One of the greatest of many changes in New York’s recent history has been airport access to New York city has been improved by the Air Train (212-435-7000, www.panynj.com) from Newark Liberty International Airport (served direct from Belfast by Continental) and John F. Kennedy International Airport (served from Dublin by Aer Lingus and, from next summer, Delta). The line links the airports to New York’s’ subways and the Long Island Railroad. It can be confusing for newly arrived passengers. You go upstairs on landing and don’t buy a ticket until you dismount. You won’t get a faster way to the city, and its USD5 fare compares favourably with the USD60 you will spend on a taxi.
Manhattan is still doing what it always did best, honking, shouting, roaring and resounding to the internal combustion engine.
The best view of Manhattan is also the cheapest. They no longer charge for passage on the Staten Island ferry (it used to cost a few cent). Somebody threatened a civil liberties case, because there was no free passage from Staten Island to Manhattan, so now you travel for free.
It is enough to give you an added air of satisfaction you can watch the famous skyline retreat into the background and the Statue of Liberty flit by as you traverse the harbour for nothing.
Staten Island is the forgotten borough. Its Chinese Gardens are worth a visit and the Twin Towers memorial a must-see.
Last October marked the 100th anniversary of the Staten Island ferry, with brand-new terminals at the Whitehall, Manhattan and St. George, Staten Island sides of the ferry route, three state-of-the-art new ferry boats, a new information center in the Whitehall terminal and a new all-American idea, a cell phone walking tour.
And as you survey the Manhattan skyline on your return, it is easy to work out where the two World Trade Centre towers used to stand.
There are plans to build an even higher tower there. The, the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower will stand on the site of the former World Trade Center.
And the buildings around the site are dressed in scaffolding as they attempt to refurbish, but four years later the twin towers still make their ghostly imprint on the heart of lower Manhattan, and 25pc of victims were members of the Irish community in that wonderful, broad inclusive sense.
Around the skirts of the towers’ site was where many generations of Irish laboured and died, often uncommemorated. They came to New York and were too impoverished to get any further. It is a place steeped in history, much of it found only in the haunted silence of the evening.
Lower Manhattan has it got back its pride and most of its visitors. The biggest tourist attraction is gone, but there are more residents now than there were before what the Americans call 9-11 and the hotels are beginning to fill out once again.
Downtown Manhattan had ferries before the twin towers, and will have them long after the replacement is built. The boat ride through the harbour is one of the special flavours of Manhattan, only Hong Kong is as freely watered as Manhattan, and there is a new attraction being served by boat – the immigration museum on Ellis Island.
Millions of Irish passed through here, and the museum recreates the fear, anticipation and often the misery of their landing. It is a haunting place for anyone whose family lore still carries the legacy of emigration.
After undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation and security improvements, the Statue of Liberty (212-363-3180, www.nps.gov/stli) reopened last August.
Visitors are now able to view inside the Statue through a glass ceiling, guided by a park ranger (yup, straight out of Yogi Bear) and an enhanced lighting and new video system.
You can once again walk out onto the Statue’s observation deck to see panoramic views of New York City, and witness the Statue up close from her promenades on Fort Wood.
They have called in the renovators in uptown Manhattan as well. The stunning Museum of Modern Art (11 W. 53rd St., 212-708-9400, www.moma.org), a cultural gem designed by Yoshio Taniguchi reopened last year after a refit featuring the works of contemporary artists that range from Picasso and Pollock to Matisse and Magritte.
The fabulous new Time Warner centre has opened its doors to shoppers and pavement shufflers alike. The Shops at Columbus Circle (10 Columbus Circle, 212-823-6300, www.shopsatcolumbuscircle.com) include Borders Books & Music to Sephora, Samsung, Sisley and Stuart Weitzman. New
Parents have to look in at the new FAO Schwarz (767 Fifth Ave., 212-644-9400, www.fao.com). Manhattan is all about reaching for the skies. Entire districts do it. To find the next big thing, look to the community that was elderly, smelly and decrepit a decade ago, the Meatpacking District.
Ono, the multi-level Japanese bar and restaurant offers delicious dining in the Hotel Gansevoort (www.hotelgansevoort.com),
The celebrities are back on the sidewalks.
In fact, don your shades and become one.
Only in America.
- Find out more about visiting New York City by stopping at NYC’s Official Visitor Information Center at 810 Seventh Avenue at 53rd Street, calling 212-397-8222 or clicking on nycvisit.com.
- MoreNYC (888-692-8873, www.morenyc.info) offers walking tours of Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, which depart from the NYC & Company Visitor Information Center in Midtown Manhattan.
- Since last summer Gray Line New York Sightseeing (212-445-0848, www.graylinenewyork.com) offer The History Channel’s Official New York Heritage tour, a new daily, hop on and off trolley tour that visits famous New York City sites. Guides in period costume will relive illustrious New York moments such as George Washington bidding farewell to his officers during the Revolutionary War.
- Fans of Sex and the City can follow in Carrie Bradshaw’s Manolo Blahniks with the Sex and the City Tour from On Location Tours (212-683-1961, www.sceneontv.com). The tour highlights locations and events from the series including eating cupcakes Magnolia Bakery, drinking cosmos at Tao, and shopping at Jimmy Choo.
- Celebrity hangouts include restaurants like Balthazar (212-965-1414, www.balthazarny.com), Butter (212-253-2828, www.butterrestaurant.com), and Gramercy Tavern (www.gramercytavern.com). Hotel bars at the Hotel Gansevoort (212-206-6700, www.hotelgansevoort), Mandarin Oriental (212-805-8800, www.mandarinoriental.com) and the Dream Hotel (212-247-2000, www.dreamny.com) serve pricey cocktails.
- CanAmerica, and Tour America are the three specialist operators dealing with American shopping trips and breaks of all descriptions to the USA. See your travel agent.
- A weekend which in New York will set you back Eu685 in November, comes down in the new year to Eu380, and Eu376 to Chicago, Eu400 to Chicago, and Eu619 for a five night trip to Las Vegas.
- New York is the favourite, a day trip to Woodbury Common thrown in. Woodbury seems to have a magic hold on Irish shoppers, but there are dozens of designer outlet malls on the fringes of other cities as well.
- The average party heading to the USA on a shopping trip from Ireland consists of four females with a spend of approx Eu650 to Eu700 on package, which may also include city tours, and excursions like a brunch cruise around Manhattan or a Broadway show.
- Boston, home to the famous Filene’s basement, is a rather distant second to New York in shopping terms, followed by Chicago. Both have outlet malls.
- During summer we have direct links to six eastern and mid west cities. One of the seasonal services is to Toronto in Canada where prices are down a little on USA prices. South Carolina and Florida outlet malls are holiday options.
- Nobody thinks of Atlanta which could be the sleeping giant of American shopping trips.
- Philadelphia also a good option. Franklin Mills is a good shopping outlet. You have Amish products in the main markets in the city and can always pop up to Lancaster County to see the real thing
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