Bringing three months of travel to an end.
I could write a lot about trips to New York. My first visit was back in 2012 and since then I think I’ve visited around 20 times. Some of these were holidays – a stopover on the way home from Chicago, or stopping off on a trip from Boston to Philadelphia – and the remainder were regular trips during a period where I worked in Manhattan during 2013 and 2014. The first trip was packed with all of the touristy things expected of a trip to NYC. But since then, it’s quite relaxing to re-visit a place with no need whatsoever to be a tourist.
While I love getting out and about in nature, in the middle of nowhere, there is something fascinating about a city of skyscrapers. The human-made canyons of the New York avenues can be mesmerising and look particularly spectacular from the air. When I flew into LaGuardia a while back, the route took us along the eastern edge of Manhattan with a stunning view over the city below, where everything looked so small. Top of the Rock, somewhere I’ve visited a few times, is a great spot at night and one of my favourites with the view over such a busy, massive city.
During my work in New York, some of which coincided with the “polar vortex” which hit the USA and brought some awful weather, I got into a routine I started to enjoy. Rather than travel mid-week and head straight to the office from the airport, I travelled on a Sunday, arriving into JFK mid-afternoon and into the city just a little later. On those dark, snowy nights, after leaving my usual hotel, I only had to walk a couple of blocks to my favourite, favourite bar, which sits in the shadow of the Empire State Building on East 33rd. Being a Sunday evening, it tended to be fairly quiet and I had a bit of completely peaceful, uninterrupted time with a couple of drinks and some pub grub. I love moments like those.
This visit to New York in late September 2016 had been planned over a year earlier. With three months off work, I figured that regardless of where I ended up, I could get to NYC easily and I’d have a couple of days there before flying home. And with that in mind, I used Avios to book a first-class flight from New York to London to take me home to the UK. The reason for picking New York as the last place to visit was because I knew exactly what I would get there. No surprises.
As it turned out, the final leg of my trip was a short train journey from Washington DC to New York. I have to admit to feeling a bit down about it, about the prospect of returning to the working day routine. The weather in New York, although mainly dry, was grey and dull, the looming clouds compounding the feeling. It felt like a sign.
It was easy to kill a couple of days in Manhattan. I visited the One World Trade Centre observatory; not one I’d recommend over Top of the Rock but one with a great view uptown and a different way to see the New York skyline. I spent time in Bryant Park, Central Park, and wandered my way through SoHo and the West Village, stopping at places I know and like: Top Hops, Peculier Pub, the Blind Tiger (the buffalo wings!)
By this time I was taking far fewer photos (the dull light makes for poor skyline photos anyway), taking my time to do anything and get anywhere, and while I can’t say I was particularly upbeat, it was still an enjoyable time in the city.
As I made my way to Newark, with only a flight to London and a train home left, I was feeling exactly as I expected. The perfect scenario would be a trip of this length ending on a massive high with the freedom and fun I had over the past few months on my mind, it was difficult to get excited about the prospect of returning to the norm. But it had to be done.