New York, New York

Apparently my trip to Europe (and the traveling I did while there) has started something of a trend in my life! For the last month I've been living in Toronto, and last week in a spur-of-the-moment decision my cousin and I decided to accompany my aunt and uncle on a trip to New York City. I have never been to New York, and the last and only time I visited the states was when I was seventeen and briefly stayed in Las Vegas. You can imagine then that I was out of my mind excited to be visiting Manhattan during the Christmas holiday season.

We flew out on Saturday afternoon from a smaller airport on Toronto's waterfront (this was a huge improvement over flying from Pearson), though I laughed when I was selected for "randomized additonnal screening". It essentially consisted of them waving some wand around my hands and telling me I could go. We arrived in Newark (New Jersey) after a short flight, and then it was into a cab and off to Manhattan. My uncle attended grad school at Harvard, so we stayed at the Harvard Club near Fifth Avenue and 44th Street. The Harvard Club is absolutely stunning! All the walls are Harvard scarlet, as well as the soft carpets. It's filled with dark-wood columns and mouldings, as well as old Harvard memorabilia. In addition, everything was decorated for Christmas with boughs of cedar and pine, christmas lights, gold bows, and holly. In one of the dining halls was a huge Christmas tree which must have been at least 25 feet tall and fully decorated. For our first night there we decided to go for dinner at a Greek place, but unfortunately the first choice was too busy. Instead we stumbled across another restaurant called Molyvos that wound up being excellent. They served a particular flaming cheese dish that we all loved. Afterward we drove through the city, including Time Square, Bryant Park (where they hold New York Fashion Week), and we visited Grand Central Station.

The next morning I woke up to I Can't Help Myself (better known as Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) on the radio, sun streaming through the windows, and the overwhelming feeling that it was going to be a great day. I wasn't disappointed. We breakfasted at the Harvard Club, then went on to Fifth Avenue where we visited the Rockefeller Center (including the skating rink and tree) and did some shopping in Saks. After that we headed over to MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) to see the large De Kooning exhibit there. I must say, De Kooning is not my favourite. I found his works grotesque, and thought they displayed an alarming degree of misogyny. Some of the work practically radiated evil, which was totally weird. After grabbing lunch my aunt and uncle went to go see the Diego Rivera exhibit while my cousin and I went in search of Van Gogh's Starry Night, one of my favourite paintings. Find it we did, as well as a second Van Gogh that I am now equally in love with. It's called The Olive Trees, and it has me completely enraptured. We also saw some Picasso (not my favourite), and some Henri Rousseau, whose paintings I find slightly hypnotic (and love). After MoMA we were all pretty tired, so we went back to The Harvard Club for a rest before dinner. The Sex and the City Movie (the first one) was on TV, which seemed appropriate given it was my first visit to New York.

By dinner time we were all still tired though, so we decided to go to Kellari Taverna, which is right next to the Club. Kellari serves Greek food, which (once again) was totally incredible. One of New York's major highlights is that there is so much amazing food all around. After dinner it was off to bed in preparation for another busy day.

The next morning we went to the Upper East Side to a cafe called Sant Ambroeus that officially serves the best hot chocolate anywhere. It is a Milanese-style place, and beautifully decorated. After hot chocolate and a croissant, my cousin, aunt and I wandered along Madison Avenue, exploring BCBG, J Crew, and Elie Tahari before heading for lunch at a French restaurant called Le Charlot on Madison Avenue and 69th Street. After lunch we walked through Central Park, then went up to Bergdorf Goodman's to enjoy the windows and have a look at the glamorous merchandise.

One thing I'll add was I noticed something of a Manhattan uniform. Almost every woman carried a Louis Vuitton purse of some sort and wore a plaid Burberry scarf, often with a fur coat. Men all wore suits, and also wore Burberry plaid scarves. At times the sheer concentration of wealth was overwhelming.

After Bergdorf Goodman's we walked over to The Four Seasons and had tea at The Bar, a famous Manhattan watering hole and meeting place for the glamorous and successful. Once tea was concluded it was back to the Harvard Club to shower and change, and then off to Soho to a restaurant called Beauty & Essex. Beauty and Essex was amazing! One enters the restaurant through the back door of a pawn shop, and the restaurant itself is a huge two-level high-ceilinged affair. The wall I was facing was covered in collections of framed lockets. The food was European, and I had a fantastic cale, walnut, apple and goats' cheese salad that reminded me of Europe. Afterward my cousin and I shared a bottomless butterscotch pudding type-thing which was unbelievably good. The music was loud, pumping Rihanna, David Guetta, Usher and other popular club beats, and the crowd was young and fashionable.

Our final engagement for the evening was Ivanka Trump's jewelry store launch in Soho. Dinner had run long so we got there only five minutes before the event's scheduled end, but we went in and had a look. Mostly the crowd seemed to be her older friends and investors, but I stood about a foot away from her for at least five minutes before we decided we were bored and wanted to leave. We did one more tour of the city (my aunt needed photos) before going back to the Harvard Club.

The next morning it was up and off to the airport, though we made a quick stop near the Flat Iron Building at another Milanese coffee place called Eataly for hot chocolate and coffee. Things at the airport were quiet (thank god) but I had a rather unpleasant surprise once we got to security.

You see, Newark's airport has one of those hotly-contested security scanners that has many people upset right now. In case you're not familiar with the issue, the USA has been introducing high-intensity scanners that essentially allow security to see what you look like under your clothes. Not having encountered these on the way into New York I didn't anticipate having to face them on the way out. Furthermore, they had the usual metal detector right there, but for some reason were marching everyone through the privacy-violating contraption. I didn't like it one bit, but I didn't exactly have a choice. On the bright side, Once I was on the other side I had a look at the actual visual the guards see, and it's not what I expected. Contrary to the images floating around the internet, it's a very simple person icon, with a yellow flash anywhere you're wearing metal. Nevertheless, I don't like those machines. If you'd like to read up on the issue you can look at this article, or just type "airport security scanner" into google.

Anyway, overall the trip to New York was exciting and so much fun. I can't believe how much amazing food and how many incredible sights and decorations I got to see! Christmas really is the best time to visit I think, but I hope I'll go back again.

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