Jun 17, 2011

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Visiting New York – four nights in the Big Apple

John Lennon said in the 1970s that New York was the greatest place on earth, that “Today [sic] America is the Roman Empire and New York is Rome itself”.

A lot has changed since Lennon’s day, but there is no doubt, when walking down the sidewalk of a high rise New York street, you can’t help but feel you are in the centre of somewhere big, somewhere famous and somewhere you want to know more about.

The iconic Statue of Liberty

The iconic Statue of Liberty

I recently spent four nights in New York and fell in love at first sight; here are some of the reasons why.

It is so easy to navigate

New York is a walking city – people walk as they drink (plenty of hot cwoffee on the move), walk as they eat (think Audrey Hepburn and her pastry outside of Tiffany’s) and walk as they talk, often to whoever is next to them. New York was, perhaps surprisingly, one of the friendliest cities I have ever been to.

Getting around by foot is made much easier by a numeric grid system ensuring it is almost impossible to get lost. Taxis are available in abundance for longer distances plus easy to use subway and bus networks help keep people moving.

As with many other major cities, tall and imposing landmarks help greatly when trying to get your bearings.

Our hotel was just one block from the Chrysler Building so even on the evenings when we kept our maps in our pockets, we could find our way back by counting the streets, knowing we were getting closer as we spotted the imposing art deco skyscraper peeping through the gaps in the high rise streets.

Shop til you drop

New York is known for being a shoppers’ paradise and it didn’t disappoint. We easily wasted away half a day wandering round the nine floors of Macy’s – “the World’s largest department store.”

The world's largest department store, Macy's

The world's largest department store, Macy's

We took a look around the boutiques of SoHo and did a bit of window shopping along the designer labels of 5th Avenue before stumbling upon an open air flea market in the midtown area of the city.

It was hard to resist a look around the packed Apple store near to Central Park. The flagship store had us shuffling forward in an orderly queue to get through the door and closer to the shiny gadgets. Packed with tourists all keen to snap up a bargain, we were disappointed to hear iPads sell out every day, in every one of the nearby New York Apple stores within a couple of hours of opening – despite having daily deliveries.

Walking around a film set

We’ve all grown up watching big screen action unfold on the streets of New York; arguably the most famous film set in the world, it has been showcased in literally 100s of films. From When Harry met Sally, Ghost Busters and Superman, to Wall Street, Taxi Driver and Saturday Night Fever, the city has had possibly one of the longest on screen careers in the business.

A trip on one of the city’s hop on, hop off buses pointed out some of the details and specifics (remember what the food in Katz’s deli did for Meg Ryan anyone?) but simply by stepping out of our hotel some of the most famous and recognisable landmarks were soon stood in front of us. Even without leaving our room had a clear view of the top of the Empire State Building, the location of so many iconic cinematic moments.

The Empire State Building on a beautiful clear day

The Empire State Building on a beautiful clear day

Leaves you wanting more

Like all the best things in life, New York definitely left me wanting more. Four days was enough to see many of the highlights, but even with a week to explore, I think we would have still left many stones unturned.

We went up the Empire State Building on the clearest of days, but next time I’d like to go back up by night – look down on the seemly tiny buildings twinkling below us and into the distance. I’d like to spend longer in Central Park, people watching and relaxing in the natural surrounds. And of course there are the numerous museums and galleries we just didn’t have time to get around.

I left wanting to see what the site of Ground Zero will look like once the construction work is finished. There are a number of buildings under construction near to the site, many of which will take another two or three years to complete. Almost ten years after 9/11 and Ground Zero is still very much a building site, but then Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was New York.

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