Jet lag is the price we pay for the privilege of travel. Think about it – we get into a metal cylinder, eat and drink and sleep and watch movies – and at the end we arrive in a magical destination far from home.
And the price we pay? Apart from the ticket, there's the cost to the body. It can take weeks to feel normal again if you are doing a flight from Oz to say, Europe or the US.
But if there's any city that's worth suffering jetlag for – it's New York. And specifically, Manhattan.
Downtown in midtown
Forget the people that tell you to go straight to Williamsburg or Bushwick. You can drink all the craft beer you like in Melbourne or Perth or Adelaide. But where can you gaze up at the Empire State building peaking through the skyscrapers, sit on the steps of the New York Public Library, or take your bagel to one of the tables at Bryant Park and people watch? Shop on 6th Avenue?
The brand new Hyatt Andaz sits smack in the middle of the best bits of midtown on the corner East 41st Street and 5th Avenue, right opposite the magnificent New York public library.
It brings to midtown a flavour of a downtown or Brooklyn boutique hotel: a central bank of friendly looking dudes that multi-task – they will check you in, tell you where the nearest Zara is, advise on the queues this time of day at the MOMA and give you a subway map. There's also free mini-bar and wifi – but my favourite… free wine! Head to the daily happy hour in the lobby – where you get to mix with other guests and meet friends before you launch yourself into the city for dinner or a Broadway show.
Beating the lag
But first the jetlag. It's no good securing those really hot tickets to Hamilton if you're falling asleep in your Happy Hour wine.
That's where Mike Riordan comes in.
Mike is a personal trainer and founder of FIT Tours NYC, who comes recommended to me by some Aussie PRs. His patch is Central Park and specialises in taking travellers – either in corporate groups or individually, around the park for either a run or in my case, a hybrid thing called a yoga walk.
"There's nothing like early morning exercise to shake off that feeling of being cramped up in a plane," says Mike, when I meet him at the entrance of Central Park – right near all the hawkers and bicycle renters at Columbus Circle.
The park is only a ten-minute walk from my hotel – but through the jetlag, I'm struggling. It's a hot start (around 28 degrees) to early autumn, more like summer and I am achy and tired from a flight that took me from Melbourne to Sydney to Vancouver and then across to New York.
"I don't run," I tell Mike first up. But I do walk, and I love yoga.
A walk in the park
For the next hour we cover the main sections of the park – walking at a clip pace, and stopping to do yoga stretches which feel great after hours and hours cramped up in my economy seat.
While we are walking, Michael is talking. He is a native New Yorker and passionate about the park. So as we pass under an archway, he is able to tell me the history of the gorgeous tiles on the roof, and the history of various buildings around the park – such as the famous Dakota building – former home of John Lennon.
Plus he also throws in a few pop culture references for good measure – for example – I may find the ornate fountain in Central Park familiar – that is because a replica was shipped to LA and used in the opening credits of Friends. You know the one…….
The personal training session can be as amped up or chilled out as you want it to be. For example a popular tour with Australian traveller is a two-mile course where you run from one Instagrammable site of the park to another, stopping to do strength training and high intensity exercises such as squats, stair drills, core strengthening and push-ups.
My session clears away the cobwebs and sets me up for a busy few days in New York.
Let the jet lag roll
But apart from my workout in Central Park, it's actually quite hard to leave the hotel. The rooms are the biggest I have seen in New York, and my room is loft style with a separate sitting room. I eat all the free snacks in the mini bar.
The in-house restaurant is also excellent. I had dinner there two nights in a row – grazing on tapas including ceviche, paella, corncob and octopus plus some excellent cocktails (they make a mean martini).
After dinner one night with a New York based friend, we wandered around strangely quiet and beautiful streets of midtown, a few blocks a few minutes away from the lights and bling of Times Square.
We ended up sitting on the steps of the public library, just across the road from the hotel and agreeing – that yes, there's no place like New York.
Especially if you can stay awake long enough to enjoy it.