Friday, 1 June 2012

Let me begin to tell you about New York...

If the swift hand of fate (or a better application essay) had sent me to NYU six years ago who knows where I’d be now. In all likelihood, probably still in Manhattan. The whatifs are always fascinating as long as they don’t come tinged with regret and while I’m not sorry for the alternate life adventure that’s since come my way, a large chunk of my heart is still firmly spiked atop the Chrysler building and refusing to budge.

Everything and nothing has changed about New York since my last memorable visit 10 years ago and the only disappointment was not having enough time to get totally entrenched in every nook and cranny of the city. As the husband said, well we’ll just have to come back. This was Lovely Boy’s virgin visit and even he had his nigh-insurmountable expectations met and then exceeded, which was simultaneously a relief and not remotely surprising given the weather, the architecture, the adventures and the cocktails we suffered through in the name of a good time.

My favourite photo from the whole trip
and taken completely by accident...
We opted to stay in Brooklyn for the week because I’d found a brilliant loft apartment in Carroll Gardens for the bargain price of £60 a night (good luck trying to find that on Manhattan) and everything we’d read said the Brooklyn that was edgy and fledgling 10 years ago was now thriving and hip in that kind of almost-yucky-but-still-definitely-cool-despite-it’s-hipster-hipness hip. You know what I mean. Leafy streets with brownstones, streets populated with great little restaurants and pop up bars and quirky shops – Like Soho and the Lower East Side but without the frenzy. And all only 20 minutes from Manhattan. I mean, total no brainer as far as I was concerned.

Our first cultural outing the afternoon we arrived was to the supermarket where the proliferation of EVERYTHING made for a pop tarts do pop art shopping experience. Fridge stocked we then went for a meander down to the Brooklyn promenade to make the most of the balmy sunset. On the way I had my first celebrity spot of the holiday. Nothing will topple the experience of standing in front of Christy Turlington in Starbucks 11 years ago but I was determined not to let the week pass with anything less than three sightings and just two hours in I clamped eyes on British actress Emily Mortimer, pushing a stroller full of screaming child down Smith St. It was a promising start but the flutter was forgot the minute the skyline came into view... 

We spent a good hour ogling the city from afar before heading back to Smith St and after a mortar full of guacamole (and some exquisite pulled pork tacos) for dinner the day was done.

Being LB’s first visit to the city there were a few imperatives we needed to check off the list right at the start of play. So, Thursday morning, bright and relatively early (for me at any rate…) we headed into Manhattan and straight to Times Square. Glitzy, trashy, super touristy – tick. 

From here it was to the Rockefeller Centre and the express lift to the roof. The views atop the rock are arguably better than those from the Empire State Building if for no other reason than from here you can actually SEE the Empire State Building in all its architectural glory. 

Being a gloriously sunny day you could also see miniature people strewn all over the lawns of Central Park enjoying the weather. Clambering back down to street level, we meandered down Fifth Avenue to the New York Public Library and then had lunch in the shade in Bryant Park. If the gallery and not just the gift shop had been open next stop would have been the International Centre of Photography but it was and so it wasn’t and thus we took off for Grand Central Station (and the free wifi in the Apple Store as it turns out). 

The view towards Central Park from the top
of the Rockefeller Centre. Not bad...
A reading room at the New York Public Library
With over 100 platforms it’s the biggest railway station in the world but delightfully, all that chaos is elegantly tucked away and so all you’re left with is clocks, oyster bars, grand staircases and one seriously breathtaking roof. Grand by name…

By this time I was in desperate need of a sit down and a drink and thanks to my extensive pre-trip research we ended up at a bar on Lexington Avenue with a rather lovely view:

(Un)fortunately this only whet our collective appetites for rooftop drinks-with-views so after an accidental ground level by-pass of the Empire State Building we took ourselves to a bar aptly called 320 Fifth, being as it was, at 320 Fifth. This view was just as impressive and getting there before the post-work crowd set in meant we had prime seats among the palm trees.

Because I’d been tour guide and mistress for the day, dinner decisions were Lovely Boy’s and so after some more accidental architectural encounters (this time the Flatiron Building), we found ourselves on Canal St, heading downtown to Chinatown for Peking Duck on Mott St. It would be safe to say we rolled out of there after inadvertently ordering a banquet but it was a fitting end to an epic day.

Flatiron Building in all its loveliness
Canal St in all its madness
Friday morning we’d planned to tick off another major tourist must-do: the Statue of Liberty but we’re tourists, not idiots, and there was no way we were going to stand in queues for up to two hours to get tickets and then onto a bloody boat and so, after a wander around Battery Park, we kyboshed that plan and headed to the Financial District. Wall St, the Stock Exchange, Century 21. All the highlights. The art deco buildings throughout Manhattan are so truly beautiful and even amongst the ugliness of all that commerce the buildings insisted on a grand elegance that gave the area a sort of romance not typically found in financial centres...

Mott St, Chinatown
From here we headed to Soho for sunglasses and a hotdog from a street vendor - both high on LB’s shopping list (and/or the only things…) Prince, Spring, Wooster, Broome – cobbled streets and beautiful buildings cosseted in old metal fire escapes like a mouth full of orthodontics. So lovely. And after a lustful wander around here it was lunchtime and so to Katz’s Deli on Houston St we went. This was another LB request – in case you haven’t jigged by now most of the must-do’s on Lovely Boy’s list were actually Must-Eats and because he’s a boy a plate full of meat between two bits of rye bread was a non-negotiable addition to the itinerary.

Katz’s is an iconic institution and the walls sag with photos of all the celebrities who’ve stopped by for a corned beef concoction. It’s the “I’ll have what she’s having” deli of Meg Ryan lore but I think even without that orgiastic claim to a piece of pop cultural history the place would still be slammed with people every lunch time. We had the misfortune of sharing a table with an obnoxious American man who, in the course of a sandwich, managed to tell us how obscenely rich he was, about how many houses he owned, which he’d paid for in cash btw, about his cosy relationship with several whisky distillers in Scotland who “like to look after him” on his twice-yearly visits and then about how hungover he was from the all night bender he was still coming down from. And if that alone didn't sour the sandwich experience then his temerity to bitch about the price of said sandwich given his apparent millions certainly finished things.

It was the kind of encounter that could only be fixed by a chocolate salty pimp, also known as the signature creation of the Big Gay Ice cream Truck, which now thoughtfully also has a shop on E7th St. I’m not sure if it was the rich vanilla ice cream, the salted caramel, dulce de leche or chocolate coating but I was completely unable to finish it - though not without effort I need to add. It was a serendipitous defeat though because heading to the bin meant walking past the window of a little vintage shop that had in the window what would be my first New York purchase: a white leather 50s clutch with turquoise and marcasite detailing at the clasp. Happiness can be bought and it only costs $20.

After all that bread and meat and icecream and dulce de leche the only thing that was going to counter all these calories was some culture and so next was one of my Must-Do’s: The Met. 

Emerging on the Upper East Side, inadvertent celebrity spot no.2 was Tea Leoni walking her dogs. It was a blink and miss it moment but for my money, in this part of town, A-list means Monet, Van Gogh and the rest of the gang in the Impressionist Wing of the Metropolitan. I’d lured LB here on the promise of two things: an apple martini and a carefully curated tour through just the highlights............

(Things I Still Have To Tell You About: Tomas Saraceno, Brooklyn Flea Markets, Rooftop Cinema, Other Flea Markets, Blueberry Pancakes, MoMA, The WTC Memorial, the High Line, the Guggenheim and One Seriously Amazing Meal in a Pawn Shop.)

1 comment:

Danne said...