If you’re heading to New York, I guess it’s pretty obvious to state that you should have a bit of money with you. Not wads in the wallet, mind you, but some cash – and a credit card wouldn’t hurt either.

During my recent trip back to the city, I found out how much can be accomplished (and bought) without going into overdraft. No, correction: I DID go into overdraft – but only because I just couldn’t stop myself. Hopefully you’ll behave better than I did.

My nicest surprise was the hotel I treated myself to for a few days. In the past, my preference was always to stay on the Upper West Side. That’s where I lived for many years and it remained my favorite place in Manhattan. Sorry to say, that might have changed. My new love is the Grammercy Park/Flatiron District. Just like Elie, the character in my book – Menopause in Manhattan – I love its bustling atmosphere, variety of stores, beautiful parks and outstanding architecture.

When I decided to slip away to a hotel for a few days I checked out boutique hotels in all of Manhattan. Upper West to Lower East – I was open to everything. I chose Hotel Giraffe, basically because they were so nice – their email back to me could not have been sweeter. And their on-line photos made the place look gorgeous. Well… both impressions were right on. The staff is amazing and the place is truly fabulous. Not over the top or glitzy, not minimalist to the point of being monastic, just well-designed, warm and welcoming. Their website describes them as “a luxurious urban oasis offering a rare balance of excitement and tranquility.” It’s true. From Director of Sales Jayla to Front Desk Manager Asim to the smiling, friendly staff in the lobby serving the buffet breakfast and Cocktail Hour drinks and snacks – they’re all to be commended. It was very hard to leave the Hotel Giraffe.

Although my trip to NYC was to attend the Book Expo America and to promote my newly published book, there was no way I could not give in to the shopping paradise that is New York. How? From the clothes to the electronics to the jewelry to food to great sales to street fairs to street food – it all has to be experienced.

The place for cameras and such? B and H. Don’t even bother with anyplace else. They’re the best.

Costume jewelry? I discovered Stephan & Co. at 2 West 23rd St. Great stuff, inexpensive prices, adorable sales staff.

Handbags/Travel Bags – Although I love my Kipling bag with all its pockets and zippers and compartments, the color is hot pink – and I’m kind of over that. New love? Baggalini! I found them at The Container Store – and on sale! I am so addicted now – strong fabric, plenty of pockets and compartments, great colors – lots of styles. Bought a tote and then went back and bought the small cross-body “Uptown Bagg.”

Clothes – First discovery was Liberty House on 112th and Broadway. Yes, its a schlep getting up there, but get over it – once you’re there, you won’t want to leave. I spent about two hours in the shop, fell in love with the owner Cathy and her assistant, bought lovely linen pants and jacket – which was exactly what I was looking for – and left them with two of my books as a present.

It always pays to walk in Manhattan – you’ll never know what you’ll find. Next amazing discovery was Rootchi, located at Broadway and 99th Street. OH MY GOD! What clothes! They’re affiliated with the Lauren Vidal line  – elegant, flowing, architectural, strong. Loved them. Loved the salesperson who kept the store open for me. I’m a fan!

Shoes – If you have less than perfect feet, if after an hour of walking your toes are crying – check out Harry’s on the Upper West Side (Broadway & 83rd). A bastion of comfortable, well-made shoes for women, men and children. Warning – you will find no Jimmy Choo, Christian Louboutin or Manolo Blahniks here – but for those – you sure don’t need me.

Restaurants: I’m always amazed by the eateries cropping up all over the city. You never have to hungry in this place! But do beware – those chain cafe places might not be as inexpensive as they seem. I loaded up my plate with salad from the tempting salad bar at Mangia and ended up with a whopping $12 bill.

First great find was 44 x 10 – yup, that’s the name. Exactly on 10th Avenue and 44th Street in Hells Kitchen. Great food, outdoor eating area where you can people-watch, close to Times Square and Javits Center. And what a bathroom!

A lovely little place in the Village was North Square, on Waverly, near Washington Square Park. My friend asked me not to mention it, its her favorite neighborhood joint and she doesn’t want it to get too crowded. Oh well, hope she doesn’t read this.

Dos Caminos on Park Avenue South &  27th – always a favorite if you’re into Mexican, young and pulsating. Fun place, Margarita-ville! Part of the BR Guest family of restaurants – admittedly I’m partial to them.

Big Daddy’s is just what you think it would be – diner all the way. Located at Park Avenue South & 19th – great breakfast!

Blue Water Grill – another of the BF Guest restaurants. And I have a confession to make. When I wrote the part about Walter inviting Elie to join him at his favorite restaurant on the corner of Union Square & 16th, I meant this restaurant. But I mistakenly wrote Union Square Cafe. Not that USC isn’t good, its just that I had imagined this big fabulous space with Walter sitting at his corner table, talking to Elie with one hand on his martini. Oh well, serves me right for being out of New York for so long. Got to go back here with a friend – and still loved it.

Of course I had to make my way over to Bloomingdales – “like no other store in the world.” What can I say – it’s the Holy of Holies. And Times Square? Wow – has it changed! Of course The Plaza, FAO and the fabulous Apple store there – with its huge silver apple hovering over 5th Avenue.

Best find – one evening my friend and I were searching for a local place we could go to (since Hotel Giraffe was our home base, we wanted something nearby). There is no dearth of restaurants in the Grammery/Flatiron district, but still… we wanted something special. I had a feeling about Barbounia – mostly because of the name – which is Hebrew for Red Mullet. What a surprise! Huge, welcoming space, beautifully decorated, open kitchen, tons of seating, fabulous Mediterranean menu. Best of all it turns out I knew the chef! I met Efi Nahon a few years ago in another place, and here he is – executive chef! Food was, as expected, yummy. Wonderfully creative, everything fresh and Med inspired.

So… what else is new about New York? The fact that some streets have been partially taken over by pedestrian seating areas (near Macy’s for instance). Not a hit with the taxi drivers, but an interesting update. Times Square? Disneyland for young and old. Can you imagine a store for just M&M’s? A store dedicated to Reese Peanut Butter Cups? Hello? There are discount pharmacies on every street – just blink and you’ll open your eyes to CVS, Duane Reed or Walgreens. Discount clothing outlets – yup – right there in the Big Apple! And while you wait on those long check-out lines, demarcated by snaking stanchions, you’ll be exposed to yet more stuff to buy – all neatly (or not so neatly) piled onto shelving units set up to entice buyers as they approach the cash registers.

Ah, New York. What a shoppers paradise. There’s no place like it in the world!