Everyone's got their NY story. The place is more familiar to us through film and TV references than probably anywhere else on the planet. But this was my first time, and I fell in love - with the real New York.
Our hotel is in Hell's Kitchen and is called Ink 48. It's got one of Midtown's most popular rooftop bars, and is a boutique hotel in the best sense of the word - little details like a yoga mat in every room, and complimentary 5pm wine hour. It's so New York.
Our first stop after getting settled is Chelsea Market. Lobster Bar feeds us fresh delicacies like Clam Chowder and lobster from Maine, completed with a NY cheesecake from Sarahbeth's. We exit and climb on to the High Line, the abandoned tramline that makes its way across lower Manhattan, transformed into a garden trail complete with ice cream sellers and manicured patches of garden by famed landscape architects.
In the evening we have a real, melt-in-your-mouth, big-ass steak, at the Strip House on Broadway. The wall paper has pin up girls on it, embossed in velvet, and it's all very nouveau chic. Exiting into the smooth summer evening, we stroll down through Chelsea and go for late night shopping at Macy's.
By now, we've got a first sense of how New York differs from London. We're feeling upbeat, from the energy that flows downs the avenues, and the conversations we're having with people that so easily stop to chat, in a way that Londoners just don't.
On day 2 we head to Tribeca and completely over-order at Bubby's on Hudson Street. A brunch and a half later, we're ready to recommend the place to anyone. Blueberry pancakes, grilled cheese sandwiches, watermelon juice and we didn't even begin to look at their homemade pies.
We spent the afternoon on the tourist trail downtown, frustrated by not having planned to experience the iconic places in a better way. We pass through Ground Zero (impressed at how tastefully it's been done), Wall Street and Museum of Finance and go for a quick boat ride over to Ellis Island (skip it if you go). Luckily, our evening is so much better.
Meeting friends at the magnificent Hudson Hotel, with three bars that make you want to stay the night, we leave only to have a great, cheap Thai meal at Room Service in Hell's Kitchen. Moving on to the rooftop at Ink 48, we get some great shots of the skyline. 6 cosmos later, I want to take on the world and finally know why this city has so many songs written about it.
New York does something to me. I could love it in a way I never loved London.
For day 3, we follow a great new friend's recommendation and head to Barney Greengrass, a Jewish deli on Upper West Side for breakfast - mountains of smoked salmon and cream cheese on onion bagels. One of my best memories. We meander through Central Park and take a yellow cab to MoMa. Skirting in and out of different exhibitions to do the museum in an hour, we then head to the West Village for cookies. We find the cute, tree-lined side street that hosts Milk & Cookies (Commerce Street). We have a cookie with bacon and maple syrup. The area is really like a village and we find a townhouse we want to buy (oh yes).
We take a cab to NoLita and have the best vongole I've ever tasted, on Mulberry Street. The guy serving us looks like he could be mafioso. He probably is. We see Chinatown in passing as we head back to the hotel for wine hour in the lounge - freshly caught crabs escaping across the pavement.
After a quick nap we head to another friend's house on the Upper West Side for a barbecue in their back garden. Our host is one of the founders of VitaCoco. We talk about Brooklyn, a city in itself, which we didn't even get to this time. And all the areas that promise beach, hiking, water sports or just a respite from the city, in the wider state. Food for thought.
That's it folks - three days we loved, and that we want to add to soon.