Anyone that knows me knows that I can’t stay away from New York, I first visited in 2002 and when me and Mr H got married in 2017 it was my 9th visit to the city, I’m not sure I’ll ever tire of it. There is so much to do and see and it really is my happy place.
Back in August last year I had an email about a new hotel in Brooklyn that was offering a ridiculously cheap deal on bookings made before it opened, I couldn’t resist so I checked Mr H was keen, luckily he was (I’d have probably gone anyway!) and I made a booking for 4 nights in February 2019 and began the countdown.
How we got to New York
I work at London Stansted Airport and earlier in 2018 Transatlantic flights had returned to Essex so I jumped at the chance book flights on our doorstep with budget airline Primera, I snapped up 2 return flights for just over £700 and thought I’d got a bargain. I could walk from the office to check in after work on the Friday and get a deal on my airport parking. However, that plan was short-lived as less than two months later they went into administration, leaving me wondering how we’d afford another pair of flights. Luckily I’d booked on a credit card, you might not realise but this gives you added protection in situations like this, so I got straight on to the lovely folk at Tesco Bank who assured me they could get the money back, I crossed my fingers and within 7 days it was back in my account and I could look for new flights.
Virgin Atlantic have been my go-to for flights to the USA for years and so I went back to them and actually managed to get flights from London Heathrow for less, which was great as the difference covered the cost of the parking and we’d be leaving earlier in the day so would get more time there, win-win!
Top tip – If you’re flying out of T1, 2 or 3 at Heathrow the NCP Flightpath car park is a great option, it’s not fancy looking but it’s easy to get to, really reasonably priced and the transfers are efficient.
Because we were on a morning flight and travelling round the M25 early on a Friday morning can be quite a chore we booked into a hotel for the night before, we chose the Park Inn, it’s right next door to the car park we use and is quite and comfortable so a perfect choice. It was a good job we did as that week we had snow, which had threatened to be at it’s worst on the Friday morning, luckily there was just a light dusting and minimal disruption.
The morning went smoothly, transferred to the terminal, dropped our bags at the fancy new self-service machines, glided through security (my inside knowledge helps me pick the fastest queues) and grabbed breakfast in the departure lounge before boarding our flight to JFK.
When we arrived they were experiencing what can only be described as a VERY cold spell, it was about -19°, not sure how we’d cope with it here but they didn’t let it phase them at JFK, we were off the plane, through immigration and had our bags all within about an hour and the only thing that appeared different was that the queue for Yellow Taxis was inside the arrivals area rather than outside, we waited our turn, hit the cold air and headed for our hotel…
Where we stayed in New York
There’s definitely no shortage of places to stay in New York, TripAdvisor currently lists 777 hotels in New York City and this doesn’t include the outer boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn etc so you really are spoilt for choice. There really is something for everyone whatever your style or budget and if it’s your first or second visit to New York then I would suggest looking to base yourself in Manhattan, but if you’re a regular then it’s worth trying something different, we stayed in Greenpoint Brooklyn on our last trip and really liked being able to escape the madness of the city and explore somewhere new.
This time we got a fantastic opening offer at The Hoxton in Williamsburg, an area of Brooklyn that has seen an increase in popularity in recent years and has a bit of a hipster reputation, think Shoreditch and you won’t be far off. The hotel is a new building on the site of the former Rosenwach Water Tank factory, the tanks are an iconic and familiar site on rooftops across New York, even if you’ve never been you’ll recognise them from TV and movies.
The Hoxton group have properties in London, Paris and Amsterdam but this was the first in North America although they have now opened in Portland and Chicago (which we’ll be trying out later in the year). They are all very similar in design and finish but work closely with local artists and producers to give them a sense of local individuality and it works well, there is local art on the walls, local (reasonably priced) items in the shop at reception and regular events open to the community as well as residents.
We stayed in a Cosy Room on the fifth floor, and it was just that, but it had clearly been well thought out and despite being small was so well designed that you didn’t really notice. There was storage, a little pull-down desk with tea and coffee (not a standard feature in the US but something us Brits are used to), a comfy chair, hanging space, plenty of plugs with USB sockets and a gorgeous bathroom. I’m a fussy and light sleeper but the bed was really comfortable and the duvet warm but not too heavy (I hate a heavy duvet!) and there was no noise from other guests, but the thing I enjoyed the most was the view from the floor to ceiling windows, it made my heart happy and I’m not sure I have the words to do it justice so Mr H will insert an image here…
Included in the price is the Hoxton Breakfast in a Bag, we didn’t take advantage but if you want to you hang a bag on a little hook outside your door and overnight it gets filled with juice a banana and some overnight oats. There is also a lovely looking restaurant on site but we were out and about so much we didn’t try it and a rooftop terrace bar but it was closed in the sub-zero temperatures during our visit! We did grab a coffee and enjoy a drink in the bar and it had a great relaxed atmosphere, not at all like a stuffy hotel bar, more like a really friendly and popular local coffee shop/lounge.
Our first meal in New York
One of my top tips for anyone heading to New York is to plan where you’ll have dinner on the first night, you won’t have eaten much (unless you’re one of those weirdos that like aeroplane food!) and you’ll have been up for hours so will be tired. There are so many places to choose from and a limited numbers of meals to enjoy while you’re there so it’s a good idea to start well and save yourself making a tired decision to snack on whatever is closest.
I stumbled across this restaurant on twitter a while ago, it’s at street level in the Empire State Building and they theme one of their desserts each night to match the colour of the lights at the top. The menu had a couple of great vegetarian options I really liked the sound of and they were running an offer to get extra credit if you bought a gift voucher, I can’t resist a bargain so took advantage of the offer and before we left the UK I’d booked a table.
As I mentioned the day we arrived it was absolutely freezing, everywhere was quieter than I have ever seen Manhattan on a Friday night but the restaurant was warm and so was the welcome. It felt relaxed but still fancy, there was a varied crowd of diners already eating and we didn’t feel out of place in our jeans but you could’ve been more dressed up and still felt comfortable. We were cold and hungry so ordered quickly from a very knowledgeable waiter who helped with some info on the veggie options. I had pearl barley and mushroom broth to start and Mr H had a burrata salad, both were delicious and good size portions but not so huge there was no room for the next two courses.
We’d both gone for the same main course, a pasta with pumpkin, sage and parmesan, it was stunning, a perfect balance of flavour and texture and I really wanted to eat it all but was saving a space for the famous Empire Lights’wich, a very fancy ice cream sandwich flavoured to match the lights at the top of the Empire State Building that day. The lights were the traditional white on the day of our visit so I was served ‘The Kong’ a plateful of chocolatey, vanilla deliciousness with cream, banana and sugar coated peanuts. Oh yeah, we also had a couple of amazing cocktails!
It wasn’t the cheapest meal we had on our trip, but it was a great way to end a long day and start our holiday, they run some great offers where you can tie in a breakfast or dinner with your ticket to go up the Empire State Building which makes it a much more affordable option.
For some more top tips and info on what we got up to, check out Part 2!