Tuesday, 11 December 2012

New York, New York...

And yes, I’ve just been there, lucky me, only for a few days and no time at all for shopping, (well hardly, only for presents)  but still, it was wonderful. As always.
I was there to research the new book; which involved a lot of pavement pounding, a lot of wandering through the cosmetic departments of the big stores, a lot of visiting bars and restaurants—you must be feeling seriously sorry for me by now.

I arrived at about ten thirty at night, and got through Immigration by about one in the morning.  (Maybe you might be feeling just a little sorry for me at this point.)
And then the drive into the city. New York at one in the morning is really very like New York at lunch time: noisy, heavily trafficked, brilliantly lit, shops open everywhere – well certainly downtown – food shops, flower stalls, delis, dry cleaners, even one or two bookshops. Yes, bookshops. Can you imagine? I really felt like getting out of the cab and having a browse. Only I didn’t, I decided on balance I’d rather get to my hotel.

And the highlights were:

Staying at the Algonquin.  Which is a wonderful hotel for a writer; it was where Dorothy Parker held her Round Table lunches for al the great writers of her day: Robert Benchley , Alexander Woolcott, Art Samuels, even Harpo Marx. (No, I didn’t know he was a writer either) The round table is still there, in the Round Table bar and so is Matilda, the hotel cat, who has been there ever since the hotel was opened in 1902.  Well, her descendants, obviously. As I walked in, she was sitting on the reception counter and looked at me very coolly. She is blonde, fluffy and beautiful.

A walk: I woke up to one of those days New York is best at; brilliant blue sky, sunshine – and a freezing wind, howling down all those great avenues. I headed for the Meatpacking district, which was exactly what it said, the district where the meat came off the boats to be packed, cobbled streets, huge warehouses and about as unfashionable then as it is fashionable now.

And I walked not down the wind-y streets, but along the old Highline Railway  which has been turned into a sort of park, or rather walkway, high high above the streets, with shrubs and trees and grassland: totally enchanting. It stops at a sort of viewing place, where you can look all the way uptown to Central Park;

A sign: New York is good on signs; it was there I first saw “Don’t even think of parking here”. This one said, “Stop praying… God’s too busy to find you a parking space".

The Magnolia Bakery, much featured in Sex and the City: tiny it is, but filled with cup cake-y treasures; people stood outside in the biting wind drinking hot chocolate and munching on things like Red Velvet cheesecake.

A martini in the Algonquin bar, the biggest I’ve ever seen, which completely knocked me out; I could hardly make the lift.

Breakfast at Penelope’s on Lexington Street, oh my goodness, that was a breakfast: eggs, bacon, and hash browns, and then waffles with maple syrup, and raisins and cinnamon apples and the best coffee ever. They’re good at the best coffee ever there. Many more hours walking required after that.

The shop windows generally but raising the game to another level entirely, Bergdorf Goodmans at  the top of Fifth Avenue—all scenes from the Ziegfield follies. Literally stopped the traffic—well the pedestrian kind anyway.

The cosmetic departments —Bloomies has a vast tank of tropical fish, Saks is a sort of enchanted wood, Bergdorfs a glittering white underworld. Only annoying thing is if you stop for an instant, you’re set upon by extremely overzealous sales people. Counter productive really, so you daren’t.

The real-life toy soldier outside FAO Schwarz, at the top of Fifth, who said “I like your coat young lady”…I went in and bought up the shop…which was full of brilliant conjurers.

The 18th floor bar at the incredibly trendy Standard Hotel, (also in the  Meatpacking District. ) 360 degree views up town and out across the Seaboard—incredible. In the summer they have a plunge pool up there; in winter they have an ice rink at ground level. Helicopters whirling by would have a great view of you in the loos which have floor to ceiling windows…oh yes.

Balthazars, a bar in SoHo, very very cool and French—yes, French. Menus, signs on doors, décor – everything. I decided there was only one thing to drink at the bar: a nice glass of Taittinger champagne. It wasn’t too much of a hardship.

One horrid sight: kittens and guinea pigs being sold on the corner of Sixth Avenue. How can that be allowed?

The Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Centre, on the edge of the skating rink, and like the rest of New York, reaching for the sky.  The lights being turned on the last night I was there really did stop the traffic: the jewel in the crown that is New York at Christmas.

There was so much more, of course. I left four days after I had arrived, dizzy with it all. Truly an amazing city. Lucky me.

Happy Christmas everybody - wherever you may be. Have a lovely time. I intend to.


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