Monday, March 12, 2012

Where We Went: NYC Edition

In early December, we grabbed the chance to knock off one of my all time bucket list trips.  NYC at Christmas time.  Oh the lights, Rockefeller Centre, the store windows along 5th...swoon.  We had an absolute amazing time, and have some definite recommendations for your next trip.

We stayed at The ACE Hotel.  So cool.  So perfect.  I loved that the entire hotel from lobby to hotel rooms to bars to gym looked like something ripped out of a DOMINO Magazine, shelter mag perfection. PB loved how inherently cool simply staying at such a cool place made him.  By day the Stumptown Coffee Roasters line snaked through the lobby, at night we could lounge on comfortable couches and drink champagne cocktails while listening the newest indie music. (Am I lame for typing indie music?) The ACE is not cheap - but we managed to score a deal (a deal that still gave PB heart palpitations) by using Vacationist - have you checked it out yet?  Great place to score great hotels.  The location was alright, away from Times Square and other touristy spots, but a block from the subway and a 20 minute walk to Chelsea and the West Village - so perfect for us. 

We got in a bit late on Thursday night, but not too late to check out the pizza place that I'd heard great things about Co. - Jim Lahey's (of "No knead bread" fame....not of Trailer Park Boy fame) pizzeria in Chelsea.  Such a great place, loved it. We shared some wine and olives, and then each had an absolutely amazing pizza - I went with a spinach pizza and PB went with the shitake and walnut option.  And we had our first celebrity siting - Lutz from 30 Rock.   Very cool.

During our first day, we headed straight to Rockefeller Centre to nab tickets to "Top of the Rock".  I should first explain that my idea of an ultimate weekend away is walking between bar to restaurant, bar to restaurant, and checking out a few neighbourhoods and shops along the way.  PB can't imagine a weekend away unless it involves standing in huge crowds waiting to overpay for tourist attractions.  So we compromise.  Given that we'd both been to NYC before, and both had done a few of the necessary tourist visits, we agreed we could keep crowds of fanny pack wearing mid westerners to a minimum, but I consented to a few. 

Top of the Rock was neat, amazing views, we were lucky we got a beautiful morning and could see for miles.  While at Rockefeller Centre, we got to check out the famous tree (ummm...a bit unimpressive in person) and the skating rink (also...tiny) - but no skating for us...we learned the hard way on Bower Ponds six years ago that PB should not put on skates. Ever. Again. Next up - breakfast.  I'd read great things about a chain bakery Le Pain Quotidiene.  It lived up to the hype.  Sure its a chain, but a chain that offers organic, whole foods in a gorgeous setting and friendly service. 

We followed breakfast with a walk down Fifth Ave.  The store fronts were awe inspiring.  The store windows of Saks was obviously fascinating, and the building facades of all were covered in dripping lights.  Gorgeous.  (None of which our camera captured at all).  No shopping for us though..frankly I'm beyond going into stores where the sales clerks who make 1/4 of what we do look at me like they know the most likely thing I'm going to buy that day is a new pair of sweatpants from Old Navy. 

 We made our way down to Central Park and enjoyed a hour or so of walking through the beautiful park.  PB raised the possibility of going to the zoo...and I raised my objections to animals in cages.  We decided to just walk and enjoy the sunshine.  Oh to live close to the park and be able to jog the park everyday..swoon.

We followed our walk with a trip to my number one wish destination.  Eataly.  Oh. Good. Lord.  This could be a blog post all its own.  The shop/restaurant of Mario Batali was insane, in every possible insane amazing way.  Imagine a massive store, fulled to the brim with the finest Italian ingredients fresh off the boat, from cheese to fresh produce, to sauce to espressos to gelato to fresh made pasta in every shape and size.  On top of that, there are seven Italian restaurants each featuring a different specialty, including meat, fish, pasta, sweets, a wine and cheese area, but we chose the Vegetable restaurant (ok - in fairness we did want to check out the pasta restaurant, but the wait was a couple of hours...and so we decided being the good veggies, we'd check out the veg restaurant instead).  It was still great.  The wine was amazing, the food beautiful.  And while I would have sat there for hours sipping wine and taking it all in (I could read Marinara bottle labels for days) the place was balls to the walls packed and crazy and PB was getting the stink eye from security for fondling the pastry counter so we decided to move on. 

From Eataly, we walked down to the West Village to soak in some of the atmosphere of the village.  We checked out some shops and when decided our feet were about to fall off, we found a small hole in the wall wine and panini bar called 'Ino Cafe/Bar and squeezed into a corner (the cafe only sat about 10 people) and shared some wine and antipasto.

After rehydrating...we headed to MOMA where Target sponsors "free Friday nights", how cool is that? Can you even imagine how excited PB was that I found us a free activity? Every Friday night MOMA is open to the public free of charge.  We could have spent a day there, but instead checked out some Monet, Frida and Picasso and then headed to Times Square to take in our show.

We decided to go with a play over a musical, because truth be told...and I know I'm going to hear ALL kinds of judgement on this, but I find the musicals a bit hokey sometimes.  PB loves himself some show tunes, but I prefer a play.  So we compromised and chose a comedy play, "Seminar" staring Alan Rickman.  SNAPE!!! Funny, but not hilarious - but it was cool to see Alan Rickman live.

After Seminar - we went to Candle 79 - for what was the best meal of the trip (although to be was an almost impossible call...every single meal was amazing - thanks to my ridiculously extensive restaurant research and planning).   While Candle 79 is vegan, trust us - anyone would find it absolutely amazing.

We followed dinner with a couple hours in the lobby bar at the ACE and then retired after a super full but awesome day.

On Saturday we kicked off our day by walking to the Chelsea Market, where we were overwhelmed by the veggie brunch options, but PB couldn't resist an old fashion veggie pot pie while I went with a crepe that made PB curse his uncontrollable desire for pastries (no seriously - he swore at me for choosing something that looked so good, that's how aggressive we get about food) .

After the Chelsea market, against my good judgment (but what could be called the ultimate self sacrifice of sanity and happiness for the sake of their partner) we walked through Times Square in the day light (I HATE TIMES SQUARE SO MUCH - PB loved it). After I somehow survived the tackiness and claustrophobic atmosphere of Times Square,  we headed to Grand Central Terminal - which was absolutely beautiful.  I'd read the architecture was amazing, and it was indeed.  So much more than just a train station.   Also super fun - downstairs in front of the Oyster Bar - there is a section of the corridor where you can each stand in separate corners of the room, whisper - and you can hear the other person's whispers! Your whisper travels up the wall and across the ceiling! How cool is that! Sure you feel like a bit of a knob doing it - but when in Rome....

After Grand Central Terminal - we took the subway over to Brooklyn so we could walk back across the Brooklyn Bridge.  I wish we'd had more time to explore Brooklyn and Williamsburg, but alas, two days is never enough. (And I think PB thought Brooklyn was Harlem and was a bit nervous)  After crossing the Brooklyn Bridge we checked out the newly constructed 9/11 Memorial.  While we certainly still view that tragedy as not only an American tragedy but also an International tragedy, neither of us felt the need to tour the memorial site and museum.  We'll always remember, but it just felt a bit wrong to us about how much money is being made off this unimaginable tragedy.

At this point we were especially hungry and we headed back to the West Village for a late lunch at Bar Pitti - While the food wasn't amazing (good...just...I mean..our we are such total food snobs), we have never felt so unattractive in our entire lives.  We were likely the only people in the restaurant that weren't models and we were surrounded by Italian.  It was great people watching.  Once we tired of being the shortest, fattest and plainest people in the room, we decided to walk off our wine by wandering through the West Village.  We managed to work up a thirst again (What? We get easily dehydrated...stop judging) and stopped in at Dos Caminos for a margarita for PB and some cava for me. On our way back to the hotel we stopped off and wandered the cutest Christmas Market and ate the MOST amazing Parisan (are they still Parisian if you eat them in NYC?) macaroons.

We wandered back to the hotel stopping at a few shops to window shop on the way (please..why waste money on shopping when there was so much pasta and cava to buy?).  That night we had an amazing meal at Scarpetta - which also has a separate vegetarian menu - and I'm still raving about the braised lentils.

We wrapped up our night with a few night caps at the John Dory bar at the ACE, and pouted about how we wanted to have more time in NYC. 

We finished our trip with the. most. amazing. brunch at The Breslin (also at the ACE) - it was so good that we managed to get in an argument when PB wouldn't share his and then we felt  properly sorry for ourselves that we had to head back to Moncton.

Although we say this at the end of every trip - we'll be back to NYC.  Sooner rather than later hopefully.

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