It was a surreal experience strutting the sidewalks of Manhattan again, 12 years since I was last in the Big Apple. The Babe Papa whisked me away at the end of May for a babe-free weekend in New York, part of my (very belated) birthday gift. After the shocking news about my mum earlier that month, it was a welcome escape from my daily reality. Abiye was excited too as it had been way longer since his last visit.
New York is where I went to graduate school (NYU) and worked (Madison Avenue) in the early noughties and where Abiye got the inspiration for Big Apple Hot Dogs, after a year spent on the Lower East side. He wore his BAHD top around the city and got quite a bit of interest. Big Apple Hot Dogs takes NYC? Watch this space!
There have been plenty of changes over the past decade or two, but it’s still the New York I remember: visually captivating, creatively liberating, pressure cooker intense. Smelly, loud, rude, fabulous.
We stayed at a friend’s apartment in Tribeca, just around the corner from Ground Zero. The yellow taxi dropped us off, we unloaded our luggage and went for a stroll around the neighbourhood. Within 10 minutes I had spotted an elderly dude with ‘Hustler’ printed all over his suit and had a passerby tut at me because I accidentally waved my hand near her face. I couldn’t stop grinning. I felt right at home.
New York has always reminded me of a taller, slicker, less crowded and marginally less bonkers version of Lagos. Everyone is going places and pronto. The city is bursting with attitude and if you don’t like it, you can get the **** out.
It felt especially like being at a Lagos buka (roadside shack) as we sat on a rickety bench by a steaming trash can outside Prosperity Dumpling, chowing down with Chinatown residents and others who had clearly trekked here from far and wide. It was worth the stench and the flies (read more about this spot in my next post, Our Best Places to Eat in New York).
We spent much of our days in NYC just walking around, people watching, craning our necks at skyscrapers, taking silly photos, ogling the view down Broadway to the Hudson river, and generally buzzing off the atmosphere.
There truly is no place like New York and, although five days is the perfect mini break in the Big Apple, it doesn’t seem long enough when you’re on the plane home. Some highlights from our (long) weekend in New York:
A Tom Cruise lookalike, serving cocktails no less.
Cooling our feet on the High Line’s water feature.
Walking the High Line
One of those New York concepts that’s just so quirky, it works. The High Line is a park built on top of a disused railway line, stretching from midtown to the Meatpacking District. You’ll find pretty shrubbery, sweeping views across the city, street art, a stream to cool your toes in, and various drink and foodie pitstops along the way. In the Standard Biergarten just below, there’s German sausages, ping pong, and a barman who reminded me of Tom Cruise in Cocktail. Definitely one for your NYC hit list.
Drinks at Soho House
‘Baller,’ Brooke quipped when I told her Abiye had Soho House membership and we’d be waiting for her in the rooftop bar. Brooke is one of my NYC mates that I’ve kept in contact with over the years, and it was great to catch up with her while eyeing up the beautiful people. Soho House NYC is straight outta Sex & the City with media, models and trendy types lounging by the open-air pool, DJ mixing laid-back beats, and my first and only proper Pimm’s cocktail in New York.
Quick Stop at NYU
I couldn’t resist taking a cheesy tourist photo by the arch at Washington Square Park, the centrepiece of the NYU campus where I did my MA. One of my favourite memories of the park was the Halloween baby parade every year (beyond cute), and watching the old men playing speed chess. The square was as lively as I recall and I had proper waves of nostalgia as we wandered through my old stomping ground.
World Trade Center Memorial
We also visited the World Trade Center memorial, a little further up from where they’re building the new Freedom Tower. The former Twin Towers have been commemorated with two open monuments marking the ground where they once stood, water dripping constantly like a weeping wound. The name of every person who died that day is engraved in bronze around the edges, and when we arrived someone had placed a fresh flower for a lost one. We stood in the rain and paid our silent respects. Powerful and moving, I’ll never forget being in New York on 911.
We’d read in Time Out that at the weekend we could experience Manhattanhenge, a rare annual sighting of the sun setting perfectly on the axis of the Manhattan grid. This turned out to be a massive flop. We stood with a small crowd of no-hopers peering down towards the waterfront, unable to see much more than the afterglow of a sunset happening somewhere else. ‘We came from England just for this!’ Abiye told a mum and her daughter nearby, who were gobsmacked until they realised he was teasing. Manhattanhenge was forgettable but standing on a corner, cracking jokes with strangers, turned into a real New York moment.
Shop, Shop, Shopping
Actually we didn’t do that much shopping (we spent most of our money on food). But we enjoyed browsing thrift stores in Soho and Greenwich Village, bargain hunting in Century 21, and window shopping on Fifth Avenue. We checked out the Hell’s Kitchen flea market where I snapped up a lovely, handcrafted ring. However the market had a disappointing turnout of stalls (because of rain), and one guy was trying to flog me toys at the same price as the 42nd St tourist traps!
Birdman’s Eye View of the City
We swung by to see our buddy Nico, who took us up to the roof garden of a building with breathtaking vistas. Just when you think you can’t get any higher in New York, you discover buildings that are twice as tall. From here, we had clear views of a rooftop where one of the key scenes in Birdman was shot.
On the Town on Broadway
It wouldn’t be a trip to New York without seeing a show on Broadway, or off Broadway if your budget won’t stretch. I was lucky to watch some amazing theatre in New York during my time there: Kathleen Turner in the Graduate, Antonio Banderas in Nine, Alan Cumming in Cabaret at Studio 54. This time around, I caught the multi-award nominated revival of On the Town, crammed with iconic tunes and dazzling performances. I also watched the film (one of my favourites) on our flight back and returned to London with a skip in my step, a song in my soul.
New York, New York. It’s a helluva town.
Don’t miss my next post: Our Best Places to Eat in New York