A Festive Winter Visit in New York
"If, like me, you visit New York for business or pleasure but can't work out the best part of town in which to stay, let me share my discoveries with you. By far the most convenient part of New York is anywhere around Grand Central Station on 42nd Street, or south of it. Grand Central Station may be the only place in New York you'll want to visit! The beaux-arts architecture is superb, a testament to early twentieth century prosperity. Of course, the fact that it is on such a grand scale has led to many calls from the City Fathers for its demolition. The Biltmore, the original hotel that was built on top of the station and was contemporaneous with it, has indeed been torn down and replaced by an all-glass Hyatt, now itself covered in scaffolding in the relentless pursuit of modernization. The Metropolitan Life skyscraper rears up just behind the Hyatt, so you can easily spot the semi-underground station from miles away by the huge 'MET LIFE' sign on the top.
The station itself has numerous stores as well as the Grand Central Market, a rather chichi gourmet market but with a good kitchen wares stall, and a huge food court, serving almost every kind of food from Cajun (just opened) to Kosher and including Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and Gourmet Vegetarian. You can eat it at a marble table or you can lounge in one of the bright red leather sofas and gigantic armchairs that were part of the original decor. Best of all are the restrooms (toilets to you and me). New York is a city without public conveniences, so for those with weak bladders or small children, the cafes, museums and Grand Central are important places to stop.
Why stay downtown? Because that's where all the good stuff is - the shopping! If you want to visit the occasional museum or restaurant uptown, just take the subway (forget cabs during the rush hour). In Grand Central Station (left), you will find the Subway Museum, a miniature version of the London Transport Museum, with subway souvenirs. Additional advantages are a post office in the same block, and the big shuttle buses to and from Newark and JFK airports which are much more convenient than taxis or Super Shuttle vans and only cost $15.00 per person one way. So when you want to go to the airport, you don't need to book in advance, just take a taxi to the shuttle bus office on Park Avenue and buses leave every 20 minutes. My hotel, which was a right royal rip-off in every way (see below)...