Big Apple bargains
SISTERS ALEXANDRA AND CATHERINE DUANE ESCAPE THE RECESSION FOR A PRE-CHRISTMAS SPREE IN NEW YORK
WHETHER you're after retail therapy, a Broadway show, sights, martinis in a rooftop bars or chilling in Central Park, New York has something for everyone.
The success of TV shows such as Sex and the City and Gossip Girl has seen many Irish girls heading stateside to experience the glamorous Manhattan lifestyle — and this trip was no different.
The first consideration was location — Upper East Side Manhattan may be suitable for a Gossip Girl heiress but for two twentysomething Irish girls it was a little pricey. We wanted something mid-price range yet glamorous with a great location. Sounds like too much to hope for? Not where the St Giles Hotel is concerned. This boutique hotel comprises sister hotels, The Court and The Tuscany, located in the historic Murray Hill district, surrounded by brownstone apartments and leafy streets.
Originally built in 1927 as apartments, the St Giles is steeped in the history of former residents including JP Morgan, Theodore and Eleanor Roosevelt, the Astors and Kathryn Hepburn, to name a few. One feature that sets St Giles apart is the generous size of the rooms. Both The Court and The Tuscany have luxurious rooms complete with walk-in wardrobes. If you wanted to push the boat out you could opt for a luxury suite complete with living area, kitchenette and rooftop terraces — perfect for predrinks with the girls!
Facilities at the hotel include a gym, conference rooms, free Wi-Fi, a late-night lounge bar, restaurant and gym. Within walking distance of Grand Central, Bryant Park, 5th Avenue, the Chrysler building and Times Square, the St Giles hotels are no more than a stone’s throw from the main attractions.
Just a five-minute walk from the hotel is Bryant Park, which is often overlooked by visitors to the city. Nestled among the skyscrapers and packed full of historical monuments and urban amenities, Bryant Park is an oasis for busy New Yorkers. During the summer months it hosts lunchtime concerts on the green, piano playing on the Upper Terrace and outdoor movie shows in the evenings.
New York is a shoppers' paradise and a trip to stores such as Bloomingdales, Macy's, Abercrombie and Fitch and American Eagle is a must. Many department stores offer a tourist discount of 10pc or more when you present photo ID.
The elegant Bergdorf Goodman can only be described as retail paradise, perfect for checking out this season's Manolo Blahnik collection.
American high street chain Forever 21 recently opened an enormous store on Times Square. This four-floor emporium offers fashionable apparel and accessories, similar in style to Topshop — but at a fraction of the cost! If you fancy a bit of late-night retail therapy it remains open until 2am.
Aside from these obvious shopping stops, it is also well worth a visit to the quirky, vintage boutiques located in cool, laid-back Soho.
But shopping is not the only attraction that keeps tourists flocking to the city; there are many sights and tours well worth taking. A fun alternative to the usual ferry ride around Manhattan Island is the adrenalinefuelled race across New York City harbour on “The Beast”. The speedboat ride, captained by “Mad Dog” and “Wild Thing”, takes in spectacular sights such as the Statue of Liberty and Hudson Bridge at high speed to the sounds of classic ’80s rock.
This trip is best taken on a sunny day as you will get wet — if not from the spray of the ocean it will be through a soaking with Mad Dog's many water guns!
No trip to the Big Apple would be complete without a trip to the Top of the Rock observation deck at Rockerfeller Center for a 360° view over the sweeping green of Central Park and the famous New York City skyline. As you soar 70 stories in 45 seconds to take in the spectacular view it is easy to see how Top of the Rock is fast replacing the traditional trip up the Empire State Building.
The Boathouse restaurant and bar, set right on the lake in Central Park, is an idyllic place to sip cocktails with the girls or have brunch on a sunny afternoon. Sitting by the lakeside terrace and watching the row boats, gondolas and swans pass by, it is easy to forget that it is only minutes from the bustling streets of Manhattan.
The charming interior of the restaurant offers a cosier alternative to the lakeside deck during winter months. The buzzing atmosphere complements the delightful cuisine and setting perfectly. New York truly is the city that never sleeps, with an incredibly diverse range of clubs and bars.