When the dollar dropped to two to a pound we could restrain ourselves no longer. Using up this year’s carbon footprint we checked Priceline.com for cheap flights and flew Air Continental directly from Bristol, where flights can be as cheap as £250.
Where to stay? Check hotels on www.tripadvisor.com. It has frank customer feedback. You can bid for a hotel room at www.Biddingfortravel.com. and priceline.com, they provide cunning tactical advice which advised us to split our bids and areas. The successful bid came in two days before we left, and we stayed in two Central Park South hotels for around £100 per night for a room for two: the four-star Le Parker Meridian and the so-achingly-hip three-star Hudson, with surreal interiors and Alice in Wonderland décor.
Having chosen to stay downtown, we could just pick up last-minute tickets for shows at half price. To find out what was on, we read Time Out, New York magazine and the New Yorker. We tackled a Gospel Brunch at the Cotton Club in Harlem, jazz at Birdland and a Carnegie Hall concert. In the UK, I had bought a book of tickets online for the Guggenheim, the Empire State Building, the Natural History Museum, MOMA and a Circle Line boat tour which worked out at half price.
For $23 we bought nine-day unlimited bus and metro passes and classic yellow cabs filled in the late night gaps. Free walking tours are advertised in the Rough Guide and don’t forget the (free) Staten Island Ferry. The metro ticket takes you all the way to Coney Island’s tacky charms.
Food, clothes and shoes are cheap by UK standards — though remember sales tax and 20 per cent tips, which New York waiters expect.
My favourite eatery? The Oyster bar beneath Grand Central Station, selling two dozen varieties of local oysters — just the thing for a jaded traveller, after soaking up the electric atmosphere in Manhattan’s canyons.
Dr Stefan Cembrowicz is a GP in Bristol