Imogen Miller Porter and myself (also collectively known as Itty & Fee) recently embarked on a two week stateside adventure. I want to share a little about the places and things we saw on our excursion…and the fun two very very old friends got up to!
The last time we both had a holiday together, just the two of us, was in 1997! We were very much due some new memories. Imogen had been working for several months in Toronto as Sybil in Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience, so was due a holiday. I just wanted to get out of the grey (London)…we decided on our meeting place…New York City!
I have visited the Big Apple a few times, for Imogen this was a first time…I was excited to be able to share my minimal knowledge and enthusiasm for the place. It’s such a filmic city and so familiar in an iconic way, I was confident that Imogen would love it. We did not really have a plan in place. All that had been booked were 5 nights of accomadation. So I got my flight from Heathrow to JFK and she took the bus from Toronto to Port Authority. Our meeting point was the YMCA Vanderbilt
Tip: When arriving at JFK, you can take a shared shuttle bus to most of the midtown manhattan hotels…if the friendly guy asks you which bus you want , blue or green (two different companies) take the blue one (shuttlebus)…..I waited 45 mins for mine, while several blue buses came and went….I was eager to see my pal!
Arriving at the YMCA, I was welcomely surprised. (You never really know what to expect with accommodation, no matter how much review/photo research you do online.) It’s like arriving at a sports centre, with gym and reception in full view. People working out with headphones on. I would like to think they are all working out to the Rocky theme tune. Reception staff were friendly and I checked in and headed up to my room, to be greeted by Imogen who already nabbed the top bunk!
Trivia: Whilst we discussed Andy Warhol, as us arty gals are bound to do, Imogen discovered (google) that the site for The Factory was actually on the same street as the YMCA…and had since been demolished and replaced with apartments…Pop fail! We didn’t waste much time, out into the city looking for adventure and food!
First thing was to show Imogen Times Square, in all it’s illuminated (blinding) glory. It really is just Piccadilly Circus, on some very strong and probably illegal steroids. As soon as you arrive, I find you just want take your pictures, make no eye contact with the badly dressed giant Disney characters and get the hell out of the throng of people.
The next few days we explored the city. I am always impressed at how New York is never the same experience twice. Always something new to see, and the classic icons of the city never get old.
Opinion/Fact: We think the Chrysler building is sexier than the Empire State. Smoke coming out of the sewer system is ALWAYS exciting and the New York accent just rocks!
We took the D-train express….and ended up at Brooklyn Bridge by happy mistake…
Tip: Check which lights are illuminated on the train map…these are where the train will stop. Also, the London Tube is really well designed, Fact.
…We followed the mass crowds across the magnificant structure, pissing off the cyclists who tried to pass. We also witnessed a British ‘do-gooder’ tell off a local man who was out with his pet snake and offering photo’s. Not sure if berating a local and then going on further to complain to the cop (who was not interested) up the road is too wise….though I guess he had balls to stand up against something that upset him. Though I get a vibe in New York that everyone is enterprising and there is a dollar to be made at any-time. I think maybe the Snake may have enjoyed the sunshine warming up it’s blood, rather than a uv light in a tank
We visited China Town…a smooth but swift walk through avoiding buying knock-off tat whilst enjoying the change in architecture. We then had pizza (after much discussion with various proprietors vying for our custom) in Little Italy at the Mulberry Street Bar. Sitting in the sunshine in such an iconic surroundings was quite lovely. Imogen and i have a favourite game of telling one another entire plot lines of films….In Paris I told her the whole of Interview with a Vampire…This time she told me A View with a Bridge, very fitting.
Opinion/Fact: Fire Escapes in New York are stunning. Just can’t get enough photo’s of em! I found a blog sharing this sentiment here!
Greenwich Village and all it’s cute streets, arty graffiti and boutiques is the place I can fantasise about living in. Though like Notting Hill and more recently Brixton, it’s gone through much gentrification, and I am sure it’s not cheap to live there. At times it’s too cool for school but with reason. A rich history of arty, beatnik and bohemian scenes, I am sure every street corner is famous for something.
A particular culinary highlight was in Soho. Where, on recommendation, we visited a establishment called Marie Belle. Here we gorged on the thickest, richest hot chocolate I have ever consumed! A small cup of the Mocha 65% Dark Chocolate owned me….. Imogen was far braver with a Large Aztec 65% Dark Chocolate! Go girl!
Tip: Get Cream with it….It takes the edge off! Also, don’t go clothes shopping after this. If like me you are a size 16, you will have enough problems fitting into anything, and have to face the humiliation of asking the uber-cool, skinny shop assistants for ‘A bigger size’. (whilst wiping the chocolate from around your mouth)
Like London, food is a real culture point in New York. You can find all kinds of cuisine and fusions of cuisine. We ate Japanese BBQ at Guy-Kaku, great value. We found a late night pub/eatery, serving a full menu until 3am at P.J Clarke’s. They also supply you with postcards that they will mail for you, once filled in. I can vouch that my mother did receive hers! High-rise (and high price) cocktails at The Kimberly was stunning and a great find thanks to the interwebberthingy.
Tip: Yelp is your friend when finding food/drinks. It never really failed us.
We got ‘tipsy’ and met some friendly new Yorkers at the Snafu dive bar, where Itty & Fee remains written on a dollar bill, stuck to the ceiling…ahem,
All I want to finally say about food in New York, is DELI DELI DELI DELI! I miss them, I love them and if I had money I would open one bang in the centre of London for all the business folk. If only, so I could have access to 24 hour salad and Chinese food. As everything is done by weight, choose less dense options, ha ha! Our favourite midtown local deli was Cafe Olympia. Oh how I miss you so.
We were very good and only visited a Macdonalds establishment twice! (with our love of the golden arches, this was no mean feat!) While waiting in the queue, a woman approached me asking if I could buy her some food, as she was living in sheltered accommodation. I was more than happy to oblige, to help out someone who is hungry. We chatted in the queue together. I told her I was from London and she told me she had never left the states, or flown anywhere. I don’t know how but we ended up on some quite heavy topics, as she told me about another English girl she met who had moved to NY and was now on the streets smoking crack. The women asked me if we had drugs in England, I told her we did and explained I had lost a brother to addiction. She was shocked and sympathetic. She was also surprised we had homeless people and unemployment in England. I told her about the NHS and the minimum wage, she was impressed and told me the US minimum wage is $7.25 It was a very sobering exchange. I had come to her big city, my eye’s all full of wonder and with the ‘grass is greener’ attitude. But in that moment I properly realised that the worlds are not so far apart. Also, as far as healthcare and minimum wage stands, how lucky I really am. On the same moment, I may have dashed her fairytale visions of England as one big tea party with the Queen! I gave her the burger and drink i had bought her and we said goodbye. I hope she gets on ok.
‘Picnic in Central Park‘ could be a movie….and it felt like one, as we sat eating our DELI lunch on a super hot day. You really can get lost in that place and forget where you are, apart from the occasional siren or top of a skyscraper amongst the tree’s.
Note: The dude playing the Erhu (Chinese two-stringed fiddle ) BADLY….No one needs to here Jingle Bells repeatedly in May! aaaaaarg, shut up!
The High-line…easily one of my most memorable sights, this time around. A recreational space created from a old street level railway line. Perfect meeting of urban structures, nature and high design. I guess this must be haven for the New Yorkers, as an interesting escape from street level. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues. You can access it at any point and it’s free! Makes me hope our garden bridge in London could be like this.
We arrived at the perfect time of day, just before sunset. As we reached the top end of the route the sun was setting and the city looked amazing. Seeing is believing really as it’s hard to explain.
To be continued….