A bit over a week ago I was watching movies aboard a Delta Airlines flight to New York. It was my first time ever to the Big Apple. I was excited, but nothing could prepare me for what New York had in store for me.
When I saw the outline of the city from the taxi, my first impression was that it wasn’t really that big. What was I expecting? Most of the NY skyscrapers date from the 1920s and 1930s. Nowadays, bigger and taller skyscrapers are erected everywhere else in the world, including London, so by comparison, Empire State Building is hardly more impressive than a block of flats. But you know what, I actually like that, with the exception of the newly built One World Trade Centre, New York is only as tall as it needs to be. New York doesn’t need to impress anybody. New York is keen on retaining its original frame of mind. And that’s the first thing that’s cool about New York!
As soon as we arrived at our hotel in SoHo, I was impressed by the quaintness of it all. The streets, quiet and pretty, displayed an interesting mix of high-end shops and second-hand designer outlets, something you don’t find in London, as London tends to keep its retailers pretty separate. Lovely cafes and tiny restaurants peppered the streets right in between shops. But most importantly the ever-present fire escapes made me feel like I was constantly walking on a film set. ’Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ followed me like an obsession as I imagined Audrey Hepburn up and down the fire escapes with Cat and a guitar.
The evening saw us at Bohemian, a secret, invite-only Japanese restaurant in the East Village. It wasn’t just that we managed to get hold of the ’secret’ phone number to make a dinner reservation, but as it turned out, the restaurant’s location was no other than the former NY pad of graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, purchased by Andy Warhol after Basquiat’s death. By going further back in time, the building’s history also boasts secret mafia meetings and has seen the likes of Al Capone and probably a few murders during the prohibition era. That alone would have been enough to make anyone go ’Wow!’, but the real star of the evening was the six course taster meal which literally brough tears to my eyes. I left Bohemian in awe of the capacity of gourmet food to provoke such deep emotions. All for less than an average meal at Salt Yard.
Saturday was the hottest day of the year in New York and after a short stroll through Brooklyn Heights, lemonade bought from children on the street, and a photo session on the promenade, we took a taxi to Sunny’s bar in the Red Hook district. I was surprised to see how much life was in between warehouses. In fact, we stumbled upon a Crab & Oyster Festival at Brooklyn Crab and after wrestling a giant snow crab, we drank the night away at Sunny’s with Stevie from Saint Louis and a jam session consisting of locals strumming their guitars. We were at the bottom of Brooklyn, closer to the Statue of Liberty than we’d ever been on the Staten Island Ferry and probably the only tourists to ever set foot there.
But it was the New Yorkers that I loved most. You know, I’m starting to believe that the ’New York state of mind’ is not a catch phrase, but an actual thing. The new Yorkers are cool because they are not trying to be cool, they just are. They invented cool. They dress simply and tastefully and they speak just like in the movies. I wanted to make beste friends with each and everyone of them and shoould I have stayed longer, I would’ve probably been successful!
We spent the last day in Williamsburg, playing bowling at the Brooklyn Brewery, dipping our feet in real sand at the Surf Bar and devouring the sweetest ribs I’ve ever had.
I was really sad to leave New York. I immediately felt at home in New York. And I can’t wait to go back there!.