Up late and with a slightly sore head. I hardly drank anything last night – what do they put in the beers here? Barely yards out of my hotel and the party has started this cool and breezy mothers day morning. There’s a formative Mexican parade celebrating – who knows what.
Briefly detained it’s back on down to Hells Kitchen to check out a flea market which turns out to be more flea than market, so onward further to Chelsea where there are categorically no fleas allowed. This is the classiest neighbourhood I’ve visited yet. There’s money here and it shows, although it’s classy confident money rather than shouty bling money. Chelsea Market is a warren of wonderful food stores and eateries and out of duty I grab as many free tasters as humanly possible before begrudgingly paying for the most up-market Mexican burrito on record.
The three storey Apple store is packed full of people drooling over the dozens of iPads on display. Yesterdays (almost literally) craze the iPhone sits almost ignored the other side of the store. Compelling though it is I’m going to hold out until they release the iCare.
A hundred yard stroll leads me to one of the few “must do” things on my NYC action list. The HighLine is an old disused raised city railway line that has been (and is still being) converted into an long heavenly garden. It is an imaginative and inspiring re-use of what would otherwise be rotting old infrastructure.
Judging by its popularity I’m not the only one impressed by what is being done here and I would implore you to visit this unlikely urban oasis if you visit the city. You can make time – just skip that show you could see in London anytime.
I’m leaving the area when I overhear three people at a crossing talking excitedly about an underground gallery they have heard about and think is in the area. Zen navigation instincts tell me to follow them and they disappear into an unheralded door in a large brick warehouse structure that turns out to be the Seven Eleven Gallery which is so new that if you click on the link there is no website content yet. Inside is a semi-deserted space that a collective of artists have occupied to showcase their works.
It really is most enjoyable and substantially more engaging in my view than many of the installations on display at the Guggenheim.
There is humour, creativity and ingenuity in spades.
Curiously there is almost nothing for sale and the attendant explains they just wanted somewhere to set out their art but it seems everybody now wants a piece of it.
Roll on the evening and a loop of Brooklyn on the open top bus. I go to pick up a muffin but it’s two for one which is going to help my imaginary fitness drive no end. Temperatures are unusually low today with the remenants of the high winds that caused problems across the state yesterday so there are few on board for the trip and I myself am mummified in four layers plus a scarf.
It’s just about enough to keep out the cold. A favourite tour highlight for me is the iconic Flatiron building, as featured in numerous films.
Atop the building stands a human figure – one of many in the area installed by British artist Anthony Gormley. Following numerous alerts from the public the NYPD now know to ignore phone calls reporting somebody about to jump!
You really get a sense of the scale of Manhattan from Brooklyn.
By the time the bus returns to base it’s getting dark and the multimedia sensory overload of Times Square really comes into play.
What now? It’s 8pm on a Sunday and I can go anywhere. Hunger – moderate. Energy – low but holding. Capacity for cheap thrills – high. Chinatown promises to deliver kicks aplenty.
A pit-stop at the appropriately named Dumpling Palace for … dumplings and hot and sour soup. As it happens the dumplings are inferior to those I have had in London’s Chinatown and the soup a poor relation to that from my local takeaway but both suffice and I can’t fault the lightening pace of delivery. The minuscule bill comes unprompted just as rapidly and once paid the chef stands opposite my table looking at me just to make sure I feel uncomfortable enough to sod off so he can pack up and go home. Todays diet really doesn’t bear thinking about.
A lot of stores are closed but there are enough open to indicate a return visit here and to Little Italy next door would be worthwhile another day. The subway journey back to the Upper West Side is crowded and colourful and I’m reassured by a local student who tells me she travels it regularly and the theatre of it all never wears off. That I can believe.