It’s the land of the rich and famous. It’s where you can stand elbow to elbow with celebrities. It’s a glimpse into a life I know utterly nothing about. So throw on your Manolo Blahniks because we are headed South of Houston!
On our way into town, I had to stop at Astor Place to pay my respects to Sudan, the very last male White Rhino in the world. He had passed only days before and in his death, any hope of rebuilding their population died with him. This imposing statue is of three stacked rhinos– the very last of their kind. It was installed in an effort to bring awareness to the plight of the rhino, which will soon be extinct due to poaching and habitat loss. It was a rainy somber day, which was very fitting for saying goodbye to such a majestic creature. I touched my hand to his bronze horn and silently apologized for failing his species on such an epic level.
We were only a few blocks from our hotel, The SOHO Grand. We both laughed as we pulled up because the Best Friends adoption center was right across the street. My husband was certain that I had planned it, but I swear I didn’t!
The SOHO Grand is a trendy boutique hotel with a perfect location for exploring the area. It had an almost romantic feel with the low lights and floor to ceiling curtains. There is an excellent restaurant, which we had breakfast and lunch in and would highly recommend. The room was very clean and roomy in comparison to most NYC hotels, which usually leave you just enough room to side step down the side of the bed in order to get into it. New York is the city that never sleeps and unfortunately that means you won’t sleep much either. We were on the 6th floor and for a country girl used to listening to crickets and tree frogs at night, the noise was incessant. I never sleep well in the city but it had nothing to do with the hotel itself. Although the pup was not with us on this trip, it turns out that the hotel is very dog friendly and even has it’s own dog park!
When I was researching what to do in SOHO, all I could really come up with were places to eat and drink as well as art galleries to peruse. I can get down with that, so that’s basically what we planned to do. It’s a very artsy area and I will tell you right now I know nothing about art, but there were two galleries that I really enjoyed and was very impressed with.
The first was the Paul Nicklen Gallery on West Broadway. His wildlife photography is phenomenal. He has worked for National Geographic and has been awarded the coveted BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year award. He uses his photography to tell the stories of animal living in the uninhabitable areas of the world which are inaccessible to most. He works in very harsh environments such as the arctic to help promote conservation. My absolute favorite photograph is of a brown bear walking out of the forest in the rain. It’s my dream to own that picture one day. There is another shot of a polar bear peeking into the window of his cabin. He was able to snap a photo just before it tore the place apart. Then there is the mystical spirit bear of which there are only 200 left. Or the polar bear swimming under an iceberg. Each photograph is more amazing than the next. I know nothing about art, but this man has raw talent. I really recommend watching his TED talk where he not only reveals his latest photography project but also tells the story of his experience of swimming, yes swimming, with leopard seals, which were once a feared sea predator. His footage of a female leopard seal trying to force feed him a penguin proves otherwise.
The second gallery to note is the Wild Horses of Sable Island Gallery, which tells the story of the herd of wild horses that live on a tiny wind-swept island off the coast of Nova Scotia. It is such an interesting story because Sable Island itself is a small strip of land held together by two crossing currents. It is believed that the horses swam to shore after a shipwreck. There is no development on the island and the only people who live there is a person to man the lighthouse and a few scientists looking at how intimately connected these living systems are. Other than that, it is just a herd of 500 horses. They are not fed by people, given veterinary care or managed in any way. Roberto Dutesco’s photography of these rugged animals is simply stunning. I love his photos of the horses with their long-lashed eyes peeking out from behind their shaggy bangs. There is really no better symbol of freedom than a wild stallion running down a beach, waves crashing at its legs.
Roberto was kind enough to host a fundraiser for our charity, International Animal Rescue. There were many photographs on display, all donated by different artists. The event was a huge success and we hope to do it again. Alec Baldwin and his wife, Hilaria came by looking totally fabulous. Hilaria was 9 months pregnant and was rockin 5 inch heels. I could barely walk in my not-so-high heels and I am far from pregnant. At the end of the night, I hobbled home and crashed. We were so excited about the prospect of sleeping in since the kids were not with us, but I was up at 6:00 on the dot as usual.
We needed some fresh air, so we went for a walk to cross the Brooklyn Bridge, which had always been on my bucket list. It was about a 20 minute walk from our hotel to the bridge and then it takes another 20 minutes to walk the bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge is such an iconic symbol of New York City. It was crazy to be walking on a wooden bridge through the middle of a major interstate. Best of all, the view of the city from the middle of the bridge is pretty spectacular. Just heed this warning: don’t drift into the bike lane. The bikers are worse than the yellow cabbies!
After all that walking, we headed to the Dominique Ansel Bakery to try the world renowned cronut, which is a hybrid of a croissant and a doughnut. Have some insulin ready because you can literally feel your body developing diabetes as you eat it. I couldn’t even eat half of one. We also got hot chocolate to help us warm up and that tasted like they just melted a chocolate bar in a cup. Yummy- but I couldn’t only handle a few sips. They have some other interesting desserts like a cookie in the shape of a shot glass served with cold-infused Tahitian vanilla milk or frozen s’mores served on a willow branch.
Of course I had to visit the Best Friends Adoption Center on West Broadway. It was pretty incredible that they could fit as many dogs and cats into an area the size of a Starbucks and by doing so, save the lives of hundreds of animals each year. They showcase adoptable dogs and cats pulled from municipal shelters that would otherwise be euthanized. The bright, cheery space is far from the feel of a city pound. The cats are in a cage free environment, there are about 10 dog rooms and even a neonatal unit for newborn kittens that need to be nursed every two hours around the clock. It is very sweet to watch their caretakers bottle-feed these helpless babies. They also have a photo booth and a gift store if you want some swag. Have a visit, buy some stuff and help them reach their mission of a no-kill nation by the year 2025.
We had a great time in the city, but I have to admit that I can breathe deeper the further I get from the city. I can only do small stints there. It normally takes us 3.5 hours to get home and this time it took us 6 brutal hours to get home, the traffic was so bad. But all in all, it was a great time and I couldn’t imagine staying anywhere else other than the SOHO Grand.