Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Big Apple 1

The 7-hour flight on Virgin Atlantic had the best in-flight entertainment package I've ever experienced - hundreds of movies (including indie Japanese and Korean flicks) and TV shows viewable on a monitor at the back of every seat. To get in the NYC spirit, I watched the rivetting Jodie Foster and Denzel Washington thriller Inside Man and the hilarious and light Meryl Streep comedy The Devil Wears Prada. I always bring too many magazines and books on flights. In the end, I read nothing but a single Glamour magazine, watched the two movies, and ate vegetarian risotto and GU chocolate mousse courtesy of Virgin.

We took a $45 yellow cab from JFK International through Queens and Brooklyn, across the Williamsburg Bridge and into the Lower East Side, where our hotel - the trendy, sidewalk to sky glass Hotel on Rivington - was located. My first impression of the Lower East at 5pm was dismay: "It's like Brixton rolled into Wood Green, but ten times worse," I foolishly thought as I looked at the graffiti-splattered walls, the five and dime stores selling cheap clothing and luggage and the shuttered-down cafes and bars. Mild paranoia is one of my worst traits - along with snobbishness and impatience - and of course, when the bell-man disappeared with all our luggage, my first thought on the Lower East Side was that he'd scarpered with them.

But the hotel was sumptuous and modish with dark, bordello-red hallways, white linen sheets, Babes in Toyland goodies in the minibar, flatscreen TV on the wall, black slate bathtub and heady views of Wall Street and the Empire State Building from our floor-to-ceiling room windows.

Of course, on strolling the neighbourhood in search of dinner I discovered that the Lower East Side springs to life after dark. We ate blood sausages, chorizo, french fries and 10 oz filet mignon steaks and drank Malbec at the Argentinian restaurant Azul Bistro on Stanton and Suffolk Streets and saw how fantastic the Lower East is, buzzing with people, bars, restaurants and clothes boutiques that wouldn't look out of place in London's Soho or trendy Hoxton.

More fool me for having been so judgemental.

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