YOU can spot tourists a mile off in New York - by their necks.

But tipping your head back as far as it will go is the only real way to appreciate the sheer size of the Manhattan sky-scrapers that dominate the skyline and almost block out the sunlight.

Collectively they dwarf the 305ft Statue of Liberty, which rises up out of the bay in New York Harbor.

Yet this symbol of freedom, opportunity and friendship is still a must-see attraction, along with Ellis Island - the first port of call for the 12million immigrants who came to America between 1892 and 1954.

It was also our first port of call after arriving at JFK for a four-night break.

Arrive early at Battery Park to board the ferry to Liberty Island because there is always a queue. A long - and somewhat confusing - one.

Once you have passed through all the security checkpoints, a police officer - in our case a rather burly chap with a booming voice - will spend the next 10 or so minutes warning visitors of the dangers of boarding a boat.

As people huddled together in the makeshift, canvas shelter, he explained that those who did not fancy a trip to the hospital, should not allow themselves to be distracted.

Watch your step.

Remember to pick your feet up.

If your cell phone rings putting his hand to his ear to emphasise his point, ignore it.

Hold on to the handrails.

The general rule, though, seemed to be: Be careful when you get on the boat.

At Liberty Island, there are more queues so if you want to climb the pedestal to get a closer look at the statue, join that queue first because the longer you leave it, the longer it gets.

The statue was built in 1886 and was a gift from the people of France in the days when they admired America.

It is breezy up top so take a hat and a camera because the views of Manhattan are incredible, even if significantly altered since 9/11.

At Ellis Island - a short ferry ride away - visitors can relive the experience of the millions who journeyed to America seeking a new life in an unknown land.

Inside the Great Hall - beautifully restored in 1996 - they too had queued for hours. To be medically examined, interrogated by immigration officials about their political persuasions and either welcomed or sent home.

On arriving back at Battery Park, it is not too far to Ground Zero - once teh site of the iconic Twin Towers.

It is an eerie place. Quiet somehow and it was odd to think of the panic in the streets, where people were now standing, the desperation and the dust.

The nearby subway station seemed strangely haunted by those who would have used it to commute to work at the World Trade Center.

The loss of the 110-storey Twin Towers has, however, elevated the status of the Empire State Building.

At 1,454ft it is once again the tallest building in New York.

An elevator whisks you to the observatory on the 86th floor - the place where Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks met in Sleepless in Seattle - in seconds, but there is always a long queue at the bottom to get you to the top so go at night.

Night-time is also the best time to visit Times Square, the heart of New York's theatre district.

It is an assault on the senses; like walking into a Dixons megastore to find someone has adjusted the brightness and colour settings on every television.

Greenwich Village, meanwhile, is at the other end of the spectrum - and at the other end of Manhattan, not far from the spectacular Brooklyn Bridge.

It is worth taking the subway - and much easier too if you only have a rough idea of what you want to see.

For the 13,000 yellow cabs that operate in the city will only take you to where you are going if you effectively have the street co-ordinates.

Hopping into a yellow cab and saying to the driver Majestic Theatre, please' won't get you anywhere.

In a tiny street off Christopher Street is One If By Land, Two If By Sea, arguably one of New York's finest restaurants. It is pricey but worth every cent.

The city, though, is not the best place to be if you are trying to follow Dr Robert Atkins' strict low-carb diet. The portions are huge, and you could eat all day - and night - if your stomach stretched that far.

Possibly the best place for breakfast is the Pershing Square Café opposite Grand Central Station - itself a magnet for tourists.

It is not cheap - $47.89 £24 for pancakes, fruit juice and coffee, for two - but it was, as promised on the board outside, America's best pancake house.

The bill, of course, also included a 16% tip, which restaurant staff add themselves.

It is standard practice but can be a source of irritation if all is not well.

The Rainbow Room Grill on the 65th floor of the Rockefeller Plaza added £18 to our bill, even though we had complained about the icy blast emanating from the thing that Americans seem to love - air conditioning units.

The maître d' - rather insulting and rude - clearly thought we were full of hot air and insisted we paid the $233 bill in full.

That, though, thankfully was our only bad experience.

Having my wallet whipped on the subway seemed to pale into insignificance after that. But every cloud has a silver lining when you are a Piscean.

The $233 bill is being disputed with Mastercard - and the New York Police Department know how to treat a lady.

Instead of our planned romantic carriage ride through Central Park - where the wallet, $200 and three credit cards were discovered missing - the NYPD escorted us to Central Park Police Precinct, the oldest in New York City, in a blue and white patrol car. There Officer Caspar Fuss loaned us his personal mobile phone so that credit cards could be cancelled while he logged details of the crime.

Do you have a nickname or an alias? Yes, but let's not go into that.

Was the crime gang-related? Not that I know of.

With the all-important crime number logged for the insurance company, the officers offered us a ride back to the hotel. With credit cards cancelled, though, we were determined not to let this spoil our day.

You wouldn't mind dropping us off at Tiffany's instead, would you, please?' We squeezed into the back of another NYPD patrol car no room for tall criminals in New York and, with our Macy's bags on our knees and in no time at all, were deposited outside the world famous jewellery store on Fifth Avenue - thanks, in part, to the officer who had activated the blue sirens to ensure taxis, buses and cars moved aside.

And, to cap it all, they didn't even want a tip.