Sunday, July 1, 2018

NYC: A Woman's World

If you're planning on traveling to NYC soon, make sure to bookmark my new New York City Recs!  I've also created Italy and London guides, which you can find in the same place.

I believe my June visit marked my fifth time visiting Shawn in NYC since he moved there close to six years ago.  You can see how much or little we've changed between this year (see photo above) and our first visit in 2014 (below); both photos were taken at the rooftop of The Met in Central Park.

Summer in NYC is a magical thing.  Once you look past the often sweltering subway cars, the odorous trash bags piled high and simmering on the sidewalks, and the occasional rat scurrying past your feet, you can't help but marvel in the bustle of sidewalk cafes and beautiful, carefree people strolling the streets, get caught up in the latest gastronomic fad (2018: matcha invasion), and find your own little pockets of life, community, and adventure around every corner.  

The first couple days of the workweek Brittany stayed with me and we enjoyed a delicious Greek dinner with Shawn and Becca, followed by an adult's interpretation of childhood dreamy treats at Milk Bar.  (The birthday truffle balls are 100% sugar but truly make my eyes roll back in my head.) 

 Rooftop bar Ophelia

Milk Bar sugar high

On Brittany's last night we headed to Greenwich Village and the Comedy Cellar.  While there, Brittany had to put a guy in his place who tried to cut us in line (mad props), we laughed our asses off at back-to-back fantastic stand-up acts, and we spotted Judd Apetow, plus later watched him directing an episode of his HBO show Crashing on the street.  Oh, the possibilities and fun of this place.

Trucker Hat Guy from 30 Rock

Street set of Crashing

 Hottie on the street

I decided to take Friday off and live a sliver of a Carrie Bradshaw life.  Before getting to that part of the day, I went to a really unique yoga class at a place called Humming Puppy, where there was a stark yet uplifting design, a reverberating humming sound all through class, and a lush lobby with fresh tea and coconut water for us to socialize over after. 

How is this the lobby of a yoga studio?  Can I live here?

Back to Carrie.  I pranced around Nolita, Noho, and Soho much of the rest of the day, popping into boutiques, sidewalk art stalls, and brick and mortar stores of favorite brands which I didn't know existed, chatting with shopkeepers and upgrading my outfit and accessories along the way.

Eventually Shawn joined me for lunch (he graciously/wisely was late, affording me more time to shop, and him less time to accompany me on that activity), and we explored the overlapping neighborhoods some more before moving on to Brooklyn for dinner.

"I'll be there for you...
if you're there for me toooo-ooooo."
Exterior used for Monica's apartment in Friends

Our weekend was a healthy balance of interactive museums (Tenement, City of New York, and The Met), eating (our favorite thing to do, and we stuck mostly to the realm of fried chicken), and enjoying Central Park.

If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend the Tenement Museum.  They've salvaged and restored a building on the lower east side that has been lived in by hundreds of immigrants from different countries around the turn of the 20th century and turned it into a museum.  A far cry from your average museum, where you look at paintings or antiquities and read placards, the building itself is the museum, and if only the walks could actually talk.  The guide made up for this by being a wealth of information, providing context about how the social and political circumstances of the time affected life and living conditions for these people, crammed dozens to an apartment, often with one sink in the whole building and only a few outhouses in the back, and also sharing personal anecdotes of people who had actually lived in the building.

Beverage break at The Garret, 
a bar hidden above a Five Guys

Central Park, an incredible oasis amidst the noise and concrete of the city, also makes for optimal people watching.  We posted up by the roller rink section, which boasts a phenomenal live DJ, old women in wigs dancing with scarves, and hella fit men from all backgrounds dancing with mad skills on skates. 

And because that was just the tip of the iceberg of what the park has to offer, we then moved on to Summer Stage, for our third summer in a row taking in a show there.  There was a jazz lineup that night, and we listened to Victory and Gregory Porter while eating our favorite fried chicken sandwiches.  If you go to Summer Stage, do not miss the fried chicken sandwiches.  I mean, the music's good too, but we're mostly in it for those sandwiches. 

Inevitably, walking the streets of Manhattan you get to interact with its colorful people.  This time around, our best meet cute happened in broad daylight when a man fell in step with us after getting in a yelling match with a woman outside the subway station (him: "you better call me-don't let me down."  Her: "I never want to speak to you again!!"), and asked if we were going to Mount Sinai hospital, the only reason white people ever go around those parts, according to him.  He's drunk and high as a kite on God only knows what, showing us his Bronx firefighter's ID to prove his status as an upstanding citizen (reassuring).  He goes on to say that his small grocery bag is filled with ice cream and lollipops, because that seems to keep his baby mama happy enough not to file for child support.  Wanting to tell us more of his life story, he goes deliberately out of his way and walks with us in our direction, saying that a couple years back, he went to the Puerto Rican parade (Shawn attests to the absolute wildness of this event), and had an affair with a girl there even though he was married.  Just his luck, she got pregnant, and now he's got to keep her happy.  He asks Shawn and I if we have kids together (hilariously, we look at each other and just shrug, like "not yet but I guess it could happen one day?"), and he says to Shawn that that's good, because "It's a woman's world."  If that were true, I think his poor baby mama would be getting a little more than lollipops as parental support, but hey.

At the Museum of the City of New York, we learned about the evolution of the Big Apple, like how it was built from south to north, and it affirmed much of the immigrant history we had learned at the Tenement Museum.  They also house the original painting of Hamilton that was used for the $10 bill, which I thought was cool, and a fun gift shop and bookstore.

My last half day we made our way to The Met (I think it's more than worthy of a visit every single time), of course via the park. 

I desperately wanted to see the Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination exhibit, which was recently kicked off at The Met Gala.  It was incredible seeing the way Catholic imagery has been featured in popular fashion (especially Italian designers like Versace and Dolce & Gabbana), as well as how fashion has been integrated into religious celebrations (there were many elaborate dresses created for statues for saint's days).

The dress on which Rihanna's gala ensemble was based

Much love to Shawn who is invariably a gracious host and makes whatever I want to do in New York a reality.  We always have the best time!

Saturday, June 16, 2018

It's Quiet Upstate

Sometimes traveling is less about discovering new places, and more about recapturing old friends.  Lucky for me, often I get to do both.  

For Memorial Day, Brittany and I flew to upstate New York to visit Gio, who's completing her Master's at Syracuse, and Amanda, who's relocated nearby with her husband, Andrew, who's attending Vet school at Cornell.  I'd never had any friends in upstate New York, and all of a sudden I have found myself with three.  More than enough reasons to visit!

That first day of our long weekend we found ourselves with "crises" left and right.  On her way to pick me up, Amanda called to say she'd be late because a hostage crisis was blocking the roads in her small town of Cortland, which was just above "got caught in a glitter tornado" on my list of reasons she might be delayed.   

Not long after, Brittany had a work "crisis" with a client and declared she needed to get to an outlet because her computer was dead.  Google mapping a Starbucks, we were disappointed to end up at one inside a Price Chopper grocery store, with no dedicated outlets.  Ever the problem solver, Amanda unplugged the coupon machine and used her long arms to get Britt plugged in and set up on top of some Runts and Poopsters (3D squishy poop emojis, of course).  The old ladies shopping were both perplexed at the corporate pop-up and also the sudden lack of coupon dispensing. 

Back on the road, I kept checking in on the breaking news in the "hostage situation."  One site reported that, "Officials say a male and female locked themselves in a hotel room at the Hampton Inn on River Street and refuse to turn themselves."  This raises two questions: 1) Is it illegal, or even unusual, to lock hotel rooms in Cortland, and 2) Were they tanning?  I couldn't get enough of this hard-hitting journalism.  Later, they reported that apparently the woman had left the hotel room.  Gasp! 

Back to our own drama, things calmed down quite a bit once we got to Green Lakes, a lovely spot with pure, multi-hued waters. 

And then we headed to another lake (we were in the Finger Lakes area, mind you!) for BBQ, hammocks, and the sunset.  Milo was the most psyched in the group.

The next morning we set out for Ithaca and its quaint, ever-popular farmer's market.  I enjoyed all our many drives, with so many shades of green everywhere, colonial homes, and American flags proudly flying.  We learned that there are many terms for organized communities in New York, including "hamlet" and "village," and enjoyed learning how the ones we drove through were classified. 

Once at the market, we grazed on almost everything they had to offer over several hours, starting with the best cinnamon roll I've ever sunk my teeth into. 

To continue our day of meshing the outdoors with food, we hiked Buttermilk Falls.  As everyone loves to say, it was simply gorge-ous (the water flows through, ehm, a gorge).  This was definitely a highlight of the weekend.

We took in the beauty of the falls and the layers of the earth, watched families and friends screech with joy and laughter in the water. 

We hiked up past all those excited people to find quiet and peace, as if we had those areas completely to ourselves.  

We "forest bathed" and played silly games and ate cheese and bread from the market.

And then we stripped down and dove in.  Well, less dove and more tip-toed while cringing and cursing at the frigidness of the water.  But we persevered! 

And soon we were dunking our heads under the waterfall, feeling wild and icy and free.  We kept getting braver, each going farther and staying longer, until I took my last turn and crossed under the falls, lounged back on the rock ledge, and looked up at the water falling around me, never ever wanting to leave that divine spot.

After that, we had definitely earned a beer.  Everywhere we went had quite a "come as you are" mentality; some were dressed up for graduation parties, we were still dripping lake water.

Sunday was dedicated to self-pampering.  We went to Skaneateles (pronounced "skinny atlas," which I simply could not get over, the image of a very slim book of maps always top of mind), and enjoyed baked goods, a walk about the historic downtown, and a tasting at a local winery, Anyela's Vineyards.

Then, it was time for a few hours at Mirbeau spa, part of a French-inspired inn that has modeled its grounds on Monet's gardens. 

Our last day was the most low key, and I loved the luxury of just hanging out with people I love, no agenda, nothing needing doing.  Such a rare feeling of timelessness and freedom.  That morning we took a quick hike with Milo nearby (the most exciting moment of which occurred later, when I had to remove an uninvited tick from Amanda's leg). 

And then we spent a languid afternoon eating brunch, video chatting with Kristen and her new gem Rosalee, and playing many rounds of the card game Shithead.  (Kristen, I bet you didn't expect to see baby Rosalee's name in the same sentence as the word "shithead," but there you have it.)

And we rounded out the day by visiting Empire Brewing Co, beer tasting, playing more cards, and giggling through our last few hours together.

 Flag pic for Memorial Day!

It was a great city break and wonderful to spend a few unhurried days visiting dear friends.  Thanks to Amanda, Andrew, and Gio for hosting us and planning so much fun.

Next up, the hustle and bustle of New York City!