New York City has always held a spot in my heart since I grew into my own and knew exactly what kind of person I was – a full blown hedonist who’s got an ache for a real metropolitan city. I know, it doesn’t get any more cliche than the young village girl who yearns for the bright lights in the big city – but what can I say, I was convinced that this concrete jungle was the final destination to spend my twenties and thirties (before I left the city that I love so dearly to raise my one child in the safe haven that is New Zealand).
You may be thinking, ‘Oh great, just another Carrie wannabe,’ followed by an eye-roll, but I can firmly refute that despite the show’s popularity and seeming relatability, my affection for the city was not inspired by a weekly sex columnist who lives in a giant Manhattan apartment in search of love well into her late forties. I simply can’t get past the enormous calculation flaw of how Carrie can own that many pairs of $400 heels, brunch everyday and pay the rent that I assume would be worth more than what she earns. As much as I love her impressive witty quips and the adventurous spirit of her outfits, more so than the inspiration that Instagram supplies, I will proudly disclose that it was Andrea McArdle’s goosebump-inducing rendition of “N.Y.C” in 1999’s Annie that made me fall in love with the city at the tender age of eight years old.
Big, loud, tough, busy, crazy, hot, cold, bright – could the lyrics be any more enticing for a primary school attendee in Howick who roller blades up and down her suburban driveway for fun? No, it couldn’t… until Alicia Keys and Jay Z released the banger that is “Empire State of Mind” in late 2009 – the year I graduated high school with flying colours and wholly believed that the universe (clearly touched by Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret) would put me on a pronounced path to success in the city. Ha! What staggering naivety!
350 words into my introduction, you can deduce that the lead-up and the arrival onto Manhattan ground was a memorable experience for me. Especially since eight months prior, I prematurely bought a one-way ticket to N.Y.C. after a feigned calling. I did indeed get there in the morning, with not three bucks but $20k, two bags, and one me (plus the boyfriend).
We landed in Newark airport which I have mixed feelings about. Albeit the easy breezy super speedy immigration control, the baggage collection system was security-free, as in carousels right by the exit with no customs that followed – a recipe for stolen bags and disastrous holiday beginnings. Note to self – use JFK unless the objective is shopping and I bring an empty suitcase to be filled with Woodberry goods.
Cabbing to Manhattan from New Jersey, the first thing that struck me was the indefinitely stretching skyline of concrete towers showered with the golden rays of dawn while the angelic choir sound effect replayed in my mind – and most likely out loud too. In classic dazed tourist fashion, my face was near-pressed (for hygiene reasons) to the window, gazing up at the grey skyscrapers, feeling so right and at-home. Somehow, I had imagined New York City to be fully-formed and in a state of defined permanence with its regulated society – I blame the drone-shots in The Mindy Project. Obviously, what I quickly learned was that the Big Apple is not the perfect final prototype city in a sci-fi movie like TRON; it’s an ever-metamorphosing jungle that soars upwards and outwards with steel scaffolding and cranes to ignite the anticipation of what is to become.
Closing in on Barclay St, Robert A.M. Stern’s soaring 84-floor classical riser set itself apart against the surrounding shrink-wrapped buildings. Two dapper doormen in their crinkle-free uniforms greeted us, opening up the incredibly tall brushed-bronze doors with elegant black steel detailing that nods to the Four Seasons logo. Immediately drowning the noises of early morning traffic, a strong waft of heavily perfumed air followed, bewildering us with the double-height lobby that cocooned us in rich old-world architecture.
A modern palace designed by Yabu Pushelberg, the finesse of layered architectural elements proved no expenses were spared. A complimentary mix of dark wooden panels with millwork details, marble-clad columns, brushed bronze accents and French woven metal-mesh lined the walls. Cream-coloured travertine floors were offset by the path-like carpet placement directing us to the reception area where a distractingly gorgeous, ethnically ambiguous male welcomed us with the warmest smile I’ve ever received. Damn – they sure knew how to make you feel special. Being a small-town journo in this decadent five-star establishment, I was overwhelmed by the faultless service and scarily impressed by how the entire staff knew our names – although, they did greet my clearly Caucasian boyfriend as “Mr. Chung,” making an ever so slightly emasculating, but hilarious story that I like to whip out on occasion.
The thorough design-work extended throughout the entire space from the lobby to the lift to the rooms, all working up the suspense of what our uber-deluxe home would be for the next two nights. Light-filled rooms of soft powdery hues and muted tones made for a restful and soothing vision that was homelier than our podunk flat in St Mary’s Bay. And of course, it wouldn’t be luxury accommodation without marble bathrooms, a deep-soak tub and mirrored wall atop a his-and-hers vanity. Although I wasn’t staying at the Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown with my self-earnt riches, I had to take consolation in the work perks and the lenient-enough vacay policies. Next time, I’d be here in the bougiest room of all – The Royal Suite. 223 square metres of the world’s most valuable real estate spanning the entire east side of the 24th floor with a blue onyx fireplace, an oak bar with Indian stone, media library and powder room to name a few of the features.
Following a terribly cramped cattle-class flight to NYC, a visit to the spa was, as privileged as I sound, mandatory. Two top-end European brands, Dr Burgener and Omorovicza, were used to custom-create an array of high tech treatments and beauty experiences – all worth a pretty penny. Featuring a light-coloured palette to create a fresh and tranquil design vocab, the seven treatment rooms, outdoor terrace, eucalyptus steam room and 23m indoor lap pool was an unreal space of sanctuary. Jet-lagged and exhausted, I fell into a deep sleep during my state-of-the-art facial; however, I felt elated and ready to take on what they call the new, New York.
By Major Food Group’s Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick, this Lower East side celeb hotspot takes culinary cues from classic French dishes. Flaunting all-round serious swagger, cancellations lead to large penalties – but that’s just an indication of how righteously egotistical the food is. The newest spots to open up by MFG is The Pool and The Grill – both worth a visit if you’re baller enough for the final cheque.
A modern Asian fare with 16thC Parisian interior decor, this Chelsea hotspot is where Carrie and Mr. Big’s rehearsal dinner was hosted. A must for SATC fans and foodies alike, the Singapore Chilli King Crab, cocktails and general sybaratic vibe is worth visiting every time you go back to the city.
Aldo Sohm Wine Bar
The wine director of three-Michelin starred Le Bernardin, Aldo Sohm, opened his eponymous bar a few years ago where vino-lovers can enjoy the legend’s wine list in a relaxed, casual setting. Despite its Midtown location, there’s nowhere better than sipping on a glass or two at the establishment run by the man who was crowned Best Sommelier in the World in 2008.
A French bistro that happens to be an A-listers’ hang-out zone since the 70’s, everything about the vibe of this classic joint portrays what it means to be a quintessential New York institution. You’ll find the most addictive dirty martini’s and if you’re lucky enough, find out that you’ve been getting dining recommendations from the chillest tequila-drinking FX producer an hour into your conversation.
What’s an NYC trip if you don’t see at least two Broadway musicals? Book of Mormon and Phantom of the Opera had me in tears from incredibly offensive humour and bone-chilling repertoires, respectively. Remember to book in advance with Broadway Inbound – trust me, organization skills are crucial if you’re serious about experiencing top-end musicals in the front section.
This phenomenal World trade Center Transportation hub serves 300,000+ commuters and visitors daily. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, the giant sculptural white-winged pavilion mimics the skeleton of a bird taking flight. Every September 11th, the glass skylight strip retracts to deliver the feeling of hope in the raw site of Ground Zero.
South of Houston Street, this neighbourhood is lined with cast-iron architecture. Drop in for a day or two with a large budget to pick up memorable pieces from this consumer playground. Ranging from cheap fast-fashion chain stores to hipster boutiques and designer apparel, SoHo really does have it all. Dress warm for the walk-about as chilling wind tunnels can sting like knives during the colder seasons as well as random temperature drops mid-Spring.
Downtown is most well-known as the home of Wall Street; a neighbourhood that was bustling with suits only when there was light in the sky. Re-booted as the fresh new happening scene of Manhattan, hip creatives in media, fashion, art, tech and advertising have added the aspect of play into the transformation. What’s most notable about this neck of the woods is the brand new dramatic architecture shaping the skyline with high-fashion boutiques, restaurants, bars, a variety of innovative startups and hard-to-miss landmarks like Santiago Calatrava’s Oculus and SOM’S World Trade Center – a destination in which my five years of studies at Architecture school and over $50k of student debt became relevant and a teeny bit useful for me. Spanning from the trendy Meatpacking District to the shopping hub of SoHo and art scene of East Village, there’s an endless amount of new things to investigate south of 14th Street.
9 11 Museum And Memorial Plaza
A tribute to the 2,977 people killed in the September 11 terror attack, the monumental reflecting pools sits on the footprints of the former Twin Towers. As the largest manmade waterfalls in North America with every victim’s name inscribed into the bronze panels framing the pools, the reminder of mass destruction is sobering. The deconstructivist museum, based off the original master plan by Daniel Libeskind who’s most famous for his Jewish Museum in Berlin, exhibits the documentation via thousands of audio recordings, video, images and artifacts that’s tear-jerking to say the least.