Today was colder than my previous days here in New York. The Big Bus Tour yesterday led to the plan for my day ahead. However what I hadn’t planned for was the weather.
I caught the bus at Red Lobster knowing this time that I was heading for the Flatiron District, stop number four. The Flatiron Building is tall imposing and triangular which according to the guide can cause the area to have blustery gusts of wind. Opposite is Madison Square Park which is home to Big Bling, an elephant shaped wooden structure with a golden shackle installed there for a year until May 2017. On the other side of the road is Eataly (a great play on words) an Italian market which has the most delicious looking cakes, pastries and chocolates. There are plenty of shops to browse in the area too including Barneys. I like the feel of more open space here, the tall buildings are less in number and the area feels more relaxed.
I meet Big Bus again and head for stop number six China Town. The feel of the area is very different. It’s chaotic with people rushing around, cars fighting for road space and dirty pavements which had been absent in the rest of Manhattan . Restaurants and markets line the streets. The smell of Chinese food is divine and as is tradition red lanterns, couplets and roosters (2017 is the year of the rooster) can be seen all around. Next to China Town is Little Italy. This area has tables laid for dining outside which is surprising since it has started to snow and white lights which make the area feel warm and inviting. There are touts outside the restaurants enticing passers by to try the food. Italian food is a favourite of mine so before the day had begun I knew I would be eating here. The food in Capri Ristorante, Mulberry Street was wholesome and the staff were welcoming.
Further along Mulberry Street I encountered the ‘It’s always Christmas here’ shop. Every type of tree decoration for almost every theme from Elvis and The Beatles to gingerbread people and giant candy canes. A short walk further and I’m at Bloomingdales, Soho which is also celebrating Chinese New Year with colourful displays. I like Bloomingdales. It feels less intimidating that the shops in 5th Avenue perhaps due to the clientele with people milling around and chatting.
At this point I have been outside for six hours, it’s snowing and the temperature has dipped. I’m aware that I need to catch Big Bus around 5pm so I head towards the stop. When I arrive at the stop I join the queue of shivering travellers. The bus arrives. No room downstairs only upstairs where the deck is half open to the elements. I get the last seat half under the cover. It’s snowing and freezing as our tour guide talks us through passing City Hall covered in a blanket white and home to where Carrie marries Big.
At the next stop the bus is filled. Travellers are given plastic ponchos to wear to stay dry. Our tour guide checks that is ok as we pass a building with minus three degrees illuminated. It is an hour and a half journey from where I pick up the bus back to Times Square. It’s freezing but I learn that in New York there are different colour numbered road signs with brown identifying an area of special interest. Previous signs had been colour coded so that areas were easily identifiable. I discover that Avenues run north to south and are wider than Streets which run east to west. To the south of Manhattan the streets are named which makes navigating around is less easy and more like London. There is a code system here for restaurants, displayed in their windows. Restaurants are graded from A to C with A being the place to eat.
When I arrive back at my hotel I reflect that when it’s cold here, it’s cold!