Julian and Pauline go to New York
Pauline had never been across the Atlantic. Her birthday was coming up and she deserved a big 'thank you' for her support and encouragement during my recent health adventures. A little surprise, maybe? New York, here we come! A quick visit to Hyde Barker and Gemaine made all the arrangements. Helpful suggestions given in a pleasant and efficient manner. It was all so easy – even to the offer to complete the mandatory ESTAs. Previous HB clients had recommended a good looking, well located and appointed hotel. The phone call a few days later to tell me it had renovation work underway came with the offer to find another hotel and we were back on track in hours. We flew United to Newark in an obviously well maintained Boeing 777 (I used to work with aeroplanes...) with a courteous crew. Getting through US Immigration takes time. It’s their system and they are not about to change, so accept it; it works and you get through soon enough. It’s worth taking advantage of a shuttle service into Manhattan. On arrival, you will get plenty of 'spontaneous' offers for the trip – book ahead and the price will be fair. And then we found ourselves in the splendid Radisson Martinique hotel, just round the corner from the Empire State Building and Time Square; slightly convenient? Just one thing – Pauline thrives on tea. Few in the Big Apple understand tea. We ended up taking a trip to the Upper West Side to a store she had once heard/read about called Bed, Bath and Beyond. Ask for a tea kettle – or take your own 110v travel kettle! There is a specialist store that does a massive range of tea; ask your hotel porter (it worked for Crocodile Dundee, why not you?). Gemaine had strongly recommended a City Pass to gain access to the big attractions, such as MOMA, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty (closed for inspection and repair following Hurricane Sandy), and Guggenheim. Well worth the money as you will save a lot. Likewise, buy yourself a Metrocard to last for your stay. Very good value and valid on the Metro and MTA buses. We also got double decker red bus (where are we?) tour tickets; use 2 of the 4 tickets and you’re ahead. A revealing way to see your way round Manhattan and Brooklyn. The guides like to try and tease someone – I volunteered as the token Brit and we had some real fun banter exchanging comments about US and British points of view. A diplomatic draw at the end of the trips? I thought it was most generous of us to let them have so much real estate in which to copy our ideas! So the new building One World Trade Centre is being called Freedom Tower as it is 1776 feet tall. Hmm! Highlights? Several! NY is a big, exciting city and there are so many things to do and see. Get around on foot and public transport to appreciate Manhattan as the locals do. Hire bicycles to get into the less well trodden areas. The real highlight for us was the helicopter flight from Manhattan Heliport (by Brooklyn Bridge). It’s pricey but, if you’re only going once ... You get a vivid perspective of the city that’s only available from the air. Pauline is a nervous helicopter passenger and it took a little while to unhook her fingernails from my palm! But it’s all very safe and well controlled in that busy airspace. The other big event was the Empire State Building. A beautifully clear morning with a view to the ends of the Earth (almost!). Then the other half of this City Pass ticket – a night visit. A blizzard roiling around, occasionally lifting just enough for a startling clear view of the city below before being thrust back into the blizzard. You also have to see and experience Grand Central Terminal. It’s magnificent, even if you don’t see any trains! There was a Japanese cultural fair underway in the vestibule as we arrived. Plan your time and have a proper NY salmon and eggs breakfast! There are so many different and good eateries to try all over Manhattan, especially downtown (but recommend Eataly near the Flatiron building – lots of very good Italian food to eat in their restaurants or purchase as in a supermarket). NY is highly commercial and tipping at 10-20% is normal. American crowd control could be called mechanical but it is effective. Please don’t fight the system! Pauline thoroughly enjoyed the trip. I marvelled at the difference from my last trip 30 years ago. It is all so much cleaner, more accessible and people friendly. Rudy Guiliani (NY mayor 1994-2001) wrote an interesting book, Leadership, on NY’s journey to what it is now. Thank you, Gemaine. You played your part very well and made the trip both effective and relaxing for us. Oh, and have a nice day! Peter Ustinov is reputed to have replied, 'No thank you, I have other plans.'