This is the final installment of my solo NYC trip as you'll have to forgive my lack of photos from here on in! I always seem to do this; I'll be the super keen tourist as a holiday begins but once you're totally in the zone, I'm too absorbed in being in real time to pick up the camera. After my eventful Thursday and Friday, Saturday was a totally different vibe as it was again super hot in Manhattan, and West Village was heaving with people.
I haven't touched on my hotel for a while but it was still as small as ever, and was feeling more and more cramped by the day. The daily routine of the shared bathrooms had become even more of a hindrance as I tentatively checked each day what sort of state I would find it in, despite there being cleaners constantly in there throughout the day. Transporting all of my toiletries each time was getting old and my teeny room served no comfort. The only option was to head out each day but after a few busy ones, I was deflating in energy. If I were at home, I would have spent some still time after hectic days pottering around my room, visiting my nan or chilling out, but the onus of being in NYC is to go, go, go. If I were with friends, you bounce off each other and brighten the mood, but solo travel means its all down to you.
It would have suited better if I'd have arrived on a busy weekend and then had the quieter weekdays to continue exploring, but this Saturday was bright and bustling, and I could feel the energy crackling outside on the streets. I selected my coolest, breeziest outfit of an off-shoulder crop top and crochet trousers, and headed off into the still heat. I planned to stroll around West Village, Soho and onto East Village, but after browsing a few stores, I headed back to By Chloe for a guac burger, though the line was huuuge. I took it as take out and sat in nearby Washington Square Park amongst the chatting friends, musicians and board games. I would have loved a pal to chat with too, but I chilled with a book and snacked.
The day took a wild turn as my friend was at a day party at a club nearby. Yes, essentially clubbing in the day. When travelling solo you need to be much more forthcoming, so I basically invited myself to this and shoved away that little voice that no one likes me! The club was every bit as identical as an evening event, even up to the stern bouncer. I hadn't actually anticipated this and when met with the typical closed barrier initially, I strutted up and declared I was here with the promoter, even though the doormen did ask if I was lost. I was granted access and luckily my friend was at the door waiting to bring us back to a table complete with a bar cart-worth of spirits, girls continuously bringing more out, old school '90s tunes and a heaving crowd dancing as though it was 2am. I'd been to this club last time I was in New York (one of Rihanna's haunts), but it wasn't as busy as today's mass of partiers. Quite surreal to spend hours in the dark club and then emerge into daylight later in the early evening but hey, only in New York! I also took my polaroid camera and found that's a truly easy way to make new friends.
After my completely random Saturday, I had a few tasks ahead of me on Sunday. It was still super warm and I booked another blow dry to save from the horror of trying to sort my own hair out in the communal bathrooms. Waking up and having to gear up and gather your things before you even pop to the bathroom was still rather annoying! I'd had such a lovely experience meeting Nathan for my last blow dry that I booked another with him, even though I wondered if he'd really want to see me. In hindsight, I'm not sure my self belief levels were heightened enough for an extended trip. Sure, I was full of confidence and gusto but also I only had myself to contribute and care for my energy levels, and not having a comforting place to rest didn't help, nor did the silence. When experiencing something new alone, I realised you have to have such an open, strong mind, ready to take hold of every opportunity and assert yourself enough to not get shy or lonely. If you doubt yourself for a second, it's easy to curl away. There's strength in numbers, so you must know yourself inside out and always be highly aware of your needs. It sounds strange, but when you have no schedule, it's easy to get caught up in your battle instead of assessing how tired/hungry/thirsty you are. I put the pressure on myself to go, go, go instead of taking time to chill in a safe space and not feel so swallowed up by the city.
An example at this point was not feeling hungry for breakfast, not being able to decide what to tempt myself to eat, and wandering around until I stopped at an awkward juice bar. It's small, but in those moments when you're flagging, you need that familiar face, that friend to take the reigns, the mood to be lifted by chatter, and the energy to be reset. Booking the blowdry was a great choice as seeing Nathan was like seeing a friendly face and as he did my hair, we got on so well that he gave me his number and invited me to hang with him and his boyfriend if I had any more free time in the city. I texted him after just how his kindness really made the difference to my trip! That's the thing about New York, there's no British shyness - it's very forward!
My mission next that day was to head for Broadway to see Aladdin! Being bustled into the crowded theatre full of tourists and taking a seat alone is quite an odd experience, as though you have lost your friend or are indeed yourself simply lost! I styled it out as I took my circle seat, and got ready for a grand show. This won't be a popular opinion but I wasn't really feeling it! I hoped Aladdin would be a flurry of exotic colours and would dramatically transport you to Arabia, but it felt more like a kid's pantomime with a heavy dose of artificial gloss. The characters were so perfect that it almost took the emotion out of the performance, and as we all already know the storyline, it played out simply. The soundtrack is amazing and I loved the inclusion of Proud of your Boy, but it didn't lift me up, and as I left the theatre I felt drained. I think I walked all the way back to West Village after grabbing some quick food as I had plans for that evening.
I love the Sorry About Last Night gals (if you know you know) and there wasn't a podcast show that night, but Corinne Fisher was doing a stand up comedy show at The Stand in East Village called The Comedienne Project. I was delighted she was in town and had booked the ticket before coming, despite eyeing up the Travis Scott show that night. It's weird but I'd been hoping Travis Scott was touring at the time I was visiting as I'd been listening to his stuff non-stop around the time, but something stopped me from getting a ticket. Going to an insane show alone was potentially a step too far and would have meant I'd really have to fake it in the look-completely-casual-and-normal-while-having-no-friends department, and I knew I could get a ticket from a tout on the day if I wanted to go. I was happy with my comedy show though, and also I still had my dress to wear. The dress. Before my trip, I was searching sites and shops for hours to find great clothes but nothing amazing surfaced until I saw this iiiincredible SCK the Label dress on Naked Dresses. Yes, I own this dress and it's insane. Truly!
As I hadn't worn it yet, I put it on over dark tight skinny jeans with ripped knees, super tall lace-up sandals and threw over a huge, oversized denim jacket that hung around my shoulders, the sleeves pushed up. I hope that doesn't sound too crazy but it seemed to work in some way, looking effortless but slightly revealing this major statement dress behind the casual jacket. Definitely a Carrie Bradshaw moment!
I took a cab east and walked into the comedy club, heart beating but feigning that I knew exactly what I was doing. I think that was the most draining aspect of the holiday - constantly having to appear like you weren't completely clueless, sometimes for safety reasons and sometimes to not look like a bumbling idiot. Maybe I put too much pressure on this, but I was here to live as a New Yorker and not a tourist, or at least appear to be. I was strapped with a wristband and sent downstairs to the basement, where a small stage was surrounded by around ten small round tables. I took a seat against the wall facing the stage so I would lean back and have the view of the room, and observed the cool groups out on a Sunday night. I was there in my extreme plunge dress and high heels, casual jacket slung over, and felt pretty damn cool. In moments like that I did feel in my element, a mysterious solo girl about town. The show was awesome; I've never really watched live comedy and each act was hilarious, especially Corinne, who felt such a privilege to see live after listening to absolutely hours of her podcasts. The show closed up just as my friend messaged me that he was heading to a club that night - 1OAK to be precise, for none other than the Travis Scott afterparty. I was there! I couldn't leave without approaching Corinne and gushing a little, before chatting with some girls in the loos and inviting them to 1OAK too?! They had work but I was seriously feeling great after a few hours of laughter and chill, and jumped in a cab back to my hotel to ditch my jeans, as the club was right around the corner from my hotel in West Village.
I was a gal with a plan as I cobbled my bag together and headed back out into the night - so New York. I met my friend near the club and we walked past a huge queue to the side of the barriers, where the promotor met us and attracted a bouncer to let us in. It was like a military operation. My friend randomly asked if I had my ID and oh noooo, I hadn't packed it! In my haste it had slipped my mind and I felt so stupid! The doors are SO strict in New York, you can't just queue up to a club and walk in even; you have to be invited or on the guest list. True to my luck, I was asked for my ID right away by the bouncer. I shouldn't have really said anything but in those tense few milliseconds of decision, I shook my head loftily in what I thought was my best Made In Chelsea-style, cool girl vibe and said in a posh accent 'In England we don't need ID', looking at the bouncer as though this was a strange foreign occurrence and I was quite outraged and bemused that I was being questioned for my ID. I hoped I looked like a cool actress or model or just a somebody and somehow my guardian angel was looking down on me and we were let in. YESSSS!
I was kicking myself but it didn't matter because I was IN! We strutted across the club that two years ago I was in with Miley Cyrus and Rumer Willis at the next table. This club is lit! I was so happy to get in that I bought my friend and I a drink, which ended up being £80. EIGHTY Great British Pounds for two drinks!!!! Luckily I paid by card so I didn't realise this horror until my return, but this club is seriously in the big leagues. What ensued was plenty of dancing, being part of a table that was constantly showered with drinks, and partying until the wee hours.
There was talk of Travis Scott and Tyson Beckford (!!!!!!) turning up but I had already seen another club was boasting his after party and wasn't too concerned about a sighting. However when we spilled onto the buzzing street a few hours later, my friend shouted 'Tyga!' and turned around shouting hey. Yup, it was the Tyga, just strolling down the road! Embarrassingly my friend shouted 'she's a big fan!' about me (I'm certainly not) and my face probably looked like a cross between a freshly caught fish and a deer in headlights. I was pleased to have at least one celeb sighting though!
I slept into the morning of the next day, and woke to take on my final hours. My flight was the next day so I wasn't so sure what to do. There's of course plenty to do in NYC but I didn't have anything specific on my list, and so I walked the High Line as the entrance was right by The Jane, and sat for a while looking out onto the water, knowing I was soon to leave this crazy place. If it was now I would have listened to music or a meditation, but I was exhausted from the series of events the past days had offered! If I'm going out-out at home, I'll prepare to spend the next day relaxing at home, but my hotel room really was a coffin of despair at this point and being in it for more than 5 minutes felt like it was closing in on me. I did some last minute souvenir shopping and grabbed my final pizza slices, where embarrassingly as I ordered I said 'we'll have a slice of this and a slide of that' and the guy responded 'erm, you're not with anyone...' to my mention of 'we'. I was so without company that I was inventing people at this stage!
I paid a last minute homage to SATC hotspot Magnolia Bakery (bonus points if you know which episode it was featured - 'I have a crush!') and spent the evening packing and watching TV with those awful medical/addiction adverts, before bedding down for my final night after a last visit to that damn shared bathroom!
I was truly ready to go home by the end of the trip and I don't always feel like that on holiday, but this one had me feeling some kinda way! I've reflected on the experience a lot and realised a few things.
I can look back now and see that not having a comfortable base made the difference when I was recuperating from the day or setting myself up ahead of one in the mornings. I didn't think it mattered much before I went, but when you are alone in a big city, you need a place to call your own. I arrived with confidence but it was rather daunting to do everything by myself. Now before another solo trip, I'd make sure I was absolutely hyped up to take anything that came my way. I'd take fabulous outfits, plan a stricter dining itinerary, stock up my hotel with snacks and drinks, keep in touch with family and friends at home more, and book in even more 'people time', whether that's watching shows or hanging out with friends. Eating and going to attractions alone wasn't so fun for me, but going to shows and museums, and of course shopping, was great solo.
I'd probably only take a number of days rather than a week, and I'd go with no expectation or comparison to any other trip, as travel is such a different experience when it's just yourself. I'd choose my seasons wisely and either go for summer vibes or Christmas magic maybe, rather than an in between, generic season.
It was certainly a learning curve! Would you ever consider solo travel? I'd love to hear your thoughts! I hope you enjoyed my posts.