By Steven Wright
It had been 10 years since I had traveled to New York City, I was last there in June of 2001, just months before the 911 tragedy, and since I had not had the desire to travel to the US, focusing my traveling dollars on European destinations. All that changed with The Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s announcement of Savage Beauty, an exhibit dedicated to the evolution of Alexander McQueen‘s fashion career and an homage to his life. I had followed his career through the years with the help of Jeanne Becker and Fashion Television and I was not going to miss this opportunity.
After years of talking about my NYC experiences I was able to introduce Mike, my sister and her new husband to the big apple. There are a lot more options for traveling to NYC these days with Air Canada and a newly announced West Jet route offering direct flights to Laguardia, along with many American carriers servicing Laguardia, JFK and Newark airports. Living in the core of the city my choice for this trip was Porter Airlines from Billy Bishop Airport on the Toronto Island. As this airport is relatively small, there is less traffic through security, the airport is very accessible at the base of Bathurst Street with ferry service to the island, (a walkway development starting soon) and there is even complimentary shuttle service to/from Union Station. Air Canada services Montreal through Billy Bishop as well.
The Porter experience is all about service, the complimentary Porter Lounge features an amazing coffee and beverage bar, complete with snacks. Then relax at a table and chairs, or leather arm chair and enjoy the daily news and free WIFI. On board their fleet of Bombardier Aerospace Q400 turboprop aircraft the only seating options are window or isle, so you never have to sit in the middle. The beverages are complimentary and you even get a light meal on every flight from amazing attendants. This makes this an enjoyable voyage. Porter destinations include: Ottawa, Toronto, Montréal, St. John’s, Halifax, Québec City, Mont Tremblant, Moncton, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Boston, Chicago, New York, Myrtle Beach, Timmins, Burlington VT, and Washington DC.
This was my first ever arrival at Newark, I was used to the transfer from Laguardia and JFK, but found the trip into the city from Newark easy, cheap and enjoyable. You can take the airport train to Penn Station, New Jersey and then transfer to a train into the city for under $10 USD. For this trip we stayed at the Sheraton Tribecca, close to my old stomping grounds in SOHO. The newly constructed hotel has great rooms with king sized beds, there is a restaurant in the lobby along with a Starbucks, and a $40 transfer by limo to and from Laguardia.
The continued evolution of NYC over the past 10 years had brought new high rise condo buildings, and boutique and other large hotel chains spreading their wings in previously undesirable locations. Trump Hotels and Suites have popped up like Starbucks all over the city. There are many more 5 star luxury hotels than ever and all over the city. The city seemed somewhat quieter, there was less horns honking, people yelling and emergency service sirens. Many new boutiques line the streets of SOHO and Tribecca including DASH by the Kardashian’s, Baby Phat by Kimora Lee Simmons, and other luxury brands like the Issey Miyiake Boutique which is a must stop as the interior was designed by Frank Gehry.
Speaking of Gehry, make your way down to City Hall and the base of the Brooklyn Bridge to see the largest residential tower in New York designed by Gehry. New York by Gehry at 8 Spruce Street offers luxury apartment rentals in glamorous suites with amazing views of the city and beyond. The building is silver in colour and almost wave like in design, a reference to the East River, the building looks almost like it is moving when the sun reflects off the curved surfaces throughout the day.
One of the newest attractions is The High Line, redeveloped from an out of service elevated rail line, the area now features public park space and activities for New Yorkers and tourists a like. The High Line is located on Manhattan’s West Side, it runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues.
The newly opened National September 11th Memorial and Museum and the construction of the Freedom Tower and other buildings are well underway on the World Trade Centre site. The area is a hub of activity with visitors watching the buildings rise floor by floor and to pay respect to the lives lost. My favorite department store Century 21 is still located at the corners of Church and Courtlandt Streets and a great stop across the street from the 911 Memorial.
Times Square has cleaned up and is presenting a more family friendly environment, with the elimination of one of the lanes of traffic, providing a pedestrian walkway for tourists to enjoy all the sights and sights of the area. Broadway is holding strong with many performances Tuesday to Sunday, and you can still get day off discounted tickets at TKTS in the centre of Times Square. Further up Broadway, Columbus Circle has been redeveloped including the new corporate offices of Time Warner and Anderson Cooper’s talk show, across from Central Park.
Central Park is still the ultimate escape in the city. We took the opportunity to walk around the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, to visit Strawberry Fields, the Bethesda Fountain which was featured in Angels in America and the Hans Christian Anderson and the Alice in Wonderland statues. We got some ice cream from a vendor and enjoyed watching some of the league soccer and baseball games throughout the park. A bevy of activity was created as Police, pedestrians and other carriage operators realized a horse drawn carriage was racing down West 59th Street into traffic, towards Columbus Circle without a driver. Thankfully the carriage was stopped and the horses appeared ok as they were reunited with their owner.
We visited the Guggenhiem Museum, American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibit was a patron favorite with line ups around the museum to gain access. Once inside the exhibit space, visitors had the opportunity to view clothing, accessories and footwear by the infamous designer including pieces from his early collections from alma mater Central St. Martens. Although very crowded the exhibit was awe inspiring and a great opportunity to experience the world of Alexander McQueen.
As a lover of ’90s NYC and Seinfeld, we traveled to 2880 Broadway at 112th Street for a lunch at Tom’s Restaurant made famous as the coffee shop throughout the Seinfeld series. Mike was ecstatic to be able to order multiple bowls of cereal, just like Jerry, while we joked about the big salad and who was going to pay the bill, it was our own Seinfeld episode. The food was typical of other greasy spoons through the city, cheap and filling.
Although it had been a decade since I had visited Manhattan, my love affair with the city continues. With more air competition from Toronto to NYC, its actually cheaper to get there leaving you more room to stay at one of the new 5 star hotels or to indulge yourself in more shopping.
New York Posts:
New York Stories
MY Gehry Gallery
Going for Gehry
Basque in the beauty of the Guggenheim and more in Bilbao
Autobahn jaunt to Düsseldorf and Köln
Glass Ceiling walking tour: Potsdamer Platz, Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie
Barcelona Beach, Mountain & Fountain