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Newsmakers

New York: The Apple of your ‘I’

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star

“There’s no place in the world like this,” says The Peninsula New York general manager Jonathan Crook about New York City. And he knows whereof he speaks. His elegant hotel, on Fifth Avenue and 55th Street, overlooks the world. On Fifth Avenue,  he sees people of every race and creed, purpose and persuasion, walking down the road and ruling the world. The hotel’s fine-dine coffee shop, Clement, overlooks Valentino’s. A block away is Central Park, a park that’s as big as a town, a meadow in the midst of skyscrapers. A block up is St. Patrick’s Cathedral, dubbed “America’s parish church,” the only Catholic church I’ve been to that is sandwiched by Saks Fifth Avenue and a Ferragamo boutique. Talk about co-existing, New York is it! On this same block is Rockefeller Center, home of the early morning The Today Show, arguably the world’s first kalyeserye.

On the top of The Peninsula is the Salon de Ning, featuring an indoor and outdoor bar. From there, you could see  the lights of the city, which never blink. So how could Crook, who used to be the resident manager of The Peninsula Manila, not love it in the City that Doesn’t Sleep?

***

My husband Ed, son Chino and I were in NYC for the holidays, en route to New Jersey where we spent Christmas with my mother Sonia Mayor and sisters Mary Mae, Geraldine and Valerie. We took a Philippine Airlines Boeing 777 that flew 13 hours to Vancouver, refueled for less than an hour, then flew on for another five hours to NYC.  On Business Class, arroz caldo is served at your pleasure, and so is gourmet tuyo and bangus in olive oil. We landed at JFK in the early morning, where the lines in both Immigration and Customs were still short. It was a most pleasant flight.

As my boys slept off their jet lag, my Uncle Edward took me (shopping gets most women’s adrenaline going) to Bergdorf Goodman right beside The Peninsula where branded shoes and bags were selling at 50-percent off it was not necessary anymore to go outlet shopping at the popular Woodbury Commons.

My family liked the food — breakfast at The Peninsula’s Clement include Maine Lobster with Eggs. We also tried breakfast one day at Sarabeth’s near Central Park, famous for its omelets. It was good we got in early because when we left the place, the line was so long the queue had its tail outdoors.

On our second day in the City, we lined up where our noses led us for lunch, and that was to a Halal Guys truck. Though the queue was quite long, my husband got his order in about 10 minutes as I took shelter from the cold in the MoMa bookstore across the street, mulling whether to buy Starry, Starry Night notecards. (Van Gogh’s The Starry Night is the biggest attraction at the MoMa). We took the Gyros and a plate of chicken on basmati rice with its famous White Sauce to a table near the Rockefeller Center Skating Rink and had a great, value-for-money lunch. Others just savor their Gyros on benches near the truck, earning Halal Guys the title of “the City’s Most Famous Open-air Dining Destination” (according to the New York Post). Memories of the Gyros and chicken in basmati rice still make me salivate.

Our friend travel executive Joebert Opulencia took us to Morton’s, my favorite steakhouse, while Chino had a juicy burger from Five Guys, which I loved as well. Five Guys just focuses on burgers, hotdogs and French fries.

I was craving for New York cheesecake so my uncle took me to Magnolia Bakery near the Rockefeller Center, which sparked off the cupcake craze in America and in the world. Its original store in the West Village was also featured on Sex and the City, in the film Prime, in which one of the characters throws Magnolia pies at his ex-girlfriends, and in The Devil Wears Prada, in which the character Andy says at one point that she needs to get to the bakery to pick something up for her boyfriend. Again, there was a queue, but it seems that in NYC, queues attract more customers. They had run out of New York cheesecake so I settled for key lime cheesecake, which was a perfect combination of tart and sweet.

My son and his cousins Miguel and Patricia Sotto lined up for 30 minutes to buy another New York craze, the “Crack Pie.” It has an oatmeal crust and a filling that tastes like smooth Food for the Gods. One pie round costs about $50.

 

 

***

I skipped Broadway this time but my son enjoyed The Book of Mormon. Miguel and Patricia watched the movie The Revenant and seemed jolted by its raw realism.

I had visited the 9/11 Memorial during the Philippine Airlines inaugural flight in March, but was not able to visit its museum. My sister Valerie Sotto found her visit to the museum the most unforgettable part of her New York trip, and whenever she recounted the tapes of the last phone calls of the passengers on the doomed planes, her eyes would well up with tears.

***

A definite highlight of my visit was a trip to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. My press ID allowed me free entry to the museum, and it was an afternoon of visual pampering.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, colloquially “The Met,” is the largest art museum in the United States and among the most visited art museums in the world. Its permanent collection contains over two million works. The main building, located on the eastern edge of Central Park along Manhattan’s Museum Mile, is by area one of the world’s largest art galleries. I lingered in the section of European paintings, especially those of the Impressionists — Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir.

Another must visit at The Met is The Temple of Dendur, an Egyptian temple that was built around 15 BC and dedicated to Isis. The temple was commissioned by Emperor Augustus of Rome and has been exhibited in The Metropolitan Museum of Art since 1978. In recognition of the American assistance in saving various other monuments threatened by the dam’s construction, Egypt presented the temple and its gate as a gift to the United States, represented by Jacqueline Kennedy among others, in 1965. The stone blocks of the temple weighed more than 800 tons with the largest pieces weighing more than 6.5 tons. They were packed in 661 crates and shipped to the US.

***

New York pulsates and each and every person there can be part of the throbbing. That’s perhaps why 54 million visitors descended on it last year. It’s perhaps the only place in the world where you can walk or take a subway to your dreams — whether to Tiffany’s, to a corner bakery or to a department store offering your size in Valentino for half the price. (You may e-mail me at [email protected].)

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