TRAVEL REVIEW: Falling in love with New Colin Drury

Times Square in Manhattan, New York
Times Square in Manhattan, New York
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The first time we see the world’s most famous skyline is as our plane sweeps through American air space, preparing to land at Newark Liberty International Airport.

It’s there below us, clearer than day and more impressive even than it looks in the movies.

The second time is as we sit on the NJ Transit train taking us into its very heart.

New York City, at this point, is still miles away but its giant buildings - rising up, stretching for the sky, making an empire of the Heavens - are already enough to make you fall in love.

Before you even arrive you begin to understand why, as author John Updike said, “a true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding”.

Later we’ll see those same buildings - the Chrysler, the Empire State, Liberty Tower - from a cruise ship on the East and Hudson Rivers; from Brooklyn Bridge (at night); from the 70th floor of the Rockefeller Centre; and from the very streets themselves, craning our heads and straining our eyes, to try and comprehend the sheer size of this skyscraper metropolis.

And not once does it ever stop being anything less than utterly jaw-dropping.

If this city, as another novelist Susan Ertz said, was “built to astonish the world”, then it is a job definitely done. In four days in New York, one never stops being astonished.

We’re here with Jet2. The affordable airline started flights to the Big Apple from Manchester, Leeds-Bradford, East Midlands and Newcastle airports this year, meaning the eight hour trip across the Atlantic (with return) can now be done for not much more than £400 a person. A bargain, in other words.

And especially so considering the flight schedules. We take off from East Midlands at 8am on a Thursday and, because of time difference, arrive while it’s still morning in New York.

On Sunday we don’t fly until 10pm (landing 8am Monday). Taken together, it means we get a full four days.

And you’ll want every hour because highlights, there’s a few. We spend the first day walking around Wall Street and the financial district, and taking in Ground Zero and Liberty Tower - the tallest building in the western hemisphere, constructed to replace the Twin Towers - before catching a tube under the East River for a dusk stroll back across the Brooklyn Bridge with its incredible views of that Manhattan skyline.

Later, as night settles in, we explore China Town, Nolita and Little Italy, drinking in their distinct bars, soaking up their distinct atmosphere and eating in one of the distinct restaurants which, by night, seem to light up every corner of this triumvirate of neighbourhoods.

Later still - about 1am - we go up the Empire State Building, taking the lift-popping elevator up to the 86th observation floor to look out across this island desert of lights and steel, alive even at this hour.

Back on the ground, we walk up Sixth Avenue, aka the Avenue Of The Americas, a vast north-south boulevard which, with its magnificent skyscrapers and plazas, truly feels like it could be the centre of the universe, before swinging through the neon fire of Times Square.

It’s 3am when we arrive back at our hotel - The Washington Jefferson, a comfy little spot in Midtown. We’ve been up more than 24 hours but we’re barely tired. New York has that kind of effect.

And it keeps having it all weekend.

Our next three days are as packed as the first.

The island of Manhattan is 13 miles long and about two miles across and its worth getting blisters trying to cover a good amount of it on foot because there’s something worth seeing round every corner. We bike round Central Park, walk down Museum Mile (each building a work of art in itself), take a cruise around Manhattan and out to the Statue Of Liberty, and take a look around the UN quarter.

We walk the High Line (a mile-long disused railway line turned into a stunning urban park), stroll up Madison Avenue, explore Grand Central Station (easily as impress as Sheffield Midland) and have a look around Harlem.

We eat Italian and Ukrainian and (of course) street hot dogs, take in a gig at a tiny, sticky-floored venue called Arlene’s Grocery in the East Village and sample sports bars, Irish bars and karaoke bars all over the place. We eat donuts at midnight and grab beers at 10am.

And at 7pm on Sunday night when we descend the steps of Penn Station to be whipped back to the airport there’s still loads more we’d like to do if only we had time.

As our plane goes up above New York and we see that famous skyline one more time, we’re already making plans to come back.