New York, the city that never sleeps
Updated: Feb 26
'Start spreading the news, I'm leaving today, I want to be a part of it...New York' and boy was Sinatra right about wanting to be a part of the Big Apple's magic.
Although my first impression of the city that never sleeps was one of sheer terror, having had a door slammed in my face by a guy twice my size in a coffee shop, topped up by general pushing and shoving and a lack of the courtesy that I'm used to in England, I can now say, having reflected upon my experience, that I do think New York is a special place - you just need to be tougher than me :)
My story started at the beautiful Mandarin Oriental, having travelled in from Boston (read my other post here) on the Greyhound bus. The grand room overlooked the famous Central Park and that's the first place I made sure to visit - the supercharged version of Hyde Park is an oasis in the middle of a manic city with surprising sites ranging from Belvedere castle, which is where the park's temperature is measured, to a John Lennon memorial, Strawberry Fields and a literary walk, you can spend days exploring it without getting bored.
The first dinner in New York HAD to be (in my opinion) at the intensely American P.J. Clarke's, a humble burger joint frequented by Sinatra and Jackie Kennedy back in the day. The quality (which received the seal of approval by Nat King Cole who famously named one of their burgers the "Cadillac of burgers") and its name lives on today. I do have to add, the Old Fashioned is also wonderful and you can write a postcard that the staff will post for you as a souvenir.
We followed the great burgers with a drink at the Upstairs rooftop bar at the Kimberley hotel which offers a lovely night view of the famous skyline pierced by the distinguishable Chrysler building.
The next morning started with an obligatory trip to Ellis Island and Lady Liberty where I topped up my knowledge with a few interesting facts including the reason for the colour green, which is the result of years of oxidation, or the facts that the pedestal used to house military families and the statue is moulded after the architect's mother - fascinating stuff. And better yet, the views of New York from Liberty Island are simply stunning - just like the movies.
The afternoon involved a trip past the financial area, the US Stock Exchange (don't judge!) and a walk through Chelsea on the High Line, which I really enjoyed. This is a green pathway of approx. 1.5 miles built on an old railway track that cuts across town, making you feel like you're on a suspended garden and the city is your museum.
Dinner in the evening was at one of my favourite restaurants in the world (I know, big shout!), a small place called The Little Owl - the food, the atmosphere and the people were all just perfect. Definitely book in advance and do make sure you try the smokey corn if they still do it - the menu changes regularly. After dinner, we went back to Times Square which we explored at leisure and made sure to stop at Hard Rock for a drink.
The next day, it was time to swap hotels and the second one for the stay was again one of my favourites, the Citizen M, a trendy hotel set in the heart of the concrete jungle. Top tip - make sure you go for drinks at their rooftop bar which offers amazing views of the city and ask for a room on the Hudson riverside.
In the morning we walked to Dean & Deluca, a place that prides itself on providing the best epicurean treats for cooking and drinking, where their delicious breakfasts are only topped by the quality of the Italian coffee. But enough about food, it was time to immerse ourselves in some culture. First on the list was MOMA (where I got to admire some Brancusi), then the Frick Collection and a few other museums. I know I must go back as there are still so many more I need to see!
In the meantime I must confess, there was some shopping at Macy's, some staring at Tiffany's on 5th Avenue and a few other iconic places and random walks through Manhattan.
My verdict? It's an amazing place, but it can be quite overwhelming and as with London, you do need a lot of time to visit it properly so I would say go there prepared to be awed, but also pushed and shoved, and you'll be fine. It really does have something for everyone and I suspect there are few places that rank higher for the availability of art, culture, entertainment and culinary range - no wonder they say it's the place where dreams are made...