The stress of work-life means we all need a little break every now and again. Those who know me, know that I don’t take enough holidays so when I do I like to treat myself. Despite the weak euro (my friends in Northern Ireland with sterling are not affected), I decided to visit my favourite city in the world…New York and treat myself to Aer Lingus Business Class. Also, be sure to check out my other American reviews of Los Angeles (including a front row seat with J-Lo), Las Vegas and Miami.
The only real issue I ever had with business class for any airline was the lack of full lie flatbeds. Believe it or not that extra percentage of lie-flat makes a big difference to whether you get a full sleep or a restless night even in business class. So I was delighted to hear that the new Aer Lingus business class service offers fully lie flatbeds. As usual, the journey starts with a visit 51st & Green after US Immigration for some refreshments and food before boarding.
My trip through Immigration wasn’t as comfortable due to a computer glitch however even with the delay in Dublin Airport you still avoid all that hassle at Immigration in JFK arriving as a domestic passenger, so it is definitely worth the departure from Dublin Airport.
The new business class configuration is definitely better. It accommodates those business travelers who are traveling on their own with single seats as well as couples/friends with a double configuration. The new seats which include full lie-flat beds certainly give a feeling of more space and also more storage space too.
As per usual the complimentary champagne before take-off is well appreciated though I’m not sure if the new style wine glass works for the champagne. There is also a new dining menu selection on offer with Aer Lingus with a choice of starters, main courses, dessert or cheese board and a selection of delicious wines. Afternoon tea is offered before you arrive in JFK with a new super energy salad and scones also on offer however this writer would suggest an optional sandwich selection apart from the super salad. After checking out the selection of movies I decided to take an energy nap in the new lie flatbed to help me get ready for all the action of the Big Apple. As mentioned earlier when you arrive at Terminal 5 JFK there is no immigration and you go straight to the baggage belt to collect your Aer Lingus business class priority bag which is first on the belt.
Tip Rather than using a taxi to get into Manhattan, I used Lyft or Uber, it was really quick arriving within 1 minute and costing only $55 including tolls for a large SUV. Make sure you download the app before you leave Ireland or using the free wifi on board Aer Lingus Business Class.
There is one thing you need to get right when staying in New York and that’s the hotel. My new favourite hotel is The Beacon Hotel on Upper Westside on Broadway. What I like about this hotel is the large comfortable rooms(which is rare in New York), very friendly staff especially Tom Travers the general manager who seems to love the Irish and Aussies. This fabulous hotel which is based on the upper west side and close to Central Park allows tourists to enjoy the open space in Manhattan (which is rare with all tall buildings in the centre of Manhattan) while only a short taxi or subway ride to the centre of the bustle of Times Square. The rooms in the hotel are very spacious and modern with some rooms having a 180-degree view of Manhattan. The hotel also has a small gym for those that like to burn off the calories. The Beacon hotel also has a bar off the lobby with a great happy hour in the afternoon before 6 pm. The hotel also has Cafe Viand diner next door which is great for breakfast, try the cream cheese bagel with a side of bacon.
Tip – I don’t normally do public transport but the Subway is only across the road at 72nd street and brings you all the way down to South Ferry via 42nd street / Times Square (no changing lines) so it’s really easy. Pick up a weekly Metro card for around $32 which will cover all your trips up to 7 days.
What’s great about the Upper Westside is the open space and lack of high rise allowing you to people watch while enjoying the Big Apple sunshine. Cafe Fiorello is great restaurant in which I love to go for lunch after I arrive in Manhattan. I highly recommend the supreme pizza or chicken caesar salad. They also do amazing cocktails, try their cosmo it delicious or wine lovers will like their choice of Sauvignon Blanc wines. Sit outside and spot the celebs as they pass by occasionally.
Most people who love New York and go back time and time again. One thing I suggest you do if you are a regular visitor is always trying different restaurants each time. One of my favourite Thai restaurants in New York is Tao Uptown on Madison Avenue. The buzz is great in this restaurant and the food is delicious. Try the cocktails too.
If you like steak then definitely check out STK in the meatpacking district. The steaks are amazing, service is generally good and music/atmosphere is also what makes this restaurant great for a night out. After you have eaten don’t forget to pop to the rooftop bar which is also used for dining in the summer months.
Another restaurant I highly recommend is in the West Village district called Gardenia. Gardenia restaurant was recommended by a local friend Fiona who lives in New York. This restaurant is a mix of modern Latin-accented Mediterranean dishes. I have to say it’s one of the best steaks I have ever tasted. Again the great choice of cocktails set in a bright airy restaurant. Check out a cool bar either before or after dinner called Houston Hall on Houston Street (again on the metro line direct from the Beacon hotel). This hip and trendy bar is based in an old warehouse with pumping tunes from a house DJ.
Not too far from here is a bar called Employees only on 510 Hudson St. You may have to wait to get in but once you do you will enjoy it. Great choice of drinks with cool 80s/90s tunes! If you don’t mind paying $20 for a drink but with a good view, check out PhD at the Dean Hotel. The rooftop bar is crammed with clubbers and banging tunes. Warning – you won’t get much change out of $100 for a round for 4. Another cool bar worth visiting is Bar 230 on Fifth Avenue. This rooftop bar is next to the Empire State Building and the views and drinks are great. Get your wallet out!!
If you like Mexican food then La Esquina on 114 Kenmare street is for you. LA Esquina looks like a tiny take away taco shop but when you arrive you need to knock on the side door inside where you are escorted down the stairs past the kitchen to amazing bar and restaurant. The Mexican food is sumptuous with flavours and tastes that are just wow. Please note you can only book this restaurant for 21 days. www.esquinanyc.com
Tip – Don’t tell the people you are going with about the restaurant until after they arrive, let them think you are dining in a small taco shop!
Trying new things is a must in New York and this year I checked the Highline on 14th/10th which is basically a dis-used railway line in the Meatpacking District which was originally used for bringing meat to the meatpacking district. It now becomes a walkway with gardens and food stalls from 14th street to 34th street. It’s free, it’s cool and it’s healthy….. You can even have a nosey into people’s apartments while taking a stroll along. There are delicious food stalls along the high line so don’t eat too much before you arrive.
If you want to get the adrenaline going in New York, check out “THE BEAST” which is a high-speed powerboat that takes you around the Hudson River and over to the Statue of Liberty. You can jump on board down at Pier 83 beside the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. It takes about 40 mins with high speed turns and twists and lots of water splashing. It’s great fun and both parents and kids will enjoy it. Afterward check out Sea, Flight & Space museum on then HSS Intrepid. An alternative option is to get the cruise line down at Battersea park to Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty. For those on a budget, the Staten Island ferry is free which passes the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Tip – I recommend the New York City Pass for anyone doing a lot of sightseeing. This pass can be purchased for $114 for adults and $89 for kids. This gives you access to a number of sightseeing tours/activities and you jump the lines at entrance for those who don’t do queues ! Check out www.citypass.com/new-york and for more information on New York visit NYC & COMPANY
Other activities that are included as part of City Pass is the World Trade Centre memorial museum which is a somber experience but allows you to pay respect to those who died and those who saved lives…all of them Heroes. Another activity included is Top of the Rock at the Rockafellar plaza. You climb 64 floors with amazing views over Manhattan, New Jersey, and Brooklyn as well as Central Park.
Talking of Brooklyn I had never visited this area of New York before and for one who doesn’t do public transport, the Subway was really the quickest and easiest way to reach Brooklyn. We jumped off at High Street and paid a visit to the food market beside the Hudson at Smorgasburg, it’s on Sunday’s from 11-6 pm and if you fancy a visit to a cool, hip and trendy area it’s definitely worth visiting Williamsburg with great cafes, bars & shops. (You can also walk the Brooklyn Bridge with thousands of other people which is great fun too). Don’t forget to check out the new Hudson Yards. The Vessel is a towering sculpture which is New Yorks Staircase and The Shed next to it an innovative visual and arts performing center.
It’s always worth a visit to Broadway when in Manhattan and rather than do the usual popular musicals which have been on for many years, this time I booked to see Cyndi Lauper’s Kinky Boots at The AL Hirschfield Theatre off 42nd street at 302w 45th street. The musical is about a shoe factory in England and the owner’s son who takes over his father’s business when he dies. The Shoe factory is in trouble and the son who accidentally comes across a drag queen in a club one night seeks the help of the drag queen who persuades him to make Kinky boots for drags. The musical stars the brilliant Bill Porter and will have wanting to go back in for more after the half time interval. This uplifting funny and wonderful musical will have you leaving the theatre on a buzz and ready for the rest of your night out in Manhattan. The musical was also turned into a movie so it’s worth checking this out too!
There is so much to do in New York you can keep coming back year on year with something new to do each time. My favourite months in New York are May/June where you can enjoy the good weather and Nov/December for the Christmas atmosphere!
Flying home from a great holiday or break is always difficult but luckily for me I flying with Aer Lingus in business class. My trip home started with visiting the Aer Lingus Aer Club lounge at Terminal 5 at JFK which both business class and Aer Club Silver level or higher passengers can avail of. The clever people at Aer Lingus realised some people just want to get on board and sleep immediately, so they now offer a pre-flight meal and drinks in the Aer Club lounge which helps you fall asleep very quickly in their new full lie-flat business seats which turn into a nice bed and you wake up feeling somewhat refreshed and suffer from very little or no jet lag for the week ahead.
Tip – Another new business class/Aer Club facility from Aer Lingus is an arrivals lounge in the baggage area in T2 Dublin, this new smaller arrivals lounge (which is great for business or connecting passengers) allows you to take a shower, press your clothes and have some refreshments or breakfast after your flight for your busy day ahead.