Take a bite of Manhattan

Central Park

For some couples, honeymoon destinations in far away places with exotic-sounding names have great appeal. The idea of an active getaway with diving, hiking and exploration certainly has appeal. Others want to do no more than toss a towel on beach, lather on the sunscreen and read a good book (something most couples don’t have time for in the weeks before their wedding). Both sound interesting but for myself, I’ll take Manhattan.
   
I am an urban explorer who likes the beach, the backwoods and who has the ability to get onboard a sailboat in smaller doses – say two, three days. Manhattan as an island offers just that: Bright lights, big city and less than four hours away from the Hamptons, Adirondacks, chi-chi Saratoga, swell Newport and enchanting Amish country. Give me those options and I’m happy, honeymoon or not.
   
If it’s raining in Manhattan, one can check out The Metropolitan Museum of Art, shop at Saks Fifth Avenue or dine anywhere from Harlem to Chinatown on cuisine miles way from Cajun or Creole – Ethiopian, anyone? If the weather’s great, there’s Central Park for jogging, picnics and gondola rides and Bryant Park for free music and outdoor music, not to mention Wi-Fi en plein air. There is the opera, the symphony, the ballet, Carnegie Hall… but I get ahead of myself.
  
  New York is cosmopolitan chic. It is also surprisingly affordable, easy to navigate, requires no car and can be reached on my good days in 2 hours and 40 minutes on several non-stops between New Orleans and three airports in the New York area: JFK, LaGuardia and Newark, N.J. JFK and LaGuardia are easy taxi rides into Manhattan, the 12-block-wide island most people, except die-hard Yankee fans, think of as “New York.” Newark is a 10 minute train ride to Penn Station in the heart of Midtown (taxis double their fare across state lines, so I’d opt for the train and save the money for drinks at “21,” the landmark bar/restaurant on 52nd Street).
  
  In large, at Euro-glam hotels such as the Peninsula, St. Regis, Waldorf and Carlyle, one can drop big bucks and hang with the caviar and champagne set. Less pricey slick, sleek fashionista places to sleep, eat and drink include W Hotels, Paramount and SoHo Grand. In between, there are legions of accommodations from storied name fame to boutique hotels, even bed-and-breakfasts. Inside skinny: With the exception of NYC Marathon weekend and Thanksgiving, almost every hotel in Manhattan has special, deeply discounted weekend rates. Work with the sales department or travel agent and you’ll find most rates can be extended.
  
Taking the car factor out of a honeymoon is a plus for the cost-conscious couple. Taxis are reasonable, clean and most take credit and debit cards. Only ride in “Yellow Cabs” or licensed car services that are legitimate transport. Taxis are readily available except during rush hour, when it rains and around theater time. Public transport, including subways and buses, is easy and safe (I’ve taken them alone up to 10 p.m. in most parts of town). And a MetroCard, available at most newsstands and subway stations, works for both. Nothing beats a good pair of shoes; Manhattan is a walking town, so pack sturdy, attractive city shoes because running shoes mark you as an out-of-towner. Tip: The center light atop a taxi is on when available for hire and it’s dark when occupied. All lights on means the cab is off-duty – it may or may not stop.
   
With the exception of February and March, New York has four wonderful seasons. But trust me, it’s never New Orleans hot! In summer, there are lovely nights filled with free concerts and performances all over town which often require nothing more than a blanket, a picnic from a nearby deli (tuck wine or beer deep in the bag; there are strict no drinking on the street laws) and find a spot to sit to enjoy a promise of a temperature drop as the sun disappears behind a spectacular skyline.
  
In fall, leaves change, the pace quickens, cultural season gets in full swing and seasonal clothes come out (the natives don’t wear shorts, linen or white after Labor Day, no matter the climate). “Autumn in New York” is, as the song implies, splendid. Spring comes late and gently; crocuses push through snow, forsythia and redbuds appear, layers of clothing cautiously begin to be removed and then one fine day in late April, pear, dogwood and cherry trees blossom. Everyone forgets winter, love is in the air and the city goes a bit gaga.
 
But it’s Thanksgiving through New Year’s that New York really becomes magical. It’s cold, holiday lights go up (Manhattan honors Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Muslin celebrations), store windows are filled with scenes of wonder, the ice skating rinks reopen and flags flutter around the huge the huge tree at Rockefeller Center. During the day the winds get blustery; at night, the color of the sky looks like blue velvet scattered with rhinestone stars. There is hardly any place more romantic than New York. Take the Staten Island Ferry (it’s free and passes the Statue of Liberty), walk the Promenade at Lincoln Center, stand in front of Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue or stroll Park Avenue during the holidays. The town looks like a holiday card, smells of roasted chestnuts from street vendors and churches and stores pipe out holiday music for all to sing. I’m in a New York state of mind and I just spotted a great airfare on Jet Blue. Whoa, I am out of here!

Diane Sustendal is a native of New Orleans who lived on New York’s Upper East Side for 23 years. She is happy to share tips and tidbits for prospective honeymooners in New York and many other worldwide destinations.

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