Manhattan Transfer; Philip Differ Gets to the Core of the Big Apple before Heading to Texas to Remember the Alamo

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REMEMBER the Alamo? I've never been able to forget it.

Ever since I saw John Wayne, Richard Widmark and Laurence Harvey take on the Mexican Army in the Pavilion Cinema in Kilsyth some 37 years ago, I have dreamed of visiting San Antonio, Texas, to see the real Alamo for myself.

My wife Ann, on the other hand, had always wanted to tour New York by credit card, so we combined the two for this year's family holiday.

So, there we were, cruising along the New Jersey turnpike, listening to the Yankees playing the Mets on the car radio and not having a clue as to what was going on.

I'll never fully understand baseball and I'll probably never fully understand America but there is definitely something about New York.

I've now been there half a dozen times but it never ceases to excite and fascinate. It feels very familiar because of the number of times you've seen it on television. In some ways, it's like one big film set. When you're strutting around, you might evenkid yourself you're in a movie. There most definitely is, as F Scott Fitzgerald once said - or was it Paul McStay - a buzz about the place. If you're spending a few days in the Big Apple then you might as well stay at its core.

The Doubletree Guest Suites are located slap bang in the middle of Times Square. This way, you get the best of both worlds. The sights, sounds and smells of New York right on your doorstep and thanks to superb double- glazing - and I suppose being on the 22nd floor helps - peace to sleep at night.

When it comes to eating in New York, you're spoiled for choice, every taste is catered for. Portions are ridiculously large - be prepared to put on weight - and the service first class. I could be wrong but that might have something to do with the fact everyone is looking for a tip.

Times Square is loud, in your face, but not in a threatening way. The shops open late but if you get fed up with that, there are lots of strange and entertaining sights on which to feast your eyes. Preachers preaching, buskers busking, balloon sculptors sculpting; I even saw a bloke in a Dunfermline strip. Now that is strange.

Once you've visited all the shops, your Macy's, your Bloomingdales, your Saks, you're Skint, there is no shortage of other less expensive tourist attractions for you to enjoy.

Fancy a bit of culture? If you're into The Impressionists - no, not Rory Bremner, the artists, the Designs of Frank Lloyd Wright or just big paintings of nudes, then the Metropolitan Museum of Art is superb.

Then you can cut through Central Park, play soft ball, then grab a `soda' and a hot dog. I have to say, though, that regardless of what they tell you, Central Park is dangerous. You need eyes in the back of your head to avoid being run over by skateboarders or trampled by a herd of joggers.

My wife's a big Beatles fan so I suppose it was inevitable we'd gravitate towards the Dakota building, where John Lennon lived and died, and to Strawberry Fields, a garden of remembrance Yoko has made in her husband's memory.

If you suffer from claustrophobia or vertigo then the Empire State Building is not for you. Your ears pop as you go up in the invariably crowded lift - how many floors? I lost count at 80 - and the view from the top is something else, 20 miles on a clear day.

And, no, I didn't see King Kong, nor for that matter, Meg Ryan or Tom Hanks although that's not to say they weren't there - it does get pretty crowded.

The longest queue on the entire trip was waiting for the ferry to Liberty and Ellis Island but the assorted street entertainers, who are genuinely entertaining, make the wait seem shorter.

Liberty Island is a bit of a bore, all there is on it is this big, green statue of a woman holding up an ice- cream cone in one hand and some magazines in the other.

However, Ellis Island, where the immigrants were `processed' is well worth a visit. …