I have just returned from a three day trip to the city that never sleeps and managed to pack a lot in. My feeling of elation at being in the Big Apple is best described by saying that I felt like a kid in a sweet shop who was able to choose any goodie they bally well wanted!
The danger is in trying to do too much and I certainly wore myself out in what were usually sub-zero temperatures. Over the next three posts I will describe my daily itinerary.
Day One – Sunday
I had arrived at my hotel just before 11pm. I had been due to arrive three hours earlier, but technical problems with the BA aircraft from Gatwick saw a sizeable delay. My plans to arrive in Manhattan by train from JFK were therefore scrapped as I kept reminding myself that my 10pm arrival was really 3am according to my body clock.
The taxi to the Holiday Inn Express on West 36th Street cost me $70 with tip, compared to the $15 the train would have cost. No chance of getting the difference back from BA!
I had booked with IHG points so saved the normal price of $177 per night. Manhattan is damned expensive hotel wise and my off season rate climbs to $425 just before Christmas! They put me in the 19th (top) floor from which I had a brilliant view of the Empire State Building. Excitement level ratcheted up that little bit more!
I awoke at 5am and wide awake decided to plan my day. I was due to go and watch a football match at 11 with the New York Manchester City Supporters Club at a bar called Mad Hatter on 3rd Avenue & 23rd Street. For those of you who like me are totally rubbish at following directions, the New York grid system is an absolute dream.
After a breakfast that included my first ever ‘when in Rome’ bagel with peanut butter & jello (jam to you & me), I set off for an early morning wander. Just wandering is a real delight in New York with so many amazing buildings. Just being in Manhattan is like being on a film set and I now understand why London tourists take photos of phone boxes, buses and policemen. Trucks, fire engines, yellow taxis, steam vents & fire escapes seemed to be my ‘NY life’ photos of choice.
My meandering took me past the Empire State, the Flat Iron building & Union Square, before it was time for soccer (I actually hate that word!).
I was made to feel most welcome in the Mad Hatter that remarkably had both Golden Hen & ESB on draft. I bade my farewells after a cracking match – I had tourist stuff to do!
After an egg & bacon brunch at an authentic diner, I headed for New York Public Library. I wasn’t going to research anything, but having watched the lovely film ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ on the flight, I had discovered that the original toys that inspired the much loved books were on display there (except Roo that is who is sadly lost in time).
Apart from the near century old toys, the building itself was wonderful, topped by the third floor Rose Reading Room that is near enough the size of a football pitch.
Next stop was a train enthusiasts dream, Grand Central Terminal on 42nd Street. Being a Sunday it was much quieter than a weekday, but I spent a good hour there taking in the atmosphere, walking down to some of the 100+ platforms and below to the vast refreshment floor in the basement. There is no station in the world quite like it. Put it this way, I can’t see many tourists lingering for long in London’s Victoria or Waterloo.
I toyed with the idea of doing a there & back commuter trip, but decided against it on the basis of better things to do. I had booked a ticket to go to the ‘Top of the Rock’, the view from the 67th floor of the Rockefeller Center and I skipped past the Chrysler Building (saved for Tuesday) and headed for 51st Street where the Center is situated.
En route I passed St Patrick’s Cathedral from where I could hear gospel singing. Next day was Martin Luther King Day, a public holiday which coincides with the nearest Monday to 15th January (the next day would actually be 15th, which is MLK’s birthdate) and there were many events throughout the city to commemorate the extremely brave & inspirational guy.
RC still had its famed ice-skating rink in situ, so I stopped for a while to take in the view of the colourful skaters. If only clumsy old me were able to do that!
After a quick flit down to Radio City (I will do that particular tour on another visit), it was time for my visit to the Rock. Having gotten through airport style security, we were led to the elevator which sucked us up 67 floors in 43 seconds. I had timed my visit to take in the sunset, an idea copied by hordes of others. Still, I managed to get some fabulous views of the Manhattan skyline and across the Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn (naturally!).
After my visit, I did something that I rarely ever do and followed a guidebook recommendation for dinner. Vice Versa Italian restaurant was a few blocks away and I really enjoyed their signature dish of ravioli stuffed with veal, raisins & amoretto cookies. Delicious and well suited to the nice glass of Malbec that I chose to accompany it.
I finished my day by walking the 15 blocks back to my hotel via electric Broadway & Times Square, where I came across some new found ‘friends’.
After eleven hours out & about, I slept very well that night I can tell you!