It was with intrepidation that I joined the immigration line at JFK Airport in New York. US immigration does not have the best reputation and JFK is up high on the list for long delays. Very much to my surprise I was through immigration and had my bag less than an hour later. My next challenge was to pick up my pre-paid shuttle transfer, but once again there were clear signs to the ground transportation area and after a short wait the minibus had arrived. However, after stopping at two more terminals and cramming in 11 people, the Manhattan rush hour traffic did nothing to humour me when it took over 2 1/2 hours to get to the hotel.
I stayed at the 4* Broadway Plaza Hotel and was greeted with a warm smile and local information from the concierge as well as an amazingly useful map of Manhattan and subway system, much more detailed than the one I had bought with me. Check in was quick and efficient and before long I was up in my room. This is where shock set in, a beautifully airy room with 3 large windows was just the tip of the iceberg, the stunning view of the Empire State Building from my bed was breath-taking.
That evening I walked up Broadway to Times Square, at 14 blocks this was a 20 minute walk, but nothing hard and a fantastic way to get a basic grasp of the surrounding area. The bright lights and bill-boards of Times Square itself are surely a sight to be seen and the atmosphere is unique. After a brief familiarisation of the area I return to the hotel to have a glorious look out of my window at the Empire State beautifully lit up in its traditional white lighting.
The following morning started with a somber trip to the 9/11 memorial and museum. The survivor tree was beautiful in full blossom and as the sun shone down with clear blue skies the back drop of the Liberty Tower made for fantastic sights and photo opportunities. The museum itself is underground in the foot prints of the twin towers. It is a fascinating experience with shocking information about the entire events of the day was well as the lead up and after effects.
Following this humbling morning, a walk down to Battery Park found an amazing warren of a cafe-come-boutique followed by a free trip on the Staten Island ferry to get a closer look at the Statue of Liberty. Brooklyn Bridge was a long walk from the ferry terminal, but another essential sight. A quick ride on the subway from here found me in Grand Central Station, another must see for New York and possibly my favourite of all of them. There is so much to the station that even after a return visit I am sure I did not see it all. A whistle stop tour of Central Park took in the sights of the Bethesda Fountain and a separate trip was needed to look round the zoo.
Another day saw a bus trip to New Jersey. Simple, easy and effective are the words I would use to describe the process. The bus terminal itself is much larger than I imaged it would be and I can only begin to wonder at the maze of road networks that makes the place work! The Flatiron building was just a short walk from the Broadway Plaza and Madison Square Park is a lovely place to stop for coffee while admiring the iconic building.
I did make the subway journey back to JFK as an experiment. It was a much faster route than via road and simple to use. My only concern is that there are a few escalators and turnstiles that would be hard to use if you had more than one suitcase with you. Personally, I had a return shuttle booked, however after the madness of getting to the hotel I can say I was not looking forward to the return. However, although they were a little late collecting me from the hotel the transfer itself was not as crowded and the traffic was easier.
My top tips for New York:
– If you only have one suitcase, use the AirTrain and subway system to get to and from JFK. A 7-day unlimited use metro card is cost effective and makes the subway totally accessible.
– Plan your sightseeing days well, you will be tired on your feet and try not to do too much in one go.
– Check the opening times of attractions and shops so you don’t end up in later opening places earlier during the day and then finding your next place has closed.