Ivor Baddiel sees New York’s Williamsburg district
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Ivor Baddiel sees New York’s Williamsburg district

Ivor Baddiel checks out the charms of New York and the hipster chic of Williamsburg

Ivor Baddiel and family have fun in New York  
Ivor Baddiel and family have fun in New York  

New York, New York, New York. So good I wrote it thrice. It’s exhilarating, exhausting and enchanting. This city is chaotic, bustling with all forms of life, some of which are as yet unclassified, and moves at a million miles an hour. It really takes something for teenagers to be impressed but, having never been anywhere like it before, my two were – and then some.

We left for the Oversized Apple on a mid-morning flight, ensuring we made maximum possible use of the time difference by arriving early afternoon local time.

First stop was our hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, an area with a strong Jewish heritage and home to a large Chasidic community.

Mel Brooks and Barry Manilow hail from there, but recently it’s undergone gentrification, which has caused consternation among the more religious types, although absolutely none as far as I’m concerned.

It’s a cracking area, hipster central, and the main drag, Bedford Avenue, is awash with great shops and restaurants.

We took pleasure in perusing them on our first, jet-lagged afternoon there, culminating in a very agreeable supper at a place called Allswell, which indeed it was.

Times Square, New York City

Our hotel, The Hoxton, epitomised the new Williamsburg. It oozes hipness in
a delightful 21st century way, with residents and locals gathered in the downstairs bar and restaurant area, feverishly huddled around laptops and no doubt putting the world to rights or penning the new Catch 22. It makes for a great atmosphere and the food is delicious as well.

We had a cosy room, but they still managed to squeeze in a humungous bed, and the view of the Manhattan skyline was a joy to wake up to – as was the breakfast bag delivered to the room every morning.

The Hoxton and Williamsburg are the perfect places to escape to after a day in Manhattan, and you do need somewhere to escape to. A peaceful retreat this is not.

We had availed ourselves of a New York CityPASS (available from nycgo.com), which saves you money and time, so well worth getting.

Central Park

Our first stop, after a delightful walk through an autumnal Central Park was the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s incredible, but big. I got lost at the moment my phone died and, if a friendly American hadn’t lent me her charger, I fear I would still be there.

The CityPASS also gives you entry to the Top of the Rock, which is the highest point of the Rockefeller Center, from where you will be blessed with amazing views of New York.

It’s busy, and getting to the top takes a while, but it’s definitely worth it.

Back on terra firma, we ventured down to the 9/11 memorial, and then on to the Oculus.

The Hoxton’s balcony and bedroom

The latter is a shopping centre, but also a design wonder, a flowing, rippling white wave of a thing, which makes you feel like you’ve been swallowed by a whale on the inside. I finally know how Jonah felt.

Then there’s her majesty, the Statue of Liberty. There are many ways to explore this icon but, if time is short, I can recommend the Staten Island Ferry, and not just because it’s free. Okay, mainly because it’s free, but it does go pretty close, allowing you to get the photo, and you can get snacks on board (which are sadly not free).

I would also strongly suggest promenading the High Line. It’s an elevated linear park, apparently, which in English is a raised walkway that used to be a rail line.

It’s on the west side of Manhattan and is about 1.5miles long, but there are a few stalls along the way and it’s a lovely way to stroll through the city without actually feeling like you are strolling through the city.

Obviously with teenagers, shopping was high on the agenda, and the clothes shops of Soho were the favoured destination of my 18-year-old daughter, while my 14-year-old son (with me in tow) visited three Apple stores, a Nintendo, Nike and Google pop-up shop.

We also did a bit of thrift shopping (what they call charity shops), many of which are congregated in Soho, and the East Village.

Our whirlwind tour of New York came to an end. There was plenty to see, eat and buy – and much more still to explore. No doubt we will just have to go back.

Ivor and his family stayed at The Hoxton, Williamsburg, where rates start from $159 (£124), including a light breakfast bag. Details: www.thehoxton.com

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