I thought I’d better write about New York before the last blister heals. It’s taken me a week to process the cacophony of images from my seven days in the city that never sleeps, but I am about ready to say something. I’m going to distill it under headings otherwise my post would read something like this: “Ooh, shops! BARGAINS. New shoes, see friends, meet bloggers. Shops! Drink red wine this instant. BIG buildings. Where’s the sky? Oh, the Park, lovely. Shops! Mani, pedi, wax and go. Shops! Flashing lights! Bring on the entertainments. I want the finest wines, $10 a GLASS?! …. no, sorry, just the cheapest will do. Shops!”
New York – The Literature
43% of poll respondents voted for One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell as the book I should take to New York, and I was secretly hoping it would be so. Unfortunately, it contained on page 23 the line “That was the defining moment of great sex – when the penis met the vagina” which I found unbearably irritating. So I packed The Age of Innocence instead, a lovely book where there are no penises and no vaginas and very few defining moments. Afterwards I read Chasing Harry Winston by Lauren Weisberger, which was the mix of humour, chick-lit and Sex and The City wisecracking I had been expecting from the Bushnell book.
New York – The Bloggers
On Day Two I met Emily, the Hobgoblin, Dorothy, Cam, Becky and Zoesmom at the Hungarian Pastry Shop on Amsterdam. There was the usual five-minute dissonance between the person and the blog that I am learning happens when I meet people off the Internet (including remembering to call people by their real names), and then that faded and we got on with having a lovely day: eating pastries, book shopping at The Strand on Union Square followed by a late and boozy lunch at Chat ‘n Chew, which is much better than it sounds. I had a fabulous Caesar salad. Then I started swaying on my feet, so pleaded jet lag and headed home while the others proceeded to another bookshop. I was really thrilled to meet everyone, and touched by how far some had travelled to be there – Americans have no fear of distances. It’s that pioneer spirit.
New York – The Shopping
Oh my God, how I love Macy’s. I could move in there – make myself a little nest in the handbag department and fall asleep every night to the comforting smell of leather. I have brought home a Macy’s handbag just to remind me of my spiritual home. Apart from the shopping, I love their pick and mix salad bar in the basement, where the salad associate created a bacon, avo and feta salad on baby spinach leaves for me. I am also in love with Anthropologie, a shop where I could own everything, but from which I have one fabulous T-shirt. We had a morning in Century 21, a downtown discount store full of designer bargains. My best shopping blow-out happened at the Designer Shoe Warehouse on Union Square, where I bought three pairs of utterly fabulous shoes. On Fifth Avenue I entered many shops – Tiffany’s, Harry Winston’s, Bendells – and just looked, but at Bergdorf Goodman’s I had a make-up accident at the Bobbi Brown counter.
New York – The Tourism
Immediately after our Bobbi Brown makeovers, V and I got on the Sex and The City tour bus, which visits 40 locations from the show (thanks for the hot tip, Ms Make Tea!). Most of the locations you see from the bus, but we got off at the three places – the Pleasure Chest, where Charlotte buys her Rabbit; the Magnolia Bakery, where Carrie and Miranda eat a cupcake; and Steve’s bar Scout, where we finished off the tour with a Cosmopolitan. For mild to strong SATC fans, I can really recommend this tour – it gives you a great idea of the city and the neighbourhoods you might want to go back to, it’s a lot of fun (the atmosphere gets very giggly after the visit to the Pleasure Chest), and the tour guides are actresses with a good line in patter. The cupcakes and the Cosmopolitans are thrown in too.
Some out-of-town friends fed me wine on the Sunday and got me up to the top of the Rockefeller Centre (70-something storeys). I didn’t want to go, because I’m not one for heights, but I was glad I did as the view was wonderful and my internal Manhattan map clicked into place up there. Later, we visited Grand Central Station to admire the ceiling, had a brief altercation with the Angriest Cop in New York, got on the subway and headed for the Village where we spent the afternoon strolling the streets and looking at everything.
I went to MOMA. It was amazing, and very digestible, I found. I didn’t get overload, which often happens to me in museums. I particularly enjoyed the Van Gogh exhibition, which focuses on the artist’s depictions of the night.
New York – The Cakes
Low carb, what? I had cheesecake at the Hungarian Pastry Shop, pecan pie at downtown Cipriani’s, sachertorte at the Neue Galerie and a cupcake at the Magnolia. They were all good, but I think I have become German in my baked goods tastes because I found them all far too sweet. V and I decided that our own cupcakes are better than those of the Magnolia Bakery, which have just too much frosting. Sickly. On the way uptown in the bus, I won an extra cupcake in the SATC trivia competition and I Left It On The Bus. Perhaps I have finally grown up.
New York – The Three Top Meals
Vegetarians, avert your eyes – I had to have a steak at Morton’s. It was unbelievable. We put on our cocktail dresses and went to the China Grill for an Asian fusion feast. The only downer was an extremely disgusting apple martini, which we quickly exchanged for a Cosmopolitan, because we were being very, well, cosmopolitan. We also had a fabulous late and boozy lunch at downtown Cipriani’s, which was seasoned with some flirty French waiters.
New York – The Pampering
We had a mani-pedi on Fifth Avenue, late one afternoon after shopping, and it was a mistake! Far too ridiculously expensive! We got the giggles, because they offered us the champagne spa, not to drink, but for our feet. I did enjoy see all the New Yorkers getting their weekly polishings on Sunday evening in the Village before the working week – men and women alike. I met the wax for the first time, and let me just say I’d take childbirth any day. The pain! The agony!
New York – The Shows
We saw the Rockettes in the Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular, which was just that, spectacular. We also saw Billy Elliot, which has just started on Broadway after a successful season in London. I cried, I laughed, I watched in awe.
New York – The Characters
We met the J Sisters – wicked wielders of the wax, the Angriest Cop in New York, Rickshaw Man, the Flirty French Waiter, the Undercover Cop to whom we tried to give our leftover Asian-Fusion and who told us that he didn’t “eat just anything”, sundry Grumpy Taxi-drivers, the Fifth Avenue Rip-Off Artists. Unfortunately, we didn’t see a single celebrity, though the Hobgoblin claimed to have seen Julia Stiles outside The Strand, and Denzel Washington had apparently eaten at downtown Cipriani’s two months before us. I loved the witty New York sense of humour, and the way everyone in America is an “associate” – the salad bar associate, the elevator associate, the till operating associate. I found almost everyone we met charming and helpful and though Germans love to claim that Americans are not sincere, I found the interchanges we had extremely pleasant compared to the Germans’ more businesslike style.
New York – New York
New York is exuberant, bold and flashing. I’d go back tomorrow. I never left Manhattan, but next time I will take to the river, cross the Brooklyn Bridge and try to see more shows. I also need to drink more Cosmopolitans. When you are forty, that is what you do.