As part of this amazing itinerary I had a chance to visit NYC for the first time (outside of an airport) and it was an excellent start to our journey. In keeping with the UN-Trip report and instead focusing on a series of experiences, here are a few that will be long remembered.
The Sherpstress and I had decided to try and maximize our layovers on this award and we really made the most of it. I try to write for beginners and experts alike, if you consider yourself the latter, you can skip this section, I’ll invite you back in for the rest shortly. For casual travelers, a layover is usually an inconvenience – three hours in an airport you don’t want to be in until you can finally fly home. There are times, however, when a layover is a great thing, like 23 hours and 35 minutes in NYC when you’ve never been there before is awesome. It’s enough time to leave the airport and see the city without having to book a separate ticket. In order for it to be considered a connection (layover) your next flight must be less than 24 hours (up to 23 hours 59 minutes) away – delays do not affect this rule, just scheduled departure times. Some airlines permit a stopover (1-3 days, sometimes more) as part of a ticket, others do not, American Airlines, for whom I have used for this ticket, does allow a stop in the departure city from America, but usually it is easiest for us to do a long connection.
Okay, Experts/Casual Travelers alike, come back in.
There is more about the whole trip elsewhere on this blog, if you are curious about the specifics please check that out. This is about New York, as seen through the eyes of a first time visitor.
First, arriving into JFK T8 on American Eagle. I had shopped routes into the city, flat rates in cabs or private cars would run $44 (on sale) plus tolls and tips and average about 60 minutes based on our noon arrival and transit into midtown Manhattan. Conversely it would be $2.25/person on the Subway but could take up to 75 minutes and involve some switching. We found the JFK Airtrain ($5/each) which connects to Jamaica Station and then the LIRR straight into Penn Station ($6.25 each) and only 35 minutes form the terminal to Penn. It was the best way to get into the city for us and I highly recommend it.
As it so happens, Penn Station was just two blocks down from the Radisson Martinique. We headed the two blocks over and a bellman grabbed the door to help us inside. We checked in our bags as our room was not yet available. I’ll chat about the hotel more in a separate post. We had about two hours free before a meeting so we thought we would see some of the city. Because New York City is so big, and there is so much to do, we decided to focus on just a few things that we really wanted to see before we left on our very short trip. One of them was Times Square, and the other, believe it or not, was a Gyro shop of which the Sherpstress had fond memories. With our two hours and great location, it would be easy to tick these two off the list.
We headed out onto Broadway and made our way towards the Gyro joint working back through Times Square on the way home. The gyro was really good, but nothing lives up to how good it was in the memory of the Sherpstress. It’s not even fair now that dozens of similar looking would-be Gyro experts all on the same street corner, how do you find THE one?
On our way back through Times Square we had a casual stroll, stopped in and did some looking though not much shopping. It was incredible for me as a first time visitor to see that much like on London’s Regent Street and Oxford Circus, every brand who was anyone had to maintain a prestigious store in the area. We got to stop in SuperDry, an over-priced UK brand that makes the best hooded sweatshirts you can buy. We took some pictures, here are some highlights.
Isn’t she lovely?
We stopped back at the hotel to meet up with Mike from UPGRD and headed bar two blocks over. Rocky joined us and we speculated on whether the US/American merger would ever take place (scorecard Kyle/Rocky 1, Mike 0), mileage earning debit accounts and our upcoming status choices for the year.
The poor Sherpstress was polite and sat through the whole ordeal but I can’t imagine there is any place she wouldn’t have rather been for a couple of hours. It was great to put a face and personality to writers I have been reading for so long, and good to geek out a little bit about travel.
Staff meeting and the worst possible picture of yours truly.
After we parted company, the Sherpstress and I set off for Chelsea. Our friends in Manchester, England have a bar based on their experiences on Bleeker St. Their bar, NoHo in Manchester’s Northern Quarter (you should follow them on facebook) is an expression of their love of New York and it’s been a personal embarrassment that they have been to the city so often that they have opened a brilliant representation in England, and I had not yet been.
We wandered the streets, a quiet and calm retreat from Times Square, and found ourselves impressed by the local feel of the neighborhood. It was relaxed and nearly every restaurant we walked by was packed on an otherwise sleepy Wednesday night. It was the kind of feeling that made New York seem possible, that no matter how expensive it was to live there, other people were doing it and succeeding, and they were just like us, except cooler of course.
Our walk through Chelsea gave us a true desire for the city and though our next move will likely be some place VERY sunny, I could see us spending a few years in New York and then later reflecting fondly on our time there.
On the way home we tried to stop at Grey’s Papaya and though we found one, and a clever knock off one block away, we ultimately ended up stopping for a snack at a meatball stand. Yes, a meatball stand – New York really does have EVERYTHING. In case you were wondering, this was easily the best meatball, the best sauce, the best mozzarella, and the best focaccia I have ever had. Keep in mind that I have been to Italy a handful of times, and love Italian food, that’s some stiff competition.
Who could say no to this?
We made our way back to the Martinique (review coming) and settled in the living room to watch some terrible TV and relax before our trip to Tokyo the following day.
New York was fantastic, and though our stay was brief, I fell in love. I will be back for sure, maybe some day for good.