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There's No Such Thing As The Greatest City In The World But, If There Was, It Would Probably Be New York City

There's No Such Thing As The Greatest City In The World But, If There Was, It Would Probably Be New York City

Old Mar 27th, 2006, 04:12 PM
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There's No Such Thing As The Greatest City In The World But, If There Was, It Would Probably Be New York City

We have just returned from our first visit to New York City, an unforgettable trip I�d like to share here.

A bit of background first. 4 of us made the trip � myself, my wife Liz, her brother Eddie & her sister Anne Marie. We�re from Glasgow in the West of Scotland & the trip was originally intended to be a girl�s shopping break to celebrate Anne Marie�s landmark birthday (it would be ungallant of me to give away her age, but she�s not 30 & she�s not 40). When Eddie & I got to hear about the plans, however, we asserted our superiority as Alpha males & begged & pleaded with them on bended knee to be allowed to accompany them.

We flew with Icelandair from Glasgow to JFK with a four hour layover in Iceland. One of the attractions of flying with Icelandair (apart from the reasonable fare � we�re Scottish remember) was that the price included a free trip to the Blue Lagoon thermal spa, a short drive from Keflavik airport. The airport is situated in the very south west corner of Iceland & in fact it could scarcely be closer to the USA & still be on Icelandic soil. Although we were shown an Icelandic Tourist Office video during the flight which featured rolling meadows & grazing ponies the landscape around the airport could not have been more different. There was hardly any grass or, indeed, flora or fauna of any kind to be seen & the overwhelming impression was one of a flat, black, rocky, moon-like surface, although mountains could be seen far off in the distance.

On negotiating our way outside the airport we found a bus waiting to take us & another few passengers to the Blue Lagoon. It was around a 20 minute drive from the airport & although initially the road cut past the outskirts of the town of Keflavik, we soon turned off on to a desolate looking road until, after a while, steam could be seen rising up in the distance. We drove on towards the steam & soon we were pulling up in the Blue Lagoon�s car park, which seemed pretty incongruous in such a remote looking area.

Both the return bus journey & the actual entry to the Blue Lagoon itself were free as part of Icelandair�s offer & so the only costs we incurred were for hiring towels which we paid for by credit card, although they would have accepted pounds sterling, US dollars or, of course, Icelandic kronur. It�s possible to rent swimming costumes too but we had no need as we had followed Icelandair�s advice & kept our swimming gear in our hand luggage. Eddie & I found the male changing rooms to be fairly typical of swimming pools anywhere else but Liz & Anne Marie were somewhat taken aback by the �frankness� of the women in the female changing rooms, who seemingly had no qualms in walking about naked. I suggested that they take a few photos when they went back in to get dressed (just to illustrate the point, you understand) but for some unaccountable reason they declined.

Having changed into our swimming gear & had a quick shower, Eddie & I emerged from the changing rooms out into the open air towards the water itself. Although the temperature gauge at the airport had shown the temperature as being Minus 3 degrees we hadn�t felt it to be particularly cold when we arrived. Take it from me, however, there is a world of difference between standing outside in sub-zero temperatures in a nice warm coat & scarf as opposed to wearing no more than a pair of swimming shorts. I am sure my knocking knees must have set off some sort of seismic counter at the Icelandic Geological Institute and it is quite possible that local emergency crews were put on standby at the prospect of what appeared to be an imminent earthquake. The temptation was to get into the steaming water as quickly as possible & Eddie did just that. Unfortunately for me, however, I had left my glasses in the changing room locker with my clothes & it was all I could do to see more than few inches in front of me, let alone negotiate my way to the water�s edge. Picking my way slowly, I looked down at my legs & realised why the place was known as the BLUE Lagoon. As frostbite set in I could hear Liz & Anne Marie roaring with laughter & so I followed their guffaws until I was able to discern their blurry forms though the steamy mist. Stepping into the water I found it to be blissfully warm & soon the blood had flowed back into my toes.

It was the most bizarre experience. While we stood in the water in our swimming gear the guards patrolled round the pool in puffy one-piece ski-suits, oversized caps with ear-flaps & large quilted gloves like oven-mitts � not exactly Pamela Anderson. I am sure that if they had had to enter the pool in an emergency it would have taken them half an hour to get undressed � either that or they would have sunk like a stone once they got into the water. There were troughs around the edges of the pool filled with white volcanic mud which is supposedly very good for your skin & we saw a number of strange looking creatures emerging through the steam wearing this mud as face- masks which just added to the surrealness. The water was wonderfully warm & in fact, in some areas, we actually turned back because it was getting uncomfortably hot.

After about an hour or so it was time to get changed & so we emerged gingerly from the pool & made for the sanctuary of the changing rooms as quickly as possible. The bus was waiting for us as we came out & off we headed back to the airport.

As our flight took off bound for JFK we could see the steam rising below & it was hard to imagine that only an hour or so previously we had been bathing right in the heart of it. The Blue Lagoon was a great way of breaking the journey & I would heartily recommend it. You can find out more at www.bluelagoon.com.

Still, Iceland & the Blue Lagoon was only a short break in our journey & we looked forward in anticipation to what New York City would bring.

More to follow�.
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Old Mar 27th, 2006, 04:28 PM
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Hello JJBhoy, what an experience and yes the name Blue Lagoon does seem appropriate from your description. I can only imagine how wonderful the warm water felt.

I am so looking forward to the next installment of your trip report..wonder if NYC was prepared for you four Scots :-? LOL.
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Old Mar 27th, 2006, 04:28 PM
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A great start! Written with such charm. I can't wait to hear about the rest of your adventures.
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Old Mar 27th, 2006, 05:29 PM
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Oh, this IS good!!
Can't wait to hear more JJBhoy!!

( I think it is safe to say that New York City is the greatest city in the world )
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Old Mar 28th, 2006, 12:03 PM
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After landing at JFK & making its approach towards the terminal building our plane remained stationary for what seemed like ages. The pilot apologised for the delay but explained that as we were 20 minutes or so ahead of schedule, our gate was currently occupied by another aircraft. A perfectly reasonable excuse of course or at least it would have been if I hadnt been able to clearly see blazing flames not too far away & thick black smoke billowing across the runway. It was impossible to tell if the fire was actually on the airport property or whether it was coming from somewhere outside perhaps an industrial unit or the freeway. The pilot made absolutely no mention of the fire & we never did find out what caused it but it made for a rather unsettling welcome to New York. Maybe it was just coincidence but it wasnt until the fire had noticeably died down that our plane eventually docked at the gate & we were allowed to disembark.

Having all visited the US previously, we had already had our retinas & fingerprints scanned & so we were able to get through customs relatively quickly & it wasnt long before we had collected our luggage & found ourselves out at the taxi rank. Following advice given here we had decided that, with there being 4 of us, a taxi was the best way to reach Manhattan. It was around 7 p.m. on a Sunday evening in early March (Oscar night, actually) which I would guess is a relatively quiet time for arrivals
& so there was no queue (sorry, line) for taxis (sorry, cabs). What is that saying about two nations divided by a common language?

Eddie had brought an outrageously large samsonite-type suitcase with him which we christened Big John. Honestly it would have made more sense to have given Big John a seat on the plane & checked Eddie into the hold. The taxi greeter took one look at Big John & decided that a normal cab wouldnt be up to the job so a larger vehicle (at home we would have called it a mini-van) was called into operation. After a short delay while the driver almost gave himself a coronary loading Big John & the rest of our luggage into the trunk (there getting the hang of it now) we found ourselves en route for Manhattan.

There was a thread here recently about wow moments in New York & several Fodorites had mentioned their first sight of the spectacular skyline as they drove into Manhattan. For my part, however, I found the approach to the city just a wee bit less exciting than I had anticipated. Perhaps it was the route we had taken (via the Lincoln Tunnel) or maybe it was because I was worrying over how much of a tip the driver was going to expect for putting his life on the line during his 3 rounds, 2 falls or a submission match-up with Big John. Anyway, it wasnt too long before the taxi pulled up outside our accommodation the Best Western Hospitality House at E 49th & Lexington. Even although we had taken an oversized cab we were still only charged the regular fixed fare from JFK to Manhattan (from memory $45?) which I reckoned was a very good deal. And the drivers tip? Easy Dont plant your tomatoes in the shade (sorry an old Scottish joke. And not a very good one at that).

We were very pleased indeed that we chose the Hospitality House. To call it a hotel is a misnomer and in fact I dont even think that it would qualify as a suite-hotel as there are no on-site bar or restaurant facilities (although there are two restaurants immediately adjacent next door). In effect you are renting a short-term apartment but there is a staffed reception area (albeit small), the apartment is cleaned daily & your kitchen is also stocked daily with various staple essentials. Due to the make up of our party we needed three separate sleeping areas & I had sought advice here previously when various suite-hotels & apartment rental websites had been recommended. In fact, at one point in my planning I had reservations at both the Beekman Tower & the Hotel Metro (where I had reserved a family suite) but the Hospitality House was very well reviewed on Trip Advisor & the rate we were quoted on Best Westerns website was too good a deal to pass up;

http://book.bestwestern.com/bestwest...ode=33114#null

For $286 a night ($325 including taxes etc.) we had a two bedroom apartment with an additional sofa-bed in the lounge. Both bedrooms were very spacious, as were the lounge (which, in addition to the sofa bed also had a good sized dining table & chairs), the bathroom (which had an excellent shower & bathtub) & the completely separate kitchen (which came complete with fridge, oven, microwave & dishwasher). As I mentioned above the kitchen was restocked daily with milk, coffee, tea-bags, bagels, orange juice, fruit, breakfast cereals, butter & jam not a huge supply but enough to get us going in the morning before we went out for our real breakfast (of which more later). There was plenty of closet space & a TV in each of the two bedrooms in addition to the set in the lounge.

We found the location to be excellent within easy walking distance of Times Square, Grand Central, The Rockefeller Centre, St. Patricks Cathedral, Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Ave., 51st Street subway station etc. etc. etc. The fact that that so many hotels (including the Waldorf Astoria) are in the immediate vicinity probably tells its own story about the location.

To be objective, however, there were a couple of negative points too. When I reserved the apartment online I had requested a room on a higher floor to try & cut down the outside noise which, from what I can gather, seems to be pretty much inevitable in Manhattan. Best Western make it clear, however, that they cant guarantee to meet such a request & sure enough, when we checked in we were told we had been allocated an apartment on the second floor (which of course we would regard as being the first floor at home). The receptionist assured us that the apartment had recently been refurbished (which may well have been true) & that it was nicer than those higher up (bear in mind that this is not a tall building maybe only 7 or 8 floors). Nevertheless, Liz is a great believer in the adage that if you dont ask, you dont get & she tried to gently persuade him to transfer us to a room higher up. My impression was that the guy genuinely didnt have any other rooms available but a minor detail like that isnt enough to stop my darling wife when she gets into full flow & so she kept going on & on. And on & on. And on..well, you get the picture. When eventually the guy had convinced her through his tears that he had nothing else available she relented & left him there a quivering wreck rocking slowly back & forth on his chair sobbing no more roomsno more rooms over & over again. Having been married to Liz for over 20 years now I understood only too well the pain & anguish he was going through & so I discreetly slipped him the telephone number of a qualified counsellor before hastily gathering our luggage & falling into line behind her as she strode purposefully into the lift.

Sorry got a bit distracted there. The point is that we did find outside noise to be an issue at night. The service entrance to the Marriott Eastside is directly across the road from the bedrooms & there was some noise from delivery & garbage trucks. It didnt cause us a major problem but if nigh-time noise irritates you unduly then you might want to bear it in mind. We also found the bedrooms to be too warm at night, even although it was very cold outside. Although the rooms had air-conditioning we found it too noisy & so we just put up with the heat not too much of a problem in early March, but how would we have coped in summer?

My other negatives are pretty minor & the first is the lack of natural light in the lounge. There is only one smallish window in the lounge, which overlooks an airshaft (for want of a better term) and so we found the place to be rather dull. The walls are also painted a shade of olive green, which didnt help matters any. I also thought that the chairs in the lounge were a bit dated looking.

With the possible exception of the noise issue, however, I would consider these criticisms to be nitpicking & would have no hesitation in recommending the Hospitality House particularly if you can pick up a similar rate to ours. If you can afford it, the likes of the Righa Royale & some of the higher end Affinia properties may be that bit more luxurious but we felt that the Hospitality House represented excellent value for money & we would be only too happy to stay there again.

More to follow..

Jim
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Old Mar 28th, 2006, 12:21 PM
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I'm hoping this was a long trip and you continue to include all the details! (I already foresee Big John's struggle home).
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Old Mar 28th, 2006, 12:26 PM
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Lovely report so far!

Please tell me you tipped the cab driver?
 
Old Mar 28th, 2006, 12:33 PM
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I wish you could see me clapping and cheering (woo hoo!!!). Yes, NYC *IS* the greatest city in the universe. =D>
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Old Mar 28th, 2006, 01:12 PM
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I agree!
 
Old Mar 28th, 2006, 02:26 PM
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Very entertaining...but where's the rest
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Old Mar 28th, 2006, 03:16 PM
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JJBhoy

You must clear up the meaning of what you said was an old Scottish joke: Don't plant your tomatotes in the shade.

Good trip report - keep it coming.

Sandy
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Old Mar 28th, 2006, 03:23 PM
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I'm loving this - can't wait to hear about the rest of the trip.
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Old Mar 28th, 2006, 03:26 PM
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I guess jjboy was 'tipping' (ie advising) the cab driver not to '...plant tomatoes in the shade'.
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Old Mar 28th, 2006, 03:27 PM
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I think the joke is something like this:

So a guy goes into a restaurant and gets the rudest, sloppiest service possible from the waiter. The guy puts up with it, then when the check gets slapped down, he pointedly lays down the exact amount, gets up and heads to the door.

As he gets his coat on at the door, the waiter runs up and says, "Hey mac! What about my tip?!"

The guy swings the front door open and, as he leaves, answers: "You want a tip?! Here you go: Plant your crops early this year!" And slams the door.

(Cue rim shot from the drummer.)
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Old Mar 28th, 2006, 03:59 PM
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Glad you liked it.

But - there's no probably about it. And we usually say universe!
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Old Mar 28th, 2006, 05:15 PM
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OK, I've now had a couple drinks with dinner, but I still read this twice. You landed at JFK and went into Manhattan by way of the Lincoln Tunnel? What am I missing here?
All else aside, I'd say you got an incredible ride at an amazing bargain for $45 if you went to New Jersey enroute to Manhattan! I'd say your driver deserved a big tip if he drove you that far.
 
Old Mar 28th, 2006, 05:24 PM
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LOL I was thinking the same thing Neo. I am enjoying this report. Love visitors impressions of the city I call home.
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Old Mar 28th, 2006, 06:27 PM
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I love this trip report! Where is the rest? Very amusing and you still manage to provide useful info.
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Old Mar 28th, 2006, 09:29 PM
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Perhaps that tunnel was the Queens-Midtown Tunnel ?
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Old Mar 28th, 2006, 09:31 PM
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Oh, and I like Liz
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