Travel review: Taking my first bite out of the Big Apple

The New York skyline from the dinner cruise

They call it the city that never sleeps.

Which is just as well - you'd need to be up 24/7 to cram in everything New York City has to offer.

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox at the Yankee Stadium

This is a patchwork quilt of a destination, with different people, districts and cultures all stitched together with some of that Big Apple magic to create something really quite extraordinary.

Its central streets are literally buzzing with activity, with packed sidewalks, neon lights, shop windows showcasing "eat-me" pizza slices and highways jammed with beeping yellow taxis all adding to the hum.

We arrived at our hotel, situated around the corner from the iconic Times Square, in one such yellow cab. I already felt like I was in a movie.

Many of New York's main attractions are within walking distance from here, with most of the others a short ride away on the Metro.

World Trade Center, New York

The choice of things to do here is a little overwhelming, especially for a first timer like me. Whether you're a shopaholic, culture vulture, party animal, foodie or just a people watcher, New York is sure tick your boxes.

As it was our first visit, we stuck to the main attractions - and quickly listed all the things we would need to do on the next trip instead.

Must-dos for us included a Broadway show - we opted for Cats, which was fabulous - and a New York Yankees game. We watched the Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox and the electric atmosphere in the stadium was contagious, even for someone like me who isn't particularly familiar with the rules of baseball. Like everywhere else in the city, food and drink was pricey - you don't get much change out of $10 for a drink.

Simply walking around New York City and soaking up the sights and sounds is an experience in itself. We wandered through the streets of Little Italy and stuffed ourselves with mountains of pasta in a charming corner restaurant which appeared to be popular with a couple of New York Police Department officers on their lunch break. We strolled around Central Park as loved-up couples trotted past on romantic horse and carriage rides. And at sunset we stopped off at Bar SixtyFive - a classy bar/restaurant on the 65th floor of the Rockefeller Centre - to enjoy a glass of Champagne and drink in the spectacular view of the Empire State Building and the skyline beyond.

Times Square

The highlight of the trip for me was a Bateaux New York dinner cruise - a three-hour boat trip along the Hudson and East Rivers taking in the sights including the Brooklyn Bridge, One World Trade Center and, of course, the Statue of Liberty. The food was divine, the musical entertainment wonderful and the views again led me to believe I was starring in my own movie.

As the sun set and the pianist played the first chords of a stripped back version of Jay Z and Alicia Keys' New York, I felt very lucky to be here. It may be the city that never sleeps - but it's also the concrete jungle where dreams are made.


GETTING THERE

We flew to JFK from Leeds Bradford Airport, via Heathrow, with British Airways.

View from Bar SixtyFive at Rainbow Room, Rockefeller Center, New York

If you're only going for a few nights, I'd recommend using the car park at the airport. The mid-stay car park is a two-minute walk from the terminal and starting at £37 per day, the convenience is worth the price tag if you'd otherwise be forking out for a taxi.

Another tip - if you want to start the holiday early, book into the airport's Yorkshire Premier Lounge. For £21 per person you can help yourself to food and drink in the lounge, situated beyond security, then sit back and relax away from the hustle and bustle of the main departure lounge.

WHERE TO STAY

If you want to break up your journey from Yorkshire, or if you are travelling from London, the Holiday Inn Heathrow M4 J4 is the perfect spot to stop over.

Situated just a short drive away from Heathrow's terminal five (and with a shuttle bus running door-to-door at regular intervals for around £5 per person), it is an ideal location to get a quiet and comfortable night's sleep either before or after your flight.

All the little touches you would hope for are there; the showers are hot and powerful, the pillows high quality, and the room spotless and well presented. For an extra treat, you can arrange for strawberries and champagne on ice to be waiting for you on arrival. Then holiday mode really kicks in!

Journalist Gael Stigant on the dinner cruise in New York

The ground floor restaurant offers a very warm welcome indeed and a traditional British menu with seasonal influences. I was impressed with its drinks list and the chicken wings were so tasty I could easily have had a second portion. Save room for dessert.

Central Park, New York City

The New York skyline from the dinner cruise

Holiday Inn London - Heathrow M4,Jct.4

Lobby area - Holiday Inn London - Heathrow M4,Jct.4

Bedroom - Holiday Inn London - Heathrow M4,Jct.4

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