A combo with my Boston trip. I've been to NY many times, but mostly on business, with very limited time to explore. The last time I got a decent chunk of time to be a tourist was when I was fortunate enough to fly Concorde.

I booked my Virgin trip as a single from LHR to Boston with a second single from JFK to LHR (with staff travel, there's no penalty to doing it this way), with a (sadly full-fare) United shuttle flight from Boston to NY. I was working from my Boston hotel in the morning as usual, then out to the airport for the hop down the coast.

United offered a premium economy upgrade for an extra $29, so thought I'd try it out. While waiting at the airport, I also checked out shared van transfers as they looked to be only a little more than the train for a direct journey, but mindful of my water taxi experience in Boston, I didn't book online, deciding instead to see which company was actually there on arrival.

The flight was much delayed due to the knock-on effect on the cancellations and delays during the previous day's storm, so it was late evening by the time I reached my hotel.

Tuesday was the same drill, different city: getting up at 5.45am to start work from my hotel room at 6am, then off to play in the afternoon and evening.

The weather was much the same as Boston.

I'd tried to book online for a visit to the observatory on the 100th and 101st floors of the new World Trade Center tower, but as it had only opened at the weekend, most of NY wanted to visit it, so there were no tickets available for two weeks. Looking at the weather, I was rather pleased about that, otherwise I'd have paid to head up into that cloud!

I wanted to visit the 9/11 memorial. Many years ago, I'd stood on the roof of the South Tower; last time I'd been in NY, the area was still a construction zone; this time I'd be seeing the empty spaces where the twin towers once stood.

I very much liked the idea of the memorial – essentially two holes in the ground in the footprint of the towers – and it's incredibly effective. You can almost feel the absence of the buildings.

All the names of those killed in the attacks are cut into the surrounds of the pools, grouped together by the flights. There are terminals where friends and relatives can type in the name of a loved one and get a printed map showing them where to find the name. It's a very moving memorial.

I'm a little more ambivalent about the memorial museum. Essentially turning part of the memorial into a chargeable tourist attraction feels odd, but it is mostly done in a tasteful fashion. I also have to admit that walking around in what was once the foundations of the towers, seeing remnants of steel pillars and tie-down cables amongst the artifacts, brings it home in a very powerful way.

The content of the museum spans every scale, from support columns to handwritten notes about missing relatives.

This was where one of the planes hit:

And this was once a fire truck:

Parts of the towers were preserved at the request of relatives and survivors, including the footings of the steel support columns, cut off at foundation level.

A staircase that served as the escape route of hundreds of people became a contentious issue, survivors wanting it to be preserved while contractual obligations to the developer required them to be removed. A compromise was reached, and what is now known as the Survivors' Staircase was relocated into the foundations, and now forms part of the memorial museum.

The weather had improved while I was in the museum, so I took the subway back to my hotel to take my Brompton out to play. My plan was to cycle the few blocks into the top of Central Park, meander through that, then cycle down Broadway and Lafayette Street to the Brooklyn Bridge via the World Trade Center.

Central Park is one of the best features of NYC. When you think of the value of the land on Manhattan, it still strikes me as miraculous in a culture where money talks so loudly that such a huge expanse of land has survived as public green space.

It's also pretty amazing that you can be in the centre of one of the busiest cities in the world and almost feel yourself to be in the countryside – with tiny, twisting paths as well as wide open avenues.

Of course, being a city boy, the best bit for me is the contrast between the park and surrounding skyscrapers.

With the sun out, the picnickers were too.

On the wide avenues, there's a good system of pedestrians on the path, joggers on the left, cyclists in the centre (two-way lane) and occasional park vehicles on the right.

Bikes seemed welcome on most of the small paths, with just a few signposted exceptions. Manhattan also has its own Boris Bike scheme. As in Boston, the bikes and docking stations appear identical to the London ones.

I reckoned that a bike was the perfect way to explore the park, enabling me to ride most of it in the course of an hour or so. Others might disagree on the preferred transport.

I'd taken one photo on the back roads on the way to the park – an archetypal NYC view.

But once on the main roads, I took only a few photos as I was otherwise pretty fully engaged staying alive.

I've cycled in London since the age of 19, and consider it a very pleasant way to get around. I'm confident and assertive in traffic, and it's rare to have a problem. Manhattan is, though, a whole other difficulty setting.

Partly it's that London is very much a cycling city: in peak hours, cyclists out-number cars by quite a margin, so even the most clueless of drivers has to be aware that cyclists exist. Dedicated cycle lanes are generally rubbish, but there are lovely wide ones everywhere (even if buses do use them too). And as cyclists can generally keep up with other traffic, there's no issue taking primary where needed.

Manhattan has none of these advantages. There are very few cyclists indeed compared to London. There are no bus lanes. Traffic tends to accelerate rapidly (and pointlessly) on the short stretches between lights. Taking primary in a lane often isn't possible due to the lack of lane markings on many stretches. And a high percentage of drivers are either overtly aggressive or just blind – yellow cabs by far the worst of them.

Not to mention the large number of stripped road surfaces with no sign of any work to replace it.

I tip my hat to anyone who rides in Manhattan traffic on a daily basis.

I did stop briefly a few times to grab a quick photo.

There were, though, some cycle lanes – ranging from painted lines on the road (which sometimes inexplicably change from the right-hand side of the road to the left) and some completely segregated lanes, often in the central reservation. There were also some recommended cycling routes, and I happened across one of these close to the WTC, following it across town to the bridge.

I was meeting up with a friend from NY that evening, originally in New Jersey, but as today's forecast was good and tomorrow's poor, I wanted to try for the WTC tower that evening. Jon couldn't make it across until a bit later, so I called in to see whether I could buy two tickets and leave one for him at the desk. No. Ho hum.

I'd wanted to stop by City Hall, but that was closed off for a police medal-giving ceremony. A short cycle ride later, there was my main destination.

There's a split lane across the bridge, pedestrians on the one side, cyclists on the other, with a very thick dividing line and pretty internationally-recognisable pedestrian and bicycle symbols painted at regular intervals. None of which stops pedestrians lurching randomly into the cycle lane. I think this may be more hazardous to cyclists than yellow cabs, and that's saying something, believe me.

The Manhattan Bridge also seemed worth a look while I was there.

Back at the Brooklyn Bridge, two police helicopters arrived and sat hovering over the bridge, side by side, for a while. I assumed that was something to do with the police medal ceremony.

I don't do selfies, but my Brompton does occasionally.

The skies were still clear. I couldn't take my Brompton into the tower, so I cycled back to the hotel, dropped it off then jumped on the subway back to the WTC.

It's a pretty enough building, but not really a spectacular design, in my view. For such a flagship project, I would have expected better. But hey, it was the view out rather than in that I was after.

Sunset was at 8.22pm. My main interest is the blue hour shortly after sunset, when – on a clear day – you get that lovely glowing blue sky lending everything a blue tinge as the city lights come on. But sometimes sunsets can be spectacular, so my usual approach with tall buildings is to aim to be at the top around half an hour before sunset to enjoy both. I figured that queueing from 6pm ought to be safe.

It wasn't. By the time I got to the ticket window, the only tickets left were for 7.45pm, and I had already seen that the timed entry queues were entering around 15 mins later. Allowing a further 15 mins to get through security and to the top (via the annoyingly mandatory slide show), and that would be a little late – especially as I'd need some time to scope out and snag my preferred vantage point before sunset actually started and the hoardes thronged the windows.

I tried the polite approach, explaining to one of the ticket-checkers that this was my one shot in the trip, but he equally politely declined to let me join an earlier queue.

You couldn't even join a queue until 15 mins prior to your timed entry, so I used the time to scope out the system. Tickets were, I noted, checked three times. Checks seemed thorough.

But then I spotted an exception: large groups. These were more-or-less waved through, people just holding up their tickets without close inspection. I tagged onto the back of one of these and made it in at 7.30pm.

I was at the top by 7.50pm, which gave me time to do a quick recce to identify the best spot.

Sunset isn't such a problem, as a standard exposure is fine, so even if I end up shooting over someone's shoulder, that's fine. I started by scoping out where I wanted to be for the blue hour. The midtown buildings are too far away to have much impact, so shooting over the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges seemed a good plan.

I always try for less obvious places, to avoid the crowds, and found a smaller window behind a column, taking a quick test shot.

Yep, that was going to work fine. The combination of a less obvious place, and the fact that the crowds thin out after the sunset, meant I could relax and just wander round enjoying the view. It was rather spectacular.

The observatory has two levels. The main level, with all-round access, is on the 100th floor. The 101st floor has a cafe and bar. Time for a cuppa.

There was again a slightly less obvious place on that floor for the sunset shots. It was a reasonably decent one, but poor planning on the part of the solar system meant that it was over New Jersey rather than the city.

I also used my iPhone to make a short video. It's always amazing how quickly the sun goes down when up high – this is real-time.

That gave me 30-40 minutes before the main event. I headed back to my semi-secret spot, and only had to wait 10 minutes before the people there moved away and I was able to snag my spot.

Tripods weren't permitted, but my shoulder bag resting on the window ledge served as an impromptu one. I did take a midtown shot first, which was an undeniably lovely view.

But for my personal tastes, you need nearby buildings, so the Brooklyn view was better.

Jon met me at the entrance, and we found a local wine bar for a drink and a catch-up. It had been a while, last meeting in Germany quite a few years ago. An enjoyable chat ensued, accompanied by rather good wine.

Burning the candle at both ends caught up with me big-time on the way back to the hotel. I never go straight to bed, but this time I did and was asleep within a few minutes.

Thursday's plan was work in the morning as usual, followed by a ride with a local Brompton owner – and honorary London Brompton Club member – Newton. He was planning a 20-mile tour for me. After that, I'd head to the Top of the Rock for the blue hour.

Unfortunately, Newton was taken ill so had to cancel. That was a shame, but on the upside it allowed me to fit in an extra skyscraper. I took the subway to midtown and then paid a little visit to one of my favourite buildings in the world. When I'm fabulously wealthy, I'm going to have it shipped over to London and live in it.

Then a wander up Fifth Avenue.

There was a long queue for tickets to the Empire State building, and I was hungry, so I decided to kill two birds (or one buffalo, anyway) and have lunch while I went online to book an online ticket (which would bypass one queue), making it an express one to bypass the rest of the queues. It would mean the visit cost around £50, but I like my tall buildings a lot, and dislike queuing almost as much, so figured it was worth it.

Sorry, buffalo, but you died for a noble cause.

The Flatiron building, Empire State and Chrysler Building are, to me, three of the most impressive buildings in the city. Partly in their own right, but also because despite an incredible number of skyscrapers having been built since then, all benefitting from much more modern design and construction techniques, they are still the best-looking buildings in NY.

My express ticket was worth every penny: there are four queues in all. People queue on the sidewalk to enter the building, then again for the ticket windows, then for the elevator, then between the elevator and the observation deck. With an express ticket, you get effortlessly whisked by staff past each queue in turn. Lovely.

Five minutes after walking in the door, I was on the main open-air viewing platform on the 86th floor. One of the reasons I much prefer night views up high is because, in the haze, colours get washed out. I thus shot mostly b&w..

Last time I was there, the tiny upper observation deck on the 102nd floor had been closed. This time it was open, and my ticket included the extra charge to visit it. It has the original, manually-operated elevator.

Unlike the main deck, the upper deck is enclosed by glass, and really is tiny, but there were only a handful of us up there. I suspect most people don't know about it.

For the benefit of very navigationally-challenged people, there are directions etched into the upper windows.

The glass was remarkably clean, and you really see the difference in viewpoint between the two levels.

And another view of the Flatiron.

Then it was time for a couple of religious pilgrimages. First this one.

Sadly, the main reading room is closed for refurbishment, so I had to settle for a visit to the smaller one.

Then onto the second pilgrimage, just a little further up Fifth.

I made a small religious offering, and was given a token of my devotion: a black sports band for my Apple Watch. I had no business buying one as I would have one waiting for me at home, but this is New York, home of 'Give it to me now,' and I could send the other one back for a refund, so what the hell.

Then time to head south again.

What are they playing at, running a cable across here – can't they see I'm trying to take a photo?

Fifth Avenue has a certain amount of gold going on.

NY can't quite match Boston for old-and-new contrasts, but does ok.

My blue hour destination was the Top of the Rock, aka the open-air deck on the roof of the Rockefeller Center. Again, buying my ticket online.

There are three observation decks, two of them with glass fencing. These have gaps large enough to get a camera lens through.

But those are no good for blue hour shots, as you need somewhere to rest the camera for the 30-second exposures I shoot. The very top level has some flat-topped, chest-high concrete pillars tailor-made for the job, but you really do need to grab these spots early. I got there a little over an hour beforehand to take these shots – even 15 minutes later would have been too late, the crowds three deep by then. Forced to stand there for an hour admiring the view was a great hardship, but photographers have to be willing to suffer for our art.

And that completed my NY visit in a suitable fashion! The forecast for the following day was rain, and I'd seen everything on my list, so was happy enough to take a walk through Central Park as my goodbye to the city before heading out to JFK for my overnight flight home.

I'd checked in the previous evening. Some of you may have been following my Apple Watch diaries, where I concluded that there's no killer app but there is a certain amount of convenience in having notifications on your wrist rather than in your pocket. Boarding passes are a case in point.

I was pleased to see the fairy was being kind.

Red-eye flights are never fun, but that was at least a reasonably comfortable way to do it, and I had the weekend to relax once I got home.