Sunday, 16 January 2011
#44 Being a massive tourist.
...and back to New York, for the last time.
It is a fact I still find breathtaking: more people visit London each year than New York. Except that they don't, really, because over three quarters of New York's 45 millions annual visitors are domestic, and the commonly-cited figures consider only international tourists. So pipe down London.
The truly breathtaking number is this: New York, as isolated as it is from other countries (only East Coast Canadians are close), receives nearly ten million international visitors every year. The vast majority of those people fly for five hours or more to see Lady Liberty through their airplane windows. That's commitment.
It's testament to the reputation - part puff, part deserved - of the Big Apple. Only Paris could claim to be nearly as fixed in the popular imagination. And, as Doug Stanhope put it, "Fuck the French".
I had two weeks to spend in New York after finishing work. Since my departure was ahead of schedule, I'd neglected a lot of tourists 'musts', so I bent to it.
Less of a blog post, more of a love in.
If you wanted hard-hitting journalism, you've come to the wrong place. By which I mean Blogger generally, and specifically this blog, and specifically this post. Almost everything I did in my last few days was wonderful. Almost.
First, stop making excuses and go to Shake Shack. It's fucking spectacular. Cheesy fries, a cheeseburger of some kind and, of course, a milkshake, are a bare minimum. I went for the vibrating burger that tells you your order is ready; I stayed for the taste (and I really didn't expect to).
While we're on food, check out Sarabeth's West for the best Bloody Mary's this side of the Tudors.
The Met Cloisters feel like an odd visit as a European: why travel 4,000 miles to visit a museum of Mediaeval European art? Well, because it's spectacularly well-curated, laid out around a mocked-up monastery to put the art in proper context, and because the gallery tours are excellent.
Top of the Rock? Well, that was the 'almost'. It's okay, if you like that sort of thing, but pretty much exactly what you would expect. The short museum in the base is quite interesting...
I went back to the MoMA. It's still great. The current Abstract Expressionism exhibition is particularly amazing for the fact that it draws entirely on the MoMA's collections - which shows quite how important the institution is to modern art. Andy Warhol's films, though, are much more interesting in concept than in practice.
The American Museum of Natural History is as good as ever, though they let me down.
Finally, Ellis Island:
a) is much better if you aren't conned into getting the worst audio guide ever.
b) teaches you more about America than any other museum I've been to.
c) needs a queuing system that doesn't involve Stage I hypothermia.
The gaps were filled with a gooey assortment of regional and international foods, outdoor sites (the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park), and topped off with spectacular pie from Four and Twenty Blackbirds (of Park Slope - look them up, and try the Salted Honey), and milk from Momofuku Milk Bar.
In summary, I'm a fat fucking pie, and I can't believe I'm no longer in the best city in the world. But I'll be back.
Check out my website for a new blog in the next few days.