I am so excited about my brother and his girlfriend coming to visit me in a couple of weeks time. They have never been to the States, let alone New York, and I can't wait to see the awe on their faces as they first glimpse at the city's infamous skyline.I almost envy the fact that they haven't been to NYC before. I wish I could experience the overwhelming feeling I had when I first came here on a windy day in March 1999 again.
We had landed in the early evening and somehow, I had missed the approach to the city and driving through it as I was asleep.
It was only when I stepped out of the bus at Grand Central Station and looked up at the towering buildings. Took in the snaking taxis. Processed the sound of the car horns. Breathed in the heady scent of asphalt, exhaust fumes and stale hot dogs. Sensed the raw energy through every one of my nerve endings. That I felt it ... love at first sight.
I slowly uttered the words "New York ... just like I pictured it" from Stevie Wonder's "Living for the city". I seem to remember that I even said it with the accent (which must have sounded comical - listen to the song and you'll understand why I will never sound like that).
I knew, there and then, that I would have to live here some day. My long love story with New York started that very minute.
I will make sure that I visit places with them that I haven't discovered yet. But for our first weekend, I want to give them: "my perfect New York weekend".
They arrive at lunch time on a Saturday. We'll stop over at H&H Bagels, on 79th & Broadway, and head over to Central Park to eat them under the shade of an old tree in Sheep Meadows. We'll walk down to 71st and take a boat trip on the lake.
We might stroll down 5th Avenue for a little while, where the buildings are so impressive. I'd like to end up in Times Square by early evening, catching the tacky yet jaw-dropping light show that it is, amongst the sea of backpack wearing tourists and dressed up theatre goers.
If by luck they can still walk/remember their names/keep their eyes open by then, I'll take them to Bryant Park and eventually to Grand Central, where we'll try to avoid bumping into people while walking with our noses in the air, admiring the elaborate ceiling. Maybe we'll stop at Cipriani Dolci on the upper concourse for one of their fiery (jet-lag kicking in this case) Bloody Marys and to take in the atmosphere of the station a little longer. But that's a probably a little optimistic.
On Sunday, we'll have brunch of course. Trying to convince my brother not to have breakfast until 12.30 will be nearly impossible. But these are the New York rules - it's totally, like, uncool to brunch before that time.
So we'll hop on the subway (hopefully encountering plenty of colourful characters for the full experience) down to Prince Street in Soho. I'll take them to Jerry's because, if you have read this blog properly, it is my NYC institution. We'll get a booth and I will force them to have eggs Benedict and a glass of champagne.
We'll walk down Prince Street a little further, hitting West Broadway, turning right onto Thompson, all the way to Washington Square Park. Have our picture taken in front of the gate. Head down West 4th and stop over at "Extra Virgin", a recent fantastic find, sitting outside under the awning for a restorative beverage (coffee for them, cocktail for me).
We'll then get lost in all the little streets in Greenwich Village, popping into some of the quirky boutiques, until we reach Little W12th and the start of the Meatpacking District.
We'll walk along the Hudson and the paved streets. Go to the top of the Gansevoort Hotel for the fabulous view.
Then we'll jump in a cab - "East Village, Tompkins Square Park please". We'll stroll through the small park, go down to 6th street to see all the small but artfully decorated community gardens that line it. Then back up to 12th to have Cuban food at Cafecito.
I can't wait, I really can't. And the best bit? I'll be doing it all over again, with my parents & my sister when they come in October, wearing a few more layers but minus a few cocktails.