There are not many cities I could imagine travelling to nine times, but New York is in a special category all of its own. Every time I visit there’s something new to see or do, as well as old favourites to revisit, and my last trip was no exception.
In fact, the reason for this particular trip was to see a new play on Broadway. Well an old play really as Plaza Suite was written by Neil Simon years ago, but this production was starring Sarah-Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick. And it was the first time the famous husband and wife were appearing on stage together. That was the plan for 2020 and then you know what happened, so it was 2022 before we finally got to see it. But it was well worth the wait!
Our week Stateside actually started in a part of Manhattan that I don’t usually stay in, mid-town. But as we were headed straight out to the Hudson Valley for a few days, we decided to spend our first night close to Penn Station. The EVEN hotel was actually very nice and it’s close to the Empire State Building and Times Square – which was lively and fun to walk through after a really nice dinner at Bouqueria on West 40th Street. But I think there are much nicer areas to stay in New York.
The next morning we discovered a great place for breakfast, the Skylight Diner on 9th Avenue. Then it was off on the train to Rhinecliff station to stay in fabulous Rhinebeck, which you can read all about in another blog post.
Back in Manhattan a few days later we headed for familiar territory, Greenwich Village and the Walker Hotel. We’d stayed here for a girls’ weekend a few years earlier and loved it. After checking in we headed straight into the ‘village’ and had lunch at Caffe Reggio on Macdougal Street. It claims to be the oldest cafe in Greenwich Village and home of the original cappuccino. No idea if that’s true but the omelettes were good!
Then we walked across to the Hudson River to check out a new addition to the New York sightseeing trail, Little Island. It’s a public park built on the remnants of the old Pier 54, once a point of departures and returns for trans-Atlantic ocean liners. In 1912, survivors from the Titanic arrived to safety at Pier 54, then three years later the RMS Lusitania left Pier 54, only to be sunk by German U-boats off the coast of Ireland five days later. So, a lot of history but it’s a stunningly modern and unique park now.
Little Island has been beautifully landscaped so there’s plenty of green space as well as a children’s playground and a 687-seat amphitheatre. Needless to say, there are also some great views.
From there you can walk up onto the High Line, another unique New York park that was created on a former railway line that used to carry freight trains above the city’s streets. It wasn’t my first visit but it’s a firm favourite, though definitely quieter in March than in warmer times of the year.
After coming back down to ground level we decided to go even higher than the High Line and head for another old haunt, 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar on, yes you guessed it, 5th Avenue. There were blankets, great drinks and a fab view of the Empire State Building. And yes, you guessed it again, we stayed for more than one drink!
Dinner that evening was at Amelie Wine Bar on West 8th Street which I’d really recommend. Excellent cocktails and desserts as well as wine, though I should mention that eating and drinking in New York is very expensive these days. Even the diners aren’t very cheap anymore!
The next morning we decided on another new experience, though new to us and not New York, walking over the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s so iconic I can’t believe I’d not done it before. Once on the other side, we headed for DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) for a classic NYC photo stop which is at the junction of Washington Street and Water Street.
If you carry on to the end of Washington Street you’ll reach Bridge Park where there’s a small pebble beach and some of the best views of Brooklyn Bridge and the lower Manhattan skyline that I’ve ever seen.
Walk on through the park and you’ll see Jane’s Carousel, a restored 1922 carousel and then opposite on Water Street is Time Out Market New York. I hadn’t come across one of these before, but Time Out has a few across the world and describes them as a dining and culture experience that brings the best of a city under one roof.
There are lots of eateries and a few bars including one that leads out to a great rooftop terrace. After a late breakfast, it was a bit early for lunch but as the view was so good we ordered some excellent cocktails and a portion of Tater Tots, which are essentially hash browns in a slightly different shape!
If you then walk under Brooklyn Bridge you’ll see the River Cafe, which we didn’t go to this time but is a great venue for a special occasion. Then you’re into Brooklyn Bridge Park which extends a fair way along the riverfront and has several piers with various sports fields and pitches. I imagine it’s a popular place in the summer. Needless to say, there are also great views of the Manhattan skyline and as it’s from a different angle I’ll just post one more photo below!
If you can tear yourself away from the views there’s plenty to explore in Brooklyn and some really contrasting areas. We walked through lovely tree-lined streets with brownstones in Brooklyn Heights and then got the subway up to Broadway in Williamsburg which is packed with discount shops and traffic and has the subway line running overhead.
Further down Broadway, we found Marlow and Sons, a nice cafe to have lunch and then explored the much more gentrified part of Williamsburg in the streets north of that. There are plenty of trendy bars and nice shops and they extend back down to the East River and Domino Park, the site of a former sugar refinery that’s now another NYC riverfront park.
That evening we had dinner at an Italian called Rubirosa in Soho. It was ok but I wouldn’t recommend making the effort as the staff weren’t the nicest! But afterwards, we headed back to a great speakeasy-style cocktail bar that we discovered on a previous trip. It’s called LB and is in the West Village (or maybe Greenwich Village, I’m never sure where the borders are). Anyhow, it’s right on the corner of Leroy Street and 7th Avenue and as you’ll see from the photo below it really doesn’t look like a cocktail bar from the outside! Once downstairs it’s small and very dark but the cocktails and live music are great.
The next day was rainy so perfect for shopping and as there are so many shops in New York I’ll just mention a couple. Firstly B&H on 9th Avenue and West 33rd which is brilliant if you’re in the market for electronic goods. I bought a new camera that was £50 cheaper than I’d seen it at home. I’d researched what I wanted and went with a camera in mind and the sales guy agreed it was the best of its type and didn’t try to upsell. It’s also handily across the street from the Skylight Diner that I mentioned earlier.
The second is unsurprisingly SJP’s shoe shop. When we were there it was on West 54th Street and it was such a beautiful shop but sadly the heels were beyond my ability to walk in! Instead, I came away with a very nice canvas shopping bag and a cool phone case. That shop has since closed and a new one has just opened on Bleecker Street. That’s SJP’s local turf and I’m sure will suit her much better. And hopefully, there will be a wider range of shoes with lower heels!
There are also just a couple more new New York sites that I’ll mention as conscious this post is getting long – that’s NYC for you, just so much to say! First off, one of the best places we went to on this visit was SUMMIT One Vanderbilt, the city’s latest highrise attraction. I won’t say too much as it’s one to experience for yourself, suffice to say that it’s all glass and mirrors, the views are spectacular and you can do fun things like lie on the floor and take a photo of your reflection and see yourself as a cloud!
SUMMIT is also right next to Grand Central Station which is such a gorgeous building it’s worth going into even if you’re not taking a train anywhere. And in the other direction, around the corner is one of my personal favourites, the New York City Library, with Bryant Park just behind it.
Another newbie for me was Hudson Yards, several blocks over at 10th Avenue and West 30th. This is a new ‘neighbourhood’ at one end of the Highline and was under construction on my last visit. It now includes a large shopping mall with several restaurants and a Spanish food market where we had lunch.
The centrepiece of Hudson Yards is the Vessel, an artwork with 154 interconnecting flights of stairs created by Thomas Heatherwick. It was intended to be a place where people could enjoy unique perspectives of the city from different heights, angles and vantage points. Sadly several people chose to take their lives by jumping from it so now only the bottom level can be accessed, but it’s still worth seeing.
The final new site for me, though not new to NYC, was the 9/11 memorial museum. I’d been to the memorial before, but still spent a bit of time there before going into the museum and again found the reflecting pools that were built on the footprint of the two towers to be very moving.
Then we went into the museum and while there are some beautiful elements honouring and remembering the people who lost their lives that day, I found it all pretty emotional. Brought back memories of that awful day. Rightly so as it shouldn’t be forgotten, but if you’re an empathic person like me, be prepared.
And that was pretty much all the sights that were new to me in New York this time around, so I’ll just mention a couple of other places to eat and drink. On our last night, we went to eat at Boucherie West Village on 7th Avenue. Not the cheapest meal we had but a great atmosphere and the food, drinks and service were all fab, so made for a brilliant last evening.
Earlier that day after a wander through Soho and Washington Square Park we’d discovered a small basement bar, the 8th Street Wine Cellar, with an excellent female bartender and great wines to sample. We headed back there after dinner, but as it was busy we went over the road to Mace for a cocktail. So with Amelie also being in West 8th Street, there are plenty of options to choose from.
In fact, we went back to Amelie for a late brunch before leaving for our overnight flight home the next day. There’s nothing quite like a weekend brunch in New York and Amelie’s cocktails and omelettes were the perfect way to say farewell to the Big A. Until next time…
Click an image below to see more photos in the gallery and check the New York section of my blog for earlier posts about one of my favourite cities.