New York, New York. A city so nice, they named it twice. It flew past, quicker than a school week. Maybe because everything moves so fast over there. The people do walk really quickly. And the women are in heels, mind you. New York women are very fashionable, which I never expected. Walking around in my denim skirt didn’t cut the look. But New York wasn’t only about fashion….

For me, it was about walking. A treat coming from Johannesburg.

So I walked and walked and walked. Through Soho and Greenwich Village, with their trendy boutiques, cafes and fabulous bakeries, each own named for the owner.

The nice thing is that everyone’s walking. The lush green of Central Park (which is even more beautiful than in the movies) pulsates with urban joggers, cyclists, romantic couples  and mums pushing strollers. I’d love to see it in Winter when the ice rink is filled with motion.

Walking Fifth  Avenue, where the real money lives, with liveried doormen in every lobby.

Walking Madison Avenue, where all the fancy schmancy designer stores are lined up, block after block. And there are not too many food shops because you can’t eat if you want to be thin. And I checked, New Yorkers are thin because they don’t eat. (And I naively thought it was because they walk everywhere, though it’s probably a bit of both.)

New York is museum heaven. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is famously enormous. I could have spent all day wandering through all the different galleries. Predictably, I legged it straight to the Impressionists. Seeing familiar Van Gogh paintings in real life is surreal. Seeing so many masterpieces in one place is incredibly surreal. Somehow, I want to put it in my pocket, have it, own it. (How influenced I am by our consumer society?) But of course I couldn’t and I knew even if I had a Monet or Manet in my house I still wouldn’t own it. What is it that’s so touching??? They’re just paintings but somehow they’re more than that. The harmony, the beauty touches something… and I wanted to keep that feeling with me. Swallow it like a piece of candy. (A wonderful american word.)

I also walked through the Greco-Roman antiquities section. I usually find it boring…(sorry to admit) and bypass this art. But this time, I lingered and tried to appreciate it. I tried to visualize the pieces as the Romans and Greeks would have in their time. And so the voluptuous sculptures of women made me think. Usually, I just see nakedness and run. This time I stopped and realised that these are real women and they don’t resemble the women that are in vogue today. Sizes 12, 14, 16 were the standard of beauty. It’s nice to know that women were allowed to enjoy their dessert in ancient times. Am I obsessing about weight on this blog? I suppose we’re all obsessed, whether we admit it or not. I can’t help but be aware of size in our very size-prejudiced society. (Let’s call it sizism.)

My cousin told me that the Zen garden is a must see at the MET. I didn’t manage it though, but just so you know, if you ever go.

Another wonderful museum is the Frick. My mother in law told me to visit it and it was very well worth it. The museum was built by Henry Clay Frick, a magnate from Pittsburgh around the turn of the twentieth century. This coke (coal) magnate had an artistic eye and was very passionate about his collection. What is interesting is that he was collecting art at the height of the Realist and the Impressionist, and he collected Old Masters by Van Dyck and Veronese and Peter Paul Rubens. Watch the movie with the history of Frick–it was very interesting.

The Jewish Museum is also a lovely stop on Museum Mile (I love that the street of museums are called that). It had an exhibition about these two Jewish women, the Cone sisters from Baltimore, who were patrons of Picasso. Instead of buying furniture, curtains etc. they bought the art of the modern painters, including Picasso and Matisse and formed close relationships with them. Gives us something to think about, girls…

I also loved the exhibit about Ezra Jack Keats a Jewish author and illustrator of children’s books.

Of course, I went to the Guggenheim. I love being in places which I have dreamed of from the movies. They were showing a Korean artist/philosopher called Lee Ufan. I’m not a huge fan of modern art. Because of the audio headset (a very good idea in exhibits) I slowed down and it was wonderful to pay attention to the philosophical underpinnings of a piece of steel lying on a rock. (No, I’m not being sarcastic. It really was interesting.) You can google Lee Ufan – Marking Infinity and there’s a video of the exhibition on the Guggenheim site. It’s fun to see.

It was easy getting around New York. The subway and the maps make sense. Everything really is on a grid. I had heard about it and it really is true. People are also REALLY friendly. I wasn’t expecting that. The food was also unbelievable. I went to the Great American Health Bar and had the most unbelievable spinach burger. And I mean unbelievable!!!! (I know, who would believe it. Be ready for huge portions too, btw.)

We of course went to a traditional New York Deli and had hot beef on rye. Noah’s Ark, the Original Deli on the lower east side was great. We had it at 10 am in the morning before our Jewish lower east side walking tour. (I love walking tours.) Crazy but fun and very yum.

They also had a pickle store that only sold pickles – yes only in New York. I was tempted to buy some for the Princes in SA but my hubby refused to take it. Can’t blame him, I suppose.

We also ate at Le Marais, a smoky, romantic French restaurant. (Not actual smoke, you’re not allowed to smoke in NY restaurants.) I’ve never seen meat displayed in a case the way it is in the entrance at Le Marais. It’s strange, but interesting and appealing at the same time. I’ve never eaten such a good steak either. I think South African’s could learn one or two things from New Yorkers about a good steak. And that’s not easy to admit. I always thought Americans don’t have such good taste. But they do, they really, really do. Especially in New York. The lemon tart, on the other hand, left much to be desired… you can’t win them all.

Here are some notes of other random things I noticed.

  • Nannies meeting at Starbucks with their little charges in prams. (A lot of nannies on the upper west side.)
  • The subway is very hot. But we saw a cool Beatles rendition by the strangest motley of musicians in Times Square station on Saturday Night.
  • Hudson river is beautiful to walk by. Anything natural in New York really sticks out with all the tall buildings/sky scrapers. (A lot of the buildings are very old and beautiful.)
  • We walked into Temple Emanuel on 5th Ave. It’s a reform synagogue that even has weddings on Saturday. It’s as big as a Cathedral and look like one too, with the highest, highest ceiling.
  • There are a lot of tourists, especially Europeans and Australians (I found, at least) and they contribute to a lot of the hustle and bustle. Especially on 5th Ave. And yes 5th Ave is beautiful. Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue are truly worth seeing. As is the Lindt store. I never knew there were so many Lindt truffles that existed (and aren’t available in South Africa. Humphhhh.)
  • It’s worth walking into Godiva and getting a free sample of their latest flavour.
  • I’ve never seen a shop that only sells Japanese sweets. It looked very, very pretty. The Japanese are brilliant at presentation.
  • It’s great to be put up with an American family for a meal. It’s really interesting meeting new people and learning about how they live in New York.
  • Recommendations are definitely the way to go when you travel. Organising information and your days before hand are also worth it. I was so busy organising the kids before I left that I ran out of time to organise all the information that I needed. Contact numbers, lists of kosher restaurants, book shows. I’m very last minute, play it by ear, which worked well but there were some mistakes… Oh well!
  • Before I forget the Monet room in the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) – well let’s put it this way – I could have sat in it all day sighing with contentment.

So that was the week in brief. I’m in Los Angeles now. Having a parenting 101 from my cousin. Who’s the most relaxed mom, but has astoundingly well behaved children. And her teenager who’s just finished school is even more proof in the pudding to successful parenting…. to be posted soon 🙂

Co written with my cousin – so if this is written better than usual it’s because of her editing and input. (And yes the first line is hers!)