New York Day 1: Taking A Bite Out Of The Big Apple
21 Oct 2012 - This was the time for me to farewell New England, and we certainly were going to miss it: the picture perfect towns with white steepled churches, quaint shops and colonial homes, spectacular Maine coastline and the wonderful seafood that it yielded, the wide open spaces and sweet air, and the magnificent Autumn foliage. The beautiful memories - and occasional mishaps - will forever remain embedded in our psyches. What we wouldn’t miss was the continuous driving, packing and unpacking, and a different inn or B&B every two nights. We certainly would not miss our rental car, the Chrysler 200. While it had been our trusty companion for nigh on 3 weeks, it guzzled fuel and was a klutz on the road. Sorry, Chrysler, but your clunker has nothing on my Hyundai back home.
Our drive from Bennington (Vermont) was a seamless 3 hours and 10 minutes, with Peter at wheel without complaint the entire time. What a star! This was indeed a pleasant surprise given his abhorrence for long stretches on the road. However, our state of calm was instantly shattered as we approached New York City. With 5-lane roads, overpasses, underpasses, an exit at every meter, bridges coming out of our ears, the worst traffic congestion we’d ever seen and drivers beeping you as you hesitated, this was the stuff nightmares were made off.
“Why are all these people out on the road?!” Peter yelled in exasperation. “It’s Sunday! Shouldn’t they be with their families?!” We found out later from our taxi driver that this maelstrom was considered normal traffic in New York.
After a few wrong turns, I nearly wept with joy when we spotted the JFK car rental section at JFK Airport. Handing our car over and retrieving our luggage, I noticed that my hands were shaking while Peter had assumed an almost ghostly pallor.
Our state of shock gradually faded and was replaced by wonder as we spotted the magnificent New York skyline for the first time. As they say, “New York, New York, it’s a helluva town”. A city where dreams are made and hopes are dashed in a nanosecond, it was my urban jungle of choice when I was in the fashion industry. And after 20-odd years, here I am again.
Our Hotel: Washington Square Hotel
It’s a fallacy that New York City is the most expensive city in the world. Personally, I think our home town of Sydney (Australia) is. In fact, I set out to prove to myself that I could stick to our accommodation budget of under US$280 per night in New York City - yes, breakfast included. While I wasn’t sure that I could do it, I remained optimistic.
Finally through Expedia, I found this gem of a 4.5-star hotel called Washington Square Hotel ideally located across Washington Square Park in the heart of Greenwich Village. And wait for it - it was US$255 per night including a basic Continental breakfast (excl. tax). What an amazing deal for New York City! We love our little bolt hole for the 4 nights that we stayed here. Our room was comfortable and clean, great beds and good bathrooms, and with a train station just around the corner, the location was beyond ideal. But best of all were the staff at this little hotel, especially our doorman Ronnie, who gave us the best recommendation on what to see, where to eat, and how to get from A to Z. We looked forward to his Cheshire Cat grin every morning before setting out for the day.
Having dropped off our luggage in our rooms, we were itching to stretch our legs. A long walk was just the ticket and New York is a city made for walking.
“You’ve got to see High Line. It’s the newest thing and it’s just amazing.”, the lady at reception told Peter and I. And so we ventured off to see this urban marvel.
The High Line is a 1-mile (1.6 km) linear park that is built on a 1.45-mile (2.33 km) section of the former elevated Central Railroad spur which runs along the lower west side of Manhattan in the Meatpacking District. Redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway, it’s an incredibly creative concept that brings nature back into a city where space is at a premium. Strolling along this elevated park at dusk, everyone was out with their kids or friends, enjoying the laid back atmosphere and live jazz.
The Meatpacking District:
After The High Line, Peter and I explored New York's Metapacking District, an uber-cool pocket of the city. Filled with hip bars and restaurants filled with beautiful people, we drank in the spectacle. The Meatpacking District, officially known as Gansevoort Market, owes its name to the meat distribution companies that once dominated the area. While some meatpacking houses still exist, nowadays you are more likely to find a smattering of magazine editors, models, assorted glitteratti and gawkers wandering its streets.
Hottest Restaurants: Spice Market for its fabulously exotic design and pan-Asian menu. Also try Vento Trattoria and Pastis. Reserve well in advance.
Hottest Nightclub: Cielo, for its intimate size, impressive sound and sunken dance-floor. It’s also one of New York's toughest clubs to enter, so good luck getting by the door.