City of Dreams
Twenty-one-year-old Sean O’Kelly fulfilled a lifelong dream when he visited New York City in February 2014
For as long as I can remember I always wanted to go to New York. I suppose it was all the movies filmed there, but it appeared to be the city of a young person’s dreams – filled with vibrant streets and diverse people.
As my 21st birthday grew closer, I was getting curious as to what my parents would get me, but they made me wait till the evening of my birthday before they pointed the video camera at me and presented me with a rather small odd-shaped present! After about five minutes of me opening it (lots of layers of wrapping paper later), I finally saw what it was. It was a big red apple. My first reaction was “Oh... My... God. I’m going to New York aren’t I?” It turned out that my parents had booked tickets for the whole family to go to the Big Apple two months later in February 2014. As the trip got nearer, we kept hearing weather reports of snow, snow and more snow. With flights being cancelled, I worried we wouldn’t make it, but luck was on our side. We arrived in the Big Apple on 15th February, and a cab brought us from JFK in to Manhattan. The footpaths (or sidewalks as they say in the US) were covered in snow and the city looked magical.
We stayed in the Marriott Hotel on Times Square. This was recommended to us by my girlfriend as she and her family had stayed there twice previously. When we got our rooms, I couldn’t believe the view. We were looking straight out on Times Square.
Our itinerary was packed. We went for dinner at a lovely restaurant called Benjamin Steakhouse on 52 East 41st Street, and most mornings we had amazing breakfasts in ‘The Red Flame’. We went to the 88th floor of the Empire State Building. That was an amazing experience. It was so surreal to see all of New York City from a height. We also went on a guided boat tour of Manhattan called ‘The Circle Line’. We got so close to the Statue of Liberty, I was practically touching it!
We went to the 9/11 memorial site to pay our respects. I will never ever forget being there. Seeing the site was so emotional for me. The way the New Yorkers constructed the memorial was really amazing. The names of those who lost their lives in the tragedy were etched into two granite walls. In the grounds of the memorial there is a tree, known as the memorial tree. A security guard told us that this particular tree was close to the twin towers, and was badly damaged, but has since revived.
I’m a big fan of Apple products so we went to the Apple Store. It was such a huge place and it was packed, although one of the sales assistants told me it was often even busier! I couldn’t leave the store, or New York for that matter, empty handed, so I bought myself an iPad mini which I love.
Access on the streets of New York wasn’t great. Although curbs were low, the snow had left the pavements cracked and uneven. And transport for people with disabilities was a nightmare. We waited an hour for an accessible taxi before giving up and transferring into a regular one. It’s an incredible city, but my advice for others is to book everything you can in advance and get your hotel to organise the accessible taxis!