Sunday, 16 January 2011

One Week Later

And so here I am, sat at my dining room table back at home, with a stupidly huge mug of (what was) coffee, out of a hot chocolate mug - I think they call these sorts of things, living on the edge?

It has been exactly a week now since my return to England, meaning exactly 12 days since I was enjoying my first day in the Big Apple; and the time since then has just been a blur of hours passing by.

Despite the depressing 'post-holiday blues', I feel that my New Year's self needs to take a positive spin on being away from a country which was so beautiful, so exciting and so ridiculously mind blowing, that it pains me to say I'm a resident of the UK. Pro number one: I am massively enjoying the fact that two layers is enough to leave the house in; and I am also sure that those who choose to spend their time with me are glad that I am (finally) complaining a lot less about how cold I am.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

No Pants Day

After another early wake-up call (thanks to Lucy's iPhone alarm!), we decided that the only cure for the 'last day in New York' blues was to return to the Townhouse for breakfast. Having being greeted with another warm American welcome, we were seated in a typical diner-style booth. Looking around filled my eyes with too many familiar faces, and I soon realised that we wernt the only kids-on-the-block who had sussed out this gem of an eatery.

I didnt need to look at the menu to know what to order: French toast with maple syrup and bacon was an obvious choice, alongside my hot chocolate and glass of iced water (which seemed to be customary and complimentary in most places we had been to!). Unlike yesterday's diner, this hot chocolate did not seem to come with a free-refill, which saddened my taste buds, but which I'm sure my bladder was thankful for!

Wrapping back up in a zillion layers and out onto the streets to Grand Central, where we were planning on catching the Subway down to Central Park. As we approached the beautiful building, a group of men turned to stare at us (something we had got used to by this point!) before shouting out to Jade: "Hey, I like your head ornament!" Head ornament?! Last time I looked we wernt wearing china across our foreheads....

A few stops later on the Subway and we arrived blinking in the daylight as the wind hit our faces up the street steps. In front of us was Ralph Lauren, which we had heard so much about from Tova over breakfast that morning. She had insisted that we go, as the store layout and visual merchandising was amazing, plus she highly recommended a trip to the toilets, as even they were worth checking out. Feeling happy with ourselves that we had made it to the store without even an ounce of trying, we went in. Within two seconds of us setting foot inside, we were greeted with a huge smile from the doorman, with the usual "Hi, how are you today?". Whether it was because he was a fabulous human being or because he sensed our tourist activity, he immediately told us how to get discount on all the products in the store, along with providing us with his own personal copy of the store directory. Feeling pleased with ourselves, and feeling a little pained by the smile which had been plastered across my face, we moved further into the store to explore.

Where was the amazing interior Tova had told us about? Dont get me wrong, all the stores I'd been to so far had had great insides, and this was no different, but it didnt reek of the magic which I was so expecting.
I looked down at the directory for some sort of clue as to where the toilets were, which is when I noticed the title on the cover. BLOOMINGDALES it read. We were in the Ralph Lauren section of a department store. Idiots.

Having laughed about this a bit too much, and gaining a few too many weird looks from the locals and workers, we made our way over to the makeup section. With a six hour plane journey facing us at midnight, we thought it was best that we kept our selection of face products up to date and full to the brim.

In this particular Bloomingdales is the David Burke @ Bloomingdales restaurant, which looked really delicious; and had we not have been on a student budget or full of maple syrup yumminess, I would have insisted that we go for a spot of lunch.

"Blazing across distinctions between chef, artist, entrepreneur and inventor, David Burke is one of the leading pioneers in American cooking today."

When I next go to New York, I will insist that my incredibly rich and devoting husband take me there, who wont mind paying $15.95 for a chicken ceaser salad...

Next stop: Urban Outfitters, where we were greeted by the best looking man I had ever seen in my life, which encouraged me to stay longer than necessary in the store. Luckily there was a huge sale upstairs, which meant that my few remaining dollars were effortlessly parted with me.
Inside the store was fairly classic for U.O, and not quite as exciting as the layout of the 5th Avenue store. That's what I thought, but that was before I went to the changing rooms!

All the doors reminded me of something similar to a scene from Alice In Wonderland, as they were all identical, and filled the whole room. The inside of the fitting room with it's plain gold chair and long mirror meant that there were no vast distractions to inhibit between you, the tryer-onner, and the clothes. This layout must have worked, as I bought both the things which I tried on:

The playsuit at the top is absoloutely lovely, and looks good as both a playsuit and with a top over it so that it looks like a pair of shorts. Favourite thing to wear with: cycle shorts.
The sleevless tee-cardi (bottom) was a bit of a wild card for me, and not something I would usually pick, but it looks great on. It works well as a layer over a see-through black body suit, bringing it together in the middle with a gold chain belt.

Paying for these items was a slightly less enjoyable experience, as only one member of staff was on the tills, and the person in front of me seemed to be having some sort of issue with returning a web-purchase. NB: I have no idea if that was what she was actually doing, but from my experience of working in retail, that looked like the most plausible option. Either that, or she was spell checking an essay for the woman.
Whilst I was waiting in the queue, I had a cheeky peak at the jewelry next to me and found this beautiful leather chain bracelet which I thought would work well on my wrist alongside my River Island cuff and new All Saints charm bracelet.

Having spent over $100, it was definitely time to leave.

Me being me, I thought that I knew the way to THE Central Park, as I tried to remember seeing it from the bridge when we first arrived in Manhattan. Sadly after walking around for no more than five minutes and a random trip to the Betsey Johnson store, my friends lost trust in my ability to direct, and so we touristically asked the nearest passer by. Being pointed in the right direction (being the opposite one to mine) we made our way down bustling streets until something caught Jade's eye. Barbie.
The big pink letters glared down at the three of us, and being the good friends that we are, ran like little children into F.A.O Schwartz and up into the lift to the first floor.

In the right hand corner, was Barbie heaven. There was a Barbie catwalk, where each Barbie robotically made its way down to the catwalk, including a little 360 spin at the end. There was an interactive section for kids, where you could sit down and virtually create your own Barbie (yes, mine was styled to perfection). Along with hundreds of other things, I spotted a Louboutin Barbie. After studying it for a good two minutes, I came out with "This one looks like a transvestite!" which seemed to amuse the woman next to me who looked at what I was talking about and burst into laughter.

Already the day was slipping away, and having left the store (+ one Barbie) we recognised exactly where we were - on our favourite 5th Avenue, East 39th Street, with Central Park and the fascinating Apple store directly infront of us. We were in New York heaven.

Having been here before, we knew that Armani was only a five minute walk away, and I was determined to return and purchase some $30 tea from the Armani:Dolci section of the store. Out of breath and looking a little red from the New York air, we made it to the chocolate counter where we were greeted by a new assistant. Secretly each one of us was praying that this time we'd be lucky enough to get offered a sample of the delicate and delicious chocolate treats which we had gazed at last time we had been. The woman clearly sensed our hunger and asked if we'd like to try a sample. Yes. Obviously we would. It was already 2pm and our fat new New York bodies were dying for something sweet!
As I tried to be as dainty as I could in opening the wrapper, I finally let loose and ripped open the tiny chocolate square and popped the whole thing in my mouth. I began to chew and waited for the cocoa goodness to melt over my tongue, but instead I was presented with a bitter and extremely powdery tasting hardness. I'd eaten 70% cocoa before, but this was simply not to my liking. Losing all sense of where I was, I whispered to Lucy, "I hate it!" before bursting out laughing at how awkward the situation was!

Sensing my dissatisfaction, the woman smiled and offered me a 'sweeter' white chocolate instead, which was much more enjoyable. Despite it's delicious taste, it didnt taste anything spectacular, and I soon realised that if I were to purchase any, I would merely be paying $15 for the brand name, and not the quality of the chocolate. Dont get me wrong, I'm sure many chefs have slaved over those chocolates to get them to perfection, but to my average British tongue, I was not blown away and thus didnt purchase. I was more tempted by the tea range however, but after learning that they were leaves and that my strainer/pot set was not at Uni with me, I thought that $30 for Black Tea with Chocolate could wait until my richer days. I would so like to one day offer someone a 'cuppa' and say that it's Armani...

By this point it is fair to say that I was beyond ravenous, and so begged Lucy and Jade to agree to have lunch. Easier said than done, as we seemed to be in one of the richer ends of New York, and so finding anywhere that matched our budget was a little out the question. Using our common sense, we decided to take our hungry tummies to the back streets away from the main strip, where we knew that milkshakes would soon be replacing champagne.

During our search, we passed a beautiful place called Sprinkles Cupcakes on Lexington Avenue, which to my disappointment, had not yet opened. Having Googled it, I think it was for the best that it wasnt, as I would definitely have returned home with a suitcase full of squashed cake, and a stomach full of icing.

Nonetheless, the website looks amazing, and the variety of flavours from banana, lemon coconut, peanut butter chip and vegan red velvet would suit anybodies diet or tastes. The store in New York opens April this year - perfect timing for my birthday. Another reason for it to be 100% necessary for me to return for my 19th.

Examining hundreds of menus and walking for what seemed like fifty blocks, God spoke. 'Eat Here Now' was what was written across a canvas top covering the door to a diner. We double checked the menu for prices (as all princesses shouldnt have to) and it looked like the perfect thing, and not just because they served milkshakes!

To sum up, it was a yummy and (thank god!) affordable diner, where the milkshakes were good and the waitresses dont judge you for swapping your salad for fries. Everyone seemed pretty chilled out in there, and I'm sure the woman on the table next to us would have been smiling to, were it not for the severe restrictions her mouth seemed to be having due to excessive botox.

Note to self: When handing you the bill, the server will always turn it face down onto the table. Guess this is an American custom? Though I'm not surprised they turned it upside down at 'Eat Here Now' otherwise I'd have gasped in her face when reading the included $7 service charge!
I am now a reciever of an urban email chain, which sends me venues of underground warehouse parties and secret events in NY, alongside other cool things which only the exclusively cool know about. Before you ask how I managed to get on the mailing list, I was forwarded into it by a shop assistant in one of the vintage stores. At the time, she had told me that today was going to be a 'No Pants Day' and to watch out for it on the Subways. In the nicest way possible, she was a little odd, and having seen everyone so far with their bottoms still in tact, I thought this could be another one of her weird little fantasies.

However on the way back to the hotel, I was stunned by a group of individuals walking down the stairs in just their pants. Trying not to stare was more difficult than I thought, and I felt a huge sense of satisfaction that I knew why they were doing it, instead of just being like every other shocked onlooker.

Just before returning to the Eastgate Tower Hotel, we took one last stroll down 5th Avenue, and stopped off in a shop which we appropriately named 'Tac Tac'. Whilst purchasing my various 'souvenirs', the shop assistant commented on my rings, saying how they make me look 'wild', before continuing to pursue me with questions to assess exactly how wild I was!

The final walk home to the hotel was a sad one, but everything seemed so magical and surreal in the New York City lights. We passed LEX Bar once again, which I'd so wanted to go to (damn being so young!) although it is definitely on my 'to do' list for next time!

As we collected our suitcases from reception and boarded the coach to the airport, I had a moment to think about the past few days and realised that the only thing I would have done differently is to have caught a yellow cab, which didnt really seem necessary at the time, as we were able to Subway/walk everywhere!
The past few days felt surreal, even after having done them all. New York had definitely exceeded even my high expectations, and already I was planning my trip back (maybe when the weather would be a little more to my liking!)

Jade & Lucy

Sitting in the airport waiting for our 11:40pm flight seemed to last a lifetime, and I had a McDonalds to pass the time. Who'd have thought they'd even do an American sized Happy Meal?!
I'd missed a certain few people since I'd been in New York and so was really happy at the thought of being able to go back and see them; but in my ideal little world, I'd have just popped them into a human-sized suitcase and have brought them back to NY with me, for my own little fairytale life.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Desperate for Vintage

Is it awful that when I wake up in the morning, the initial reason for getting dressed is so that we can get to breakfast quicker? This morning we went to Blooms Delicatessant, which has a really great atmosphere and is full of hot Latino waiters! Plus I sneakily caught side of a bowl full of sweets by the till - there's an incentive for handing over money if ever there was one!

As soon as we were seated to the familiar booth-set up, we were instantly offered coffee. Sadly I was far too English and declined the offer in favour of a cup of tea, but still, the thought was there.
Despite having a huge choice of deliciousness on the menu, I still decided to go for the usual. French toast, maple syrup and bacon.

Lucy typically ordered another round of poached eggs, before announcing to us all that there was a 'limit' on how many eggs you're supposed to have in a week (apparently it's six) and seeing as she had already hit this limit, we debated the possibility of her turning into an egg, now that she was all egged out.

With the bill needing to be paid, we headed to the counter with an excess amount, because we wanted the $6 change to pay for the subway. The women took our money, thanked us, and then went about her business. NB: No-one seems to give change in America. Why is this? They already add a service charge, and tax, and still expect to keep whatever's left over. Not happy.

So leaving the diner slightly poorer than we expected, we headed over to Grand Central Terminal. To call it 'grand' would be an understatement. The beautiful interior reminded me of something from the 20s, similar to the station in the Coco Chanel advert.

Oh! I forgot to mention as well - if ever you're 'in the area' check out a place called Park Avenue Tavern. It's only a minute or so walk from Grand Central, and although I never got to go, the amount of times I looked in the window on passing was sickening. It looks amazing and quotes itself as a 'new bar and restaurant concept'.

If I had been lucky enough to eat there, I think I would have had the Mushroom and Fontina French Bread for $13 as a starter. Mmmm! To choose an imaginary dish for yourself, or to book me a meal there, check out the website.

Back to reality, we got off the subway at somewhere we think was called Layfatte, although I'm still not entirely sure. Whatever the area was called, we were in China Town, and it was the most intimidating experience of my entire life. Having walked up the subway steps, the three of us were bombarded by people offering us deals on Tiffany and Louis Vuitton bags, heckling us to come over and see and try. The same strip of happenings seemed to go on for blocks and blocks, and feeling a little like our bags were going to get lost in the huge sea of madness, we ducked back down into the subway, and got off a stop later.

After emerging from the underground for the second time in the space of ten minutes, we magically ended up at Bloomingdales. Heaven! After the slightly less friendly atmosphere from previous department stores, I was slightly skeptical; oh how wrong I was!

Everyone was super friendly and the decor of the makeup section was similar to that of the inside of a warehouse which I'd noticed to be a theme amongst many of the stores we'd visited in New York so far. I also loved the window display (something which seemed to be rare to find due to the change of seasons).

Having made my way to the accessories section, I found these beautiful pair of studded Michael Kors hand warmers, and had it not been coming into the Spring season (wishful thinking) I definitely would have bought them!

As we made our way around the jewelry section, I found a brand of jewelry called Lucky Brand which looked pretty interesting and also reasonably priced. I saw a gorgeous ring for under$50, but sadly forgot to take a picture of it - so this is what it looks like! It really is beautiful, and it must be something special, as I'm usually not a fan of silver jewelry, but I would happily wear this on my hand every day!

The three of us also found some cute little Marc by Marc Jacobs bracelets, which we were going to buy as friendship bands as they came in three different colours, rec, gold and silver - though the larger version came in black, much to Lucy's satisfaction.

As we made our way through the handbag section, I remember noticing a specific designer Rebecca Minkoff and thinking how cute the bags were. Sadly the shoes seemed much more appealing by this point, and so it was only a moment of lust, but I think it most definitely love at first sight.
Quilted M.A.B w/ Strap

Rebecca first launched her apparel line in 2001, before releasing her range of handbags in 2005, and her famous 'Morning After Bag' was born. "In 2009, she was honored as a New York Moves Power Women for her entrepreneurial success in the fashion industry."

Having spotted the shoes and already have made a beeline for them, it seemed only natural to rip off my already knackered black studded boots and throw on the first pair of heels I laid my eyes on, which just so happened to be in the sale.

A beautiful pair of S-Falken's which had been reduced to $149.99 - still not really within my price limit, but it was fun to pretend all the same. I tried them on and although they looked amazing and made my legs look super long, they were also uncomfortably tight. I checked the size again and saw the big number 8 glaring bag at me as if it was on purposely saying BIG FOOT. Let's just keep that one on the low and hope that American sizes are smaller than ones in the UK....

A trend that I'd noticed whilst being in New York, was the puffa jacket - although I'm not sure they're still called that these days, but they were when I was younger. Whether it's due to the severely cold weather in the city or the fact that American's find them stylist, they seem to be on every body and in every shop you look.
Even Marc Jacobs has released his own version (above); and there was also a huge range of them in Uniqlo.

Marc by Marc Jacobs in Bloomingdales

As the day past our retail experience widened, seeing a woman doing yoga in the window of a store called Lululemon Athletics, the most hideously pink interior of jewelry store So Good and also the interesting library ladder structure on the back wall of Acne.

My mission of the trip was to visit The Hundreds store on Grand Street which I'd blogged about before we left.
It was exactly how I imagined it, except with a darker lighting setup and the whole place smelled like incense. There seemed to be no-one manning the huge Apple Mac at what I guess was the 'till' area of the store, and yet moments later there seemed to be a whole crowd of similarly dressed men in flat caps and jeans all hanging around in a group, laughing and talking amongst themselves.

From here we found ourselves walking past a cute interior store called Michele Varian which I would highly recommend taking a look at alongside Rachel Ashwell for shabby chic.

Our stomachs at this point could take the exercise of shopping no more, and so we ended up in a place called Bari. Although we were sat by the door (not to our enjoyment) the atmosphere was relaxed and the prices were reasonable, if not a little on the pricey side.

When we'd finished our meal (mushroom w/ spinach soup and chips) it came to our shock that we didnt actually have the right amount of cash to pay for our meal. And so the three of us were sat, literally emptying out our purses to count pennies, with the disapproving looks of pretty stylish people. Having embarrassed ourselves enough, we asked the waiter to split the payment between our cards, after which we made a swift exit.

Prada. A must-have experience to say the least.
There is so much to say about it, and although a picture says a thousand words, they were so hot on non-photography in there that I didnt even dare try. So I'll try and attempt to create for you the right mental picture:
You enter the store and immediately you notice a huge, round, glass lift on your left. In front of you is a staircase which seems to go on forever and ever and is bigger than you can plausibly imagine. Cascading down the stairs are a huge array of mannequins in life-sized gold frames. Models in the frames combine Spring dresses with Winter fur hats. There is also a hanging up screen with the S/S 11 catwalk show playing. On the lower level is a futuristic box style layout, similar to Cyberdog in London (except lighter and less weird), and it almost feels like a walk in wardrobe with a runway combining all the compartments. There are TV's in coffee-table styled islands between the clothing rails and a lethargic background music is playing; music with both a beat and futuristic feel. At the back of this is a huge seating area with hard jelly-style cushions on the seats. We noticed that a customer being served doesnt go to the 'till', the shop assistant sorts everything out and brings everything back to her - very personal service. The Prada LookBook, is hidden in a booth similar to a magazine or an office. The shoe section is arranged out of luggage trunks, giving it a very vintage feel, but this clashes with the contemporary mirrored ceiling.
Up the other side of the stairs is the mens section, where everything is arranged in hanging mesh cages with stripped back columns throughout the floor, very similar to a 'warehouse' feel.
Going up the lift to the top floor is like a ride, with a seat going all the way around.
The only negative thing about the whole experience was the fact that the security guard followed us around like a wasp follows an ice-cream, and like a human would to a wasp, we were getting very annoyed with his persistence.

Having left exhausted from the experience, we opted for something a little more mainstream, and so popped into Aldo, where I found the most hilarious yet amazing pair of sunglasses:

As we walked down West Broadway, I started to notice that wearing these had suddenly drawn a lot of attention to myself. Thinking it was just the 'British Style' which most people had commented on before, a boy who was walking past shouted at me: "Hey Kesha!". Apparently people thought I was the singer, Kesha. This was only then highlighted by the group of people who loudly gasped 5 metres away from me, only to sigh and say; "Dammit, it's not Kesha" as they reached a close proximity of my face.
It is fair to say that I mightily enjoyed my five minutes of (fake) fame and it also provided the three of us with fits of giggles for the next few blocks.