NEW YORK STORIES
New York Stories - Luxury Travel Magazine
New York Stories
|By: Andrew Conway, Issue 29- Summer 2007 |
|(New York, Chelsea, Manhattan) |
|FROM THE TRENDY WEST SIDE TO THE LEAFY EAST SIDE, YOU CAN TAKE MANHATTAN ANY WHICH WAY YOU PLEASE. |
|This is a tale of two cities, or rather two tales of the same city. In the first story, the 2006 Video Music Awards have just come to an end at Radio City, and I’m standing outside Marquee in Chelsea – currently the hottest nightclub in the known universe – with a few hundred of New York’s brightest young things, more bling than you could poke a diamond-encrusted crucifix at, and no ticket. It’s like a scene from Sex and the City, with a heaving mass of Carrie Bradshaw look-alikes all intent on scoring entry to the star-studded Virgin Records after-show party.|
In the second story (I’ll come back to the first later), I’m standing in the whisper-quiet Oval Room of the Frick Collection, a spectacular Gilded Age mansion on 5th Avenue with breathtaking artworks by Titian, Whistler, Velazquez and Turner. It’s only a few hours between stories, and an easy cab ride between locations, but it feels like different worlds. On the one page, a paparazzi-style picture of pure excess – rock stars, rappers, Mischa Barton-wannabes, and Jimmy Choo shoes. On the other, an intriguing insight into oldstyle New York – a quiet, calm, thoughtful and reflective place where substance always takes precedence over style.
In much the same way, this is also a tale of two luxury hotels – one stamped with the flashiest name in America, the other more like a private and exclusive club – which seem to complement my New York stories perfectly. I heard about the party at Marquee while staying at the first hotel – the high-rise, high-octane Trump International Hotel and Tower at One Central Park West – while the stunning Frick Collection is just around the corner and a few blocks from the second hotel, the delightful Plaza Athenee on East 64th Street. From Trump, you’re in the heart of the action, right on Columbus Circle, and an easy walk to Broadway, Times Square, the Theatre District, 5th Avenue, Midtown, and the Upper and Lower West Side. At the Plaza Athenee, you’re nestled into New York’s blue-ribbon, brown-stone, old-money East Side, tucked between the ritzy designer boutiques of 5th, Park and Madison Avenues, a stone’s throw from the vast green expanse of Central Park, and walking distance from the fabulous ‘Museum Mile’ that stretches 35 blocks of 5th Avenue.
From both hotels, you can access the old and the new, the cutting-edge and the cultured, the museums and art galleries, cafes and restaurants, shops and corner stores which make up this extraordinary city – yet each offers a unique New York experience quite different from the other.
For the ‘new’ New York, Trump International Hotel and Tower is the perfect base, a 52-storey skyscraper with dazzling views of Central Park and city skyline. Only 10 years old, and still fresh from a US$10 million renovation in 2003, the hotel features 167 spacious guest rooms and suites which are the last word in contemporary luxury – wide-screen plasma TV, entertainment centre, super-fast wireless internet connection, marble bathrooms, a well-stocked kitchen, and razor-sharp staff including the services of a Trump Attache who can attend to any request in the flashest of flashes.
There’s a state-of-the-art fitness centre and spa, complete with gym and lap pool, with the piece de resistance being Jean Georges, one of New York’s best restaurants just next to the main lobby. Book well in advance if you want to dine in the restaurant, or simply order in – arguably the world’s best room service menu. Despite its flashy Trump veneer, this is a surprisingly private and exclusive hotel, much loved by movie and music stars who appreciate the low-key, no-fuss yet super-charged approach. From Trump, it’s an easy walk north to the Lincoln Centre and American Museum of Natural History, two West Side must-sees, or south to the Theatre District, TimesSquare and Midtown.
New York is a great walking city, navigated by its easy grid system (avenues running north-south, streets running east-west), so slip on a pair of comfortable trainers and hit the sidewalks. A short cab ride south of Trump International will bring you to three of New York’s hottest new neighbourhoods – Chelsea, the Art Gallery District and Meatpacking District– the gateway to a fascinating (if considerable) walk through Lower Manhattan. If you’re interested in contemporary art, the Gallery District (18th to 29th Streets between 9th and 11th Avenues) is about as cutting-edge as it gets with vast warehouses turned into funky showcase spaces for New York’s finest artists. Galleries such as Oliver Kamm, John Connelly Presents, Andrea Rosen, Zach Feuer, Sonnabend, and David Zwirner will have you spellbound, putting Soho (so yesterday, darling) well and truly in the shade. The grid system ends south of Chelsea, so arm yourself with a good map and follow your nose through the West Village, Greenwich Village, Tribeca, Soho (south of Houston), NoLita (north of Little Italy), and end in the East Village for the cab ride back to the hotel.
It’s a mighty walk, but one which winds you through the quintessential New York and village neighbourhoods brimming with restaurants, cafés, shops and galleries. There are some poignant moments – not least the great hole in the sky that once was the World Trade Centre – but on a warm Summer’s day, it’s a juicy bite of that wonderful Big Apple.
Uptown, the tempo is decidedly different. Here, amid the historic mansions, elegant townhouses, and stately brownstone buildings that wealthy residents of New York’s East Side call home, the tidy tree-lined streets click to the sound of well-heeled ladies (we’re talking wall-to wall Manolo Blahniks) with Paris Hilton style pooches in Prada shoulderbags, gentlemen in this season’s Ralph Lauren, and children straight out of Vogue Bambino. At the delightful Plaza Athenee, the doorman proffers a ‘welcome home’ smile and suddenly you’re in a Parisian townhouse, complete with hand-painted murals, the leather-floored Bar Seine, and Zagat-rated Arabelle restaurant, the perfect rendevous for an evening of heady New York romance. The 149 spacious guest rooms and super-deluxe suites have recently undergone a major refurbishment with soothing Asian silks and cool earth tones, Belgian linens on the beds, European fab marble bathrooms, high-speed internet access, wide-screen plasma TV, DVD and CD player and 24-hour room service. From here, it’s an easy walk to the best of New York: the fabulous designer stores of Madison, Park and 5th Avenues; the extraordinary Central Park; and the 35 blocks of old-world mansions and newworld architecture that make up ‘Museum Mile’ along 5th Avenue, starting with the City of New York Museum on 103rd Street to the superb Frick Collection on 70th Street.
You’ll need several days to even scratch the surface of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (82nd to 86th Streets) and Guggenheim Museum (88th Street), but just to walk inside their hallowed doors is a treat in itself.
Back at Marquee, we finally got in that door after 90 minutes of schmoozing the security guards – only to find a darkened disco playing Gloria Gaynor and ABBA, a slightly dishevelled collection of twentysomethings, and not a Pink, P Diddy or Jessica Simpson in sight. I love New York at night – but give me a Titian or Turner any day.
|Trump International Hotel and Tower, One Central Park West, and Hotel Plaza|
Athenee, 37 East 64th Street, are both members of The Leading Hotels of the World. Bookings, (02) 9377 8444, toll-free 1800 222 033 or www.lhw.com. Air Tahiti Nui flies from Sydney to New York, a one-stop service (via Papeete), with return economy fares starting from $1,440 plus taxes, valid to December 31. Bookings, (02) 9244 2799, www.airtahitinui.com.au.
|A New York City Pass includes admission to six of the best attractions, including the Guggenheim and Empire State Building Observatory, for just US$63. Full details, www.nycvisit.com|