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June 2019
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2003-02-19 New York New York - a city so good they named it twice!

New York New York - a city so good they named it twice!


There is however only one New York, and from the first time I witnessed the spectacular neon outdoor advertising in Times Square/Broadway, I was in love with `the Big Apple'. Since then I have returned to this unique metropolis on several occasions, and my love affair with New York continues to flourish. Would I live there? Yes, but only for a while - a Bohemain pad in Greenwich village for about 6 months would be just fine.


For thousands of years the area had been inhabited by native Americans until the Dutch arrived, naming it New Amsterdam - "Start spreadin' the news, I'm leavin today, I wanna be a part of it, New Amsterdam, New Amsterdam" - it would never have been a hit. The city was then taken over by the British, as they had a habit of doing, in the late 17th century, and soon after `New York' became a melting-pot for every race, colour, creed and culture. 12 million people passed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954. Initially there were tensions among the different ethnic groups (including `us'), but the city was to become an example on a massive scale of how racial integration can indeed work.


New York became so vast, that the only way to go was up, and within the last century, that famous Manhattan skyline arrived brick by brick. There are 5 boroughs, 3 major airports, around 150 museums, and many of the world's top tourist attractions. In North Manhattan, the avenues go north/south and the streets go east/west which makes life easier when given directions.


The Art Deco Empire State Building has remained one of the worlds' most awe-inspiring landmarks ever since it was scaled by a very large monkey in the 1930s, though I prefer its'shorter neighbour, the shining beacon that is the Chrysler Building. Arguably the most famous symbol of New York, the `Statue of Liberty' was a gift from the French in the 19th century. A free trip on the Staten Island ferry offers commanding views of Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge.The gaping void once filled by those twin symbols of New York, and of capitalism, has altered the Manhattan skyline forever. I was on top of the World Trade Center on three occasions, and enjoyed a meal in `Windows of the World' just a month before this most despicable and unfathomable act of terrorism and the ensuing death of over 5000 innocents.


Returning to Midtown, Central Park is always buzzing with joggers, skaters (ice-skaters in Winter), buskers and many unique and eccentric characters. On one occasion, I was stopped by a gentleman who slapped me on the back and shouted "Harvey!". He proceeded to talk to me as Harvey for the next couple of minutes. `Strawberry Fields' is a shrine to John Lennon who was assassinated nearby.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art boasts around 3 million exhibits including countless originals from the Great Masters, the Guggenheim Museum building is itself a work of art, and the Museum of Modern Art is also well worth a visit, especially if, like me, you like `Impressionism'.


If it's retail therapy you are after, there are many fabulous shopping areas - Canal Street for cheap imitation designer goods (there goes my secret), Soho and West Broadway for clothes, Macys, Bloomingdales, 5th Avenue with Saks, Tiffanys and FAO Schwarz, to name but a few.


Thankfully "Century 21" is up and running again beside the World Trade Center site. Needless to say, there is entertainment on tap - Broadway, Madison Square Garden, Radio City, Carnegie Hall (and you gotta eat in the Carnegie Diner for the experience) and the Lincoln Center incorporating the `Metropolitan Opera' which I always try to visit. New York has become much safer and the subway is the best way to travel or of course a limo.


As with all cities however, exercise caution! Unlike here, the US has proper seasons - hot summers and freezing winters. Decide on your priorities before you go and arrive early at tourist sites. A good information center on 7th Avenue can help. Between 30 and 40 million visitors a year travel to this best-loved, big, brash, energetic and exciting city and end up visiting it time and again. In the words of a Bernstein song - is is `one helluva town'!