“There’s nothing you can’t do, now you’re in New York”
For the past few years I’ve been dreaming of visiting New York; of wandering along brownstone lined streets, eating cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery and shopping my way along Fifth Avenue.
Oh, and being saved by Ryan Gosling after almost being hit by a cab. He does that kind of thing, you know?
Having grown up on a steady diet of New York-based television shows and with an iPod full of NY related songs, it’s no surprise I opted for a trip to the Big Apple for my 30th birthday.
And so I’m finally here, blogging away from the heart of the concrete jungle, a city I last visited at the age of 15 when I was frequently photographed in a Planet Hollywood oversized denim jacket (tres chic!).
For the past half hour I’ve been staring at my iPad listening to the sounds of New York; cheering from the outside broadcast of The Today Show’s weather segment, sirens as police cars and fire trucks speed through the streets and beeping from cabs caught in the morning traffic.
I thought writing about this trip would be easy but I’m struggling to put into words how amazing this city is.
From the mouthwatering smells wafting from the street food vendors packing the pavements to the peddle cab driver in Central Park blaring Bob Marley’s ‘No Woman No Cry’, there are colorful characters to be found down every street.
When I arrived in New York I had a list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to visit, but it has been the unexpected things which popped up that have given me the greatest delight; 5am visits to people’s rooftop terraces, stumbling upon a street fare in Little Italy and carving up the dance floor with new friends.
Perhaps my best day was last Saturday; after catching a couple of innings in a corporate box at the new, expensive and very impressive, Yankee Stadium, I jumped on a subway downtown (complete with my big pink Yankees foam finger) in the hopes of finding Marc Jacobs.
Instead I ended up on a four hour walk adventure through Soho, Noho, Chelsea, Greenwich Village, Union Square, the Meatpacking District, Nolita and Little Italy (in a pair of huge wedges … Carrie Bradshaw would be impressed).
Little Italy was a hive of colour and activity with streets closed off for their annual 10 day salute to the Patron Saint of Naples, San Gennaro. I grabbed myself a $5 blue lagoon cocktail and wandered the streets; a little awestruck by the strong community spirit on show in a city which is home to 1.6 million people.
In Union Square I met Eduardo who sells advice for 25 cents. He said most people ask for relationship advice, weather predictions or directions. After explaining that I didn’t have a specific question and that I was open to anything he sent me off in direction of The High Line.
But first I made a quick visit to Chelsea Food Market for sustenance in the form of a cupcake from Eleni’s. While everyone raves about Magnolia Bakery, the red velvet cupcake with vanilla buttercream from Eleni’s was by far my favourite!
The High Line is a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues.
It’s an oasis nestled between the city and the river, offering green space for picnicking, sunbathing and people-watching. There’s also a spattering of places to eat and drink along the 1.45 mile walk.
After my big afternoon exploring I met up with friends from London for drinks and dinner at Tao an Asian-inspired club/restaurant in Midtown. Three of their signature Tao-tinis later, I was well drunk.
The food, which we opted to share, was delicious, especially the sea bass with miso glaze (and that’s not the Tao-tini talking!).
After I sobered up a bit, we moved on to The Press Lounge at Ink48 Hotel which the New York Times wrote was “without question, one of the city’s most attractive rooftop bars”.
And while the views from The Press Lounge are impressive, perhaps the most enviable view belongs to the members of New York Athletic Club (NYAC), a private social and athletic club founded in 1868.
NYAC, located on Central Park South, boasts more than 8000 members and proudly lays claim to 119 Gold, 53 silver and 59 bronze Olympic medals. But what left me speechless was the uninterrupted view from it’s rooftop terrace overlooking Central Park.
Unlike Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building, there were no safety barriers, just a small ledge we precariously perched ourselves on for photos while my brother’s mate Bruce – the NYAC rugby coach – took some happy snaps.
Bryant Park also provided some great people watching opportunities, from the budding jugglers learning new tricks to the old men who meet to play chess and the film crew shooting an upcoming episode of Person of Interest.
It reminded me a bit of London where those who spend their days inside offices flock to any patch of green grass and sunshine in their lunch breaks. What surprised me was how few people seemed to be listening to music, most instead seemingly content with the sounds of the city.
I also love that people have small engraved plaques attached to chairs and benches around the city. It’s inspiring to read declarations of love and see that while people may be gone, they’re not forgotten by those who love them and they now forever have their little place in the history of this crazy town.
It is now time I put my iPad down and go back to exploring New York. With another 5 days here, I’m sure I’ll have more stories to share.
Editor’s note: Just before I left Australia, a friend told me not to take photos, to simply enjoy the moment. While I’ve taken more a few, I have largely followed his advice so please excuse the lack of images.