(translated from Russian, originally published in Marie Claire Ukraine)
IN ORDER TO FEEL NEW YORK THROUGH, YOU NEED A DIFFERENT APPROACH. COME HERE FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS, WALK ALL DAY LONG AND DON’T STOP FOR SECOND.
There was a time I didn’t like New York! Every time I came to visit friends, I complained about its crazy pace, dirty streets, rats as big as cats and huge tourist crowds. But then fate has brought me to New York for work and surprisingly to myself, I fell in love with the city. Yes, in New York the head always spins from the skyscrapers, Times Square lights blind your eyes and a feeling of always being late (everyone around is always rushing somewhere) never leaves you. But all of this is worth experiencing at least once! I don’t advise stretching a trip to NYC to a week since it’s worth spending remaining time seeing other parts of so diverse and many-faced America. New York is like a flashlight, like a fast-forwarded film reel – only this way you can experience its true nature.
My walks through the Big Apple often begin at the Rockefeller Center, which impresses with its monumental architecture, cascading fountains and live show tapings at the NBC studio. During the winter season, a gigantic Christmas tree stands here and open air restaurant transforms into a popular among New Yorkers ice-skating rink.
Turning around the square, I am approaching my favourite store of Japanese desserts Minamoto Kitchoan (www.kitchoan.com). Tucked away on 49th street and 6th avenue, it reminds me something between a museum and delicacies gallery. Each dessert with unpronounceable name is a real piece of art! I buy a cherry in jelly Sakuranbo ($3.5) and vanilla cookie Fukuwatashi-Senbei ($2.5). The tea from Alice’s Teacup, famous for its wide choice of teas and fairylike décor, would be ideal with these sweets. But…in New York time doesn’t wait!
I continue the journey on the 6th avenue, where New York Public Library with its beautiful interior and exterior is located (remember that Carrie Bradshaw wanted to have her wedding ceremony here?).
Across from it is a Bryan Park, where twice a year tents are set up and most of the New York Fashion Week takes place. Whole Manhattan transforms into a beehive of buzzing fashion editors, photographers, celebrities and always running late models. But you can enjoy exquisiteness and aesthetics all-year around on the 5th avenue, where you find Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman. From here you should walk to the Grand Central train station. And on the way to it (on Lexington avenue) look up for a minute and marvel at the art deco styled and peaking into the skies Chrysler Building.
According to the statistics, about half a million people travel through the Grand Central daily, but despite the heavy traffic, the station has a strikingly beautiful interior design. In the main terminal, the ceiling is decorated in the astrological theme and its 100-year old frescos were pained by a French artist Paul Helleu.
If you want to follow classical tourist route, then you are ought to visit the tallest building in New York – Empire State Building. It has 86 floors, so be prepared for dizzying panoramic views of the city. Nearby there is a less grandiose but no less interesting skyscraper – Flatiron. The name translates in Russian as “flat iron” and it looks exactly like an iron!
But now, having had enough of walking, it’s time to visit China Town for massage, which costs here less than in other parts of New York- about $20 for half an hour and $40 for an hour. “Foot Heaven” has a good reputation and full relaxation is guaranteed. After the massage, you can complete the bliss with some bubble tea (originally from Taiwan, it combines tea with milk, tapioca pearls and fruit flavorings) at the café across the street.
After gaining some energy, head to the financial district but not so much to look at the handsome bankers, but to visit a best-kept secret of the New York fashionistas. Shopping at Century 21 (close to sadly-known Twin Towers of the World Trade Center), famous for its designer clothing and accessories collections that are sold at 35-65% discounts, is buzzing. Here you can buy cashmere clothes for $80, Marc Jacobs dresses for $65, and All Mankind jeans for $75.
Compared to Kiev and Moscow, New York prices look silly: American stores are famous for their frequent sales and discounts for a reason or not. For example, there may be sales every second Monday of the month. Where is logic is not clear but it doesn’t matter since I need to hurry and find a necessary dress size. Even at the high-end stores one can buy designer clothes at the third of the original price: in Saks Fifth Avenue, you can buy Fendi dress, which originally cost $1600, at $600 and Prada jacket at $273 (vs. original price of $685). And never be shy to ask a sales person if there is an additional discount. Once, after talking to a sales lady, I got a 30% reduction for my Marc Jacobs bag!
But I have to admit that many of the local women do not stress out about their style: you can often see them in business suits and running shoes or flip flops. This desire for comfort bordering negligence has earned Americans an ill reputation. But there is hope that with the arrival of the First Lady Michele Obama, who is often compared to Jacqueline Kennedy, American street style will improve to the better!
New Yorkers treat their personal lives with the same casualness as their dress style. In America in general, there is an interesting view on sex. On one hand, this is a very conservative and puritan society. But the closer you get to the big cities, the more liberal morals become. It’s considered normal to date several people at once and not hide the fact of the “competitors” from the others. In New York, people begin the relationships with ease and end them with ease. There are interesting local break-up traditions. For example, if you dated three men and then met a fourth and you are sure he is the one, you should notify all the others by the official letter that you are no longer available.
When it comes to marriage, just like with us, there is no distinct tendency: it’s okay to marry after a few months of dating or to delay marriage even after many years of living together. Some couples get married out of practical considerations since married people pay less in taxes than single. May be because of such practical approach to marriage, every other marriage in the US ends in divorce.
And most popular relationship type in New York is “friends with benefits,” in which sex is what sets this relationship apart from being purely “friends”. Quick and easy, very New York-like! One of the staples of first dates is going to a musical. Nowhere in the world, you will find such wide choice and variety. If you try hard and buy tickets for the same day show in the morning, you will save half of the full ticket price (about $30).
The next day after my journey, I am walking on Madison Avenue by one the most beautiful buildings in New York, St. Patrick Cathedral, and see wedding cars parked nearby.
My desire to witness the mystery of the wedding pulls me inside, and making through the crowd of fellow gapers, I stop enchanted by the ceremony. While groom and bride say their vows of love and faithfulness, I realize that there is still a place for romance in this city and walk out. Bright New York sun blinds my eyes and increasing my pace, I join the flow of pedestrians, carrying me through the veins of this crazy city.
 The location of the NY Fashion Week has changed since the article was printed.
P.S. Other New York obligatory sights: Guggenheim Museum, Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island and Strawberry Field in Central Park.