Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Quick trip to The Big Apple

A few weeks ago, I went to New York for 3.5 days again. I had some meetings with my PR agency, a couple of press interviews (read an interview with Fast Company here) and then a whole-day press event together with a couple of US colleagues. The PR agency also took me out to dinner at Asia de Cuba, a fabulous and trendy restaurant with a fusion of Asian-Cuban cuisine. As I walked in they played salsa music and kept doing so the whole time we were there, so I felt right at home. :-)

View over Lower West Side from one of my press interviews – Ground Zero where the Twin Towers once stood are to the bottom left of the picture

On this June trip, I was staying at the Sheraton Manhattan near Times Square with a short walking distance to my PR agency. I flew in already during the weekend so I could meet some friends and go salsa dancing. New York is fabulous for that!

I went to Greenwich Village – usually shortened to “the Village” by New Yorkers – to have dinner with my Swedish friend Vinay who has moved to New York and one of my On2 salsa friends, Marlon. We met for a drink at Sushi Samba on 7th Avenue and Bleeker Street. This was a hip restaurant with a sushi kitchen in the middle where everyone can see, a trendy bar with good cocktails being served and modern music coming out of the speakers. It was very crowded and the waiting line for a table was over an hour so we gave up and walked around in the West Village until we found a good Italian restaurant called Morandi who could seat us after some wine and a starter at the bar. The food was excellent, as was the wine and service. This was a very good pick in a quiet area on Charles Street / Waverly Place, away from all the traffic on the bigger avenues. The West Village felt like the narrow streets in some Southern European town, not like the hectic Manhattan. New York is full of surprises.

Vinay was tired after many travels so I accompanied Marlon to someone’s birthday party at the dance studio where he teaches mambo and ballroom dances. There was an interesting mix of people, mostly dancers of various styles.

I had Sunday brunch with Vinay. We walked up on 7th Avenue to Columbus Circle and Central Park West and found a restaurant that served pancakes and some sort of wine cooler which was a mix of melon (or was it orange? I can’t remember anymore) and Champagne, apparently very popular among New Yorkers this summer.

7th Avenue

Monument at Columbus Circle

Vinay and I went for a walk in Central Park in the afternoon. It was a hot summer’s day with sunny weather and lots of activity in the park. First, we sat down to watch a couple of Sunday afternoon baseball games. I am not familiar with all the rules but was intrigued by the passion that all the locals poured into this game. Baseball is such a natural part of regular Americans’ life but we don’t have this sport in Sweden other than among some elitist sportsmen who see it as a more advanced form of the Swedish “brännboll”.

Baseball in Central Park

We went for a stroll in the park, saw the regular horses and carriages with tourists (one of these days I’m going to take a ride myself; it seems like a comfortable way of exploring central New York and the vast Central Park) and passed beach volleyball courts, various drummers and jugglers drawing attention from the Sunday strollers. We went to see the Central Park Dance Skaters, meaning people on rollerblades dancing with their own DJ spinning old-school disco tunes. This was an interesting phenomenon. I suppose that some people might compare it with salsa fanatics like me who attend Sunday salsa socials and get totally absorbed by the music, rhythms and sweat like pigs. Some of these dance skaters have made their own “disco costumes” and show off their dance moves with a series of skating routines, spins and even couples’ dancing. Quite fun to watch – until you get sick and tired of the same beat / tempo of the music and have to move on to greener pastures.

Central Park

Every second Sunday evening, there is Jimmy Anton’s salsa social at the Manhattan Dance Studio. I was lucky to be in the city on the right week, because this is one of the best salsa nights you can get in New York City. I had barely walked in and put on my dance shoes when I was lucky to be invited to dance by Angel Ortiz from Stepping Out Studios. He’s a well-known international instructor, on occasion arranging events where Eddie Torres, the king of mambo from Latin Dance Studio, gives classes. I had a fabulous night with many great dances. The tempo (and temperature) is high at Jimmy Anton’s and you need to drink lots of water to be able to keep up the energy. I am already looking forward to next time in New York. But I suspect I will meet at least some of the same dancers at this summer’s salsa congresses, which some of my next blogs are likely to cover. So stay tuned.

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