Canadian Wanderer

Travel plans, thoughts & lessons

Statistics out showing the Iceland tourism industry’s portion of GDP doubling since 2010

photo by author

Having many warm memories of my visit to Iceland I was interested to recently read just how big tourism to this Nordic nation has become.

According to figures from Statistics Iceland the share of tourism in Iceland’s  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) doubled from 3.3% in 2010 to 6.7% in 2015, the last year for which the government department has final figures. A leading Icelandic financial institution, Landsbankinn bank, has estimated the 2016 tourism percentage of GDP at 8.2%. Despite the dramatic growth of tourism it ranks as the fifth biggest industry behind others including fishing and fish processing, manufacturing and social work.

In terms of international arrivals in 2009 Iceland welcomed 464,000 tourists, a number dwarfed by the 2016 count of  nearly 1.8 million however there’s some evidence the numbers have started to plateau based on overnight hotel stays in July 2017 compared to the same month the year prior. To put those numbers into some perspective remember that Iceland’s population is only 330,000 and are easily outnumbered by the annual number of Canadian visitors alone.

The current tourism boom started in 2010 when the volcano nobody except Icelanders can pronounce Eyjafjallajökull erupted shutting down transatlantic travel and focusing the world’s attention on Iceland. Turning adversity into an advantage the country’s tourism bureau promoted the wildness of the country and rather than reacting negatively the waiting world responded with interest and has beat a mass tourism path to the country’s door every since.

The country’s tourist board has launched a brand new video campaign having some fun with Iceland’s notoriously difficult-to-learn language dubbing their song  “The Hardest Karaoke Song in the World”.

Any travellers contemplating a visit to Iceland should plan it well in advance, especially for the peak Summer season between June – September when hotel occupancy rates run 92% keeping nightly rates high.

 

What’s in a name? WestJet calls a new ultra low cost carrier Swoop

WestJet recently announced the name of its Ultra Low Cost Carrier, or ULCC for short, set to take off in early 2018 and the chosen name, Swoop, left me quite underwhelmed.

For a company with an excellent track record in its first two decades and hit a home run with the moniker of its regional airline, Encore, naming this new division something more befitting  a liquid laundry detergent brand seems a misstep for WestJet. While the name wasn’t to my or a number of my friends, family & co-worker’s liking the name was chosen for a reason according to Bob Cummings WestJet Executive Vice-President, Strategy and the executive member responsible for the launch of Swoop in this press release. “The name Swoop denotes exactly what we plan to do. It’s a powerful verb that demonstrates we plan to swoop in to the Canadian market with a new business model that will provide lower fares and greater opportunity for more Canadians to travel.”

ULCC’s typically flourish in markets with large populations aiming for a subset of leisure travellers wanting low costs above all and are willing to pay fees for additional services such as checked bags or advance seat assignment but given Canada’s large size and sparse population it remains to be seen whether there’s a large enough consumer base to draw upon to make Swoop a viable alternative. Other airlines have tried to go after this market including NewLeaf which in recent months morphed into Flair Airlines but none have had the big brand backing of such a major player in the Canadian aviation industry as WestJet and all the economies of scale that go with it.

Beyond the name, business model, and Calgary headquarters however little else is known about Swoop including possible routes. WestJet executives have said that they would target border airports in an attempt to  capture Canadians flyers who cross the border to fly on U.S. ULLC’s but that trend is on the decline according to WestJet CEO Greg Saretsky noted in this article. “There is less leakage, mostly a function of the bargains having gone away with the weakening of the Canadian dollar,” Saretsky said. “It’s great to see Canadians flying from home and WestJet is benefitting from that.” The appreciation of the Canadian Dollar relative to its American counterpart in recent months may alter that falling cross-border traffic but is it really enough to feed a start-up ULCC?

In addition there’s the matter of route network as should existing mainline WestJet routes such as Edmonton – Winnipeg for example be replaced with Swoop operated flights it’s possible WestJet could simply be moving current customers from its full service brand to its no frills division rather than  attracting new passengers.

There’s much that remains to be seen about this ULLC experiment but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in watching WestJet evolve over two decades it’s that it has a knack for defying the naysayers and charting its own course onward and upward so the gamble might just pay off despite the perceived pitfalls and clunky name.

 

The problem with airline mistake airfares

Photo by author

I like getting deals on airfares around the continent or around the world and have jumped on a number of airline mistake fares over the last fifteen years from a $120 roundtrip flight to  New York City to a $400 hop to Hong Kong over Chinese New Year but recently have seen novices make major errors in their rush to grab the deal so will share some tips to avoid possible problems.

Mistake fares are airfares that are incorrectly priced when made available for sale to the public  or “published” whether through online sales channels or travel agent global distribution system (GDS) . It could be a missed decimal point that makes a $5,000 fare into a $500 fare, one-way fares inadvertently loaded as round-trip fares or hefty fuel surcharges excluded dropping a fare by hundreds of dollars.  These mistake fares are different animals than airline special one-day sales or deeply discounted seat sales although at times it can be hard to tell the difference.

As the error fares are usually spotted quickly and promoted widely by a growing number of websites and blogs their lifespan can be as short as a few hours to as much as one day so there is a degree of urgency for those eager to grab a deal before it is withdrawn or corrected. That urgency however shouldn’t prevent consumers from doing a little due diligence to educate themselves on exactly what it is they are purchasing because by the Latin maxim ‘caveat emptor’ it’s a case of let the buyer beware. Here are a few tips to avoid possible pitfalls:

  • research the airline or airlines(s) to find out whether there are checked bag or advance seat assignment fees as these can easily add up to $100 per person
  • check the airline and type of economy seat. One recent deal from Edmonton to Osaka to Nagoya for $668 round-trip with taxes included the trans-Pacific flight from Vancouver on Air Canada Rouge which is a charter airline-like airline division of Air Canada with fewer in-flight comforts and tighter seat pitch than other airlines which could make the 11-hour flight uncomfortable for an unsuspecting flyer
  • ensure you book the ticket in the exactly the same way you name is shown on your passport. It may sound elementary to know your own name however once recently I heard from someone who hadn’t taken the time to check how their name was shown on their passport and confirmed the ticket as Mike instead of their given name of Michael which turned out to be an $400 lesson as the ticket became useless since the airline and security would not allow the passenger to board due the name error and no changes on the very restrictive ticket were possible
  • once you have a ticket-in-hand don’t go too far planning expensive add-ons such as hotels, tours, concerts or shows because while fare errors are the airline’s fault and are usually honoured there have been cases where they aren’t and the tickets cancelled and the amount paid refunded
  • don’t expect to be able to make changes to a ticket issued on an mistake fare as either changes aren’t permitted or if they are the airline will charge you both a change fee which can as much as  $200 plus the difference in fare between your new travel date and your original ticket which since it was stupendously low could also cost several hundreds of dollars or more. Where there are problems is when flyers buy error fares 10 months in advance, for example, and find down the road the date confirmed conflicts with other plans but I would suggest thinking of these as one-shot deals not easily or cheaply changed. Sometimes the prices are so low, like my $120 roundtrip to New York, that the not using the ticket as planned isn’t a huge financial penalty but when the amount is several times higher it makes throwing it away unused much harder
  • if you have a relationship with an experienced travel agent it can’t hurt to get their input and if possible have them issue the ticket to take the onus for entry errors off you. Even if there’s a small service fee applied to issue the ticket the travel agent may point out things you weren’t aware of or didn’t appreciate so isn’t that small cost worth the piece of mind knowing you’ve covered all your bases? There could even by a chance the agent may spot concerns and recommend against going ahead with the error fare ticket purchase saving you not only money but a possible horrible holiday
  • weigh time vs. money as cost and convenience rarely come together so ask yourself if an inconvenient set of flights is really worth the cost. For example, just because the scenic route on the air deal back from Glasgow via the U.S. is the lowest price is 6 hours longer and enduring U.S. Customs really worth $60 over a shorter and more direct routing that avoids a U.S. connection? Time literally is money and within reason I’ll trade the latter for the former.

These are some things to consider when browsing for air deals as you want to ensure you are getting a deal and not an ordeal. Do you have stories about flying or buying mistake airfares or outrageous airlines airfares? If so please post your comments as I’m always interested in hearing feedback from others.

 

Tier One Travel & G Adventures “Travel Talk” on Machu Picchu & Tanzania safaris

Mark your calendars and save the date for the 1st annual Tier One Travel & G Adventures Travel Talk!

Join us in the Otter Room of the Valley Zoo for an evening of exotic travel with G Adventures Alberta expert Gary who recently returned from a Machu Picchu expedition and will share insights on his journey as well as exotic African safaris in Tanzania.

Learn more about G Adventures, the small group adventure tour industry leader and its continued commitment to helping travellers experience authentic adventures in a responsible and sustainable manner that preserves the unique cultures of the countries visited.

Admission proceeds are being donated in full to the Planeterra Foundation, a G Adventures founded charity.

Event exclusive discounts are available to those attending along with great prizes so confirm your ticket today on Eventbite as space is limited!

 

Airport fitness centers that’ll give a run for your money

It’s hard to maintain your workout routine when you’re on the go, so more and more airports have been adding fitness centers. Here are some spots you can hit up while waiting for your next flight.

Arthur Avenue, The Bronx; New York’s real Little Italy

For travellers wanting a really authentic Italian neighborhood experience in New York City leave the convenient confines of Manhattan and the more well known “Little Italy” that’s become a shadow of its former self and venture to the Bronx to sample all Arthur Avenue has to offer as it’ll leave you wanting more.

I’d heard about Arthur Avenue from New Yorkers during past trips to Brooklyn who called it the “real Little Italy” and resolved to seek it out on a future visit to New York City to experience it for myself. Luckily however I didn’t have to go I alone as  the same trio of locals volunteered to accompany me on my midweek midday visit using it as an excuse to both return to a place with fond memories and act as tour guide for a friend.

The Bronx is an almost undiscovered corner of New York by the millions who visit this metropolis and I’m as guilty as the masses as while I could claim to have been to this borough in the past in reality it was only to emerge from the subway before new Yankee Stadium to see a Yankees baseball game. There is much to explore however including the Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden and either makes a good addition within walking distance of  Arthur Avenue in the Belmont neighborhood.

There were a few times in my commute from my Manhattan hotel to Arthur Avenue that I asked for directions as I was running late to meet my friends and unfailingly the response was polite and positive steering me in the right direction which further reinforced my comfort level in independently touring all of New York’s boroughs. You need to keep your wits about you but in my experience New York is safer than other American cities and escaping the tourism bubble of Midtown Manhattan rewards an intrepid traveller.

A great place to start a walking tour is at the Arthur Avenue Retail Market , an initiative of legendary New York mayor and Bronx resident  Fiorello LaGuardia. The variety of merchants under one roof is staggering with nine restaurants, five pastry shops, four butchers, two pasta-makers, six bread stores, three pork stores, five gourmet delicatessens, two fish markets, three gourmet coffee shops and one gourmet Italian wine shop – to list only the food category. And then there are the gift and house ware shops and cigar store.

photo by author


Arthur Avenue Cigars is inside the main entrance and it’s worth pausing to watch the skilled hands roll cigars as I’d seen done on past trips to Cuba.

photo by author

photo by author

photo by author

After wandering the aisles admiring sights and aroma of the hanging sausages, fresh fruit and food being prepared in the restaurants, the dilemma of what to have for lunch took a while to resolve but I finally opted for a huge slice of Bronx pizza from Full Moon Pizza

photo credit nycgo

The market has a small seating area to relax while sampling some of the delicacies.

 Arthur Avenue Retail Market by Leonard J. DeFrancisci (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

 Also within the market is the Bronx Beer Hall should shoppers want to linger a little longer.   
Bronx Beer Hall by lulun & kame (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Leaving the market and walking the shady side streets is the best way to experience the neighborhood which centers on Arthur Avenue but extends several blocks on either side.

photo by author

Teitel Brothers Wholesale Groceries was founded in 1915 by Austrian Jewish immigrants who’d arrive in New York through Ellis Island a few years earlier and is managed by a third generation of the family. The authentic imported Italian specialty staples include parmigiano, prosciutto, imported olive oil, canned tomatoes, aged vinegar, pasta, dried and fresh sausage and more and the colourful cans are a feast for the eyes as well as providing a feast for the stomach.

photo by author

During our edible ambling along Arthur Avenue we paused for a lesson in Italian desserts and more specifically the cannoli, a Sicilian delicacy consisting of a fried pastry shell filled with sweet creamy Ricotta filling.

De Lillo Pastry Shop isn’t the only pastry shop on the block but it’s one that’s kept customers coming back for its sturdy, sweet-but-not-too-sweet cannoli’s since 1925. The narrow shop has a few tables to stop and smell the cappuccino but all eyes are drawn to the large deli cases of cakes and cookies that line one side almost as far as the eye can see.

photo by author

A little later we made our way to Gino’s Pastry which is so old school it doesn’t have a website, fugetaboutit. What brought us however was to sample their cannoli’s which unlike De Lillo’s are filled with the delicious and smooth cannoli cream when you order it and so it tastes a little fresher. Note the choice of regular or chocolate covered cannoli shells on the top shelf in the photo below. Decisions, decisions…


photo by author

video by author

While crowning Gino’s cannoli’s king after my taste test and soaking up the warmth of the hospitality extended during our visit I learned Belmont-born acting legend Chazz Palminteri stops by Gino’s periodically for his sweet tooth fix. There’s a birthday cake filled with smooth, authentically flavored cannoli cream named in his honour called “The Chazz” if you’re wanting more than a cannoli.

Gino’s is sporting a new white awning but looks pretty much the same from the street view below.


Sadly I missed a major local Italian festival by a few days as the posters in shop windows were advertising.


photo by author

The Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel which celebrates a century since its dedication in 2017 is the spiritual center of the neighborhood.

 photo by author


What makes Arthur Avenue New York’s “real Little Italy” and well worth visiting is it’s people who have grown up and live in the neighborhood and own the shops and restaurants that have been in their family for generations creating a tight-knit community with a sense of tradition which are two things ingredients rarely found in this big, anonymous modern world.

It’s both a blessing and a curse that more travellers don’t make their way to this part of the Bronx because if they did Arthur Avenue would change and not for the better which is something I wouldn’t like to see happen. For now I’m happy enjoying this small corner of the Big Apple and plan on making many more visits in the future, arriving with an empty stomach and leaving full the delicious food and genuine hospitality.

How to get there
The neighborhood’s approximate boundaries are Lorillard Place to the west, Southern Boulevard to the east, 183rd Street to the south and Fordham Road to the north; the interior triangle formed by Arthur Avenue, East 187th Street and Crescent Avenue holds the majority of the Italian establishments. To get there via subway, take the B, D or 4 train to Fordham Road; it’s another 15–20 minutes or so by foot. Additionally, the Metro North railroad will take you to its own Fordham stop, a 10-minute walk away.

Liquid lessons learned during an Urban Adventure in New York

When Urban Adventures offered me the opportunity to try one of their city tours with a twist I was unable to say ‘no’ and confirmed my New York Craft Cocktail Tour for a walking tour of the East Village with occasional pit stops for cocktails and came away thirsty for more.

The walk began in Tompkins Square Park which has been at the heart of the East Village since it’s creation in 1850 when I met my tour guide Jessie who advised me the heat wave broiling Manhattan had forced several tour participants to cancel. I was bracing myself for the news that the tour was being cancelled but much to my surprise and relief she said the tour would go ahead with only me, a move that left me left me impressed that the tour company wouldn’t leave a traveller in the lurch for circumstances beyond their control.

Jessie shared some intoxicating cupcakes brewed/ baked by Prohibition Bakery whose shop is a few blocks south of Tompkins Square near a New York deli landmark, Katz’s Delicatessen, while explaining the history of the Temperance fountain on the west side of the square.

photo by author

The sculpture atop the Temperance fountain of Hebe, Roman goddess of youth, is a bronze replica of a marble statue by Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldsen whose name I’d encountered many times during a recent trip to Copenhagen. The stone canopy bears the word  words Faith, Hope, Charity, and Temperance on its four sides and was one of many donated to the late 19th century temperance movement by Henry Cogswell, a daring dentist from Connecticut who made a fortune in the 1948 San Francisco gold rush. As the quality and availability of drinking water was poor these fountains were erected around the United States to encourage the working class to drink its clean water instead of beer which was the more typical and safer alternative. Depending upon the mythology the jug Hebe carries contains either water or wine, which if it were the latter would be highly ironic for a temperance monument. 

A half block away is the William Barnacle Tavern named for a notorious local sailor which specializes in absinthe, an anise-flavored spirit that is both high in alcoholic content and shrouded in mystery for its connection to 19th century bohemian artists and subsequent banishment in Europe and the U.S. as an addictive drug.  

photo by author

Absinthe was created in Switzerland by mixing local herbs and wormwood, known to botanists as Artemisia absinthium which gives the elixir its name. It’s introduction into France  in the 1840’s and enthusiastic embrace by artists, writers, and intellectuals helped popularize absinthe with all levels of society to the point that in 1910 it was consumed in greater quantities than any liquor or wine. Despite this widespread acceptance barely 5 years later aided by the Temperance movement absinthe was completely banned in France, the U.S. and much of the rest of Europe for its claimed connections to mental disorders and a host of other social ills. The lifting of the French ban is 2000 and a rediscovery if the UK help spark a modern revival that spread to the U.S.

Absinthe is served in the traditional bohemian manner: the green spirit is poured into a glass with a spoon or fork holding a sugar cube placed over the glass rim, the sugar cube is set alight to caramelize it and as it dissolves icy cold water from a decanter is added and the drink is stirred not shaken and consumed. It’s a neat bit of bar top theatre watching the process and adds to the anticipation of tasting absinthe for the first time.

Absinthe Tasting

Absinthe Tasting by Ed Schipul is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The licorice flavor of absinthe is the main taste you appreciate almost immediately but there’s also hints of herbs and an almost rustic taste unlike other spirits. That rustic flavor is aided by the building’s smoky history as a Prohibition era speakeasy which is chronicled in the small adjacent Museum of the American Gangster.

Another tavern specializing in one spirit is Mayahuel which billed itself as an “agave spirit cocktail bar” before a  recent permanent closure when it’s lease ran out. The basement bar featured an authentic Mexican feel with dark woods and ceramic tiles on the bar top, a food menu with familiar Mexican favorites such as tacos, quesadillas, tortillas and churros and an extensive choice of mezcal, tequilas less well known liquor cousin.

Despite joining tequila tours while holidaying in Mexican resort destinations I’d never really understood what set mescal and tequila apart but the friendly Mayahuel bartenders explained that the main difference is while mescal can be distilled from any of 30 agave plants tequila by law is only produced from the blue agave. The two spirits are also manufactured in different Mexican states and the distillation process is different which helps give each its own distinctive flavor.

The last stop is a bar owned by women but called Wise Men named after the first Western-style steak house in Chinatown, which the owner’s family opened. Located on The Bowery Wise Men has a truly retro vibe and funky cocktail menu.

photo by author

I opted for the Roof Is On Fire as having had a taste of it earlier couldn’t resist the jalapeño infused Mezcal mixed with lime and ghost chili honey.  The cocktail wasn’t the fireball as it sounds and the flavor lingered as Jessie and I ambled to the nearby Astor Wines for a quick stroll through its impressive array of potent potables.  As I’d visited the store in past New York City visits I was familiar with its wide variety of liquor and would recommend it to anyone in Manhattan needing a quality bottle for a social event.

The 3-hour tour went by in a blur but I was unsure whether this was due to the extreme temperatures, alcoholic cupcakes, the absinthe or Mezcal. Jessie proved an able guide to the history of the East Village and a pleasant companion in the quieter cocktail moments as we discovered shared interests such as a passion for travel.

Urban Adventures is a division of Intrepid Travel, a small group adventure tour company founded in 1988 that’s grown to guide over 100,000 travellers experience the exotic corners of the globe and it’s a perfect fit as the short day trips deliver a slice of what their longer tours are like. I would highly recommend joining an Urban Adventures tour in cities around the world as with a maximum of 12 participants they are so far from the big group, run-of-the-mill city tour. Sign up for their newsletter and save $10 off your first tour.

80 Years of New York City, Then and Now

The New Yorker has put together a fascinating video with a split screen look at street scenes from today and the 1930’s and while many things have changed in New York there are many things that haven’t.

The Jane Hotel, New York City

I don’t post about hotels I haven’t stayed at but if I can make an exception it would be for The Jane Hotel in New York. This red brick building on Jane Street in Lower Manhattan was designed by a boring architect, William A. Boring to be precise, and was completed in 1908 as the American Seaman’s Friend Society Sailors’ Home and Institute.

A few years later in In 1912, the survivors of the Titanic stayed at the hotel which was later run by the YMCA in WW2 before becoming a hotel in the 80’s and undergoing an extensive renovation for its centennial in 2008.

This landmarked building overlooks the very busy West Side Highway and is known for its tiny 50 sq. ft. wood panelled ship cabin-like single rooms with shared facilities on each floor. I’ve considered staying here both for the trendy Meatpacking District location as  well as standard room rates of USD$99 per night but despite the low prices I’m not a fan of shared facilities. Despite my reservations, pun intended, as I was literally in the neighborhood I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos of this venerable landmark.

A hit and a miss visiting New York rooftop bars

Among the long list of things to do and sights to see in New York City in Summer for any visitor should be its many rooftop bars for their slice of city life informality and scenic skyline scenery. All in the name of travel research I squeezed a visit to a pair of Midtown watering holes into a fairly busy schedule on a recent Gotham visit and came away very different experiences.

Refinery Rooftop is perched atop the 13th and top floor of the Refinery Hotel, a chic boutique hotel that debuted in 2013 and pays homage to the building’s former role as a hat factory with a retro 1920’s feel. The hotel boasts an impressive location blocks from the Empire State Building, Macy’s, Grand Central Terminal, Rockefeller Center and Times Square.

The Empire State Building is in fact the star of the space, looming large day or night in every selfie or serious photo. Mine was somewhere in between.

photo by author

This year-round indoor-outdoor 3,500 square foot space with its  retractable glass roof has a rustic charm with its exposed brick, filament patio lights, and comfortable seating that creates an intimate feel of a friends backyard garden patio than a giant lounge in the sky.

photo by author

The covered main bar is a good spot to stand drink in hand and scan the venue which was two-thirds full on my mid-afternoon Summer Sunday visit. After a really warm welcome from the bartender and some input on different, local beers selected a $9 pint of season ale from Vermont’s Long Trail Brewery from the drink menu.

photo by author

The lunch menu offers a good selection of light bite appetizers, salads and flatbreads including a tempting “Butcher’s Meatballs” I considered but passed as a big supper and wine dinner with friends was a few hours away.

It’s no wonder the Refinery Rooftop was named as USA TODAY’s reader choice award for number one hotel bar in the country for the second year in a row in its 2017 awards as it offers a cozy floor plan and memorable view from a super central Midtown address with varied menu and great service. What’s not to like?

Refinery Rooftop is open Monday – Thursday 11:30am – 1:00am, Friday from 11:30am – 3am and Saturday & Sunday from 12:00pm – 1:00am.

A few short blocks away but miles apart in terms of customer service in my experience is Rock & Reilly’s NYC, a sprawling 10,000-square-foot ‘Irish pub meets Hard Rock Café’ lounge at the Renaissance New York Midtown Hotel with 80% of the space being outdoor and covered by a retractable roof.

Rock & Reilly’s is a small chain of rock ‘n roll theme pubs that includes clever cocktails on its drinks menu with musically inspired monikers such as “Welcome To The Jungle”, “Sage Against The Machine” and “Free Fallin”.  Instead of a cocktail with a cute name I opted for a $9 pint of Pacifico, a light, crisp Mexican pilsner-style beer and sat down to drink it and the fifth floor city views in.

photo by author

To down that beer however took more effort than expected as not finding any table wait service after several minutes I wandered in to the nearest bar to the outdoor deck but was advised by the bartending stocking its supplies it was closed so kept going to the main indoor sports bar with its bank of big screens offering an array of sports.

Heading back to my outdoor table it was impossible not to notice the small crowd on a Summer Sunday afternoon around 3:30 PM.

photo by author

photo by author

There is a variety of high bar tables, low sofas and sectionals and high-backed booths spread around the indoor & outdoor areas separated in spots with greenery that tries and fails to recreate a garden-like feel because of the sheer size of the outdoor deck.

photo by author

The gastro-pub lunch & dinner menu of Rock & Reilly’s offers up some fusion foods like Irish Nachos along with more traditional bar offerings including burgers, wings and Mac & Cheese.

I was a little underwhelmed by my visit to Rock & Reilly’s which seemed an enormous empty space with impersonal service but understand my visit may have been on an off day for the venue and in looking at the bright side there was no trouble finding a table with a view.

Rock & Reilly’s  is open daily 7am to midnight.

I’d drafted a shortlist of Manhattan rooftop lounges but sadly due to time constraints made it to only these two leaving me several dozen to experience on a future visit. It’s always good to have a plan.

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