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Discover New York, the places to sleep (should you decide to) and recommendations on how to turn a Christmas shopping trip into an unforgettable journey that delivers an impressive cultural and social extravagance.
There is an inescapable magic about New York pre-Christmas. The countless exquisitely prepared Christmas windows, outdoor ice rinks, and decorated trees combine with the ever present anticipation of snow to transform the city into the archetypal winter wonderland.
I really enjoy the familiarity you can gain from spending only a few days in New York ? the ease of the grid system means that I am happy to meander the city without the fear of feeling lost, and within a couple of days I feel able to get off the beaten track and roam into the areas that are slightly less frequented by the seasonal shoppers. Granted, at this time of year a walk down Madison and 5th is essential, and the Christmas windows of Saks, Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys are stunning, but it is the other parts of the city that I personally love most. The ideal day for me will involve some time spent browsing the independent stores in Soho, soaking up the atmosphere and absorbing the best of Manhattan.
A stay in New York demands a stylish hotel and one my favourite is Firmdale?s Crosby Street. A statement of New York elegance and cool and one of my favourite UK boutique brands, the junior suites on the 10th and 11th floors have huge warehouse style windows that afford spectacular views out over Manhattan and the East Side. In the mornings I only need to fall out of the hotel to find myself at Housing Works ? one of the most successful social enterprises and possibly the most enthralling shops I?ve ever visited.
The café and bookstore has an atmosphere where time stands still and can wile away hours amongst the artists and creatives tapping away at their tablets and laptops.
“If you are drawn to the upscale boutiques it is well worth visiting the now regenerated meat-packing district and home to the native Diane Von Furstenberg and Tory Burch?s new store, as well as our own Alexander McQueen…”
A stay in Soho always prompts me to head out to Greenwich village ? the ideal place to spend mornings enjoying the gentle coffee culture that has embraced the area. Greenwich has become increasingly well known as a home to a number of movie stars and celebrities and is largely populated by middle class families with intelligent offspring studying at nearby NY University. Look out for a copy of Henry James?s Washington Square in the bookstore ? it is very much at the heart of this neighbourhood.
If you?re hungry, Pata Negra is a favourite spot which typifies the fantastic eateries to be found in the village. Opened when the ban on imported Spanish hams was lifted, this lively tapas bar specialises in a range of Tapas but most specifically the wonderful Iberico ham and served accompanied by a great selection of Spanish reds. There are only about 10 seats at the bar, so well worth making a reservation, but a wonderful spot for an early evening date or catch up with friends.
If you are drawn to the upscale boutiques it is well worth visiting the now regenerated meat-packing district and home to the native Diane Von Furstenberg and Tory Burch?s new store, as well as our own Alexander McQueen, before heading for the statement stores of Madison and 5th Avenues. Once on 5th, make time to stop at the International Centre of Photography, where fashion devotees will love Harpers Bazaar?s 10 year photography retrospective which runs into January 2012.
Back Room at Norfolk Street has been around for a while but its popularity has stood the test of time and it is great spot for a low key evening with friends. The entrance is hidden at the side of the building and marked ?Lower East Side Toy Company? but follow the rabbit warren of tunnels and you will arrive in what feels like a real 1920s speakeasy. Drinks are served in teacups and beer cans in brown paper bags ? but the atmosphere is great fun and sets the tone for a lively New York night out.
The best late night entertainment for me is found at Cielo, a new club just across the road from Pastis. Home to some great DJs and a clientele of real dance music fans this is far less crowded than Pacha; or try Schiller?s Liquor Bar, again favoured by the locals as a break away from the air-kissers? hot-spots.
The Crosby Street is still the ideal hotel for all this area, but I also have to mention the stunning Gramercy Park Hotel ? newly reopened in collaboration with a flock of contemporary creative personalities. A wonderful fusion of styles and colour, the Grammercy Park combines velvet and leather, antique and contemporary, in a sort of bohemian opulence. Splash out for a loft room and enjoy long views over Lexington Avenue and take in the stunning rooftop gardens.
The cultural high flyers will want to revisit 5th to take in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) which houses 6 floors of modern and conceptual art exhibits. Light shows, film and sound are all mixed amongst the more traditional mediums, and the gift shop is said to be a great place to pick up something from a featured artist. MoMa is ideally combined with a visit to the famous Guggenheim Museum, where Aviator fans will notice some similarities of form – its elegant rotunda an inspired piece of design that gives the opportunity to view several levels simultaneously, and now one of the world?s most significant cultural and educational institutions.
Heading towards Central Park, sophisticated diners are welcoming the return of Daniel Boulud?s flagship restaurant on East 65th, now reopened after a major refurbishment programme. One of just a handful of Manhattan restaurants to be awarded 4 stars by the New York Times, Daniel showcases the chef?s award-winning contemporary French cuisine within a welcoming and vibrant atmosphere, and is now complemented by beautifully elegant and simple surroundings.
Alternatively, trek outside the city, over the bridge to Brooklyn where you will find Peter Luger?s for one of the best old school steak houses in town. Here, everyone just orders steak for however many are in the group, and whilst it is a well-known spot on the tourist trail, Peter Luger really deserves its wide-reaching popularity. The views of Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge on the return journey are quite spectacular. You will need to make a reservation, and don?t forget to take cash.
Not called ?the city that never sleeps? for nothing, the night life in New York is as lively as ever. Billed as the next big thing, the highly anticipated W.I.P. (pronounced “whip”) has now opened in the basement of the Greenhouse, and is 5,000 square feet of nightclub with some seriously edgy art-themes. Alternatively, sign up to BlkMarket, ReSolute and Mr Saturday Night for the lowdown on the edgier parties in town. Running from 11.00pm round the clock until 11.00am, these clubs take some of the best DJs to some of largest disused spaces in Brooklyn, add fully stocked bars, great light rigs and super loud speakers and the results are truly legendry. Details of location are sent 24 hours prior to the event, and all you need do is show up, pay the entry fee and the night is yours.
The ultimate party city, New York is a destination best visited with a small group of energetic friends, and a Bombardier Challenger 604 has space for up to 11 passengers and can make the journey without refuelling. Anticipate the journey and relax into the experience with a private Tasting Menu and overnight stay at Aviator. Four nights at one of my recommended hotels with private transfer and overnight stop at Aviator will cost from £2,156 based on 2 people sharing, and a Bombardier Challenger chartered from TAG Farnborough Airport to New York costs from £74,000.