A PAIR of chunky high heels, a khaki shirt, and a long black dress. I am on a roll.
In London this might have cost me an arm and a leg. But in New York, I can buy as many clothes as Victoria Beckham and not spend a fortune. This is living the dream in the United States of shopping.
And the place to splurge is Woodbury Common.
The mall is frequently listed as a must-see tourist destination after the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Times Square.
“Whoever said money can’t buy happiness didn’t know where to go shopping!”
Bo Derek, US actress
At just under an hour away from the Big Apple’s central bus terminal, thousands arrive each day from Britain, China, Spain and Brazil wheeling empty suitcases.
With a solid 220 stores, it’ll either make you or break you.
Owned by shopping giant Simon Malls, they offer some of the best deals on the planet because it’s an outlet. What might set you back hundreds of dollars on Fifth Avenue – the most expensive shopping street in the world – can cost up to 65 per cent less.
And if you pick up a free coupon booklet at the information desk you can save even more.
It’s pretty too. Sandwiched between the highest mountain range in the state of New York, Woodbury isn’t a typical Yankee showman shopping centre.
It’s laid out as a Colonial American village with each white painted wooden house one store.
There are cut-price designers such as Armani and Jimmy Choo but also high street treasures such as Gap, Nine West and Ted Baker.
In the words of actress Bo Derek “whoever said money can’t buy happiness didn’t know where to go shopping.”
I’d been digging around the clothes rails for hours.
I started with my old favourites and then in the afternoon I went into shops I’d never heard of. The effort I put in was exhausting. Shopping here is a full day out where you can eat, drink and be merry.
I’d arrived at 10am and within an hour I was easily confident of my American sizes, trying on shoes, jeans and coats.
This really is therapy and if you play your credit cards right it can transform your wardrobe in a few hours.
By lunch I’d had a great sense of achievement. I’d bought a handbag, make up and Christmas presents.
I find a seat in the bustling food court and refuel with a plate of noodles while a live band playing in the background.
Simon’s newest mall is The Mills at Jersey Gardens, which offers the same special discounts but the added bonus comes from there being no tax to pay.
The other benefit is that shoppers can fly direct to Newark Airport, which is just five minutes away, stay in the hotel across the road and spend the weekend bargain hunting.
There they have 200 stores across two floors that each run half a mile long – and there’s another 80 planned for 2017.
By 5pm, I have tracked down everything I want so I head back to the hotel. I stayed at the Yotel set up by the British YO! Sushi mastermind Simon Woodroffe.
It offers a mission control style reception, a robot that carries your luggage instead of a bell boy, purple decor instead of white walls and free muffins instead of a cooked breakfast.
There’s even a twist with the mattress which turns from a sofa to a plush bed at the touch of a button. This urban hideaway is for travellers who want to stay in the heart of Manhattan but don’t want to fork out for traditional, grand hotels.
It’s affordable luxury with a futuristic feel.
It also boasts the longest terrace bar in New York with panoramic views of the bright lights of Times Square and beyond.
I don’t have the energy to unpack so I climb on the bed, adjust the level and fall asleep. With the window open I drift away to the sound of sirens and car horns. It’s no wonder they call it the city that never sleeps.
Who wouldn’t want to stay here though? Located on 10th Avenue it’s two blocks from Broadway and in the opposite direction it’s two blocks from the Hudson for a boat trip to the Statue of Liberty.
Again it isn’t all about the spends and if you purchase a New York CityPass, you can get in to the top six attractions including the 9/11 Memorial, the top of the Rockefeller Centre and Ellis Island, saving just under 50 per cent on admission.
When I wake up, it’s dark. The view from the 20th floor is impressively sparkly. It’s that famous Manhattan skyline of 600 skyscrapers I’d seen many times before in countless films.
I head out in my new footwear, jeans, and black jacket for something to eat. But instead of celebrating my big savings on an expensive meal, I discover 99c pizza.
This is the great unsung hero of New York. According to taxi drivers it’s better than any restaurant pizza. It’s fresh, straight out of the oven and a slice is huge.
I choose a margarita and another with a bit of bling – pepperoni. It might come on a paper plate but it’s hot, crunchy and cheesy. I could have eaten more but it made me realise that something was missing. I needed a t-shirt.
Mulit-coloured or the classic black, white and red? And so the day ends where it begins – shopping. I Love NY.