Thursday, December 17, 2009

NYC Pics

Here are some of the pics we took in NYC:

Bella helped me pack the night before!

The Jackie O Reservoir in Central Park

It was a cold cold day in Central Park! We were so bundled that we would start sweating anytime we went inside!

A pretty and (miraculously) people-free bridge in Central Park

Loved this tunnel in Central Park - it reminded me of tiled tunnels and walkways in Italy. Can you tell the park was my favorite part of the city?!

The Christmas tree at Rockefeller - so pretty!

The craziness of Times Square on a Friday night - eek! This was around 11:00 p.m. after seeing the Lion King (wish I could have taken pics of that, but, sadly, it's prohibited)

Just a small part of the Santa herd at Santa-Con!

A few more of the VERY jolly Santas

We just had to try some Magnolia Cupcakes. Bit of wiki trivia for you: Magnolia is the bakery credited with really starting the "cupcake craze" that began in the 1990s and still continues!

A Lego Chewbacca at FAO Schwarz! This store was pure insanity - case in point: a $1200 stuffed giraffe at the entrance. We saw piano dancers perform a show on the giant floor piano from the movie Big, and we LOVED the muppet workshop where you can make your own can customize everything from the color and style of hair to eye shape to clothes to fun! Too bad we didn't have time to make one!

The ceiling at Grand Central Station had a very festive greeting for us.

Trinity Church is one of the oldest churches in the city. When the twin towers fell, debris rained down on it, knocking over a giant sycamore tree that somehow managed to avoid destroying any of the old headstones, some of which date back to the 1700s.

Alexander Hamilton is buried here at Trinity Church.

Ground Zero at the World Trade Center. They are clearing the way for the memorial, which will someday look like this.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Concrete Jungle

Hey all, happy holidays! I can't believe Christmas is right around the corner...I feel so unprepared! I have only done a tiny bit of Christmas shopping, all of it online. I went to the mall one day in early December and now absolutely refuse to go back until after New Years!

Jeff and I just returned from a long weekend in NYC!! It was my very first time to visit the city, and it was a great experience! Jeff was the ultimate tour guide since he lived there for a bit in the early 2000s. We stayed in a hotel near Times Square, so we were right in the middle of all the holiday action. The tree at Rockefeller Center was gorgeous...I was amazed that it was actually a real tree, I have never seen a tree so huge! Being up there during the holiday season is a great way to get into the Christmas spirit. All the windows and storefronts were bursting with decorations - there were literally lines that you had to stand in OUTSIDE THE STORES just to pass by the larger stores' Christmas window displays. Craziness!

Jeff and I are not "touristy" people. You'll never catch us on a tour bus, and we rarely find anything worth standing in line more than half an hour. So we spent our weekend as if we were NYC residents, which is how we love to travel. We would rather spend a day poking around on our own than being swept into the masses of tourists frequenting all the usual sights. Since it was in the 20s and very windy,the last place I wanted to be was on top of the Empire State Building or crammed onto the top deck of a wind-whipped ferry on the way to the Statue of Liberty! We happily admired both of those sights from afar. Of course we couldn't get away with doing absolutely NO touristy stuff since it was New York at Christmas! So we gawked at the lights and chaos of Times Square, saw a Broadway show (more on that later), and took in the holiday cheer at Rockefeller Center.

~Here are a few of the highlights~

Animals and Quasi-Animals

We saw some wildlife in Central Park. We were some of the only idiots crazy enough to wander deep into the park on a day with a wind chill of 18, so it was actually very peaceful and quiet. They have jet black squirrels there, which was so cool! Never seen the likes of that before! Also some beautiful mallards and cardinals. And a very strange guy thrashing around in the leaves while his friend photographed the incident...and a guy having a one-man dance party on top of a rock - I think those count as wildlife too!

We saw the Lion King on Broadway, which was spectacular. I totally geeked out and teared up during the first scene because it was so visually amazing. The woman who plays Rafiki should win whatever award goes to stage performers a million times over.

We saw NYC Subway rats...actually pretty cute for rodents who run around in wet subway refuse all day!

Food & More Food:

We ate in Little Italy our very first night in the city. As many of my friends know, I have a small obsession with the mafia, so I was super excited to go to Little Italy, even though that really makes no sense because it's not like you just walk around and see "the mob" loitering on the corners (thank goodness)! But I guess I just watched too many episodes of the Sopranos! Mostly I was super excited to go there for the food. And rightfully so! We ate at a little place called Pellegrino's, and it was delish! Jeff had the best veal dish I've ever tasted, and I had some awesome hand-made ravioli. Although we were totally stuffed after that meal, we couldn't resist stopping in at Caffe Palermo with its signs boasting "Best Cannoli in NYC." Inside we found out that the claim wasn't empty. There were pics of celebrities (largest pic was Ryan Seacrest) with the pastry chef and tons of awards on the walls. I had a chocolate cannoli and oh-my-gah it was AMAZING! Literally, I will be thinking about this cannoli experience for years to come.

We ate at an amazing restaurant called ilili (cute, a palindrome); it was Lebanese and awesome! It was a lot like other Greek/Mediterranean food, but with its own unique flavors. It was also served mezze style, which is basically like Spanish tapas - small dishes to share. Warm eggplant, chicken shish taouk, duck shawarma...why oh why don't we have anything like this in Dallas?!

We ate not once, but TWICE at a lovely establishment called 53th & 6th Halal Cart. Street Meat at its finest! This cart has become famous among online food bloggers, and Yelp writers raved about it. So, naturally we had to try it. We stood in a line about 25 people deep in the freezing cold after seeing the Lion King to try this place. You get the choice of a "plate" or a "sandwich". Plate = foil bowl stuffed with lettuce, rice, lamb, chicken, and white sauce (basically tzatziki sauce). Sandwich = choice of meat with lettuce, wrapped in a giant pita and drenched in white sauce. It was definitely not healthful and totally made us feel like bloated sacks of dung after eating it, but it was worth it! The experience was half the fun anyway. We visited the good ole cart again after a LATE night out with one of Jeff's friends who lives in the city...several cocktails later, the cart suddenly seemed like a good idea again!

Checking off the Must-Dos:

We visited Battery Park, the tip of the island, where we were able to view the Statue of Liberty and look out at Jersey and the tunnels connecting the cities.

We walked to the financial district and looked at Ground Zero at the World Trade Center. It is still a huge wreck, though not with debris anymore. Now they are clearing the way for new buildings and a memorial. It was mind-blowing to see the work still being done to repair the buildings surrounding the place where the towers fell. Very sobering, and a very necessary part of my visit to the city.

We ran into a gaggle of drunken Santas that lightened the mood after the World Trade Center. It was a happy coincidence that we were in NYC during Santa-Con, which can only be described as a disorganized, hilarious street parade and pub crawl of idiots dressed in Santa suits, elf costumes, wrapped up like packages, decked out with tinsel, etc. We died laughing when about 75 Santas emerged from a Subway tunnel in the financial district and started heading for a strip of bars to meet up with their bretheren. We saw Santas wearing no pants, Santas peeing in alleyways, Santas on stilts, and, randomly, a fat dude dressed in a giant panda suit (no idea)! Hilarity!!!

We took a walk through Jeff's old neighborhood and saw his old apartment building, wandered into his old grocery store, and ate at his favorite corner pizza place. Wish I could have lived there with him - we would have had a blast!

We strolled through the Village and window-shopped at the many artsy boutiques in that part of town. I loved this area of the seemed to move at a less frenetic pace. We also stumbled across Bleecker Street Pizza, which was voted by Food Network to have the best pizza in NYC. Since we only ate pizza twice on our visit, I can neither confirm or deny this claim, but I can say that it was very tasty! On that same afternoon, we braved the line at Magnolia Bakery to try their famous cupcakes. We sampled a chocolate and a red velvet, and they were definitely yummy, although I do rank them below my favorite Dallas bakery - Society Bakery (way to go, Society!)

In all, it was an awesome trip! I love exploring new places, and although I could explore NYC for years and years and still find new things, I felt like I got a great overview in the few days I had there.

Pics coming soon in separate post...