Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blue Note

My favourite jazz vocalist of all times, little Jimmy Scott, performed at the Blue Note Jazz Club in the West Village last week and I got tickets for me and the Boy as soon as I learnt about it.

Jimmy Scott has an incredibly unique voice and a lovely personality - the kind that makes you want to hug him and never let go. But at 86 years old, he performs less than a handful of times a year unfortunately.

I first saw him in London and since I have moved to New York, I have made a point of seeing him every single time he has come to the City (only once a year) - twice at the Dizzy's Club in Columbus Circle and once at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival.

I had never been to Blue Note before and must admit that I was a little disappointed. The club clearly needs a make-over. What I like about jazz clubs is that they are usually small, intimate and frankly quite romantic with plenty of dark nooks that couples can snuggle into while enjoying the performance. But Blue Note (while being small), did not feel intimate at all and the fact that most tables are communal was neither romantic or practical. It also felt like a bit of a tourist trap, which I guess is to be expected as it is probably the most famous jazz joint in the City.

If I was to recommend some good jazz venues, I would go with Dizzy's (for the panorama alone), as well as Smoke, a tiny brick-walled club on 105th and Broadway.

But regardless of the venue, Jimmy delivered an amazing, emotional and almost heart-breaking (as he now so frail) performance that had me close to tears. I will continue to see him every year, for as long as he can perform - he is now in a wheelchair, so I'm afraid it may not be that much longer unfortunately.

And the Boy passed a big test by enjoying it as much a I did!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Perfect Weekend

The weekend I just had made me realize even more that leaving New York, if I ever had to do so, would be the hardest thing in the world.

I met up with my friend JC and his crew for brunch at Da Silvano in the West Village on Saturday. It's a famous Italian institution and fantastic for people watching, especially when one of the people we spotted was (the frankly stunning) Tyson Beckford

He was parking his Ducati motorbike when I recognized him and let out an excited squeal. The other girls and I then went onto full swooning mode and KO and DT, being much braver than I am, got their picture taken with him. We spent hours basking in the sun there, getting slowly tipsy from the huge bottle of Rose we had ordered and sharing piles of delicious food.

In the evening, and after some much needed down time at home to recover from the day drinking, I met my girls ES and CS at Ink48, the rooftop bar of the namesake hotel in Hell's Kitchen. It affords one of the most stunning views of the Midtown skyscraper jungle I have ever seen. We drank a couple of Mojitos while updating each other on boy-related news and I truly felt like I was living in an episode of Sex and The City. Even more so as I hopped into a cab at the end of the night to go and meet the Boy.

"The Great Dating Experiment" is going very well and the Boy and I spent all of Sunday together as well. Enjoying an alfresco brunch at my old favourite Ocean Grill. Spending a few hours at the Natural History Museum and getting spooked (as always!) by the whale and giant squid exhibit. Grabbing a coffee at Joe's, a lovely neighborhood joint that makes one of the best coffees in the City before going back to mine to snuggle down and watch a few episodes of "America - The story of us", a great multi-part documentary spanning 400 years of American history he thought I might enjoy (and I did). 

A picture perfect weekend in every single way. And I wouldn't trade that for the world. I am exactly where I should be right now.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"New" York

I am dating someone. As in "hanging out, going to the movies, holding hands while walking down the street" kind of dating. Normal dating I guess. But for me an incredibly foreign concept in New York where the relationships I've had here have been (by choice) either fleeting or very complicated.

I am calling it "The Great Dating Experiment" - I have no idea how long it will last before my commitment phobia kicks in but I am enjoying the ride for now. Besides, he's single, smart, nice and very laid back - key attributes I have never found bundled up into one man in this City before (the single part is usually missing)!

One of the good things about "The Great Dating Experiment" is that I am going to completely new places that I wouldn't have otherwise discovered. While I enjoy being the social organizer in my group of friends, there is something wonderful about being taken somewhere you haven't chosen.

Yesterday, we walked almost the entire length of Manhattan, grabbing lunch in Chelsea, exploring the newly opened extension of the High Line and drinking a beer at the food trucks spot that has opened underneath it. We then made a quick pit stop at the public basketball court on West 4th to watch guys play a game of 21 (he already knows that basketball is the way to my heart!).

Afterwards, he took me to Fat Black Pussycat in the West Village. The outside appearance of the bar would have normally guaranteed that I wouldn't go in but I was surprised to find, as he guided me towards the back of the bar, a really cool swanky lounge with a rather gothic decor playing the kind of tunes that had us hitting Shazam on our Iphones constantly.

From there, we walked to the Lower East Side and he took me to Karma, a hookah bar in the East Village. While I like to think that I have done a lot of things in my life, smoking hookah has never been one of them. While the place is dark, a little rough around the edges and the service pretty appalling, I loved it because it was so different and the great hip hop anthems loudly blasting also helped.

I feel almost like I am re-discovering New York through the eyes of someone else.

Even after four years here, the City is still full of surprises waiting to be experienced. And I am more open to them than I have been in a long time. Dating included.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hey Sailor!

When the girls and I signed up for an intensive 2-day sailing course with the Manhattan Sailing Club, we knew full well that it was not going to be the usual sailing we all have done in the past in various parts of the world - comfortably sitting on the deck, donning swimsuits and clutching a glass of something bubbly and cold. But we were not prepared by how much hard work and how technical sailing is.

We were brought crashing down to reality on the evening of the induction, when one of the instructors proceeded to talk for over an hour about the rules of sailing, the multitude of obscure names that seem to have been given to every single parts of a boat and the different sailing strategies. It was pretty hard for us to hide the look of bewilderment and slight terror from our faces as we realized that we had far more to learn in just 2 days that we had ever anticipated.

But we still all turned up at the Marina at 9am sharp on Saturday and met our instructor Graham who turned out to be a very laid back British guy. We walked over to the boat each clutching a Starbucks cup to wake our sleepy minds, not really realizing that even getting onto the boat requires two free hands as an amused Graham pointed out to us.

The weather was not great - drizzly and grey - but because the water was relatively calm, we each leant to tack and jibe for about 4 hours, as well as putting up the sails and trimming them. After lunch and about an hour into sailing, the weather took a turn for the worse and a spectacular storm hit us. Graham had to take over navigation as torrential rain poured down on us and the increasingly big waves and the wildly changing winds made it impossible for us learners to control. We heard a voice on the radio screaming that we had to head back now and so we motored back as fast as possible ... arriving back at the dock completely soaking wet, shivering and frankly quite freaked out. Talk about a first sailing experience! Even Graham seemed a little shaken! We all went home and crashed into bed early, completely exhausted.

Our second day was thankfully much less eventful and more relaxing while still being hard work. Sailing on the Hudson is the equivalent of riding a bike on a busy motor-way as we had to navigate through the ferries, cruise ships and tankers much larger than us.

I can't recommend it highly enough though. It's a brilliant but tiring and surprisingly physical experience, with the Manhattan skyline as the most stunning background.

And according to the diplomas we were given for passing the course at the end of the weekend, we should now be all addressed as "Hey Sailor!" :)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Willie Wall

The girls and I are doing an intensive 2 day sailing course this weekend with the Manhattan Sailing Club, located in the North Cove Marina just outside where I work in the World Financial Center.

The induction took place last night at the The Honorable William Hall Clubhouse and Bar (aka Willie Wall), a floating barge anchored in the middle of the Hudson, near Ellis Island.

This place is one of New York's best kept secret. You don't actually have to be a member of the sailing club to get in. In the summer, specially chartered boats depart the Marina every half an hour from 5.30pm and the fee for non-members is just $10.

It is more than worth it for the incredible views of the Manhattan skyline it affords, as well as the being the perfect vantage point to watch all the sailboats racing each other.

The atmosphere gets pretty lively at the bar, with a lot of Caribbean style music playing. Only limited snacks are available (but they have a liquor license) so my advice is to pack up some yummy food in a hamper and head over there on a hot summer's night to watch the sun set over the City with a glass of chilled Prosecco in hand.

Simply heaven.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Scavenger Hunt

The much anticipated arrival of warm weather to the City also marks the return of my social organizer status amongst my friends.

At this time of the year, I scour the web in search of fun and different things to do in the City, and with the rise of deals sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial, the task has never been easier.

That is how I found out about an organized Scavenger Hunt taking place in Central Park today. I had little idea of what it actually involved but it sounded like something a bit more active than just lying in Sheep Meadows with a picnic.

I roped in the girls and we met up with a much larger group of people than I had anticipated at Cleopatra's Needle, behind the Metropolitan Museum. We had two and a half hours to answer 100 questions and fulfill tasks that had us walking all around the park.

I must admit that we decided pretty early on not to take this seriously unlike a few people who clearly mistook the event for an episode of "The Amazing Race", donning full work out gear and frantically jogging to each location ... much to our amusement. About half way through it, hunger got the better of us and we gave up on the hunt to have a late lunch at Bar Boulud, opposite the Lincoln Center.

But even though we didn't fully take part, we still learnt some fun facts and discovered little spots of the park that we previously hadn't been to, including some perfectly secluded picnic locations in the Ramble.

Next weekend, we are taking a 2-days sailing course with the Manhattan Sailing School - can't wait!

Belvedere Castle

The Public Theater

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hamptons Weekend

I know I said I didn't particularly like the Hamptons when I went last year. Or at least "the scene" that comes with it, which thankfully is easy to avoid.

But let's face it - with my friend ES having free run of her family's five bedroom house in Amagansett for the summer, it's an incredibly easy way for us to escape the City for a few days to a place that scenically appears to be a thousand miles away, which is why a group of six of us happily made the trip there for Memorial Day weekend.

CS and I took the train there for the first time and it was an experience in itself. While Penn Station was as busy as usual, the real zoo started when we stopped at Jamaica to take the connecting train to the Hamptons.
Before we realized what was happening, hundreds of people were elbowing their way onto the train while CS and I watched in stupor. This resulted in us not getting a seat and instead spending most of the journey uncomfortably sitting on the stairs.
With magazines and books to kill time, we got to Amagansett in just over two hours. But next time, we will be more ruthless in our determination to find seats, as well as bring snacks and wine as everyone else in the carriage seemed to have done. I would still recommend taking the train over driving there, which in traffic takes at least 4 hours.

Amagansett is probably one of the quieter Hamptons and the scenery is in fact reminiscent of a perfectly English countryside hamlet with a quaint feel, lush green lawns, old trees and colonial houses - some of them of manor/castle proportions of course. With the added benefit of sandy white long beaches being minutes walk away.

The "scene" I dislike so much is really only found in a few hot spots, namely Cyril's, the Talkhouse and the Surf Lodge. If you want to see a lot of trust funds kids, investment bankers guys, and the girls that usually seek them out - then these are the places you should go to. Although I must also say that the atmosphere is always fairly laid back - it is the beach after all - and the Surf Lodge is particularly stunning.

We did go to Cyril's one night, of course. It's hard to understand why this small roadside outdoor bar draws the in-crowd of the Hamptons in such numbers but I can only imagine that they come for the same thing we do - the irresistible, "dessert in a plastic glass", that is the BBC cocktail. Banana Baileys Colada. Surely it must be the only reason why, when the place is at its busiest, people (including us) are happy to be in standing room only at the back bar, right next to the portaloos and the dumpsters! But the BBC really is to die for, and particularly good (and lethal) with a Rum floater on top - three of them should be your limit unless you want to forget small insignificant details like what your name is and where you are staying.

The rest of our time was spent having yummy breakfasts at the Farmers Market, lounging by the pool at the house, grilling the most amazing turkey burgers on the BBQ, having oysters and steamed lobster at Botswick's, doing a spot of shopping in East Hampton and just generally completely relaxing away from the hustle and bustle of the City and enjoying spending time together.

I can't think of anything better than that and will be doing much more of it over the summer!