In a New York minute

With lit­tle time to spare BEV­ER­LEY WOOL­FORD makes the most out of a quick trip to the Big Ap­ple

Harefield Gazette - - LEISURE -

BE­ING a tourist these days is just not the done thing. In an ever shrink­ing world where global ex­plo­ration is more ac­ces­si­ble than ever, it’s all about ‘trav­el­ling’.

Peo­ple fall over them­selves to get that ‘au­then­tic’ ex­pe­ri­ence self­ied and in­sta­grammed be­fore you can say off the beaten track.

But what if you haven’t got time to #live­likealo­cal? What if all you have is just a day or a few hours to cram as much as pos­si­ble into what lit­tle time you have? Well that is when it pays to be a tourist and this was ex­actly the po­si­tion I found my­self in dur­ing a re­cent trip to New York.

We flew into JFK from Gatwick with Nor­we­gian, a low-cost air­line that of­fers wal­let-friendly prices and a very rea­son­able pre­mium econ­omy class. The air­line’s fleet of 787 Dream­lin­ers means pas­sen­gers have plenty of legroom while the up­grade comes with per­sonal TVs, good food and the best blan­kets by Moods of Nor­way, which are ap­par­ently prov­ing so pop­u­lar many are dis­ap­pear­ing out the door with pas­sen­gers.

Of­fi­cially my trip was to cover a trade mis­sion with 10 South East-based busi­nesses but as a new­comer to the city, I was de­ter­mined to pack in a bit of sight­see­ing over the three days.

Be­ing based at the Wyn­d­ham New Yorker ho­tel in Mid­town Man­hat­tan was a good start. This strik­ing Art Deco build­ing is just a year older than the Em­pire State Build­ing and was once the ho­tel of choice for vis­it­ing celebs in­clud­ing Mo­hammed Ali, who nursed his bruised ego there af­ter fight­ing Joe Fra­zier and Madi­son Square Gar­den in 1971, and was home to sci­en­tist Nikola Tesla for 10 years.

They say New York is a city that needs to be walked and from here I man­aged to ex­plore the bustling streets of Broad­way, 34th Street, Times Square, and 5th and Mad­di­son Av­enues on foot.

But for the time-poor tourist there are only re­ally two op­tions. Pick a few things and do them thor­oughly or em­bark on a whis­tle-stop tour of the main at­trac­tions.

With New York, how­ever, that’s a mighty long list of head­lin­ers. the 9/11 Me­mo­rial and Mu­seum, the Amer­i­can Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory and The Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art. It also in­cludes the Em­pire State Build­ing and means you not only get to skip the ticket queue but also get a sec­ond ticket for a re­turn visit at night. In a city that never sleeps, the Em­pire State Build­ing is open un­til 2am.

The sec­ond part of my whistlestop tour in­cluded the most touristy of ve­hi­cles – the open topped bus. Not glam­orous but cer­tainly ef­fec­tive. Dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies of­fer routes and loops and a range of ticket prices and du­ra­tions but I went for the nar­rated Down­town Man­hat­tan tour of­fered by City Sight­see­ing (prices start­ing from $54).

This In­cludes a fully nar­rated trip through Down­town Man­hat­tan with un­lim­ited hop-on hop-off ac­cess.

Start­ing among the bright lights of Times Square, the route makes its way south through lower Man­hat­tan tak­ing in Carnegie Hall, Macy’s, the Em­pire State Build­ing, Union Square and the Flat Iron Build­ing, SoHo, Chi­na­town and the World Trade Cen­ter site.

Over two-and-a-half hours our friendly con­duc­tor made for an en­gag­ing guide to the sights with facts, triv­ial and his­tor­i­cal. The evo­lu­tion of the city was mixed with what build­ing had been in what film and which dis­tricts were favoured by artists and celebri­ties. We even got an in depth dis­cus­sion on the as­tro­nom­i­cal costs of

Top of my hit list were the Flat Iron Build­ing, the Em­pire State Build­ing and the Chrysler Build­ing. Also the Statue of Lib­erty and the Brook­lyn Bridge. Then the New York Pub­lic Li­brary, Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion and the Rock­er­feller Cen­ter, Cen­tral Park and One World Trade. Not an easy to-do list when jug­gling work, eat­ing and sleep­ing.

But through choos­ing the whistlestop op­tion and us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of early morn­ing walks, bus tours and queue-hop­ping city passes, I pretty much ticked all of them off the list.

An ob­vi­ous way to see a lot in one go is to get up high. A close call be­tween the Top of the Rock and the Em­pire State, it came down to a mat­ter of lo­ca­tion. The Em­pire State Build­ing was just a few of blocks from the ho­tel.

The tallest build­ing in the world from 1931 to 1970, it re­ally does live up to its billing as an Amer­i­can Icon, from the glo­ri­ous Art Deco lobby to the stun­ning view from the 86th floor. You can get higher, of course, but time was against me.

I had a fab­u­lously clear af­ter­noon for my visit and thank­fully it was light on the crowds, the queues here are known to be as epic as the views.

For those with a lit­tle more time to ex­plore, the New York City Pass is a great idea. Each voucher book­let costs $116 and saves 42% on en­trance fees to the city’s top six at­trac­tions. The vouch­ers are valid for nine days and in­clude Lib­erty Is­land and El­lis Is­land, rent­ing an apart­ment in the city.

Back to the list tick­ing, with­out hav­ing the time to get off the bus and ex­plore prop­erly I got just a glimpse of the Statue of Lib­erty but some great views of the Brook­lyn Bridge. The tour also took in Wall Street, the East Vil­lage, the Wal­dorf As­to­ria Ho­tel, the Rock­e­feller Cen­ter the UN, the Lower East Side and Grand Cen­tral Sta­tion. Although not nec­es­sar­ily in that or­der. For the film buffs out there, the route also went past the cafe from When Harry Met Sally where that scene was filmed.

I’ll ad­mit slowly mak­ing your way through the con­gested streets atop a tour bus might not be the chic-est way to travel, and at the end of the two-anda-half hours I’d got pretty cold, but the views of­fered by be­ing up above the crowds were fan­tas­tic.

It was won­der­ful to look down and see peo­ple rub­bing them­selves on the Charg­ing Bull of Wall Street and to look up at the sight of the new One World Trade build­ing con­trasted with the spire of the his­toric St Paul’s Chapel. And, as long as you’re quick, the photo op­por­tu­ni­ties are end­less.

While my trip may have been brief and I only got the mer­est glimpse of what this amaz­ing city has to of­fer it was enough to whet the ap­petite and I have promised my­self a re­turn visit. This time hope­fully with more of a chance to get that ‘au­then­tic’ ex­pe­ri­ence.

Bev­er­ley was a guest of Nor­we­gian.

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