I finally got a holiday this year. My daughter and I are just back from New York. I’ve been twice before, the last in Feb 2000 when Juliet was a tadpole in my tummy (so I tell her, theoretically she has been before too!) and the Twin Towers were still standing. The aim this time was to concentrate mostly on stuff that would interest Juliet, so fewer museums of the history, archaelology and art side and more shopping and being totally touristy. We arrived Monday mid-afternoon – and getting through immigration and baggage was a breeze at JFK compared with previous visits.
The Harlem river is just beyond the traffic on FDR Drive
Booking a package with Virgin, we’d chosen an affordable apartment hotel, the Marmara Manhattan on the Upper East Side – a little out of the way, but with river views from our 23rd floor window. It’s nice to have a kitchen/lounge area separate from the bedroom. Little did we know that their ten yearly inspection by the city would begin during our stay. On our last full day we were driven out early by the noise made by the city engineers on the floor above us, the hotel management arranged a complimentary dinner for us at the Italian restaurant next door which made up for it – thank you guys.
View north from our hotel balcony
However New York is a total building site – not just where we were: outside on 2nd Ave they are building a new subway line. They started early each day, but noise is a constant in New York – wherever you are, there will be sirens all night and manhole covers rattling, so good sleep can be fleeting, even in ‘quieter’ areas.
We got good value from our 7 Day Metro cards ($31 each, cheaper than London) having only to walk one block for buses and two for the Park Ave subway line. Juliet and I became huge fans of the buses in Manhattan, nice to see where you’re going, better crosstown possibilities and less steps than the subway!
So what did we see? Here are some highlights:
Chrysler Building Lift Doors
First stop was Grand Central Station (left), and through it to the beautiful Chrysler Building – the art deco lobby is gorgeous (right). Then Times Square and clothes shopping in the US chain stores – although my daughter found them a bit too blingy in general – we ended up in a home from home in H&M!
Central Park from the Top of the Rock
Lunch was street food at the Rockefeller Centre, I had a gyro, Juliet had her first hot dog. Then, up the ‘Top of the Rock’. I haven’t been up the Rockefeller Building before, and it certainly has the best high views north over Central Park, the lungs of New York from 66 floors up.
Top of the Rock South with 1 WTC in the rear.
The View south is also amazing.
We also squashed in a quick visit to MOMA, before heading back uptown, but were too footsore to fully appreciate MOMA’s marvels in detail. It was all too tempting to just take pictures (with flash off of course), rather than to study composition and technique of the art. I took just a few photos of iconic works, and bought a handful of postcards in the shop to add to my collection. I had to squeeze one art gallery into our trip though. Cold foot baths and flannels on knees were required to ease the pain by the time we got back to the hotel – a routine that became a daily one!
While eating cheerios, we watched Michael J Fox, Christoper Lloyd and Lea Thompson from Back to the Future II on the Today breakfast programme on NBC. Yes 21.10.2015 was the date they went
back forward to. Made a mental note to buy a copy of USA Today on Thursday as it would have spoof news as if the film events had actually happened the day before to give to my sister-in-law whose birthday is 21st October. (sorry Becky – forgot!)
An easier morning – we headed off by bus to the west side where we went on one of the Circle Line cruises. We should have circumnavigated the entire island on this cruise, but unfortunately, the entrance to the Harlem river had been closed by the police who were searching it for a weapon after a police officer was murdered on FDR Drive, also now closed, the night before – strange to see it empty of traffic. So we went as far round the island in both directions as we could which was great as you saw everything twice, once in each direction. We chose the cruise over visiting Liberty & Ellis Islands which I’d done before, but still got close to enough for great photo ops.
One amazing hive of activity you could only appreciate from the river was the Wall St Heliport, with chopper swooping taking off and swooping in to land all the time.
More street food for lunch, then we headed downtown to the 911 Memorial and Museum. The two huge pools where the towers stood with water cascading down into the centres were moving and calming in the sunshine. The Museum below the plaza was similarly affecting, showing the exposed foundations of the towers, and the twisted and fractured remains of the pillars, alongside memorials to those who died.
To cheer ourselves up afterwards we went shopping. Century 21 is like our TK Maxx, but we couldn’t find the right size jeans for Juliet. Relocating uptown a couple of stops, we consoled ourselves in Bath & Body Works near the Flatiron Building on the corner of Broadway and 5th Ave – one of my favourite skyscrapers (left).
Tired and footsore again, we headed back uptown. I had thought about booking theatre tickets, but the only show that appealed was the new musical of Finding Neverland – songs by Gary Barlow, with rave reviews (depending on your take on him). Even cheap seats were expensive though and we were too tired, so no Broadway show this time. Had we gone in November, we would have made an exception though for another new musical – School of Rock – I hope that comes to London’s West End – could be fun.
That’s the first half of our five nights in New York City – yes, there’s more tomorrow!