Travel: Essential London, from the outside looking in: Reggie Nadelson introduces a two-page guide to the capital at Easter by offering an Anglophile New Yorker's view of the city and a perfect weekend in it. Overleaf, London on a shoestring

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The Independent Travel
LONDON holds a special and enduring appeal for many New Yorkers which, in part at least, explains the appeal of Wendy Wasserstein's play The Sisters Rosensweig, which opened on Broadway on 17 March. In it is a version of London beloved of, and frequented by, hardcore Anglophiles. It is a city built around 'name' department stores, famous shopping precincts, prestigious hotels, grand restaurants and designer labels - all carrying the stamp of a certain kind of Englishness.

Wasserstein herself stayed in London in the summer of 1987: 'I was living in a room in Nell Gwynn house in Chelsea. I could write by day and go to the theatre by night.' She was well-placed to lay bare a city - as she does in her play - in which Americans have traditionally acquired instant ancestors in Bond Street galleries and a second skin at Burberrys.

Sisters is about the dislocations of travel, families, eating, Jews and shopping and takes place during the reunion of three Jewish sisters from New York at the house of the eldest, Sara. She lives in posh South Kensington with her candelabra from Asprey and limited-edition Susie Cooper china. Scattered through the house and the dialogue are Turnbull & Asser shirts, Manolo Blahnik shoes, Claridge's, Harrods, chocolate- covered wheatmeal biscuits, the Cutty Sark, Muriel Spark, Glyndebourne and tea at Fortnum & Mason.

Sara is as remote from her Jewish roots in Brooklyn as the cassoulet she cooks. She has English wallpaper with cabbage roses and a daughter named Tess (after Tess of the D'Urbervilles) at Westminster public school. Tess is more interested in her boyfriend, Tom, a working-class lad from Liverpool with whom she intends joining the revolution in Lithuania.

Confronted with the Rosensweig sisterhood, Tom, ingenuous, eventually asks, 'What's a Benjamin Disraeli?' Replies one of the sisters: 'A famous Jewish philanthropist. He founded Harrods department store.'

Then there is Dr Gorgeous. Gorgeous Rosensweig is suburban Boston's favourite radio agony aunt (Call Dr Gorgeous). For her, life is a department store where the intrepid shopper can get what she needs to fix her life if she truly searches. She is in London guiding the Temple Beth El Sisterhood - the ladies of her synagogue - round the Crown Jewels.

'I schlepped 20 ladies through Harrods and up and down Sloane Street . . . Mrs Hershkovitz . . . everywhere she goes she has to have Wedgwood clocks, Wedgwood bells, Wedgwood napkin-holders . . .'

So the play continues, deconstructing the quintessential Anglophile's London. And while the enthusiasms of her characters owe much to Wendy Wasserstein's own experiences, they do not always coincide with her own fantasy weekend as she described it to me: 'I would stay at Claridge's, although I would settle for cocktails there with those little twisty things, what do you call them? (Twiglets). Breakfast would be at Fortnum's, followed by a little shop. I'd buy a gift at Czech & Speake, also the shampoo at Harris in Jermyn Street. Then a walk through the park towards Harvey Nichols, which I would go to rather than Harrods. I'd cruise Harvey Nichols, walk down Sloane Street to Walton Street followed by lunch at Le Suquet.

'After lunch I might go to the National for a matinee. If so, I'd have tea at the Savoy. Otherwise it would be back to Claridge's for a little snooze. In the evening I'd go to dinner at somebody's house, or another play and dinner afterwards at Le Caprice or possibly the Ivy or the Red Fort.

'This would be followed by a day on South Molton and New Bond Street. Browns with a sale on is a really good place. The women's department in Fortnum's is good, too, because it's always empty. Buying books is essential and Hatchards an important stop. Finally, of course, I would go to the Dorchester spa, where they have an anti-jet lag machine. Oh, yes, something cashmere. A little cashmere is always a good thing.'

. . . but if you want to escape to Manhattan

AT LEAST once a week I receive calls from friends: we're coming to New York, they cry: 'Where should we shop, eat, stay, what's happening, is blue food in or out and is anyone still drinking spritzers?'

Advice on such critical matters usually has to be tailored a little to the traveller in question, but what if I could plan my perfect New York weekend? What if, no (reasonable) expense spared, I could do whatever I wanted in my home town, the only city where I have never stayed in a hotel?

I would get an early flight from London on Friday morning, so I would be in town in time for lunch. In my fantasy, I stay at the Carlyle Hotel on 76th and Madison in a suite with a view of Central Park. The weather is Gershwin-tune perfect and all my favourite friends are in town. As my mother once said, why have economy in fantasy?

Beginning with a stroll around the New Little Italy - Madison Avenue - we would then go to Coco Pazzo for a late lunch and eat lots of fantastic antipasta. After a trip to Boyd's Pharmacy for some obscure but interesting make-up tool - this is the world's greatest drugstore - I go back to the Carlyle, sit in the bathtub, talk on the telephone, check out New York Magazine and head downtown.

Dinner is at Raoul's on Prince Street, in a booth at the back. It starts with a dry martini straight up, made with Bombay gin and at least four olives (New York is in the middle of a martini frenzy). Then bar steak and french fries and salad. Drift back uptown early as jet lag sets in.

On Saturday I might stop at the new costume institute at the Metropolitan Museum, then drop into Barney's and over to Union Square for the green market.

Then I eat a tuna club or a smoked black Angus steak sandwich and french fries at the Union Square cafe around two - the only time you can get a table for Saturday lunch unless you have booked weeks in advance. I also pig out on the tart with banana ice-cream at Union Square.

Feeling expansive, maybe I get a cab to Century 21 on Vesey Street to buy something for a guy I know - Perry Ellis white boxer shorts, the odd Armani off the rack at big discounts. Then back to Canal Street for a Prada quilted bag at dollars 60 and a dead ringer for the dollars 600 version in Barneys. At Dean & DeLuca, I pick up a pound of white chocolate almond bark dusted with 24-carat gold and, at Joe's Dairy on Sullivan Street, a pound of freshly smoked mozzarella.

What I do on Saturday night revolves around Frank Sinatra, who is playing Radio City Music Hall. Before Frank, there's drinks at the Rainbow Room bar on top of the RCA building. After Frank, Italian food at Remi on 53rd Street.

On Sunday, I take the ferry to Ellis Island, stop off on Grand Street to buy great Italian linens cheap at Harris Levy on Grand Street and at S & W on 26th and 7th for a Calvin Klein cashmere coat, half-price.

Lunch is at Canton in China Town and then I head uptown for, what else, a matinee at 3pm of The Sisters Rosensweig. This is followed by a martini at the Royalton Hotel, dinner at the brand new Follonico at 24th and 5th (eat a pasta with mushrooms called Tajarin) and on to the Blue Note on 3rd Street, the city's best jazz club for the ll. 30pm show. There, of course, the Modern Jazz Quartet is playing Gershwin.

(Photograph omitted)

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