New York, now

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

From Page 1 Ten years later, Sec­tion 1 of the prom­e­nade, which runs north from Gan­sevoort Street to 20th Street in Chelsea, is op­er­a­tional. It’s a tri­umph of ur­ban de­sign, com­bin­ing el­e­ments of its in­dus­trial past — old tracks, beams and gird­ers — with wild and in­tro­duced plants and grasses, me­an­der­ing path­ways, hid­den nooks and cran­nies and el­e­vated views of Man­hat­tan and the Hud­son River.

Wooden deckchairs line a sec­tion of the High Line and they are filled with peo­ple tak­ing in the sights, tap­ping on their lap­tops or top­ping up their tans. High Tea on the High Line, a mo­bile cafe, is turn­ing out cof­fees and cakes for vis­i­tors, while an am­phithe­atre-style sec­tion of the prom­e­nade is a draw­card for fam­i­lies watch­ing the bustling street be­low through a gi­ant pic­ture win­dow.

The project has brought a new en­ergy to New York and lo­cals are clearly proud of their achieve­ment. ‘‘ This is so good for the city,’’ I hear one New Yorker, act­ing as tour guide, telling his cap­ti­vated guest. Sec­tion 2 of the High Line, which will con­tinue the el­e­vated park from 20th to 30th streets, is due to open next year. www.the­high­line.org.

Be a night owl: As New York is a 24-hour party place, it’s rude to re­tire too early. Two ex­cel­lent nightspots at com­pletely dif­fer­ent ends of the spec­trum are Bird­land Jazz Club (315 West 44th St) and Don’t Tell Mama (343 West 46th St). Bird­land, named af­ter leg­endary jazz muso Char­lie ‘‘ Bird’’ Parker, be­gan life on Broad­way 60 years ago and at­tracted the likes of Count Basie, Dizzy Gille­spie, Th­elo­nious Monk and Miles Davis to its stage (and celebs such as Frank Si­na­tra, Marilyn Mon­roe, Ava Gard­ner and Sammy Davis Jr to its audiences).

The club has since moved twice and shut down for a cou­ple of decades in be­tween. It is now en­sconced in Mid­town (315 West 44th St), and still pulls in ded­i­cated jazz fans each night. has de­scribed Bird­land as ‘‘ close to per­fec­tion for se­ri­ous fans and mu­si­cians’’ and we find the cosy at­mos­phere and smooth rhythms a tonic af­ter a long day ex­plor­ing.

Alas the night is still young when our en­ter­tain­ers for the night, the ex­cel­lent Louis Hayes Quin­tet, fin­ish play­ing and we go in search of some­where else to have some fun. My trav­el­ling com­pan­ion leads us to an old favourite, Don’t Tell Mama, which is cer­tainly a very dif­fer­ent scene from the one we’ve just left. At the pi­ano a chap who is strangely rem­i­nis­cent of Woody Allen bashes out a ren­di­tion of while a manic waiter (who looks wor­ry­ingly like David Wal­liams’s char­ac­ter Lou from is rush­ing around in a nov­elty apron, screech­ing ‘‘ I can’t find any­body in charge!’’ while at­tempt­ing to dole out drinks.

This high-camp pi­ano bar, cabaret and lounge seems to be the place where those whose faces don’t quite fit on Broad­way end up. The wait­staff take it in turns to sing (most have ter­rific voices) and the On the map: The Of­fi­cial NYC In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre on Sev­enth Av­enue odd brave au­di­ence mem­ber chances their luck, too, with more mixed re­sults. By the time our be­wil­dered waiter leaps on to the stage wear­ing only a G-string to belt out a ren­di­tion of we re­alise it’s prob­a­bly time to head back to the Affinia.

This may be the city that never sleeps, but I need my bed. Es­pe­cially one that has been hand­made in Swe­den to the tune of $US10,000. www.bird­land­jazz.com; www.dont­tell­ma­manyc.com. Michelle Rowe was a guest of Affinia Ho­tels, V Aus­tralia and Vir­gin Amer­ica.

Check­list

V Aus­tralia of­fers di­rect daily flights from Syd­ney to Los An­ge­les and di­rect flights ex Bris­bane are avail­able Wed­nes­days, Fri­days and Sun­days. Fre­quent con­nect­ing flights from LA to New York are avail­able on Vir­gin Amer­ica. For those who want flex­i­bil­ity or need to travel in only one di­rec­tion, try V Aus­tralia’s new su­per cheap oneway fares. For ex­tra leg room, exit-row seats in in­ter­na­tional econ­omy are avail­able for pur­chase at check-in from $150 ex Aus­tralia or $US110 ex US on a space-avail­able ba­sis. More: www.vaus­tralia.com.au; www.vir­ginamer­ica.com.

Pic­ture: Al­bert Ve­cerka

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