I'm a city girl at heart. I love the bright lights and the buzz of arriving in a metropolis. I love feeling I’m part of a tireless engine, in a place where world-changing moments come and go, where big deals are done. When I find out I’m going to stay in a boutique hotel in New York for three days, I’m so excited I start packing immediately (and it’s still a month away).
For me, New York City is all about consumption – food, drink, fashion. Three days in this city and a credit card on nought… Perfect. Forget work and forget the mortgage – for three days, I’m going to be glamour personified. I want to sip the most delicious manhattan, in the coolest bar in Manhattan. I want to do brunch at an all-American diner. And I want to arrive at a fabulous restaurant at midnight and find it full of other diners.
I’m a little disappointed to fly into Newark because, although it’s just the same distance into the centre, you don’t get the JFK route’s postcard view of Manhattan as you drive over the bridge. But not much can dampen the exhilaration of arriving in a city that gives you the distinct feeling you’re starring in your own movie. The grid of streets feels foreign and familiar at the same time. The huge wooden front doors to Chambers Hotel open as we approach, and a porter whisks our luggage away. The lobby is warm and welcoming, with a modern fireplace, comfy chairs and a cosy bar. We’re worn out, but we can't resist one drink before bed. The bar is just to one side of the lobby and the chatty barman mixes a perfect martini. The place is buzzing, as groups of New Yorkers arrive to dine at Chambers’ basement restaurant, Town. We’ve had it though. We retire, excited about the next day.
We wake up on Saturday morning to the sounds of the city (traffic hum, distant sirens). Our quarters are very comfortable and very cool. The room is designed to feel like a loft apartment, with concrete in the bathroom, an unplastered ceiling and exposed pipes for the fire sprinkler. The furnishings are cosy, and heavy suede curtains block out the outside. Industrial lamps match the concrete ceiling for contemporary edge, but underfloor heating means the urban look never gets chilly.
The power shower demonstrates more power than any I have ever known. Drench is not the word. The oversize Bumble and Bumble shampoos and conditioners make us feel at home – much nicer than fumbling to squeeze out the tiny bit of product in a weeny bottle. Before setting off, we raid the creative minibar, which contains city guides, cameras and, of course, the all-important Oreos. I stash these carefully; my partner will need them as Scooby snacks and incentives to carry on shopping if he starts flagging.
The only good thing I can say about jetlag is that at least you wake up early enough not to miss any of the day ahead which, looking out of the window and up (if you look straight ahead all you see is concrete) is going to be a classic, blue-sky New York winter’s day. We wrap up warm and consider the agenda. It’s a hectic schedule of shopping, shopping and shopping. But first, an all-American breakfast at the Brooklyn Diner: pancakes, maple syrup, huge portions, never-ending coffee – yum.
Appropriately prepped, we set off for a day of pounding the streets, straight down to Bleecker Street for the boutiques. I drag my poor, long-suffering partner round until he starts begging for coffee. We make a beeline for the magical Magnolia Bakery at the end of Bleecker and indulge in cupcakes and what my partner announces is the best cheesecake in the world. We then head for Thompson Street in SoHo – home to further yes-please boutiques and little shops. I arrange a win-win situation for Mr Smith, by leaving him sipping designer hot chocolate at Vosges, while I order a sexy, made-to-measure corset from Selima.
All shopped out, we head back towards Chambers. It’s no chore to take in a bit of culture on the way; our modern midtown pad is very close to the Museum of Modern Art. We nip in to wonder at just a few of the fantastic pieces, as well as the beautiful new building, then head back to the hotel for another shower. Changed and ready for the evening, we have a drink in the Chambers bar then step out into the bright lights. We have arranged to meet friends for dinner at Thor, the hip restaurant at the Hotel on Rivington on the Lower East Side of New York. The rest of the evening is spent in various bars on the LES; it’s not as developed as the Meatpacking District across on the West, and definitely the hippest area. It’s packed full of bars, with people spilling out on to the street, even in winter, and you can’t help but get caught up in the party atmosphere.
The problem with writing an account of any New York experience is that there is never going to be enough space. I haven’t yet mentioned our stroll through a quiet and wintry Central Park, the perfect bagel from a street stall, sipping manhattans at the top of the Rockefeller centre, or standing in the middle of Times Square mesmerised by the advertising lights. It’s that old film-set feeling: whether you’re working an impossibly glamorous scene for real, or you’re just walking down a gritty street, steam rising from grills and ‘don’t walk’ signs flickering on and off, mundane just never comes into it. With its relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff and sophisticated but not intimidating design, Chambers makes a suitably stylish backdrop to our own movie cult classic: a shopping-themed love story with a happy ending.
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Smith extra at Chambers
A complimentary cocktail on arrival