People watcher's paradise
So how do you cater for such diverse tastes on a trip that holds out such expectations ? First provide some planning tools. Winners are sent guide books and itineraries plus a cheque for €2,500 well before departure. On the trip, security, reassurance and advice are available 24/7 from the four-strong NL team, as well as a daily travel information service.
Destinations in the past have included European cities, cruises on the QM2, as well as long-hauls to Los Angeles and Las Vegas. South Africa and safaris were considered. But the trick, they found, is to combine security and familiarity with an entertainment factor and lots of popular cultural references. So in LA, the chosen hotel was the Beverly Wiltshire – the setting for Pretty Woman, where lottery trippers caught sight of Joan Collins, Shaquille O’Neal and Mohammed Ali. On the downside, LA has no core. And while Rodeo Drive is a shopping icon, it’s beyond most people’s budgets (even with the €2,500 cheque). Plus, you need a cab to get home.
In New York, by contrast, it was the Sofitel, a comfortable, French-owned four-star, with walk-in showers (a small but important detail), a few doors down from the legendary Algonquin, in the heart of Manhattan. The frisson, let’s say, lies in the knowledge that this is where Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of attacking a chambermaid.
For the lottery trippers, a little familiar pixie dust was scattered by the presence of the TV game-show hosts Brian Ormond and Sinead Kennedy and Ormond’s model spouse, Pippa O’Connor.
The objective, then, is to combine the stardust factor with negotiable food and language. “Commonality of language is very, very important because then you can start to enjoy everything straightaway,” says Paula McEvoy. “In New York, you can have steak or lobster – or go for a sandwich and you know what’s in it.”
On this trip, everything is carefully calibrated, from the ideal flight distance, to the ideal length of stay – six days max, to the informal buffet dinner in the hotel, straight off the plane. Events are laid on every second night of the trip (the fabulous Jersey Boys on Broadway, a night-time cruise on the Hudson, dinner in the River Café). Otherwise, trippers have great tracts of free time to meet US-based relatives (many did), or go shopping (one wife came back brandishing a diamond ring) or travel out to Ellis Island or Ground Zero, or listen to the whispering walls of the magnificent Grand Central Station. Or just sit in Bryant Park and marvel that those metal chairs and tables aren’t just spirited away . . .
Aer Lingus flies twice daily to New York, seven days a week. Flights from €259 each way. See aerlingus.com