I first came to NYC alone to celebrate my 30th birthday. With limited funds to spend, the big attractions were mostly beyond my means, however thankfully I did go up the World Trade Centre Towers for the views. I was naive or stupid enough to think walking down Broadway, hanging with the homeless in Grand Central Station, riding the subway and viewing Central Park were all acceptable activities. Without a doubt it was the most challenging, intimidating and confronting travel experience of my life at that point in time. NYC was no place for the weak or ill informed. It was dangerous and the streets were scary.
Over the years I have returned several times and so it seemed sweet and fitting to want to celebrate my 60th birthday here too, even though we usually like to go somewhere new for auspicious events.
This time round it certainly helped to have arrived almost a week earlier with Anthony and to have settled into his beautiful apartment on 145 Street with spectacular skyline and nightlight views. Mastering the subway system and stepping up to the speed of a cosmopolitan existence was only possible due to his expert advice and his incredible generosity of accommodation.
My day my way!
I savoured lying in bed and listening to the wind roar down the canyons of avenues marvelling that even on the 14th floor it was so audible and adding to the cacophony of honking and sirens of the traffic below. Clear blue skies and sunshine greeted me and were the perfect compensation for the freezing temperatures and howling winds. I even heard a local say "The wind tunnels are back." Just before we were nearly blown onto the road in front of the Dakota Building this morning.
After a deliciously decadent brunch at Le Pain Quotidien (the daily bread) and pots of coffee served French style in the huge white bowls we headed off to buy flowers.
Every time I have ever been to Strawberry Fields there have been flowers at the "Imagine" mosaic so I felt I was long over due honouring my first ever rock hero in the same way.
The tear shaped park and mosaic were a brief stop as it was literally freezing outdoors but I'm glad I did it and that my flowers were not the first of the day. The crowds were gathering and the guides lecturing in strong New York accents and at a speed, even I struggled to comprehend.
Next stop was Little India and a charming Indian grocery store, which I predicted would sell the henna I wanted to keep my hair colour the orange I adore. Sure enough it sold the exact same brand I have used in Bhutan for the last 3 years!! I have had daily comments and compliments on my hair since arriving in America and it is one of those endearing things that everyone who thinks something positive has no qualms about sharing it. The Bangladeshi shop assistant was delighted to assist and even offered us a sweet from the nearby cabinet. I think not too many white folk shop there. We now have a new restaurant zone to explore.
The third subway ride for the day took us to the Fulton Street stop adjacent to The One World Observatory, for which we had pre-purchased tickets online. Despite the raging wind and bleak conditions the Ground Zero monument honouring those who lost their lives in 9-11 was a must stop and a few quiet moments had to be spent contemplating the way this one event changed the world forever. Upon entering, security was tight as was to be expected but the staff were courteous, formal and polite. At the 100th floor observatory, the clear views (for more than 42 miles according to the presentation) were as spectacular as we had hoped and we looped around the 360° platform several times identifying buildings, bridges, rivers and streets and marveling at the sheer enormity of the city.
By the time we managed to get to the impressively deco Flatiron Lounge it was already cocktail hour and we were fortunate to score a table near the bar. A New York Sour for E and a Lady Chairman for me before indulging in a couple of Cosmopolitans for the road and we were humming along nicely and glad to leave the then packed and very noisy bar. I would never have thought it would fill up by 6pm on a midweek night.
Candle 79 was our choice for dinner as we were attracted by the organic vegan - vegetarian cuisine and although I wouldn't have thought it possible, it topped our previous favourite of Blossoms easily. It was a fantastic meal washed down with Prosecco and our table by the window on the second floor allowed us to observe the street scenes and twilight wash over the Upper East Side.
The final and sixth subway ride of the evening took us "home" to 145 Street and we didn't get lost or confuse lines or directions once all day, so I guess we actually are masters of the subway uptown, downtown, crosstown and beyond now.
What a day. What a ride. 60 and loving it! If orange is the new black, then perhaps 60 is the new 30. Alive and well and loving the ride thanks New York City.