She’d never been bothered about going to America. I first visited the States, New York City in fact, when I was 18, just 18, I flew out 2 days after my birthday and even then, I remember mum telling me that she wasn’t that bothered about going to America. Except San Francisco, she’d maybe quite like to go to San Francisco one day.
Fast forward 16 years and mum comes to me, “I want to go to America”. So, here we are, on the 0850 London Heathrow to New York JFK. I like this flight. It’s an early start but the lunchtime arrival in to NYC is perfect. I’ve picked our seats, 2 on the right hand side of the aircraft, perfect for viewing Manhattan as we come in to land. The extra few inches of legroom are welcome and worth the money until the women in front of us goes in to full recline in both seats and tries to sleep. Really?? Fortunately, the flight is half empty so she soon skulks off to lay on an empty row of 4. This is the first long haul flight I’ve done in economy for a few years and I’m reminded of how good Virgin Atlantic’s service is. The crew are chatty, the food is decent and there’s plenty of films to keep us entertained as we hurtle high above the ocean.
Bloody roadworks add a good 30 minutes on to the journey in to Midtown, but it gives me time to point out landmarks to mum on the way. We arrive at our hotel, the Marriott Marquis, right smack bang on Time Square and my heart misses a beat; I’ve wanted to stay at is hotel since my first visit when I was 18. Mum’s vertigo doesn’t much like the lift to our room, but she’ll have to get used to heights; this is New York baby!
The hotel room is massive! 2 double beds and room to swing a tiger. I could never afford to stay here had I not been able to get a special Travel Agent rate a few weeks before we flew out. I was overjoyed. But, we’re not here to sit in the hotel so we hit Time Square and I show mum what this city is all about.
After an early night and an early start, we catch the subway south and head to Battery Park for the ferry to Liberty Island. I’ve planned ahead and booked us tickets to Lady Liberty’s crown. The statue is as beautiful as I remember and I’m not bored of visiting her. We take a walk around the island, enjoying the view of Manhattan in the distance before making our way in to the pedestal.
Knowing mum isn’t great with heights, I make sure that she knows that once we start to ascend the statue, you can only go up to come down. The steps are narrow and steep and it gets bloody hot in that statue. We take the steps up the pedestal and stop at the base of the statue. Let’s do this!
I send mum first and I stay close behind her, just in case! We climb the 354 steps and finally reach the crown. It’s cramped, there’s not much space and there’s a line of tourists in front and behind so not long to stop and enjoy the view. We peer out of the little windows, take a few snaps and swap positions. I’ll go down first, just in case! By half way down I’m a quivering wreck. Mum’s loving it, not in the slightest bit bothered by the height, heat or steepness of the steps. I can’t wait to get bloody down! Finally, back on terraferma, we catch the ferry back to Manhattan and make our way to the new World Trade Centre.
“It’s not as big as I thought” says my little 5ft mother who’s never seen a skyscraper in her life. She’s not easily impressed, I, of all people, know that! We spend some time at the 9/11 memorial waterfalls. Saddened and humbled by the white roses and little USA flags. I’ve visited this site on every trip to Manhattan and I’ve seen how it’s changed over the years, but I’m still overwhelmed by what happened here. We’ll never forget.
We take the elevator to the 100th floor and we’re instantly wowed! I won’t say how, I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise but it’s pretty impressive! We take a walk of the floor and spot Lady Liberty looking like a tiny doll in the distance. Mum poses for a picture and some woman decides she wants in too. Mum’s face is classic!
“Does this place have free Wi-Fi?”
I’ll forgive you for thinking it’d be me asking that question, but no, it’s my Facebook addled mother. Every snap must be instantly uploaded so people at home can track our every move. Lest I forget about the 5-hour time difference, she tells me!
I’ll be honest, WTC isn’t my favourite observation deck. Maybe it was the cloud, maybe it’s the lack of outside space, I’m not sure, but apart from the initial WOW, the rest is a bit boring.
Now, as we’re being honest, there’s only 1 reason mum has suddenly become interested in New York; handbags. Marc Jacobs handbags. So, after a morning of sightseeing, it’s time for an afternoon of shopping. Not that she buys a bloody handbag. She mauls a few but doesn’t find one she likes.
Day 2 takes us Art Deco. I love love love the Empire State Building. My ears pop as we fire up to the 86th floor and step out in to the April sun to enjoy the view. “Have they got Wi-Fi?”
I look up at the massive spire and my stomach flips, I go a little dizzy. I love this building! We buy a voucher to go to the 102nd floor. Space is limited but it feels like we’re in the heart of the structure, you can feel it’s age. You can feel the Thirties all around you.
After more fruitless handbag shopping, we get ready for dinner at Thalia, a place I always eat when I’m in the city. We start with a cocktail and I order a bottle of . The food is amazing but mum nearly falls off her chair when the bill comes in at over $200. Meh, we’re on holiday!
Bellies full and a little tipsy, we head to the August Wilson Theatre for Jersey Boys. Mum’s choice of show, but who am I to argue. Mum is particularly looking forward to Sherry, Sherry Baby being sung and when it comes on we both sing and clap along. The show is excellent and afterwards we head to enjoy Time Square at night.
As much as I love the Empire State Building, today were visiting my favourite observation deck – Top of the Rock at the Rockerfeller Centre. The sun is shining again and the view of the city is incredible. My favourite bit is stepping out of the elevator and seeing the Empire State Building through the 3 windows on the south side of the building. The landing is flooded with light and we make our way outside. Up the escalator to the next level and I can’t believe the size of the luxury apartment building that seems to have sprung out of nowhere. How amazing would it be to live there? “Have they got Wi-Fi?”
We come back down to earth and walk up to Bloomingdales. Mum had been researching handbags on the free Wi-Fi and she thinks there’s one in Bloomies that she likes. And she’s not wrong, it’s a cute bag, but I make it clear; you’re buying the bloody bag. We take a leisurely stroll around Central Park and a vagrant comments on mum’s new bag. The man clearly knows his handbags!
Walking back to Time Square, we decide to queue at Tkts and score tickets for On Your Feet, the story of 80’s popstar Gloria Estefan. I remember mum listening to her songs when I was young and really, who doesn’t want the rhythm to get them?
Our brief interlude with New York City draws to a close. Has mum enjoyed her first taste of the US of A? “People honk their horns too much”. Says it all.
Follow our journey across the US as we visit San Francisco!
Date of trip: April 2016
Price paid: £915.00pp for 4 nights RO at Marriott Marquis Hotel with Virgin Atlantic flights from Heathrow. The Statue of Liberty excursion was £20.00pp. WTC Observatory was £23.00pp. Jersey Boys tickets were £70.00pp. Top of the Rock was £16.00pp.
Points earned: 9261 Virgin Flying Club point for flying with them ad paying on the Virgin Black American Express.