NYC

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Crikey, where is the time going? I’ve been back from America for 3 weeks now but they zipped past in a haze. I haven’t actually had a weekend in London since getting home, instead my jet-setting continued on a smaller UK-scale as I spent Easter weekend in Norfolk with my 93 year old gran (who is amazing; she called people in their 70s “old fogies” and one morning she just whipped up 2 homemade loafs of bread before I’d even woken up!) then last weekend I was in Taunton visiting Nick’s older brother, wife and his 2 year old nephew Riley.  He is at that super cute inquisitive age and was on fine form; with highlights being his bath-time serenading us with his self-invented song “heads, shoulders, knees and toes AND BUM!”, his new-found ability to naked breakdance (I can’t wait to remind him of that when he’s a teenager – his parents have NO idea how he learnt to do it?) and following our lunch out at Frankie & Benny’s on the Saturday, his obsession with playing “restaurants”. I spent all of Sunday playing restaurants with him. At Riley’s restaurant he serves “crab bolognese” “chocolate” or for the more adventurous diner.. “whale”.

Anyway I don’t want anymore time to pass without documenting my time in New York. I relied on blogs SO heavily before heading to the big apple and although I already blogged about New York the last time I was there, I had a totally different experience this time around, I guess a lot can change in 3 years and I’m also a different Bee to the one I was then. This time I was business Bee! Before I wade into my memories and photos; the blogs that have recently captured my NY imagination were The Faerietale Foodies hot list of coffee, donut & NY food joints broken down by area, my lovely Eleanor Jane’s recent trip which despite giving her a frostbitten face produced some of the best photographs of the city that I’ve ever seen and finally VIPXO who was flying out as I flew home and managed to fit in about 4 weeks worth of antics into 4 days.

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So you last left me exploring LA’s downtown and enjoying the California sun. My flight from LA > NY was quite eventful! I flew Virgin America who I adore (the beaker above says it all, so much attention to kitsch detail) and it was just short of 7 hours. It still boggles my mind that it’s further to fly across from LA to NY than it is to fly back to England. It’s the same country? Anyway my flight was manned by male twin hipster stewards with waxed moustaches, who both separately talked to me about wanting a dinosaur onesie. I loved them until one of them ID’d me for my G&T and I had to trample over all the people in my aisle to get out, get my handbag, get my ID etc etc in front of the whole plane! But with the big 3-0 a’knocking I guess I should really bask in the youthful accusations, especially as I had no make-up on and severe timezone confused tired-face. Anyway half way through the flight we had a power surge of some kind which was one of those heart in mouth moments as I squinted down at the snowy rocky terrain below and sneakily eyed around to see how edible people looked. Luckily the only thing it affected long term was the entertainment service; so no films for me for 4 long hours. By the time I landed in JFK I was relieved to reunite my feet with the ground. I was less relieved to walk out into the -5 dark night; having got used to 30 degree daily sunshine!

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I didn’t get a particularly warm welcome from New York, on day one I negotiated my walk to the office (I felt like a true New Yoiker! No subway for me!) and the sky got darker and darker with every step. I expected Godzilla to pop round for every corner or a Day After Tomorrow style tidal wave to creep up behind me. Luckily for me and my overactive imagination it was just a snow storm landing and a few hours later a blizzard started that didn’t stop for ten hours. After a long day my best laid plans for exploration were weather-ruined and I slinked back to my hotel, only venturing out to find something warm and tasty near by. Luckily I stumbled across a Korean restaurant where I could chomp away on steamy broth and kimchee pancakes and watch the snow settle outside. The next day the snow had more-or-less melted and left the city in a state of frost-bite. The temperature didn’t creep past zero degrees for my whole trip, mostly lurking around -5. It was so cold that New Yorkers were walking around with their Starbucks cups gripped in their teeth, so that they could keep their hands in their pockets. That sight frightened me everyday… what if the lid fell off? Such a risky strategy!

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I HEART New York. I totally get why people want to emblazen their love for it on T-Shirts and mugs and sing about it endlessly. There is just this sparkle and energy that is contagious, and a huge pride in being in NY which is something I think us shy retiring Brits haven’t successfully emulated in London. One thing I had forgotten is how much people CHAT. I think it helps that as a nosey northerner I’m the first to get nattering, but it made me chuckle that on a daily basis someone would just randomly yell something at me. The first day it was “Hey! Blue Eyes!” and the second I just got a nice “Good Morning Miss” and they aren’t from people wanting to engage you in conversation or a sleazy-builder style bellow. They are just chatty New Yorkers being very New York. It warms my heart! On the Tuesday I had a recommendation for a sushi restaurant but when I walked the 10 blocks there it had shut down! Woe. Luckily this led me to discover Two Boots where I could order a slice of pizza as big as my head and very delicious it was too (also don’t tell, but I actually ordered 2 slices and ate them ALL). However, my work colleagues were not so impressed and said it wasn’t AUTHENTIC enough, so the next day one of them ordered me two wholes boxes of Saluggi’s which I will go on record to say that was hands-down the best pizza I have ever eaten. They must put actual magic in the sauce. Even remembering it makes my mouth water. If you are ever in New York, you need to go there and you need to eat THIS.

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There is so much yellow in New York! I hadn’t realised before. Taxis, school buses, traffic lights and traffic lanes. Yellow follows you around the city and every photograph you take will inevitably have a flash of it somewhere. The nice thing about working was that I made instant friends and had some people to show me the best spots off the tourist trail. After eating & drinking myself around Manhattan here were my top treasures:

Best Cafe: Vesulka This Ukarainian cafe has been in the East Village for 58 years. The bright, airy space is the perfect place to meet friends for brunch, lunch, dinner OR late night since it’s open way past bedtime. Be brave and try the traditional items like Blintzes, Challah or Goulash. If you would prefer something more traditional; the choc chip pancakes are to die for. The tea also comes with sweet literary quotes attached to the bag-string.

Best Sushi: On the Wednesday night my colleagues Clairellen & Gerta indulged my sushi craving and introduced me to Tomoe Sushi. It would be easy to walk past this cosy little Japanese joint and there is often a small queue, but oh it’s worth it. The chef’s prepare the sushi in front of you (it’s so small in there, you can see everything!) and I’d definitely recommend the seaweed salad and the deep fried oyster-mmmm. They can definitely claim the Best Sushi in NY title.

Best Bagel: Bagel’s are served everywhere. The bagels from the bagel cart are your best bet and best NY experience. A plain white with cream cheese has to be your first pick, but then I would be brave and opt for the darkest brown looking option, which is Pumpernickel  and unlike anything I’d had before. They are packed full of molasses though, so will leave you full for hours of site-seeing.

Best Mexican: Rosa Mexicano  is a high brow mexican offering so partner it with a trip to somewhere a bit more down n dirty for a burrito. The reason you have to visit here is the world famous guacamole which they come and make fresh at your table in front of you! 

Best for Night Owls: My favourite place to drink is St Marks Place, and a great place off the beaten track there is The Crooked Tree. It’s fairy-lit, cute and perfect for gazing at a handsome boy over a cocktail or IPA brew. They also do killer crepes.

Best for Take-Home Treats: Trader Joes! This isn’t just your bog standard supermarket. This is the best grocery store I have ever encountered. Don’t leave it to the airport to stock up on boring-reeces-pieces. Hit up a Trader Joe’s and explore their treats section for peanut butter stuffed chocolate covered pretzels! Oh and their Speculoos biscuit spread is also an absolute must. I also stocked up on my biggest weakness: HOT SAUCE!

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During this trip I indulged in a bit of an ambition and guilty pleasure – also taking one for the team for people in my life such as my best friend Lol and my sister Meg. I went to CARRIE BRADSHAW’S HOUSE! Under the guise of exploring Greenwich Village, which in itself is definitely worth doing, I looked up the street address and found myself at 64 Perry Street being a fan girl. Luckily there was no one else around so I could take a few stealth snaps and then pretend like I belonged in the neighbourhood. One really sweet thing is that the family who live there have put a chain up (so people dont intrude and climb up the steps) and on the chain is a note from the family, asking if you take a photo to donate ¢1 to the local animal shelter. Aw. There is a little tin for you to drop your dollar in. Such a nice idea.

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After nearly a fortnight apart, on the Thursday my dreamboat sailed into town (well ok, flew). We had agreed to meet at Grand Central, as after the longest we have ever been separated, we felt we deserved the most film-like and romantic reunion. And it was! We hadn’t agreed where in Grand Central, but happened to choose the same location where I leapt on him for a proper Hollywood smooch and the worlds longest bear hug, whilst tutting harassed Americans scampered past on their ways to and from their lives.

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Part 2 coming soon; the ‘holiday’ part of my trip as Nick & I took on New York heading to my first ever KBBQ, exploring Williamsburg and being turned away from the Brooklyn brewery tour so making up our own Brooklyn beer pub-crawl.

I’ll leave you with this little lady; the NY office dog of dreams. Isn’t she just begging for me to take her home with me in my bag (that she’d definitely fit in)?

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This will be my last NYC holiday blog post, thanks for bearing with me! I just knew if I never documented the trip in any detail anywhere, then it would slip off into the sands of time and after a few weeks back in real-world Bee life I would barely be able to recount the places I saw or the best memories and it would just feel like a dream.

I have missed out about 1000 minute details too like the man we met who own a bar called The Crooked Tree and gave me a free chocolate & mango crepe and a glass of his house delicacy – prosecco with a merlot sorbet float! Or the fact most houses I saw on the greyhound drive looked like the one from Amityville . The shooting stars I saw out in the mountains and the dragonfly as big as a dinner plate. The morning we lazed in bed and watched Maury and the show was called Think your spouse is fooling around with the delivery man? (How specific?!) or the day we got a taxi in the rain and I saw lightening hit the Empire State building. I suppose I will have to rely on my battered NewYork moleskin packed with scribbled wobbly notes for them!

On our last morning in Williamsburg we went to an amazing little diner called Pies n Thighs. Just check out their brunch menu and feel our pain when it made no sense whatsoever! I opted for a hippie banjo which was sprouts (!) egg tomato and cheese on a biscuit (which is a scone to us Brits) and the beau had a Rob Evans which was scarmbled egg, cheese and gravy on a biscuit. Apart from the undeciferable menu, the food was amazing and we were served by a girl who wore super mario dungarees and was maximum friendly. We then went on a hike across the Brooklyn bridge…

It was a cloudy day but the views were still amazing and we were on a mission anyway, to Grimaldi’s – apparently the best pizza in New York. Tucked away under Brooklyn Bridge, whatever the day, time OR weather there will always be a queue of at least 20 people. We waited for 40 minutes and eventually shuffled into a booth and I’m going to go against the grain and say it wasn’t the best I’ve ever had in my life BUT the set up, the traditional chefs shouting in Italian to each other over the tables and the amazingly random decor definitely made it one of my best NY experiences.

I’m sure thousands of tourist types go to New York and never venture anywhere near the library which is such a crying shame. Even if you aren’t the worlds hugest Ghostbusters nerd (err, that’d be me) then you can appreciate the incredible architecture and endless rooms and offices and specialist areas and nooks and crannies. That is me in the ACTUAL aisle where the librarian ghost scene was filmed. It’s so typical that I don’t have a single photo of me in Times Square… Statue of Liberty… Empire State…  but of course I have a tourist shot in the library! We found some amazing old records too of all the ferrys that arrived from England and Ireland pre-war, with the names of every single person who came.

My number one recomendation if you are in NYC is that you check out St Marks Place. That was definitely my favourite place for drinking and socialising. It’s a wonderful road packed with cafes, diners, Japanese saki bars, and was where I felt most at home. On St Marks place was a bar called PDT (Please Don’t Tell!) which we had read about in Time Out on the flight over. It’s in such high demand that we had to phone at 3pm on the day to make reservations and the lines were busy for HALF an hour (hello £100 phonebill, urk) and then when we got through, we got the last table. The concept is that PDT is a speakeasy. From the outside, it just looks like Criff Dogs which is a working, functioning hot dog diner. However if you have a reservation you pass through Criff Dogs to a payphone in the corner. You dial a code and then the door swing open and you are quickly ushered into a 1920s Speakeasy. It IS prohibition and you must mutter and mumble so as not to draw attention, as you sip the most amazing and intricate cocktails. It was such a unique experience and everything from the barmen in bow ties, to the language used in the menu, to the spirits available is as authentic as possible.

For the last few days we stayed in Manhattan, near Chelsea Market. I visited the chess men, and I don’t think this guy was very happy I caught his losing being mocked on camera! Then, a pilgrimage to Magnolia Bakery…

We picked up the cakes to take-away, and ate them in the courtyard under the Rockerfellar Centre. We opted for a Red Velvet and a Chocolate Devil Food and they were, as expected, out of this world good. The scariest thing was that although they were incredible – moist, rich and delish… but dangerously they were so fluffy that you felt like you could easily eat about 20. In fact when we were queuing for our purchases (you take them from the bakery counter, then to a seperate cashier to pay), a girl behind me devoured her two WHILST STILL IN THE QUEUE TO PAY. That would so be me if I lived in New York.

As we sat eating our cakes, my beau said there’s a storm coming, I can feel it and I looked at him like alright Mystic Meg! Jog on! It’s all white sky and no grey clouds!

Fast forward ten minutes and as we are walking to the subway, a crash of thunder shakes the city and suddenly we are in the most torrential rainstorm! We had to cower in a tourist shop whilst the thunder roared and lightening crackled and the radio started talking about the TORNADO about to hit Manhattan! It was all quite dramatic and although after a while we braved the weather and skipped through the rain getting soggy feet – the tornado did really hit Queens and destroyed two roads of houses and killed one woman. So that was my first taste of real extreme weather I’ve ever had and it was a little bit un-nerving.

On our last night we really went large in Brooklyn. As I mentioned on my return, we went to the quirkiest place called Barcade which is basically cocktails + all the BEST old school arcade machines = :]) And obviously the merrier you get, the better you think you are at games like Pacman, Outrun and my personal favourite Paperboy. Or in my case, you get more and more outraged that you can’t complete one level and start thinking it’s a comlete fix and telling everyone you meet so. Ahem…

  

We then managed to accidentally gatecrash a lovely ladys bachalorette party and join the party train to a Hiphop club where we were the only ones on the dancefloor for many hours. I can’t remember much about getting home except that we got a really shady non-taxi who only charged $8 from Brookly to Manhattan… errr!

Safe to say on my last day in NYC I was a complete state. We checked out late because it took me an hour to even be able to lift my head from the pillow. We then had reservations at the very hard-to-get-into brunch at Essex. I had been SO excited about our last brunch (and the unlimited bloody marys!) but when we actually got there I could do nothing but sit and shake and try not to be sick. I couldnt touch a drop of alcohol and couldn’t eat my banana and chocolate pancake either – I had to ask for it in a doggy bag. Mortifying! I was so cross with myself! I also was spotted! by the adorable Helen who happened to be brunching in Essex too. What a small blogworld it is. I’m absolutely cringing that she saw me in such a shrivelled, sad state of affairs! Luckily, a brisk walk across the WIlliamsburg bridge to say a final goodbye to the NY skyline sorted me out enough to be able to get on the plane with out too much fuss but a 6 hour flight with a raging hangover is something I will never repeat! I literally sat weeping to myself and half watching The Runaways.

So, I get it now. I get New York and why everyone loves it enough to emblazen their adoration on their teeshirt, and sing about it and set endless movies there. I of course like anyone who’s ever visited, am now hellbent on moving there at some point. And you know what, I have a feeling it might just happen! I don’t think I’m finished with the big apple just yet…

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