I recently returned from a quick business trip to south Florida. I love it when I get to do work in paradise!
I also love to travel alone, namely because it challenges me to get out of my comfort zone big time. I don’t mind rising at 4:30 a.m. to make an 8 a.m. flight. Plus, I kind of like talking to strangers in the airport. We always seem to find common ground when it comes to complaining about the customer service.
Two years ago in June, I traveled to New York City alone. It wasn’t the first time I had been there, but it was the first time I went on my own just for fun.
The idea came to me as I placed one of my fictional characters in the milieu of the Big Apple. It was a spark of inspiration! And, it scared me to no end, thinking of myself in the city alone. I could get mugged. I could lose my wallet. My luggage could go missing. Someone could follow me down a dark alley…. So much could go wrong.
And yet, so much of it turned out absolutely right!
My trip to New York City was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken, anywhere, and I’ve taken some pretty great trips — albeit always with a companion.
It was my objective to hit the major art museums while there – the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, and a side trip to the Frick Museum, housed in the beautiful Gilded Era mansion on Fifth Avenue.
I also wanted to visit the Neue Galerie at 86th Street and Fifth Avenue, a museum that features many of Austrian artist Gustav Klimt’s work – including his famous portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (the subject of the recent film Woman in Gold) — but the museum was closed on the day I was up in those parts on the East Side. Damn! And no sachertorte at Café Sabarsky, for which I had been salivating. (Hint: The museum is closed on Tuesdays.)
Flying into LaGuardia Airport, I got an aerial view of the city, soaring over the financial district and the breathtaking new World Trade Center and Brooklyn Bridge.
Once I was on the ground, I was like a kid in a candy store. I was literally quivering to explore. I walked everywhere, arguably the best way to see the city, though so many edifices seem to be obscured by scaffolding.
I not only saw (most) of the museums I wanted to see – the Guggenheim was closed at the time for an art installation (major bummer) – I made side trips to various out-of-the-way landmarks.
If you’re a Maxfield Parrish fan, go see his Old King Cole mural in the King Cole Bar at the very posh St. Regis Hotel on E. 55th Street and Fifth Avenue.
I checked out a version of the Gutenberg Bible at the New York Public Library (though they didn’t let me take it with me), while also viewing a small exhibition of Mary Cassatt prints in the adjoining hallways and a small show of Federico Garcia Lorca’s poetry and writing on the main floor. I then moseyed over to Lincoln Center on the west side to see the vibrantly-colored Marc Chagall murals at the opera house.
One of the biggest thrills was visiting my favorite gallery in the Met, rooms dedicated to the art work of John Singer Sargent. It had one of my favorite paintings of his, Mr. & Mrs. Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes.
The Met also had a really cool punk clothing exhibition on show, “From Chaos to Couture,” featuring fashions by Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, Comme des Garcons and the late fashion genius Alexander McQueen.
The gift shop in the Met has to be one of the best places to purchase art books, jewelry, or other items embellished with art images. I so wanted to buy a T-shirt with a Tiffany stained glass image or one with Asian script and bamboo or so many others, but I literally could not decide on which one so I left with none.
I also made my way to Central Park, visiting the Sheep’s Meadow, a favored place to sunbathe, and discovered the beautiful Bryant Park tucked behind the main public library, just off 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue. Anyone familiar with Fashion Week in New York City knows about Bryant Park. It is absolutely lovely, thick with trees and abuzz with people playing chess, table tennis or just chatting on a summer evening.
Being a foodie in New York also makes one ravenous and rather quizzical about where to go. My hotel was a few streets away from Hell’s Kitchen, at Eighth Avenue, stretching from 34th to 59th street. I chose Island Burgers and Shakes on one of those days. I also had a late lunch at Le Bonne Soupe after my trip to MOMA. It’s a great little place tucked away at 48 W. 55th Street. I had one of the best Quiche Lorraines there, paired with a salad, and then their delectable Mousse au Chocolat for dessert.
I also stopped at Dean & Deluca on Madison Avenue and 85th after visiting my own version of fashion heaven, Ralph Lauren’s mansion featuring women’s clothing (his men’s store, in the Rhinelander Mansion, is across the street on Madison Avenue). Going into the women’s store, it smells like gardenias and I hurried through, lest I be mocked for not being able to afford a blasted thing.
Being on foot, I visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral on between 50th and 51st streets on Fifth Avenue; Grand Central Station; and got hit on by a man in a business suit on the steps of the New York Public Library.
OK, so most of what I saw were the obligatory tourist things. I never made it to the trendy Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn and I never got on the subways. But for me, the trip was a personal coup. I realize that New York City is truly one of the greatest cities on earth.
It scared me shitless to go but what I gained in doing this has been a constant reminder that I can be fearless and respond to that call of adventure when it comes.
Next stop: Paris.