I love New York, I always have. I love the idea of it, and whenever I go, the reality lives up to my expectations every time.
This time, I was there for the wedding of a friend who I had met in Geneva when she was working there for a little over a year. The wedding was beautiful, the bride stunning in a Vera Wang creation, and the evening festivities brought to life with a mix of traditional Indonesian dance and Gangnam Style. The following evening, we continued the celebrations in a rooftop bar (my favourite thing in New York!!), rounding off the night with a lot of sausages and sauerkraut at a German beer hall. It’s a little odd to hear a German brass band play Schlager followed by a rendition of New York, New York.
Start spreading the news…
That song haunted me wherever I went. It was already unavoidably playing on repeat in my head, but if ever I forgot it for a second it was blasted back into my brain by a bicycle taxi, a restaurant entertainer, or a drunk tourist. In Little Italy, my friend and I had lunch as an Italian stallion played on the keyboard and pumped out classics like “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie…” and “Get up, get up, get up and shake your napkin!” Other songs on the soundtrack of my mind as I wandered the streets of Manhattan included “Downtown, things will be great when you’re downtown” every time I took the subway and “Uptown Girl” on my way back; “Give my regards to Broadway, remember me to Herald Square, tell all the guys on 42nd street that I’ll soon be there…”; and, of course, “New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made, oh…” It’s impossible not to sing along when you see each of the famous landmarks.
They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway…
I’ve already mentioned that I went to see Kinky Boots, winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical this year. On a business trip last year, I managed to squeeze in two shows: The Book of Mormon (genius!) and Anything Goes (such a feel-good musical and much better than I had expected), but this time there was nothing else that really called out to me. I was a little tempted, however, by Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella as well as Romeo and Juliet starring Orlando Bloom. What I really would have loved to see is Waiting for Godot with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, but that’s not on until next month. Instead, I went to see Lee Daniels’ The Butler at the AMC cinema on 42nd Street.
My favourite part of visiting a city for a few days is finding my way around and feeling at least a little bit like a local. That means knowing which subway line to take and in which direction, choosing my favourite Starbucks, and being able to get back to my hotel without a map (although at one point I confidently strode out of Bloomingdale’s and marched on for 18 blocks before I realised that I had been going uptown instead of downtown. Oops). I was very lucky with the weather, and had a lovely walk through Central Park. I didn’t succumb to the ultimate tourist trap of taking the horse-drawn carriage ($50 for the first 20 minutes, another $20 for each subsequent 10 minutes). In fact, I did so much walking up and down Manhattan that my heels were rubbed raw. Top tip for visiting New York: wear VERY comfortable shoes! (How does Carrie do it?!)
For the first time ever, like Miranda and Steve in Sex and the City, I even ventured out of Manhattan and took the ferry to Brooklyn. I didn’t even have a map of this area (and no GPS as I still haven’t replaced my iPhone), so I stayed within two or three blocks of the river so that I could find my way to the ferry back to Manhattan. I walked through what my friends tell me is the ‘hipster’ area – with shops showcasing new designers, bakeries that only take cash, and cafés selling champagne and blueberry pancakes – and then through Borough Park, where Orthodox Jews filled the streets – the married women covering their hair with headscarves, the men wearing shtreimels, large fur hats, on top of their long sidecurls, or payots – and shops sold kosher food and buildings had signs and posters written in Hebrew.
So, in conclusion: I LOVE NEW YORK. However, for some balance, I will also cite SOME negative sides to the city that never sleeps:
– The hotel (Best Western Plus President at Times Square) was in a very central location but that’s where the good part of the review ends. The staff at the reception desk were rude, the breakfast was disgusting (green scrambled eggs) and expensive, the room and bed (supposedly for two people) were tiny. For the price it was very bad. But, as people tell me when I complain, “That’s New York!” Next time, though, I’d at least prefer to be in a nicer area like Greenwich Village or maybe the Meatpacking District.
– There may be a lot of food options but I anyway ended up with a diet much like The South American Backpacker Diet, aka HCHF (high carb, high fat). The portions are humungous, and all the recommendations I got from friends were for sweet things: the best bagel place, the best cup cakes (Magnolia, Crumbs, or Baked by Melissa, depending on who you speak to), and even the Maine lobster at Luke’s Lobster came in a brioche-type roll. The funny thing about food in the US is that they put the calories on everything, so you are warned before you eat a cupcake that it has 50% of your recommended daily calorie intake, while the meals at the cinema have 100-150% of your recommended intake.
– They don’t understand English. I have to say “Can I gedda wudder” to receive a bottle of water darling.