Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Big Apple

I’m writing this sitting at JFK one leg down into three flights home and remembering all the great bits about our stay in New York.

But the story has to start with the stress filled journey getting to the airport, as nothing is ever simple in the Kershaw household. There we were all packed, fairly organised and waiting for the girls to come home from school so we could leave for Nice and our flight, which had recently been changed from 3pm to 5pm.

As I checked through passports, travel documents and many pieces of paper, I found the original booking and thought it might be useful to print off the updated flight times. Imagine my horror at 1.30pm when I logged onto the booking to see the original flight time 3pm flash up. After many minutes frantically scrolling through, it finally dawned on me that it wasn’t connecting NY flights to London that had been changed, it was my mum’s forthcoming May flight home from our house, which happened to also be at 3pm and have the same flight number!

Cue major panic as we bundled the cases, girls and dogs into the car, drove manically to Fi’s to turf out the dogs, who then started chasing our car off the drive in rain, leaving BSL precisely one hour before our flight was due to take off. We made it in 25 mental minutes, and after dumping them and the cases at kiss and fly, I parked and legged it complete with heavy hand luggage to the terminal, arriving just as check in was closing.

As we sat on the plane we worked out that less than an hour before, we were at home in meltdown mode. Amazing what you can achieve when the traffic is with you and the adrenaline is pumping. What a start to the trip!

Arriving at JFK, the girls were desperate to get into the city and watching their faces as the Manhattan skyline came into view was nothing short of magical. I think it is one of the world’s best views, it never gets any less exciting no matter how many times you have been to New York. We arrived at The Element Times Square West, a brand new eco-hotel which is part of the Starwood group, famous for the brilliant W hotel chain which I have stayed at many times.

It’s a more budget conscious, slightly less lux version of the W. Urban pared down utilitarian chic best describes it, and it’s a brilliant choice for anyone with a green leaning and a mid budget. Certain aspects are similar to the W....amazingly comfortable beds and pillows, fantastic Egyptian linens, plasma TVs and well appointed bathrooms. There are no overpriced mini bars, where moving a can of Pringles invites a $6 charge on your bill instantly, instead The Element boasts kitchenettes, so you can buy less expensive versions of the mini bar contents at the local mini mart.

They also do a great complimentary breakfast but you have to be up early to get the best choice of fresh fruit, bagels, muffins and hot breakfast. One niggle, no toasters which renders bagels and English muffins a bit redundant. Plus there is a great little apero each week night Monday to Thursday, where they lay out wine, Caesar salad and nibbles, again gratis to hotel guests. The gym is also well equipped and the hotel is so central to Times Square and mid town Manhattan that getting around is very easy. Check it out if you are heading to won’t regret it.

We did Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Centre and had a fab view of the Empire State Building, which you don’t get if you are viewing from the ESB instead, took the Staten Island ferry to look at the Statue of Liberty and explored SoHo, Greenwich Village, Wall Street, West Village, Central Park, Fifth Ave, in fact all the usual haunts as well as spending most of the morning in Forever 21, a teen heaven which sells fashion at ridiculously low prices. As it was raining and it was Livvy’s 16th birthday, I relented and spent almost an hour in the changing rooms giving my opinion on their many dazzling outfits.

We headed to Abercrombie so the girls could have their photo taken with the topless hunk at the front door. Yyou may or may not be relieved to hear that I (reluctantly) passed on this photo opportunity myself. Then it was off to Tiffanys on 5th Ave, minus the croissant Audrey H had when she went, which was deemed too cheesy by far to re-enact. The marvellous assistant there helped the girls choose a necklace and a charm within budget to remember their trip by.

We also passed Ground Zero, which still has an eerie atmosphere and sends chills down the spine when you look at the vast open space amid all the other skyscrapers. A year before 9/11, I took my mum to the top of the Twin Towers to look at the views across the river and we wandered around the shopping mall immediately below. There is a very moving memorial in the West Village with hand painted tiles inscribed with messages to those who lost their lives that day, I defy anyone not to shed a tear while reading them.

We headed to the Mercer Kitchen for lunch in Soho and had a fab birthday celebration before spending the rest of the afternoon on foot while the girls pretended to be Gossip Girls and spent huge amounts of dollars. Other great finds include Sardis, a famous old theatreland restaurant a lot like Joe Allens where the walls are lined with caricatures of famous Broadway stars. Ever since Jimmy Cagney’s was stolen on the day he died, the owners have insisted on two identical caricatures, one of which is given to the star so that if one is stolen it is able to be replaced. Ruhlman’s, opposite the Rockefeller Centre, is another NYC stalwart, with a sunny terrace and great brasserie menu. The lobster rolls and fries were amazing.

Harrisons in Tribeca was buzzing at the weekend, it’s the closest New York has to a gastropub and the stand out dishes were the lightly fried skate and home-made gnocchi. The only place that was over-rated, touristy and uninspiring was Seaport in South Street.

Mother’s Day was spent wandering around West Village in the sunshine before we headed for the airport so that the guys could fly home and I could fly to Miami...but that’s another story for another day.

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