The journey of a lifetime – Highlights from our first US trip

Any visitor to the U.S.A. knows that, no matter their final destination, there’s a state or two you’re sure to find yourself in.

Fascination. Excitement. Eyes-wide-open bewilderment.

A visit to the land of Stars and Stripes will always be a memorable journey.

The journey of a lifetime - Highlights from our first US trip ● Cake + Whisky

A journey through complex history and diverse culture, of culinary delights and incredible street food, of one-of-a-kind experiences, building memories that will last a lifetime.

The journey of a lifetime - Highlights from our first US trip ● Cake + Whisky The journey of a lifetime - Highlights from our first US trip ● Cake + Whisky

Below are the moments from my first all-American journey that remain firmly etched in my memory.

Hope it inspires some future US travel, or brings back some happy memories!

The journey of a lifetime - Highlights from our first US trip ● Cake + Whisky

New York

1. The sky opening up the second we stepped out of the Subway from the airport, leaving us soaked to the bones within a couple of minutes.

2. Feeling insect-small when walking down the streets.

3. The views of the city from the ferries.

4. Eating the most epic sandwich of my entire life (the pastrami on rye) at Kazt’s Deli.

5. Seeing all the iconic buildings in real life.

The journey of a lifetime - Highlights from our first US trip ● Cake + Whisky

6. Admitting New Yorkers’ bagel bragging rights after one bite of Ess-A-Bagel’s sensational lox & cream cheese bagel.

7. The fascinating madness of Times Square.

8. $1 pizza.

9. Finding the cutest stationery store in Brooklyn.

10. Walking the Highline.

11. Witnessing the Gay Pride.

The journey of a lifetime - Highlights from our first US trip ● Cake + Whisky

Washington D.C.

12.  Waiting out a flood warning with the locals and chili fries at Ben’s Chili Bowl.

13. The sheer scale of the city – the timed street crossings give you two whole minutes to cross and they’re barely enough!!

14. My first ever visit to a Shake Shack restaurant.

Philadelphia

15. Late night grocery runs – American supermarkets are FUN!

16. Getting caught in the 4th of July madness.

The journey of a lifetime - Highlights from our first US trip ● Cake + Whisky

New Orleans

17. Jazz at the Preservation Hall.

18. Classic cocktails at the beauuuuutiful Carousel Bar.

19. Coffee and beignets with a local at Café du Monde.

20. The incredible colonial architecture.

21. Mufulettas at Grocery Central.

The journey of a lifetime - Highlights from our first US trip ● Cake + Whisky

22. The journey itself

Despite the horror stories you might read about in the press, travelling across the USA is actually quite enjoyable.

Thumbs up to fast-moving security lines. A big fat YES to not having to take your liquids or laptop out of your over-stuffed bag. My deepest gratefulness to all the comfortable cab and coach seats.

After all, it’s the little things that allow you to enjoy the journey, as well as the destination!

This post was written as part of this month’s #travellinkup, all about journeys –  figurative, literal, metaphysical, down the road for a PSL… If you want to join in the #travellinkup fun, pop your post up over the first week of the month (the 1st – 7th Oct.), then add it to the link up widget found on Follow Your SunshineSilverSpoon LondonAdventures of a London Kiwi or Eppie‘s.

More travel posts

5 tips to plan a city break

How to find the perfect travel companion

10 things I learnt from travelling

A day in Barcelona

Dublin mini-guide

The journey of a lifetime – Highlights from our first US trip

NYC Day 4 – A day by the water [Brooklyn + Financial District + Statue of Liberty]

We spend our last day in New York on the water.
NYC city guide | East River Ferry to Brooklyn | Cake + WhiskyWe found out about the East River Ferry just as we were about to head to the Subway. But, well, as it happens, a cruise to Brooklyn was a lot more appealing than getting down into a smelly, stuffy tube station…NYC City Guide | East River Ferry cruise| Cake + WhiskySo up on the boat we went, leaving Manhattan and the UN Headquarters behind.NYC City Guide | East River Ferry cruise| Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | East River Ferry cruise| Cake + WhiskyNot only was the boat a much more weather-appropriate mode of transportation, but you truly get a hell of a view for your buck!NYC City Guide | East River Ferry cruise| Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | East River Ferry cruise| Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | East River Ferry cruise| Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | East River Ferry cruise| Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | East River Ferry cruise| Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | East River Ferry cruise| Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | East River Ferry cruise| Cake + WhiskyBridge after bridge, the waves slowly led us towards the financial districtNYC City Guide | Brooklyn | Cake + WhiskySoon after, we landed in Brooklyn, where we walked along Brooklyn Bridge Park until we got hungry and raced off to the legendary Grimaldi’s
NYC City Guide | Grimaldi's pizza Brooklyn | Cake + WhiskyThe queues testify of how famous this family-run restaurant is with locals and tourists alike. NYC City Guide | Grimaldi's pizza Brooklyn | Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | Grimaldi's pizza Brooklyn | Cake + WhiskyBut considering they served us that beauty of a pizza, can you really blame them? NYC City Guide |Brooklyn Carousel | Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | Brooklyn | Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge | Cake + WhiskyFuelled up, we walked up and down the street, in and out of shops (including the more than adorable Dabney Lee stationary store!) while chattering happily.NYC City Guide | Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge | Cake + WhiskyAfter beating around the bush bridge for hours, we finally decided to cross it. NYC City Guide | Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge | Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge | Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge | Cake + WhiskyIt was on my ultimate New York bucket list (just like every other first time tourist to New York) and I must say it did not disappoint. NYC City Guide | The Financial District and World Trade Center Memorial | Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | The Financial District and World Trade Center Memorial | Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | The Financial District and World Trade Center Memorial | Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | The Financial District and World Trade Center Memorial | Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | The Financial District and World Trade Center Memorial | Cake + WhiskyFeeling as small as insects, we wandered around the financial district, marvelling at each of those giants of iron and glass.NYC City Guide | The Financial District and World Trade Center Memorial | Cake + WhiskyThe World Trade Center Memorial was probably the most emotional part of this whole trip. The contrast between the towering skyscrappers and the two massive hollow fountains marquing the locations of the two World Trade Center Towers is truly heartbreaking.
NYC City Guide | Staten Island Ferry & The Statue of Liberty | Cake + WhiskyWe topped the day with another cruise aboard the Staten Island Ferry.NYC City Guide | Staten Island Ferry & The Statue of Liberty | Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | Staten Island Ferry & The Statue of Liberty | Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | Staten Island Ferry & The Statue of Liberty | Cake + WhiskyNYC City Guide | Staten Island Ferry & The Statue of Liberty | Cake + WhiskyA first trip to New York wouldn’t really have been complete without a look at the Statue of Liberty, would it? 

NYC Day 4 – A day by the water [Brooklyn + Financial District + Statue of Liberty]

NYC Day 3 – Central Park, The Upper East Side and Times Square

Early birds will be rewarded if they visit New York in the Summer. Because it tends to get so hot in the afternoon, you can’t really beat an early stroll around the city.
NYC UN Headquarters | Cake + WhiskyWe started off our day reviving some elementary school memories in the form of flag guessing at the UN Headquarters
NYC Chrystler building | Cake + WhiskyNYC Fifth Avenue Forever 21 | Cake + WhiskyWe then strolled through the streets and over to the Rockfeller Plaza for a bit of early morning shopping. 
NYC Rockfeller Center | Cake + WhiskyNYC The News Building, Rockfeller Center | Cake + WhiskyWe strolled through the streets, pointing at every single building and taking in as much as possible.
NYC Central Park | Cake + WhiskyAfter a quick pit stop at Ess-A-Bagel (831 3rd Ave between 50th and 51st Street) to pick up food for an improvised lunch, we marched straight up to Central Park to find a quiet spot to tuck in.NYC Central Park | Cake + WhiskyFuelled up, we continued our exploration and quickly stumbled upon Conservatory Water, where kids and parents alike gather to sail miniature boats. NYC Central Park | Cake + WhiskyNYC Central Park | Cake + WhiskyWe sat to rest our poor worn feet and observed the boats dancing and racing on the pond…
NYC Central Park | Cake + WhiskyNYC Central Park| Alice in Wonderland statue | Cake + Whisky… before leaving Wonderland behind to continue our journey.NYC Central Park | Cake + WhiskyNYC Central Park | Cake + WhiskyNYC New York Public Library | Cake + WhiskyWe headed North to the New York Public LibraryNYC New York Public Library | Cake + Whisky… where we met this reading-addicted gent!NYC Guggenheim Museum | Cake + WhiskyWe were taking a quick look at the Guggenheim‘s quirky architecture when we heard our stomachs grumbling in unison.NYC Gray's Papaya's hot dogs | Cake + WhiskyWe raced back to Broadway for a taste of the city’s best hotdogs at Gray’s Papaya (2090 Broadway), which is another of those New York cheap food gems you don’t want to miss out on. Certainly not the healthiest of meals, but that’s what holidays are for… right?NYC travel guide | Cake + WhiskyNYC travel guide | Cake + WhiskyNYC city guide | The Hearst Tower | Cake + WhiskyAfter lunch, we zigzagged through the street to burn off some of the calories and tick some more iconic buildings off our to-see list. 
NYC city guide | Times Square | Cake + Whisky As the sun set and fell behind the horizon, we reached Times Square.NYC city guide | Times Square | Cake + Whisky NYC city guide | Times Square | Cake + Whisky NYC city guide | Times Square | Cake + Whisky With our eyes wide open, we took as much in as possible until our head spinned, at which time we decided to beat a hasty retreat (or, as most people call it, dinner!)

NYC Day 3 – Central Park, The Upper East Side and Times Square

NYC Day 2 – Walking the Highline (+ Pride Parade 2015)

After having spent much of the morning going through airport security and sitting in planes and buses, we were keen to explore more of New York. As soon as we arrived, we ditched our bags and we were off again!NYC Pride Parade 2015 | Cake + WhiskyWe started our exploration with a taste of the day’s big event: the Pride Parade!NYC Pride Parade 2015 | Cake + WhiskyTaking place on the day following the countrywide legalisation of same-sex marriage, the atmosphere was cheerful to say the least! NYC Pride Parade 2015 | Cake + WhiskyFollowing crowds of rainbow-dressed people, we slowly made our way south and to the Highline.Walking the Highline NYC | Cake + WhiskyA popular destination for families and friends alike, the 1.45 mile-long linear park is build on a former railway of the New York Central Railroad. Walking the Highline NYC | Cake + WhiskyWalking the Highline NYC | Cake + WhiskyWith trees and flowers all around, it’s the perfect place to take a much needed nature break!
Walking the Highline NYC | Cake + WhiskyWalking the Highline NYC | Cake + Whisky… But you can also choose to marvel at the views… New York skyline to the East…Views on the Hudson River from the Highline NYC | Cake + Whisky… and the Hudson river to the West!Walking the Highline NYC IAC Building | Cake + Whisky… Not to mention some of the coolest buildings in the whole of New York! (here the ICA building, which reminds me of Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum)!
Walking the Highline NYC | Street Food Ice Cream sandwich | Cake + WhiskyAfter a little while, we came accross a small street food market, where we treated ourselves to the most delicious of ice cream sandwiches.Walking the Highline NYC | Street Food Ice Cream sandwich | Cake + WhiskyFuelled up, we continued our exploration… Walking the Highline NYC | Cake + WhiskyAfter a bit more walking and a lot more chatting, we reached the end of the Highline. Walking the Highline NYC | Meatpacking district | Cake + WhiskyAnd found ourselves at the very centre of the trendy Meatpacking District.
Price Parade 2015 NYC | Cake + WhiskyPrice Parade 2015 NYC | Cake + WhiskyPrice Parade 2015 NYC | Cake + Whisky… just like every single person who took part in the parade earlier! We left the tempting sweet treats and devilishly long queues behind and went for a walk through the small streets of the Village instead. 
NYC The Village red brick building | Cake + WhiskyWe zigzagged through the area for a long while but we failed to find the Friends buildings despite all of the efforts we put into this quest.

As the sky tuned pink, we decided to call it a day and were considering our dining options when we came accross Dos CaminosDos Caminos Mexican restaurant NYC | Cake + WhiskyWe managed to get a table on the sun-filled terrace and admired the light go from white to golden while perusing the menu. Dos Caminos Mexican restaurant NYC | Cake + WhiskyWe started things off on a high with the Bacon and jalapeno guacamole.Dos Caminos Mexican restaurant NYC | Cake + WhiskyDid I mention there was pork crackling onthere as well? #BorderlineGenius
Dos Caminos Mexican restaurant NYC | Cake + WhiskyFrom then on, it only when from good to best with the Chorizo Mac n’ Cheese (a personal favourite). Dos Caminos Mexican restaurant NYC | Cake + WhiskyMore cheese than mac, just as it should be! Dos Caminos Mexican restaurant NYC | Cake + WhiskyDos Caminos Mexican restaurant NYC | Cake + WhiskyWe also shared a plate of the goat taccos which were the juiciest taccos I’ve ever eaten in my whole life. Dos Caminos Mexican restaurant NYC | Cake + WhiskyThe accompagnying rice & beans were delicious as well but made us achieve satiety a bit quicker than we had expected.

We skipped dessert and walked home with very full bellies and a big smile on our face, chatting happily about the great day we had just had and how excited we were for the next one… before falling in a food-induced coma the second we passed the doors!

NYC Day 2 – Walking the Highline (+ Pride Parade 2015)

Dinner at Ben’s Chili Bowl | Washington DC

On our only night in Washington D.C., it didn’t take us long to decide where to go for dinner.

When we did our pre-trip research, there was a place that kept popping up as the must-visit restaurant. So after a day of exploring in the rain, we made a beeline for a true local gem, Ben’s Chili Bowl.Cake + Whisky | Dinner at Ben's Chili Bowl Washington DCHome of the best chili dog in the country and well worth trying.Cake + Whisky | Dinner at Ben's Chili Bowl Washington DCIt’s a classic American diner sort of affair – very low-key and nothing fancy about it at all, but if the locals love it so much, there must be a reason for it, and we were very much in the mood to see it for ourselves. Cake + Whisky | Dinner at Ben's Chili Bowl Washington DCWe perched on one of the bar stools and sipped on sweet tea (served in cups bigger than my head of course!) while perusing the all-American menu.
Cake + Whisky | Dinner at Ben's Chili Bowl Washington DCCake + Whisky | Dinner at Ben's Chili Bowl Washington DCMinutes later, the most delicious chili dogs were placed in front of us.Cake + Whisky | Dinner at Ben's Chili Bowl Washington DCAnd those babies are well worth their reputation: sausage grilled to perfection, moist and with just enough kick from the chili topping… Perfection in a bun! Cake + Whisky | Dinner at Ben's Chili Bowl Washington DCEven better (if that’s even possible) were the chili fries: Crispy fries, cheese sauce and the most balanced chili sauce EVER… so good I almost ordered a second serving!Cake + Whisky | Dinner at Ben's Chili Bowl Washington DCFor those of you who are not as dedicated to the cheese fries cause as I am, I’d definitely recommend the chili bowl. Basically the best chili I’ve ever eaten (I’m going to try and make this at home soon!) with loads of fresh toppings on top… Summer comfort food at its very best if you ask me.

Meanwhile on the outside, another summer storm had started and with every drop of rain, more people found shelter into the small diner, which was filling up by the minute with table after table of regulars chatting happily with the lovely waiters and creating the most enjoyable of atmospheres.

I could have happily stayed there forever, but by the time we were finished eating, the storm had calmed down so we sayed our goodbyes and raced to our home for the night to pack and try to catch some sleep before getting up before the sun to fly back to New York in the morning.

Dinner at Ben’s Chili Bowl | Washington DC

Washington DC | Shake Shack epic burgers and the Smithonian museums

On our way back to New York, we made a small pit stop in Washington DC.

The plan was to walk up and down the National Mall, see all the important buildings and maybe pop into a museum or two on the way.

But the weather had decided otherwise and when we arrived downtown, it was raining cats and dogs.

So we did the only sensible thing there is to do in such situations and treated ourselves to one of those fast food feasts America is famous for. Cake + Whisky | Washington DC | Shake ShackCake + Whisky | Washington DC | Shake ShackLuckily enough, we stumbbled on Shake Shack, which we had been told was a must-visit when in the US. Cake + Whisky | Washington DC | Shake ShackWe ducked inside and got our hands on some of the most epic-looking burgers I had seen in quite a while.Cake + Whisky | Washington DC | Shake ShackAfter reading about it for MONTH, I finally got my hands on Shake Shack’s Shroom burgerCake + Whisky | Washington DC | Shake ShackWhile my Mr settled for the Smoke Stack and its layers of cheese and chopped chilies.Cake + Whisky | Washington DC | Shake ShackWith cheese fries all round, obviously. Isn’t that what rainy days are for?

Fuelled up and with the storm seeming to have stopped, we came back to our initial exploration plans…Cake + Whisky | Washington DC | Smithsonian Air & Space Museum…only to see them defeated a few minutes after by the return of the rain, so we took shelter in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.Cake + Whisky | Washington DC | Smithsonian Air & Space MuseumCake + Whisky | Washington DC | Smithsonian Air & Space MuseumCake + Whisky | Washington DC | Smithsonian Air & Space MuseumHolding the largest collection of aircraft and spacecraft in the world, it’s a must-visit for any plane aficionado.
Cake + Whisky | Washington DC | Smithsonian Air & Space Museum…Which might explain why somebody was a very happy bunny! Cake + Whisky | Washington DC | Smithsonian Air & Space MuseumCake + Whisky | Washington DC | Smithsonian Air & Space MuseumCake + Whisky | Washington DC | Smithsonian Air & Space MuseumCake + Whisky | Washington DC | Smithsonian Air & Space MuseumCake + Whisky | Washington DC | Smithsonian Air & Space MuseumWe strolled through the museum, marvelling at weird flying machines and war planes’ perfect designs alike. Cake + Whisky | Washington DC | Smithsonian Air & Space MuseumCake + Whisky | Washington DC | Smithsonian Air & Space MuseumThe Wright Flyer (which is the ancestor of all planes) is also on display at the museum and well worth taking a look at. I still can’t quite get my head around the fact that this enormous assembly of wood and cloth can actually fly. Cake + Whisky | Washington DC | Smithsonian Air & Space MuseumThe same obviously goes for the Mongolfier first hot air balloon, but I might have been to busy admiring the delicate prints to think about it at the time…Cake + Whisky | Washington DC | Smithsonian Air & Space MuseumHaving seen pretty much everything the Air & Space museum had to offer, we headed next door to the Natural History museum… where every single tourist in Washington seemed to have decided to meet that day. Cake + Whisky | Washington DC | Albert Einstein… which is why we decided to shorten our visit to the diplodocus and jump in a cab to pay one to Albert instead.

Only afterwards did we realise that we could have used the Circulator and save money… ahem…

We raced in the rain to take a quick look at the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam War Memorial before we decided to call it a day and head to dinner at one of the city’s institutions.

… but more on that tomorrow! Come hungry! 

Washington DC | Shake Shack epic burgers and the Smithonian museums

The Carousel, New Orleans

Cocktails were definitely on the list when in New Orleans. We had a few obligatory Hurricanes, but when we tasted one of those vile grape-flavoured Voodoo-slushie thing, we realised it was time to up our cocktail game.

And that (and my obsession for Pinterest) is how we found the prettiest bar on Earth.
Cake + Whisky | Carousel bar, New OrleansA classy carousel for adults, where you can sit, drink the best cocktails and see the world (or at least the bar) unfold in front of your eyes. It was everything I was longing for.
Cake + Whisky | Carousel bar, New OrleansCake + Whisky | Carousel bar, New OrleansI could have just stayed there in the doorway staring at this spinning carousel for hours.
Cake + Whisky | Carousel bar, New OrleansCake + Whisky | Carousel bar, New OrleansGood thing it was rather busy so I get plenty of time to do so! Cake + Whisky | Carousel bar, New OrleansSoon enough, a couple of seats became available and jumped on them!Cake + Whisky | Carousel bar, New OrleansThe cocktails are the perfect mix of classic and local. Cake + Whisky | Carousel bar, New OrleansVieux Carré, Old Fashioned, Sazerac…  Taking their roots in old-school, traditional American cocktails, they’re mixed to perfection by the ace bar team. Cake + Whisky | Carousel bar, New OrleansA classy hotel bar without being too stuffy, The Carousel bar was the perfect start to our evening, before we tumbled down to The Preservation Hall for the best of jazz concerts. I don’t have any pictures or videos, but take my word on it and go, go, GO!!

What’s your favourite cocktail bar? Any I should add to my list?

The Carousel, New Orleans