Thursday, 20 January 2005

Review: New York City

With all the images and references in popular culture, you almost feel like you know New York City’s Manhattan island like the back of your hand. So when my girlfriend and I saw a British Airways sale for flights to New York we decided to jet off to the Big Apple and see for ourselves. It did not disappoint.

After recovering from the seven and a half hour flight, which can take it out of you, we decided to explore midtown (where we were staying), which turned out to be the best area for first time tourists.

Our photos from New York

The epic Grand Central Station was only four blocks away, and our first journey out of the hotel led us to its hidden gem downstairs, the dining concourse. Endless delis and restaurants to refuel while busy New Yorkers file out of train and metro tunnels.

Fact. You will never go hungry in New York, there are endless delis, and not as many fast food outlets as you would expect. They offer a huge variety of fresh and very reasonably priced food, in generous portions. There are some English style bar/restaurants, again serving good value meals, look out for Connolly’s across the city.

We walked 10 blocks north to Central Park, where New Yorkers go to escape the hustle and bustle. When we visited a mist hung across the city for the first few days, creating unforgettable scenes as skyscrapers soared above the clouds.

Moving downtown we passed Times Square, all neon lights, huge billboards, and busy tourists taking pictures and queuing for cheap theatre tickets. This can get you a bargain, but we went direct to the theatre to get tickets to see Chicago, guaranteeing us a show (which was very good) and saving us any extra costs that our hotel concierge quoted us (they are good sources of advice and information).

Not far south was the Empire State Building, which we saw at night, a mere 86 floors up, a city of famous landmarks shimmering against the black night sky. Continuing south on Broadway we pass the Flatiron Building, on our way to Brooklyn Bridge and the financial district, home of Wall Street and the site of World Trade Center, which was eerie and barren, if somewhat lost on those who had not seen the Twin Towers before their brutal demise.

At the tip of Manhattan we boarded a ferry tour across the harbour to Liberty and Ellis Island’s (there are various trips available), home of the famous 305ft copper statue, holding her torch aloft at the gateway of the city. Ellis Island was the arrival point for immigrants entering the country in the early 1900’s.

We took in some culture at the MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) which houses famous art and contemporary design, and the stunning Guggenheim Museum, famous for its Fifth Avenue façade of curves and lights.

Our final half day was spent scouring the department stores. All the big names, Macy’s, Bloomingdales and Saks were not too far from our hotel.

It took a little while to adjust to life in such a bustling, diverse land of endless skyscrapers, yellow cabs and delis, a cultural melting-pot of post-modernism. But there is so much to take in and walking the streets is the best way to orientate your self with New York life. We would definitely go back.

Early in the year is off peak, but it is always tourist season in New York. If you want to get a real feel of the city, you need more than a couple of days. We were up early every day, and still missed out Chinatown, Greenwich Village and the mandatory ice skate in Central Park.

Top tips for the first time traveller:

Manhattan is set up along Avenue’s that stretch north to south, and streets that go east to west, thus our hotel was situated on 48th (street) and Lexington (Avenue). You’ll need to get to grips with that if you want to get around or a taxi!

The Subway is a little daunting, but vital for when tired feet have had enough. You will have to bear in mind the tipping policy in the city, adding around 10% to the bill in restaurants and bars, and for taxi fares, just keep some change handy.

The weather is generally more extreme than Britain’s, with colder winters and sweltering summers.

Before you go, study the travel guides and street maps, or you’ll be overwhelmed.

The favourable exchange rate and generally good value makes shopping a worthwhile distraction.

Fact file - 5 night New York trip

Approximate GBR£ prices per person, including taxes:

  • Flight: Heathrow to New York with British Airways - £220

  • Hotel: Radisson Lexington in Midtown Manhattan for 5 nights - £220 (room only)

  • Adult admissions: Guggenheim Museum - £11

  • Mid-price tickets to see Chicago on Broadway - £40

  • Empire State Building - £7

  • Museum of Modern Art - £12

  • Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island boat trip and tour - £11

  • City pass is a good deal if visiting a number of sights - £30

  • DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to New York - £14.99

Useful web links:

  • Hotels rated and reviewed - Trip Advisor -

  • City pass -

  • Expedia holiday deals":

  • British Airways - (We bought our tickets in a sale)

  • The New York Times - New York City Guide -

  • Connolly’s Restaurant -

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