(I don't know why I can't enlarge the four photos - they are my shots though and not from t'internet
This was one of my best birthday presents ever. My partner got us both mid-price tickets with Virgin to New York and then, to carry on the theme of 'let us spend, enjoy ourselves and economise afterwards', I decided to book us into the Ritz-Carlton in a high-level room overlooking Central Park.
Wed 2nd March
The first big moment of the trip came when we checked into the flight and, because I had told everyone we had spoken to that it was my birthday, we found we had been upgraded to Upper Class. Probably the first and last time that ever happens! All I can say is that it is probably my best ever flight and I felt like royalty - and not just because Paul Burrell happened to be sitting a few seats away.
A hotel limousine was awaiting us on arrival and I kept having to remind myself to calm down, although I had gained some extra hours for my birthday by crossing the Atlantic and I felt rather over-excited.We were shown into an exquisite room and there was even a telescope and bird-watching books on the window seat, as the views over Central Park were amazing. Champagne and chocolates were then delivered by the management as a birthday present.
Our first night was spent at the Carlyle Hotel eating a rather nice meal, which unfortunately turned out to be French cuisine - I say unfortunately because we actually live in France. Betty Buckley was the cabaret for the evening but jetlag kicked in and as the lights dimmed and the pianist bgan, we decided we had to go to sleep and got them to let us out, thus attracting quite a few looks in the process.
Today was spent having a great tour in a mini-van and it was not just sitting looking left and then right; there was walking involved and endless anecdotes and information from Steve, the driver. As a lover of Woody Allen films it was good to finally see the city first hand. Lunch was at the deli, Katz's - the place unfortunately made famous by Meg Ryan's notorious scene in When Harry Met Sally.
I never realised how much of the architecture of NY was art-deco. There were some beautiful buildings, not just the predictable sky-scrapers, and the streets around Greenwich Village and Soho contain Covent Garden type shops and boutiques. It was sad to visit Ground Zero and I always knew that I would get upset - and I did! We saw so many famous places that day it is hard to recall them all, but the ones that stick in my mind are Grand Central Station, the Chrylser Building, Dakota Hotel (where John Lennon got shot), and the Flatiron building.
I was surprised to see a vast number of New York women in fur coats, which is not something one really sees in England anymore; there were also some men wearing them too - most odd.
Jet lagged kicked in again when we got back to the hotel and we ordered room service, watched a movie and crashed out until about 3am. We decided to keep to GMT times as our trip was going to be quite a short one and there was not much point in switching our body clock to EST.
Every trip has at least one mistake in it and ours happened this morning. We went to Macys - the largest store ever and it was the most exhausting shopping experience we have ever had. We could not wait to get out - although a bit of shopping did take place. After lunch we went through Chinatown, because I was trying to find a glass shop that I had seen on an infomercial on the plane, but it was not there any more. As I love buying vases I was a bit disappointed.
We went back to the hotel for a rest because that evening we were off to our Broadway show - Spamalot. Eric Idle has re-written Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the stage and it is the hottest ticket in town. We were very lucky to have arrived at the box office just as they got two good stalls returned, because the black market price for these seats is currently at $400 each!!.
The show was fantastic - very funny and showbizzy and starred Tim Curry, David Hyde Pierce (Niles in Frasier) and Hank Azaria (Homer and other assorted Simpson voices). Broadway audiences really show their pleasure and I was happy to join in with the whoops of joy. I wish London's theatreland audiences would be a bit more over-the-top when they've seen a good show. Obviously I am a New Yorker inside.
Went for a long walk in Central Park which is still hung with these orange curtains that look like they should be outside a shower. There are 7,500 of them and they add a bit of colour to a winter landscape I suppose but I think the park would look better without them. Great park though, lots of little surprises - a carousel, beautiful statues, a zoo. I liked seeing all the dogs out for walks, many of them wearing clothes to match their 0wners. After our park walk we then walked down to Broadway to get tickets for that night's show of The Producers.
After that we went to Battery Park to get a ferry to see the Statue of Liberty - one has to do it, corny as it might seem! We also went to Ellis Island, as I have family who arrived from Russia at the beginning of the 1900's and I wanted to see what it must have been like. As if you ever can. The worst thing about touristy events like this is the vast numbers of people waiting to do the same thing and it means endless queuing. We got back to the hotel exhausted and decided to skip The Producers and donated our tickets to Brian, our favourite concierge.
Our last day, what a shame. I just did not want to leave this city. There is so much to see and do. We spent our last day doing another walk in Central Park and walking to the Metropolitan Museum. Exhibits are laid out so well here and I particularly enjoyed seeing all the Tiffany glass which surrounds a persian style garden with a fountain and lots of benches for jet-lagged people. Like most big museums, you could spend a couple of months there and still not see it all.
It was a great way to spend our last day but I still felt rather sad going to the airport in the afternoon and waiting for our flight.
We weren't upgraded for the return and, even though we had Premium seats, it was still quite uncomfortable. We had two moaning older women behind us who took it very personally that we tipped our seats back and they kept grumbling and kicking us, obviously they were trying for an upgrade. We got back to Heathrow about 9am Monday morning and then drove back to France the way we had arrived - through the Channel Tunnel. We collected Misty the Bichon from her dog hotel in Normandy and got back to Brittany about 22.00 hours.
A fantastic trip and we are already planning a return for the week before Christmas.