I’m back from a short week in New York City with my husband, and I decided to share with you a little account of my trip. We stayed in the Upper West Side, a neighborhood I had never really explored before, and even though I had to work, I found time for the occasional stroll. Far from the idea of playing the city guide, just consider these as some very personal and subjective highlights, in no particular order, from this specific stay.
Irving Farm Coffee
This is where I spent most of my time, working. By Seattle standards (and they’re pretty high), this coffee shop does not disappoint: a solid selection of coffee beans, a cool space and friendly service. If only they had wifi, it would be perfect. (Instead, I had to hack the neighbors’ internet connection.) Try their green tea lemon cookie, it’s pretty damn good!
Having just read — two years after everybody else — Patti Smith’s autobiography, Just Kids, I made a point of spending some time in Chelsea with the objective of visiting the Chelsea Hotel in the secret hope of feeling the spirits of all those bohemian artists who still haunt its legendary corridors, from Robert Mapplethorpe to Janis Joplin to Jack Kerouac. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that the hotel had closed its doors a couple of years ago. The building’s façade is certainly still worth seeing, though, and from there you can meander on to the Chelsea Market.
The High Line
Located in the middle of Chelsea, this elevated former railroad line has been repurposed into a park that overlooks the Hudson River. The High Line delivers some of the best views of the West Side of New York. Although it was too early in the season to enjoy the foliage, it was still impressive to be above ground and able to weave among the buildings.
I particularly love the set of stairs with the panoramic window overlooking the traffic and a vantage point where you can spot the Statue of Liberty through a rare clearing in New York’s urban jungle. A perfect spot for the Big Apple’s urban sketchers!
Bleecker Street Pizza
Definitely the best pizza I’ve tasted in New York (so far!), Bleecker Street Pizza will now count among my staples. Be careful, though: The place is so tiny that it gets crowded pretty easily. The culprit? Imagine thin slices with a crispy crust and generous toppings. I sometimes think heaven must taste pretty close to a Bleecker Street Pizza slice. Sorry, Hot Mama’s, I love you and you’re the best in Seattle, but now that I have tasted perfection, it might be a while before I can come back for a slice.
The Guggenheim Museum
Even though I have been to New York a fair number of times, I hadn’t visited the Guggenheim until now. This is a must-do, at least for its architecture, which gives a unique and pleasant viewing experience, but also for its collections, especially if you’re into contemporary art. An exhibit about Gutai, a Japanese postwar avant-garde movement, is currently on display.
If you have the opportunity, check out the temporary exhibit from Indian-born American artist Zarina, who dedicated herself to the exploration of paper as a medium, whether it’s through sculptures, collages, calligraphy, topography, poetry or painting. It was compelling, profoundly moving and very delicate. I sincerely enjoyed each piece of it and hope you will too.
I kept the best for the end: my favorite sushi place. This is the very first sushi restaurant I ate at with my husband, long before we got married, during our first trip to New York (which was my first time on the American soil). I guess he wanted to impress me, and that he did, as this was the best sushi I had ever eaten. But it also spoiled me forever, because once you try the fish here, there is no going back. You will be cursed. The bar will be so high that you might never look at average sushi the same way again. I know: It’s tough. I’m supposed to go to Japan in a couple of months, and I live in the fear that it will ruin sushi for me. Definitively.
Don’t even consider going without a reservation and if possible ask to be seated at the counter. There is nothing more entertaining than watching the sushi master deftly wield his knife. Yes, it’s on the expensive side, but isn’t the promise of life-changing sushi worth the splurge?
Order the omakase. Don’t expect funky rolls; you’re in for some very traditional nigiri and sashimi. Every piece is so fresh, soft and buttery that it will melt in your mouth. My husband and I have instituted a tradition: We always end our meal with an order of unagi, a barbecued freshwater eel glazed with sweet sauce. It’s our dessert, not to be confused with “U-NA-GI”, as Ross from Friends would say. (This always cracks me up!)
I could also mention The Hummus Place for great Middle-Eastern food or Le Pain Quotidien, which reminds me of my time spent in Belgium (yes, the chain is Belgian, not French) or my necessary stops at my favorite French brands such as La Durée or Palais des Thés, but that will be for another post.