Thursday, June 5, 2014

I Heart NYC-Part 2: Manners, Manhattanhenge, Movie Spots, Macy's and More!

Picking up from where I left off after the last entry, Mom and I had already seen and done a lot in the day and a half in the City. After walking over the Brooklyn Bridge and taking the subway back to the Times Square near the hotel, we changed and got cleaned up for high tea at the Plaza, a Mother's Day gift for my sweet Mom.
I have loved this hotel ever since "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York," "The Great Gatsby," "The Way We Were" "Barefoot in the Park" "Bride Wars" and the lists goes on and on. The hotel is over 100 years old and was purchased by Donald Trump in the 1980's for a measly $390 million. Plush hotel rooms and apartments make up the 20 story prestigious building. There is a Betsey Johnson designed suite, known as the "Eloise Suite," a bright pink and animal print decorated fantasy, perfect for any girl. There are many boutique shops and even a food court on the bottom floors.
We took a taxi and arrived at 3:00 to the historic Plaza Hotel on 5th Avenue. I had made a reservation a few weeks ago and we were greeted and seated at a cozy table in the elaborate Palm Court.

Our waiter presented us with the tea menu and after looking over the several options, we made our choice: The Fitzgerald Tea for the Ages. How very Gatsby! We settled in for a delightful and restful afternoon after our full morning and midday of touring. We laughed and talked about the highlights of the trip thus far as course by course, the hot tea, clotted cream, jams, and tower of savory and sweet sandwiches, scones, and sweets came out. Mom's favorite was the warm scones and my favorite was the hot tea with cream and sugar. Such a treat that really spoils you into now finding ways to incorporate afternoon tea into every day! If only...

So much fun getting dressed up after touring in tennis shoes and jeans all day! The doors to the right led to the apartments and we kept our eyes out for famous celebrities that might be coming in.
After a delicious and filling tea time, we walked (in heels) the 10 blocks back to the hotel. It was during rush hour and there were no cabs-HA!

We changed clothes and took a cab to Pier 83 for the Circle Line Sunset Harbor Cruise. We climbed aboard the boat for "a 2 hour tour" around Manhattan, Ellis Island, New Jersey, The Statue of Liberty, and Brooklyn. It was a windy but relaxing ride.

We sat up top and were just turning by the State of Liberty when it began raining. Hard. Luckily we were sitting under the covered awning but those at the bow were not so lucky. People were screaming and scurrying to shelter as we turned and the boat began to tilt sideways!  A teenager in the back yelled "Man overboard!" and we all thought he was serious! It was a wet ride for a while as we were still catching splashes from the large waves from the river. It stopped raining thankfully after about 10 minutes and we kept cruising right along.

New Jersey skyline before the downpour
Once we all found hope that our little boat that could was going to make it and we were not going to be on the 10:00 news, the sun was setting and it was incredibly visible through the streets seen even on the boat. This is known as the Manhattan Solstice or Manhattanhenge — it occurs twice a year, during which the setting sun aligns with the east–west streets of the main street grid. Very pretty to see that night and the sky turned so many different hues.

I highly recommend seeing the city by boat...just don't forget an umbrella and a jacket!

The night was far from over. We had big plans. Since we technically only had pizza and afternoon tea sandwiches and such, we were beginning to get hungry when we exited the cruise around 9:00, so we climbed in a black Excursion with an Asian man named Tony (not as sketch as it sounds) who said he could take us to Union Square. He was nice and the best driver by far. We chatted about our love of Chows, where we were on 9/11, kids, the weather, southern culture, and summer traditions. He dropped us off at Max Brenner, where I had made reservations after hearing from several different people how good the food and chocolate was! We got Tony's card in case we needed a stylish and safer ride in the immediate future, ha!
The place was buzzing, as most of the city doesn't eat or do anything until at least 8 pm. We ordered some hummus as an appetizer and for the entree--chocolate banana sugar waffle with Choco-crispies. We hated you can tell...This was so worth the drive and fare to see a different part of the city. It's like a modern Willy Wonka inspired restaurant.  

We hopped in a cab when we saw someone exit and this driver was out of control. He was by far the worst driver I've ever seen. We were not in a hurry to get back nor did we want him to murder anyone on the streets. But we couldn't communicate this to him...oh well. We survived somehow and even asked to be let out a few blocks early!

On Saturday, we took the subway to what I thought and had googled to be Chelsea Market. So we got off and started walking. I didn't see anything according to my phone GPS that looked like after walking in circles, we finally asked a young person and she quickly told us what street it was on. Turns out Chelsea Marketplace and Chelsea Market are two different places! And soooo we then begin our 15 block walk rather fast. Sure we could have taken a cab or even got on another subway, but it was a nice morning and we decided to laugh it off and enjoy seeing parts of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District.  Once we arrived at the Market, we soon got to see first hand why it is one of the greatest indoor food halls of the world, with more than 35 vendors purveying everything from soup to nuts, wine to coffee, cheese to cheesecake. Attracting 6 million national and international visitors annually, it is one of the most trafficked, and written-about, destinations of any kind in New York City. And we came hungry. It did not disappoint. One place on the list: Amy's Bread. It was so yummy! We were there early on Saturday so there was no wait and the food was so fresh! I opted for an iced coffee, a low fat applesauce mini bundt cake and a black and white cookie for later. You can't go to New York and not get one. That would be such a crime!
Another spot to check out: Fat Witch Bakery! They specialize in brownies, of all different shapes, colors, and flavors!

By 10:30, the place was getting crowded! It has an urban feel to it, with all kinds of different smells from fresh fish, cupcakes, lobster, breads, Asian, etc.

We would have loved to stay but we knew our time was limited. So we hailed a cab and were dropped off at 66 Perry Street.

Recognize it?

 Yep, it's "the stoop." Home of Carrie Bradshaw in the HBO series "Sex & the City." I was in love. Who wouldn't want to call this brownstone home? Our cab driver was a little puzzled as to why were getting out here. We were the only ones for a while as we snapped some photos and then a few fans like myself came pouring in and doing the same.

After that famous stop, we knew the next on our American TV quest:  
 It's the "Friends" apartment & coffee shop. But not really. Ha! It's not "Central Perk," like in the show, but rather "The Little Owl." But the apartment upstairs looks the same, doesn't it? This iconic friendly spot is off the beaten path on Bedford Street, and we ran into one of the same groups we saw a few blocks north at the SJP Stoop! We got another cab to take us to North Moore Street for another movie site:
 This one is a little more obvious! "Who ya gonna call?" Our cab driver was a different one than before, but was still just as puzzled as to what our business was here. We didn't want to lose our cab (it was windy and I was wearing a dress and our next stop was on the lower east side), so we asked him to wait while we took a photo. We tried to explain about the movie "Ghostbusters" but I'm not sure if he got it. He was from Dubai and was passionate about two things we learned quickly: 1) pastrami and tongue from Katz Deli and 2) country music! He was more than happy to drop us off at Katz and told us where he had lived in the world, how much money he made as a cab driver in the city ($125,000 a year and 12 weeks vacation), and where he likes to take his "lady friend" on dates. He explained how Katz Deli worked--hold on to the ticket they give you when you come in and order at the counter. That's what we did but we were still lost and confused by the ordering process.
We expected a crowd of people waiting outside, it being noon on a Saturday, but surprisingly we walked right in and up to the counter. We were so clueless on what to order. I don't eat pastrami, salami, and didn't want to risk tongue. I tried to order a Knish but I didn't understand what the guy at the counter I walked down and ordered fries, ha! Mom ordered a burger and we split everything. It was more about the experience. There are photos of the famous people who have eaten there all around and the decor hasn't changed since the 1970's. The restaurant itself was founded in 1888 by immigrant families. Years later, they had three sons serving in World War II and coined the slogan "Send a salami to your boy in the army!" and it stuck. It was of course made even more famous by the 80's movie "When Harry Met Sally." We were sitting behind the table that states "Hope you had what she had!" and I'll leave it at that! ;) The food was ok and we even spotted the owner, wearing baggy clothes and walking around like he owned the place, lol!
 Feeling full and ready for more adventures, we decided to take the subway to Macy's for some shopping. It bothered Mom and I that we had been to New York several times but never to the original Herald Square flagship store. This original Macy's is America's largest department store, covering an entire city block and 10 and a half stories! The original escalators (over 100 years old) are still in operation. We fought the Saturday shopping crowds, rode the escalators to each of the floors and I found a cute maxi dress, my only purchase of the trip. We decided not to waste anymore time inside on such a beautiful day and headed back to the hotel to change and head to Central Park. 

 It began raining when we were on our way to Belvedere Castle and so we took shelter in a pavilion across from the castle to wait it out with about a hundred other people. Then the sun came out and we roamed the small castle and explored more of Central Park. It's huge and there's never enough time to see even a fourth of the 843 acres! It is the most visited urban park in the United States-- 35 million visitors each year, and also the most filmed location in the world, so of course we had to visit on Saturday along with our other movie/TV hot spots! Strawberry Fields is always nice to visit, where the Imagine mosaic tribute to John Lennon is placed. There is always singers playing his music and flowers and candles burning in his memory.

After that, we changed for dinner and met some friends in our group, John and Linda Springfield and some other people at a local Italian place, Da Marino's. After that, Mom and I decided to enjoy our last night in the City by going to the Times Square Marriott Hotel restaurant The View. It is the only revolving rooftop restaurant in New York City. We toasted to a great trip while watching the sunset over the Hudson River and seeing some of the rooftops of the city's most iconic buildings.
After changing clothes for what seemed like the 10th time that day, we headed out on Times Square to take it all in one more time, in the prime crowd time! People everywhere, from all different walks of life. I had scored a free shake from Shake Shack so I couldn't let that go to waste, right? We waited only a few minutes and were sipping our free PB shake in no time!
We walked around some more to burn off the shake, ha, and then spotted this famous place:
 Yep, Cake Boss Cafe. Not that we had any room left for food, but when it's the last night in NYC and the store just shows up right in front of your can always make room for a cannoli! The cupcake was less than desirable but the cannoli was worth writing (blogging) home about! And the bobble head statue of Buddy was just priceless!
 Times Square is so crazy crowded but unlike any other place in the world! It's excitement, culture, shopping, neon lights, all different smells and sounds all packed into one central spot.  
And so Sunday morning came early. Too early! Always hard to say goodbye to a place you love, but I must quote a great author and friend, Elizabeth Mozley McGrady in her book about her adventure in the city, "We Share the Same Sky" when she talks about the city being beautiful and having such a love for it "but it's not home." It's always good to be back to familiarity and your roots. I'm hoping I'll get to go back sometime soon, to check off even more of the things I didn't get to do this time and things I saw I must experience next time--Roosevelt Island sky lift, Silvercup Studio tour, and The High Line park to name a few. Until then, I'm sipping my sweet tea, eating my basic pb sandwich, and getting back to normal but reflecting on a wonderful trip and lots of memories made with my Mom in a city we love.  

I used to want to live in NYC. And then I learned about a budget, jobs, and the cost of living, specifically in Manhattan, when rent is more than one paycheck. Isn't life always like that? We have our own agenda, our own plan of how we think things will turn out for us, but as we get older, we realize what really makes us happy and try not to look back on what might have been. There are times when I do wonder if I could have survived my first few years out of college living in Manhattan. I wonder what I would have done for work, where I would have lived, who I would have met, etc. But I am so happy with where God has me now and where He has brought me. We are all wherever we are meant to be at the here and now. God has so much planned for us and we shouldn't be afraid or worry about the what ifs, what tomorrow holds, or who we are going to meet; He has it all in His perfect plan. He tells us in Psalm 46:10 to "Be still and know that I am God." In the hustle and bustle of this life, city or country, we all are too familiar with what busyness is, it's important to just be still. I like traveling and observing different people in different places. From Grand Central, Central Park, 9/11 Museum, the airport, and just people on the street, it's always interesting to me to see how people live and interact. We are making a mark on society in what we do, how we treat people, and how we live our life. Take a breather and smile and know God has us right where He wants us.
What are your observations about where you are now and where you are going? Who or what has brought you there? What do you like most/least about traveling? These are the things I ponder...Let me know your thoughts and as always,

                           EMPIRE STATE OF MIND...