us to Times Square and as we emerged from the Subway we were met by the brightest lights and the most bustling crowd I’ve ever seen. It was crazy, being surrounded by so many people, and you can’t help but feel excited being there. There were people dressed up in Disney costumes and people dressed up in not much at all, especially the girls wearing only bather bottoms and body paint. Clearly anything goes in NY. Times Square makes the rest of the city seem slightly calmer because the atmosphere in this tourist hotspot is constantly GO GO GO.

Standing amid the lights, buildings and lively crowd you can understand why New York is known as the city that never sleeps.

Stay tuned for Part 2. of my NYC adventure

Times Square
Times Square