For years I dreamt of celebrating my 50th birthday on the Isle of Skye. How this windswept, rugged island (with 6 inhabitants per square km) morphed in to the most populated city in the United States (10 thousand people per square km!!!), I don't quite know.
View from our room in the Millennium Hotel
The Empire State Building from the 'Top of the Rock'
Having been to New York 12 years ago we decided to leave the big sites to the girls and have a snurge around the places we did not get time to see last time. We caught a yellow taxi from JFK airport to the hotel and the sight of Manhattan at night as we rushed along the freeway into town still made me go weak at the knees. Considering I'm a country girl who can't abide crowds, noise and traffic it's strange that there is something about New York I love.... Maybe it's because I'm an old fashioned broad who misses the glamour of the old days.
In New York I mostly:-
- Saw random, spontaneous dancing on street corners. Why not?
- Listened to people singing loudly to themselves as they strolled along the street - New Yorkers are a happy bunch.
- Was amazed at how old fashioned the ATM's still are.
- Was pleased to see traffic police with whistles.
- Felt the papery dollar notes (I still miss the pound note).
- Was glad to see people sign for things - no chip and pin here you know.
- Was called 'Sir' TWICE! My 'Annie Hall' look came out more 'Eric Morecombe'. Will have to change my look. You can go off Americans..... Once I was even wearing dangly earrings for goodness sake!
Radio City Music Hall built in 1932 in the Art Deco style
I love the juxtaposition of the old architecture next to the ultra modern.
St Patrick's Cathedral.
Neo Gothic, completed in 1878 and the seat of the Archbishop of New York
Swoon at the glamour of the Cartier building on 5th Avenue
These mounted police stopped and posed for some tourists
In our travels we always like to do as the locals do. We found a great little place for coffee called Liberty Deli with not a tourist in sight. At lunch time it filled up with construction and office workers.
The fresh blueberry muffin was delicious
Grand Central Station
Grand Central Market smelt divine
After lunch we met up with the girls for a walk along the Highline. The Highline is a public park built on an historic freight railway line which ran from 1934. It runs through the old meatpacking district along Manhattan's west side and is elevated above the streets. Unfortunately on a freezing February day it all looked a bit dead!
After our walk we hunted for refreshment in Chelsea Market. Chelsea has a buzzing contemporary art scene and the market is housed in a former biscuit factory where the Oreo was invented and produced.
The airport like security and lift with clear roof (I have decided that I do not like to see the inside of the lift shaft as we speed up 70 floors!) were worth it for the view from the 'Top of the Rock' (Rockefeller Centre).
Central Park from the 70th floor - O M G!
The Empire State Building
We then had a horse and trap ride around Central Park. I wanted to do this on my birthday but the weather was better the day before. Central Park is the most visited urban park in America, one of the most filmed locations and more gunpowder was used to clear the 843 acre area when the park was created in 1857 than was used at the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War. Bet you wanted to know that.
Our driver was a short Mexican with a love of the film Home Alone 2. He pointed out all the film locations as we trotted along. His long suffering horse was called Solomon. We gave him a carrot.
Bethesda Terrace in Central Park
A long walk back along Broadway to the hotel in Times Square.
I love the rush hour buzz, fire engines, police whistles, sirens and horns blasting - I know, what a weirdo!
Back to a busy Times Square
On my birthday we walked miles through SoHo (South of Houston) which is a very gorgeous and rather hip area with posh shops and old cast iron buildings.
Grace Church rectory, built 1847 - looks a bit Harry Potter
Washington Square Park in Greenwich. This arch was built in 1889 to commemorate the centennial of George Washington's inauguration.
Little Italy - Could this be a member of the Mafia mob sporting a pink fleece and spotty bag?
A well earned cappuccino at Cafe Roma in Little Italy
China Town - very fishy
We walked back to the financial district to find our next hotel. On the way we passed the Woolworth building. Built in 1912 it is one of the earliest skyscrapers. It was the tallest building in the world for 17 years.
And finally the view from our hotel room on the 53rd floor - not bad for my half century celebrations!
I decided that as the view from the hotel was so fantastic we would stay in on my birthday, eat greasy takeaway pizza, drink the complimentary wine and play games.
In the morning this view greeted us - the new World Trade Centre
We walked through the nearby Ground Zero memorial gardens and over to the Brookfield Place esplanade. The last time we were here, 12 years ago, the area was just a huge square of rubble.
The Oculus shopping mall and new World Trade Centre railway hub - opened in 2016 at a cost of 3.9 million dollars.
The Oculus is designed to resemble a dove in flight
World Trade Centre
We had coffee at the Winter Garden Atrium in Brookfield Place office complex and shopping mall
It has 16 forty foot palm trees
We couldn't believe the difference in temperature. Yesterday 22, today 9 degrees but felt like 3!
Woolies back on
We walked through TriBeCa (Triangle Below Canal Street), an area of cobbled streets once home to 19th Century warehouses - very trendy.
A pampered pooch parlour
We then got the subway to Battery Park where we discovered various sculptures. The Sphere stood at the site of the old twin towers for three decades but was damaged in the 9/11 attacks. It was temporarily placed here in 2002 as a memorial to all who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks.
The Sphere, a symbol of world peace by Fritz Koenig
The American Merchant Mariners' Memorial
Back to our hotel
No, still can't guess where you've been Esme.....
Still can't get over the view from our hotel!
The girls were desperate to walk over Brooklyn Bridge which we did. They did it 3 times in all.
Brooklyn bridge has 6 lanes of traffic
It was opened in 1883
The girls in Brooklyn
We tried to shelter from the cold wind under Manhattan bridge
The last night - don't want to go home!
A final look at the amazing view before heading out to drown our sorrows
We found a great bar called the Patriot Saloon. It looked a bit rough from the outside but it was great inside. There were bras hanging from the light fittings, supposedly from previous punters and a stuffed alligator hanging from the ceiling.
Beer helps. Spot the bras!
On the last day we explored NoHo (North of Houston). An area of very desirable loft apartments.
Another quick stop at Cafe Roma in Little Italy on the way
I was making a beeline for the Merchant's House, the only 19th Century home preserved intact. Partly as it had been in the same family for 100 years. It still has all the original furniture and belongings and is now a museum.
The Merchant's House from the back garden
The attic room where the Irish girl servants would have slept
On the way back to the hotel we collapsed at a German sausage stall in Chelsea Market and tried not to think about the impending jet lag...
If you, like me, are drawn to colourful, self assured and sassy people and places - you would love New York.
'If London is a watercolour, New York is an oil painting'
'If London is a watercolour, New York is an oil painting'
- Peter Shaffer