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Student Investor Challenge - Winner's trip

James Tucker from Benoit's Barmy Army, the winners of the Student Investor Competition 2018, kept a diary of their prize trip to New York. It's a fun-packed week in one of the most exciting cities in the world. James said:Student-Investor-Challenge-2018-Winners

"The trip as a whole was utterly amazing and it really is a once in a lifetime sort of trip. Alison and Roxanne were the perfect hosts and managed to show us everything that you could want to see in New York in the 4 days that we were there for. We are all still absorbing all the sights and sounds that we experienced and keep pinching ourselves – such was the standard of the whole trip."

Read his full diary below.

Find out more about the competition >>

After we arrived in New York, the first evening we were there we went on ‘The Ride’. This is a double decker bus that has 3 rows of tiered seats facing sideways out of one side of the bus which is made completely of glass. Along the tour around New York there are actors that perform for you whilst you are on the bus – this was a really different experience than the usual bus tour and we found it very entertaining.

Despite the rain, the two tour guides were able to make sure that the mood on the bus was good and we all thoroughly enjoyed our first taste of the streets of New York. After The Ride we were all fairly tired after our journey over and headed back to the hotel via Times Square for our evening meal in the hotel’s restaurant.

Times Square at night exceeds all expectations – it is nearly impossible to imagine how big the screens are or how it seems to be daytime all the time whilst you are there due to the screens. The hotel was amazing – not just because of the location but because of the views from the rooms, the size of the rooms and the facilities that it offered.

The next morning 2 of us went out for a run from the hotel, which was situated about 200 metres away from Times Square, to Central Park. We both really enjoyed this as not only was it on my bucket list, but we also got to see a little bit more of New York and got our first taste of Central Park. We then had breakfast in the hotel which we all enjoyed and then headed out to have another walk around Times Square (now that we were fed and a bit more awake) and to an open top bus tour.

 

The bus tour took us downtown from Times Square to the World Trade Centre, however due to a burst water main, we went down 7th Avenue instead of 5th. This was another new experience for us and allowed us to see yet more sights and marvel at the size of the buildings that we were seeing – all of which seemed to be at least twice as large as anything in London! The bus tour allowed us to see Madison Square Gardens amongst other sights and the tour guide provided us with some interesting facts and figures whilst we were on the tour.

 

Upon arriving at the World Trade Centre, we saw the nearest fire station to the twin towers. This was very moving as the windows were covered with faces of firefighters from that station who died in the 9/11 disaster. We then crossed the street to the 2 pools that are now in the place of the twin towers. After a few minutes at this site we went to the 9/11 museum which is based underground in the foundations of the twin towers. This was very moving and really helped people to comprehend the enormity of the attacks and the number of casualties that they claimed. Being able to hear the calls of loved ones and see the devastating footage from the day was a very sobering experience but one that we all agreed was very important to see.

After having lunch in the Westfield shopping mall, we then walked to Pier 25 for an exhilarating rip boat ride. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip and took us right past the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, before going underneath Brooklyn Bridge and then doubling back on ourselves back to Pier 25. The different perspective that you get from the water of the New York skyline is phenomenal and seeing that Statue of Liberty lived the high expectations that we all had. It was made even better by the fact that we had the boat purely to ourselves and we felt like we were the only people seeing the Statue from this angle, rather than being in the crowds on Liberty Island.

We then headed straight for One World Trade Centre and went up to the observatory on the 102nd floor (Yep that’s over 30 stories taller than The Shard’s viewing platform)! The whole experience of this was much more than just the views. The lift to the 102nd floor provided entertainment and it was unbelievable that it took less than 45 seconds to get to the observatory.

Once at the top, the views were unparalleled and allowed us to marvel at how small the buildings looked from this floor when only an hour before they had looked so huge from the boat. It also allowed us to see the grid structure from above, and because the tower is downtown, we had views straight across to the Empire State building, the Chrysler building and all the other uptown attractions.

Being able to see 50 miles in every direction meant that not only could we see all of New York and New Jersey, but we were also able to see how flat the surrounding land is and also to see just how huge the city was – sprawling for miles in every direction. When we showed our families the pictures, they thought that we were in a helicopter – that is how high up you are!

 

We then came down and enjoyed a meal at Eaterly which was another new experience and allowed us to try some of New York’s famed Italian food whilst watching the sun set over the sky scrapers in downtown. After this we got in a yellow cab back to the hotel – another authentic American experience that we all enjoyed more than we probably should have!

On the Friday morning, we were in a private taxi at 7am heading downtown to Wall Street where we spent the morning inside the New York Stock Exchange. This was a privilege as members of the public are not allowed into the building – unless you win the Student Investor challenge! We were given a private tour of the building during which we saw a number of amazing rooms and ornaments.

We then were allowed into a special cordoned off area to watch the bell being rung by a company who were going public for the first time at 9:30am to open the stock exchange for that day. After the bell had been rung we were interviewed by Asset TV on the trading floor of the stock exchange which was something that none of us had ever done before – and we still managed to do it in 1 take!

After spending some more time soaking up the atmosphere in the stock exchange, we walked to the Wall Street bull and the Fearless Girl and got the obligatory tourist photo! We then got into a cab up to the Bloomberg Offices and got a tour of their building. The view from the 29th floor of their tower was amazing and to see the modern and alternative layout of their office spaces was something that we were really lucky to see.

We then headed a few blocks further to the Asset TV studios which are located in the old General Motors building. Asset TV provided us with an amazing lunch and we completed another few interviews. Tad and Sarah were amazing hosts and made us feel very at ease, even when we were having our make-up done (another new experience!!).

We got back to the hotel mid-afternoon and then went out for our first proper walk around New York. We walked to the Rockefeller Plaza and went in a few big shops that were amazing to see. We then walked to the Trump Tower (although it was cordoned off because a suspicious package had been found) and came back down 6th and 7th avenue, taking in yet more sights.

The evening meal was at a finger chicken restaurant. We were the only tourists in the building – so you could tell it was good since all the locals went there. The American finger chicken was amazing and another real American experience. We then walked back from the restaurant (seen on Hell’s Kitchen) to our hotel via Times Square where we again couldn’t believe how bright it was considering the sun had set over an hour ago.

On the Saturday morning 2 of us again ran to Central Park, this time running right round the perimeter road before returning to the hotel. After breakfast we then all walked down 6th Avenue, which had been completely pedestrianised by a huge market that lined both sides of the road. We hired bikes and rode around Central Park. For some of us this was their first time seeing Central Park and seeing the forests, lakes and grass that span over 800 acres right in the middle of New York.

 

After the bike ride, we walked back through the market to the hotel, where we put our feet up for 15 minutes before deciding to get some lunch from the market and a McDonald’s (they definitely are different in America). After finding some food, we carried on walking to 5th avenue where we saw Grand Central Terminal (and went inside for a look), the Chrysler building, the Flat Iron building and the Empire State building. On our way back we stopped at a 7/11 and bought some Twinkies – which is possibly the most American thing that you can do!

That evening we went to a soccer game to watch the New York Redbulls vs the Columbus Crew SC. After a disappointing first half (where the score was 3-0 at half time), the Red Bulls managed to claw it back to 3-2 which kept us on the edge of our seats, however they were unable to score another goal. We all had stadium food for tea and tried a proper American cheesesteak which was ridiculously large!

 

After the game, we headed back to the city and then proceeded to go up the Rockefeller Centre to the Top of the Rock viewing platform. Despite (only!) being on the 70th floor, we got a stunning view over night-time New York and were able to look at all the lights and gave us a different perspective since we were now uptown rather than downtown. The viewing deck is also open air and there is no glass between you and the view, which meant we were able to take great photos. We definitely made the most of our last night in New York, eventually walking back to the hotel at past midnight!

On our final morning in New York, we got up and walked from the hotel through Central Park to the Museum of Natural History, where we enjoyed looking round at all the displays. We then crossed Central Park (getting slightly lost in the process) to look at the Guggenheim Museum, where we walked around and had some lunch. The architecture and the art inside the museum was very interesting and it is certainly something that we would all like to do again.

 

After the Guggenheim, we decided to get the subway back to Grand Central Terminal. This was yet another experience and is not half as bad as any of the locals make out. It also gave us a different perspective of Grand Central, being able to see it as a passenger rather than just as a tourist. We made our way back to the hotel where we got in a minibus back to the airport.

Once at the airport we managed to squeeze in our final experience of having dinner at an American Diner where it was burgers, hotdogs and milkshakes all round. After finishing our meal, we made our way through security and to the gate where we all had time to reflect on what an amazing experience the last few days had been.