March 2012 This trip was a last minute decision – I was made redundant in February, and my redundancy money came through a couple of weeks ago, so we decided to splash out on a trip to New York, which I’d wanted to visit for a long time. As it was a last minute thing (I decided to go on the 7th and we travelled on the 12th), we had to take what we could find for flights etc. We were hoping to fly from Manchester, but looking on the flights to New York, there were very few seats left, and also they were quite expensive, so we checked flights from other airports, and the flights with United from Heathrow were a lot cheaper and also, there were a lot more seats on the flights to choose from, so we decided on the 8.40 flight on Tuesday 13th. We also decided to splash out on the $99 upgrades to Economy Plus for some extra leg room. As our flights meant we had to travel down to London, we also had to book the train to Heathrow, and a hotel to stay overnight. After looking at the hotels, we decided on the Yotel, as it was inside Terminal 4 where we would be travelling from the following day. We decided to stay in the Crowne Plaza, as it seemed to be in a good location right in the middle of Times Square, and had good reviews as far as I could see. The only other things we decided to pre-book before we went were the Statue of Liberty / Ellis Island ferry and the Empire State building, as we had read that these get busy so it was best to book these ahead of time. Anyhow, that was everything booked, so on Monday 12th we were off to the train station. Day 1: Travelling to the airport We caught the 11.04 train to London, which arrived with no problems, we couldn’t get a table when we first got on, but people left the train after Stafford, so we managed to grab a table, so Aidan could charge up his phone. Got to Euston on time with no delays, we had plenty of time to spare here, as we couldn’t check into the hotel until 7.00pm, so we wandered along to St. Pancras, ready to get the underground to Heathrow. As I mentioned we had plenty of time to spare, so we tried to find somewhere to eat in St. Pancras, in the end we settled on a burger – start as you mean to go on, as there would be many more of those to come in the next week! We then grabbed some sandwiches etc. to take to the hotel, and even though we were still very early, we decided to catch the underground, as there wasn’t really anywhere to sit in St. Pancras – it’s a very nice station, but there’s not enough seats . We arrived at Heathrow around 4.15pm, so we still had 2 ¾ hours to kill before we could get into our room. I phoned Yotel to see if there was any chance of checking in earlier, and the lady on the phone was helpful and bought the check-in time forward an hour. While we were waiting to check-in, we investigated where check-in for the flight was – It was great, it was literally just up the escalators which were about 20 feet from the hotel entrance and you were right there in departures. Anyhow, to kill the last couple of hours, we sat in the Wetherspoons which again was only a few feet from the Yotel which was handy and had something to eat and a drink. Finally at 6.00pm we could check in. The Yotel was great, but it was certainly different from a traditional hotel room – we had a premium twin room, which basically consisted of bunk beds and a bathroom. That was it, there was the bedroom, and where the bed finished, there was a glass partition into the bathroom. The beds were comfy though, and there was free Wi-Fi and TV, so we stayed in the room for the rest of the night. The light in the room was a bit strange, it was a pinkish / purple colour, which was a bit annoying after a while, so we switched it off and relied on the bathroom light, which as it was so compact, wasn’t a problem. Anyhow, I can recommend the Yotel if you need to stay at Heathrow, but you wouldn’t want to use it for more than a night, but for one night, it was great, and for an airport hotel, reasonably priced too. Yotel Heathrow and Aidan by andrew.ellams, on Flickr Yotel Heathrow by andrew.ellams, on Flickr (One thing we were told when we checked in - don't pull the orange cord - it might look like a light switch, but it sets of the fire alarm ) Day 2: Flight to New York and arriving at our hotel We were at the check-in for our flight at 5.30am the following morning, one advantage of staying inside the airport – we only got up at 5.00am to get there that early. There were only a couple of people at the United check-in when we got there, so we were soon checked in and through security. Again, we then had a 2 hour wait before the flight began boarding – I think if I go again, I wouldn’t leave myself so much time, as we had an awful lot of hanging around – my fault, as I suppose I am a bit paranoid and always lean towards being early (much too early sometimes ) Anyhow, we were soon, boarding the plane, and were soon settled in. The plane was only half full in the end, so we had a row of 3 economy plus seats to ourselves – if you ever fly from Heathrow to Newark with United on a 757, I recommend row 20 – it’s the emergency exit row, and the leg-room was fantastic. I was very impressed with the inflight entertainment available – I’ve only been to America with Virgin before this, and their entertainment is very poor compared with United’s . United has seat back TV’s like Virgin, but they are touch screens, and also all the films etc. are on demand, so you can pause rewind etc., which I was very impressed with – With Virgin you just have to wait for a film to start again if you miss the start. The picture quality was also a lot better than Virgins. There were also power points between the seats in case you wanted to use a laptop etc., which was good, although we didn’t use them. We were off on time at 8.40am, and the trip was uneventful from then on – the only odd think was that they decided to search lunch as soon as we took off, so we were eating chicken at 9.30am – very peculiar. Anyhow, 8ish hours later we arrived in Newark – the weather was great, clear blue skies and warm for the time of year too. We had decided to get the Airtrain into New York, so after going through immigration and customers, we made our way to the Airtrain station. There are ticket machines there, so we bought our tickets before boarding Airtrain to the NJ Transit rail station. We arrived at the rail station and within 5 minutes a train was there – if you use the train to get into New York, the only thing to bear in mind is make sure you get the NJ Transit train, not the Amtrak – they’re easy to identify though, as they all have NJ Transit all over them! The train that arrived was a double decker one, so riding on that was an experience – we went to the top deck so we had a good view as we went into New York. I have to say, we weren’t impressed by the little we saw of New Jersey between the airport and Penn Station, it looked very run down and grimy, but I’m sure that’s not what New Jersey as a whole is like! If anyone is wondering how to get from Newark Airport to New York, I can recommend the Airtrain service – it was really easy, and it only costs $25.00 per person, which I think is probably the cheapest way to get into New York. Train to New York by andrew.ellams, on Flickr Newark Airport train station by andrew.ellams, on Flickr After arriving at Penn Station, we made our way up to street level, and following some instructions I’d printed off from Google Maps, we made our way up 7th Avenue towards our hotel. The first thing that hit me about New York, was the number of people! I thought London was busy, but it’s really got nothing on New York. I also thought crossing the roads would be tricky, but there’s traffic lights on every corner, so it was no problem. We carried on walking up 7th Avenue until we got to Times Square, and soon found our Hotel, which is just opposite the M&M Megastore. We went in, checked in, and were soon up in our room. The room was nice, but I thought it might have been a bit bigger for the money, it was only about the same size as a travel lodge in this country, or maybe a bit bigger than a Value resort at Disneyworld, I suppose I was paying for the location though. The room had everything we needed though, including very comfy beds and an in-room safe. We were on the 24th Floor and had a corner room, so we had a great view over Times Square! After having a rest for an hour or so and staring out of the window for most of that time, we decided to go out and find somewhere to eat. Our room at the Crowne Plaza by andrew.ellams, on Flickr Our room at the Crowne Plaza by andrew.ellams, on Flickr View from our room by andrew.ellams, on Flickr View from our room by andrew.ellams, on Flickr We wandered down 7th Avenue looking for somewhere to eat – I think the problem with New York is that there’s just so much choice, you don’t know where to start! Anyhow, we saw a restaurant called Junior’s down a side street, which looked OK, and had outdoor seating, so we decided to give that a go. We got a table no problem, and decided to sit outside as it was a nice day. We were soon settled in, and our waiter brought us some drinks, together with some nice snacky food, while we were waiting for our meals – there was coleslaw, pickled gherkins, picked beetroot and pickled onion slices, all of which were very nice. I decided on a pastrami and swiss cheese burger, and Aidan decided on a chicken burger. We didn’t know what to expect, but we weren’t disappointed when they arrived, mine was huge with a huge pile of pastrami on top of the burger, it also came with 2 onion rings, which were a bit strange as the batter was much thicker than you’d usually expect, but they were good anyhow. Mine also came with steak cut French fries. Aidan’s was also huge – it was on a challah roll, and was very big, and covered in cheese. Food at Juniors by andrew.ellams, on Flickr Food at Juniors by andrew.ellams, on Flickr We managed to force them both down though and even had space left for desert. Aidan decided to try a slice of one of Junior’s cheesecakes – he had a slice of Raspberry swirl cheesecake and I had a hot fudge sundae. These both arrived quickly, and were again, delicious. Food at Juniors by andrew.ellams, on Flickr Food at Juniors by andrew.ellams, on Flickr I particularly like the way in New York they keep topping up your soft drinks, that’s something you hardly ever get in this country I’ve found. Anyhow, we finished off our deserts, and after staggering to our feet, we decided to have a walk to try and burn of some of the calories. We walked from Juniors up to 6th Avenue, and then slowly walked up to Central Park, just taking in the sights and being amazed about being in New York. I found you were so distracted just looking at everything, that you didn’t notice how far you were walking. We walked past the Radio City Music Hall, took a few photos there, then right up to Central Park, along to 7th Avenue, and back down towards our hotel. Radio City Music Hall by andrew.ellams, on Flickr Radio City Music Hall by andrew.ellams, on Flickr By this time, the long day was beginning to catch up with us, so we decided to have an early night ready for an early start the next day. One thing we found that was a life saver was the Duane Reade supermarkets that seemed to be on every block, we made great use of those for drinks and snacks, so we got a couple of drinks to take back to the room, and were soon safely back in the room, and were both asleep before too long, ready for an early start the next day.