After our whistle stop tour of Boston it was time for the main event: 6 days in New York. We caught a bus to New York from South Station for $30 each and got progressively more excited as the Massachusetts number plates were replaced by those of Connecticut, then as we reached the narrowed Atlantic funnelled by Long Island and finally as Empire State number plates became the norm and we crossed over the Harlem River into Manhattan. It was such a fun way to approach the city as we got to see it from so many angles: each time we drove past one the East/West criss-crossing avenues we would be given a glimpse right across the city, from the Hudson river to the Harlem river, and only having moments to spy treats such as the Chrysler or the Empire State buildings flashing by. My first three impressions were:
1. Bridges in New York are massive and really cool.
2. There are motorways along the river fronts on both the east and west sides of Manhattan; this makes sense because of space but it’s weird not to have any buildings, homes or waterfront walkway capitalising on this location.
3. GTA IV really does make it easier to navigate yourself around the city and makes every familiar.
Arriving at Penn Station, we vaulted the snow banks on the side of the road and slid into the back of our first yellow cab. The cabbie’s blank expression when we asked him to take us to the Park Lane Hotel, was going to be a bit of a problem until Gabby, from some previously unknown and untapped recess of her memory, recalled forth “59th Street and 5th” and the taxi set off.
As you can see when we arrived at the Park Lane Hotel (previously the Helmsley), we got incredibly lucky. We had booked at a great rate and asked for a room on as high a floor as possible, we hadn’t splashed out extra for a park view thinking that the cityscape would be just as cool. As it was, we were given a penthouse room on the 46th floor with views over Central Park, Manhattan and New Jersey in the distance. Pretty awesome! Even though the room was amazing it couldn’t keep me from wanting to get down to exploring New York, or keep Gabby from noticing that she was only minutes away from a late lunch chicken soup at the Carnegie Deli.
The brief walk to the Deli didn’t give me enough time to settle into the New York vibe and prepare for the pace and food onslaught inside. It was packed in the Deli, rushed service, frenzied turn over and autographed famous faces all contributing to the overall feel of pandemonium. But this was nothing compared to the shock of seeing our table neighbours’ portion sizes. My turn would come in the form of a Turkey club sandwich with more protein in it than you’d find in colostrum. Now I say sandwich, but the fact that it arrived upright was a real feat of digestible architecture (OIA) considering it was wider than the length of my cutlery. The size of Gabby’s matzo ball was also suitably obscene so a jaw dislocation and doggy bag later we felt a walk through the snowy park was necessary exercise.
The white park was simultaneously playground for both nordic skiers, short wearing footballers and a rather ignominious and out of place statue of Shakespeare. Despite the snow I recognised its tree lined avenues and benches from countless films and TV show scenes which have created false memories and deja vus. Gabby had researched where to find the best cheesecake in New York. A blog had recommended Two Little Red Hens on 86th and 2nd so we made our way up Madison Avenue for window shopping.
Unfortunately, the cheesecake was a little too good and by the time we’d got to the coffee house they had sold out. Luckily there was no shortage of sweet things, in the case of my chocolate and peanut butter mush -super sweet, and strong coffee to resupply with. We committed to returning another day for the cheesecake and walked back down Lex to our room in the clouds to digest our first day in New York and lunch’s leftovers….
Gabby’s travel research bible.