In one of my favorite books, 84 Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff wrote: “I remember years ago a guy I knew told me that people going to England find exactly what they go looking for. I said I’d go looking for the England of English Literature, and he nodded and said: “It’s there.”
I could say the same thing about New York City.
I was 13 the first time I went to Manhattan. I had hardly been out of suburban San Diego, was VERY into hairspray, Esprit bags, Guess jeans and riding horses. We climbed up to the Statue of Liberty’s crown, watched the Macy’s Day Parade floats being blown up the night before, looked out from the top of the Empire State Building and ate pretzels from a street vendor before shopping on 5th Avenue.
I fell in love with the city.
I’ve been back multiple times with friends and on my own. I ran around the market floor of the New York Stock Exchange and met the trader for Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway stock. (His advice? Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something and always be nice to people.)
Over the years I found a favorite restaurant in Greenwich Village that had the most amazing mac & cheese and chocolate pudding; watched someone hit for the cycle at a Mets game; wandered aimlessly through museums; had a champagne lunch before walking the leafy streets of the Upper East Side; and on the way to the airport talked on the phone to a cab driver’s sister just because he thought we could friends.
It felt so good being back in the city, holding hands with Stephen and striking out to new-to-us places. We walked over 15 miles, watched snow fall over Central Park, found the perfect Christmas tree ornament and are already talking about when we’re headed back.
Here’s a list of where we stayed, ate and played while we were there last weekend.
Where We Stayed
We stayed in an Airbnb on 5th Avenue near Union Square and it was a little jewel. It was less than $200/night, on the 20th floor with a terrace and had one of the kindest hosts we’ve met in our Airbnb experiences. We got to come back to this view every night:
Where We Ate
(East Village photo courtesy of Stephen)
Our hands down favorite meal was on our last night in the city. It had been snowing all day and we were exhausted. We hopped in an Uber to the Lower East Side and walked into the tiniest Indian restaurant you can imagine. We were greeted by a gracious host, wedged ourselves into a small table by the kitchen and settled into some of the best food I’ve had in a while. Crisp samosas topped with chickpeas, chutney, yogurt and mint. Spicy lamb vindaloo. Bright basil chicken tucked into soft garlic naan. We finished off the evening with warm chai tea and homemade pistachio ice cream. It was all so good, highly highly recommend.
Toby’s Estate Coffee
My other favorite was the cutest little coffee shop, Toby’s Estate Coffee on 5th. It was basically like sipping coffee in my dream kitchen and also happened to be located right next to the Strand Bookstore.
My favorite little restaurant in Greenwich Village, Home, closed and I was so bummed! We tried Cafe Cluny and while it wasn’t my Home, it was delicious. I had a great kale salad and pappardelle pasta and Stephen had tomato soup and short ribs. We ended the meal with a cheese tray as frankly all great meals should end.
We also had solid dim sum at Nom Wah’s Tea Parlor and pickles, matzo ball soup and pastrami at Fine & Shapiro.
(We tried a couple of “famous” spots for bagels and pizza but both of us found them just meh. Murray’s Bagels and Joe’s Pizza if you’re curious.)
What We Did
The first time I went to the city was for Thanksgiving. I had always wanted to go back for Christmas. Stephen and I had both watched the tree lighting every year so it was really cool to be able to see it in person, but I don’t know that either one of us wants to do it again any time soon. There were SO MANY PEOPLE. We went and saw a show, Wicked at the Gershwin Theater, which was wonderful. That gave us just enough time to catch the tree, a few of the shop windows and see Saks 5th Avenue’s crazy light show. As a friend of a friend used to say, “good to do. Good to have done.”
Central Park is a favorite any time of year, but this was the first time I had seen it covered in snow. It was so peaceful, stunningly beautiful and after we bought me a hat, decidedly less wet. Strolling through holding hands is one of our favorite memories of the trip and something I’ll always remember.
I hadn’t been to the September 11th Memorial before and immediately started crying the moment we set foot near the pools. I couldn’t bear to go in the museum, but next time I’d like to. I still get choked up looking at this picture and probably always will.
Stephen remembered St. Paul’s Chapel from when he visited the city in high school and I had never seen it, so we walked over.
The gravestones are so old, they no longer have the names and dates of those buried. The church was built in 1766 and was once the tallest building in Manhattan. More recently it has become known as “The Little Chapel that Stood.” The chapel had no damage from September 11th and became a haven for rescue workers.
Staten Island Ferry
In all my years of going to the city, I had never taken the free Staten Island Ferry! We were so close, so we ran down and hopped on for the 25 minute ride. It was a great (cold!) way to view the skyline and Statue of Liberty. Bonus was the mix of people that ride it. Tourists, residents and random dudes with huge, deep, knife scars on their face. Welcome to New York!
Dim Sum in Chinatown
I loved the narrow, small streets of Chinatown. We had to direct our cab driver to the restaurant as it was tucked away on a tiny street he had never heard of. We saddled up family style to busy tables as plates of noodles, dumplings and egg rolls were set in front of us one right after the other.
Museum of Natural History
One of my favorite stories of Stephen’s is when his former kindergartner teacher (Miss May, who we still see up at the local barbecue place her son owns) asked if he would come and talk about dinosaurs to her class. He loved and studied them so much, she thought the kids in her class would benefit. “What grade were you in?” I asked him, thinking he had put in years of elementary school research. “First.”
I had the best time watching kids at the museum. The looks on their faces as they took in the massive size of the fossils was priceless. Knowing Stephen was just as enamored was another highlight of the trip. He kept it in a little better, but I could still see it.