The City Doesn’t Sleep, But We Did

I can say with the utmost redundancy that this is a true fact: I felt the energy of New York City the second I got off the plane. La Guardia was crowded, dirty, and noisy. If it was any other way, I would have thought I was in Portland, Oregon. We had fewer than 24 hours with places to go and people to see.

Because I was with Bill McLain and Bill McLain doesn’t do cabs, we took a shuttle from the airport to our hotel. But, as usual, it was the way to go. Not only was it considerably cheaper, thereby allowing us to spend more money on important things like food and adult beverages, it also allowed us the opportunity to see different parts of the city. In fact, our driver took a very convoluted route through neighborhoods (about a thousand miles an hour) and side streets to get into Manhattan in a heartbeat.

He stopped in front of our hotel, the Renaissance Midtown, a block from Penn Station and spitting distance from the Empire State Building. We checked in after some confusion because the hotel inexplicably reserved my room under my married name from my first husband, and I’m trying hard not to think about how that happened. (Perhaps he will pay the bill as well.) Our room was way cool. Way cooler than either of us for sure. The ceiling was concrete and the shower was transparent on both sides so that the shower taker had absolutely no privacy. And as our 7 year old grandson Joseph said when he heard that: Ewwwwww.

But none of that mattered because we had reservations that night at Becco Restaurant, one of the dining establishments owned by Lidia Bastianich. I knew. I SIMPLY KNEW. This was going to be the night that she was going to come out of the kitchen, our eyes would meet, and she would invite me back into the kitchen to ask me what her cioppino needed to improve the flavor.

Well, once again, it didn’t happen; nevertheless, Bill and I had a delicious meal. I had the nightly pasta special that this night included spinach ravioli, spaghetti with roasted veggies, and penne alla vodka with shrimp…..

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Bill had a perfectly cooked rib eye steak….

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We decided against dessert, electing instead to take a cab over to Eataly, Lidia’s splendid Italian market. And yes, I said we took a cab. Bill’s resistance was lowered in large part because of the bottle of wine we had enjoyed with dinner. Following the wine we had before dinner.

We did a bit of shopping at her market that was surprisingly busy for 10:30 at night. A glass of sambucca seemed fitting to close out our night….

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Though we only had one short night in the city that never sleeps, I think we made good use of it. And as we prepared for bed, Joseph will be glad to know that I indeed didn’t look. Then it was on to our next adventure as we made our way to Vermont.

Guest Post: Reluctant Travel: New York Adventure Day 2

 

bec-closeup-two By Rebecca Borman

My second full day in New York was July 4th.  I would be celebrating our nation’s independence in one of its early capital cities.  I hadn’t planned the second day as carefully as the first, because my big adventure would be in the evening.  I decided to walk across the street to Macy’s and see if I could find something fun to wear for the holiday.  I did, but mostly I enjoyed riding up and down the old wooden escalators.  I also enjoyed a breakfast bagel in Herald Square because, why not?

I decided I would take the subway to the Upper West Side and see what was going on there.  It’s a different world from mid-town.  I walked for quite a while along Central Park and even walked into the park for a bit; there were many families, couples, and bikers enjoying the holiday.  I started feeling hungry and checked my phone to see if there was a good diner nearby.  John’s Old Luncheonette popped up, and it was only a couple of blocks away.  When I walked in, I knew I had made a good choice.  No fancy food or surroundings here, and a quite small menu.  But, it is clearly a neighborhood place; I was the only customer they didn’t greet by name.  I ordered a Long Island Dip sandwich, which is a French dip but on a Kaiser roll.  It was yummy and inexpensive.  I walked out of there for only $12, including the tip.  It was a far cry from my $23 martini on Saturday night!

Remembering that I had a big evening ahead of me, I took the subway back to my hotel and decided to relax for a few hours.  My room was beautiful and it seemed silly not to enjoy that view for a bit.  I rested until it was time to walk to Pier 83, from which a Circle Line Cruise would take me (and many hundreds of others) to see the fireworks from New York Harbor.

Bec NYC cruise line

It was a fun evening aboard one of the six Circle Line ships that set sail that evening.  I scored a seat outside on the upper deck, so I could see the city from a different perspective.  As we sailed around the tip of the island, we passed near the Statue of Liberty, which seemed appropriate on this holiday.  We arrived at our designated spot quite early, but we were entertained by a helicopter fly-over and by a fire boat that was spraying enormous plumes of red, white, and blue water.  Light rain dampened our spirits a bit, but we stayed under cover for a while, and the rain let up long enough for the firework display, which was as spectacular as everyone had expected.  We slowly made our way back to the pier, by which time it was raining steadily.  We all knew we would be walking in the rain back to our various hotels.  A distance of a mile and half isn’t far to walk unless it’s 11:30 PM and raining.  But, the fireworks were worth it, and I’d do it all again.

The next morning, it was time to close out my New York adventure and head to DC, so I walked the two blocks to Penn Station, climbed aboard the Acela train, and prepared to enjoy a quiet three-hour trip to Part II of my East Coast Swing.

Guest Post: Reluctant Travel: New York Adventure Day One

By Rebecca Borman

bec-closeup-twoI love my state of Arizona and the wide open spaces of the west in general.  But, sometimes I long for two East Coast cities, New York and Washington, D.C.  When I learned that I was invited to the wedding of a friend’s son in one of the DC suburbs, it seemed the perfect opportunity to spend a week or so visiting some old haunts.  So I booked airline and train tickets, reserved hotel rooms and, in early July, set off for what I thought of as my East Coast Swing.

I arrived in New York on a Saturday evening, so the taxi ride into the city was fairly quick.  I checked into what looked to be a fabulous hotel, unpacked a couple of things, and set off from the Renaissance Midtown Hotel on 35th St. to Times Square.  Traditionally, my first evening in the Big Apple includes a martini in the awesome 8th floor bar in the Renaissance Marquis, which overlooks the madness of Times Square.  I love sipping a martini, munching on an app, and watching the crowds of people down below.  I took my time on the way back to my hotel, even stopping to do a little shopping for something I’d forgotten.  For some reason, it feels decadent to be able to shop at 10:00 at night!  After all, it’s the city that never sleeps.

View from Bec NYC windowThe next morning, I took time to enjoy the view from my 29th floor room…truly amazing.  I didn’t linger long, however, because I had plans for the day.  I ran (well, walked) a quick errand, then set off to walk to a church I love, St. Francis Xavier, near Union Square.  The church itself is beautiful, like something you’d see in Europe.  And, the Mass there, as always, was uplifting.  After Mass, I stopped in a bakery I’d discovered a couple of years ago.  I didn’t want to carry around their specialty, a chocolate/Nutella babka all day, so I settled for a tasty rugelach to eat on my way to lunch.  (Yes, dessert before lunch.  Don’t judge!)

And where to have lunch was a no-brainer.  I was less than a mile from NY’s NYC fruit stand becEataly, one of my favorite places in Manhattan.  Just walking in the door makes me smile, as you are immediately hit with the sight of beautiful produce and the smell of every kind of good food.  I chose to have a charcuterie and cheese plate and, of course, a glass of wine.  After checking out the display cases of fresh pasta, meats, and seafood, I stopped for a shot of espresso on my way out the door.

Lunch Eatily NYC

I walked a few blocks to catch a subway down to the Brooklyn Bridge, which was my next destination.  One of the few things I try to do every time I’m in NYC is a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.  It’s such a beautiful and awesome structure!  The walkway was crowded and I took my time, simply enjoying the activity and the views.  Once on the other side, I walked just a few blocks north to the Manhattan Bridge.  Now, the Manhattan Bridge is not particularly beautiful, and it’s very noisy because of the vehicle and train traffic, which is on the same level as the walkway.  But, it has a great view of the Brooklyn Bridge.  And, as you get to the Manhattan side, you are looking across and down into some interesting neighborhoods, and, eventually, into China Town.  Once off the bridge, I walked through China Town to get to another favorite place in NY, Little Italy.

Little Italy is…well little.  But, the Italian spirit is definitely there.  I walked in and out of a few shops, bought some souvenirs for my grandkids, and checked out some menus.  I found a restaurant that looked good and stepped up to ask for a table outside.  The host, an elderly gentleman, spoke to me in Italian until my blank face no doubt made it clear that I didn’t understand a thing he was saying!  He gave me a primo table right by the street, and I could tell he was instructing the server to take care of me.  I lingered over a glass of wine and a salad before ordering a bowl of pasta that was, of course, fabulous.  I bought a small gelato for dessert and enjoyed it as I walked out of Little Italy and toward the subway station, just a few blocks away.

By the time I got back to my room, I was bushed!  So, I relaxed on the sofa by my window, read, and enjoyed watching the lights come on in the buildings around me.  Day One in the Big Apple was a success.