Thanks to the Conrad team and their Director of Inspitation Nilou Motamed – I know, job title goals – I got to experience their tailored to each city Stay Inspired programme (accessible through the app) which gives you ideas for 1,3, and 5 hour experiences in the city… But before we start, here’s a little peek at where I stayed, at the Conrad New York hotel in the Financial District right by the Hudson River – yes, I could actually see a minuscule Statue of Liberty out of my window…
Walk The High Line
First off, and this felt like exactly the right thing to do on my very first day in New York, we set off to walk the High Line, a disused cargo railway line turned into a walkway above the city, full of greenery and great views from its elevated vantage point – see my first New York post about it here. In sum, it can take about a hour at a leisurely meander, but faster if you’re setting a pace. I loved this as it was a great way to get a feel for the city, checking out all the amazing buildings and street art along the way, as well as a little tunnelled market. You end up in the Meatpacking District where you can super easily segue into checking out the Whitney modern art collection…
See Some Art
The newly relocated Whitney Museum of Modern Art (between the High Line and the Hudson River) is as short or as long an experience as you want to make it. A fantastic, mind-blowing visual smorgasbaord of colour, shape and ideas spanning twentieth century and contemporary art. Although I must admit we spent quite a of time too hanging out on the brilliant outdoor, metal-grated terrace looking down on visitors on the levels below, looking out to the incredible cityscape. My main regret was not sitting down for a coffee in the cafe before spending more time trawling the art. We also visited contemporary Leila Heller Gallery in Chelsea, where we saw artwork inspired by the troubles in the Middle East.
Eat Somewhere Different
Where do you start with eating in New York? With restaurants open til way past midnight (wondering whether you can find somewhere to eat at 10pm is just not an issue) and cafés and brassieries at practically every turn, your best bet is to rely on recommendations. Which is exactly how we ended up getting a snapshot of different parts of the city, eating super delicious food.
First up was Balthazar, a New York institution – opened in 1997 – I’d say akin to London’s The Ivy. Decked with original Paris bistro mirrors, home to many a celeb (a favourite with Anna Wintour as she divulges in her 73 Questions vid!) and colourful characters holding up the bar! The star of the night had to be the French menu’s exquisite execution of snails, moules frite and the steak and chips. The buzz was high and was clearly going to outlast our visit by quite a few hours.
The next evening we dined at Ginny’s Supper Club in Harlem, in the basement below the renowned Red Rooster. A roaring success by Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised celebrity chef and restauranteur Marcus Samuelsson with a speakeasy vibe in the basement bar replete with jazz band. We tucked into the most divine ribs, soulful macaroni cheese and cholesterol boosting donut puddings – comfort food heaven.
Just as much an institution but in the Lower East Side is the Russ & Daughters cafe. A Jewish family-run comfort food (can you see a theme emerging here?) deli, which opened a cafe last year due to high demand, the bagels, salmon and toppings menu have gone down a treat and this was one I couldn’t stop myself from packing in as much as possible! Loved this, a real New Yorker experience.
Actually part of our DUMBO, Brooklyn tour (see the next bit!) Atrium is a French American restaurant just by Brooklyn Bridge. Beautifully decked out, I would have happily photographed forever, had we not to sit down and eat! I had an amazing mushroom soup followed by goat’s wrap and a delicious crumble.
Take a Walking Tour of Brooklyn
Walking being probably my favourite way to discover a city, the BQE walking tour of DUMBO, Brooklyn was right up my street. Hosted by quick-talking, super-knowledgeable and full of jokes local John Garay, it felt great to be plunged into this part of town’s history and architecture; in case you’re wondering DUMBO stands for Down Under the Manhattan Overpass; originally a ferry and industrial area, then developed into an upscale residential and commercial community becoming an haven for artists and galleries, now more about the tech companies. With loads of amazing street art (see work by Frank Shepherd Fairey and Yuko Shimizu below ) to the movie favourite Manhattan Bridge archway, getting right up close to Brooklyn Bridge, visiting one of the area’s remaining artists in his home-cum-studio and jewellery shop and makers Thea Grant Design (where I got a brass bracelet moment stamped) the tour was plentiful and rich with content. I can’t begin to tell you how many photos I took, ahem. We also stopped by the Brooklyn Coffee Co, where they grind and roast on site and finished up with a great lunch at Atrium for delicious eats.
Walk Up Bleecker Street To Nolita
Again with the walking! I had a coffee date with an old pal in Lolita (this was my favourite part of the city shops wise and I’m putting together a little mini guide of all my favourite places) so I decided to walk the 40 minutes from the Meatpacking District north up Bleecker Street which turned out to be a great decision. Fire-escape fronted buildings everywhere (I could do a whole post with all the pics I took of these), loads of great designer-y shops to spy along the way, ending up in a brilliant quadrant of streets which basically felt like my spiritual home (think of Shoreditch’s Redchurch Street multiplied). But again walking my way through these streets was truly rewarding and with Google Maps to hand (sad to say, but how I coped in life before this, I do not know) I was able to plough ahead in the unknown with confidence. And also charge back speedily for my airport taxi on my last day, powering through Chinatown and the like!
A huge thank you to Conrad New York for hosting me and introducing me to New York with their Stay Inspired #Conrad135 programme, it was perfect.
Stayed tuned for my next New York instalment A Mini (Mainly Shopping) Guide To Nolita, New York…