Updated: Sep 9, 2019
My latest book, When Polly Met Olly, is set in the incredible city of New York!
I adore New York and visited last autumn to do some research for the book. I had an amazing trip – also quite eventful as due to a dodgy hotel door that swelled in the heat, I ended up being rescued from my room by firefighters. Sometimes I feel like a walking talking chick-lit heroine, seriously.
Aside from that, I visited some of the major landmarks of the city, many of which feature in When Polly Met Olly. I thought it would make a fun blog post to show some of these places and include snippets from the book, where I describe them.
Have you been to any of these places? Let me know!
If I lived in New York, I would spend as much time as possible in Bryant Park. Right next to New York Public Library and close to Wall Street, it's a bustling, central, lively place with interesting events and performances taking place daily. It's also just an amazing spot to sit and people watch or catch up with a friend.
Bryant Park in When Polly Met Olly:
Derek’s top choice of venue for the party couldn’t be more perfect. I didn’t expect him to suggest such an incredible place, but the venue he’s sent me to visit is ideal. In fact, it’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go. It’s a restaurant called The Grill at Bryant Park – one of my favourite spots in New York. The park is tucked behind New York Public Library and it’s always a hive of activity. Every night, something interesting’s happening at Bryant Park, from band performances to outdoor cinema events to yoga classes. There’s also a carousel for kids and stone tables patterned with chessboards where people catch up over a game. When I first moved to the city, I used to come to Bryant Park just to sit and think and soak up the vibrant energy of the place.
Central Park is HUGE! Even though I was staying right next to it, I feel like I only scratched the surface. I would love to go back to New York and spend more time exploring Central Park.
Central Park in When Polly Met Olly:
‘Let’s go to Central Park and take one of those ridiculous horse-drawn carriages?’ Olly suggest, with a twinkle in his eye.
I laugh, thinking of the horse-drawn carriages that tourists take through the park. They’re like something from a fairy tale and they’re totally over-the-top. I see them all the time, but I’ve never considered going on one. The idea of taking one with Olly is ridiculously romantic and totally cheesy, but I kind of love it.
‘Let’s do it!’ I reply cosying up to Olly and wrapping my arm around his warm chest.
‘Have you seen Starry Night by Van Gogh?’ Olly asks, referring to the iconic painting, which is on display in the Museum of Modern Art.
‘No, I haven’t,’ I admit, having never gotten around to it.
‘Let’s go see that too!’ Olly suggests, smiling sweetly at me.
‘You’re such a romantic, aren’t you?’ I tease, although underneath my jokey bravado, I’m actually incredibly touched. Not only does Olly want to spend the day with me, but he seems to want to turn it into the most lovely, romantic day imaginable.
‘Well, I am a matchmaker, after all,’ Olly jokes.
The Statue of Liberty
Probably the most touristy thing I did while in New York was take the ferry from Battery Park to visit the Statue of Liberty. It's such an iconic monument and I couldn't resist! I walked around with one of those headsets on and learnt a ton of stuff about it. For example, did you know that the structure of the statue was designed by engineer, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, who designed the Eiffel Tower?!
The Statue of Liberty in When Polly Met Olly:
We cuddle up, fending off the cool sea breeze as the ferry crosses the water towards the statue. Manhattan retreats into the distance, the sharp winter sunlight glints off its skyscrapers. It feels a little strange to be seeing it from a distance after spending years in the thick of it. The only time I’ve ever seen Manhattan from the water was during a holiday visit when I was 15. I fell in love with New York back then and seeing the city from afar now still fills me with the same sense of awe, yet the longing I had as a teenager desperate to move to the Big Apple as soon as I could is replaced by a feeling of gratitude that living here is now my reality. Just before I sink too deep into reflection, the ferry arrives and the Statue of Liberty stands tall and proud, her blueish green surface bright and almost glowing up close.
‘Wow,’ Olly says, taking her in.
‘Impressive, isn’t she?’ I add.
The Campbell Bar
The Campbell Bar is right next door to Central Station. It's so retro and atmospheric and would make an ideal venue for a date!
The Campbell Bar in When Polly Met Olly:
We meet at Grand Central Station and have a drink at Campbell Bar to catch up before heading to the restaurant. Campbell Bar is another place I’ve always wanted to go. The converted office of a Jazz Age financier, it’s like something from The Great Gatsby with low lighting, and leather, wood and brash furnishings. Olly and I order bourbon cocktails and sit in the corner, chatting away as we sip our drinks. He’s dressed up for our date, donning a white shirt and cable knit sweater, and with his tortoiseshell glasses and classic handsomeness, he looks almost like he could belong in the Twenties, except for his signet rings and the tattoos poking out from under his sleeves. I lace my fingers through his, the butterflies on his arms like the ones in my stomach.
Grand Central Station
Visiting a train station just for the sake of it sounds a bit weird but when you walk into Grand Central Station, you see why people recommend going! It's so beautiful with its vast domed painted ceiling. It's also bustling with people and feels so full of life, like the beating heart of the city!
Grand Central Station in When Polly Met Olly:
We finish our drinks and walk through Grand Central Station. Its marble walls and floor give the light a buttery sepia hue. A saxophonist busks, playing bluesy melodies, with an upturned hat on the ground to collect change from passers-by. Olly drops a few dollars and we walk arm-in-arm, the sound growing quieter as we leave the station. I feel like I’m starring in a Twenties movie and I couldn’t be happier. But for once, I feel like the lead character and not just someone on the side-lines. It’s magical.
To read more, check out When Polly Met Olly, here.