My guide reckons New York City has everything - does the Big Apple really have it all for the perfect break?
Sarah, a young advertising executive, sums up city living for me. "New York is the best city in the world", she declares emphatically, "the only drawbacks are the dirt, the crime and the lack of trees. Apart from that it's got everything. Hey, you must take the subway to feel what it's like to work here."
We emerge from the subway to gaze up at the skyscrapers. They dwarf the people and are intended to do so. My own favourite is the Chrysler Building, a tribute to art deco, a true 20th century monument. You can ascend to dizzying heights here and survey the mighty city far below.
Where to stay
First things first. You need to get your base sorted out. And this has to be in the centre of things; there is no other way to appreciate the unique quality of the all-happening city. Perhaps it's because the Hudson hotel and I have kind of grown up together that I find myself returning there on visits. And it has become famous after being featured in Sex and the City.
It is astonishing to see how the Hudson, like the city itself, has got ritzier and more glamorous with each passing year. Based on West 58th Street it is right on top of the big attractions, like the Lincoln Center, Central Park, Madison Square Garden and Broadway (you have to take in the theatre here, it is far more raw and electric than London, while 'off Broadway' theatres bring you the very best of avant-garde writing in America today).
The Hudson too has more than a slight avant-garde feel to it, from the stunning lobby with a 45 ft oak table to a bar with an illuminated glass floor reminiscent of Saturday Night Fever and a computer generated image on the ceiling. It's fun and funky, while its guest rooms have the look and feel of being onboard a luxury liner. You will need to book ahead. Even with over 700 rooms it is often full.
An alternative which is more budget conscious and is still slap bang in the heart of Manhattan is the New York Inn in 8th Avenue, just round the corner from 42nd Street. Its scale is more low key with just 44 rooms.
Choose from standard rooms or very economical dormitory style accommodation with either four or seven beds to a room. If you are looking to be right in the heart of the action without breaking the bank then the one star New York Inn is your kind of place. They pride themselves on being friendly. There are dozens of eateries, night clubs and entertainments on your doorstep
Places to see
The Dakota Building at 1 West 72 Street, where John Lennon lived, is near Central Park, the one place where you can find trees in New York City. The doorman there confirms with a wince in his tough face that this is where John was shot.
The dark entranceway is the frame for a man to emerge from inside the building. He is long-haired and going grey, striding with a jaunty step. How John Lennon would have looked if he had still been alive.
It doesn't take long to be accepted in this city, as he found out, the neighbourhood stores remember you on your second and third visits, and you soon join in the manic buzz that is NYC. Hang out of your hotel window at four in the morning and it is all still going on.
There is a seductive edgy buzz to all this restless energy. If you want to get right into it, then catch the bus up to Harlem just to check it out. The mood definitely changes, but the driver is cheerful and friendly, realising I must be a tourist who does not quite understand the still prevalent ghetto areas of American cities. But it's cool. I suggest you take the bus back to downtown rather than walk.
New York. Head office city. The place where the mega bucks are spent. All-hustling city. Sack loads of applicants for jobs on Madison Avenue, Third Avenue, Fifth Avenue. The mighty corporations like Time-Warner (where I used to work) have incomes to match that of countries in some parts of the world. Check out the Rockefeller Center to get a taste of all the power the mega corporations radiate.
Your visit will not be complete if you do not also visit Central Park. In the natural world again you can but marvel at the skyline and its soaring palatial buildings on the edge of the park. It feels good to just relax and hang loose around here with buskers and street entertainers to while away a lazy afternoon.
As Sarah says, New York has everything - if you just care to look.