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America Vacation: Finding New York Sights Still Exciting

Samantha Lewis from The Mail on Sunday flies to New York in Virgin Atlantic's 'high class' cabin.  Pictured is his elegant seat on the November 8 flight.

Samantha Lewis from The Mail on Sunday flies to New York in Virgin Atlantic’s ‘high class’ cabin. Pictured is his elegant seat on the November 8 flight.

It’s been a long time to arrive, but we are finally allowed to return to the US after a 600-day travel ban. Virgin Atlantic’s first flight to New York felt momentous: Cabin crew greeted excited passengers by waving American flags. Of course, they had also been patiently waiting for this day. However, John F. Kennedy Airport is surprisingly quiet and I pass through security.

On the way to Manhattan there are signs that the city has been hit by the pandemic. It’s hard not to notice the bricked-up shops and rental signs that dot many streets. But then I stop at the edge of a giant new development and it obviously hasn’t hurt their urban renewal plans.

This area is located on the west side of Manhattan and is within walking distance of major attractions such as Madison Square Garden and the High Line. It is made up of restaurants, bars, cafes and retail stores; think Peloton flagship store, Whole Foods and more.

It is also home to the newly opened Pendry Manhattan West Hotel, which is my base for the trip. The entire vibe of the luxury hotel is one of coastal calm, which was inspired by the brand’s Southern California roots. Contemporary spaces have a relaxing effect with their neutral color palette, soft lighting, and flickering fireplaces.

There are 164 rooms and suites with floor-to-ceiling windows; those on the upper levels have views of the Statue of Liberty. And the personal? Among the best and most attentive I have found.

“Enjoy everything new and exciting, you have to catch up!” read a note card in my room. Luckily I’m in the city that doesn’t sleep, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

Samantha's Virgin Atlantic flight VS3 is shown here making a double takeoff from Heathrow Airport with British Airways Flight BA001 to celebrate the reopening of the transatlantic corridor.

Samantha's Virgin Atlantic flight VS3 is shown here making a double takeoff from Heathrow Airport with British Airways Flight BA001 to celebrate the reopening of the transatlantic corridor.

Samantha’s Virgin Atlantic flight VS3 is shown here making a double takeoff from Heathrow Airport with British Airways Flight BA001 to celebrate the reopening of the transatlantic corridor.

Virgin Atlantic crew at Heathrow on November 8 celebrate lifting of travel ban

Virgin Atlantic crew at Heathrow on November 8 celebrate lifting of travel ban

Samantha's flight crew ready to meet her on board.

Samantha's flight crew ready to meet her on board.

Virgin Atlantic crew at Heathrow on 8 November celebrate the lifting of the travel ban (left). And in the photo to the right, Samantha’s flight crew is ready to welcome her aboard.

Pendry’s eastern Mediterranean restaurant, Zou Zou, is destined to be a hit, but it’s not ready yet, so I’m on my way to explore New York’s food scene.

There are many places to eat something outdoors thanks to the ‘eating sheds’ that have sprung up on the streets and sidewalks. Initially introduced to adhere to social distancing measures, they are likely to become a permanent feature.

In the meantime, if you prefer to dine inside, get ready to mask and display your vaccination pass. New York appears to still be on high alert and these rules are being strictly enforced.

Samantha's home base for her New York odyssey is the newly opened Pendry Manhattan West Hotel, pictured

Samantha's home base for her New York odyssey is the newly opened Pendry Manhattan West Hotel, pictured

Samantha’s home base for her New York odyssey is the newly opened Pendry Manhattan West Hotel, pictured

There are 164 rooms and suites with floor-to-ceiling windows at Pendry Manhattan West

There are 164 rooms and suites with floor-to-ceiling windows at Pendry Manhattan West

There are 164 rooms and suites with floor-to-ceiling windows at Pendry Manhattan West

The whole vibe of the Pendry Manhattan West is coastal calm, writes Samantha

The whole vibe of the Pendry Manhattan West is coastal calm, writes Samantha

The whole vibe of the Pendry Manhattan West is coastal calm, writes Samantha

Samantha is spellbound by the contemporary spaces of Pendry Manhattan West [which] they have a relaxing effect with their neutral color palette, soft lighting, and flickering fireplaces'

Samantha is spellbound by the contemporary spaces of Pendry Manhattan West [which] they have a relaxing effect with their neutral color palette, soft lighting, and flickering fireplaces'

Samantha is spellbound by the contemporary spaces of Pendry Manhattan West [which] they have a relaxing effect with their neutral color palette, soft lighting, and flickering fireplaces’

Pendry's eastern Mediterranean restaurant, Zou Zou (pictured), is destined to be a hit, Samantha says, but it isn't quite ready during her stay.

Pendry's eastern Mediterranean restaurant, Zou Zou (pictured), is destined to be a hit, Samantha says, but it's not quite ready during her stay.

Pendry’s eastern Mediterranean restaurant, Zou Zou (pictured), is destined to be a hit, Samantha says, but it’s not quite ready during her stay.

One of the coolest new attractions in the Big Apple is The Edge at Hudson Yards, pictured the tallest sky deck in the Western Hemisphere.

One of the coolest new attractions in the Big Apple is The Edge at Hudson Yards, pictured the tallest sky deck in the Western Hemisphere.

One of the coolest new attractions in the Big Apple is The Edge at Hudson Yards, pictured the tallest sky deck in the Western Hemisphere.

Samantha enjoys a drink on the terrace of The Edge

Samantha enjoys a drink on the terrace of The Edge

Samantha's Joe's Pizza Slice: 'loaded with cheese, glistening with fat and worth every calorie'

Samantha's Joe's Pizza Slice: 'loaded with cheese, glistening with fat and worth every calorie'

Samantha is shown on the left enjoying a drink on the terrace of The Edge. His slice of Joe’s Pizza is pictured to the right: ‘loaded with cheese, glistening with fat and worth every calorie’

The restaurant everyone is desperate for a table at right now is Ci Siamo (pictured), says Samantha.

The restaurant everyone is desperate for a table at right now is Ci Siamo (pictured), says Samantha.

The restaurant everyone is desperate for a table at right now is Ci Siamo (pictured), says Samantha.

The restaurant everyone is desperate for a table at right now is Ci Siamo, which is located directly in front of my hotel. It’s a comeback for restaurateur Danny Meyer, who is behind restaurants like Shake Shack and Union Square Cafe. Ci Siamo (which means ‘here we are’) serves Italian food that revolves around wood-fired cooking, handmade pasta, and an impressive Italian wine list. But if you want to feel like a true New Yorker, head straight to Joe’s Pizza in the vicinity of Greenwich Village. It’s an institution and possibly the best slice in town: loaded with cheese, glistening with fat, and worth every calorie.

Travelers returning to the Big Apple will certainly be eager to see the newest places. One of the coolest is The Edge at Hudson Yards, the tallest sky platform in the Western Hemisphere. The attraction opened on March 11, 2019, but was closed two days later when the city was blocked. It now attracts between 7,000 and 8,000 visitors a day, which will help the city recoup the $ 80 billion lost in tourism revenue.

For $ 36 you get panoramic views of New Jersey on the left and Midtown Manhattan on the right, where you’ll see icons like the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. Brave visitors can also choose to scale the 1,300-foot skyscraper and lean over the edge of the building. This costs $ 185 – a glass of champagne is included in the price as a reward for your bravery.

Despite having visited many times before, the bright lights of Times Square are irresistible to Samantha.

Despite having visited many times before, the bright lights of Times Square are irresistible to Samantha.

Despite having visited many times before, the bright lights of Times Square are irresistible to Samantha.

The ice rink in Central Park helps make it even more Christmas.  Samantha writes: 'There really is magic in the air this time of year that makes everything feel very special'

The ice rink in Central Park helps make it even more Christmas.  Samantha writes: 'There really is magic in the air this time of year that makes everything feel very special'

The ice rink in Central Park helps make it even more Christmas. Samantha writes: ‘There really is magic in the air this time of year that makes everything feel very special’

Other familiar landmarks are busy, but not suffocatingly. Despite having visited many times before, I am drawn to the bright lights of Times Square, the city’s epicenter for Broadway shows. It is full of life when I visit it and the atmosphere is typically electric.

From here I walk to Central Park to enjoy the spectacular fall foliage. The park is huge (easy to get lost!), So mapping out a route is a good idea. I go in search of the promenade, the most beautiful place where towering elms in the brightest shade of gold line the path.

I continue to the famous ice rink of the park, which will have its grand reopening in a few days. It marks the beginning of Christmas, where the city is transformed into a dreamy winter wonderland. Holiday markets pop up for the season, streets are covered in kitsch decor, and glittering Fifth Avenue storefronts are revealed. There really is magic in the air at this time of year that makes everything feel very special. Oh New York, how much we miss you.

TRAVEL FACTS

Virgin Atlantic flies direct between London and New York with round-trip fares starting at £ 358 per person, including complimentary food, drink and inflight entertainment. For more information visit www.virginatlantic.com or call 0344 8747747.

Rooms at Pendry Manhattan West start from $ 625 (£ 470) plus tax per night. For more information visit www.pendry.com/manhattan-west.

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