My Little Duke


Steph DukeComment

It’s a late and a long one. And I can’t even apologise. Because this trip was … incredible. Simply incredible. I’m still on the come down 10 months later!

Matt and I both turned 30 this year and wanted to do something a little bit special. We’ve been together for over half of our entire lives, and turing 30 within a month of each other just felt like an important milestone to celebrate.

For once, we decided to make travel plans early. My request was that if we were to travel without Phoebe, it would be for 3 nights max - especially if we went international. On the same day that we decided we’d take a trip for our 30th, we came across Norwegian Air. New York wasn’t particularly high on our ‘places we’d most like to visit’ list but the flights were an absolute steal. We looked again at the price we’d found and looked at each other … we were going to NYC!


Our return flight with Norwegian Air was direct from Dublin and came in at sub £200 - I know … we couldn’t NOT go! And it was during half-term holidays which makes it even more surprising. Because it was just the two of us going, we didn’t mind that we’d have to bring or buy a meal for the flight or that we’d have to travel in from Stewart International Airport to New York. Everything is easier when you’ve already experienced travelling with a toddler!!


We checked, checked again and triple checked the weather forecast before our trip because we had heard that NYC can be pretty chilly in mid-Feb. Thankfully, it actually ended up being colder at home! So we waved a snowy goodbye to Co. Armagh and our wee Phoebs and set off excitedly for a trip we knew was going to be pretty special.

What a wonderful novelty it was to navigate the airport child-free! We found new appreciation for the whole experience and made sure to enjoy the hassle-free security checks, while smugly sipping our coffees. We travelled light too. I brought a small backpack and we each had a small wheelie suitcase. It’s amazing how little you actually need when you’re without a little one.

We had pre-ordered one hot meal for the flight which we planned to share (we also brought on some sandwiches etc that we’d bought in the airport.) This trip had to be carefully budgeted as we had booked it before I quit my job … and Norwegian Air is definitely a budget travel option. The plane was small and narrow - but not something that bothered us - was just a little tight to queue for the loo! I didn’t mind though as I ended up with 2 free glasses of wine! My flight to NYC proved extremely enjoyable! Much like the whole trip, I planned to fully utilise my uninterrupted, child-free time. This looked like me reading an entire book on the flight over! Brene Brown’s ‘Braving the Wilderness’ was absolutely devoured. I highlighted, make notes and marked pages while sipping my wine. I was in my element! The man on the other side of me thought I was a bit nuts!


The journey from Stewart airpot into New York was made simple by a pre-paid bus transfer into the city (not far from Times Square) and I distinctly remember gazing wide-eyed at the brightest of lights, the tallest of buildings and starting to soak up some of that unique NYC buzz. We were arriving into the city in the dark (it would have been 1.30am our time) and we were pretty knackered. We stood on the edge of the sidewalk a little overwhelmed by it all for a moment before calling an Uber to take us to our hotel in Long Island City.

We stayed in Boro Hotel for the duration of our trip. As soon as I found Boro during our planning, I was hooked. Give me a Manhattan skyline over convenience any day - Boro Hotel boasts the most stunning views of the city. This was what greeted us from our hotel room when we arrived …

Manhattan city lights

Manhattan city lights

It literally took my breath away.

And I’m pretty sure I cried.

I just couldn’t stop staring. I couldn’t believe we were literally taking in this view of NYC from the side of our bed! Absolutely stunning. Even 10 months later I can’t quite articulate just how mesmerising this view was. Matt just laughed at me because I couldn’t stop saying ‘Wow.’ Over and over again I was blown away. I’m definitely not a city girl … but you could have convinced me otherwise that night.

I was that full of adrenalin and excitement, I don’t quite know how I managed to get any sleep at all! I’ve never been so keen to pull back a curtain in the morning in my whole life! But you can totally see why …

Morning views

Morning views

Boro kindly offered us a media rate for our stay - something I was both excited about as a blogger, but also completely delighted about because every extra penny saved meant we could put it towards something else on the trip. Discount or not, I would be showcasing this beautiful hotel! It wasn’t just all about the view …


And here’s that view again … this was us heading out on the first morning!


We had roughly planned our itinerary but left some wiggle room for a bit of spontaneity. We hit NYC hard on Day One! Looking back, I’m kinda glad we did. We saw an incredible amount of the city on this day. Fresh legs and all that!

Thankfully the hotel is within walking distance of the subway and we were able to easily hop on and get into NYC quickly and easily. We bombed it straight to Stumptown for a quick coffee and croissant as we hadn’t eaten breakfast at the hotel … just far too keen to get into New York and get experiencing all she had to offer us! After having breakfast on our second morning, I totally wished we’d taken half an hour to enjoy some seriously good grub. I’m a breakfast girl, so by the time we got to Stumptown I was ready to eat my hand off!


Fuelled up and raring to go, we hit The High Line. Well … it was wild windy! But worth it. Such a unique way to experience the city and you get class views too.


We went as far as Chelsea Market on The High Line before scuttling in out of the cold! Chelsea Market is a place I’d definitely go back to. A hive of activity and an absolute feast for the senses - something to see, smell and enjoy at every corner! This was the place to re-fuel for sure. A big sharing bowl of Ramen for two - yes please!


We spent quite a bit of time browsing, shopping and sampling in Chelsea Market before changing our plans and heading to the Flat Iron Building, then hopping over to Soho. The sun had come out and NYC was looking beautiful.


We stopped at a quirky little art gallery (one of hundreds in NYC) and enjoyed getting cultured by the owner. Fascinating to hear the stories of such incredibly talented artists. If only we could have got something shipped home!


We took a stroll around Lower East Side in search of the original Morgenstern’s ice-cream parlour. There were so many instagrammable foodie options in this area, but this spot suited us well.


With ice-cream in our bellies we headed to Electric Lady Studios that Matt wanted to see. Hopping on and off the subway made travel round the city so quick and accessible. I can’t tell you how many times we were on and off on day one! Every time we climbed the steps up onto the sidewalk, it felt like being in a different city! There is such diversity in each area surrounding the centre. I’m so glad we made a big push to get around before we began to fade!


As the sun began to set on our first day it felt only right to visit Times Square and grab dinner at Burger Joint. We weren’t terribly far away and still felt relatively good (although by the time we actually found BJ I thought I might die of starvation! It had been a very long time since the Ramen!!)


We wandered around the Rockefeller Centre and debated what we might be best to spend our money on. Our choices were Top of the Rock, Empire State or One World Observatory - each with a unique, yet brilliant view of the city. Yet each with a nice price tag! We opted for a day-time view and voted for One World because it’s located on top of the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere!

With Valentine’s day just a day away, we took the opportunity of a quick kiss at the Rockefeller Valentine’s pop-up before talking that iconic Times Square selfie!


Look at those tired, but happy faces! NYC day one was more than I could have dreamed. It was back to Boro for a well earned kip after walking over 20k!

We didn’t bother closing our curtain that evening and just lay watching the Manhattan lights lighting the sky as we drifted off to sleep.

Goodnight New York City

Goodnight New York City


In case you didn’t know already … New York is noisy. We were awake before sun rise and with excitement I just couldn’t get back to sleep. So we admitted defeat and watched the sun rise over the city instead.


What a powerful and moving sight - something I don’t think either of us will ever forget.


We enjoyed a delicious Boro breakfast before travelling straight to the World Trade memorial and observatory. First up was The Oculus and then the One World Observatory.


The Observatory was absolutely brilliant. Well worth the money and stunning, stunning views. Once we’d spent a little time there it was time for something I wasn’t quite sure how I’d feel about seeing. I’m not sure I’ll be able to articulate our experience at the World Trade Memorial. Standing in that spot felt really strange and I felt extremely emotional. The whole experience was incredibly moving and we made the decision to take some time and visit the museum while we were there. You could have spent half a day exploring the museum, but we had loads to still fit in that afternoon. Was well worth the visit though. Definitely, definitely recommend taking the time to visit.


Next up was the Staten Island Ferry to go and see Lady Liberty, with a quick stop at a Nathan’s hot dog stand for a bite before the boat.


We’d walked our way here and poor Matt had to stop every five seconds for me to take another picture! NYC is such a visual treat!


To save both time and money, we opted to see Lady Liberty via the free Staten Island Ferry. This was such a good call for us. We had very little time to wait to board the ferry, got a good view of the lady herself and had just a 30 minute turnaround time on Staten Island to board the ferry back again. The views of the New York skyline were pretty spectacular too.


Another trip on the subway meant we could get ourselves over towards Brooklyn Bridge (another icon we wanted to see!) I was starting to feel a bit weary by this point and we began to slow the pace from here on in for the rest of day two. We did walk this beautifully scenic route towards Brooklyn Bridge though before stopping beneath the bridge for a strawberry shake at Shake Shack.


Defeat was well and truly admitted when we spotted a Juliana’s a few doors down. We knew if we ate an early tea then we’d most likely get a table before the rush. Our feet were done for the day and so was I. I was pooped! So after our milkshakes we dandered across to Juliana’s to scoff our faces with some of the best pizza in NYC. Tummies full and eyes tired, we took it slowly towards to subway home. Brooklyn Bridge was sparkling and our wee hearts were full.

Clean wrecked with still a day to go, plus a flight home!

Clean wrecked with still a day to go, plus a flight home!


Our third and final day was Valentines Day! So special to be spending our 14th Valentines in New York City!


We started slow and savoured another superb breakfast at Boro, then said a tearful goodbye to our beautiful view before heading out, suitcases in tow towards a luggage hold in the city centre. Our bags were dropped off for the day and we hotfooted it to Central Park. One of my only regrets of the trip was not buying a big cheesy heart balloon before we got into Central Park. Major photo opportunity missed!

We really only saw a tiny portion of what Central Park has to offer but savoured every second strollin’ hand in hand.


No wintery NYC trip would be complete without a bit of outdoor ice-skating. We spent a blissful hour skating round the Wollman rink - we felt like such a Valentine’s cliche!


After our skate we walked a little way through the park towards the National American History Museum - our final stop of the trip. We grabbed a bite of lunch before heading in to explore this iconic museum.


The museum was brilliant but in hindsight we reckoned it wasn’t the smartest idea to leave it until the end of our trip. Sore feet and legs aren’t the best combination for trekking round a museum as big as this one! I was absolutely wrecked and definitely would have enjoyed this experience better if I’d been feeling a little more fresh!

We exited the museum a little worse for wear and headed for our bus depot. However, as we approached our pick-up point we noticed a bit of commotion. A broad and rather panicked Irish accent greeted us and questioned what bus we were due to board. It became clear very quickly that most of the people gathered had made the same mistake as us and not realised that on Wednesdays the bus timetable changed. An easy mistake to make it would seem as there was quite a gathering! The grim reality of our situation began to dawn as we realised that there would be no bus coming to collect us. We had missed the last bus and now faced the prospect of trying to travel 1 and a half hours to the airport to catch our flight home. A taxi was going to cost an extortionate amount of money. Money that we did not have to spare!

What I can only describe as ‘complete pandemonium’ ensued. As more people arrived, the panic escalated. How on earth where we going to get home?! It’s one thing calling a taxi to take you a few blocks away … a completely different situation calling a taxi to take you ____ miles! The couple standing next to us priced an Uber and $300+ is what it would take to get us to our flight!!! I’ve never been in a situation quite like it. The aforementioned Irish Mam was ‘fit to be tied’ because she’d actually checked the time for the bus earlier in the day and was told that this particular service was running. No wonder she was losing her marbles. No wonder we all were.

As couples began to make plans to share Ubers and taxis, another company bus pulled up. Said Irish Mam jumped on board and hastily pleaded with the driver to help us out. Thank the Lord that he was a decent man, for the two of them headed into the depot while we waited with bated breath for them to return. All the while the clock was ticking and we were no closer to catching our flight home!

What felt like half an hour later the two of them returned and Irish Mam was flailing her arms around while explaining that we could risk it for a biscuit and try and catch another bus service to the airport. Another kind and decent bus driver agreed to take us on board (for free bless his heart) and drop us the extra 10 minutes to the airport after he’d completed his own route. Thank you Jesus! The only problem was that we had a dash through the depot to find the gate and less than 5 minutes to do it. There was a funny moment when couples looked at one another, trying to make the decision. Stay and spend a small fortune on a taxi and be guaranteed to make it to our flight on time, or run like a maniac to find a gate we had no idea how to get to and pray we’d make it on time to catch a free bus service! It was a no brainer for Matt and I and we made a run for it. The couple beside us waved us on as they hopped into their VERY EXPENSIVE TAXI and I prayed we’d made the right decision!!

By the time we made it to the gate we were exhausted. But we made it! Unfortunately, the very kind bus driver hadn’t realised that there were quite so many of us and didn’t think he’d have enough room. DISASTER. More panic. Why’d we not jump in that VERY EXPENSIVE TAXI?!

However, about 10 minutes later the bus driver was able to assure us that we could catch the next bus and we’d still make it in time. Just. And until I was actually sitting on the bus and on route to the airport I didn’t breathe a sigh of relief. Boy where we cutting it fine!! But boy did we manage to save a lot of money!! When we finally made it to the airport we spotted the VERY EXPENSIVE TAXI couple and I’ll admit, it felt kinda good knowing we were only a few people behind them in the queue after they’d forked out $300! Their faces said it all when us lot bundled in off our free bus!!

What a handling though. Jeepers! Getting home to my Phoebe was made all the sweeter knowing how close it had been to make our flight in time.


NYC completely and utterly stole my heart. It was a whirlwind trip and took me a while to recover from. I’ve never felt ‘holiday blues’ quite like I did after NYC. So, watch out New York - we’ll be back!