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New York 2023, sightseeing

In this series, I was in New York for the viewing party of Vogue World London 2023, to learn more about Genesis’ role in this fashion meets art experience. Having taken the red eye in, meant I had a whole day in front of me, before meeting all the other guests for a welcome dinner in the evening.

This allowed me to do some sightseeing, as it was my first time in New York. Travelling alone I was apprehensive on taking the subway, for fear of the underground unknown. Not to mention everything I have watched from every gritty New York crime drama has skewed my view. Plus the fact that I am prone to getting lost. So I opted to do most of my sight seeing by taxi or foot, taking suggestions from my drivers and the the hotel’s security. I find locals a more reliable resource over google.

After a shower and a nap I was off and out. Only to discover that cabbies here take their lunch break at 12pm and there isn’t much luck grabbing a taxi, so it is best to try them after 1pm.

With no other option, I travelled by foot to Times Square, waking the lengthly city blocks. Thankfully it was warm on this September day, and unseasonably muggy due to the recent rainfall. In fact, during my time outdoors it would rain again, but it would be short lived, feeling more like a gentle summer’s kiss than the icy shards that pelt down in Vancouver. So I stayed on my path and found my clothes and hair drying off shorty after.

The following are a few of the musings I noted and the landmarks I saw.

In the heart of the city I heard school kids playing and screaming, with intermittent whistle blowing amongst the honking of horns and the sounds of steady traffic. I was surprised to see such a large school in such a densely populated urban area, all locked up behind gates and away from the public eye, on an elevated concrete playground.

Sadly, New York is as dirty as I thought it was. There was lots of debris and garbage scattered around, and garbage is collected out front and becomes an eye sore. The streets are pot hole ridden, uneven payment had pools of water laying stagnant. This, was the accumulated sights and scents of the city. Restaurants and vendors did their best to increase their aesthetic by creating seating areas and photographic pockets with fake plants and greenery. They did help to add colour to the brick and mortar fire escapes.

New York is big on shows. I am not a fan of sing-talking so was not lured in, but noted the variety that included a comedy on corn shucking, amongst more serious classic like “Chicago”.

The closer I drew to Times Square the livelier and louder it got. From construction to honking, shouting, and busking. There were lots of people hanging out on city provided seating, as they took other folks in. There were street dancers, a performer that labelled himself as the “Naked Cowboy”, and plenty of ground to sky billboards to catch your eye on. All this surrounding restaurants and shopping options from world wide recognizable brands.

Traffic was at its densest here. If I were driving, I would have avoided these corridors completely. vehicles here, pushed their way in, often blocking crosswalks. Although no one batted an eye, as pedestrians found a way around.

When asked, I was directed to Joe’s Pizza for the best in New York. Established in 1975, it isn’t the oldest pizza parlour in New York, but probably the most famous with several locations and a line up that went outside of the Time Square location I was visiting.

Inside, there is a wall dedicated to the celebrities they have serviced, a collage of photos that surrounded a sign stating “as seen in Spider-Man” (the 2004 Toby McGuire version). I was able to grab a seat and note faces I recognized like Adrian Brody, Lenny Kravitz and Canadian’s comedian Colin Mockery. I was also clocked as being Canadian when it came time to pay and I did so with ones from a fanny pack instead of tapping my card.

The pizza itself was a giant slice. Equivalent to 2 at the price of $5. There isn’t an option for Hawaiian here. Instead they had classics like margarita, spinach and cheese, and capicolo. It was easiest to get to the counter to be able to see them all, and order that way. I went with the classic pepperoni that was constantly being churned out from dough to pizza, then out of the oven. Each slice you order is heated so it comes out hot to the touch and the is cheese melty.

My slice had a classic sweet tomato sauce on its thin floppy crust. There was plenty of salty pepperoni and even more hard crust, that I would pass on. On the table and counters there were tubs of cheese, herbs, and chilli flakes for self sprinkling, but no one else was using any, so I did the same.

Looking to get the park in the city experience, without the walk of Central Park. I took my chauffeur’s recommendation of Bryant Park instead. In the same vicinity as Times Square it is an oasis of green. There was a performance stage, a merry-go-round, a handful of cafes, a water fountain, and plenty of public seating and tables around its inaccessible lawn. The above made it a great spot to be able to take a break and grab a bite at.

Next, I hit the New York Public library. This was a statuesque building that took up the whole block. Noting the rotating bodies going in and out, like myself, we were here for the architecture and photo ops, and less so the books and the desire to read or study.

There were several floors and halls to explore with renaissance-style oil paintings and detailed chiseled column work.

There, I took in one of their featured galleries, called “treasures”, which included original hand sewn Winnie the Pooh character plushies.

Like many other event venues in New York, there were lots of of security checks and pat downs. And at the library, not only when you entered, but when you exited as well.

I then made by way to the Grand Central Terminal and Pershing Square Plaza. Well marked on a bridge spanning the two. The latter even had a restaurant under its side of the bridge. And the former, the entrance into the station.

The expansive hall of Grand Central Terminal was grandiose with vaulted ceilings that opened up further at main concourse. Your eyes were drawn up at the mural of zodiac characters and their constellation splashed across the ceiling.

Right beside the train station was One Vanderbilt: a view point, art exhibit, and selfie lover’s dream all rolled into one. Out of all the ways to take in the city, this was the one my chauffeur highly recommend; and this and he did not disappoint. I have reviewed this experience in a separate post.

My travels took me past Radio City Music Hall and NBC studios better, known for their broadcasting of the Daily Show and the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

At Rockerfeller station tourists gathered to take photo of the square. Now a roller rink, but in winter an ice skating one set to the backdrop of the city’s largest Christmas Tree. Something I was familiar with, given all its representations in many holiday themed romantic movies.

I hopped into the nearby FAO Schwartz, known as the premier toy store, where the staff are asked to engage with guests through playing and demo-ing of their products. I forgot to seek out their giant piano, but walked through their Barbie section and admired their bulk candy collection for mix and match purchase.

Most notable was their new Jelly Cat Diner. Designed to look like a 50’s diner, showcasing their collection of soft and collectable food plushies. Avocados, mushrooms, marshmallows in pairs, a tea pot, pretzel, popcorn, and a bunch of fruit. Exclusive to this Popup is their fast food offerings of “Amuseable” taco, burger, and pizza slice.

And thus my day of sightseeing by foot ended here with tired feet. So to get back to my hotel I opted to take a taxi. The traffic didn’t make it quick. There was so much road congestion that an ambulance was not even able to get through, and turned off its siren when they realized they were getting no where. Although by foot may be faster, I found that by car you got to do drive by sight seeing.

On a separate night I was able to get my hands on some “street meat”. In truth, I just wanted to try a New York style sidewalk hot dog. but our driver for the evening surprised and delighted with a stop to Crif Dogs for some over the top wieners in bun with topping like horseradish and avocado.

From the outside this was just a hole in the wall hot dog shop, for those in the know, they are hiding a speakeasy. Accessible through the in house telephone booth. You enter and following the directions to dial “1” on a rotary phone. The result, a host opens a hidden door and reviews a tiny bar bathed in candle light. A lively spot for a drink.

The next day I was joined by fellow Vancouverite Flora, a fashion blogger at @floralaw. Having met and spent time with one another in Vancouver, we decided to do a little site seeing together the following morning.

With her, I was able to cross taking the New York subway off of my list. She had the experience and know-how to navigate the underground tunnels. At $3.25 one way it was a quicker and more cost effective way to travel. Aside from me not being able to purchase a ticket from the machine using either of my cards, us mistaking our platform and not being able to locate the correct lettered train, and getting attitude from one of the station clerks not realizing that even though a ticket is good for 2 hours it is only good for 1 trip.

We travelled to the Tiffany & Co. Flagship location with the hopes of having “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, like the Audrey Hepburn movie. But more specifically at the “Blue Box cafe” on the sixth floor. Sadly we did not have enough time, but did learn there is a daily wait list for walk-ins with the option for a quicker wait and service at the bar.

Here, they serve a daintier breakfast and high tea on towers. But the real appeal is the decor. Art deco floors in rainbow splotches. And a ceiling painted in the iconic Tiffany’s Blue with hundreds of Tiffany boxes, in various sizes strung up with fishing wire.

We took our time touring each of the Tiffany’s floors. Noting the art intermingled with the jewellery pieces. One of the many staff members pointed them out, stating that they are like an “art gallery that sells diamonds”.

Most notable was the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s homage that included the iconic scene projected on a screen and Audrey Hepburn’s historic dress on display, along with her likeness.

I was most excited to learn of their different washrooms, with there being a colour on each floor. Asking the staff, I was directed to the “best one” with a window and in their trademark colour. I proceeded to use this to the fullest and document my experience.

Next we went to Soho, running out of time to be able to fully shop one of New York’s most fashionable districts. The area is recognizable with its cobble stone roads, and industrial brick and mortar facades with modern boutiques within.

Here, we got a freebie from Prada. A can of flower seeds to grow your own bouquet, to promote their latest campaign for fall: “a conversation with flowers”.

Flora would also purchase an outfit from a local New York designer to wear to our event that evening.

And with that our self directed down time was done. I didn’t get to see and visit all I wanted, but did do more than I thought I could. Definitely a successful first trip to New York, especially considering I didn’t plan any of the above and just went with the flow, with discovery in mind.

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