My friend Cheryl and I like to plan trips together, where we meet “in the middle” between her home in Bristol and mine in Sydney. Although not really in the middle-New York was way closer to her, it was an awesome holiday for two girlfriends who hadn’t hung out together for ages and needed a catch up.
We stayed right in the middle of Times Square, thanks to Cheryl and her connections. First at the Radisson, where we met a very cool guy who was known as “the navigator” and was there to help us maximise our stay-which he did very well. We told him which sights we wanted to see and he suggested the best way to get around and see them all. He also booked us on the tours we took and got us discounted theatre tickets. The Hilton (where we stayed next) could learn from this, as their concierge was pretty useless.
The obvious tour for two females was the Sex In The City one, which didn’t disappoint. I loved the way they played the clips from the show on the bus before we actually got to see the places, as it had been a long time since I had watched the series so I would have been frustrated trying to recall where I had seen the various spots otherwise. We stopped off for cocktails at Aiden’s bar and to look around the swanky restaurant where they had the engagement dinner (and we booked a table there for later-it was great). It was fortunate that most of the tour was in the bus though because it was pouring with rain outside. We had real luck with the weather that way.
The next tour we took was not as obvious, but just as enjoyable. Our navigator had not had any customers wanting to book on the hush hip hop tours, so he was quite excited for us too! Grandmaster Caz (aka Casanova fly) and JDL of the Cold Crush brothers took us in a bus around Harlem and the Bronx to see where and how the genre of hip hop started to become popular. It was very entertaining and we ended up in a soul food restaurant that charged you by weight of your buffet food in a plastic tray! A great idea and very tasty too. Grandmaster Caz’s stories were of the kind “it could have been me”-I wrote the lyrics to that great song, but noone credited me, I had this idea but the famous dude stole it, etc. His passion for spreading the word about hip hop was infectious and I was totally on his side and felt for him with the ‘near miss’ stories. Both guides bounced off each other well and had heaps of energy. It helped that both Cheryl and I were already hip hop fans (although different types, I prefer the modern stuff, particularly the australian and british, whereas she is more old skool!)
We took advantage of staying near broadway and watched two shows while we were there. I had a bit of a ‘spin out’ moment while sitting in the middle of the audience waiting for one to start, when I remembered the contrast of seeing my first musical with my Mum and sister. Back then it had been such a big deal and huge build up, planning, saving for it, getting the train down to the big city, then stressing when little details of the day didn’t work out (I had left behind some expensive chocolates that Mum had put aside especially for us to eat during the performance-it was a big deal, I was in trouble and felt awful). In New York, I sat there, having just breezed up to the counter a few minutes before and grabbing some last minute tickets. It took me a few minutes now while blogging to even recall what it was we saw first. I probably wouldn’t remember if I hadn’t kept the soft drink beaker and had it now sitting beside me with “Memphis” written on it. The child version of me would be horrified that I could be so blase about being on broadway and watching a show!
The second show was recommended by the navigator when he saw how much we had enjoyed the hip hop tour, “In the heights” was a musical set in a latino community in New York with hip hop music and dancing. I was just keen to see something else on Broadway, the hip hop element convinced Cheryl and I’m glad it did.
We nearly came a little unstuck restaurant wise, as it seems you need to book in advance for most New York restaurants. We gave our navigator a bit of a hard task trying to get us into the latest cool spot that I had been told about, but we needed to have given him more notice. So after flicking through the lonely planet we phoned a nice sounding alternative and made reservations. But the address in the book must have been out of date, because when the taxi took us there, no sign of any restaurant at all. We eventually gave up and asked to be taken to one of the places we remembered from the sex in the city tour in the ‘meat packing district’. That particular restaurant was fully booked, so we wandered across the road and found ourselves in a magical garden with fairy lights, an amazing menu and cocktails afterwards. Couldn’t tell you how to find it now though I’m afraid.
We packed a lot into our week, walked a lot: across the brooklyn bridge; along the High Line; around Wall Street; Ground Zero; and through central park. My mathematical brain loved the grid system, which meant we found our way around easily. We used all forms of public transport and took the statten island ferry to see the Statue of Liberty, we drank milkshakes in a diner that seemed to be stuck in the 50s and ate breakfast in a broadway diner where we were serenaded by the waiters, who were also on rollerskates I think. Every where we went there hung this feeling that we were in a film set, even wandering around the ‘normal’ buildings with their fire escapes on the outside felt exciting. I took advantage of the fact that clothes are cheaper, better made and look cooler in the US than in Australia and went a bit overboard with my shopping. Some of the pieces are now staples of my wardrobe, but I haven’t found quite the matching outfit and occasion for the sequinned statue of liberty t-shirts (yes you read correctly-plural, more than one). We left out climbing the Empire state building, we figured our view from the 47th floor of the Hilton was impressive enough, and there’s got to be something to do on our next visit.