We couldn’t believe it when they announced our names as raffle winners of the grand prize vacation at a holiday fundraiser last December — a long weekend in New York City!!! We added a night, upgraded some flight choices, packed our bags and headed out. My husband had been to New York, but it was my first trip and I was so thankful for Winspire, the booking agency, to help me get the trip booked.
Flying across the country is never fun but we were able to fly out of Redmond to Portland and then non-stop to Newark via our favorite Alaska Airline with a seat upgrade. We landed just as a thunderstorm cleared, the clouds parted and my first glimpse of New York City was beneath a beautiful rainbow. I could hardly believe my eyes.
We took a taxi from Newark to Manhattan. I felt like we were in a movie scene. Our driver was a native New Yorker who talked aloud to other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. “Be nice!” he’d holler through a closed window to other vehicles. We caught the 5 pm rush. By the time we got to our hotel, we were ready for a drink.
It’s called the Eleanor Roosevelt Cosmo and it is a concoction of ruby red absolute, homemade vanilla syrup, a squeeze of fruit and a quick shake with fresh rosemary. Perfect after a 3am alarm clock squeal, bumpy flight, 2 hour tarmac delay for lightening storms that ironically peaked just as we were circling Newark to land. (Actually, barkeep, can you make that a double?) I’m so grateful for both a great pilot and a career that keeps me home.
We got our bearings set and ventured off to dinner at Remi, a great Italian restaurant with handmade pasta and the best tomato sauce I’ve ever tasted. Tomato sauce is tomato sauce, right? Not anymore. Visions of sun ripened heritage tomatoes came to mind when the sauce hit my tongue. Yes, it was THAT good.
When they say NYC has it’s own vibe – I never thought to take it literally, until now. There is so much energy colliding at one time, in one place, that Manhattan literally vibrates. If you pay close attention, you can actually feel the rhythmic movement of taxis, stop lights, subways and pedestrians like a pulse. It is pretty cool to step off the beaten path, tuck into a great people watching place, make friends with the locals and watch the story unfold all around you.
I was expecting Portland’s “weird” with Seattle’s in-your-face “your political opinion must match mine or you are wrong and a bad person” ready-to-protest-at-any-moment vibe with San Francisco’s “you’re probably going to see things you’ve never seen before” city flare — NYC was none of those things.
Manhattan was fast and focused. It was a blend of ideas and cultures and comradely. People were polite, pleasant and if you stepped in their path, they never stopped; just simply moved around you. The food was phenomenal, the architecture and history were things my eyes couldn’t get enough of and oddly enough, the politics constantly taking place all around us is one of the things that intrigued me the most.
My two least favorite topics (politics and history) got bumped to my top 5 favorite things about NYC.
Philly Cheesesteak Sliders and a brewski – let the adventure get started! I decided to chronicle the adventure via restaurant pics for 3 reasons – so I can remember all the incredible places I’ve been (names run together later) also so Jeff doesn’t abandon me someplace midtown when he hits his photo limit and lastly – because SERIOUSLY – isn’t NYC all about the 5-star food and drinks, anyway?!
Learning how to walk down a sidewalk all over again and — hello, beautiful! Manhattan takes it up a level. FYI: Horse noses ALWAYS have the right-of-way.
Friday, we hopped a double decker sightseeing bus (Thanks for the advice, Tiffany!) and got a guided tour of the sights. I’m so glad we did this! We had a bird’s eye view, someone that knew the history and important sites to point out and it helped us decide what the important places we wanted to visit and which places we were cool just seeing from the bus.
I think the best part of the day was driving past the United Nations at 16:45-17:00 when political diplomats were leaving the building, some via police escorts. To be so close to the minds literally shaping world policies in real time was exciting, especially at a moment in time when the meetings were splashing across every tv across the USA.
The second best part was being able to see the historic architecture without having to fight for sidewalk space. (One does NOT simply STOP on a NYC sidewalk. Period.)
By the end of our first full day in NYC, I had already accrued nearly 30,000 steps. The bus was such a nice break!
While some NYC sights seemed smaller in real life than they do in films and photos, The Bull on Wall Street was actually quite a bit larger in person than on film!
Forty+ microbrews on tap? Yes, please! The trendy Three Monkeys bar was full of young business grads just getting started in this big, wild world. In an odd way, it reminded me of Stuft Pizza in Bend circa 1990-something. Different people, but the same dream filled vibe.
It was a 2 for 1 bucket list winner for me when Cirque Du Soleil hit Broadway with a show of their own! And it did not disappoint. GThe theatrics and aerials were jaw-dropping! I loved that we could sip our cocktails and snack during the show, too. It had a fun, relaxed, easy to laugh and enjoy vibe that made it one of my top NYC memories!
Holey Cream was wildly recommended all over Pinterest pages and NYC Foodie blogs. What’s not to love? Donuts, icing AND ice cream? Stand back – I’ve been low carb for 96 days just to be able to splurge, guilt-free, on sugar-filled and delectable treats during this trip.
I was giddy when I learned they were merely 4 blocks from the hotel aaaaaannnnnnnnddddd open until 1:30am. It sounded like a perfect post-Paramour stop to make on the walk back to the hotel. Well, the closer we got, the fewer people we saw, the dimmer the lights got, the taxi traffic disappeared, the blocks got longer and by the time we arrived, Jeff was ready to call 911 for a ride back to civilization.
Holey Cream itself is little more than a hole in the wall, with dirty, smeared windows and obnoxious, bright colored, paint-chipped walls. Actually, maybe it’s less of a hole and more of a tunnel. There’s standing room only and not much, it’s an isle the width of a door that travels down a bakery/ice cream case. That’s it. Certainly nothing fancy. In fact, it was clear by the look on Jeff’s face, (the one that says “my wife is f-ing crazy”), it was downright sketchy.
But I was committed so — yes, I ordered myself a donut ice cream sandwich. Yes, it was to die for! (Yes, Jeff, pun intended.) 😂 And yes – I ate the whole entire thing and enjoyed every single bite.
A NYC moonrise and a lesson I learned: “This is New York City. Stop looking with your eyes for a perfectly composed photo and start to see things through the energy they resonate.”
I took myself for a walk Saturday morning because I wanted to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Building started in 1858 and frankly, it’s just a cool sight to see something that survived being surrounded by mostly modern skyscrapers.
En route, however, the side street was partially blocked outside Radio City Music Hall for the cast viewing of latest Fast and Furious movie, “Fate of the Furious” – with an expected star list way too long for me to remember.
Cool – but not as cool as the next street that was blocked off for a NYC Tartan Day Parade complete with bagpipes, more horses (of course) and lots of Celtic pride!
Not bad for a Saturday morning walk down a block or two!
We, the USA, had just bombed Syria. I was within 10 blocks of the United Nations Building where Nikki Haley, our US Ambassador, was both kicking ass and taking names. I was also a stone’s throw from the USA President’s humble abode.
So when they began clearing streets and putting up barricades, I’m not going to lie — I got a little nervous. The live TV footage of NYC being reduced to ruble on 9-11-2001 will forever be burned into my memory.
Nothing made me happier than to discover, this wasn’t a security exercise at all – it was a NYC parade and party celebrating it’s Celtic roots and pride with a tartan parade! And beer! And bagpipes! And jovial Scottish men in kilts!
No better reason in the world to grab a pint and help them celebrate!
After the parade, I took myself for a little walk down the street to Macy’s.
Nine stories and a full city block? Yep – stand back. I got this!
They were still ice skating at Rockefeller Center. It seems so much bigger in movies.
Tucked away in O’Brian’s Pub, across the street from Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, in a hot spot upstairs known as, “The Sin Bin” — celebrating my newly discovered Irish heritage with a pint of house ale, listening to ACDC and totally ready to “fuhgeddaboudit”!!!
I have a confession.
We left Phantom of the Opera at intermission.
I know, part of me felt terrible. I’d wanted to see it for sooooo many years – and I thought I’d LOVE opera. I mean, that’s MAD talent, right? I just didn’t expect it to be so – well – loud. And I didn’t think the constant, dark, minor chords of the background organ music would be so – grating. Honestly, it was like the “Great Goat Idea” all over again. A great idea gone bad. It was too much for these tender eardrums to truly enjoy. So I talked an all too knowing Jeff, into leaving. He laughed. He’d spent 4 years attending Ashland plays while going to Southern Oregon and knew exactly what to expect. Again, not unlike the whole goat debacle of 2015, he knew.
I thought the actors were amazing. Our seats were great – possibly TOO great, with perfect acoustics- and I still believe opera singers have freakish talent. I even thought the take-home sippy cup for adult beverages was nothing short of genius. I also thought, no, I KNEW we could find a NY corner to tuck into, order some good food, hear some good music and share some (comparatively) quiet time together.
Again – not unlike the goats – now I know. I’m just not an opera girl. Who knew? I mean, besides Jeff…
Just to give you an idea of the energy this city has, this is Times Square late Saturday night – still packed, still moving, still making plans on what to do later that night. The nightshifter in me thinks it’s pretty awesome that dry cleaners and bakeries stay open until the wee hours of the night — even the garbage trucks do 24 hour days!
Magnolia Bakery is famous for their banana pudding. Sadly, the last tub sold to the person in front of me. I wasn’t disappointed because how many world renowned bakeries stay open until midnight?! I was happy just to be there and slip in just before closing. We had no problem finding something to enjoy!
Why don’t I have any great pics of Central Park, you ask? Especially since we hit it on the PERFECT day? It was impossible to hold the camera at eye level and not catch an eye to eye portrait of a stranger 2 feet away or a perfectly framed photo of the back of their head.
I had to tap out. At least on the sidewalks, there is a general acceptance of one’s pace and direction by where they position themselves. Central Park was a chaotic, free-for-all of seemingly directionless wandering. I likened it to giant flock of starlings flying out of sync, colliding, bumping, falling, squawking – you get the idea.
So I stuck to the sidewalk, near the carriage horses, and imagined my friend, Polly, coming to all of their rescue and setting them free to run on the grass because I know if she ever makes it to NYC – she’ll be all over that!
It was a beautiful day in NYC! We ditched the hop on bus and took ourselves for a walk. We stopped in for a bite to eat and enjoyed our chat with our server, Will, who ironically spent some time growing up in Portland and had even been to Bend. Central Park was packed but the weather was perfect!
Sitting down for dinner and I looked up to see a familiar face, but from where, I wondered? NYC is a long way from home … and then Boom! It hit me – holy catfish, that’s Ralph Lauren!!! And yes, I learned that even while the man is eating, his thoughts are all about fashion, as he explained to his dinner guest what the right pair of earrings can do for an outfit.
(To paraphrase the great fashion icon — if you are going with a dark, low shoulder, black lace dress, or top with jeans, understated but gothic, black/metal chandelier earrings make it go from “nothing” to “stunning” – it changes the focal point and settles the eye on a flattering line. Did I mention he was kind, gracious and understated as well? I’m still a little star struck!)
It didn’t seem like an unreasonable amount of sushi UNTIL the humongous lobster arrived. This Oregon girl had NO idea Maine lobsters were completely different than Pacific lobsters. (It turns out that ours are more related to crayfish than actual lobsters – yes, I was in such disbelief, I Googled it.)
This bad boy was considered “on the smaller side” by wait staff as it was closer to the 2.5lb weight group as opposed to the “big ones” averaging 3.5lbs.
The nightly walk back to the hotel. We arrived on a Thursday and I couldn’t help but notice all of the heels, booties and fashion statements in the form of shoes pounding the sidewalk at an aerobic pace. By Sunday, the pace had slowed to a walk and most footwear took the shape of casual and well padded sneakers.
By the way, to get in to see Saturday Night Live, tickets come out in October for the following year on a first come, first serve basis in case you ever wanted to see a live show. The Tonight Show is a bit easier but still requires a bunch of luck and about 8 weeks of forethought – or the patience to stand in a first come, first serve cancellation line where you get 1 ticket per person and if you leave the line to use the restroom, you lose your place. Though I know any ER nurse has the ability to outlast most in a line like that — I had other things to do!
The Hilton Midtown was perfect for us. We could walk to Broadway shows, Times Square, Central Park, The Rockefeller Center and to the places we couldn’t walk, we used the Hop On Hop Off sightseeing bus.
Our stay was nearly perfect. Saturday night we awoke to a ruckus. It sounded like a frat party on steroids was taking place. It began again at about 6am. Imagine my surprise when I opened the hotel room door to give them a “shhhh” to find a hall literally full of both high school kids and teachers. It got quiet again for about an hour and then the trumpet came out, followed by the trombone and – what the heck? Was that a tuba?!
Apparently, a local high school band had moved in next door. Hilton management quickly and graciously moved us to a much quieter floor with a handful of upgrades to compensate us for our troubles which were really no trouble at all. We had a good giggle over it.
I like to walk NYC during the daylight hours. I love to watch NYC at night. It was an amazing trip.
Something I’ve learned about myself is that I’m not a great tourist. I don’t like to squeeze into tour lines or go to crowded places. Trinket souvenirs and places that sell them make me crazy. Places created for tourists make me cringe. It’s just not my thing.
I like to find nooks and crannies to duck into and get the feel of the place. I like to hear what the locals are chatting about. I want to eat at local, authentic restaurants that aren’t national chains. (My one exception is Starbucks.) I like to walk my own path and see the sights that mean something to me. I want to smell the flowers, feel the weather and just be.
As crowded and as busy as Manhattan was – we managed to find spots that felt like our own.
It’s with a heavy heart that I come to these last few photos.
I once heard that it takes only two generations to disappear and fade away. History books can be edited, photos can be destroyed and no one is left to account for what once was.
I couldn’t go to the memorial with Jeff on this morning. The tour bus came within 2 blocks of it the afternoon prior and I found myself already choking back the tears. So on this day, Jeff went alone. He’d stood on top of one of the original World Trade Center Towers as a young man and it was important for him to return. So he did and I think he did a great job taking photos.
Rest in peace fellow Americans, police officers, fire fighters and EMS crew members. I will never forget watching the live images of you rushing into collapsing buildings to save strangers. I hope stories of your heroism never fade away.
From the Scottish accent of the waitress at the pub down the street, to chatting with a young man about what his life in NYC is like, to discussing restaurant ownership with a retiree who went back to work as a waiter for something to do, to the taxi driver who spent 45 minutes wagging his finger at other cars telling them to “be nice” — we enjoyed getting to know some of the faces that are a part of this city. It turns out we are all more alike than different in the the end.
Our biggest take-away from the trip? We think spaces are getting tight and traffic is getting insane in Central Oregon. Spend a few days in NYC and it feels almost like a ghost town on return.
And as quick as our trip began, it was over. I don’t know that I would have ever got to see NYC had we not won a trip – and man-o-man would I have ever been missing out! A great big thank you goes out to St. Thomas who made this all possible for us. What an amazing trip!!!