Biting the Big Apple
New York City is hot. I mean HOT! Not only is it an exciting, tireless metropolis teeming with people who go there to find new lives and new beginnings, it’s hot…like over 100º F. Well, at least it was last week when I was there for a quick little sojourn with a friend to taste just a few of the delights the Big Apple has to offer.
I realize that in all the times I have been to New York, it’s always been in August. This must mean I am A) a lover of hot concrete or B) a masochist. I’ll say it’s a bit of both. New York is a steaming cauldron of exciting places to eat, shop, explore, investigate and embrace. Seriously, I could go there once a month in perpetuity and not get tired of it and certainly not see it all.
My traveling companion and I started out trek in style on Porter Airlines. This was my first trip on Porter and I was impressed not only by the price of our respective airfares ($215 return, all in), but everything from the lounge, complimentary snacks and drinks to the aircraft and the pleasant and professional flight crew. And to add a cherry to the cake, their Toronto hub is located right on the Toronto Island. Talk about convenient!
After a hassle-free flight, we landed at Newark Airport. Sure, it’s a bit out of the way but they offer shuttle services that drop you right at the door of your hotel for a fraction of what you’d pay for a cab. Deposited at the door of our hotel, we were ready to check in, freshen up and head out.
The grace and majesty of the Empire State Building looms large
just around the corner.
We stayed at the relatively new King & Grove Hotel (formerly Hotel Lola), situated at 29 East 29th Street, between Park Avenue and Madison Avenue. Having only ever seen it online we were very surprised by the swanky, Deco lobby and reception area. The staff was efficient and friendly and had us in our room in no time. Now, this is a New York hotel room so you don’t expect a lot of space unless you plan to pay. Having said that, while our room was small, it was cozy, pristinely clean with two very comfortable beds and a gorgeous bathroom with a walk-in shower filled with bath and body amenities. Another amazing thing about this hotel is its proximity to a Manhattan icon. The grace and majesty of the Empire State Building looms large just around the corner.
You expected to see Woody Allen and Diane Keaton strolling by, ensconced in some
self-obsessed psychodrama—and that’s just New York by day. Wait till
the lights go down.
Refreshed, we hit the streets for a little fun. Well, it turned out to be a lot of fun as we found delicious food in little restaurants and bistros with delightful staff and views to make the most rubber necked people-watcher dizzy from swiveling. Cold beer, mimosas and delectable salads kept us as intoxicated as the scenery as all manner of people strolled the streets of Chelsea. It was like finding a little oasis in the middle of a cacophonous urban maelstrom. The city noise actually added beats to the backdrop of our little Manhattan movie. You expected to see Woody Allen and Diane Keaton strolling by, ensconced in some self-obsessed psychodrama—and that’s just New York by day. Wait till the lights go down.
Into the night we went, checking out all manner of nightlife from seedy to seductive, sketchy to sexy. New York nightlife has something for everyone and everyone wants something when they hit the town. We dashed from intimate bars with just a few patrons to thumping nightclubs packed with libation-swilling locals and tourists all mixing and mingling and having a great time.
Of course, the best way to get around New York is by foot.
Getting around New York is much easier than you’d expect. I remember my first visit in the mid-1990s and being very intimidated by the subway. I was afraid I’d get lost in the subterranean maze or get mugged (yea, I watched a lot of 70s crime movies and Norman Lear sitcoms where someone was always getting mugged in the subway). The truth is, they are clean, efficient and safe. The labyrinthine tunnels can whisk you from the Upper West Side in the 70s down to the Lower East 20s in under 10 minutes. Buy a single fare or a smart card and load it up as much as you like. Easy peasy.
Of course, the best way to get around New York is by foot. You can wander the streets and find yourself in the Fashion District one minute and then in the middle of Times Square the next. It’s easy to lose yourself window-shopping and it seems almost anyone is willing to barter if you mean to buy. Then there’s the Grande Dame, Central Park. A lush urban jungle filled with winding paths, streams, and iconic views from every angle. You’d be forgiven for feeling as if you’d been transported into a movie as New York seems at once so fascinatingly new yet intimately familiar.
In all the years I’ve been visiting this great city, I’ve never once come face-to-face with a grimace or bad attitude. New York and its denizens have always made me feel welcomed and at home. As much as I love Toronto, our city could take a lesson.
marquee photo credit: daz smith
all other photos: Andrew Vail
Tags: Andrew Vail
, Central Park
, Diane Keaton
, Empire State Building
, Hotel Lola
, King & Grove Hotel
, Lower East Side
, Madison Avenue
, New York
, New York City
, Norman Lear
, Park Avenue
, Porter Airlines
, The Big Apple
, Times Square
, Upper West Side
, Woody Allen