If you’re lucky enough to spend your last day in Manhattan on a Friday you must seek out a tour with Justin Ferate. Mr. Ferate is truly a New York gem. He leads tours on Friday afternoons out of the Whitney Annex across from Grand Central Terminal. The tours are free of charge and fascinating.
Mr. Ferate was recently voted one of New York’s 50 Essential Secrets by Time Out magazine, He is the modern equivalent of a Renaissance man. He looks like a college professor, and has an intellect to match. Part showman and part trivial pursuit player he has an encyclopedic knowledge of New York City.
I contacted him about my interest in Beaux Arts architecture in Manhattan and wound up joining his tour of Grand Central Terminal and it’s neighborhood. During our 3 hour tour he provided a dizzying amount of information on not only the architecture of Grand Central Terminal, but also the thought process that went into the building. Everything is done on a human scale. You really have to hear his description yourself, you’ll be riveted. And…if you’re lucky he’ll call you out of the crowd to help demonstrate his point. I know this sounds a bit embarrassing, but when he does it you feel like a movie star whose just had a spotlight shined on you. A quick demonstration, a gracious bow and you are released back into the crowd.
After the tour stop for a cocktail at either Cipriani Dolce or Metrazur, both are great spots for people watching. Set up on either side of the main concourse they allow you to look out over the people heading home during rush hour. If The Campbell Apartment is open, you should have a drink there. Built as an office for John W. Campbell in the 1920’s it will take you back to another era. Afterwards stop by the Oyster Bar & Restaurant for dinner. They’ve been serving since 1913 and some of their oysters are the size of your fist!
Today it’s time to go off the beaten path. You’ve seen the things that most tourists come to New York for, now I’ll take you to some more eclectic places. One of the best kept secrets in the Manhattan art world is the manuscript library of John Pierpont Morgan. Located on Madison Avenue at 36th Street, the building contains an extensive collection of illuminated manuscripts and ancient Egyptian and Sumerian seals.
The best part though is the library that was built to house this collection. It contains a picture perfect dark wooden 2 story library, complete with catwalk. It will make you dream of living like an Edith Wharton heroine. The hallway walls are painted with beautiful pre-Raphaelitesque scenes highlighted with byzantine gold touches. Mr. Morgan enjoyed collecting more than just books, so you’ll also find a room filled with paintings, sculptures, and many other odds and ends. Be sure to keep an eye out for the vault. In the 1890s when the library was built it was how they protected the most valuable of the manuscripts. Stop in for lunch or tea at the Morgan cafe before heading back to your hotel.
For dinner tonight it’s time to really dress up. The Cafe Carlyle is not only a restaurant, but also a famous cabaret that has hosted performers like Elaine Stritch, Eartha Kitt and Ute Lemper. You may even see Woody Allen playing his clarinet! Be sure to check out the fabulous murals by Marcel Verte. They were recently restored and the subject of a New Yorker piece titled, Renovations: Paris on Madison by Adam Gopnik.
Not all art in New York is contained within it’s museums. Some of the best shopping to be had is here on Madison Avenue. Just blocks from the Carlyle you can start at Yves St. Laurent and work your way down to my personal favorite, Barney’s New York. On the way you will find many small cafes where you can sit down and have lunch.
If you still crave some quality museum time, head back to museum mile and go see the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum. Not only does it have great architecture, it’s actually fun to walk through. You head past the lobby and circle up, up, up as you see the exhibits. It’s so unusual looking it’s starred in many Hollywood movies including Hamlet and Men in Black.
For dinner tonight I would recommend Danube in Tribeca. It’s involves a cab ride, but once you sit down in their dining room you will feel as if you’ve fallen into a Klimt painting. An elegant, accommodating staff and David Bouley’s Austrian and eclectic menu make for a magical evening.
Day 2. Time to grab your Starbucks and hit the museums. My first stop would be the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s located a short distance from the Carlyle Hotel and has a wealth of art on offer. The newly renovated Greek and Roman galleries are amazing. I was impressed by their extensive collection of Greek vase painting. The sculpture garden is filled with Roman funerary pieces as well as imposing figures of the emperors and their family members. Some highlights of the exhibit are the chariot (2nd floor), the Roman day bed, the fresco rooms, and the treasury. It’s a small jewelery collection, but the idea that any gold at all survives from that time is astonishing. Besides the craftsmanship of the pieces on display will surprise you. Be sure to hit the gift shop in the lobby before you leave. They actually recreate ancient designs using precious gemstones and sell them for thousands of dollars at the museum.
Stop for lunch at the Cafe Sabarsky. It’s just up the street at the Neue Galerie. Located in a townhouse, this is a private collection founded by Ron Lauder and Serge Sabarsky. The cafe does not take reservations and usually the line goes out the door. Stick it out though the lines move fairly fast, and it is worth the wait. The dishes are all Viennese in character and the cafe has a sideboard steeped in sumptuous tortes and cakes. Decorated like a European cafe, the restaurant has huge windows along two sides of the space that allow you to look out over Central Park. After lunch head upstairs to see the collection. Gustav Klimt’s famous Adele Bloch-Bauer I was purchased by the museum last year for $135 million dollars and dominates their collection. It is simply breath taking.
After all that wandering you’re going to want to relax for a while. For dinner tonight, why not try Nick & Toni’s Cafe. It’s the Manhattan outpost of a Hamptons favorite.
I find mid-January to be the best time to visit New York city. True, it’s usually cold outside, but you’ll find a wealth of cozy hotel lobbies, museums and restaurants to warm up in. This week I’m posting one of my favorite vacations, an art tour of New York.
After arriving at John F. Kennedy International airport, cab into Manhattan. Head for the beautiful art deco Carlyle hotel on the Upper East Side. This 5 star hotel will centrally locate you so you can walk the museum mile.
Once you’ve unpacked, warm up with a cocktail downstairs in the Bemelman’s Bar. Bemelman’s has one of the premier mixologists in the city. Be sure to check out the bright yellow murals on the walls. They were painted by Ludwig Bemelmans, gentleman traveler and author of the Madeline children’s books. It is one of his only surviving murals.
Dine this evening at Cafe des Artistes. Also famed for it’s murals (painted by Howard Chandler Christy they contain quite a bit of nudity). The Cafe is known as one of the most romantic restaurants in Manhattan.
So I just returned from a trip to Portland and I discovered that the oh so hip boutique neighborhood “The Pearl District” has been turned into a blocks long, yuppie loft, high end restaurant, gallery alley. True, I haven’t been to Portland for 10 years, but what a change! There’s a Whole Foods in the Pearl now.
If you like me are longing for the good old days I’d suggest heading to N. Mississippi Avenue. It’s an emerging neighborhood (read: sorta gentrified) that has a number of cool little boutiques, a chocolate and flower shop and some nice restaurants. Here are my favorites:
Hovel – Sadly closed when I was there. It’s like your crazy aunt opened an interiors store.
Gypsy Chic – Cool girl clothes without the sales girl attitude and so affordable!
Bella Norte – Some of the most beautiful antique stained glass I’ve ever seen.
Muddy’s Coffee House – Home of green eggs & ham!
Belle Epoque Salon – With a picture of Amelie in their window, they totally hooked me.
Pin Me Apparel – Total high end hipster cool. I especially loved the purses & wallets.
Pistils Plant Nursery – Gorgeous, exotic plants. Don’t miss their backyard.
The Meadow – Purveyor of all things pleasurable, chocolate, flowers, wine and artisinal salts.
Amnesia Brewing – For the name alone you’ve gotta love it. And it has outdoor seating.
The neighborhood is a great mix of innovative retailers and gorgeous buildings. You should definitely check it out!
I took a very scenic drive this afternoon from Portland to Bend, Oregon. The highway between the two wound past two dams, through a “lake” of moss covered volcanic boulders and ended in a severely charred forest. On the way we stopped to cross the Detroit Lake Dam, and it was an amazing to see how calm the lake was on one side when the water was shooting out under high pressure on the other. It gives you a whole new appreciation for what the Army Corps of Engineers can do.
The Cascades have seen a lot of volcanic activity. The mountains are large and cone shaped, capped by snow even in early October. The trees and shrubs are turning red and gold and make the landscape look like something out of a painting. Living in San Francisco I don’t often get to see the leaves turn, so this is an extra delight for me.