I’ve never felt as excited as I did when boarding Delta Airlines flight 11Y for New York back in 1990. I had just met my girlfriend and we had been given this wonderful opportunity to travel to the country that I had been in awe of for most of my life. We were young and having lots of fun; I could hardly believe life had been so kind. The staff on the huge aeroplane offered us a warm welcome and a three-course meal accompanied by a generous selection of beverages. My girlfriend drank gin and tonic, I chose bacardi and coke.
I felt very privileged to be boarding United Airlines flight UA19 at Heathrow airport with my family back in 2012. We had been living abroad for some years and our kids deserved this opportunity to spend time in an English-speaking city, and few can be as appealing as New York!
We arrived at LaGuardia airport and were greeted by people who complimented us for our English accents. I was taken back by their friendly and confident faces and I was sure this was going to be an inspiring and memorable experience. We took a cab to the Ramada Inn where high on my list of priorities was to buy a film for my camera and some postcards so that I could share some of this amazing trip with family and friends back home.
The first thing we did on arrival at the Affinia Hotel was to ask for the WiFi code and within minutes of sitting down in reception, the whole world knew where we were! After more than twelve hours without an internet connection, this was a moment to really engage with our smartphones and we all sat in silence for thirty minutes whilst we caught up on what was happening amongst our network of friends and followers!
Our room was high up above Manhattan with a comfy sofa and cable TV. I listened to the many sirens in the streets below which brought back memories of my childhood and watching TV programs such as Starsky and Hutsch and Charlie’s Angels. Cheers and Roseanne were my favourite US sitcoms of the time and I enjoyed them even more on a real American TV with a cold Budweiser in my hand. Cheers reminded me of the sense of community I felt when spending time in my local pub back in England. I couldn’t wait to try out some of New York’s bars.
I stood at our hotel room window, staring at Madison Square Garden opposite. This iconic concert venue evoked memories of popular British bands that had performed there. I thought of how a sell out concert here was probably a good indication that a band had made the big time in the US. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Elton John and many more had played here. But during this visit, the big concert was at the home of The New York Giants, where another British band Coldplay were performing. We tried to get tickets, but it was more or less sold out. I reflected on the popularity of US artists in the UK and vice versa. But the US has a vast pool of talent and some of its musical genres such as the Blues, Rock and Roll and Motown have been very influential in Britain. One day I would like to tour America and learn more about this. The kids meanwhile, were watching the Big Bang Theory and How I met your Mother, two of my favourites, so I stopped my daydreaming and returned to my seat!
Of course we didn’t travel half way around the world just to check our Facebook pages and watch TV! We decided to visit central park where high on the list of priorities was to get a photo in front of the fountain made famous by the sitcom Friends! Okay, no more mention of TV sitcoms! After a short photo stop, the four of us continued our tour of the park sat in a charming white carriage pulled slowly by a horse whose hooves click-clacked along the pathways while our guide spoke proudly to us about this quiet retreat from the city noise!
After seeing Sleepless in Seattle some months earlier, the four of us thought it would be a good idea to go to the top of the empire state building at midnight. We booked a priority ticket in advance and felt rather smug as we strode past the long stationary queue of people who had only booked the normal tickets. We were quite surprised to see a bride and groom at the top, the bride being photographed in her beautiful white dress with the lights of Manhattan behind her. We stayed up there for about one hour, spending most of the time in silence as we stared at the lights of this enormous city. Rather like gazing up into the night sky, the view stretched beyond the limits of my knowledge and imagination.
The two of us went to see a new show called Aspects of Love starring Michael Ball at the Broadhurst theatre. It was great to dress up and be entertained on Broadway where I found myself completely engrossed in this wonderful Andrew Lloyd Weber performance from London’s West End. On another evening, we dressed up again for a cruise around Long Island aboard the World Yacht company’s Duchess and ate the best fillet steak I had ever tasted. For some reason, this was a holiday where we walked everywhere, and this including a fairly late night, and at times tense stroll back from the yacht at Pier 62 – not something I would recommend.
Early nights back at the hotel were not an option whist we were with the kids as they adored the city’s nightlife. As well as the visit to the empire state building, we went midnight shopping in Times Square and we had late nights in China Town and Little Italy too. We found a nice restaurant in Little Italy where we ate outside overlooking a busy pedestrianised street. I looked at the metal fire escape that zigzagged its way up the front of the dark brick residential building opposite, and tried to imagine what it would be like to live here. In fact, I found myself wondering this often during our stay!
For some reason on this holiday, we were always taking cabs or using the subway system, and this enabled us to see lots more than on our previous visit. My favourite journey by subway was to Coney Island, home of Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest. But it was a blisteringly hot day with clear blue skies and the temptation to go for a dip in the sea was greater than the desire to eat the hotdogs, burgers and steaks that were available in abundance along the wooden decked promenade. It was incredible to suddenly find ourselves in a traditional American seaside resort with sandy beeches and an impressive looking amusement park which formed a great backdrop to the view I enjoyed from the cooler waters of the ocean.
In conclusion, I really don’t think one visit to a city like New York is enough, and as it’s almost three years since I was last there, I’m seriously wondering whether even two is enough! 🙂
All pictures and text. © Chris Robinson 2015. All rights reserved.
I have changed the title of this twice and I am still not happy with it, so it may be changed again. Sorry for any confusion caused! 🙂