Monday, 3 September 2012

The Big USA Comedown pt4, New York New York and Chateau Marmont!

Hello dear '99ers!
Well, this is it, we've made it this far, from fancy haircuts, fur coats, fantastic exhibitions, gambling and a lost iPod, we made it to New York City!
Having always dreamt of coming to this great city, and having overstayed my own perceived welcome in Vegas, my entire body tingled with excitement as I woke up on the other side of the country, about to be covered in humid sweat, concrete jungle where every single street offers a new experience, and what was to be the meal of my life! (more on that soon..)

Waiting inside the airport terminal, I could already feel the pulsing humidity outside, and this at 8am. I knew it was going to be a different climate to the West Coast, but this would be challenging indeed. Turns out that New York was in an early heat wave, temperatures around 35 with 90% humidity, awesome...
A couple of hours later (it seems transport is always longer than expected in America) I arrived at my hotel, Americana Inn, 38th and 6th. A skip from Bryant Park, a jump from 42st St and a wonder away from up-down and mid-town. Apart from the shared bathrooms and lack of central air conditioning, a debilitatingly slow lift to the 5th floor and about enough room for a single bed and a little sink, it was actually a really cute (hmm) hotel with friendly staff and plenty of necessary towels!
As you may have guessed, I'm a walker, I walk everywhere, even when it seems silly. 38th-110th, the tip of Chinatown back up to 38th and of course lots in between. It's quite amazing, and it happens also when I am in Paris etc, these incredible monuments, historical, architectural, cultural wonders just suddenly appear.
There is no warning, no obvious signage, but BAM! There's the Flatiron building, the 'Rock', Barney's New York New York. SMACK, there's the 'Park'. BOOM, HBO central, CBS Studios, Madison Square Gardens, they're real, they're there, and they're fantastic!
Madison Avenue, cross over on E57th St, Bergdorf Goodman, Chanel, YSL, Dior, one after the other. Such incredibly designed boutiques with grand staircases, lifts and all the trimmings. And yes I know we have shops with lifts here too, but they're just so much 'better' in New York. Though I do for the first time ever get told in a way that I do not appreciate that 'upstairs is women's...', I smile politely and say, 'thank you, I know'.

But now to the nitty gritties!
Loved Shake Shack at Madison Square Park, loved 'having what she had' at Katz's Delicatessen, loved the fact that even after one of the most expensive, and divine, meals of my life, the next night I could eat 10 delicious dumplings, a pancake and a can of Coke in Chinatown for less than $5! (Dining budget average was drastically reduced with that one, and the few $1 (and 10c tax grrr) taquitos from Seven-Eleven.)
Loved the Hell's Kitchen flea market, loved the super long interactive table at Barney's New York and of course LOVED Duane Reade, 24 hours of grocery goodness haha!
Loved the excitement for the 4th of July celebrations, which I spent with beautiful friends in Willamsburg, the super chic part of Brooklyn, eating yummy Thai food. I did not, however, appreciate the Subway. Unless you are a real masochist who loves to be in a real life oven situation for $2.25, pouring with sweat and struggling to breathe the hottest, wettest, stillest air, at any time of the day, I recommend taking taxis in NYC. They are like ants, every second car is a cab, and the meter seems frozen in time. A trip from 38th to Chinatown, seeing the wonders of the city zoom, or rather slowly edge, past, cost me $8, stopped at my raised hand and had a constant flow of cool air, so why wouldn't you? (mm-hmm, shoulder swivel..)

So back to that divine delicious meal. Remember my 'planned extravagances' for the trip? The fancy haircut etc?
Well the second one would be a meal at 'Daniel' nestled just off Park Ave in the mid 60s, tres tres chic.
If you, like me, happened to watch season 3 of Masterchef last year, you would know that the contestants travelled to New York and that the prize one of the challenges was a masterclass with Daniel Boulud. Having not heard of the man before, I asked the google, and was immediately wowed with the accolades and awards, and the fact that the restaurant offers a 3-course menu for $108, totally reasonable if you're in the top 10 in the world, right? Yes!
So 6 months before my trip, just when I booked the plane ticket, I called Daniel and asked about bookings for July 2012, thinking they'd be booked out years in advance. Well, no! They only open exactly a month before your required date, I was informed. So for another 5 and half months, I thought about, hungered for, this meal at Daniel. The time came, but the website wouldn't let me book the time I wanted, a civilised 7pm. A 2am phone call later and I had secured a table, oh the rush of it all! And fast forward to the the 5th of July, an as aforementioned 35 degree, 90% humidity day, spent walking around the Upper East Side looking waaaaay out of place in my Guns 'n' Roses tshirt, linen shorts and sandals, browsing the racks of Celine, J. Mendel and the like, I arrived 45 minutes early to the restaurant, heart pounding with excitement and anticipation. A quick stopover in the restroom to adorn myself in my shiny red jacket, a pair of light wool black pants, my sparkly glitter shoes from Red or Dead and my hand painted silk tie, I emerged looking hopefully like the eccentric millionaire that I imagined would fit in, but be a little bit left of field at this oh so proper establishment.
I looked alright basically haha!
Sitting at the bar, surrounded by the amazingly attractive French wait staff, I appropriately ordered a 'New Yorker' cocktail, served around a giant cube of ice in the middle of glass. Very strong, fantastic. I hadn't eaten all day, and in order to stay sober, and get my stomach going, I guzzled three pots of the home made grissini with swirls of olive tapenade. Yum. At precisely 7, I was taken to my table, perched right against the railing overlooking the main dining floor, it was prime viewing position.
Then it all started.
I was asked if I would like to order wine. Of course, but a glance at the menu showed it to be much more choicy than I'd imagined. Add to that the little shock that a glass of wine was more than I'd expected, and my carefully planned evening went a little off kilter. Don't worry, it was only for best.
I opened the wine 'bible' to see if any bottle might take my fancy at a reasonable price, it was huge! $700 hmmm, $400, hmm, $120, hm, $75, ok.. that's looking a little bit better...
I flipped a page and bam, a 1960 something or other from France, $16,000, and right underneath, Chateau Triennes 2008 Cabernet Syrah blend, $35, yes, not a printing error, as confirmed by the lovely sommelier, but actually a very nice drop, light but with a nice base to it. That's the one for me. And of course, having ordered a bottle to myself, I needed some food. So throwing all caution to the wind, and thank goodness for that, I ordered the 8-course degustation, which actually turned out to be about 11 courses due to the extra appetiser and two extra desserts! And let me tell you, that was the way to do it.
I won't speak about each dish, only to say that every bite over the 4 hours I was there was a foodgasm. From the chick pea starter, the abalone, swordfish, raspberry 'tart' dessert and the Madeleines that closed the meal, I couldn't get enough. Apparently I looked like it too, as when he took me for a kitchen tour at the end, the maitre d told me that he could see I'd had a good time from his observation. I admit it was probably a mix of my pure enjoyment and the bottle of wine! And the bill, well, come over and I'll tell you hahaha ;), but let's say, a few numbers, but worth every single morsel.

My third planned extravagance was actually two-fold, and for all my careful planning and booking early and being pedantic and what not, did not occur as planned and could not possibly have turned out better. Let me explain..
In L.A, San Francisco, Vegas, and for the first 6 nights in New York, I had really watched my accommodation budget in order to balance my last two nights in the US, the penultimate night in New York and the final night back in L.A before my return home. Having travelled the last month, I felt I deserved to have the ultimate hotel experiences by booking at The Standard in NYC and Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood. I'll say it honestly and brutally, I was not impressed by The Standard at all. It was just far too cool, and I didn't feel like any of the staff was genuinely nice. In fact it was almost like they were doing me a favour by letting me stay there, rather than the other way around, oh well. The Meatpacking District however, amazing; loved the whole vibe of the place, and of course leading into Greenwich Village and Chelsea and all the rest of it. I found the best coffee I had all month, trying to think, W15th Street? Right next to Milk anyway, and no, I did not have the luck to bump into P'Trique, which would have been hilarious for sure!
I did however sight my first celebrity, the amazing Helena Christensen, just out of the gym, looking absolutely radiant and beautiful despite the humidity and Lycra. I politely hung around and waited till she looked less busy then asked for a photo, which she politely declined, citing the gym as her not looking her best. Fair enough, I still shook her hand, gym or not, haha!

It was just the beginning of my celeb spotting, there was more to come on the West Coast.
Instead of catching a town car or taxi for about $80 to the Chateau, I decided to stick to my trusty shuttle service, all inconspicuous with its bright blue and yellow stripes and big white writing. The lovely lady at the check in desk had never heard of the Chateau, but I assured her it had always been on Sunset, and after an hour of waiting for the right minibus and another hour and half battling through the L.A peak time traffic, the driver and I (last one left on the bus) turned onto Sunset Blvd at Fairfax. All across Marmont Lane and the footpath were people, and cars and it was all very exciting; who could it be? Surely not for my arrival haha!
After a bit of confusion and realising we weren't going to be able to make it through, I decided to face the crowd on foot, with my big green suitcase and heavy garment back in tow, but it was somewhat futile, I couldn't get through. Now I became a little peeved and called the hotel to let them know I was here and couldn't get in, and was assured all would be sorted out. And it was.
Two seconds later, one of the big burly security guards burst through the crowd and yelled 'everybody move, I've got a car here!'. The driveway parted like the Red Sea, and I started rolling my way right through the middle, much to everyone's surprise indeed, what an entrance!
After checking that I was indeed Mr. Ron, my luggage was taken and met me at the concierge desk, surrounded by the burgundy and wood detailing of the lounge. Amazing.
So, let's get the balance right. A basic room at the Chateau sets you back about $450 with tax, for about 30sq metres. But, if you go one room up, the 'junior suite', gets you 55sq metres, a mini kitchenette and a 'dressing area' for about another $150. It's all there on the website, look now. I thought I'd spoil myself and go for the junior, why not, right?
Well, the lovely concierge, with his perfect tan and not a hair out of place, informed me that even though I'd booked a junior, they were going to move me to the 'Piano room'. Oooo I said, that sounds cool. Room 29, nice, said the guard who'd parted the crowd and taken me into the hotel. Awesome, I said.
Yeah, it's the one bedroom penthouse, $2700 a night. Wow. And oh my god, wow indeed.
A full kitchen, which remained unused, a walk in wardrobe, bathroom with tub, separate shower and vanity, the sprawled out living room with indeed a beautiful grand piano in the corner, separate dining room and movement activated sound system blasting out Frank Sinatra as we entered the room.
And last but not least, the 15m long private terrace which directly overlooked the restaurant courtyard, oh my god, heaven!

After settling in, I headed downstairs to check out who was who in the zoo, and to buy some chewing gum to make sure my networking would be olfactorily pleasant for the other party. It would be $5 at the desk, or if I ventured across Sunset it would be $1. Thanks for your honesty mister. I walked downstairs, and out the door.
The crowd had swelled, and there were more vans. This person must be pretty big, but how would they all know to be there? I took three steps off the patio and onto the driveway and the big black car came out of the garage on my right, then window was open, and a shot of platinum blond hair and big sunglasses could be seen, no mistaking it, it was Gaga, inches from my face, oo the rush!
Everyone was screaming, camera's flashing, it was the perfect Hollywood cliche, how fabulous to be caught in the middle! After all the hullabaloo subsided I got my gun and went back to get a table for dinner. Room 29, oo right away. I love Room 29, it's like its' own key within the hotel, it'll get you anywhere.
Anyway, that night I saw Matthew McConaughey and his wife, Jesse Metcalfe and his fiance, and Michael Wincott, the guy who played the bad guy in The Crow, and Strange Days, he's a regular Hollywood baddy, very cool. I also had my second brush with Gagsy as I fondly call her. As I was having a second glass of red I noticed her at the bar, with a few girlfriends goofing around in a Versace patent leather bodice dress, but otherwise looking fairly toned down, no meat or bubbles at the Chateau. I, well, attempted, to break the unspoken rule of not disturbing celebrities at the hotel, but I took three steps and was basically doored, with his arm, by one of her undercover Russian security guards who had obviously been watching my plan hatch and knew exactly when to foil it. But I said I was in room 29, and here that didn't work unfortunately.
After dessert on the balcony, a midnight workout at the gym on level 7, and a 1am lonely swim in the pool, I retired to my penthouse for a few hours sleep.
Now I should mention that the whole time, the little monsters gathered around the hedges acting as the fence to the hotel, singing her songs and yelling out how much they love her, so much so that she actually had to poke her head through the hedges and ask them politely to be quiet as to not disturb the other diners/guests, it was quite funny actually. I woke up and like any penthouse stayee would do, went outside to my terrace, found half a glass of last night's wine and started to drink it. Then I heard voices 'Gaga, we love you, we love you'. How did they even know she was there? She must be asleep!
But no, a look down revealed the lady herself, friends in tow, feasting on yoghurt and a giant fruit platter right under my nose. So of course again, I did what any other penthouse stayee would do, ran inside, whipped on my Balenciaga shiny coat over my shorts and sandals and came downstairs to join her for breakfast, well, sit across the mini hedge from her and pretend like I wasn't interested. And take a naughty pap shot with my iPhone on the down-low, as to not be thrown out in shame from the hotel! Voila..

Wow, this is a lot of writing, and I haven't yet added the images, of which there will be many!
Of course checking out of the Chateau was not easy, but as my flight was so late, the concierge kindly gave me the keys to another room to freshen up after using the gym and pool if I wished, which I did, and had a long walk along Sunset, lunch at the pool of The Standard Hollywood, which I quite liked indeed. With a couple of hours to go till my shuttle was due to pick me up, I went back to the Chateau and to the restaurant, where without room 29 I wasn't as cool anymore, but still cool enough to be given a table right on the walkway.
I ordered my steak, wine and dessert right away, the courtyard was still quite empty, apart from a group of loud Australian women and an obnoxious couple who sounded as they were from Jersey, boobs and all. And then in walked Emily Blunt and John Krasinski, just stunning! She is so beautiful like you wouldn't believe, I smiled, and she smiled back! But then I think it was because she was thinking, do I know you, why are you smiling at me, awkward smile, but still, a smile, haha!
And on the table behind where they sat, a little far to see who was there but maybe if I was concentrating, a woman got up and started walking towards the walkway, towards me, and I looked up, mid steak bite, it was Chloe Sevigny, and I almost choked, I love her! Kids, Boys Don't Cry, American Psycho, Party Monster et all. I never saw The Brown Bunny out of respect, but hey, it was her choice of course!
Anyway, I leaned over my table and spoke to her, so not 'done', and she walked straight past me. But I was so stoked to have seen her, not that I get starstruck or what not :P.
About 4 minutes later, again mid steak bite, I felt a tap on my shoulder, I turned, and there she was. She reached out her hand, shook mine, and said she was Chloe and it was nice to meet me. Amazing! What a way to finish the month!
On my way out the Gaga fans were there and more were arriving every minute. I asked how did they know she was here. She had been Tweeting her movements, clever 21st Century star, feigning privacy by coming to the Chateau, and fanning the fires of her fame by reporting from the inside, tsk tsk tsk, I should have asked her for a photo after all haha. And later I learned that her, Lana Del Rey and Lindsay Lohan had a sleepover that same night, too bad I wasn't invited!

And so we come to the end of my great American adventure, can't wait till the next one already!
But moreso, I can't wait to have you all come visit the salon and hear some more juicy bits, and see some amazing pieces that have arrived from my time spent networking with fabulous ladies with fabulous wardrobes, contact me now, champagne included of course!

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