Quick Weekend in NYC, RebeccaWanderlusting

A Quick Weekend in NYC

All day at work on the day I was due to leave for NYC, I checked the weather and my flight status constantly.  I had friends that were flying out of O’Hare that same day were texting me that their flights had been cancelled.  There was a huge winter storm brewing on the East Coast, and any flights in and out of New York were getting cancelled left and right.  At 4:00pm, I left work to hop on the blue line to the airport, hoping for the best.

I got to O’Hare and saw that every flight before and after mine had been cancelled, but mine hadn’t yet – it was still on schedule.  I was convinced this trip wasn’t happening, so I went to McDonald’s (the best airport food, don’t judge me) to drown my sorrows in french fries and chicken nuggets.  The customer service desk for United had a line that stretched almost the whole length of the terminal, full of angry customers on cellphones.  When it was about time to board, the flight was still on time and they began the process of opening the gate and letting on families.  Apparently we were on a smaller plane, which would be better to navigate the storm with.  I didn’t feel overly confident about my safety but I got on the plane anyways.

The whole flight was normal up until the last half hour, which was very, very turbulent. We landed safely (thank goodness), and I hopped in a cab right away, headed towards Harlem.  My cousin, Gracie, was hosting me for the weekend, and she greeted me with Spanish rice and beer; she knows me so well.  We caught up on our lives and listened to music until I was too sleepy to keep my eyes open.

Weekend Trip to NYC, RebeccaWanderlusting

We woke up at a leisurely pace the next morning and had bagels at home before heading out for the day.  We took the subway from Harlem to Union Square, where we ran directly into a puppy truck full of dogs up for adoption.  We couldn’t resist stopping to pet the little fluff pups. There was one particular little ball of love that I wanted to take home with me.  He liked me too, I know it. We went into Innisfree and we got a ton of sheet masks and some free samples, which was amazing because there is no Innisfree in Chicago.

Next, we walked to the Wing in Flatiron, where Gracie works.  It’s a women’s only club and coworking space and it is heavenly.  There were walls of books organized by color and plush, pink sofas and armchairs.  They had a little cafe, where we got some coffee and avocado toast.  We got to sneak up onto the roof to take in the view, which was lovely, of course.  Later, we would visit one of their other locations, in Soho, which was bigger and even more beautiful, if that’s even possible.  Both locations were little oases of calm and pastel perfection.

The Wing, NYC, RebeccaWanderlusting

The Wing, NYC, RebeccaWanderlusting

We also made a stop into The Strand, which is one of my favorite places in NYC.  It’s a wonderland of new and used books.  We wandered through the stacks and shelves and picked out a few titles.  I got “Nocturnes” by Kazuo Ishiguro and a tiny little t-shirt for my niece and Gracie got a couple of books too.  After we made our purchases, Gracie led me to one of her favorite ramen places in the city: Ramen Thukpa for a late lunch.  It definitely lived up to the hype.  We each got a Sapporo and a big bowl of ramen, which we slurped contentedly.  The restaurant was pretty small, and the staff was super nice and attentive. We had to sit for a while after we finished because we were so full.

Ramen Thukpa, NYC, RebeccaWanderlusting

We went to the other location of the Wing to have a cocktail and sit, read and regroup for a while before we headed out for the night.  It was nice to be able to relax and freshen up there!  We were meeting a couple friends for dinner at Kiki’s in Chinatown.  On our way there, we wound up stopping into a pop-up gallery and were greeted with Brooklyn Lagers and a pamphlet on the artist.  I wish I could say who it was, but, to be completely frank, I didn’t write it down and it’s been too long since my visit to try to find out.  Regardless, the gallery was a treat for all senses: gravel paths led through a field of turf with Chinese statues sprinkled throughout.  It smelled like fresh-cut grass.  On the walls, collages made of gold and silver chains spelled out sayings on mirrors.  It was really fun to experience.

Art Gallery, NYC, RebeccaWanderlusting

Art Gallery, NYC, RebeccaWanderlusting

Kiki’s is a wonderful, cozy Greek restaurant; we met our friends Mike and Christy there for dinner.  There was a little bit of a wait for a table, but it wasn’t too bad.  We ordered a liter of red wine and some small plates: fava bean paste, tzatziki sauce, moussaka, roasted chicken and grilled octopus.  The food was SO GOOD! I always love Greek food, but this place was exceptional.  We had a truly lovely dinner and conversation.  Kiki’s will be on my list to try again next time I’m in the city for sure.

After we finished our meal, we went to a bar called Rocka Rolla in Williamsburg.  It was the perfect place: cheap beer, a good jukebox and a big booth just for us.  The beer was served in huge goblets, and after a few of them, I decided Gracie and I NEEDED matching Rocka Rolla t-shirts, so I bought us each one.  We held court in our booth for the majority of the evening, and more and more friends joined us.  We drank and danced until it was almost closing time.  Then Gracie and I took a cab home and got a pizza to split on our way.

Weekend in NYC, RebeccaWanderlusting

The next morning, we were both feeling pretty rough, but I made us go out and get breakfast anyways.  After a walk around Harlem, we ended up at The Grange, where we drank every liquid they put in front of us and ate in silence.  I had french toast and bacon, and the bacon was so dang good.  It was a little overpriced, but that’s what we get for choosing a hip brunch spot in Harlem I guess.  After breakfast, Gracie and I went to see the Royal Tenenbaums house, which was just down the street, and then she walked home and left me to explore Harlem on my own.  I was grateful for a chance to see this slice of NYC that I hadn’t experienced yet.

Weekend in NYC, RebeccaWanderlusting

Harlem, NYC, ReneccaWanderlusting

My first stop was the Apollo Theater, which weirdly enough, was in a trip of outlet stores and fast food restaurants.  I wanted to see this place where so many of my favorite musicians performed, but unfortunately the tours are by appointment only, so I had to settle for seeing the lobby and taking photos of the marquee.  I sang some Aretha Franklin in my head and moved on.

Apollo Theater, Harlem, NYC, ReneccaWanderlusting

I walked a little south to see what I could see and was delighted to find a lovely strip of cafes, restaurants and apartments that I would love to move right into.  I stopped into Double Dutch to get a latte to keep me going.  It was such a cute little coffee shop, but it was absolutely packed so I took mine to go.  The coffee was delicious, but I chugged it so I could go into a restaurant (Harlem Tavern) where live music was playing.  I sat and had a glass of wine at the bar to listen, which was a lovely way to spend an hour.

Harlem, NYC, ReneccaWanderlusting

Harlem, NYC, ReneccaWanderlusting

When the band finished their set, I decided to take another walk around the neighborhood before heading back to Gracie’s apartment.  We took the train together to Soho because she had to work that evening.  I walked her there and then went to Canal Street Market on her suggestion to get something to eat before my flight.  I perused the small vendor’s goods and grabbed a bibimbap from the Korean food counter.  I sat in the common area to enjoy it – which I did with gusto!  It was delicious.  I cabbed it to La Guardia from there and reluctantly went home.  Every time I come to NYC, I have to bribe myself with another visit to get on the plane home.  One of these days, I’ll just move there already, but until then, I’ll always look forward to the next visit.

Soho, NYC, RebeccaWanderlusting

Have you been to New York? Which is your favorite NYC neighborhood?

I Love You, New York

I Love You, New York

I love New York in more than a souvenir t-shirt kind of way. Every time I’m lucky enough to take a long weekend in the Big Apple, I want to extend it for…forever.  I recently returned from one such trip to a vacation hangover so rough that I still can’t stomach it.  We arrived on a Friday at 3:30pm and took a cab straight to the hotel, in Midtown.  Of course we stayed at the Peninsula, because… I am not one to turn my cheek to employee discounts.  We checked in, dropped off our bags and went out on the town. Papillion, New York City We walked down 5th Avenue and around in a loop past Rockefeller Center and the fancy shops and wound up in a café named Papillion.  The ground floor looked like a typical bar on a Friday night.  Once we were seated and viewed the menu (and the prices), we decided to have drinks and appetizers.  I ordered white wine and my sweet ordered whiskey and we both split the charcuterie plate.  The atmosphere and the cured meats were lovely, and we enjoyed our time at Papillion.  We left the restaurant and continued our wandering about midtown.  The charcuterie didn’t hold us for long and we decided to enjoy another small plate at another café, this one closer to the hotel.  It was called Benoit and it was perfect.  We sat in the bar, which looked like the set of a Woody Allen movie, and ordered coffee and dessert.  We got a slice of chocolate tart and Benoit, New York Citya slice of apple tart, both were divine.  After we left, we walked by the MoMA and debated going in or not, until we saw the sign on the door advertising Free Fridays, sponsored by Uniqlo.  So of course we went in, and enjoyed all of the exhibits we could before the museum closed for the evening.  There was one in particular that held our attention the longest, a long hallway, lined with two LED screens.  There, we were able to play some sort of communist version of Super Mario.  After the museum, we moved down the street to meet up with one of my Chicago colleagues who happened to be in town as well.  We had a few drinks at Cassidy’s Pub and enjoyed the karaoke singers there.  We left the bar feeling toasty and happy and crashed into the white, fluffy heaven that was our hotel bed.

The next morning, we woke up early to enjoy the continental breakfast in the hotel restaurant.  The coffee and croissants gave us the energy to get moving and 9/11 Memorial, New York Cityhop on a subway train to the World Trade Center Memorial.  We got off the train with a sea of people and followed the tide to the site of the memorial.  It was a very emotional experience despite the multitude of selfie sticks.  The memorial itself was beautiful; the reflecting pools are quite the sight to take in.  We walked from the memorial to Battery Park, stopping at St. Paul’s Cathedral and Trinity Church along the way.  The churches were so pretty, we couldn’t help but peak inside and gaze at their beautiful structures and stained glass windows.  We finally made it to Battery Park and were amazed at how saturated it was with tourists.  We deliberately walked past the line for Liberty and Ellis Islands (the lines were out of control) and made our way to the (completely gratis) Staten Island Ferry at Whitehall Terminal.  We had to wait for a ferry, but grabbed a giant pretzel at one of the many vendors in the terminal to pass the time.  Once the ferry arrived and we were able to board, it was a mad dash to the window that would be the best vantage point to see the Statue of Liberty.  We grabbed some seats on that particular side of the boat and got up to join the crowds once it was close enough to the statue.  We stayed on Staten Island only long enough to board the next ferry back to Manhattan. Staten Island Ferry, NY

I snapped better pictures on our way back, because this time we knew where to run to when we boarded.  When we arrived back on the other side of the harbor, we took another subway train to Greenwich Village and had lunch at Cozy’s Soup ‘n’ Burger, Michael and I split each of their namesakes.  The food was good, but typical of a diner.  After lunch, we meandered back to the hotel to freshen up for a night Majestic Theater, New York Cityof tourism.  My lovely boyfriend procured a pair of tickets to see Phantom of the Opera that evening, so we dolled up and went to dinner in the Theater District before the show. As it was an hour before show time on a Saturday night, and we did not have reservations, we sat at the bar at Café Angus Bistro to eat.  We ordered their Du Pre option, which was a prix fixe, three course menu designed for pre-show diners.  I chose the roasted buttermilk chicken as my entrée, and Mike had the salmon.  Along with the entrée came a small portion of house salad and a delightful three bite portion of dessert, their apple-cherry crumble.  The meal was delicious and the perfect amount of food.  We went to the Majestic Theater feeling satisfied and ready to take in a three hour performance.  The musical was magnificent.  I loved every minute of it, and the cast was so talented I wanted to cry.  Each scene was better than the last; the whole production was perfect.  After the show we wandered around Times Square, New York Citythe Theater District and Time Square taking pictures and being uber tourists.  It was a very surreal experience, being in the middle of all the lights and people, where so many iconic events have taken place.  We stopped by Junior’s Cheesecake and shared a slice of the cherry, which we devoured while we continued to walk around.  We found that as we were walking past some of the other theaters, the cast was coming out to crowds of people wanting to get their programs signed.  We observed the whole scene, and realized we were staring at Mr. Ferris Bueller himself, Matthew Broderick.  Of course we couldn’t have him sign a program from a play he did not star in, so we just stared in awe as he signed others’.  Once he got in his SUV to leave, we were able to tear ourselves away from the scene and start wandering again.  Being the Stephen King fan that I am, I convinced Mike to walk to 46th and 2nd Avenue to where the vacant lot that houses The Rose from the Dark Tower Series is supposed to be located.  It was quite a long walk from Time Square, and it’s probably the most fangirl thing I’ve ever done, but it was totally worth it.  There was no The Rose/The Dark Tower, New York Cityvacant lot, only a small park with a bodega across the street.  Mike very thoughtfully bought me a rose at the bodega and we placed it behind the locked gate of the park (only to take it back after I took a picture).  That rose cost us $18 because we didn’t have any cash and there was a minimum for debit card purchases, so we got The Rose and a 6-pack of Brooklyn Lager.  It made me very happy though, to make the small pilgrimage to an iconic spot in my favorite author’s books.  After I got my fill of Dark Tower fanfare, we walked back to the hotel the long way, enjoying the weather and each other’s company.  We turned on the TV in the room and each drank a lager while discussing the day’s events.

Luna Park, Coney Island, NYOn Sunday, we woke up early again and went straight to the subway to take the F train to Coney Island.  It was a long ride, and we got there at about 11:30 am.  The view of the park and the boardwalk from the train was amazing, and I couldn’t wait to go explore.  Luna Park, the amusement park on the boardwalk, didn’t open until noon, so we walked down the boardwalk and into the sand, relishing the sight of the ocean; we Midwesterners don’t take that view for granted.  We decided to get a famous Nathan’s hotdog for lunch.  I can tell you now, it is famous for a reason.  I broke a Chicago rule and put mustard AND ketchup on it, and it was so delicious.  Once Luna Park opened, we walked inside and took inventory of the Luna Park, Coney Island, NYrides and attractions to decide which to spend our money on.  Each ride was about $4-$9, so we only went on three.  First we tried one of the small roller coasters, called The Tickler, and we went on the swings before we walked over to the main event, The Cyclone. The cyclone is an almost century old, wooden roller coaster, that is as rickety as it sounds.  We felt we absolutely had to go on it.  There was no line, and we climbed the wooden steps up to the boarding platform to get in one of the leather-lined cars right away.  A few other people boarded, and we took off through the sea of wooden slats and planks.  It only lasted a couple of minutes, but it was very fun, and provided a great view of the coast.  We walked around a little longer, and then got back on the train to head back towards the city.  We made a pit stop at Washington Square Park and walked to The Strand Bookstore in the East Village. The Strand, New York CityThe Strand is a bibliophile’s oasis, stocked to the hilt with new and used books.  We spent more time than actually necessary there but I was entranced by their selection and all of the Strand merchandise.  We walked back to the hotel from there, which was quite a long walk but we refueled with a slice of New York style pizza at Empire Pizza about
halfway through.  When we Washington Park, New York Cityfinally made it back to the hotel, we readied ourselves to go meet one of my very good friends for dinner in Hell’s Kitchen.  We met him on the corner of 50th and 9th, and decided we were all in the mood for margaritas.  We waltzed down the street into Arriba Arriba, and were seated right away, surprisingly.  We all ordered frozen margaritas; mine was watermelon.  The margs were delicious and the food was even better.  We had two rounds and were delightfully tipsy when we left the restaurant to walk back towards the hotel.  We met more Chicago colleagues at the hotel bar, Salon De Ning, which was on the roof.  Salon De Ning, Peninsula New York We got a large table in the corner of the outdoor terrace.  It was a chilly night, but the terrace was spotted with heat lamps and the cocktails helped as well.  The drinks were a little pricey but delectably worth it.  We finished the night off back at Cassidy’s Pub and enjoyed the drinks and company just as we did the first night there.

For our last day in NYC, we started again with breakfast at
the hotel, and then walked down to the New York Public LibraryNew York Public Library.  It was gorgeous, both inside and out.  We toured the inside, independently, and walked through the reading rooms.  The Rose Main Reading room, which is what I wanted to see, was unfortunately closed for remodeling, but at least it gives me a good reason to revisit.  After we left the library, we walked down 5th Avenue towards Central Park.  We decided to have lunch first then take a stroll through the inside of the park.  We walked along Madison Avenue, Central Park, NYCamongst the designer stores and boutiques, and could not for the life of us find a place to have lunch that wouldn’t cost us the equivalent of our plane tickets.  We finally came upon 3 Guys on Madison Avenue, which fit the bill perfectly.  We had sandwiches in a booth at the front of the diner.  I later read, on the plane ride home, that Joan Didion and her late husband used to stop in there regularly (from “The Year of Magical Thinking”)  , which made the experience that much better.  We finally made it to Central Park and walked around for a few hours, stopping by Alice in Wonderland and Hans Christian Anderson to takeCentral Park, NYC pictures, and by the Bethesda Fountain to watch the brides and grooms pose and listen to the small choir singing under the bridge. We walked back to the hotel to collect our luggage and took the subway to JFK.  The whole while I complained and dragged my feet, because I did not want to leave.  Every time I go to New York, I come home and start planning my next trip back, whether it be in a few months or a year, almost as soon as I get off the plane.  We have a great long-distance relationship, New York and I, and every time I go back, it’s as if I never left.