New York 2003

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One balmy summer evening in 2003, after an excellent barbecue washed down with a glass or two, we recklessly promised our daughters we would take them to New York during the Christmas break. They didn't forget so I was soon getting it all arranged. We decided to travel on Boxing Day, returning early on New Year's Eve and booked very cheap tickets with Air India through Travelbag. We then had to decide on accommodation and location and The Embassy Suites in the financial district, very close to Ground Zero, fitted the bill and was very reasonably priced. 

26th December

A good day to travel, with little traffic and a quiet airport - except for our flight, which was full and took us an hour to check in. We were a little delayed but weren't too late in arriving in New York, at around 5.30pm. The flight was OK other than the discomfort encountered when you're all suffering from nasty colds! If you don't want any decent in-flight entertainment, (a good book's far better anyway) Air India compares well with other airlines and the food wasn't bad. We took a taxi to our hotel at a fixed price of $35 plus tip - a cheaper option than public transport when there are 4 of you travelling together - taking under an hour. We were impressed with the accommodation, having 2 suites with a bedroom and lounge/dining area with sofa bed, so our daughters were able to have separate rooms. The hotel is extremely spacious and full of modern art work and we had breakfast included (and early evening drinks, more of which later). Martyn & I weren't hungry but Jo & Sarah shared a room service pizza before turning in for the night.

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27th December

We awoke to a beautiful day with blue skies and brilliant sunshine so after a good breakfast, made our way to Battery Park where we took the free ferry across to Staten Island and had great views of South Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty. Foolishly, we got off at the other end. Everyone else disappeared onto buses and trains but we hadn't a clue where to go so wandered around a little

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(there was nothing to see) and then came back. We took a taxi to SoHo and did a little shopping before brunch at Balthazar which a colleague had booked for us (you usually need to book 4 weeks in advance). It's a fantastic place, like a French Bistro, and was packed but our table was ready. we had a superb meal, as good as I've and anywhere and the service was great - friendly and efficient. We made our way to where we thought the SoHo Guggenheim was, according to our guide book, but couldn't find, despite asking people. It should have been where Prada is so we're not sure if it closed - there's no mention of it on the web. So we mooched around Prada a bit - quite a place but way out of our budget! Then on to Macey's which was heaving with people and far too hot so we didn't stay long. As you can see from the picture below, the Christmas decorations were something else! 

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We were flagging by then so took a cab back near our hotel and spent some time at Century 21, a large discount store. It took a lot of sifting through stuff though and we weren't really up to it, so we came back via Ground Zero, the site of the Twin Towers atrocity, 9/11. Somehow, it didn't seem right to take photos of it. The site is vast and the devastation is unimaginable. We arrived back in time for the 'manager's drinks', which really is as good as it sounded. Between 5.30 and 7.30 you can have as many drinks (any type, beer, wine, soft drinks, spirits, cocktails) as you like, along with nibbles such as popcorn, nachos and nuts. We're not big drinkers but enjoyed one or two each. Since we'd had such a good brunch, we didn't want to eat so had another early night. I didn't really suffer from jet lag but was always asleep by 8 to 10pm.

28th December

Sunday today and after breakfast we took a cab to Grand Central Station which lived up to all our expectations, it's a stunning building and puts Waterloo to shame! We were too early for the shops but did have a wonderful smoothie which made us all feel much healthier (still suffering from colds).


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We walked to the Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree and the skating rink and it was great, such a good atmosphere. We wanted to go up The Empire State Building but the queues were ridiculous - there are far too many places to visit without wasting time queuing for any of them. We'd also planned to see Radio City Music Hall, a highlight of our previous trip, but there was a show about to start when we arrived. We had a good lunch in an Irish pub, Connolly's and then popped

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into Saks, and were all sprayed enthusiastically by the perfume sales lady. It was far too posh for us there though, although again, the decorations were beautiful, and very classy. So then off to Central Park for a walk and ride in a horse drawn carriage.

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We enjoyed that and walked through the Park to the Guggenheim Museum where we spent a couple of hours enjoying the Rosenquist Retrospective along with some other works. It's a fantastic building too - you start at the top and spiral down so it's easy not to miss anything.


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Then home - we were exhausted with so much walking. We had dinner in the Mexican restaurant, Chevys, in the hotel complex, and it was very good but we really didn't do it justice. Another early night. 

29th December

There was a huge breakfast queue so we went across to a centre opposite the hotel and had coffee and pastries there. There was an excellently priced sale in Gap and we bought quite a few things there. It was another beautiful day so we made our way to Battery Park again to take a ferry across to the immigration museum on Ellis Island. Unfortunately, thousands of others had the same idea so we didn't bother when we saw the queues. We were later told you need to be at the ticket office by 8.30am to stand any chance of a reasonable visit. So we went to the National Museum of the American Indian which was nearby. It was a fascinating place and free admission too. Then we had a light lunch in what turned out to be a kosher café but it was a bad choice. Later in the afternoon we New York_0275.jpg (82678 bytes)visited our friends who are still living there (see my other new York page, which I wrote after attending their wedding). They live on the Upper East Side in an amazing apartment. It was beautifully done out and we were amazed at the size of it. They have a new puppy, seen here in one of her outfits! It was great to see them and to learn more about what it's like to live in such a city. We were tired and I felt unwell when we arrived back at our hotel - not helped by the taxi driver having appalling BO and driving (like all of them) like a lunatic - so the others had a room service meal and I went to bed. We'd planned to visit a Chinese restaurant but weren't up to it. The food was very good, I am reliably unformed.

30th December

Our last day so we packed up and left our luggage whilst we went off to the Police Museum nearby. It was very interesting and included a 9/11 exhibition with photos and reports. Talking of the police, there was a very strong presence around our hotel. Every morning there were dozens of NYPD cars parked outside our bedroom window, then the officers would come along en masse and drive away. It was really quite reassuring. We did some last minute shopping in the area and then after retrieving our luggage, went off to the airport. We took a private car this time which had been recommended but cost more ($50 inc tip) and had less room in the back, although you could see better. We checked in early and managed to get 2 seats with extra leg room and a row of 3 between 2 of us so it was worth being early. It's not a busy day to leave New York, since a lot of people would stay on for the NYE celebrations. We did some last minute shopping (bear in mind, there is only one lot of shops, you don't go through security to find yet more. Your shopping isn't given to you, but has to be collected as you go through security.) Security was very tight and everyone was patted down - our daughter's bag was searched 3 or 4 times and put through the scanner as many times because something didn't look right. Finally got through. All those wearing shoes other than trainers had to remove them and we had to prove our water really was water by drinking it in front of the officials. Despite all that, we were on time and had a good flight back, arriving in the UK soon after 6am.

It had been a good trip, marred a bit by our general health, but the weather helped in that respect. It was busy everywhere so perhaps not the best time to go but we were able to do enough of what we wanted for that not to be a problem. The choice of things to do and places to eat is unbeatable and we never felt threatened or vulnerable. 


Travelbag    Embassy Suites   The Insider  Things to do   Balthazar  Guggenheim  James Rosenquist  Police Museum    National Museum of the American Indian 


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