It’s brunch in TriBeCa Café. We’re tucking into buttermilk pancakes, piled high and drenched in maple syrup. Outside, an NYPD cop car is parked up and busy city folk scuttle past, looking as if they've somewhere important to be. The day’s itinerary is shaping up nicely – a healthy dose of modern art, shopping, cocktails in Art Deco splendour, perhaps a show, maybe a speakeasy with moody musicians and an edgy crowd to round it off.
I’m with my friend Isabel on our annual girls’ weekend away, this year we’ve plumped for a Sex and the City-style break. We wanted somewhere fun, cultured, a little bit gritty, with 24-hour energy, cool architecture and great bars. ‘New York?!’ she’d suggested. ‘Hmmm...not a bad idea,’ I replied.
And so here we are, sipping our flat whites and wondering whether we’ve space for the Williamsburg, a smoked salmon and scrambled eggs combo.
But here’s the thing; we’re not in New York, We’re in Glasgow! Yep, Glasgow – on a mission to have an NYC experience without leaving the UK. ‘Why fly across the Atlantic when we could jump on a train?’ I’d reasoned. ‘We’d save money and have just as good a time...wouldn’t we?’ As doubt begins to creep in, I’m relieved that TriBeCa’s owner David Macdonald, a half-Glaswegian, half-American thirty something who spent years in the Big Apple, doesn’t laugh at our plans. ‘This place is like the cafés on Ninth Avenue,’ he says, ‘And the people have a lot in common – there’s a misconception that Glaswegians head butt people for a living...but like New Yorkers we’re just a bit tough on the surface, with a soft centre.’
Brunch complete, it’s time to do what any self-respecting visitor to New York would do (well, any female visitor, at least) – hit the shops. Glasgow may not have the favourable exchange rate, but when it comes to shopping it’s a sport the Scots take seriously.
If you like your shopping a little less mainstream, the West End is where it’s at. Like New York’s Lower East Side it’s crammed with independent stores and has a boho vibe. We browse vintage shops such as Starry Starry Night (all bright green façade and spilling flower boxes), second-hand record store Play it Again, De Courcey’s retro arcade and Ruthen Mews, chock-a-block with antiques. Brooklyn-style delis and cafés such as Kember and Jones Byres Road offer respite and great coffee.