After months of planning, saving and dreaming, as evidenced by the weekly countdown on the Media and Business notice board, the time had finally arrived. An early 3am start wasn’t as difficult as we had all imagined; an uneventful drive and check-in through security at Heathrow and we were NYC bound before we knew it. As soon as we arrived, we were taken to our hotel with the help of a local tour guide via some of New York’s most iconic sites. Following a speedy check-in, a brisk five-mile walk covering Central Park West, 5th Avenue and Rockefeller Plaza blew off the cobwebs of the transatlantic flight. A great introduction to American food was had at Bill’s Bar and Burgers; students soon learnt the importance of tipping and the fact that you need to add 11% tax to everything you buy.
We were up nice and early the next morning to experience our first NYC breakfast; pancakes, waffles, bacon, eggs – sunny side up or omelettes along with fries were ordered with the obligatory bottomless drinks option. It was then time for our first venture on the subway as we headed to Battery Park and a freezing cold trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Mr Nolan and two students got left behind at the Statue of Liberty Island thanks to the unhelpful ferry crew and their unwillingness to compromise; lessons learnt all round that timings had to be strictly kept to. Next our first shopping experience at a relatively empty Abercrombie & Fitch at the nearby South St Seaport. Here we were met by our tour guide for a walking tour of the 9/11
memorial gardens, financial district and lower Manhattan. A poignant stop was made at the 9/11 memorial where one student was able to lay flowers at a family member’s name and pay her respects. Due to the low temperatures, we decided to take the subway to warm up, much to the horror of Miss Butler who was told by our tour guide to get off at one stop but he changed his mind and left her on the platform. One stop later we were all reunited with bemused locals as we cheered the train stopping and Miss Butler getting off safely. We ended the day in Chinatown with a banquet and a quick tour of the area before heading back on the subway to our hotel.
Sunday morning’s plan was to walk through Central Park and see the film sites along the way on route to the Museum of Moving Image in Queens. The weather had other plans; on waking up, local news was recording the lowest temperatures New York had seen in years (-28°C), along with the City Mayor telling everyone not to go outside unless absolutely necessary. We revised our plans and took the subway to Times Square for a quick photo opportunity in the sun and then took another subway across to Queens. The museum was a great opportunity for students to see a huge variety of props and costumes used in film and television, along with a chance to get some hands-on experience with voice dubbing, sound effects and stop frame animation. Sunday afternoon was the time a number of students had been looking forward to, a shopping trip down 5th Avenue. This culminated at Times Square with a meal at Bubba Gump’s famous Shrimp Restaurant.
After another hearty breakfast on Monday and the weather warming up to a nice -10°C, we headed down to Greenwich and the Friends building, taking in a plethora of film locations along the way at Union Square and the Flatiron building as we made our way to the Empire State Building. The cloud started to descend as we got to the top and snow began to fall but we were still able to see all of Manhattan and experience the iconic views from one of the tallest buildings in the city. Once down, we headed to another iconic building, Macy’s department store and its surrounding shops. We then headed north to the Natural History Museum with a stop at the famous Shake Shack restaurant. By this point, the snow had stared to come down heavily so we decided to catch the subway to the museum and set the students the challenge to find three of the most important cast members of the film ‘Night at the Museum’ as they went round around it. On leaving the museum, with the snow thick on the ground and still falling, a short walk to the hotel to change for dinner was accompanied with the odd snowball fight. Our last meal was at TGI Fridays in Times Square, after which we had a last minute chance to grab souvenirs before heading back to the hotel.
We said our goodbyes to Big Daddy’s with our final American breakfast, with just enough time to squeeze in our final visit from the itinerary; the United Nations. We had the opportunity to sit in the General Assembly and we were also lucky enough to be granted access to the Security Council, an opportunity rarely afforded to visiting groups of students. The guided tour was fascinating and left us contemplating the state of the world, particularly the importance of education. The journey back to the hotel allowed us to pass through Grand Central Station and take in the architecture in its great hall and have our last American meal. The plan from there was to visit Central Park to see the sights missed on Sunday however the weather was against us once again; torrential rain fall meant we had only walked four blocks before being saturated so we decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel to change into dry clothes before our mammoth 24-hour journey back to Culcheth.
Over the five days, the students from a range and combination of subjects had widened and deepened their knowledge and had also developed their ability and confidence to navigate a vibrant and bustling city. On the journey home, a very tired CHS staff were cheered on in the knowledge that this group of students had not only represented the school in a mature, enthusiastic and responsible manner but had already started to plan their next NY visit, independently of course. Job done.
A huge thank you to Mrs Sullivan, Mr Nolan, Mr Dugdale and Miss Butler for the organisation and running of the trip, until next time.