The unmistakable New York skyline
The unmistakable New York skyline
Grab bargains at Woodbury Common
The Hotel Beacon is a slice on old time luxury on Broadway

Madeleine Keane

‘This makes no sense’, says the bemused border agent at US pre-clearance.

If he can’t fathom one of my travelling companions who intends to fly out to New York and back in one day, then he doesn’t know the Irish.

We all remember back in the heady days of Celtic Tiger frenzy how, as a race, we made a national pastime of flying across the pond with empty suitcases, hitting Fifth Avenue and its environs and buying up all Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys and their ilk had to offer. I remember at the time hearing about one woman who took so ill on the way home that there was talk of the plane turning back, until her compadres clocked that she was simply suffering exhaustion from shopping.

Now that the good times are appearing back on the horizon, those whizz kids at Norwegian Airlines have decided to capitalise and are offering cheap ‘shop till you drop’ day returns. The plan is you leave Dublin’s Terminal 2 at 8.20am, landing Stateside at 10.30am, spend the day at nearby Woodbury Common – easily the biggest and best retail outlet in the world – then take the 9pm flight home, landing back where you started precisely 24 hours later.

The days of landing on the red eye from Manhattan, going straight to my office and doing a full day’s work without blinking an eyelid being a distant memory, I tacked on a few days extra hols. Having just told my oldest pal from nursery school (now a Rye mom and real estate agent) that I couldn’t possibly visit due to the prohibitive cost of summer flights, I was able to give her the good news and she, me: my trip would coincide with her summer sojourn in the Hamptons.

At €239 return this is a determinedly no-frills experience. You pre-book and pay extra for meals and baggage, there are no movies, and blankets are a fiver. So bring a decent novel, a pashmina and download The Staircase from Netflix on to your iPad. Add in Norwegian’s comfortable seats, their pleasant cabin staff, an on-time departure and a drama-free flight, and it’s a relatively easy, affordable way to traverse the Atlantic Ocean.

We land at Stewart International Airport (an hour north of Manhattan), and approximately half an hour later, courtesy of their dedicated bus service, we arrive at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets. I was last here 20 years ago and it has expanded exponentially.

Since its inception in 1985 it has increased from 85,000 to 910,000sq ft of retail heaven, housing 250 of the most desirable designer brands. From Lacoste to La Perla, Ted Baker to Tory Burch, Bottega Veneto to Burberry, this is brand-bargain mecca, and the only place in the universe you’ll find discounted Tom Ford and Dior. They’ve overhauled the site in recent years, upgrading amenities, adding everything from nursing lounges to lockers for tour groups and improved their food offerings which now run the gamut from Au Bon Pain to Yo! Sushi.



Grab bargains at Woodbury Common

Grab bargains at Woodbury Common

We case the joint, then refuel with a brief lunch at Le Pain Quotidien – it’s soup, sandwiches and coffee. Unusually for a group of Irish journos on a junket, not a drop of booze passes our lips: we’ve the far more serious business of shopping with which to occupy ourselves. So we’re back on the beat. I hit L’Occitane and pick up their lovely almond oil shower gel and a set of scented hand creams (all at half the usual retail price) for my Hamptons hostess. For my daughters I purchase a clutch of Calvin Klein T-shirts and summer gear from American Eagle, and for my gorgeous godson and his bro, Gap T-shirts – all terrific value.

A word to the wise: it’s vital if you’re thinking of doing Woodbury in a day to draft a rough itinerary. So print off a copy of their Outlet Mall Map and make a plan of attack. The mall is laid out into five districts and their website name checks all the big retailers – JCrew, Adidas, Banana Republic and so forth. To add more bang to your buck, sign up in advance for their Savings Passport Booklet.

And if you’re being hyper organised, check out your favourite designers. One of our crew was a fashion stylist and had clearly done her homework in advance of the trip.

She picked up a pretty Prada skirt ($300, down from a mind-blowing $2k) and a classic Yves Saint Laurent trench coat which had been reduced from $3k to $400; apparently even the sales assistant said it was a steal. With 50 per cent off many designer handbags, the men in our group did some early Christmas shopping for their wives.

One, a young father, got the guts of a winter wardrobe for his three small boys – overcoats and shoes – and all for less than a thousand greenbacks. My only fail: two pairs of shades from Ann Taylor Loft (buy one, get one free) lasted a fortnight at home before breaking.

The day flies and I say farewell to my gang who are heading home. They later reported back that it was all fine: a short nap and they were able for a day’s work. Still, I wasn’t sorry to be heading to my beloved Big Apple: an hour or so on a coach and I emerged from the Port Authority, instantly dazzled by the sight of the impressive New York Times building.

All my travel contacts had told me to stay at Hotel Beacon and it turned out to be a wonderful discovery. On West 75th at Broadway, it’s located between Central Park and the Hudson, a rich cultural artery. My elegant junior suite had a kitchenette: with gourmet grocer Citarella across the street you could self-cater, though I opted for a quick bite at the next-door diner Cafe Viand.

So what are my thoughts? If shopping is your bag (forgive the pun) and you’ve got youth on your side, then this 24-hour retail hop is, as they say Stateside, a no-brainer.

For me though, New York has been and will always be about its arts, culture, history and general all-round vivacity; so, with a dollop of Hamptons fabulousness thrown in, if Norwegian are offering the cheapest way from here to there, then Norway’s way it will be.

Getting there

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The Hotel Beacon is a slice on old time luxury on Broadway

 

Norwegian flies a double daily direct service between Dublin and New York Stewart International Airport. Flights are operated by a fleet of new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Fares start from €129 one way/ €219 return, including all taxes and charges. To book visit norwegian.com/ie or call 0330 828 0854.

For €65 each way you can add meals, checked luggage and seat reservation at time of booking. Hand baggage is max 55x40x23cm and one personal item max 25x33x20cm, combined weight 10kg. It costs €35 if you pre-book a bag online.

Hotel Beacon, 2130 Broadway at 75th Street, New York 10023 (www.beaconhotel.com)

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