The ABC of NYC
Andrea Byrne fits shopping, dining and celeb-watching into a weekend break
EVERY year I plan my bite out of the Big Apple -- a weekend to feed my soul, melt my credit card, fill my wardrobe and warm my heart. There is only one problem. My boyfriend loathes New York.
To win him round, I promised a luxury NYC experience with fantastic food, fabulous sights, mind-blowing shopping and of course the pleasure of my company. And when he gaped at the Manhattan skyline, I knew he could be converted. You see, whatever your predilections, New York succeeds in satisfying them. Though when you're only there for a short time, it can be overwhelming. The best thing to do is to plan what you want from your visit.
By coincidence, my friend and her boyfriend were also in New York. They're fond of the finer things in life so, washed and glamourised, we met them in the very salubrious St Regis hotel on East 55th at Fifth for drinks. It's a wonderful place for celebrity-spotting. Dress up, or you'll look out of place.
After one too many high-priced drinks, the four of us made our way to Balthazar on Spring St in Soho for dinner, where we found ourselves sitting beside Oliver Platt -- he of Frost/Nixon fame and Lauren Graham of Gilmore Girls.
Even though Balthazar is a celeb hangout (the Sex and the City girls drank cocktails there in one episode), it's not over-expensive. My to-die-for French onion soup and steak frites main course came to around $50 (€36).
If you're in the trendy Tribeca area, The Odeon on West Broadway is another great restaurant. It's famed for its burgers and decor straight out of The Godfather.
I confess I was too busy shopping to do anything remotely cerebral. But I was reliably told that there's a great Tim Burton exhibition at the Moma until late April. Monet's Water Lilies is also on show at the moment: $20 gets you access to the main gallery and both exhibitions.
We counteracted our culinary splurges by the zeal with which we shopped. The Meatpacking District and nearby Soho are the best haunts if you want something a little bit different and a relaxed retail experience loved by native New Yorkers. And when your feet tire there are nice options to rest and rehydrate. If it's a cocktail you're after, The Standard, in the Meatpacking, is owned by the man who turned the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles into the ultimate A-list hangout.
The key to achieving good value in New York is to buy American. The boyfriend couldn't believe the value to be had in Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger. He got a beautiful black coat in DKNY for less than $100. For women, the American fashion brands worth checking out are Vera Wang, Anna Sui, Kate Spade, Donna Karan, Tiffany, Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein.
If you feel like doing one touristy thing, try a trip to the top of the Rockefeller Centre -- there's often less of a queue than for the Empire State, especially early on Sundays.
TOUR AMERICA is offering three nights in a two-star hotel for €499 reduced from €619. Price includes return flights, all airport taxes and charges. Valid for February departures. Call (01) 8173500 or Cork (021) 4580999. www.touramerica.ie