“If you have not been to New York City, think again. You have probably been there in a movie, play or a book,” that is how one of our tour guides introduced us to the magic of the Big Apple.In mid-October was perfect.Our hotel was in Times Square.During the first day, we caught a matinee performance of that storied musical “Chicago”.Now came the hard part.What to do next? To get started, we bought a three-day pass that gave us unlimited rides on the open-top buses that you can get in and out off at any number of locations.We began with the night tour, which took us through the major neighbourhoods in Manhattan and then crossed over to Brooklyn. The gothic towers of the Brooklyn Bridge loomed in the semi-darkness.On the way back, we crossed the Manhattan Bridge.The narrow gauge of this structure became quite vertiginous, perched as we were on the lurching second story of the bus.Several feet below there glistened the waters of the East River.The next day, we checked out Macy’s at Herald Square which bills itself as the world’s largest store and which hosts the annual Thanksgiving Day parade.Not wanting to buy anything, we ended up buying a floral bedspread as a souvenir.After all, it was from Pakistan.By the time we emerged from the store, dusk was settling in.There was no cab outside but the driver of a cycle rickshaw beckoned.We had not been in one since our trip to Beijing eight years ago.That ride had brought back our childhood memories of Karachi.Suffused with nostalgia, we jumped in.Nothing had prepared us for what came next.It was an adventure straight out of a Bond film.The driver wove effortlessly between large public buses and a veritable army of yellow cabs and never bothered to check the expressions on our faces.As we neared our hotel, he drove in the opposite direction of traffic, completely oblivious to the honking and hand signals that were thrust our way.That provided a harrowing finale to the ride.Along the way, I had noticed the driver had no side-view mirrors or helmet.A brave soul indeed!His brakes functioned barely.At one point he just sailed through a red light.But the incomparable views of the skyscrapers along the way made this a magical journey.The next day we went to the top of the Empire State Building and took in a majestic 360-degree view of Manhattan, the Hudson and East Rivers and the various bridges that span them.We began with the night tour, which took us through the major neighbourhoods in Manhattan and then crossed over to Brooklyn. The gothic towers of the Brooklyn Bridge loomed in the semi-darkness. On the way back, we crossed the Manhattan Bridge. The narrow gauge of this structure became quite vertiginous, perched as we were on the lurching second storey of the busWe also went to the top of the Rockefeller Centre and caught an exceptional view of the Empire State Building.Later, we took the metro to the South Port and rode in the Water Taxi.This glided past the Statue of Liberty.A setting sun and an overcast sky made this iconic structure look even grander than the typical postcard.We went underneath the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges and caught the artificial waterfalls on the last day of the season.A Dutch architect had constructed them earlier this year.The following day we toured Central Park in the regal splendour of a horse-drawn carriage.People were jogging and walking through the park, little children were playing on the swing sets and serious readers were huddled on benches with their favourite books.We even got a glimpse of the Dakota house where John Lennon was shot and where his widow still resides.No trip to New York would be complete without a walk down Wall Street so we did that with some trepidation.The financial crisis was at its peak and people had warned us to be wary of disgruntled traders.We encountered none.We also visited the World Trade Centre site.A museum has been constructed there which houses mementos from the desks of the 9/11 victims and letters from their loved ones.A visitor from Australia had noted, “Grown men don’t cry. But this day I did.”Another day we visited the Museum of Modern Art, which among other superlatives to its credit has the largest exhibition of Egyptian artefacts outside of Egypt and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, which has houses some of Picasso’s sculptures.In the outside garden, there was a remarkable sculpture of Medusa getting ready to dunk her head in the water.During one evening, we had dinner at Tao, an Asian fusion restaurant.The crowd was very hip and we had to endure a one-hour wait despite having a reservation.The food was excellent and we were treated to a larger-than-life view of the Buddha bathed in swirling red lights.Another evening we checked out Daniel, a restaurant in the ritzy Upper East Side where French cuisine was served with Parisian elegance.We saw “Lucia di Lammamore” at the Metropolitan Opera.The imagery and score was haunting and the story line outdid Romeo and Juliet with its ending.On our last day, we strolled around Times Square and did some window-shopping along Park and Fifth Avenues.We also walked past Carnegie Hall, Radio City Hall and St Patrick’s Cathedral where the Kennedy’s were wed.During our last evening, we saw Chekov’s The Seagull starring Kirsten Scott Thomas.To say it was depressing would be to err in understatement.The next morning, as our flight lifted off the tarmac at JFK, we got one last look at the skyline of New York City. It was lit up by the sun, as in the countless movies, which had featured it. We had picked up some wonderful memories during the past week and were anxious to return to see all that we had missed on a future visit. The writer has visited 35 countries on six continents. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, October 10th 2017.