Billy Joel’s ‘New York State of Mind’ has always been my anthem – and never more so than when I lived in Manhattan on 28th and Madison near Gramercy Park. My ‘Carrie Bradshaw’ years – as I think of them – are long gone, but a recent trip to the Big Apple renewed those core feelings, primarily joy, as I was showing my daughter the town that named her.
For the record she isn’t called Lexington, but that’s the avenue the eccentrically-named Roger Smith hotel is located and where we spent our first night.
Family-owned and retaining its 1930’s architectural features, Roger Smith has a boho feel, huge high-ceilinged bedrooms and a lot of art echoing the infamous Chelsea Hotel, but with a warm welcome.
Expect to bump into F Scott Fitzgerald in the hallway or Zelda at Lily’s rooftop bar, as Roger Smith champions artists, so the guests are interesting and the wall space is a rotating gallery.
Even the receptionist is a former Broadway hoofer, but lingering in the lobby wasn’t an option as “we must be at the American Girl doll store at 9am,” was the order.
Over ‘breakfast in America’ at 8am we planned our schedule post doll store as we had New York City PASS books which are a must if you want to bypass queues and entry fees for every cultural landmark and museum and enjoy discounts.
One has to choose carefully what to include in a four day trip with an eleven-year-old , but I recommend seeing Liberty from the boat and getting off at Ellis Island as our people did between 1892-1924. It’s a historical gem for all ages, so allow time.
Once at Battery Park, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum on Greenwich St is close by and should be seen, even by one who lived through it.
There is a silent solemnity around the Memorial – two waterfall pools with the names of those who died honoured in bronze – but there are always tourists who think it’s ok to pose for a selfie perched on the name of a victim. In the museum the audio is a mix of news reports and chilling cries beside ‘Have You Seen My Daddy?’ posters as retrieved torched girders from the Twin Towers lead visitors ever deeper into the ground. Be prepared for an emotional journey.
On route to the subway I saw a poster for a production of Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish directed by Cabaret’s Joel Grey. “If only we had time,” I said to my husband who nodded with relief.
But Jewish stuff is everywhere in New York from the mile-high corn beef on rye to the lit menorahs in Chinese supermarkets and it doesn’t get more Jewish than the mighty Bette Middler starring in Hello Dolly as directed by uber talent Jerry Zaks.
I screamed when we got tickets in the front row of the mezzanine at The Shubert and needed cheesecake at Juniors to calm down before a lie down at our next hotel, the ultra swishy Sofitel on 44th street in midtown. Guests have had Sofitel mattresses delivered to their homes, such is the level of comfort and the tasteful rooms have awesome views of skyscrapers.
It’s also French-owned, so there is an air of chic decorum which is great for business trips. I was lucky enough to live at this hotel when I first moved to the city, and I can still vouch for the food, service and floral displays. The joy of NYC as a former dweller is that it is both familiar, yet still full of surprises and none bigger than The Ride.
This a tour like no other as the bus has been converted into an auditorium with tiered seating facing sideways on to a huge window. Escorted by two hysterical Saturday Night Live-style guides, the slow ride through midtown is interspersed with facts, songs and unexpected street performances. I’ll say no more but look out for a footloose Fed Ex guy, a ballet dancer on Columbus Circle and an unrivalled middle of the road view of Times Square. Madison loved it all and could not believe how much was named after her.
She now has photos on the Avenue and by Square Garden, as well as the American Girl on 52nd. St. Two doors up is the shoe store SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker and I go inside.
Carrie may have moved on, but I’ll always have a New York state of mind.
Roger Smith www.rogersmith.com from £200 per room
Sofitel – www.sofitel-new-york.com from £219 per room
for more information on New York City and the CityPASS visit www.nycgo.com
For The Ride which will is set for London and Tokyo visit: https://experiencetheride.com/