6:30 AM: My irrational fear of wasting daylight hours aside, it pays to be a morning person in NYC. There’s just about no pedestrian or vehicle congestion (except maybe at SoulCycle), so if you’re into pounding pavement, then try the Hudson River Greenway, Central Park Reservoir, or East River run. Walk home and appreciate how awesome highrises look with sunlight creeping over them. Pick up a coffee and sunflowers on the way. Little Collins at Lexington and 56th Street is the only real (and good, says Alex) coffee above the Villages (they’re Australian, of course).
7:30 AM: Settle for breakfast – Soho Grand’s morning menu is infinitely more tasty than most hotels. If you’re airbnb-ing, consume enough water, nuts and grains to tide yourself over to brunch (see 11 AM). Nothing (except Little Collins) decent is open yet. A copy of The New York Times is essential – compared to our Sydney Morning Herald, The New York Times is practically Shakespeare (both in design and prose). In Winter, this would be the worst hour of your life, but let’s not think such dark thoughts.
8:30 AM: Choose an outfit for the day that isn’t going to melt your skin off, particularly if you don’t plan on coming home throughout the day to shower and nap. I will confess that on a particularly sweaty day without meetings, I did just that. In absence of days off, try pyjamas.
10 AM: Get to the New York Public Library as soon as it opens. I make a habit of taking at least one afternoon off every time I visit to get lost in its grandeur and buy unnecessary (but cheap) maps of Manhattan from the gift store downstairs. Call me juvenile, but I’m still baffled as to how horses and manpower were capable of hauling seven tonne slabs of marble into place in 1905, and equally fascinated by the old library delivery system.
Make sure you spend some time picnicking and people-watching in Bryant Park immediately adjacent. Bryant Park Grill is expensive, but the quinoa salad is amazing. Lady M’s Bryant Park Boutique location right across the road has the tastiest mille crêpes, and Starbucks on the opposite corner is your best bet for cold beverages that don’t cost a mint. Apparently, there’s also mass yoga in the park sometimes, but I am yet to decipher that system.
ASIDE: The first three times I was in New York for work, I avoided the subway for fear of being late to meetings and shows. As the universe would have it, NYC Taxi Cab TV slowly drove me insane (until I figured out that you could actually switch it off) just as much as the traffic, and bank statement by the end of it, did. Now I refuse to cab it unless I’m going East-West (not too many subway lines go all the way across Manhattan). It’s not as fancy as the London tube, but it rattles into every station just about on time, and just about frequently enough. Subway buskers are just the pick-me-up you need while sweating profusely, and a Metrocard will get you in and out of a station in two seconds. Tip: Switch your phone to airplane mode while you’re underground or your phone will be flat from ‘Searching…’ by the time you get out. Meanwhile, staring standoffs with innocent bystanders are far more entertaining than FlappyBird.
11 AM: As far as I’m concerned, any travel guide to any commercial city is going to declare that its residents live for Sunday brunch. New York is no exception. The brunchish-lunchish game is strong (to the point where I couldn’t order my go-to rice bowl off the Friedman’s Lunch menu until 4pm – brunch only til then). Find a friend and philosophise until they kick you out. A few favourites new and and old from above left to below right:
Westville was a random stumble-upon after a stressful camera battery mission to Adorama a few blocks across (on further inspection, they have three other locations). They have a ‘market plate’ menu section where you pick whatever tickles your fancy from a list of both ticklish and fancy (not really) market produce. Highly recommend.
Freds at Barneys runs a mean vegan salad and the most amazing and/or hilarious people-watching in the city (even more so than Williamsburg). I was literally sitting next to a woman on the phone to her plastic surgeon about her upcoming lap-band surgery. She was a size 0. I was afraid she might disappear altogether.
Friedman’s Lunch in Chelsea Market is basically my hideaway during New York Fashion Week – it’s just across from Milk Studios and (as I mentioned) the brown rice bowl is off the charts.
1 PM: The Met rooftop is open at the moment with a Dan Graham mirror walkabout exhibit, and iced tea (and martinis). Bring a hat, and play guess the millions on neighbouring penthouses.
2 PM: If you can handle the crowds, Friday afternoons are UNIQLO Free Fridays at MoMa. You can photograph Starry Night, but you can’t photograph the dude upstairs rolling plastic pillows over a lady’s sleeping body.
3 PM: By this time, most of Soho’s coolest kids are well and truly awake and kicking around being painfully cool. My favourite people-watching intersection is Prince and Lafayette St. SoHo Park on the South West corner has a killer vegie burger and iced tea to pass the time, and I could spend hours going through McNally’s bookstore if you let me loose. On the other side of Broadway, Mercer Street is the must-see, even if you hate shopping. But, beware, if you so much as set foot in Alexander Wang’s store, you’re guaranteed to walk out with something. The visual merchandising, service and interiors are just too good not to.
4 PM: If you’ve a good pair of legs, or a bike, do the Brooklyn Bridge walk at least once. I’d gone three years without even getting close to it, so Alex and I made it a mission. Buy a bag of mango pieces with cayenne pepper at the beginning of the walk. Thank me later.
6 PM: My last couple of days in New York were so packed with meetings that dips and grapefruit juice in air conditioning on a peacock feather table could not have sounded better. Soho Grand has the best of the above. Sam, Rey and Alex are great company.
7 PM: This is not an optional activity. On my first trip to New York, I accidentally ended up at the Rockefeller Centre Observation Deck at sunset, and literally burst into tears. I don’t care that the $22 admission could have gone towards tomorrow’s brunch, and honestly can’t believe that a lot of New Yorkers have never made the effort to go up there. Nothing beats watching the sun go down and the lights go on. In that moment, you really are at the centre of the world.
9 PM: Once you’ve stopped sobbing at the Top of the Rock, Times Square and its disgusting pretzels is absolutely necessary. I know there are gross tourists, and questionable street performers (i.e. naked painted ladies in stripper shoes) in the Summer, but just trust me, leave your bag at home, keep your dollars in your bra, find a spot on the stairs near the Coca Cola sign, and sit yourself down. Wonder who the hell thought it would be a good idea to put flashing lights all over three whole blocks of buildings. Admit that it’s pretty impressive.