07/11/2010

New York part one




"So this is what the inside of a stretch limo looks like," I said, taking in the fresh pine smell, cream leather seats, neon lit bar, mirrored surfaces and fountains of UV lights, subtly changing colour with every passing minute.

"It's tack-tactic, but I love it."

The bloke smiled and filled up my champagne glass. Outside Manhattan sped by, a sensory mess of colours and sounds at night. George Michael's 'Faith' came on the radio and I suddenly felt like I was having an out of body experience.

Had I overdosed on fun? possibly. It was the night before the end of our holiday and we were both on a complete high. Two hours earlier we'd spotted Al Pacino in the street, coming out of the theatre where he was appearing in The Merchant of Venice on Broadway. Five hours earlier we'd flown over the Statue of Liberty in a helicopter.

Then now, the limo ride. After the bloke had spotted the driver on the street and cheekily asked if we could rent it for an hour. I am never going to forget this, I thought as I gazed out the window across to the New Jersey skyline. This is just magic.

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That was nearly the end of our trip. And it was full of moments like that which would make a thousand blog posts. Instead I wanted to write a blow-by-blow diary of what we did in short form. Largely so I can remember it, but also to help people going to the Big Apple who might be in search of ideas. My friend Ed did it, and it was invaluable to us. I realise that if you have no intention of going to New York (and I recommend you change your mind if that's the case) or if you've never been, you might not want to read it all, but hey, never mind. I know I'll have fun looking back over it at least when I come home after a crap day at work. Here goes…

Day one - Saturday

The day of my birthday but a horrible start to the holiday. Almost a non start, in fact. We arrive at the airport to find there's massive overbooking on the plane, and as we queue up a worker offers us 600 Euros to miss our flight and go on the next one. No way!

But when we check in we discover our travel agent has messed up and only checked the bloke in online, not me. So the bloke has a seat on the plane and I'm on the waiting list and probably won't be able to fly. The next plane they can guarantee us a seat on is 24 hours later and If we want to upgrade to business class on this one for a guaranteed seat it'll cost us 5,000 Euros!

Absolutely dejected we check in our bags anyway in the hope that someone might not turn up for the flight and tramp off to the gate, heads hanging low. All the time I'm getting happy birthday messages from people saying "enjoy New York" and I just want to scream.

Overbooking is completely legal though - with companies regularly selling 5-10% more seats than they have on the plane, on the assumption people won't turn up. Which I can sort of understand for short, cheaper, flights. But come on, if you've paid a grand, maybe more, would you really miss your flight?

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is absolutely make sure you check in online to avoid the same thing happening to you. It nearly ruined the start of our trip.

When we get to the gate there are about ten other people on standby, and my stomach just drops to my knees. There's no way we're getting on this plane. The lady at the desk asks everyone: "Are you all on the waiting list?" And the bloke says: "No I'm not, but I won't fly without her." The lady asks: "what's her name?" Then after we tell her, something magic happens - she says: "You can both go through".

My hand is shaking as I give her my ticket and I can feel everyone else just hating me to the back of my head as we walk down the tunnel towards the plane. I feel sorry for them but insanely happy. Now we're going to enjoy this even more because we nearly lost the first 24 hours of our holiday.

Seven hours, and a few glasses of cava later, we finally get to JFK airport, 4.30pm (we took off at 2.00pm Spanish time). On TV screens as we walk to the passport control Sarah Palin is giving a speech, or rather a screech. She clatters through it like a combine harvester going over cobbles. "you deserve more than Washington is giving you." How can anyone believe her when she sounds like a parrot being strangled? A voice comes over the loudspeaker announcing where we can pick up our suitcases. But instead of a bored monosyllabic tone, he practically sings it: "luggage is on wheel nuuuumber TWO!" America is going to be different.

I get nervous being interviewed by the policeman on the passport control and my hand is shaking slightly when they scan my fingerprints. Don't know why - I've obviously done nothing wrong. Then I'm through but the bloke is led away after his interview and I start to panic. It turns out he has the a very similar name to an international narcotics trafficker and they just had to double check it wasn't him.

We're taken on the hour long trip to the hotel by our Spanish-speaking travel agent representative Martin, who gives us lots of tips about New York. Forget Spanish time, try and stay awake till at least 10pm this evening to beat the jet lag, drink the tap water, tip 10% or a dollar a drink etc etc.

Then before we know it we're at the hotel. We had originally booked to stay at the Waldorf Astoria, but decided to change shortly after back in Madrid as it looked a bit old and stuffy - like staying in a museum. We decided on the Intercontinental Times Square after consulting Trip Advisor, which placed it at number 43 out of the some 3,000 hotels listed in New York.

Glad we did. It was brand new - only opened in the summer and had the same sort of vibe going on as the Hoxton Hotel (our favorite place to stay in London) but more upmarket. Same sort of feng shui decor, all dark woods and metal which a cool restaurant and bar with a cosy fireplace. The air con was always on full blast in the entrance though, which was a bit weird.

After telling the guy who checked us in it was my birthday and we'd recently got engaged, we cheekily ask for an upgrade. He says they'll sort us out if we join the hotel's loyalty scheme. so we promptly do so and got put in a deluxe room. Enormous bed with the best mattress ever, duck feather pillows, waterfall shower, and an inward facing room so nice and quiet. We unpack our stuff and chill out for a little while, watch some American TV. A celeb news program shocks me as the reporting is anything but impartial. They're crucifying Lindsay Lohan for failing a drugs test. "This is a disgrace. It was COCAINE! How can she avoid prison again?"

We put on our glad rags and get a taxi to Morimoto - New York's top rated Japanese restaurant according to Trip Advisor. I would agree with them. The whole thing was amazing. the venue is a work of art, with eye-catching light features and beautiful furniture, and the toilets were space age - with jets of water that came out that you could control the direction and strength of.



And the people watching was amazing. Girls who looked like they'd stepped right out of vogue, with skyscraper heels and their equally polished boyfriends, old rich ladies dripping in diamonds and funky types. One girl came in wearing an enormous fluffy hat with pom palms. she didn't take it off for one minute even though she must have been boiling. Then there was a couple of cyber goths who were clearly made for each other. Her blue spikily eye make up covered half her face while the boy had long black hair, but had shaved his hairline back and his eyebrows off. they looked like they could have been in some goth rock band.

Oh and of course there was the food. We went for the seven course tasting menu with the alcohol accompaniment. I would recommend you sell a kidney and do the same.. though I couldn't manage to drink everything they brought out. With every course you got a half glass of wine or champagne or sake, which perfectly complimented the course on the table. It was out of this world. the bloke, who doesn't even like Japanese food said it was the best food he's ever eaten.

Highlights included the salmon tartar (above), the amazing sushi course (with barracuda and yellow tail) and the main event - curried lobster and wagyu beef - it just melted in your mouth. Somehow the staff knew it was my birthday (well I had been telling anyone who would listen) so they stuck a candle and a 'happy birthday' chocolate which the dessert course, which was a nice touch.

So full we could hardly walk we jumped in a taxi back to the hotel, thinking we'd really started the holiday off on a high.

2 comments:

  1. I can't wait to read more!
    Emma
    xx

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks love, more to follow very soon. :) XXX

    ReplyDelete