Ever seen the episode of Sex and The City where Carrie tries her hand at trapeze? My friend Suki had done this in New York and I’d put it on my to-do list. It was with some trepidation that I found myself on the mid-West side, in a rather dodgy neighbourhood, arriving at a large white tent under a freeway. This is the home of New York Trapeze School. Walking in, the first thing you notice is the massive net, about a third of the way up and covering almost the entire structure from end to end. There was a platform about another third of the way up where you grab the swing (and a huge ladder to get up there).
The idea is this: in 2 hours you learn to swing by your legs and perform a ‘catch’ – basically where another person grabs you by the arms. Then you get dropped into the net. You also learn a backflip exit – a somersault off the swing into the net. To do either of these moves you have to be able to hang upside down by your knees. A guy on the ground yells instructions and you do what he tells you. As I am part spidermonkey I didn’t find the hanging part very hard – all you have to do is bring your knees to your chest, hook them over the bar of the swing, let go with your hands, swing up towards the window (where the catcher will be waiting later), swing back, put your hands back on the bar, drop your legs, and then let go and drop into the net. To do the somersault, or backflip, instead of just dropping into the net you throw your legs back and forth quite hard 3 times, then let go of the bar and grab your knees. The momentum will carry you into a backflip and then you drop into the net on your bum.
What a rush! I’ve never done anything like this and it was terrific fun. The guy who caught me was swinging half naked upside down in his boxers – damn I love New York (just sayin'!) I did 2 successful catches, and left walking on air. If you are thinking about doing it, you’d have to be in decent physical fitness, fairly flexible, not scared of heights, and have a strong grip! The bar is hard to hold onto and I had to put a lot of chalk on my hands to stop them being torn up but still got grazes on my palms. Mind you, I have freakshow midget hands so it’s probably not the same for everyone.
The other must-do item is go on a sunset cruise of the Hudson. Claudia booked this through her gym. To see the Statue of Liberty silhouetted against a fiery sunset is quite special. The coconut Bacardi’s and lemonades weren’t bad either – my new favourite drink (thanks Clouds!!) We sat, drank, watched the sun go down and the lights of the Manhattan skyline come on, the dying sun reflecting on the windows of the skyscrapers, bathing the city in a golden glow. It was an absolutely magical experience.
So in a nutshell here are my New York tips:
- Go to http://newyork.trapezeschool.com and book yourself into a 2 hour flying trapeze class (cheers Sukes!)
- If you are there for longer than a week get a weekly metro ticket and ride the subway for the hell of it.
- Walk across the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.
- Explore some dive bars in Queens, and walk down to the river to see the skyline at dusk.
- Take a sunset cruise on the Hudson – you can get a member’s discount if you book through the New York Health and Racquet Club or know someone who is a member.
- Have a drink at the rooftop bar at Gansevoort Hotel for some great views and there’s a pool to cool off if it’s hot (thanks Joey!): www.gansevoortpark.com
- Walk around and all through Central Park, including the reservoir. Stop at Gray’s Papaya for a hot dog (they are on Broadway just off Central Park West) if that’s your thing (thanks Robyn!). Visit the Metropolitan Museum. Marvel at the angel on the Bethesda Fountain. Go pay homage to John Lennon at Strawberry Fields. Check out the baseball games. Visit the Dakota Building for some classic Gothic architecture and if you are a horror fan.
- Do a bit of research on the net and create your own walking tour of all your favourite TV and film locations in New York, which is also a great way to see the ciy. Alternatively there are companies that run tours.
- Go to the Spotted Pig in the Meat-packing district for a good meal (thanks Andrew!). http://www.thespottedpig.com/
- Have a drink in the beer garden at the Standard Hotel (also Meatpacking district) especially if you are a single female who wants to do a bit of totty-spotting, although don’t eat there unless you are a massive fan of wurst or pretzels: http://www.standardhotels.com/new-york-city/bars/
- Go to the top of the Empire State Building, then to the Top of the Rock at sunset (30 Rockerfella Plaza).
- Have a drink at Pete’s Tavern – supposedly one of the oldest bars in New York, if not THE oldest (cheers Andrew!). Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were recent customers. It’s in the Gramercy District: http://www.petestavern.com/
- Walk around Greenwich Village and Soho for some wonderful brownstone architecture. Also home to the Friends building and Carrie’s apartment in SATC.
- Have a slice of pizza pie at John’s on Bleecker Street, Greenwich Village: http://www.johnsbrickovenpizza.com/
- Whenever you walk up one avenue, walk down another for a different experience on the way back.
- Visit the Chelsea Hotel, where Sid murdered Nancy.
- Walk around Ground Zero – they are building something on it at the moment so it was all fenced off, but I still went to pay my respects to the hundreds of people that died.
- Try a Blue Moon beer with a slice of orange (thanks Steve!)
- Take a yellow cab – they’re very cheap and it’s fun! Make sure you have some banter with the driver and throw in a few Seinfeld quotes! ("He's flying around the road, he's... doing 90 up a one-way, and you're going... (amused) "I've never tried that in my car !")
- Have "what she's having" at Katz's Delicatessen.
- Borrow a dog and hang out with dog-walkers in Central Park (sorry Pepper, I promise to do this next time when it's not chucking down rain!)
- Visit all the neighbourhoods in mid to lower Manhattan and finish off by shopping in the boutiques of Soho.
Of course there are a million things to see in New York, and everyone has at least personal experience, “a New York moment” to coin a phrase, which stands out. I think for me it was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. I looked up, and there was a rainbow – except it wasn’t the standard arc but more like rainbow coloured paint had been splashed across the sky. My polarized sunglasses enhanced the colours so they really stood out which was why I noticed it. I realized I was gawking but nobody else had noticed so I grabbed a few people walking past and pointed it out. Soon there was a little crowd of us, tourists and locals, all gazing in wonder at the celestial phenomenon and passing round my sunnies. I think it personified how I see New York: a mix of old, young, foreign, local, all finding something new and wonderful in the crazy big city.
In the “Which Sex and The City Character Are You” quiz, I normally score a mix of Carrie and Samantha. If you can’t work this out it may be because you’ve never met me but believe me, I’m a healthy mix. Talking to anyone who’s lived in NY for a while and experienced the dating scene, there is a hell of a lot of truth behind the show: women are Park Avenue princesses or incredibly business-focused women who either expect the men to pay for everything or eye every man up as a potential baby-daddy and are choosy as all hell meaning no man can ever live up to expectations; the men have their pick of gorgeous gals and date about 5 at one time/are commitment-phobic workaholics. From my perspective, I’ve never seen so many talented, intellectual, good-looking people in one place: it makes a night out in Fortitude Valley look like a tween country dance. After 2 years of being single in Brisbane and struggling to find somewhere decent to go out that wasn't frequented by drainpipe trousered country boys, it was like Nirvana. And it wasn’t just the men (although I was thrilled with the amount of eye candy - or even just to have a tiny bit of eye candy over 20 that had a decent dress sense - see comment above), I met some interesting women too. My friend Dave and I were out at dinner and got chatting to two lovely, fun gals sitting next to us. By the end we were even sharing food with the couple dining on the other side. Another fab New York moment that I’ll never forget, and I made some great new friends.
And so… if the question on your lips now is “was there Sex In The City?” I’ll have to leave you guessing, but what New York movie have you ever seen that doesn’t contain a little whimsy, romance, true love, dark obsession, or all-out passion? Commuters that turn into ballroom dancers in the Fisher King as homeless man, Robin Williams, meanders after his unrequited love through Grand Central Station; Glenn Close and Michael Douglas going all out in the lift and the washing up in Fatal Attraction, just before she turns into a bunny boiler; watching the sun go down by the Brooklyn Bridge in Annie Hall; using pottery as foreplay before watching your true love get shot in Ghost; meeting the man of your dreams on top of the Empire State Building in Sleepless in Seattle; finally marrying Mr Big in the SATC movie; having a fake orgasm in Katz’s Delicatessan in when Harry Met Sally; the passionate kiss in the rain complete with soggy cat in Breakfast at Tiffanys; meeting a stranger and realizing fate has played a hand in finding true love in Serendipity; or getting cozy on the deck of a boat with a handsome man whilst the sun sets behind Lady Liberty in a blaze of colour...
My NYC adventure over for the interim, I’m trading skyscrapers for mountains and desert and heading to Arizona.