Preparing for our first New York trip was a pain (well, technically it was only Ron's first, but Mel hadn't been there in many years either). We knew there were simply oodles of things to see, but, not having been there, we had no idea where they were or how far any one thing was from one another – or even if it was worth going to see those sights we had picked out.
So needless to say, we relied a lot on tour guide books to organize our time. We bought a Frommer's day-by-day book and borrowed books from a couple of our colleagues, but the one that stood out like a shining beacon was the one we got from the mini book expo: Pauline Frommer's New York City.
Right off the bat, it helped us with saving money on a hotel. Pauline (We came to refer to her in the first person) pointed out the various types of accommodation available, including extensive information about hosted accommodation – rooming in someone else's house. We had not even considered that as an option; not surprising, since no other book even touched on this as a possibility. Pauline explained how it can save you money (we're all for that!) and pointed us to several reputable websites that make the connection between owners and tourists. We were able to stay for a pretty reasonable $135/night only a 5 minute subway ride from downtown!
But that wasn't the end of it. Her recommendations never steered us wrong. For the second half of our stay we moved to one of the hotels she recommended – a budget hotel – and it was lovely. Clean and safe, just as noted, and in a perfect location.
More importantly, her food picks were out of this world. Clearly, Pauline has a preference for ethnic cuisine, but there are plenty of options in all styles – and each one we tried was an unqualified success. And it was made even better because she recommends out of the way places – avoiding large touristy venues. We were in heaven. And given that NYC is the food capital of the world, you can imagine we were boggled by the choices. So it was nice to have a reliable voice for cheap food (although her book is made to suit all budgets).
A couple of examples: While we were down around wall street, we followed her advice for a cheap Cuban restaurant and the local patrons were happily surprised to see tourists there. They called the restaurant a hidden treasure and were delighted to learn it made this book. They weren't wrong about it being a treasure either. The food was amazing. Same goes for a cheap Pakistani restaurant Pauline guided us to in midtown.
Aside from the food and accommodation recommendations, the book is a great resource for helping organize your time – especially for first time sight-seers. It includes lots of neighbourhood walking tours, and always with plenty of fun and well-written stories and info on the places you're visiting. It reads very easily, and Pauline's love for this city really comes across. You really could read this cover-to-cover if you were so inclined, because it's that engaging. It's like visitng a friend who's lived there for years and their taking you around to tell you all the little tidbits they've picked up about the history of different places. Pauline offers lots of tips to avoid lines (she cut our waiting time by half at the Empire State building) and where to go to find great bargains and niche stores.
It is a bit limited in that it doesn't have a clear overall map of Manhattan. But that's a minor complaint. You can grab maps anywhere. And it Does have a good subway map in the back cover – essential for getting around NYC – and clearly marked out walking tour maps for the various neighbourhoods.
This book offers a thorough, but easily digestible, and most importantly interesting guide to a city that's just brimming with things to see and do. That's no small feat. And for $20, you can't get a much better deal.
Title: Pauline Frommer's New York City
Author: Pauline Frommer