Falling for New York in the fall

The first time I saw Manhattan’s skyline in all its lofty grandeur was in a yellow cab crossing the Hudson from JFK. It was 1998 and I was on my second-ever trip to America with my parents. I’d seen it before of course, albeit in films and TV shows. But taking it in up close, in that moment. . . well, it was a jaw-dropper.

In comparison to the little pocket of Ireland where I grew up, New York was dense and hectic and fast-paced, and I loved it. I think my parents loved it too because we went back again the following year. And in all my travels since then, I’ve not found any megalopolis that quite matches the constant sizzling energy of New York City.

A very dear friend of mine, who I grew up with in Donegal, now lives in New Jersey, so these days I have an especially personal draw to visit – and this past October I was overdue a trip. I’d never been in the city in the fall before and I realised it really is the best time of year to see it – New York on a crisp sunny day is a real stunner.

Having already covered most of the big sights, I spent the week taking in some lesser-known art museums and strolling through different neighbourhoods. But I did return to some places I hadn’t been to since my very first visit, like the Met. This time, having finally flourished into an art lover (thanks Mum and Dad), I spent almost an entire day soaking up its vast collection before visiting its roof terrace to take in the patchwork of autumnal hues blanketing Central Park. And all over again, I’d fallen for New York.

Until next time…

Emma @theartoftravellingsolo

Culture

The Met

The city’s most famous art museum is a grandiose home to one of the world’s best collections of paintings and sculptures. Some of my personal highlights included the European Paintings galleries, featuring the likes of Monet, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Vermeer, and the Modern and Contemporary Art galleries, where works from Picasso, Matisse, Warhol, Hepworth and countless others reside.

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Given the size of the museum it’s wise to pick some key sections you want to cover so that you have enough time. Tickets are valid for three consecutive days and, if you’re so inclined, you can pace yourself and spread out your tour of the museum – your ticket gives you access to the Met Breuer and the Met Cloisters for those three days as well.

Met Breuer

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View from inside the Met Breuer.

Housing the Met’s modern art collection, the Met Breuer is a fascinating feat of architecture that was the former home of the Whitney Museum. Nestled amid the bustle of Madison Avenue, it was designed by the architect Marcel Breuer and opened in 1966.

One of my favourite areas of the building is the lobby, usually a space in museums that I would pay fleeting attention to as I purchase tickets and hightail it to the galleries. But Breuer’s lobby features a mesmerising carpet of circular lights on the ceiling, which sets the tone for an interior that’s every bit as striking as the grey concrete exterior that has long divided opinion.

Whitney Museum of American Art

The city’s iconic modern art museum resides in an eye-catching building, designed by Renzo Piano, situated next to the High Line near the Meatpacking District.

Its eight floors of galleries feel bright and spacious, and some open onto outdoor areas with perfect panoramas of the cityscape. The museum’s seismic collection covers the work of more than 3,500 artists living in America during the 20th and 21st centuries.

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View from one of the Whitney’s outdoor exhibition spaces.

The museum was founded in 1930 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney – she had previously offered her vast collection of American art to the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a gift, but they declined to take it!

The New Museum

Located in the Bowery district, the building that is home to the New Museum is as much of an attraction as the art inside is. The random stacking of each floor in its seven stories reminded me of an avant-garde Lego construction that an imaginative child might conjure up.

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This is a hub for contemporary artists and a space to showcase innovation and new ideas – exhibitions change periodically, so prepare to be surprised by what’s currently being displayed when you visit.

Storm King

If you have time on your visit, a trip to Storm King Art Center in Hudson Valley is a fantastic way to balance out your days spent exploring the city.

It’s a particularly breathtaking location during the fall season, when the leaves turn from glorious green to rich yellows, reds and oranges. The vast outdoor space is dotted with large-scale sculptures from the likes of Alexander Calder, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.

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Shop

Wildfang

Looking beyond conventional fashion rules, Wildfang’s clothing collection is designed for women who want to dress on their own terms. The store was founded by three women and their clothing line is the epitome of empowerment.

On my visit to their NYC store in Soho, I found a shirt I decided belonged in my clothing collection – it’s now my favourite item and one which gets many questions from friends about where I got it.

Empire Stores

Located in the heart of the Dumbo area of Brooklyn, this 19th-century warehouse has been beautifully converted into a hip food hall and shopping area.

The Time Out Market is located on the 1st and 5th floors and the rooftop bar and terraces have unique views of the Brooklyn Bridge and New York Harbour.

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View from Empire Stores’ roof terrace.

Housing Works Bookstore

One of my favourite bookshop finds in Soho, Housing Works Bookstore’s collection of books has been entirely donated. It has a small coffee bar and is run mainly by a group of volunteers. All profits go towards Housing Works’ lifesaving services, so a coffee and a book purchase here will go to great causes.

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There are plenty of places to sit so it’s the perfect stop-off in the area if you want to grab a drink and read for a bit.

 

Brunch/Coffee

Dudley’s

The menu at this hip Aussie-American café in the Lower East Side will satiate appetites from morning to late evening.

Dudley’s rates highly on my list of great places in NYC to linger over a coffee, read and people watch.

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Irving Farm

It’s all about great coffee at Irving Farm; the team behind this collection of cafés source their coffee from small local producers and run a roasting and cold brewing facility upstate.

I sought out their Upper East Side café before my day exploring the Met and found somewhere that’s clearly loved by the local crowd. And the coffee was indeed great.

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Tartine

Tartine may just sit on one of the most idyllic corners in the West Village, and indeed in the entire city – if you can nab a table outside on a fine day or by the window inside, it’s worth your visit alone. Dining here is like stepping into a tiny pocket of old-school Parisian chic and their brunch is a popular draw, especially at weekends.

I went on a quiet afternoon midweek, nabbed that perfect window seat and tried one of their yummy homemade tarts with tea – and loved every minute of it.

Five Leaves

Brooklyn isn’t short on must-try brunch spots, but if you’re going to really hit the hippest of the hip then it’s got to be Five Leaves. On a busy day here, which is most days, you will have to queue – but ask for a single seat and you’ll more than likely find one at the bar.

The menu is packed with brunch all-stars (avocado on toast and ricotta pancakes, alongside quirkier dishes like green tea noodles with mushroom, edamame and a ginger dressing).

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There’s a distinctly Aussie flair to everything and the coffee is note perfect. Five Leaves is buzzy, loud and oh-so trendy – but this is Brooklyn after all, where doing as the cool crowd do is what it’s all about.

Bluestone Lane

This café chain has quite a few locations dotted around the city, but the Upper East Side outpost is certainly the most unique.

Housed in a 19th-century church opposite Central Park, the interior is an eye-catching mix of high-arched ceilings and ultra-modern finishings – like the turquoise-tiled service counter, wooden countertops and gold light fixtures.

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Try the signature banana bread with whipped ricotta, toasted pecans and fresh berries for some much-needed energy in between gallery hopping.

Dinner

Arturo’s

New York isn’t lacking when it comes to pizza restaurants, but if you like the sound of your pizza served with a side of live jazz, then head to Arturo’s in Greenwich Village.

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This place is the antithesis to the city’s overtly trendy restaurants; the aged wooden walls are a hodgepodge of pictures of celebrity stars, actors and random oil paintings, while the tables and chairs are probably older than I am – but as soon as you sit you’ll understand why it’s been a much-loved venue since it opened for business in 1957.

The food is classic and tasty, but what Arturo’s does best is deliver real neighbourhood, family-run charm – a slice of comfort, in a way.

Her Name is Han

This is Korean soul food of the highest calibre – from the steaming bowls of goodness that take centre stage on the table, filled with an assortment of noodles, vegetables, dumplings and either meat or fish, to the small plates bursting with zing and spice.

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The highlight for me was the black sesame ice cream layered on top of crumbled green tea biscuit and topped with dried strawberry. I was indeed a satisfied soul by the time the bill came.

Somtumder

It’s no exaggeration to say I adore Thai food, but often Thai restaurants outside of Thailand fail to meet my desire for the true flavours of the country.

But Somtumder in the East Village hit the spot. Everything from the spicy papaya salad to the pad thai made with crab meat was bursting with goodness – and like any traditional Thai restaurant the service was fast, to the point and full of smiles.

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Even thinking about abcv’s menu now has me craving its incredible mix of dishes, flavours and innovative ingredient pairings.

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It’s hard to make merely one recommendation, but the whole roasted cauliflower with turmeric tahini and pomegranate is a must on any order. Unfortunately, I can’t even get into the desserts here as you’d be reading all day, but let’s just say they’re good. . .

 

Special thanks to Emma and Paul for making this such an incredible trip! X

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