Entering New York City the adrenalin kicks up a notch - it has a uniquely exciting feel to it. Manhattan is the best known of the five city boroughs; continually changing and developing it's always a great visit.
Huge highlight in 2015 was a ball game at Yankee Stadium - home of arch-rivals to the Boston Red Sox!
Manhattan is actually only one of the five boroughs of New York City, the other four being the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island.
Before the first Europeans arrived the area was occupied by Indians practising agriculture and hunting. The Dutch were the first to form a settlement here, naming it New Amsterdam in 1625. In 1626 Manhattan was formally purchased from the Indians for the equivalent of a few dollars by Dutchman Peter Minuit. Peter Stuyvesant, the Director-General of the community, had a wall built around the settlement in 1653, on the site of the present day Wall Street.
The English took Manhattan in 1664 without bloodshed and renamed it New York after King Charles II's brother, the Duke of York.
In 1783 at the end of the War of Independence, England recognised the independence of the thirteen colonies.
In the 80s I visited several times, staying with friends in New Jersey, or Long Island, or upstate New York, seeing the summer heat and the Christmas glitz and, on my last visit, staying in a matchbox-sized hotel room to attend a conference (university budgets being somewhat constrained) and so getting just a glimpse of what it must be like to work in this great city. In 2015 we returned and saw many changes in the city.
One of the best ways to get an idea of the size and layout of the city is on a boat trip around the island of Manhattan. So good I've done it twice! Both times in the 1980s on the Circle Line. Andrew also did this tour and we both think it provides a great overview of Manhattan as well as a close-up of the Statue of Liberty.
The dock for the boat is at West 42nd Street. We travelled south down the calm Hudson River: on the right shore the state of New Jersey.
The first hugely recognisable landmarks were the 110 storey Twin Towers of the World Trade Center which was opened in 1970, over a quarter of a mile high they are sadly no longer in existence after the terrible events of 9/11 - for more on the Twin Towers please go to The World Trade Center.
Then we headed out into more open water passing Ellis Island, where immigrants were recorded, and on to the Statue of Liberty standing at the harbour entrance, a welcoming sight for countless immigrants since 1886. This imposing statue was a gift from the French people. On its pedestal the tip of the flame is 305 feet above sea level.
We made extended visits to both Ellis and Liberty Islands in 2015.
Turning back to Manhattan the view is tremendous. Then passing the South Street Seaport and the Ambrose Lightship. This ship marked the Ambrose Channel - the main shipping channel into the port of New York.
Under the Brooklyn Bridge and up the East River - Manhattan is quite narrow at this point. At the time it was opened in 1883 it was the longest suspension bridge in the world: 6775 feet long, including approaches, with a central span of 1595 feet.
Many workers suffered from decompression sickness in the building of the underwater foundations - the caissons in which they worked were filled with compressed air to prevent water getting in. They had to undergo slow adaptation to normal pressure when returning to the surface. Even the engineer, Washington Roebling, who was completing the bridge designed by his father John Augustus Roebling, was overcome with the sickness. His father had died after contracting gangrene in a foot crushed while working on the bridge.
Continuing on up the East River several familiar buildings gradually come into view: the Empire State Building, the Pan Am Building, the Chrysler building, the UN.
The UN complex is the official headquarters of the United Nations. The forerunner of the UN was the League of Nations, created in 1919 after the First World War it was abandoned when it failed to prevent the Second World War. The UN officially came into existence after the Second World War on 24 October 1945.
The UN undertakes peacekeeping and humanitarian missions around the world.
Further north we entered the relatively narrow channel of the Harlem River with the Bronx on the east and Yankee Stadium. Around Tryon Park at the wooded northern tip of the island the boat re-enters the Hudson and continues south, with the New Jersey Palisades on the west shore. Lower down are berths for ships - the aptly named Cruise Liner Astor was just pulling out on one trip.
It's about three hours for the round-the-island tour and is a very relaxing way to see some of the major sights. Of course, you have to get up close too, but some of these buildings are so huge that it's really difficult to see them and get good photographs from the streets - you need to go up high or onto the rivers.
Having read about Lindy's (as Mindy's) in Damon Runyon's stories, I had to come and try the New York cheesecake. Far removed from the sometimes sickly sweet concoctions we have in Europe, this is the real deal, and in my opinion the best. I didn't sample any other food at Lindy's but I'd definitely recommend the cheesecake! The establishment I went to in the 1980s was the one on 1250 Avenue of the Americas at 50th Street, but there were others. The original Lindy's was opened in 1921 and became established in various locations. All eventually closed but the name was acquired by the Riese Organisation in 1979 who proceeded to reintroduce Lindy's to New York.
The waiters at Lindy's were famously droll / rude and the menu I have illustrates the character of the place: Lindy's waiter: "Tea or coffee?", Customer: "Coffee without cream", Waiter: "You'll have to take it without milk, we have no cream."
Damon Runyon was a newspaperman who wrote evocative stories of life on Broadway peopled by distinctive characters such as Harry the Horse, Dave the Dude and Ickey the Pig - highly recommended.
On Broadway it has to be a musical - at least once. I tried several shows: "42nd Street" is great; "My One and Only", with Twiggy, not so great and "Glengarry Glen Ross" worthy but too serious. "Guys and Dolls", "42nd Street" or "A Chorus Line" I think would all be perfect.
For another great spectacle Madison Square Garden is hard to beat - I was lucky enough to see the New York Knicks play my "own" team the Boston Celtics with the great Larry Bird.
I'm not a great fan of shopping - the sum total of my purchases apart from food and drink ran to books, postcards, a winter hat from Macy's and sunglasses from a street seller - but New York is terrific at Christmas. The stores really go to town, the decorations and window displays are fantastic, there is Christmas music and a general feeling of good will - a really good time to visit.
In 2015 we made a special effort to get to Yankee Stadium to see a ball game - we're both big fans of the game but as Sox supporters it was a bit difficult!
The stadium is in the Bronx and quite a subway ride - the stations are unbearable on a hot day but the trains are air-conditioned thankfully. It was 96F the day we went - the hottest day in more than two years!
We did all the usual things including hot dogs and beer ($12 for a Heineken!). The Yankees were playing the Baltimore Orioles and it wasn't the most exciting of games but the vistors won!