NEW YORK CITY…where it had all started and where it would all end, but before I joined Queen Mary 2 again, I had 4 days of exploring to do! I had last visited NYC when I was 17 years old and so much had changed since then, but there were still some things which were instantly recognisable and made me feel like I had never been away.
Our hotel choice for our city stay was the Yotel in Hell’s Kitchen and if you are looking for something fun, vibrant and fresh, then this is definitely the place for you. It’s also in a great location, within walking distance of Times Square and many famous landmarks. It was a perfect hotel choice for TravelShopGirl and I. The cabins, as they call the rooms, were ideal. I liked that my bed could be moved up or down at the touch of a button in order to give more space in the room and support for my back, should I want to sit and read.
The views from my room were great – I was on the 24th floor! I could even watch the cruise ships come and go, I spotted Norwegian Gem trying to sneak in unnoticed one morning!
Yotel has a fantastic Terrace Bar (the largest hotel terrace in NYC) and although I thought the drinks were a little pricey, the atmosphere was great and it was a nice way to spend a few hours in the evening. On site you will also find a restaurant and gym. Yotel also offers free tea/coffee and muffins every morning and the Wi-Fi is free – and fast!
It had been quite a long day and we didn’t want to do anything too strenuous, so we had a walk through Times Square and then stopped off for refreshments in a few bars – my favourite being a gay bar called Boxers. It was a nice, relaxing evening with no real plan – probably the first time for the entire trip that we didn’t have one. We also grabbed a slice of pizza from Famiglia. Little did I know at the time, that would be pretty much the only thing I ate during our time in NYC – was I complaining? I don’t think so! 😉
New York City Day 1
Day 1 was absolutely jam packed with adventures (it was also TravelShopGirl’s birthday!) and it started with a Movie and TV tour with OnLocation Tours. It was approx. 3 hours long and we drove around New York taking in famous sights and places from some of TV’s best loved shows and Hollywood’s blockbusters.
- The Friends building on Bedford Street – Friends
- Washington Square Park and Arch – I Am Legend, Big Daddy, Blue Bloods, Friends, Sweet Home Alabama etc.
- The Plaza Hotel – Home Alone 2, Crocodile Dundee etc.
- The Original Soup Man (55th Street) – Seinfeld
- Hook and Ladder 8 (North Moore Street) – Ghostbusters, Hitch and Seinfeld – Just a note to anyone hoping to visit here. The building is under heavy renovation at the moment and you can’t see any of the famous façade because of covered scaffolding.
- Empire Diner (10th Avenue) – Men in Black II, Home Alone 2, Manhattan etc.
There were so many other sites included on the tour, but the above is just a small taste of what you can expect.
In the afternoon, we took a Landmark Cruise with Circle Line Cruises and again, another fantastic hour and a half of my day. It was quite windy, but after the sweltering temperatures we had experienced in the few days before, it was well-received. Our boat glided along the water, taking in the Manhattan skyline, Statue of Liberty, One World Trade Center, Brooklyn Bridge and more. If you like the idea of a cruise as a way to take in the sights of NYC, then give Circle Line a try, but you must arrive early as it can get very busy. We took the 4:30pm cruise and it was quieter than I had expected it to be.
Circle Line offer a ton of cruise options, including Best of NYC Cruise, Landmark Cruise, Liberty Cruise, Bear Mountain Cruise and the BEAST Speedboat Ride.
We ended our evening with a walk around the city (more pizza) and a peek inside Grand Central Station – which was absolutely incredible! You may have caught glimpses of it on some of your favourite movies and TV shows, but you need to see it with your own two eyes to really appreciate it.
New York City Day 2
Day 2 in NYC would also start with OnLocation Tours, this time it was our Sopranos tour! I am a huge fan of the TV series and I had been so excited about this trip – it didn’t let me down! It was one of the best tours I have ever done, made even better by the fact that it started with a meet and greet from Joe Gannascoli, who played Vito Spatafore. If that wasn’t enough, when we officially met our guide, it turned out he had been an extra in several episodes of The Sopranos and knew just about EVERYTHING that ever went on, on and off camera. His name was Marc and he was brilliant! I wish I could have spent a few more hours with him, just to listen to all his stories.
Marc is the guy you see serving Carmela and Meadow when they had tea at the Plaza Hotel (he was actually working as a stand-in for Paulie Walnuts that day), and he was also used as a stand-in for Phil Leotardo in season 5. Marc is going to be directing his own feature in the not too distant future, you can find out more about it at MegaBallsMovie.com.
The tour featured some iconic locations from the series, some of which we were able to explore, and others we just drove by and observed from the coach. They included:
- Satin Dolls – the original Bada Bing! We actually went inside here and it was surreal.
- Holsten’s – the location of the final ever scene, where Tony, Carmela and AJ are eating onion rings in the diner/bakery. We went inside here too, and I have to say that the onion rings are really good.
- AJ’s High School
- Cleveland Auto Body – Big Pussy’s auto repair shop
- Kearny Avenue (where Satriale’s was located) – probably one of the most famous locations of them all
- Carmine’s Funeral Home
- The yard where Tony B picked up stolen cash/drugs – we also got to see the house he ran from
- Barone Sanitation
- The marina where they shot the promo image for season 5
- The Muffler Man
- The Lincoln Tunnel
If you are a Sopranos fan, then you MUST do this tour!!! If you’re not, but are into movies and TV shows, then I would recommend you have a look at the tour options available on the OnLocation Tours website. I guarantee there is a tour that you would enjoy. If you do decide to do The Sopranos tour, note that it only operates on a Saturday morning – so book long in advance!
After the tour we made our way to Little Italy, well, we had to keep the Italian theme going! We stopped at the Mulberry Street Bar for dinner – The Sopranos was also filmed here several times as well as Goodfellas and a few more. I ordered a chicken parmigiana, the first thing I’d had since arriving in NYC that wasn’t pizza! The food was good and it felt great to be eating in a location that had so much history.
We left the Mulberry Street Bar and made our way towards Canal Street when the heavens opened. We had to take shelter for a good 10 minutes until the downpour passed. From Canal Street we made our way towards the United States Court House etc.. I’m a big fan of Law and Order SVU and Blue Bloods and they shoot so many scenes here, I wanted to see it for myself.
It had been another busy day so we ended the night with visits to a few rooftop bars. The Strand Hotel may only offer a small rooftop bar but it provides the most incredible view of the Empire State Building, and I mean INCREDIBLE!
As we walked back to Yotel we grabbed another obligatory slice of pizza and that was the end of day 2. Day 3 promised another stack full of treats and sightseeing…