When I started writing this post it was as though I had more to say than words would allow. My brain was thinking way ahead of how fast I could type and I had to keep reminding myself of what NOT to forget.
As it turns out I’m pretty certain that this blog post will not capture the essence of this magnificent city. A city I might add I was not very eager to visit, I thought there was too much hype around it and besides, I’ve always fancied myself more of a “Europe” kinda girl. I love the architecture and the ancient sites etc etc, BUT I was BLOWN AWAY by New York. It certainly was not love at first sight but believe me by the time I left I was hooked!!!
They say its the city that never sleeps, they’re right.
They say that even if you spent a year in the city you couldn’t eat your way through all the restaurants that abound, they’re right.
They say that once you’ve had just one bit of the Big Apple, you’ll be back for more…Hell yes!! They’re absolutely right.
She entices you, entrances you and draws you in with her New York eyes!
When I planned my first visit to New York there were a few things I knew I had to do and I had my check list:
1. Visit the Statue of Liberty – check
2. Stop in at Cake Boss – check
3. Take a stroll through Central Park – check
and on and on it went. What I was not prepared for was the pace of it all, the thousands of people constantly on the move or the vast selection of activities, adventures or forms of entertainment that would greet me. Sure, I knew the choices would be many, but still, I was not prepared for it. What I did know was that I had to drink in the essence of the city, forget the checklist and just go with it.
My first mistake, well not really a mistake because when I did it I thought “I want to be close to the action” , so I booked a hotel close to Times Square. I LOVED the hotel, The Sanctuary but after a day of the mayhem that is Times Square I knew my next visit (my next visit…lol..who knew but this is one city I MUST return to) I would choose a different location. BUT in saying that The Sanctuary is exactly that, a welcome respite from the many tourists (yeah I know, I was also one of those but once you’re there you will understand what I mean) that are constantly on the move in and around the area.In fact, if I think about it for a first time visitor this is the ideal location as its close to everything you need to see and for me, most especially, the Theatre district. I had my evenings planned.
To get to grips with a city I always do a hop on hop off bus to get my bearings. So on day one I did just that and then I was off exploring, I bought my 7 day metro pass and I was off. From the Empire State Building to the Guggenheim museum I did what every tourist does, I saw the sights. I booked myself on a cruise to the Statue of Liberty and gazed in awe at her beauty I did not use the free Staten Island ferry as these get quite full and I wanted to take as many pictures as I could without peering over shoulders. But the free ferry is a great way to see the city from the water.
I spent the day in Central Park just drinking it all in and was treated to a stunning display of acrobatics by the AfroBats and I enjoyed the view from Top of the Rock but as I had quite a few days in the city I wanted to see the city from the eyes of the locals.
My metro pass was a start and this is when I fell truly in love, sure you MUST do the tourist attraction, heck the entire city is a huge tourist attraction.
When you think New York, you think Times Square, Statue of Liberty, Saks 5th Avenue, Trump Towers and so on…the mind boggles when one thinks of all the ‘first time’ attractions in the city, but is there more to this sexy city than what we see on TV and the endless tourist attractions? Yes, yes and yes…
New York is the city that gave birth to …the food culture and judging from the many varieties of restaurants and deli’s in the city combined with the melting pot of cultures this makes perfect sense to me. From the legendary Eleven Madison, fine dining establishment under the guidance of lauded chef Daniel Humm to Tao (there is Tao Uptown and Tao Downtown) we chose Downtown, which we are told is one of Kim Kardashian’s favourite restaurants in the city to the tiny Italian place in the East village with the most divine Baci di Ricotta (deep fried Ricotta balls) served with two chocolate dipping sauces , I tried as many as I could. The many delis around the city have the most delicious on the run meals and my favourite was, The Gourmet Garage in Tribeca. Loved the selection of salads and grains and the quinoa was scrumptious. (Think I’m going to have to do a seperate blog about my New York food adventures)
The old Nabisco plant in The Meat Packing District was slightly reminiscent of The Old Biscuit Mill in Cape Town, probably because they were both biscuit mills I guess, but this super trendy part of town comes alive at night and the nightlife including restaurants, pubs and clubs are too many to mention.
A walk along the High Line was a perfect end to one of the steamiest days in the city. Built on a section of a disused railroad, The West Side Line, this linear park runs for about 2.3 kms above the city from Gansevoort Street close to 14th street all the way to 34th Street. Its a great way to see the city and escape the hustle and bustle of the street below.Lined with beautiful flora and plants, the cooling shade from the surrounding buildings provides a welcome relief from the heat, not to mention those yummy paletas (Mexican ice lollies) made from pure fruit that you can buy. Delicious flavours like Mango and chilli and cucumber lime….yum!!!
A local New Yorker told me that sure you get a great view of the city from The Chrysler Building or Top of The Rock at Rockefeller Centre but if you want to see the city become a spectacle then it had to be Dumbo, in Brooklyn for the best sunset over New York. She wasn’t kidding…the views are spectacular. DUMBO means “Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass”
Ok…so I know I’m going on a bit but seriously, there is sooo much to say about this great city that maybe I should consider writing a book about it before I bore you all so I’m going to skip to the part where I highlight just a few things that you MUST do (that I haven’t already mentioned):
Sure you must visit the landmarks, Ellis Island has a story all its own, Top of the Rock has great views and the Empire State Building, well songs have been written about it, so yes, take a few days and visit the tourist attractions, but then give yourself time to absorb the flavour and feel of what must be the most famous city in the world. There is no time to be bored in New York, just drink in the hustle and bustle of this magnificent city. And believe me when I say, New York is like a drug, once you’ve been, you will go back. Again. And again. And again. And no matter how many times you go back, there will alwasy be something different to see
- Visit Max Fish Bar on the lower east side, it has a ‘hipster’ feel to it and there is no outside seating but its here that you will get a feel for what the locals get up to on weekends. It’s a cash only bar so leave your plastic in the room, those shots of Evan Williams, don’t come cheap.
- Grab a pizza at Grimaldi’s, just under the Brooklyn bridge, from where you can also get a stunning view of Manhattan
- Take a stroll through Bergdof-Goodman, the last remaining “New York” only department store. With an array of designers available for your shopping fetish, you could easily rack up a scary bill. The guys version of the store is across the road, so couples don’t have to fight over how much they’ve spent, well at least not right away.
- If you’re a “Foodie” you can take in the best of New York’s culinary offerings at The Gourmet Culinary Market at Grand Central Terminal…from artisanal bagels and pastries at Zaro’s to handmade chocolates at Li-Lac
- A pastrami sandwich from Katz Deli – and that famous New York staple, a cuppa joe are must haves –with tons of coffee shops, espresso bars and cafes to choose from, you will be spoilt for choice. And lets not forget the Cosmopolitan and the Mimosa
- Take a tram to Roosevelt Island, the drawcard a 4 minute ride on the city’s only commuter tram.
- Jump on the Staten Island ferry, its free and you can get great views of Ellis Island ,The Statue of Liberty and the view of the receding Manhattan skyline is breathtaking.
- For foodies wanting to rub elbows with some of the city’s top chefs, head to Union Square Green Market, you’ll find them scouring the stalls for the best regionally grown produce plus you get offered all kinds of free ‘taste’ samples.
- If there is concert on in Central Park when you’re there, don’t miss it. The setting is beautiful and so dreamy you will be forgiven if you forget for a while that you’re in the middle of a city.On one of the morning’s I was there Keith Urban had an early morning ‘concert’ for Good Morning America in the park.Had to wake up super early but boy was it worth it!
- Depending on when you’re there you can get a chance to sit in on a “LIVE” recording of the David Letterman Show, but make sure you have your passport with you when you go to register and be early as its first come, first serve. I was super stoked, got to see Michael Douglas
WEEKEND THINGS TO DO:
If vintage is your thing or you just enjoy the vibe of a fleamarket Brooklyn Flea is for you
OR if you’re a true gourmet junkie, check out Smorgasborg,a Food Only market, make sure you have an empty stomach before you get here because the food stuff on offer here will have you wishing you hadn’t eaten for at least a few days.(Try the S’mores from S’mores Bakery)
Hester Street Fair on the lower east side is another great market with a combination of clothes, food and vintage items on sale.
The city where dreams are made…..or broken.
SO WHAT MAKES NEW YORK, NEW YORK
- THE THEATRE :A show on Broadway or Shakespeare’s Theatre in the Park in Central Park
- THE TRADITIONS: The tradition of literary bars like, Kettle of Fish
- THE LIVE SHOWS: Radio City’s music hall – The Rockettes, the live show that’s been running for more than 80 years
- THE ART: The Guggenheim museum – if you visit on a Saturday admission is reduced to whatever you want it to be. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- THE FOOD: A city of great restaurants, arguably the best in the world and for Fine Dining Par Excellence, if your pocket can afford it after all the sightseeing, a visit to Bouley owned by one of the most talented chef’s in the city David Bouley or if you really want to splash out, Chefs Table at Brooklyn Fare under the expert guidance of Chef Cesar Ramirez is an absolute must. Chefs Table seats no more than 30 at a time, so you would be advised to book in advance, well in advance. The food is supreme and the attention to detail unparalleled.
- THE NIGHTLIFE: New York has bars and nightclubs too many to mention but perhaps a bar crawl is a great way to visit a few in one night like Angels share or the Frying Pan. No.8 is the club to be if you’re rich and famous but if you’re just looking to dance the night away try Element.
- THE SHOPPING: Shop till you drop at stores such as Neimann-Marcus, Saks 5th Avenue or if the big department stores are not your thing, visit The Bar at Bauble Bar for stunning accessories, or the stylish and chic Owen. But shopaholics need never despair, in New York you can’t go a block without a storefront catching your eye.
New York has a feel, a smell, a uniqueness about it that will stay with you long after the credit card has been paid off. And no sooner have you settled those bills and you will be wanting more of what New York has to offer. It’s no wonder its called The Big Apple, there has never been a temptation so great as the one that takes you back to this crazy, busy, totally hectic city over and over again.
You might think you’re going to get killed trying to cross the streets here, but you will still want more of those New York Eyes.