Monday March 7th
The boring details out of the way first. I flew out of Glasgow airport on the 9am United flight to Newark. The flight was comfortable and flawless, landing around 11.20 EST – a good half an hour earlier than scheduled. Went through passport control in under ten minutes and collected my bag. I was in Penn Station by 1pm – the most awkward part of getting into NYC, in my experience, is the NJ Transit train. They’re very narrow and difficult to negotiate with a large suitcase. But I still can’t imagine that there is an easier way of making it from Newark to the city. A 2 train to Times Square to change for the 7 to Grand Central and I was ready to check into the Club Quarters hotel on E45th by 1.30.
I cannot speak highly enough of this hotel. It is perfectly located for trains anywhere in the city, whether from Grand Central or via the shuttle to Times Square. It’s probably fair to say that it is better suited for the business traveller who is only in the city for a few days – the rooms are small and don’t have a great deal of closet space, but as a solo traveller with a limited sense of fashion and a compact collection of flannel shirts and jeans that wasn’t an issue for me. There is no safe in the room, though a luggage lock works just as well if there are any valuable you prefer kept out of sight. There is free wifi throughout the hotel and coffee in the rooms – a rarity in NYC hotels, I believe. Each floor has access to chilled purified water and there is a great lounge area on the 27th floor with free coffee, snacks and wireless printing, as well as a great terrace looking onto the Chrysler Building. It took me a few days to notice that my room on the 26th floor had the exact same view!
Unpacked and refreshed with a shower and use of that in-room coffee and I was ready to begin exploring. One of my biggest aims for this return trip was to get some great photographs of the city. I’m by no means a great photographer, but I love taking pictures and I wanted to find new and interesting angles from last year. So I took the 7 train one stop from Grand Central to Vernon Blvd-Jackson Ave to discover Gantry Plaza State Park. After initial difficulty navigating the streets of Long Island City I made it to the waterfront, which was bathed in exquisite spring sunshine. This wasn’t the New York in early March I was expecting: there were squadrons of kids eating ice cream and playing sports, a plethora of runners and dog walkers, everyone basking in a warm glow. The view of Midtown from out here is spectacular as dusk descends on the city. The Chrysler Building, I feel, is its true jewel. But you’ll see as far down as the Williamsburg Bridge and, in the distance, the World Trade Center.
I spent a good few hours here happily snapping photographs and soaking in the early spring atmosphere, before heading up 51st Ave to the first craft beer bar on my list – Alewife NYC. I loved it here and spent more time than I had intended, considering I had been up since 6am UK time. They have a range of around 20 beers on draft and numerous bottles and cans. And it so happened that this was $5 Monday. The Hoppy Ending IPA quickly became my favourite and I believe the wings here were the best I had in the city. The barmaid Jess was very friendly and welcoming – even moreso after getting over the embarrassment of initially mistaking my accent for being Irish; all of which combined to convince me that I would have to make room to come back here later in the trip.
I left around 10pm, drunk, tired and very happy (hoppy?) to be back in this great city I so love.
Best tip today: Gantry Plaza State Park didn’t even cross my radar on my first visit to NYC, yet it’s only one subway stop from Manhattan and easily rivals the views from the Brooklyn Promenade. Midtown sparkles as the sun sets and there are plentiful vantage points along the shore to relax and enjoy the view. And with Alewife NYC a short walk away you have the ideal location to unwind with a cold beer and a snack from their exciting gastro menu.