Circle Line cruise

We’re taking to the water to see the city of NYC from a new perspective now with a Circle Line Cruise.

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Started in 1945 Circle Line is one of the oldest NYC cruise companies and offers lots of different options for seeing the Big Apple from the water.

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Departing from Pier 83, close to the Intrepid Aircraft carrier that now serves as a museum, we opted for the Landmarks Cruise.

Two and a half hours of gentle floating between some of the most iconic sights the city has to offer.

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From the comfort of the deck you can see it all, from the One World Centre to the Empire State, the Chrysler Building to the Brooklyn Bridge.

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And of course, the most iconic green woman ever created – Lady Liberty. I don’t pretend to be cool about it, the hubby remains impassive but he is excited inside – I think!

Here’s a few phone snaps of the lady herself – not great quality but you get the gist.

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Later on in our trip we’ll get to climb up to the pedestal of this world famous landmark for a proper up close look at here.

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After bidding goodbye to her for a while the cruise carries on to the three impressive bridges that span the East River – below is just one of them.

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We got the cruise as part of the New York City Pass which saved us some money and also time queuing at several attractions.

It’s well worth a look if you know exactly what you want to see and have the luxury of a few days to see them in.

Other passes tend to make you cram everything into one, tow of three days but this one allowed you to do them at leisure over nine days.

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Flatiron & 5th Avenue

New York is littered with world renowned architecture and instantly recognisable buildings.

One such landmark is the The Flatiron Building, originally the Fuller Building, a triangular 22-story steel-framed highrise on Fifth Avenue.

On completion in 1902, it was one of the tallest buildings in the city at 20 floors high and was one of only two skyscrapers north of 14th Street – the other being the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Tower, one block east.

Close to the Flatiron you can see one of the city’s last remaining cast iron street clocks.

This 19-foot timepiece has an ornamental base and a wreath of oak leaves around the clock face.

It’s gilded in gold and has stood, providing the time for busy New Yorkers since 1909. It was completely restored back to its former glory in 2011.

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Every angle of this quirky building is gorgeous and its address instantly transports you to a world of decade, luxury and old school American elegance and expense.

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If you turn your back on the Flat Iron building you can spot another highly iconic sight – the towering Empire State building – complete with all the perfect NYC elements, yellow traffic lights and a yellow cab!!

The National Historic Landmark program (NRHP) focuses on places of significance in American history, architecture, engineering, or culture.

It recognises structures, buildings, sites, and districts associated with important events, people, or architectural movements.

There’s an impressive list of National Historic Landmarks located along Fifth Avenue.

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National Historic Landmarks in the vicinity of Fifth Avenue include:

  • The Empire State Building – 350 Fifth Avenue
  • Flatiron Building – 175 Fifth Avenue – National Historic Landmark
  • New York Public Library – Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street
  • Rockefeller Center − 45 Rockefeller Plaza
  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral – 460 Madison Avenue

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This part of the city feels like walking through a film set.

It actually can’t get any more American than this snap of the Stars and Stripes fluttering in front of the world’s most iconic skyscaper.

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Manhattan by night from Brooklyn park

Having spent the day in my new favourite place – Brooklyn – we head back at night to see the wonderful night time spectacle of Manhattan.

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Shimmering and glittering in the velvet night like a mirage or the wonderous City of Oz.

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The reflection of the sparkling highrise buildings dances across the pitch black depths of the East River.

You can clearly make out the One World centre with its illuminated spike heading straight for the heavens.

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Below the Brooklyn bridge is lit up in its night time best to light the way home for weary workers and excitable tourists.

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It’s a gorgeous sight and free too! Just head to Brooklyn park and enjoy the view.

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Walking the Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest roadway bridges in the United States. Started in 1869 and completed fourteen years later in 1883, it connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, spanning the East River.

It has a main span of 1,595.5 feet and was the first steel-wire suspension bridge constructed.

The immense towers are built of limestone, granite and cement. The bridge’s two towers were built by floating two caissons – giant upside-down boxes made of southern yellow pine, in the span of the East River, and then beginning to build the stone towers on top of them until they sank to the bottom of the river

The bridge itself is a hectic, thronged walkway above the constantly flowing traffic.

The view from the bridge is simply phenomenal – looking down and towards Manhattan.

More than 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 cyclists cross the Brooklyn Bridge each day meaning that it is not a relaxing experience!

The bridge was originally conceived by German immigrant John Augustus Roebling in 1852 who spent 15 years working to sell the idea.

Sadly he died of a tetanus infection before construction could begin and the project was passed to his son.

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Walking the bridge is a definite highlight that everyone should try and squeeze into an NYC trip.

Vinegar Hill


Next on our tour of Brooklyn we’re heading to a curious little neighbourhood that is not exactly on the tourist trail – Vinegar Hill.

It’s a tiny neighbourhood in Brooklyn on the East River Waterfront between Dumbo and the Brooklyn Navy Yard.


The neighbourhood gets its name from the Battle of Vinegar Hill, an engagement near Enniscorthy during the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

Vinegar Hill was commonly known as Irishtown in the 19th century, one of several places in the New York area with that name because of its sizeable population of Irish immigrants.

Most of Vinegar Hill consists of 19th-century Federal Style and Greek Revival style homes mixed with industrial buildings.

Hudson Avenue and Plymouth, Water and Front Streets are not tarmacked roads, rather they are made of Belgian Blocks which are similar to cobbles but a bit flatter and more rectangular.

The tiny little district is like a miniature open air architecture museum.

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It feels like a place stranded in time – a odd, out of place that has sealed the past in amber and shows how Brooklyn would have looked in the early 19th century.

The area was declared a Historical District in the late 1990s but it does not feel as if any investment is forthcoming, rather it feels like the developers are circling like vultures, just waiting to be able to level these characterful properties and throw up more homogeneous, glass sky scrapers.

Sadly it has a air of slow and inevitable decay, as is evidenced by the lone three story walk-up houses that are still standing defiantly even though their neighbours have long been demolished.

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It is one of a vanishing breed of areas that shows how New York was, back when it was a mecca for anyone with a dream.

A place of opportunity no matter how rich or poor you were. There is little space for penniless dreamers in the Big Apple these days.

With its endless concrete canyons and ever higher towers, New York feels like a place so concerned with rushing to its future that it has no time to appreciate where it has come from.

Long may places like Vinegar Hill stay standing to allow for a nostalgic remembrance of the ordinary people that contributed to NYCs success.

Manhattan bridge and Dumbo

The awe inspiring views just keep on coming on our whirlwind trip around New York. Still over on Brooklyn we’re taking a gander at another epic bridge – The Manhattan Bridge.

The bridge’s total length is 6,855 ft (2,089 m). It is one of four toll-free bridges spanning the East River; the other three are the Queensboro, Williamsburg, and Brooklyn Bridges.

Speaking of which, here’s the stunning Brooklyn Bridge again as viewed from the Main Street Park in Dumbo

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The area around the Manhattan Bridge is known as DUMBO – short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. Originally a ferry landing, it is full of imposing 19th- and early 20th-century industrial and warehouse buildings.

With the de-industrialisation of New York City, Dumbo saw an influx of artists and other young homeowners looking for inexpensive loft apartment spaces for studios and homes.

The acronym ‘Dumbo’ came about in 1978, when residents coined it in the hope that such an unattractive name would help deter developers. Sadly this was in vain as it is now a very sought after, and as a result, expensive area.

35476214_10155407738187353_1990331795366739968_nEven though it’s now a prestigious address, there are still colourful corners to be found such as the cute little mexican cafe above.

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But the main draw for me in DUMBO is the stunning views of Manhattan Bridge that you can catch from the streets in the area.

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One of the best views can be found from Plymouth Street, lined with old brick warehouses that bookend the amazing views of the bridge.

The bridge was officially opened on December 31, 1909 and has since seen a veritable army of drivers and pedestrian utilise it on a daily basis.

 

 

Watching the water taxis

More spectacular views of Lower Manhattan can be seen from the Fulton Landing Pier

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Fulton Landing Pier it’s perfect place to linger and people watch. As well as being the home of the famous Brooklyn Icecream Factory.

Fulton Ferry Landing pier, at the foot of Old Fulton Street, is one of Brooklyn’s most historic sites, marking the location of the first ferry service between Brooklyn and Manhattan in 1642.

It forms part of the Brooklyn Bridge Park that encompasses a variety of parks, greenaways and beaches.

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The refurbished pier was re-opened in 1997, offering amazing views of the harbour, Brooklyn Bridge and the Lower Manhattan skyline.

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The landing is still a great place for watching the comings and goings of the East River.

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The landing includes custom-designed marine railings that feature words from Walt Whitman’s famous “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” poem.

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There’s also a lovely, but very expensive, place to eat in the form of the five star River Cafe. Quaint and cute looking but SUPER COSTLY… but with a view that almost justifies the price!

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Brooklyn Heights Promenade

Moving on from the lovely brownstones of Brooklyn Heights, we’re off to get some of the best views of Manhattan from this side of the East River.

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Walkers, runners, rollerbladers and sightseers all stroll along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. It’s one of the best places to check out New York from a distance.

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Running alongside the East River you have stunning vistas of the Manhattan skyline across the water.  It’s lined with benches, little areas of parkland and even a small beach.

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Brooklyn Heights Promenade is just 0.3 miles long but packs a mighty punch in terms of sights.

The promenade opened in 1950 and was built to protect Brooklyn Heights from a proposal to build an expressway through the heart of the neighbourhood.

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The promenade is another New York filmic hot spot featuring in Annie Hall, Moonstruck and Saturday Night Fever.

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You can see the skyscrapers of downtown Manhattan and towering One World Trade Centre.

We can also spot the bustling South Street Seaport close to our hotel and the ubiquitous Brooklyn Bridge, the iconic link between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

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It’s well worth the short stroll – although it is only a ten minute walk at a quick pace you’ll spend considerably longer just admiring the iconic views.

Next up more stunning views of Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge park.

Brooklyn Heights

Heading under the river we head to Brooklyn Heights an affluent residential neighborhood within the New York City borough of Brooklyn.

Originally referred to as Brooklyn Village, it has been a prominent area of Brooklyn since 1834.

The neighborhood is noted for its low-rise architecture and its many brownstone rowhouses, most of them built prior to the Civil War

Brooklyn Heights was the first neighborhood to be protected by the 1965 Landmarks Preservation Law of New York City.

The areas is full of lovely architecture, the mainly typical brownstones that feature in nearly every New York film or TV show.

A typical brownstone rowhouse is three or four stories tall, with the main floor above the street level and is reached by stairs, referred to as a “stoop”, a word derived from Dutch.

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Little Italy

Fresh from China Town we head to the neighbouring district of Little Italy.

Once known for its large population of Italian Americans today the evocative neighbourhood holds only a handful of Italian stores and restaurants.

It has some well known neighbours, to the west by Tribeca and Soho, on the south by Chinatown, on the east by the Bowery and Lower East Side, and on the north by Nolita.

It might be small but it packs a lot into a few blocks including colourful artwork and this traditional / kitsch cigar shop complete with Pope and Native American Indian wood carving.

Mass immigration from Italy during the 1880’s led to large settlements of Italian immigrants in lower Manhattan and in 1910 Little Italy was home to almost 10,000 Italians, all bringing their food, language and culture vividly to life in its streets.

They also brought with them less desirable influences including organised crime and the Mafia.

These days the district is a shadow of its former self with its neighbour China Town rapidly expanding to takeover where gelaterias and authentic Italian restaurants once thrived.

But you can still see the red and white checked table clothes lining the streets and grab yourself a cannoli or traditional pastry.

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It is still a fascinating place to visit, still full of little details including this Italian flag coloured water hydrant.

You can also spot colourful wall art in hidden corners if you slow down and take a look.

Little Italy was the location of the fictional Corleone crime family vividly bought to life in the novel The Godfather and the three movies based on it.

Tenement buildings, once home to the immigrants who settled the area still line the narrow streets.

Below is the John Jovino Gun Shop. It has the dubious honour of being the oldest gun shop in New York City, it also claims to be the oldest in all of America.

Founded in 1911, most of its customers are in law enforcement.

Even though its heyday is over, in the sunlight, watching the older men lounge in the shade, you are still transported back to the early days of Little Italy where optimistic men and women from the old world made the bustling streets of NYC their new home.