Sometimes New York comes up in conversation. “You know when you’re in Manhattan getting a sandwich at one of those delis?” a friend says. In response I smile and nod like a geeky teenage boy feigning a knowledge of girls I don’t actually possess.
I’ve planned to go many times. It’s just that, whenever I proposed it, some family member would chip in with: “Well, if we’re in the US we must visit our friends in Maine/Kentucky/Arizona, too.” An argument would then ensue over whether the Laura Ingalls Wilder Trail was also possible because, after all, we had promised…
In the end, it all got so fraught and complicated that we went to Mull instead. The nearest I came to visiting New York was 15 years ago. I was trying to buy a crumbling ruin of a cottage that had come up for auction. “If we don’t get it,” I told my 10-year old daughter, “we’ll use the money I’ve saved for the deposit to fly to New York. We can stay in the Plaza, like Eloise.”
At the auction, the bids went up and up. I raised my paddle once, twice. The third time I lifted, it represented all the money I had and everything I could possibly borrow. One more bidder and I would be done – my daughter and I would be sitting in a yellow taxi crossing the Brooklyn Bridge…
But there was only silence, then the hammer came down on the dream.
Five things to do in New York (when you finally get around to going)
Our expert on the ground, David Farley, shares his tips.
1. The Whitney museum, once overlooked, is now housed in a dynamic Renzo Piano-designed building and getting the attention it deserves. Its 25,000-plus collection of mostly 20th-century art by the likes of Andy Warhol, Georgia O’Keeffe and Jackson Pollock makes this a beacon of modern art history. See whitney.org
2. In the early 1900s, the Lower East Side was home to a thriving eastern European Jewish community, and dozens of kosher delis. Only a few remain, and Katz (opened in 1888) is the best. You may recognise it from the “I’ll have what she’s having” scene in When Harry Met Sally… After you’ve been handed a ticket, place your order at the counter, indulge in superb deli fare, and pay at the end with your ticket. See katzsdelicatessen.com
3. The Brooklyn Bridge makes for a great walk. Its 271ft-tall neo-gothic arches are the bridge’s trademark, but strolling along the elevated pedestrian walkway (from Brooklyn towards Manhattan) is a must.
4. In Coney Island, stroll the historic boardwalk, take a dip in the Atlantic or take in a baseball game; the Brooklyn Cyclones minor league team play at the MCU Park just off the boardwalk with free fireworks every Friday night in summer. See coneyisland.com
5. Legendary clubs like the Blue Note are known worldwide and listed in guide books, but basement jazz club Mezzrow is frequented by real jazz lovers who come to hear up-and-coming (as well as established) musicians while sipping Manhattans and snacking on charcuterie. See mezzrow.com