Condé Nast Traveller Middle East - - Contents -

Top model and un­stop­pable glo­be­trot­ter He­lena Chris­tensen gives us an ex­clu­sive guide to her

New York City

SPRING BE­TRAYED US. A SNOW­STORM de­railed our trip to meet her in New York. It was a trav­eller’s night­mare: can­celled flights, over­booked planes, ho­tels with­out avail­abil­ity. Armed with pa­tience, we en­dured a 24-hour stopover in Lon­don be­fore head­ing to Philadel­phia to board a train to the Big Ap­ple – leav­ing us only eight hours to pre­pare. And then she ar­rived. And with her, the sun.

He­lena Chris­tensen en­ters the suite at fash­ion­able 1 Ho­tel Brook­lyn Bridge and stops in awe at the view. To our left, the Statue of Lib­erty; on the right, the Brook­lyn Bridge. It’s a 90-de­gree tour of the city’s en­vi­able sky­line. Her city. “I’ve been here for 18 years,” she says. “I lived in Den­mark un­til I was 20, and when I started work­ing I moved to Paris. But New York re­ally is the city that never sleeps, al­ways so vi­brant and elec­tric, ready to wel­come out­siders who want to make it their own. It’s up to you to let your­self be im­mersed in its en­ergy or watch it tran­quilly from a dis­tance.”

She’s im­mersed in the city from her home in the West Vil­lage, one she shares with son Min­gus Lu­cien Ree­dus, the fruit of her re­la­tion­ship with ac­tor Nor­man Ree­dus, bet­ter known as Daryl Dixon in The Walk­ing Dead. When she wants to ob­serve it all from the back­ground, she es­capes north to the Catskill Moun­tains. “Na­ture is only a few kilo­me­tres away from the as­phalt, and it’s just the bal­ance I need,” she says about her sec­ond home. “It’s my bub­ble, where I unite with wilder­ness, swim in its rivers, get lost in its forests.”

The new era of top mod­els in­cludes cer­tain “names” – Jen­ner, Ha­did, Ger­ber – but none of it would have been pos­si­ble with­out the orig­i­nal tops, those who took mod­els out of anonymity, show­ing that they were more than just pretty faces. Schif­fer, Bruni, Evan­ge­lista, Camp­bell, Turling­ton, Craw­ford, Macpher­son, Chris­tensen – god­desses of the cat­walk who made his­tory open­ing the doors to suc­cess and blaz­ing new paths to be­come flesh-and­blood muses to stu­dios and de­sign­ers. But where does it go from there? How do you keep a name at the very top and cre­ate a time­less im­age? Chris­tensen has done this by liv­ing on her own terms, not those of the fash­ion world – that’s not to say that the in­dus­try’s stan­dards don’t still try to bend her to their will.

Though nearly 50 years old, she man­ages to avoid the crit­i­cism of those who would com­pare her to the younger He­lena – be­cause she’s now bet­ter than ever. Her beauty still reigns, her fig­ure re­mains en­vi­able and her ideals are stronger than they’ve ever been, giv­ing her the in­de­pen­dence to pur­sue dreams that co­ex­ist with her ca­reer: pho­tog­ra­phy and a creative stu­dio, Stærk & Chris­tensen ( staerkand­chris­tensen.com), which she founded with her best friend, stylist Camilla Stærk. “We met 18 years ago, when I co-founded Ny­lon mag­a­zine and I had to take pho­tos for a story. We’ve been in­sep­a­ra­ble since,” says Stærk. “We’ve just launched our col­lec­tion of shoes and eye­wear, and soon jew­ellery, fur­ni­ture, lamps and car­pets will ar­rive.

But small steps.”

In col­lab­o­ra­tion with Aus­tralian brand Pared Eye­wear, who ex­e­cute their de­signs, the eye­wear is a mix of vin­tage shapes, sub­tly over­sized, with modern styling and an or­ganic sil­hou­ette. “We were in­spired by birds in flight, in their free­dom and au­ton­omy. Es­pe­cially the swal­low – one of Den­mark’s birds with flashes of golden colour,” says

Chris­tensen. This col­lab­o­ra­tion has taken her to Syd­ney, which she loved – so much so that she’s hop­ing to re­turn soon. “I’m plan­ning to go back and do noth­ing but surf,” she says. Is she a good surfer? “In my mind I’ve al­ways been great,” she laughs. “I have an ob­ses­sion with the sea. If I’m ner­vous or can’t sleep, I close my eyes and trans­port my­self to the wa­ter. For me, be­ing on the waves is en­light­en­ing.”

Modelling, en­trepreneur­ship... which leaves us with pho­tog­ra­phy – Chris­tensen’s pas­sion long be­fore she be­came a model – to com­plete her cir­cle of pri­mary pur­suits. “I was al­ways fas­ci­nated by pho­to­jour­nal­ism,” she says. “The trip that im­pacted me the most was one I made last year with UNRWA (United Na­tions Re­lief and Works Agency) to the Ukraine. It was il­lu­mi­nat­ing speak­ing with the el­ders who were res­cued, and who still live in the most af­fected ar­eas. This is work that most moves me and that I have been the most com­mit­ted to. I learnt so much trav­el­ling with ex­perts, who helped me cap­ture the most in­ti­mate sto­ries. It was a gift and a priv­i­lege to be able to pho­to­graph it.”

And with that, a com­plete cir­cle.

WHERE TO SLEEP 1 Ho­tel Brook­lyn Bridge

Find modern lux­ury in an im­pres­sive in­dus­trial-style build­ing in Wil­liams­burg, with rooms over­look­ing the Brook­lyn Bridge and the Statue of Lib­erty. There are ham­mocks in the mid­dle of be­d­rooms, a ter­race swim­ming pool and a farm-totable phi­los­o­phy at restau­rant

The Osprey. Have a drink at the lobby lounge – the place of the mo­ment to see and be seen in this bor­ough.

Dou­bles from AED 2,020; 001-347696 2500, 1ho­tels.com

11 Howard

Set in SoHo, this ho­tel boasts de­signs by Space Copen­hagen. The lobby is ideal for co-work­ing and The Blond is a night­club made to mea­sure for the city’s VIPs. You’ll also find Le Coucou here, a fash­ion­able des­ti­na­tion for French cui­sine.

Dou­bles from AED 730; 001-212235 1111, 11howard.com


A bou­tique ho­tel in the Dutch Kills neigh­bour­hood of Long Is­land City, it’s an ideal spot from which to ex­plore Queens. Close to MoMA PS1 and The Noguchi Mu­seum, it also has Beebe’s, a restau­rant with ar­ti­sanal piz­zas by chef Lou Tom­czak, ac­com­pa­nied by mixed drinks and lo­cal hops.

Dou­bles from AED 437; 001-718433 1375, boro­ho­tel.com

Free­hand New York

Af­ter Mi­ami, Chicago and LA, the Free­hand ho­tel chain, known for com­bin­ing the low prices of a hos­tel with the im­pec­ca­ble de­sign of a bou­tique ho­tel, fi­nally set­tles in New York.

Dou­bles from AED 550; 001-212475 1920, free­hand­ho­tels.com

Gramercy Park Ho­tel

Cen­tral yet se­cluded, at this ho­tel red and blue vel­vet dom­i­nates some of the city’s most sump­tu­ous rooms. Art by Basquiat, Warhol and Hirst cov­ers the walls, and all ho­tel guests have ac­cess to Gramercy Park, an ex­clu­sive green oa­sis re­served for the neigh­bour­hood’s res­i­dents. The Rose Bar may just be the most elite wa­ter­ing hole in Man­hat­tan (ru­mour has it Paris Hil­ton has been turned away).

Dou­bles from AED 1,575; 001-866784 1300, gramer­cy­parkho­tel.com

INNSIDE New York No­Mad

This af­ford­able spot is con­ve­niently lo­cated in Chelsea, just three min­utes to Flat­iron and 10 to ei­ther Times Square or the Meat­pack­ing Dis­trict. Func­tional, com­fort­able and con­tem­po­rary, its lo­ca­tion makes it the ideal place from which to ex­plore the city. Some suites have a bonus: views of the Empire State Build­ing.

Dou­bles from AED 918; 001-888956 3542, melia.com

The Mark

The de-facto meet­ing place dur­ing fash­ion week and the Met Gala (a five-minute walk away) thanks to its prime lo­ca­tion on the Up­per East Side. Chef JeanGe­orges Von­gerichten leads the cui­sine at The Mark Restau­rant, de­signed by Jac­ques Grange. If your bud­get al­lows, re­serve the 930sqm pent­house suite, the most ex­pen­sive in Amer­ica.

Dou­bles from AED 2,486; 001-212744 4300, the­markho­tel.com


Where there’s a pool, for­get the rest – at least in Brook­lyn. In this ho­tel, it comes with salt­wa­ter and a rooftop bar.

Dou­bles from AED 569; 001-718-218 7500, mc­car­ren­ho­tel.com



The Wil­liams­burg Ho­tel

Neigh­bour­ing The Wythe and The Wil­liam Vale in Brook­lyn, the rooftop pool is a sum­mer­time hotspot and its dis­tinc­tive look puts it in high hip­ster de­mand. Take ad­van­tage of their tuk-tuk, which will trans­port you around the neigh­bour­hood, and break­fast that’s avail­able un­til 3pm.

Dou­bles from AED 975; 001-718-362 8100, thewil­liams­burgho­tel.com

Ur­ban Cow­boy

With just three rooms, this feels more like a Western-in­spired home than a ho­tel. Po­ten­tial guests fill out a brief ap­pli­ca­tion, with global trav­ellers from the art world tend­ing to fill the spa­ces, en­sur­ing a bo­hemian at­mos­phere with cre­ativ­ity flow­ing. Break­fast in­gre­di­ents are at your dis­posal in the morn­ing so you can cook what­ever you want; later, mix a cock­tail while lis­ten­ing to vinyl records be­fore soak­ing in the Jacuzzi in the back­yard.

Price on re­quest; ur­ban­cow­boy.com


Close to Carnegie Hall and Cen­tral Park, it epit­o­mises vin­tage New York style, with dim light­ing and mixed drinks that re­flect the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of the Twen­ties. Dou­bles from AED 1,418; 001-800-335 9378, west­house­hotel­newyork.com


Helmed by chef Junghyun Park and El­lia Park, this No­Mad restau­rant is cov­eted for Korean tapas-style cui­sine – try the spec­tac­u­lar chicken fried with peanut but­ter, a sub­lime beef tartare or its fa­mous egg with sea urchin, gim (edi­ble seaweed) and heart of palm. Three-course meal from AED 154; 001-646-476 7217, ato­boynyc.com


Ja­panese com­fort food with touches of moder­nity by chef Maiko Kyo­goku. The brunch is an es­sen­tial must-try.

En­trées from AED 70; 001-212-228 8502, bes­sou.nyc

Chi­nese Tuxedo

Opened just last year, it’s al­ready be­ing hailed as Man­hat­tan’s best Chi­nese restau­rant for know­ing how to com­bine luxe in­te­ri­ors in an old two-storey the­atre with an ex­cel­lent kitchen.

En­trées from AED 81; 001-646-895 9301, chi­ne­se­tuxedo.com


Serv­ing con­tem­po­rary Mex­i­can haute cui­sine by chef En­rique Olvera and Daniela Soto-Innes, this is a jewel in the Flat­iron Dis­trict. The duck car­ni­tas and the corn tlayuda are iconic.

En­trées from AED 81; 001-212-913 9659, cos­menyc.com

Empire Diner

The ren­o­vated Chelsea clas­sic from the Seven­ties mim­ics din­ers of yes­ter­year but with hints of moder­nity. Un­der the ba­ton of chef John DeLu­cie, the cui­sine is clas­si­cally Amer­i­can, suit­ing its dé­cor and ori­gins.

En­trées from AED 55; 001-212-335 2277, empire-diner.com

EN Ja­panese Brasserie

An au­then­tic spot in the West Vil­lage, chef Abe Hiroki uses sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents to cre­ate tra­di­tional dishes with a modern eye. Fresh tofu is pre­pared six times nightly, and wagyu, sashimi and ar­ti­sanal Asian spir­its are part of a lengthy menu served in a sleek space.

En­trées from AED 44; 001-212-647 9196, enjb.com

The Four Horse­men

Let’s give it up for Nick Cur­tola, chef of this cosy restau­rant in Brook­lyn, owned by LCD Soundsys­tem’s James Mur­phy.

The dishes are sim­ple and clean yet com­plex in flavour, com­bin­ing Mediter­ranean in­flu­ences with sea­sonal pro­duce. No dish goes be­yond six com­po­nents and the grape menu is ex­cep­tional. En­trées from AED 44; 001-718-599 4900, fourhorse­menbk.com


Broth­ers and sailors Alex and Miles Pin­cus are the own­ers of oys­ter bars Grand Banks, Is­land Oys­ter and Pi­lot, which can be found aboard his­toric ships – the last a nearly cen­tury-old wooden schooner docked at Brook­lyn’s Pier 6.

En­trées from AED 63; 001-917-810 8550, pi­lot­brook­lyn.com


Ja­panese flavours and tech­niques in a venue near Union Square that show­cases the tal­ent of chefs Nick Kim and Jimmy Lau (ex-Masa) with two daily tast­ing menus, omakase or kaiseki.

Set menus from AED 349; 001-212228 6088, shukonyc.com

Spicy Vil­lage

On Forsyth Street, the He­nan-style menu is ex­ten­sive. Sat­isfy your­self with the Spicy Big Tray Chicken with star anise and Sichuan pep­per­corns, and spec­tac­u­lar thick hand­made noo­dles.

En­trées from AED 17; 001-212-625 8299

Una Pizza Napo­le­tana

The per­fec­tion­ist mas­ter of Neapoli­tan piz­zas (he swears that his are even bet­ter than the ones in Naples), An­thony Mang­ieri re­turns from San Fran­cisco to the Lower East Side, mak­ing it the (re)open­ing of the year.

Piz­zas from AED 92; 001-646-692 3475, un­apizza.com

White Gold Butch­ers

On the Up­per West Side, try the Chopped Cheese, a reimag­in­ing of a typ­i­cal re­gional sand­wich with melted cheese, jalapeños and pick­les that’s proved a hit. Sand­wiches from AED 27; 001-212362 8731, white­gold­butch­ers.com

WHAT TO DRINK Amor y Amargo

All the cock­tails are pre­pared in less than one minute and are com­ple­mented by pow­er­ful

ap­pe­tis­ers. The col­lec­tion of spir­its is un­beat­able.

Drinks from AED 55; 001-212-614 6818, amorya­mar­gony.com


At this spot on Eldridge Street, the bar­tender – as if he were a medic – pre­scribes a cock­tail ap­pro­pri­ate to each client’s tastes. Try the famed Peni­cillin drink, a mix­ture of spirit, honey, gin­ger and lemon. Drinks from AED 59; at­taboy.us/nyc


Long live the Eight­ies and ar­cade rooms! Found in Brook­lyn, this space pro­poses guests go “back to the fu­ture”. Per­fect for hip­sters, with a wide range of craft hops. 001-212-390 8455, bar­cade.com


One of the best snack bars in the world, it has a great menu of clas­sic drinks, sev­eral hops on tap, and white and choco­late ver­sions of a ne­groni.

Drinks from AED 40, 001-212-982 5275, dante-nyc.com


The best speakeasy around, hid­den be­hind a tele­phone booth in­side a hot-dog shop. The cock­tails are clas­sic and the fast­food menu com­bined with quirky taxi­dermy dé­cor el­e­vates the place to Olym­pus lev­els of great­ness. Drinks from AED 59; 001-212-614 0386, pdt­nyc.com

Raines Law Room

Its name is a trib­ute to the ho­tels that emerged to by­pass Pro­hi­bi­tion. El­e­gant with a clas­sic spirit, head bar­tender Meaghan Dor­man is con­sid­ered one of the best mixol­o­gists in North Amer­ica. Drinks from AED 59; raines­law­room.com

Voy­ager Es­presso

Tucked away in the Ful­ton

Street sub­way, this fu­tur­is­ti­clook­ing café, de­signed by the Only If ar­chi­tec­ture stu­dio, is a per­fect match for their es­presso made with La Cabra beans from Den­mark.

Drinks from AED 13; 001-212-227 2744, voy­agere­spresso.com


This spot show­cases per­for­mances, read­ings, works of art and over­sized ex­hi­bi­tions dif­fi­cult to fit in other gal­leries. In ad­di­tion to Chelsea, it has a Bea­con head­quar­ters in a for­mer Nabisco fac­tory. di­aart.org

Frank’s Chop Shop

A clas­sic bar­ber shop with hip-hop cred – Drake and Snoop Dogg come here to have their hair cut – on the Lower East Side. Mak­ing an ap­point­ment is a must and if you can score one with

Mr Bee, even bet­ter. 001-212-228 7442, frankschop­shop.com Mmu­se­umm

A new type of mu­seum – in­side an old freight el­e­va­tor – which ex­pands with a net­work of un­ex­pected lo­ca­tions. Ex­plore the modern world through an ex­hi­bi­tion style called “ob­ject jour­nal­ism”.

En­try by do­na­tion; 001-888-763 8839, mmu­se­umm.com

Stan­ley’s Phar­macy

He’s the most trusted phar­ma­cist in the neigh­bour­hood, but he also knows how to party, cel­e­brat­ing with the gilded blinds down, a DJ ta­ble (lo­cated next to his medicine counter) and a list of VIP guests. You can drink en­er­gis­ing and re­vi­tal­is­ing juices, com­pletely nat­u­ral and with­out a drop of spir­its. 001-646-476 9622, stan­leysphar­macy.com

Storm King Art Cen­ter

An open-air mu­seum an hour away, on the out­skirts of the city, with an ex­ten­sive col­lec­tion of giant sculp­tures spread across 200 hectares.

En­try from AED 66; 001-845-534 3115, stormk­ing.org

Ten­e­ment Mu­seum

An ur­ban mu­seum show­cas­ing repli­cas of the homes of im­mi­grants, be­tween the 19th and 21st cen­turies, who set­tled on the Lower East Side in pur­suit of the Amer­i­can dream.

En­try from AED 92; 001-212-982 8420, ten­e­ment.org


C.O. Bigelow

This Green­wich Vil­lage para­phar­macy of yes­ter­year has been re­made for cur­rent times, with a solid cu­ra­tion of the brands sat­u­rat­ing the mar­ket. They also have their own line of beauty prod­ucts, at a good price and with charm­ing pack­ag­ing.

001-212-533 2700, bigelow­chemists.com


The so­cial me­dia beauty brand that went vi­ral and earned plau­dits from celebri­ties has its own show­room now. Their jars are so beau­ti­ful and the prices so af­ford­able that you’ll want to wipe out the shop’s stock.

123 Lafayette St, glossier.com

Man­hat­tan Vin­tage Cloth­ing Show A se­lec­tion of sec­ond-hand clothes at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Pavil­ion with more than 80 ex­hibitors (next edi­tion: Oc­to­ber 19-20). man­hat­tan­vin­tage.com

McNally Jack­son

This ex­quis­ite, in­de­pen­dent book­store in Lower Man­hat­tan in­cludes a sec­tion of spe­cialised mag­a­zines and has an ex­ten­sive se­lec­tion of nov­els and best­sellers. David Bowie lived around the cor­ner. 001-212-274 1160, mc­nal­ly­jack­son.com

From left: A guest room with a ham­mock at 1 Ho­tel Brook­lyn Bridge; theStatue of Lib­erty. Op­po­site: The Wil­liams­burg Ho­tel

Chris­tensen at Empire DinerKi­mono by Funkanova. Body­suit by Stærk & Chris­tensen

The open-air Storm King Art Cen­ter

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