Ever wanted a New Yorker’s opinion on something? Where to go? How to avoid everyone? Where to find hidden spots? This week in the New York on My Mind interview series, My New York, owner of retro-cool Catskills escape, The Arnold House, Kirsten Harlow-Foster inspires us to take time to walk around the West Village and tells us about an unexpected museum hidden inside a bank.
When I am not in the Catskills, where my heart truly lies, my home is in the West Village!
What do you love most about your neighbourhood?
I love the fact that the West Village is small and quaint in nature, offering a respite from an otherwise busy and chaotic city. No matter how many times I walk the same streets, I always seem to discover something new and inspiring. There are so many great restaurants, bars, stores, amazing butchers and food purveyors. Plus, it’s so close to the river, where I love to walk with my trusty four-legged sidekick Addie (our English Bulldog).
What’s your favourite time of year in the city?
The fall is probably my favourite time of year in the city – the weather has cooled, but not enough to scare hearty New Yorkers away from sipping a glass of wine at their favourite sidewalk café. And after a long and hot summer, I can’t wait to break out my favourite boots and leather jacket for a change in wardrobe! With everyone returning from the summer, the city also feels abuzz with new energy that I thrive on.
Best brunch spot?
Brunch – what’s that? Hah, just kidding – I used to LOVE brunch – now I spend nearly every weekend up in the Catskills where we love a big hearty breakfast, but brunch is a foreign concept. By mid-day, I am either in the fields nearby to The Arnold House (below), on the lake or struggling to revive Rosita, my trusty ATV.
I love discovering people in the city, and what they are up to. There is always an incredibly creative and ambitious soul somewhere nearby pursuing their dream, and being able to witness even a small glimpse of this always inspires me. I often come across this on my walks along the river, where one often encounters the lone writer, photographer, birder or such. NY is filled with such an eclectic mix of artists so whenever I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with my current juggling of life, watching others pursue their passion always inspires me to keep plugging along.
Best meal ever?
While not directly in the West Village – but a short stroll away – my hands-down favourite meal last year was at Winter on Park Avenue South. I had their dover sole with lots of browned butter. It was perfect. I still dream about it.
There’s a great little shop near my apartment called Darling. It’s a small boutique with a beautiful selection of clothing and jewellery upstairs, and great vintage finds downstairs. Best of both worlds. I never leave empty handed!
Building you’d most love to live in?
There are these fabulous carriage houses tucked into quiet tree-lined streets of my neighbourhood that I dream of living in! I imagine all of the history that they have witnessed and the beautiful details from their past that have been carefully preserved.
City’s most overlooked site?
I’m partial because I work there, but I would say the Federal Reserve Bank of New York building. I am struck by its beauty and strength. Its design – inspired by Italian palazzos such as the Pitti Palazzo and the Vecchio Palazzo, offers a stark contrast to the steel and glass high rises of its neighbouring buildings. It has a wonderful museum that is worth a visit – and the gold tours are a lot of fun (though not for the claustrophobic!). Because of the sheer weight of the gold, the vault lies about 80 feet below street level – 50 feet below sea level – directly on Manhattan’s bedrock.
My mani/pedi and massage place. It’s a total hole in the wall, but I leave there primped and much more relaxed than I started. It’s clean and entirely bare bones and functional – something I really appreciate! And the masseuse works absolute magic on my back. And I love that there are never any lines – so I am going to keep this one a secret!
What would you do as Mayor?
Continue to encourage the great biking culture that is developing in the city – but offer some free classes for bikers on the rules of the road – and how they actually apply to them as well! I’ve had a lot of near misses from bikers driving the wrong way on one-way streets, ignoring traffic lights and threatening the safety of pedestrians – and cars.
How would you spend a spare afternoon?
A spare afternoon? What’s that!?! I would spend it curled up on the couch with my wonderful husband, our English bulldog Addie and our cat Sophia. Addie and Sophia are great cuddlers, and now that I am pregnant, they both seem to want to be as close to my belly as possible. So cute – it warms my heart and gets me excited about our growing family!
Best thing a taxi driver has said to you
You look like a movie star. (And yes, I did give him a bigger tip for that!)
What inspires you about New York City?
Everything! Its energy, its grit, its authenticity, its history and its culture. And of course, its proximity to the Catskills and our place, The Arnold House (below).
Craziest thing about living in the city?
That I can be all primped up with a dress, heels and the latest fabulous handbag that my husband gave me (if it weren’t for him, I’d be utterly out of fashion all the time!) in the morning, and wearing my ripped up jeans and boots and out on the farm by the afternoon. It seems that maybe, a girl can have it all!
A word of advice for tourists…
Walk faster, don’t just look up, look around. And sure there are great things to see in midtown… but spend most of your time downtown, where the history of the city is so rich. And don’t be afraid of a little grit – if its too polished and white washed, its probably not authentic to NY!
Thanks for talking to us Kirsten.
Find out about The Arnold House, here.