Neeew Yooork, concrete jungle where dreams are made from….OK you know the rest of the song.
In June we headed off for our round the world trip. First stop The Big Apple, New York, New York. So nice they named it twice. This was my first time out of the Asia Pacific region and I was really excited. Four weeks of travel meant four weeks away from the cold of Australia’s winter. R and I left Sydney a day apart from each other but arrived in New York the same day. I refused to take a flight that had too many stops. R’s flight went from Sydney to New York through Hong Kong and Vancouver. I just wanted to get straight there( well almost, I had a stop over of 90 minutes in LAX where I went through customs) and start enjoying the holiday.
The day we arrived was apparently the hottest that NYC had experienced so far this summer. Although 36C felt like heaven to me, New Yorkers seemed to have wilted and there were several crashes on the freeways that meant my cab driver had to detour through the streets of Brooklyn and Queens. I didn’t mind more sightseeing!
Our base for our time in New York was the Waldorf Astoria Towers. A hotel that both R and I have dreamt of staying at. Located on Park Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, it was a quick walk to the shopping mecca that is the area of Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue, Park Avenue and all the streets between.
We were fortunate after booking a room to be sent an email with upgrades at special prices. We had originally booked to stay in the Astoria part of the hotel, but decided to take advantage of the upgrades option and ended up with a suite. And what a suite it was, located on the 39th floor, we could see the Chrysler building from our bedroom and the formal dining and lounge. We had a beautiful wooden table and chairs, chandeliers, huge bed, antiques, a dressing room as big as our bedroom, with closets that were big enough for the huge ballgowns of the past(I knew I forgot to pack something LOL).
The first night was a bit of a loss as I got to the hotel around 8pm, R had the whole day to go and look at some watches and get his bearings again. Friday dawned bright and sunny. Breakfast was a buffet in Oscar’s Brasserie, and what a buffet it was! So much choice, but I stuck to my cereal, coffee and juice. When we travel I usually make the last breakfast of my stay a blow out where I go for the good stuff.
On our first full day we headed out and downtown. We walked across to Broadway via the Diamond district( I swear R had us go through there at Supersonic speed), had a look around Times Square before the crowds hit. We then headed down Broadway to 12th Street. Along the way we passed Union Square where we found the market in full swing, past Mario Batali’s Eataly(must visit next time), the Flatiron Building and too many shops. We were on the hunt for the location of a well regarded steakhouse called Striphouse that R wanted to try. Alas they weren’t open for lunch. Across the road from Striphouse was Gotham Bar and Grill, another restaurant we had heard about but will have to get back to next time. The afternoon found us wandering the shops and exercising the credit cards.
For dinner we headed to the iconic Bull and Bear Steakhouse in the Waldorf Astoria. A chance to dress up.
The Bull and Bear Bar has been a New York institution since it opened in 1931 at the current Waldorf=Astoria and prior to that at the Waldorf=Astoria’s original locatation where the Empire State Building now stands. Dark woods, sumptuous decor, clubby atmosphere and truly professional and helpful service are a hall mark of a restaurant and bar that has been favoured by astute businessmen, burgeoning industrialists, Wall Street types and the financial elite for many decades. The restaurant was added in 1960 and soon became a favoured place for dining. Well we aren’t quite the Wall Street and financial elite but we had to go. I love a restaurant that is true to its roots and the Bull and Bear fits the bill perfectly. Tables are nicely spaced the menu tradional with a few modern twists. The Bar comes with requisite stockmarket ticker above the door way…
R loves his surf and turfs which on this occassion was a petite filet with Maine Lobster. I had a delightful dish called Steak on Steaks, which was steakhouse tomatoes with a petite filet mignon and Maytag cheese. Wine started with a glass of Perrier Jouet and was follwed by a bottle of Opus One 2007 from California. Of course we had to cross something off our list of typical New York foods to try so New York cheesecake it was. We returned on the Sunday night for dinner and while we both had the same mains we changed our wine to a Stag’s Leap Karia Chardonnay 2008 from California’s Napa Valley.
We kept busy during the day time by exploring as many shops as possible within walking distance of the hotel. Sunday was our museum day and after catching a cab up Park Avenue to 90th street we started with The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum. I am not much of a modern art lover but being in this iconic museum was fantastic. Of course having done some reading we knew to start at the top and work our way down the ramp. The last time R was in New York the Guggenheim was undergoing some paint work and was covered up in hoardings, he was very happy to get inside this time around.
After the Guggenheim we headed down 5th Avenue to the Metropolitan Museum. OMG it is HUUUGGE. In the interest of my sanity I will only post a couple of photos showing some highlights…
There was so much more to see. We did get to the Impossible Conversations: Schiaparelli and Prada exhibition, and I got within 20cm of a Mary Lee Hu necklace. I even think R was impressed by the Schiaparelli/Prada exhibit, so many of Elsa Schiaparelli’s gorgeous, witty and unique outfits on display. We have to go back to the Met as it is mind bogglingly big, you could spend 2 days there exploring.
After the Met it was time for lunch. Located on 5th Avenue just outside the Met were a bevy of food vans. Hotdogs, tacos, burritos, pretzels and more. This gave us an opportunity to cross off some more food items from our must try, iconic New York food, chilli dogs and pretzels. Yum and very enjoyable sitting on the steps of the Met eatting and watching the world go by. The great thing about the vans is that they are run by family of fallen servicemen and women, and each one has the name of the fallen person on it. Great way to remember the service they provided their country and to provide an income for the family.
Of course we saw all the usual Midtown sights, Empire State Building, Rockefeller Centre, Radio City Music Hall, NY City Library, Chrysler Building, Tiffany’s etc. It is amazing how even though Manhattan doesn’t seem big, everything about it is huge.
Our last night in New York found us meeting some friends for dinner. We took the long way down to 21st Street and Lexington Avenue and Gramercy Park. This gave us a chance for a last look around the city as well as seeing a couple of streets we hadn’t done. Maialino is located in the Gramercy Park Hotel and is part of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. Serving food based on classic dishes from Rome, it has a casual Roman trattoria atmosphere and style, and utilises food sourced from the Greenmarket and local farms. Bustling and noisy when we arrived but still relaxed and enjoyable. After a quick catch up we decided to just order a few dishes and share. We did have some pastas to share but they were so good we forgot to take photos, oops.
After dinner we asked how safe it was to walk back to our hotel and were reassured it would be fine. Bidding our friends good bye, we trekked from 21st Street back up Lexington Avenue to the Waldorf. On our way passing the Chrysler building and Grand Central Station.
Our final day we had a leisurely breakfast, packed (should I say squeezed our luggage back together?) and then went window shopping. Four o’clock saw us heading for the airport and the next leg of our trip to Ol’ Blighty.
Look out for my next post about our surprisingly sunny and warm week in London!