Simon Hale takes a TV tour of the Big Apple.
New York’s geography tends to be mapped out for us in our imagination by blockbuster films and TV series.
Even if we’ve never been to the city – now a direct flight away from Birmingham with American Airlines – we feel we know the place from movie locations.
Settings such as the Empire State Building, Times Square and Wall Street in the midtown and downtown districts of Manhattan are familiar to millions, while others to the north of the borough may pass us by.
A new two-hour coach jaunt from On Location Tours helps to redress the balance by taking us through New York’s well-heeled Upper West and Upper East sides.
In the company of one of its guides – in our case Max Brand, an entertaining bit-part actor and comedian – you stop off at three locations, hear behind the scenes stories, and even enjoy an on-board trivia competition.
Best of all, after the locations of your favourite shows are pointed out, you get to watch clips on the coach of the relevant scenes. Here are three of the many shows that you can experience ‘on set’ on the highly recommended When Harry Met Seinfeld tour.
You’ve Got Mail
The romantic comedy, written and directed by the late Nora Ephron, was one of the first to focus on internet dating and the state of book stores. The Shop Around the Corner on 103 West 69th Street, where Kathleen (Meg Ryan’s character) sells children’s books has changed hands since the film was released in 1998. It was a cheese-and-antiques shop at the time before becoming a café and is now a launderette called La Mode Cleaners. Nearby Fox and Sons Books, the big corporate competitor where Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) the subject of her love/hate relationship works, was actually located at West 17th Street and Seventh Avenue in downtown Chelsea at a former Barnes & Noble chain store that is now the Rubin Museum of Art.
Other locations are little changed: Zabar’s, at 2245 Broadway and West 80th Street, where Joe embarrasses Kathleen by helping her with his credit card when she finds herself in the cash-only queue; the Sony (now AMC Loews) Lincoln Square cinema where Kathleen and her boyfriend Frank (Greg Kinnear) see their movie – and where previews of You’ve Got Mail were shown; and Café Lalo, at 83rd Street – the first stop on the tour – where Kathleen runs into Joe not realising that he is her email pen pal date. You can still go there for French-style coffee and pastries.
When Harry Met Sally
The 1989 comedy hit also written by Nora Ephron that asks the question whether men and women who are attracted to each other can be ever be platonic friends is best known for the scene in Katz’s Deli where Sally Allbright (Meg Ryan again) does her “I’ll have what she’s having” fake orgasm routine. A sign marks the table. Way down the West Side at 205 East Houston Street, Katz’s calls for a separate visit but there are enough locations uptown to justify the tour’s title. Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally run into each other at the since-closed Shakespeare & Co Booksellers on 2259 Broadway at West 81st Street where they admit they’re newly single; at Café Luxembourg on 200 West 70th Street and Amsterdam they attempt to set each other up with dates; and at the Plant Shed on West 96th Street which is still doing business they buy a Christmas Tree. In Central Park, where more than 300 movies have been made, they meet for lunch at the Loeb Boathouse; while over on the Upper East Side at 1000 Fifth Avenue the Egyptian Room of the Metropolitan Museum of Art – our third stop is at its steps – is the spot where Harry and Sally realise their love for one another.
More than 25 years since it was first shown on UK TV, the series about the daily lives of a group of friends was set in New York but filmed almost entirely in California. It still offers familiar locations where the action was supposed to take place. Top of the list at 2880 Broadway at 112th Street is Tom’s Restaurant – our second stop – which is featured in almost every episode as the exterior of the fictitious Monk’s Coffee Shop where Jerry, Elaine, Kramer and George would regularly meet. At 2249 Broadway at 79th Street, H&H Bagels is where Kramer has his only steady job before getting fired. Selling one of New York’s most traditional food items, the store closed in 2011 and is now a Verizon mobile phone shop.
The original Soup Man at 259A West 55th Street that appears in The Soup Nazi when it was called Al’s Soup Kitchen, is still there reputedly offering some of the best soup in the city. You can also follow in the footsteps of Kramer as he jumps out of a film queue to grab a hot dog at Papaya King, the only difference being that he actually goes to Gray’s Papaya at 2090 Broadway at 72nd Street, an eatery also favoured by Kathleen and Joe in You’ve Got Mail.
The When Harry Met Seinfeld Tour leaves on Thursdays and Saturdays at 2pm from West 55th Street between 8th Avenue and Broadway: US$37. For more details and to book, click on On Location Tours (001 212 683 2027; www.onlocationtours.com)
American Airlines flies from Birmingham Airport to New York’s John F Kennedy Airport daily from £385 return (including taxes) in economy and from £2684.20 return (including taxes) in business class. Flights are by Boeing 757 aircraft offering 160 economy seats and a newly upgraded business class with 16 forward-facing lie-flat seats that can be operated individually in four one-touch set positions.
From JFK, passengers can connect to American’s near-hourly transcontinental services to Los Angeles and San Francisco using its new Airbus A321 aircraft with fully lie-flat and direct aisle seating in first and business class.
For more information and to book, go to www.aa.co.uk or call 0844 369 9899.