I can procrastinate no longer – the time has come to write my trip report before it all becomes just a distant memory.
Once again, my son Jack was the catalyst for our trip. Three years ago we had visited to celebrate his 21st birthday and, this time around, he thought it would be an excellent way of saying Happy 21st to his fiancée Julie. We’d been in February for Jack’s bash and with Julie’s birthday being in March, we had our first big decision to make – do we go when the weather is still pretty chilly or do we leave it a little until we can get warmer and longer days? In the end, the idea of longer days really appealed as it meant we would not have to rush round like mad things trying to squeeze everything in before dark plus we might even be able to enjoy a bit of al fresco eating. So May it was and, because Julie wanted to travel with her mum who works at a school, it was decided to go over Memorial weekend which coincided with half-term back here. Previously we’d been delighted with The Salisbury but I knew that money was going to be tight this time around so I went for Radio City Apartments. We took 2 studios and the price worked out at $85 each per night which seemed quite reasonable. We reserved the rooms in July but the problem was that. At that time, there were no discount air fares available – I decided to wait. Well, I’m convinced I did see the flights fall to £240 per person in February this year but, stupidly, I didn’t act on it. Consequently, after checking each new notice from BA and AA about sale prices, I realised that this was bite the bullet time and ended up paying £380 per person for flights from Heathrow to JFK.
OK – that’s the boring stuff out of the way.
Day one actually started on the previous Friday with my wife (Pat) and I checking in at the Heathrow Sheraton Skyline the night before so that we could make our way to the airport the next morning without having to get up at 02:30! The room and 7 days’ parking cost us less than £100 but the meal in their restaurant bumped that up by another £60. Still, we were on holiday! Up bright and early on Saturday to catch the Hoppa Bus to the airport. The driver bent over backwards to squeeze everybody who was waiting on to the bus but he probably overdid it as by the end the natives were getting restless. Well, I say “natives”, in fact it was an American who said in a loud voice “Hey, we do have a plain to catch you know”. No, really? Anyway, no –one missed their plane and before we knew it, we were standing in a long line at the American Airline’s check-in desk. I had hoped to use their well-advertised on-line log-in facility but that is only available for domestic flights or, at least, flights originating in the States. Sadly, the automatic check-in machines weren’t working either so we had no option but to stand in line until we could be processed. After about an hour we were through and reunited with Jack, Julie. Jennifer (her sister) and Tizzy (her mother) who had arrived hours before and had been first in the queue.
After a fairly uneventful flight, we arrived at JFK half an hour early and grabbed a couple of taxis into the city. The weather was perfect and everyone was feeling good. Could it possibly last???
After unpacking, we thought we’d head round the corner to Times Square so that everyone could see it. After all, everyone has to walk round Times Square as soon as they’ve unpacked right? Well, no – I am now firmly of the opinion that Times Square is full of three types of people:
1) Those who have been told by their friends that they must go and who are desperately looking around for a reason for being there.
2) People who got off the Hop On Hop Off bus and who are now desperate to get back on the next one out of there.
3) The marketeers, scam artists, cheap watch and handbag salesmen who prey on the poor saps in 1) and 2).
By all means go and see the lights of Times Square once but plan to be there for no more than 5 minutes – you won’t regret it!
We were soon outside Hershey's and Jack nearly spoiled the surprise by saying to Julie "That's where I had my birthday message up in lights". It wasn't his fault - we hadn't let him in on the secret! I made an excuse to cross the street to take some photos then nipped into the store and booked a message for Julie. The store was absolutely packed - it felt even more packed as most of the clientèle were obviously big Hershey fans if you get my drift! Luckily, the young girl who had taken my order took pity on me when she saw the length of the line I had to stand in to pay and went off and did it for me. I popped back outside and after what seemed an age but which was probably no more than 5 minutes, the message appeared. Amazingly, Julie was completely surprised by the whole thing and wanted to stay there to watch the message revolving time after time while the rest of the family sang Happy Birthday!
We walked past TGIF's and I pointed out the webcam for future reference and then we headed off to 43rd Street so that I could buy the NFT guide and the Hagstrom 5in1 Map at their store. On the way, we spotted the HBO store and Jack ended up buying a whole lot of Soprano's merchandise.
We headed east down 43rd and then turned right towards Bryant Park. As we turned the corner, we were greeted with the amazing site of what looked like about 50 squad cars all with their red lights flashing. It was one of their anti-terrorist drills but I did think that if the criminal fraternity knew about it, they could have been up to all sorts of mischief on the other side of town with complete impunity! The park was lovely in the May sunshine and we sat and admired the greenery - what a contrast to the last time we were there when there wasn't a leaf to be seen! We had a coke in the little cafe next to the public library then we thought we'd take a peek inside. It being Memorial Weekend, sadly the library was closed so we moved on to Grand Central to admire the ceiling before heading back up Park Avenue to have an up close encounter with the lovely Helmsley Building before getting back to the RCA for a quick nap.
We thought it might be a good idea to check out the restaurant next door – Pasta Lovers’ Trattoria – it wasn’t! Average food at above average prices but it was 1am UK time so we weren’t too particular. Everyone turned in pretty soon after that but I went for a wander up 49th street towards Radio City Music Hall and was amazed to see one of the ubiquitous handbag sellers in hand cuffs. I can only assume that he must have been sleeping with the arresting cop’s wife as it was the only time I ever saw any attempt by New York’s finest to hinder, in any way, the activities of these unlicensed traders! I was in bed by midnight and looking forward to Sunday in the Park.