Sex & the City? Do it yourself!

When I went to New York in December, one of the things I really wanted to do was see some of the famous places from the Sex & the City TV series and films (1, 2).

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I looked into the options and soon discovered that the organised tours you could pay for were pretty expensive (around $50 per person). These tours also included a number of places that didn’t really interest me. (Rabbit hunting in the Pleasure Chest with my mum?  I don’t think so!) When I thought about touring around New York City in a bus full of (most likely) women, trying to cram in all of the “memorable” places from Sex & the City, my skin began to crawl. The only option seemed to be to design my own tour, with just the places that I wanted to see!

The two sites that I considered unmissable were Carrie’s house (66 Perry Street) and the Magnolia Bakery (401 Bleeker Street). These are really close to each other, both in Greenwich Village.

Luckily, we were staying quite close to Greenwich Village, so we started the day by walking there. It was much more interesting to walk than it would have been to take the subway.

On the way, I saw this great shop:

Shoegasm

As far as I know, this is not in Sex & the City, but with a name like “Shoegasm” it really should be!

We soon reached Bleeker Street.

Bleeker St

I hadn’t planned to go to any of the fancy shops that Carrie likes to shop in (what’s the point if you can’t afford to buy anything?) but I passed a Jimmy Choo shop and did stop to have a peek through the window.

Jimmy Choo

We got to the Magnolia Bakery nice and early, and I got a birthday cupcake.

The Magnolia Bakery

The Magnolia Bakery - birthday cupcake

One disappointment was that the bench where Carrie and Miranda sit in the TV show wasn’t actually there. I wonder if it was just for the show, or if they had it removed because too many people sat there?!

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Just around the corner, was Perry Street.

Bleeker St & Perry St

Carrie’s house is obviously quite a big tourist attraction, but it is actually a privately owned house. The poor people who live there must get so annoyed with all the tourists coming by to take a photo. They’ve actually put a chain up now, and a sign asking you not to sit on the step, which is fair enough I think.

66 Perry St - Carrie's House

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After a wander around Greenwich Village, we walked to Soho to find Onieal’s Restaurant and Bar (174 Grand Street), which is known as “Scout” in Sex & the City. Scout is the bar which Aidan and Steve opened together.

ONieal's

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It was a nice bar, and very quiet when we arrived.

ONieal's

We decided to have a bit of lunch and, of course, a Cosmo.

Cosmo in ONieal's

Our timing was so good. Just as we were finishing our drinks, a tour group flooded in. I was so glad we could leave and not be a part of it!

ONieal's

Of course, there are many other locations around New York which are used in Sex & the City, but all of the above was enough for me!  As a bonus, we also stopped by the HBO shop (1100 Avenue of the Americas), where I picked up this great book, Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell:

The book includes a Sex & the City map and list of places to visit. I was quite happy to see that there were no additional places I wanted to see. If you’re into brand shopping or bar-hopping there are a lot of other places which I haven’t mentioned. You might want to check out this list for more information. You might also want to read this great article about why organised Sex & the City bus tours suck.

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I’m a big fan of seeing places that are used in movies and TV shows, but I’d highly recommend organising your own trips rather than taking a tour. There’s so much information on the Internet, that it’s easy to plan. And now, with this post, you know how to see the highlights from Sex & the City all by yourself. 😉

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The locks of love…

On my recent visit to New York I was very keen to visit Brooklyn Bridge, mainly because I had seen it featured in Sex and the City, and wanted to see the view of Manhattan from Brooklyn. One particular scene from Sex and the City had stuck in my mind, and that was the one in the first movie, where Steve and Miranda meet on Brooklyn Bridge to show that they are willing to forget the past and continue with their marriage.

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But I hadn’t realised that Brooklyn Bridge was such a popular place for romance. Apparently Brooklyn Bridge has become the place for couples to declare their eternal love to each other by attaching a padlock to the bridge.

Locks on the Brooklyn Bridge

Scores of locks have been lovingly left on the bridge, some with messages, names or dates written on them, others plain. Despite the fact that it is actually illegal to attach anything to the bridge, there are these handy little loops all over the place, which people have cleverly made use of.

Locks on the Brooklyn Bridge

The tradition dates back to a book by Italian novelist Federico Moccia, which became popular when it was turned into a film, “Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo” (“Three Steps Over Heaven“), in 2004. Following the popularity of the movie, couples began declaring their love on the Ponte Milvio in Italy. Sometime later, perhaps around 2007, the tradition made its way over the Atlantic to the US, and people began to attach their love locks to the Brooklyn Bridge.

As I said, it is illegal to leave these locks on the bridge, but no one seems to be doing anything about removing them. And, really, what harm are they doing?

Locks on the Brooklyn Bridge

I wonder now if that scene in Sex and the City was inspired by this tradition of declaring one’s love on Brooklyn Bridge, although Miranda and Steve don’t actually leave a lock.

Locks on the Brooklyn Bridge

What do you think? Is leaving a lock on a bridge a good way for a couple to declare their eternal love? Would you do it?


Going to church, and letting it be…

I did something completely out of character while I was on holiday in New York in December – I went to church.

I’ll begin this post with a little disclaimer, just to cover my back. I went to a Roman Catholic church when I was a child, but stopped going before I became a teenager, through my own choice. Now, I don’t practice any particular faith, but remain open to most ideas. I don’t mind what other people believe or do, so long as they accept my choice to believe and do as I choose.

So, it was December 19th, pretty chilly, and I was in New York. The first stop on my itinerary was the World Trade Center site. When planning the trip, my mum and I had discussed going to the World Trade Center Memorial, but had both concluded that it seemed a bit clinical and lacked the personal touch that we had hoped to find. Instead, we decided to go to St Paul’s Chapel, also known as The Little Chapel that Stood.

St Paul's Chapel

Neither of us are particularly religious people, but we wanted to see the chapel’s exhibition of memorials for people who lost their lives in 9/11. The items on display were incredibly touching, even heartbreaking at times.

St Paul's Chapel

St Paul's Chapel

We didn’t really plan on staying for a service, but it was Sunday, and a service was about to begin. Out of curiosity, and to pay our respects, we decided to slip in at the back and stay for a while. It was made clear that everyone was welcome, whether local or visitors, and that it was fine to leave part way through the service.

I’ll admit that the idea of sitting through a church service was a little daunting, but it was cold outside and I was interested to know what it would be like. My experience of church-going was mostly Roman Catholic, and the older I had got the more I had disliked the style of worship in the Roman Catholic church. I found the hymns largely full of doom and gloom, and didn’t like the idea of going to confession (especially as a child). To me, the Roman Catholic church seemed to be more about confessing sins and repenting, than celebrating life or faith.

Everything about the service in St Paul’s Chapel surprised me, but nothing so much as the sermon by The Rev. Clayton Crawley. He spoke about the rush and panic up to Christmas, about the stress of having to tick everything off our to-do lists and get everything done. I guess his point was that we ought to remember the real meaning of Christmas, but what he emphasised was the need, in general, to slow down and simply… let it be. He kept repeating the phrase “let it be” and I knew what was coming. He suddenly broke into song, and sang the beginning of the Beatles’ classic:

When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

(Lyrics: Paul McCartney)

I hadn’t realised how absolutely incredible those lyrics were until that moment when the Reverend began to sing and I felt a lump in my throat.

Couldn’t we all do with letting it be sometimes?

St Paul's Chapel

I had thought that my church-going experience in New York was pretty unusual until I discussed it with a good friend today. She’s a Christian, but not a Roman Catholic, and she made me realise that I had been basing my views on church (and perhaps religion in general) on my childhood experiences in the Roman Catholic church. This visit to St Paul’s Chapel, followed by a conversation with my friend, made me realise that there are a whole bunch of different ways in which people worship, and that people celebrate their faiths in so many ways.

Thinking back on the songs I used to sing at the Roman Catholic church I went to, the only one I can remember liking was Make Me a Channel of Your Peace. When I Googled it, I discovered that Sinead O’Connor has covered it, and it’s beautiful. So, if Sinead O’Connor can record songs that I used to sing at church, why shouldn’t songs like Let it Be, that perhaps weren’t intended for church services, be sung at church?

St Paul’s Chapel was interesting to visit from a tourism point of view, although I did feel a little awkward about taking too many photos of the memorials. If you happen to have the chance to visit there, I would recommend staying for a service, or even just part of a service. If, like me, you don’t really call yourself a Christian, don’t worry. I found it to be an inspirational and moving experience, with or without the belief in God. I believe in music, and I know that I will be humming Let it Be to myself all year, especially when I feel stressed or under pressure.

St Paul’s Chapel is on the corner of Broadway and Fulton Street, but I went in the back from Church Street. I got off at the World Trade Center stop on the Subway.