Of the four days I spent in New York, this was my favorite day for two reasons: the Upper East Side and shopping. Partly due to my obsession with Gossip Girl, the Upper East Side has always intrigued me. This Manhattan neighborhood is home to old money, new money, celebrities and dignitaries alike. The most elegant shopping and dining in the world is right in this small space. I saw all the retail locations that Blair Waldorf and Serena Van Der Woodsen "shopped at" in the NYC-based television show. For a day I got to be an honorary Upper East Sider.
For breakfast, we dined at The Cupping Room Cafe in SoHo. The (cupping) room was adorned with eclectic art and plenty of wood. For a NYC restaurant, it was quaint, quiet and comfortable. I ordered the french toast with fresh berries (blackberries, blueberries and strawberries), a delicious dish. My sister thought our waiter was a bit ... pretentious for whatever reason. Maybe it's because she ordered a chocolate chip muffin and it was completely dry on the outside.
I prepared for 5th Avenue shopping by wearing a business casual outfit that would make me feel welcome in any high designer store. A Nordstrom blazer, a Calvin Klein dress shirt, H&M pants and Aldo shoes made up my Chuck Bass-inspired outfit of the day.
Our first stop was the magical Central Park. The trees that were once full with fall leaves were stripped bare to expose their crooked, beautiful branches. The snow crunched under out feet and our breath escaped in plumes of steam among the cold winter air. Tourists and locals alike were bundled in their thickest coats and winter accessories while walking dogs, getting in line for the ice rink or taking in the scenery just like us. It was amazing how quickly the bustling sounds of the concrete city were muted upon entering the park. The foliage was a welcome reprieve and juxtaposition to the modern lines of Manhattan. The carriages and statues added an old world flair to the historic park.
Next we visited the equally historic Plaza Hotel sitting on the edge of Central Park. I think anyone can appreciate the beauty of this building that's appeared in plenty of Hollywood movies like Sleepless in Seattle, Eloise at Christmastime and Bride Wars. The Plaza was still majestically adorned with Christmas decorations from Saks 5th Avenue.
I loved the Lobby, Palm Court, Food Hall and Eloise at The Plaza shop. Eloise (a children's picture book character) has a pretty good life being able to live in this beautiful hotel. Eloise even tweeted at me while I was at The Plaza, which was a cute experience.
A dream of mine would be able to have a wedding here in one of the beautiful ballrooms. All I need is a handsome man and a small fortune and I'm good to go.
Walking down 5th Avenue by all the glittering shops gave me goosebumps that only certain experiences can give me. CHANEL, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Façonnable, Dolce & Gabbana were all perfectly aligned in the span of a few gilded blocks. Sure, Seattle has a crop of these noteworthy fashion houses, but only in New York are these stores bigger, brighter and more brilliant. It reminded me a lot of Las Vegas, only in the fact that these designer locations were so grandiose compared to smaller cities.
When I pass by these storefronts, I see more than just artistic architectural feats holding overpriced clothes. I see brands, their stories and unique designs each of these brands is known for. I see success, beauty and art in one of it's most expressive forms. I see the artistic vision of someone's mind materialized in products for people to distinguish their identity. The fashion industry alone is why I love NY. I want to be connected to the heart of this industry, and NY is that heart.
My favorite fashion destination was the original Barneys New York, a luxury department store. The 275.000 square foot, 9-level store is a testament to high-end fashion. I climbed up the multiple levels in awe at the variety of gorgeous things. I was like a kid in a candy store ... with a credit card.
After meticulous scrutiny of garments that were all screaming to be inside my closet, I finally settled on purchasing my first designer item on my own (not asking for it from my parents). It was intensely satisfying seeing my new piece of clothing being folded delicately in crisp white tissue and placed in a sturdy, sleek black bag. Eventually I'll exclusively reveal the purchase in an Outfit of the Day post right here on joegooding.com, but for now I'm protecting it with my life and savoring its precious newness. The sentimentality over the purchase is priceless, I bought something from the flagship Barneys New York on the holiday trip of my life.
After a nearly religious shopping excursion, we visited the even more enlightening St. Patrick's Cathedral. The neo-gothic architecture was a jaw-dropping sight to see. I really felt closer to God being in that space, it's almost impossible not to. There were wreaths, poinsettias, trees and a classic Nativity scene. I can only imagine how amazing the Christmas mass must have been.
The cathedral was full of people touring through, praying or working on the renovation of the interior. A pair of New Jersey-accented construction workers sat down behind us in a pew and I overheard them talking. One guy said to the other that getting a quiet moment to pray in such a beautiful space is always the highlight of his workday. That made my heart warm up, knowing that a little sanctuary is nestled among the sometimes corrupt corporations for people to find their center.
Across the street from St. Patrick's Cathedral was the world-famous Rockefeller Plaza. It's here that the Today Show, Saturday Night Live, and NBC News are all filmed. The ice rink that you see on television when watching the Today Show is also located here. Surprisingly, everything is much smaller than I would have imagined. The rink is about the size of an average swimming pool. We also peered into the sets of the Today Show from the outside windows to see where Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb host the fourth hour of the show. It would have been cool to watch while the show was filming, but you have to wake up extremely early to be seen on camera (no thanks). Nearby was a LEGO store which excited the little kid inside me. The LEGO store even had an impressive miniature replica of the tower and plaza.
On the way to Times Square, we passed by more NYC landmarks located along the Avenue of the Americas. We saw Radio City Music Hall, NBC News, Christie's (an auction house) and even Simon & Schuster (where I hope to have Prep Boy Secrets eventually published) among numerous others.
Another thing I love about New York is that you can pinpoint a district easily because competing corporations are stacked next to each other. Literally. NBC News is within spitting distance of the News Corporation (the head of Fox News and it's affiliates). Simon & Schuster is in earshot of McGraw-Hill publishers. It was really cool to see all the big names of businesses we all know in a physical setting.
Times Square was just as bright as I had seen it the first night I was here. The ever-changing screens and sky grazing advertisements were dizzying. This iconic hub lives up to it's expectations of being flashy, busy and big. After poking around and grabbing some souvenirs for friends, we were shopped out.
For a sugary pick-me-up, we took a cab directly to SoHo for a stop at a cupcake shop. Georgetown Cupcakes is what I like to call a designer cupcake bakery because they have an interchanging flavor of the day and flavor of the month among their expansive menu. The unique flavors switch out on a rotating basis, so you'll never have to try the same cupcake twice. The high-quality ingredients, artistic designs and fluffy frosting made for a perfect cupcake. I ordered a toasted marshmallow cupcake with a mocha. I'm glad I didn't order more than one because I could have eaten a whole tray.
We ended our day early with a dinner at the Brazilian restaurant Novecento. And by early I mean 6:30pm, because on the East Coast, people don't eat dinner until 8, 9 or even 10 pm. We ate so early in order to stay indoors before the first snowstorm of the year barreled down upon us. The restaurant was quiet and empty, which was not normal to my dad who is a regular there. We got amazing service being only one of two occupied tables, my water glass never stayed less than three quarters full. We had chorizo for an appetizer, which was splendidly spicy. I opted for a light caprese pasta dish for dinner. This was all paired with a juicy sangria recommended by our waiter (plus it was two for the price of one, so what college student would pass that up?).
I couldn't sleep well knowing that my last day in the city of my dreams was only a sunrise away. But I also couldn't sleep with the snow plows hard at work scraping off the heaps of snow from the streets. Seeing the snowstorm was strangely beautiful. This city would not rest while the delicate flurries turned into a potential massive headache for morning commuters. Instead the mayor had all forces on deck at night to keep the city safe. This really is the city that never sleeps.