04 Oct My Latest Trip to New York
As I begin to write, a wave of nostalgia rushes over. Oh how I miss the lights, the excitement, the unexpected, the anonymity that is New York City. A few months ago I reconnected with New York after a two-year absence. And boy had I missed it! The primary purpose was to spend time with family and friends and re-introduce my now three-year old daughter to the place of her birth, with a view to possibly moving back for a further two years. But how could I resist the opportunity to make connections with new suppliers and get up-to-date with the latest in interior design that New York has to offer.
Check out my Facebook album of my New York trip for some amazing design inspiration.
So relax…put the kettle on… make yourself a cup of tea, (this article is somewhat long) and I will take you through some of my favourite New York destinations accumulated on my various trips to New York City over the last 10 years.
First things first – If you are planning a trip to the Big Apple, here are my top 10 New York tips:
Before you leave:
Get your hands on a decent map that will assist with planning. Go to your local bookstore and buy a detailed map of the city centre (Pages & Pages Mosman have some great ones). If you didn’t already know, NYC has five boroughs – Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. If you have young children, a great guiede to the city is the “Not For Parent’s New York City – Everything You Ever Wanted To Know” (again, readily available from Pages & Pages Mosman). This book will start getting the kids excited about the trip.
Book a well-located hotel and pre-book Broadway shows. We stayed at the Omni Berkshire Place Hotel and loved it! It’s well located to all the mid-town attractions and easy enough to get to Broadway shows and Central Park. The food at the hotel was great too – something you will appreciate if you are new to American food. There are many great hotels though, so make sure to look online for deals. Definitely check the location on your map, as a good location can turn not-so-good (or even bad) in just a short distance.
Plan your shopping and museum-going days. Check out my recommendations below and chat to friends for their recommendations. Preferred destinations will obviously depend on your interests and time in the city so be sure to hone in on only items that interest you. If visiting the Museum of Natural History, don’t be fooled into paying the admission advertised on the signage. This is just a recommended admission price. You need only pay a donation and this can be as little as $1 for entry. You will need to go to a human at a booth to pay your Admission as the vending machines will debit you the full retail price for Admission. For a family of four, this could save you about $80. If you plan on seeing any of the special exhibits, you will need to pay extra for those.
Enter “New York” into iTunes and hit download. Start with Sinatra’s “New York, New York” and move on to Jay-Z & Alicia Keys “Empire State of Mind”. Crank it up loud and think of Carrie Bradshaw in Sex in the City 2 (just watched it again last week) while you pack your bags!
Pack your favourite comfortable walking shoes, your highest stilettos (better still buy them over there) and a box of wide fabric band-aids (…not for the stilettos!)
When you get there –
Buy a local pre-paid telephone SIM card. Don’t buy a mobile SIM at the vending machines at LAX airport. I got caught out buying a pre-paid SIM for my iPhone only to find it was the wrong size. Luckily we were able to put it into my husband’s somewhat older phone but there was no way it was going to fit into a Smart Phone. If you are uncertain, you are far better to walk into any T-Mobile shop (on any of the city’s Avenues – there are heaps!) and purchase a US$50 per month package deal that has a phone included. Phone calls to Australia are cheap from the US but be aware that you are also charged a lower rate per minute every time someone actually calls you!
Check out the services provided by your Concierge. Most Concierge can assist with restaurant recommendations and bookings, any show tickets that you couldn’t get online prior to departure (don’t expect great seats on the one night you are free). They may also provide a parcel pick-up service from many of the major stores (some of the larger department stores will send a message to your hotel if you forget to ask Concierge before you head out). This service is particularly convenient if you plan on making a lot of purchases and/or plan on continuing well into the night without going back to the hotel first.
Buy a small pop-out map that fits in your pocket. Preferably one with a subway map on it. Don’t try and get by with the cumbersome one you brought with you from Australia. Try Barnes & Noble Bookstores, Staples (US version of Office Works) or any paper shop. Don’t get anything too big or you will come to regret it, as well as walking around the city looking like a tourist with a great big map!
Gather basic supplies from the drug store. Go to either a Duane Reade or CVS pharmacy (AKA drug stores). They are everywhere in NYC so don’t backtrack, just keep walking and you’ll come across another one. Be sure to stock up on Tylenol (Panadol equivalent) for yourself and the kids (watch the age range on the packets for the kids, they vary) or Motrin (Nurofen equivalent) for either adults or kids. It’s also handy to get a stash of Neosporin, an all-purpose antiseptic cream for cuts, abrasions, blisters, and a purse sized hand sanitizer (the city is pretty germy). Throw in an extra packet of band-aids, just in case…
Buy a MetroCard at any subway station and put some money on it to save queuing each time you make a subway trip. I usually put about $20 on it and that lasts me about 3 days as I often mix it up with cab trips, depending on where I am going or how many bags I have to carry.
My recommended Furniture, Home wares & Table Accessory places in New York
When in New York, the NY Design Centre and the Design & Decoration Building are unbeatable for the very latest in design. Sadly, you can only attend if you are accompanied by a registered Interior Design professional as the stores are predominantly trade only. [The photos you see in this Blog entry are an insider’s view of some of the items contained within each of these buildings…plus a splattering of other pics]
If travelling to New York without a design professional, check out some of my other favourite places to shop for furniture and home wares:
Tiffany and Co. (for more than just jewellery)
5th Ave and 57th St
215 East 58th St
112 West 18th St
110 7th Ave;
10 Columbus Circle #114; and 121 East 59th St
My Favourite New York Department Stores
* Ask hotel Concierge if they have any discount vouchers for the store
** Take your foreign passport to the Customer Service Desk for a 10% discount store-wide (do not ask for it at any of the service counters, they cannot issue them). This voucher can be used in conjunction with other discounts so if an item is half off, your voucher will entitle you to purchase the item at 60% off. Strangely, if you also have a 10% voucher from the hotel Concierge you can actually combine them and get 70% off the item. Note: The foreigner’s discount and hotel Concierge discounts can be used on all purchases for a specified period ie one month or one week, respectively so you can keep going back to the store again and again.
My Favourite Haberdashery, Fabrics & Trim places in New York
My recommended Fashion spots in New York
I love so many boutiques up and down Madison and Fifth Aves but the staples for me are:
* This could easily be the most beautiful store you will ever see!
Greenwich, Connecticut is approximately an hour and a half from the city, by car. See http://global.ralphlauren.com/worldofralphlauren/au#/greenwich
(click on the arrow to the right of the screen to start the slide show and view the store)
My Favourite New York Museums
My Favourite Daytime Food & Snack places in New York
Obika Mozzarella Bar
590 Madison Ave
(Good for fresh tasty sandwiches and salads. No wine is served though.)
The Russian Tea Room $$$
Must book in advance
150 West 57th St
* Bottega del Vino has been my absolute favourite place to eat breakfast or lunch for the past 10 years. They also have fantastic coffee. Eat in the front bistro section, not in the restaurant (which is located deep in the rear). The very front counter has delicious takeaway rolls. The Apple Store, Crate & Barrel, Bergdorf Goodman, FAO Swartz and Central Park are all within a block of each other and this café/restaurant. Be sure to tip the nice lady in the downstairs restroom as she is consistently kind-spirited and only works on tips!
The Eclectic side of New York
I’m personally not one for oddities but my husband is (I can’t believe I just said that!!!). Check out these locations if you are a collector of old and unusual things.
The Antiques Garage
112 West 25th St
(between 6th & 7th Aves)
Open Saturdays & Sundays 9am-5pm
Hell’s Kitchen Flea Market
West 39th St (between 9th & 10th Aves)
Open Saturdays & Sundays 9am-5pm
(for serious collectors of everything!)
65 Prince St
(walk here from SoHo)
My Favourite things to do with kids in New York
- American Girl Place (a must-do if you have daughters, nieces, younger sisters)
- FAO Swarz (not as good as it used to be – I think Toys R Us has taken it over, but check it out and aim to be there for story-time downstairs or hands-on craft upstairs – the kids still love it!)
- Toys R Us at Times Square (has a full-on Ferris-wheel inside the store)
- The Naked Cowboy (might as well, you’re already at Times Square – my kids giggled the whole time!)
- Central Park: horse and buggy ride, puppet theatre (pre-book shows), the carousel, Central Park Zoo
- Museum of Natural History (see tip #3 in my Top 10 NY Tips above)
- Children’s Museum (for children under 5)
- Bronx Zoo
My Favourite things to do by yourself in New York
- Walk up and down Fifth and Madison Avenues, taking in all the shops.
- Visit a museum or two or three: The Met, MoMa, Googanheim
- Stroll, take a run or horse and buggy ride through all or half of Central Park
- Catch a show on or off Broadway
- New York City Ballet at the Lincoln Centre
- Book tickets to see the Rockettes perform at the Radio Music Hall
- Apple Store (767 5th Ave – open 24/7 every day of the year)
- Spend some time in one of the many Sephora stores and stock up on make-up.
- Take a stroll in and out of the many SoHo stores and galleries
- Take the elevator to the very top of Empire State Building (Think of Meg Ryan in “You’ve Got Mail” if you must!)
- Sip champagne at BG (top floor of Bergdorf Goodman). Better still, have lunch! But you must book in advance.
- Walk through Downtown to South Street Seaport (there are some funky shops, although it’s not as good as it used to be). Nice places for lunch with great views of all three bridges. There are plans underway to redevelop Pier 17 commencing in 2013 and finishing in 2015. Walk around to Battery Park and take a look at Lady Liberty.
- Visit the Arthur Avenue Retail Food Market (the real Little Italy of NYC). While there buy some well-priced Italian gold (18ct) jewellery at the handful of jewellery stores.
By the end of our six week trip, we had laughed, we had cried (travelling with small children can do that!), we had shed some weight with all the walking, we had reconnected with old friends and recaptured some of the life we had left behind two years earlier… But still we came to the realisation that while we had the time of our lives living and working in the US previously, our home and heart was really in Australia, the place of our birth. Life is so much simpler here and generally, for us, so much more fulfilling.
For all of its enticing qualities, day-to-day New York living is anything but easy….and in real terms it’s wicked expensive. All too often, the highs are higher but the lows are lower and there’s rarely anything in between. It’s funny how you forget all that.
So for now, we are anchored in Sydney. We are living, loving and enjoying life while vowing to take regular trips back State-side. And really, you can’t ask for a better life than that… I ♥ Sydney!!!
About Linda Delaney and North Shore Interiors
Linda Delaney is the owner and manager of North Shore Interiors, a company that provides interior design, decorating, styling and project management services to Sydney’s lower north shore and greater Sydney metropolitan area.
Linda has been seen in Habitus, Inside Out, Grand Designs Australia and Money magazines. She is also a regular contributor for leading Australian interior design publications, Home Design and the annual Design & Decoration. Watch out for more of Linda’s work featured in the media.
Contact Linda at Linda@nsinteriors.com.au or on 0432 716 558.