There is far too much of New York City to discover in a single visit – some would say even if that visit lasted a lifetime. Trying to narrow down your to-do list when you only have forty-eight hours to spend there is going to be frustrating. You’re bound to feel the need to experience everything you’ve read about, watched on TV or seen in movies. So it’s best to focus on a few choice attractions, lest you bite off more of the Big Apple than you can chew.
Pool at the Gansevoort Park Avenue Hotel
First Get Your Bearings
The city is divided into five boroughs: Manhattan; Brooklyn; Queens; Staten Island and the Bronx. The most common tourist destination of these is Manhattan which includes Tribeca, SoHo, NoLita, and Greenwich Village. Manhattan has a fairly easy-to-navigate grid pattern, with numbered avenues running north/south and numbered streets running east/west.
Whatever your itinerary is comprised of, be sure to build in extra travel time especially if you are walking to your destination. It’s easy to get side-tracked with the window shopping and colourful characters that make up the city’s street life. But if at any time, you are unsure of your whereabouts don’t bother asking a local whether a destination is within walking distance. You’ll surely be met with a gruff response such as: “Everything in Manhattan is within walking distance!”
Live on Broadway
Times Square is where the Broadway plays are situated. Since I’m a huge fan of the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s and its star, the late Audrey Hepburn, I wanted to see the recent Broadway production. The play, which has since closed, had received mixed reviews (the New York Times described it as “leaden” and its depiction of New York City, “sinister”) but was also just voted “Favorite Play” in Broadway.com’s Audience Choice Awards, so I wanted to judge for myself.
What had made the film so appealing was watching the madcap adventures of its wacky but stylish heroine, Holly Golightly. And of course, the positively iconic image of Hepburn, dressed in her Little Black Dress by Givenchy, black shades and white pearls has been the inspiration for countless fashion houses ever since the film’s release in 1961. Hepburn’s understated style – her gamine frame and delicate shoulders – has been often imitated, with little success. So in assuming the lead role, twenty-five year old Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) must have felt the weight of the world’s expectations on her own delicate shoulders. In the circumstances, I thought she held her own in the role and should be commended for her brave turn as Holly. The performances of the rest of the cast were solid as well. Otherwise, I would agree that the production was missing the feel-good element and escapism that audiences have come to expect.
Shopping Then Drinks Then Dinner
Assuming your hotel is located in a convenient spot (see below) you should be within blocks of some of the city’s best shopping including Bergdorf’s, Bloomingdales, Bendel’s and Barneys. Also, Saks, Macy’s and every retail flagship you could imagine. (Interestingly, I heard a few people cite the relatively new Joe Fresh flagship as one to visit; little did they know that I’ve been shopping there for years in Toronto, usually after I’ve finished buying my paper towels at Loblaws).
In terms of nightlife, luckily I had a local friend who knew the latest hotspots. We first hit the lobby bar at the Ace Hotel in the Gramercy Park area for drinks. The Ace has a cool vibe, with its old-style photo booths and inventive drink list. The hotel is also attached to a Stumptown Coffee outlet and an Opening Ceremony boutique.
Dinner reservations (which weren’t until 10:30 pm, natch) were at Empellon Cocina in the Village where we indulged in the Melted Tetilla Cheese Tomate Frito, Kol, Lobster and Green Garbanzos Tacos served with crispy kale and black garlic hummus, followed by a mouth-watering banana-chocolate thingy for desert. :
Brunch the next day, featured delicious pumpkin waffles with maple syrup, was served with a choice of coffee, freshly-squeezed juice or a mimosa, at Penelope’s located around the corner of my hotel. Speaking of which….
Lobby at Gansevoort Park Avenue
The Hotel: Location, Location, Location
Particularly if you are short on time, it’s important to find a centrally-located hotel. I stayed at the Gansevoort Park Avenue in the emerging Murray Hill district (“where midtown meets uptown”). I had the pleasure of staying at another Gansevoort hotel when I visited Turks and Caicos a couple of years ago and even on a tranquil island like Turks, the property felt very urban and chic. So I was curious to see what its sister property in the actual city was like.
The Manhattan location did not disappoint. The exuberant, three-story lobby, modern in design, was accented with 1940s-era furnishings (herringbone chairs, purple chandeliers). In addition, a satellite location of the popular Exhale Mind and Body Spa chain offered body treatments, yoga and core classes (the fitness centre is open 24/7). The Gansevoort’s restaurant, Asellina, was old-school in design with plush sofas and dark floors reflected in a copper ceiling. The menu featured Italian comfort food. But the hotel’s main calling card had to be the Gansevoort Rooftop pool area and lounge, which offered a stunning view of the Empire State Building and by night transformed into a booming nightclub scene.
The rooms provided a quiet and spacious sanctuary from the nightclub and bustling city. The suite was ridiculously spacious by New York standards and came with all the modern conveniences (large mounted LCD TVs; iPod Touch players, complimentary Wi-Fi, deep soak bath tubs – complete with a vibrating rubber duck(?), and separate showers with excellent water pressure). The suite was stylish, with large, floor-to-ceiling windows, Juliette balconies, pink velvet curtains and peacock blue bedspreads.
The hotel seems to take its customer service seriously. Even if your request is out-of-the-ordinary, the concierge will do what it can to accommodate it. In my case, I had a slightly stiff neck and had asked if there was a heating pad available. Sure enough, when I got to my room, there was a package of Therma Care heat wraps waiting for me.
And after a couple of crazy days and nights, I must have clocked about twenty miles on foot without even trying. So when I climbed into my king-size bed, almost ready to fall asleep I suddenly noticed my initials monogrammed on the pillows. I didn’t know if that was real or whether I was already dreaming. Well it turned out to be real and I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised by this over-the-top amenity – after all, it does take a lot of effort to stand out in what many consider to be the greatest city in the world.
Hotel accommodations were provided by the Gansevoort Park Avenue. Photos of the Gansevoort are courtesy of Siren Communications. Press passes to Breakfast at Tiffany’s were provided by O+M Co.