The city that’s meant never to sleep has awoken from its enforced hibernation and is back with an extra swagger.

Even locals talk about the silver linings in the horrors that have befallen them over the last 18 months. These locals have a point.

The pavements look cleaner; the street food more expansive; the Broadway lights brighter; the people less jaded and even the wretched horses waiting to cart people around the city — at $60 (£45) a pop for a 20-minute ride — look perkier. ‘It’s as if New York is on its best behaviour,’ a shop assistant at Brooks Brothers tells me.

Iconic: The New York City skyline view from The Edge, the city's newly-opened viewing platform

It’s iconic: The New York City Skyline View from The Edge, The city’s new viewing platform 

Light show: Broadway at night. According to Mark, 'the Broadway lights are brighter' in the aftermath of the pandemic

Broadway evening light show Mark says that Broadway’s lights were brighter after the pandemic. 

But it comes at a high price. It was possible for British to visit New York during Christmas and book a hotel in Manhattan. They could also buy presents for the entire family. This allowed them to justify their expense on financial grounds.

This is no longer the case. You might feel choking if you eat out in Manhattan. On our first night, Mark, my friend and also Mark are stunned when Mark and I order six oysters from Quality Bistro, a trendy restaurant on 55th Street, between 6th Avenue and 7th Avenue. We then get steak and chips; two negronis; and two glasses each of pinot noir. Total: $248 (£188).

That’s the bad news. The good news on the eating front (although some residents don’t like this and it has become a contentious issue) is how restaurants have spilled out on to the street and erected sheds of all shapes and sizes, many with corrugated roofs, ambient lighting and heated seat pads. It might be overstating it to say that New York is starting out all over again — but the place feels different.

Floating paradise: The new Little Island public park on the Hudson River, pictured, aims to ‘ignite imagination'

Floating paradise: The new Little Island public park on the Hudson River, pictured, aims to ‘ignite imagination’ 

Don’t worry, though. The police sirens are still noisier, the fast food faster, the portions bigger (never ever order two Caesar salads if you’re a couple and remember that a ‘side’ of chips will feed a family of four), the beer colder, the dogs more pampered, the teeth whiter, the seasons more pronounced.

And, yes, yellow taxis still shake, rattle and roll along the same pot-holed streets at ferocious speeds — but the mood seems more nuanced.

Eric Adams is a former cop and black mayor who has spoken out against crime. Like everyone else, he’s desperate to welcome back tourists.

Half of all hotel rooms in New York normally are occupied by international visitors, of which there are more than 13 million a year — or were.

They spent an estimated $47.4 billion (£36 billion) in the city in 2019, compared with 2.4 million people spending $4.7 billion (£3.6 billion) in 2020.

Colourful: A food stall in Manhattan. Mark finds that the city's street food is 'more expansive' upon his return

The food stand in Manhattan, Colourful. Mark returns to New York and finds the street food options are’more extensive’. 


DISCOVERY: In 1524 Italian navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano was the first European to see Manhattan island — but it wasn’t until 1624 that Dutch colonists established New Amsterdam in the city. In 1664 it was taken by the English navy squadron and named New York in honor of Duke of York.

RALPH LAUREEN:To finance his love for clothing, the Bronx-born fashion designer worked part-time in departmental stores.

50 CENT: He is a rapper, actor and was born in Queens. What is his favorite meal? Ruth’s Chris Steak House.

TIPPING: Bar staff members are charged a dollar each, while restaurant patrons pay 20 percent. The cash goes to people behind the scenes, so don’t scrimp, even if the service isn’t great.

QUEUING: Don’t push in line, this isn’t Italy. Wait in line for tables, taxis and ferries, or queue up at pizza shops, tables, taxis or ferries if you notice a large crowd.

REACHING THE SKIES The city’s first skyscraper was built in 1902 and there are now more than 6,000.

SAFETY TESTS: Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883 and 20 elephants marched across it. This was to show its strength to skepticals.

There’s a new state governor, too, following the resignation of Andrew Cuomo after he was accused of inappropriate behaviour.

His successor, Kathy Hochul, the first ever female governor of New York, has announced a $25 million (£19 million) injection of funds for the I Love NY campaign.

There are many things happening.

Little Island, which is an entirely new public park was built on the Hudson River near Pier 55. (The Titanic was supposed to dock here). It’s located in what is now known as the Meatpacking District with the Whitney Museum of American Art across the road.

It’s a wonderfully affecting project, which aims to ‘ignite imagination, foster spontaneity and play, and support camaraderie and connection’.

Mission completed.

Designed by Thomas Heatherwick and funded by Barry Diller (founder of Fox Broadcasting Company) and his wife, Diane von Furstenberg, via their charitable foundation, the 2.4-acre park suspended above the river and held up by concrete tulips is made up of grasses, lawns, trees, shrubs, walkways — plus an open plaza and 687-seater amphitheatre.

It’s free, open from 6am-8pm and strikes me as being indicative of the direction New York wants to go.

Little Island seems far removed from what’s happening a few blocks to the north at Hudson Yards.

At West 30th Street is where the famed High Line stops (the section between 30th and 34th Streets currently are closed), there’s a battle for space as a number of huge buildings vie for the air above the massive storage area for Long Island Rail Road train cars.

New York’s ability to create new neighbourhoods is one of its great trademarks. Equinox’s fitness chain has claimed that the Equinox is responsible for this hotel, which boasts the headquarters of Amazon and Facebook.

Mark and I ask if we can have a tour, during which we learn that the cost of the building alone worked out at $1 million (£760,000) per room — and there are 212 of them.

We can see The Vessel from one of the suites. It is a strange structure with interlocking staircases that Heatherwick also designed. It’s currently closed because someone committed suicide here.

We are then taken to the gym, which is almost as big as a football field. It has both an indoor and outdoor pool.

A trio of beautiful people (one man, two women) wander past us in scanty swimwear as if they’re extras in a straight-to-video production, and I’m reminded of how, during my last visit to New York, a cab driver told me the difference between this city and others is that elsewhere you may feel like you’re watching a movie, but here in New York you’re in the movie.

New York's famous Statue of Liberty. 'The city that’s meant never to sleep has awoken from its enforced hibernation with an extra swagger,' Mark writes

New York’s iconic Statue of Liberty. ‘The city that’s meant never to sleep has awoken from its enforced hibernation with an extra swagger,’ Mark writes

Mark stays at the 'supremely comfortable Conrad Hilton' in Midtown,

Mark is a guest at the Conrad Hilton Midtown. This is one of the bedrooms in the hotel. 

The bar at the Conrad Hilton. Mark's room on the 40th floor has 'commanding views over Central Park'

Conrad Hilton bar. Mark’s 40th-floor room has “commanding views of Central Park”.

Pictured is an art piece in the lobby area of the Conrad Hilton hotel

This is an artwork piece that can be found in the Conrad Hilton lobby.

We’re so enthralled by Hudson Yards, we decide to have dinner at Equinox on the 24thfloor.

It’s called Electric Lemon and when I ask what sort of food it serves, I’m told it’s ‘decadently healthy’. It’s also unhealthily expensive, sorry. A ribeye steak costs $55 (£42), while pasta $34 (£26).

Our stay was in Midtown, at the Conrad Hilton. The 40th-floor room has stunning views overlooking Central Park.

During his trip, Mark visits the Empire State Building (pictured in the centre) - 'the most famous building in the world'

During his trip, Mark visits the Empire State Building (pictured in the centre) – ‘the most famous building in the world’

New York City’s latest trend in viewing platforms is also new. They now have five, one of which is located in Hudson Yards. This was opened on the same day that we arrived.

For those who are more courageous than others, they can be equipped with a harness to scale the roof of the building and then lean out to capture a stunning photo.

‘People are clapping,’ says Mark. He’s right but it has nothing to do with the men and women in harness. He proposed to his girlfriend by getting down on his knees. Thank goodness she says ‘yes’ and presumably feels on top of the world, as well as on top of New York’s latest tourist attraction.

‘What do you think is the most famous building in the world?’ I ask Mark.

Pictured is one of the two pools with man-made waterfalls at the National September 11 Memorial Museum

One of two pools featuring man-made waterfalls is shown in the National September 11 Memorial Museum.


British Airways (british flies up to eight times a day from London to New York, with return fares from £343. 

British Airways Holidays offers three nights at the five-star Conrad New York Midtown from £879 pp (room only), travelling on selected dates in February 2022.

‘The Eiffel Tower,’ he says. This is a complete nonsense. ‘The Empire State Building,’ I tell him.

Which is where we go that evening — even though it sounds like such a cliched thing to do. But it’s not. You can practically touch some of the skyscrapers from here — and not so far away is the dear old Pan Am Building, once the tallest in the world, looking as beautiful as ever but rudely overshadowed by so many twinkling arrivistes. 

One place — perhaps the only place — where New York retreats in on itself is at the National September 11 Memorial Museum. Two pools that are the most manmade in America have been incorporated into the earth within the footprints the Twin Towers.

The cascading water drowns out the city’s traditional soundtrack and the names of all those who died in the terrorist attacks of 2001 are etched into the supporting walls. If you haven’t seen it, you must.

Everyone says that New York gives you an adrenaline rush like no other city — and they are right. Three years I spent here in the 1980s.

I enjoyed it, even though I was twice mugged. I also lived in Queens with a large family of cockroaches. Still do.

Tom Wolfe, author of that masterpiece about Manhattan, The Bonfire Of The Vanities, made the point more eloquently when he said: ‘One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.’