On the Fifth Avenue

Depressing, Nostalgic, Stimulating–my adjectives will deplete if I describe Fifth Avenue thoroughly

For the past two days, New York has been meekly trying to get on my nerves-it is deceiving me. The weather is great. The lines at the Empire State Building were shorter than I expected (yes, I am complaining that), thus depriving me of essential Soviet Uni-I mean-Big Apple experience. Both Metro (dirt cheap at 25$ for a week pass) and taxis (to whose ostentatious and signature yellow hue I don’t approve) prove to be accessible and annoyingly quick. It was just not what I had in mind.

I have been to New York once before. But behind the glasses of the limousine my mother’s company provided, and of the Millennium Hilton (also a courtesy extended to my illustrious mother), I barely witnessed the actual New York. Hotdogs, fashionable commuters, subways, that sort of stuff. (Our suite at the Millennium Hilton oversaw a depressing and drab Ground Zero and equally drab skyline of Jersey at the horizon).

So I forayed back to the familiar territory–Fifth Avenue. Yes, with my mom, I got to see the 5th Avenue. But I don’t remember it at all, and so I went back there again today. I am surprised (and almost shocked) to realize that I practically know all the names on the 5th Avenue, from famous (Cartier) to exclusive (Harry Winston) to exotic (Van Cleef & Arfels). But the jewel in the Crown of Fifth Avenue is the original Saks. Yes, Saks Fifth Avenue derived its name from the street.

I am a little disappointed in Saks too. Despite being the premier couturier to the rich and the famous (I am tempted to put the prefix in- in front of that word), Saks didn’t have bowties. After being directed from section to section (which included a foray into a men’s fashion salon on 6th Floor, occupied entirely by guys who I suspect are gay), and after being guilted into squandering my two months’ worth of allowance, I finally gave up. Also, I learnt a curious thing-although 2nd level of Saks in titled “Designer clothes & Fur” (or something along those lines), I didn’t seen a single animal hair, let alone mink or vicuna stoles. We cannot let those PETArrorists win!

Outside the stores of the 5th Avenue are not raving PETAs, but small vendors who sell everything from T-shirts to ‘designer’ eyeglasses to what-they-claimed-to-be Venetian silk. It is almost a sacrilege to see these shops there (local flair be damned); it is like seeing a brothel or a witchdoctor’s next to a Church. But I must not be too judgmental because that is what exactly the 5th Avenue is.

Cohabiting the 5th Avenue with the very abodes of the decadent luxury they denounce are Churches. At least three famed Churches coexist with the cathedrals of fashion. Cartier is just a building away from St. Patrick’s Cathedral-the largest Catholic Cathedral in the United States.

The best ways to end your Fifth Avenue Adventure exist at, surprise, surprise!, the Central Park South end of the shopping district. There are novelty horse carriages (highly reminiscent of Vienna if only the Viennese were more gaudy) on one corner, and novelty glassy Apple store on the other. [I didn’t like the store that much, but at least I was in the glass elevator. Thank you, Steve, for fulfilling my Roald Dahl fantasies].

However, I didn’t end my ambulatory (writing that word is almost as tiring as the act itself) sojourn with Apple. I ended it with a well-deserved dinner to recuperate from walking and shopping at the Plaza, one of Manhattan’s best hotels which is also conveniently located at the end of the 5th Avenue to.

I won’t make a Plaza Hotel product placement here, but I will say although the choices are limited, the meal at the Rose Club restaurant there is perfectly affordable. Their appetizer is addictive to say the least, and their dessert is, there is only one word for it, sumptuous. The lobster was one of the best I have ever eaten.

May be I am little partial because my appetite was whetted (and my judgment clouded) by the hotel’s signature cocktail, the Plaza Manhattan. Created to mark the inauguration of Gov. Samuel Tilden at a Manhattan Club party way back in 1874, the Plaza Manhattan is served with Jim Beam Rye Whiskey stirred nimbly with Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth and Angostura Bitters-which I found a touch more stimulating (my codeword for intoxication).

But hey, don’t blame me. Blame it on the person who depressed me to drinking five Plaza Manhattans. And it is not Maitre d’.


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