Preface: I’m not the kind of person who gets super-excited about things, gushes, and uses an exclamation point at the end of every sentence so please don’t misinterpret this recap as me not enjoying my time in NYC. I enjoyed myself immensely.
Preface: I’m not the kind of person who gets super-excited about things, gushes, and uses an exclamation point at the end of every sentence so please don’t misinterpret this recap as me not enjoying my time in NYC. I enjoyed myself immensely.
I’d be staying for six nights and the only firm plans I had were Saturday night tickets to The Book of Mormon, a hair appointment, and an express pass for the Empire State Building. Other than that, I had a list of things I could do if/when I felt like it and knew enough about where those things are to not waste time backtracking. I kept firmly in mind that I was ON VACATION. Vacation is not a job. If I don’t see it this time I can probably see it next time. If I don’t ever see it, well, there’s a lot of things in this world I’m never going to see.
I got to La Guardia on time around 11:30 a.m. and snagged a cab to The Smyth Hotel in Tribeca (W. Broadway btw. Chambers & Warren.) I originally planned on staying at The Cosmopolitan but decided I’d like a bigger bathroom for seven days. My “Superior Queen” room (the lowest on the pricing scale) at The Smyth was plenty big enough. I had a view of the Woolworth Building from my narrow (but tall) window. The driver took FDR Drive (he said he’d just come from the Brooklyn Bridge and traffic was very bad) so I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see qb’s dad’s P.S. 19. Traffic was slow and it cost quite a bit more than the ride from LGA to Midtown last summer. Next time I’ll call Dial 7. Then I can relax and enjoy the ride without a bunch of taxi junk in my face and not worry about the meter.
By the time I got to the hotel it was almost 1:00 and I was able to check in early. That was really nice. After getting settled a little I walked over to Church St., taking in what was around there. I’d walked two whole blocks before I was asked by a young woman if she was headed the right way. I had a map with me and unfortunately had to tell her she was not. My hair appointment was at 2:00 with Ashley at Rare Salon at Church and Lispenard. I was going to go to YGallery per qb’s recommendation but they don’t answer their e-mail and that’s a deal-breaker for me. Rare Salon was expensive (to me, anyway) but worth every penny for a splurge on a haircut. I got a great cut and color, everyone there was really nice and down to earth, and they were thrilled to recommended bars and things for me. Now I just have to get my stylist at home to cut it the same way. Or go back to NYC in six to eight weeks. Hmm. I think I will. Ashley doesn’t really follow the news and I was the one that broke it to her that Vidal Sassoon had died recently.
On the way back to the Hotel I stopped in at South’s (recommended by the salon) and had a soft drink. It seemed like my type of place but it was pretty early and pretty empty. I’d read some good reviews of Da Mikele saying they have really thin crust, wood oven pizza so I stopped in there as I passed by. They had their happy hour offerings out, which included pizza. It was cold but I could easily tell it wasn’t anything like the type of pizza I was looking for. Oh well. I was glad I got to see what it was like before I actually ordered it. It looks like they put out a nice little spread for happy hour but it was pretty picked over when I was there. (Where in NYC can one get super-duper thin and crispy-as-a-cracker crust pizza?)
After changing clothes and relaxing for a bit I headed out for the evening to rub shoulders with the locals. I headed up to Walkers (on Moore) and planned to work my way towards “home” from there. I’d read good reviews about the food but decided to drink my dinner. One of the bartenders there had to have been the most efficient bartender I’ve ever encountered and he was nice. The bar was pretty packed and he never missed a beat. I think he was originally from Iowa. He got a well above average tip for his efforts. I had a few drinks and talked some with the people around me before making my way to Tribeca Tavern.
Decent jukebox there. I haven’t been to any bars anywhere in quite a while and it seems like most jukeboxes use Pandora now. Nice bartender (Hi Debbie!) Somehow I got to talking to some people who work for the Hudson River Park and they invited me to their spring gala on the next Tuesday at Pier 26 and wrote which table to go to on my ticket. Unfortunately I’d be leaving that morning. More unfortunately, my flight would get cancelled and I’d be spending that night in NYC after all but I didn’t know that until 8:00 p.m. that day. That really sucked.
After drinking with that bunch for a while a couple of them went home and the two guys that were left insisted on walking me back to the hotel. We stopped in some other bar on the way (maybe AnotherRoom?). I knew exactly where the hotel was supposed to be and the cross streets and everything and even though I emphasized WEST Broadway, I think they got West Broadway confused with Broadway and we just couldn’t find it. Plus it was my first day there and the hotel has a very nondescript entry and I hadn’t learned to look for the neon “Jamba Juice” sign across the street yet. So they hailed a cab for me. It was a really fun night.
Since I can’t remember which days I did most other things on I’m just going to list other things I did with some comments:
Museum of Natural History – I only spent a couple of hours there because of the number of children. It should have, but it never crossed my mind that the place would be full of kids. Duh. And not just many children but many packs of many children. More than the dinosaurs, I was really struck by how big Alaskan Grizzlies are. Wow. I bought a really cute blown glass dinosaur Christmas ornament for my sister in the gift shop.
The Book of Mormon – Just as good or better than when I saw it last summer. It was fun that St. Malachy’s across the street played There’s No Business Like Show Business on the bells while I was waiting to get in. I picked up on some things I didn’t catch the first time around. The guy next to me was there with his two daughters and he said they’d asked him what the difference is between Mormonism and mainstream Christianity. I told him the show would explain it. I hung out by the stage door for a while after the show and got some autographs.
Empire State Building – I paid extra for the express pass for this. I went on Memorial Day Weekend Saturday at about midnight and it was packed. I showed my ticket to the first staff member I encountered and he told me, “Make sure you show this to EVERYBODY.” Well, at some places there was nobody to show it to and I ended up in a long line I shouldn’t have been in. You really have to be aggressive about using it. Do not get into any line without finding somebody to show it to. There are no separate lines for express passes and no signs anywhere about what to do. While I was in the longest line I’d ever been in in my life I found a guy to show it to and got back on track with the “express” part of things. Also, don’t get rid of the express pass once you get to the observation deck. There are also lines for the down elevators. By the time I got up there I was pretty frustrated and tired and they let too many people up at once (in my opinion) and I didn’t enjoy it much. If I went again I’d go to the 102nd floor because I’ve heard there are fewer people there. I loved the view of the lit up Chrysler Building though. That’s the main reason I went. When I left, the line to get in was even LONGER than when I’d arrived. It was already 1:00 a.m. No way were all those people going to get up there by 2:00.
The Street Hot Dog – On the way home from the ESB I was starving so got a hotdog from a vendor. I’m not one to blame illness on restaurant food (I’m sure the vast majority of restaurants have cleaner kitchens than mine) but this hotdog was suspect. I was quite sick from 3:00 a.m. until the next evening. I’ll spare you the details.
The ride home from ESB – This was the night I was on the car with the homeless guy and the drunk that I described in another post. No big deal. I was alert and ready to change cars if I felt like I needed to.
Central Park – I had some time one day and took the train up to 72nd St. I should say I tried to take the train there. The announcement said “the B train is running on the A tracks.” I waited and waited for that stupid B train and it never showed up so I got on the C train and ended up at 125th St., turned around and took the A back. If the announcement had said, “The B train is not running. Take the A train instead.” I’ve had understood. Live & learn. Anyway, I entered at 72nd street without a map. My MO is to print 8 ½ by 11 maps off of Google for the areas I’m going to. When I head out I grab the maps for just those areas. My old eyes like them better than a full map. But I’d neglected to print a Central Park map and didn’t see anywhere to get one so I winged it. The first place I landed was Strawberry Fields and the Imagine mosaic. There was a band playing Beatles songs and people were singing along. I stayed and listened (would have sung along but it was in too high of a key for me) for a bit and headed west. I was happy to find myself on a path that went by Bethesda Terrace. I love the Angel of the Waters on the fountain. My path also took me by the boathouse and the Alice in Wonderland sculpture. After that I headed over to the 6 train and took that back downtown. I wanted to stay on it while it turned around so I could see what I could of the old City Hall station but the announcement said everyone had to get off the train and I have a hard time not following rules.
Chelsea Market – It was ok and I would love it if I had a place like it near me but you can’t bring fresh food home to Wisconsin. I bought a couple of things at Anthropologie, a knife guard at Bowery Kitchen Supply and had some Gelato.
Gelato and other frozen stuff – The last time I was in town I didn’t see gelato anywhere. This time I found it (or good ice cream) every time I turned around. Yay! The first was at L’Arte de Gelato at Chelsea Market. It was good but not memorable. I think I got raspberry & lemon. When I was walking down Bleecker St. I stopped in at Cones for ice cream/sorbetto. Very low-key place. Three tables. I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a line or anything, as hot as it was. Very good. Raspberry and chocolate this time. I’d definitely stop here again if I’m in the neighborhood. When I went to the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit it was so hot where they had the stalls set up and there was no shade. I turned around and there was Amorino. More expensive than the other two. I think it was better than L’Arte de Gelato. I had half raspberry, half hazelnut. I love my raspberry. Their bathroom could have used a good cleaning.
Brooklyn Flea – Not really what I expected. I thought I saw some comments here that said it was more of an artsy-craftsy thing than a flea market but I found it to be more flea markety with some arts/crafts. Maybe it depends on who shows up on any given day. And I’d imagined it was much bigger than it actually was. I didn’t find anything to buy so I was happy to see the food trucks setting up. I’d never had Bahn Mi before so got one of those from one of the vendors. I didn’t care for it enough to finish it so tossed it and got a grilled cheese from Milk Truck. It was pretty good and had Wisconsin Gruyere on it. I wish they’d have had dill pickles but they had “spicy” pickles. Afterwards I wished I’d have tried the spicy pickles on half because a plain grilled cheese is too bland for me. The milkshake I got was excellent. I hadn’t had a milkshake in years. I got the vanilla and would like to go back for the vanilla with malt bits.
Lilly O’Brien’s – On Murray by W. Broadway. I got the fish & chips for lunch on Memorial Day. The fish was great. A big hunk of cod (I think) with a really thin, crispy coating. The fries were limp. Memorial day was a pretty slow day all over downtown.
Despana – A Spanish deli, for lack of a better word, at Broome & Lafayette. I went there last year and went there again this time and had a sandwich. Just as good as before. I wish I could have brought home meats and cheeses. I mail order olives regularly from their wholesale store in Queens. I picked up some of the soft Spanish carmels they sell to take home.
Blaue Gans (restaurant) – On Duane btw. W. Broadway & Church. I walked by here one night when I happened to be hungry. I’d read some reviews on Yelp before my trip and it sounded pretty good so I went in. I ordered potato-leek soup and the jaeger schnitzel with garlic & herb spaetzel. I’ve never had schnitzel before but I was always under the impression that it’s supposed to be really tender. The seasoning was good but the meat was as tough as leather. But maybe that’s how it is? The soup was very good (must make some this fall) and I really, really liked the spaetzel. The service fell off after I was served and there were very few people there. If I’m eating solo and not occupied reading or something, I’d like the check please. But nobody came to see if I wanted that, or another cocktail or dessert or anything. I had to flag someone down.
Nelson D. Rockefeller Park – I struck out west on Chambers one day (the day it rained) because I figured I’d eventually get to the Hudson River, and I did. Nice park with a long promenade with views of the river and the New Jersey skyline. When it started raining again I turned around.
Destination Shopping – I wanted to go to The Container Store because they charge a lot for shipping if you order online. This had the added benefit of taking me past Hotel Chelsea, which was cool. My only other shopping mission was to go to Fossil and treat myself to a new purse. I decided to go to the one on 34th St. since, at the time, I hadn’t been to that area before. What a zoo! It was almost as bad as Times Square that day. I popped into Macy’s just to say I’d been there and it was crazy. Walked right back out.
Bars – I went to Tribeca Tavern a few times. Raccoon Lodge was right around the corner from my hotel. The first time I went in it was packed so I didn’t even stay for a drink. After that I noticed that after work, there was always a pretty loud bunch of guys out front. One night I went in and it was nice & calm with a decent number of people, but not too many. I ended up going back here a few times, too. The bartender even remembered my drink the second time I went in. I walked by Mudville 9 and Dakota Roadhouse a few times but never went in for some reason. I never intended to go in The Patriot but did once without realizing until I was inside that that’s where I was. I probably would have at least had a drink as long I was there but there were no seats at the bar. The day it rained I had on my red raincoat when I stopped into Eammon’s. Some guy at the bar promptly started giving me a (good-natured) hard time about my red raincoat and I stayed and talked to him and his friends for 2-3 hours. They were fun. After that I kept running into one of them either there or at Raccoon and he liked to talk about NYC history and stuff so that was nice. One night I went into Woodrow’s (next door to Eammon’s) and struck up a conversation with a woman and her friend. Before I left on my trip I’d thought about buying some makeup so I wouldn’t look so frumpy & midwestern but decided not to bother. So I’m talking to this woman (Hi Mo!) and out of the blue she gives me some skin tint stuff she sells at her job. Too funny. I also stopped in Nancy Whiskey pub for a soda once to get out of the rain. Ditto for O’Neill’s in SoHo. I wouldn’t spend an evening in O’Neill’s because there’s no rail on the bar. That drives me nuts.
Chocolate – I stumbled across a Jacques Torres after going the wrong way after getting off the subway at Houston & Varick. Darn. Got some chocolate covered espresso beans and a little box of carmels. I also picked out a box of truffles at Varsano’s in the West Village at West 4th and Jones St. Not the best I’ve had but very worthy of the price. I liked being able to buy from the actual owner of the store. He was really nice. I’d go back again (and probably will).
Amish Market – This is just down the street from my hotel so it became my go-to place for my Sprite Zero. I got a roast beef sandwich there once and it was good. They heated it up in their big oven. I looked at their salad bar/buffet a couple of times and it looked good but I never got anything from it.
Downtown – On Memorial Day I hopped on the subway down to Battery Park. I think the view of the Statue of Liberty from there is just as good or better than from the Staten Island Ferry. But I took a few pictures and the statue doesn’t show up in any of them. Weird. The lines for the statue cruises looked pretty short. I stopped and paid my respects at the Naval Memorial and took a look inside Castle Clinton and wondered, since my German ancestors came through New York City before Castle Clinton opened in 1855, where they would have been “processed.” After that I meandered my way back up to the hotel, mainly on the east side. Saw Fraunces Tavern, thought about lunch on Stone St. but didn’t have any. Found myself on the street where the American headquarters of an Austrailian company I used to work for are located. I was in front of Century 21 at one point so I went in just to see what it’s like. Went in a nice grocery store to cool off from the heat. Because of it being Memorial day most other restaurants and stores were closed. Walked through the graveyard at St. Paul’s Chapel and went inside. I’d gone into City Hall Park on a walk a few days earlier so passed that by. I’m not sure how I missed Trinity Church.
The Subway – I was much more relaxed about the subway this time. I’m kind of an anxious traveler and can freak out a little inside about being in the right place and things like that. It really bothered me on my trip last summer that a sign would say a train was going downtown but it felt like I was going in the other direction. I decided I had to just let that go and trust the signage. [Here’s where a certain regular poster would probably make a comment like, “Why in the world would you think you could not trust the signage? Do you really think the MTA would put up incorrect signage?” I’ll save him the trouble.]
I also learned over the course of the trip that when you have to stand on the subway, to roll with the bumps and slow-downs and speed-ups instead of trying to fight them so much. It’s much easier on the arms. Also, don’t sweat not totally understanding the lingo. Don’t worry about what a platform is and how you go about crossing it and just follow the signs. I made three subway mistakes. 1) The aforementioned express trip to 125th. 2) Once I swiped my card once at one of the “comb” style turnstiles instead of the regular ones. I found out that you must go in the section closest to already being around (If that makes any sense). If you try to go in the next one you won’t get through. If you’re using a 7-day unlimited metro card you’re then in the situation of having to wait 15 minutes before you can swipe again at that station. What I couldn’t figure out is, rather than wait the 15 minutes I decided to buy a single ride card and it wouldn’t let me through with that, either. I’m not sure what happened there. 3) Another time I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the signage and went in and swiped at an uptown entrance when I wanted to go downtown. I was fortunate to be at a station with an attendant right there who let me go through the service door so I could ride up to the next stop and turn around. A guy on the platform told me I was really lucky she let me do that. Thanks nice subway attendant!
My extra not-so-fun day in NYC – I got to La Guardia for my return flight a little before noon and sat there until 8:00 p.m. as my flight was delayed, delayed, delayed, then cancelled due to a line of thunderstorms between the east coast and the midwest. By the time I rebooked and figured out what my options were for the night, all the hotels close by were booked. So I called Hotel Vetiver in Long Island City and they had a room. After a fairly quick cab ride there I checked in. The room was ok but smelled a little musty. Probably because the air conditioning would shut off after 15 minutes. I went down to the desk to ask about the A/C and the woman said someone would be there in half an hour and they could look at it then. It was late and I didn’t particularly want someone in my room working on the AC at that point. I wanted to get into my sleeping clothes and relax. The room had a window and a small balcony so I just opened the window and door and it was fine. I suppose some psychotic killer could have scaled the balconies on floors 1-4 to get to mine but I wasn’t too worried. The next morning the person at the desk insisted that I would be able to forward my boarding pass to them in an e-mail and they could print it. I was unable to convincer her otherwise without bringing it up on my iPad and showing her there was no option to e-mail it. She finally brought it up on her computer for me and printed it. There was only one slow elevator for guests and staff. I mentioned the A/C when I was at the desk about the boarding pass and their maintenance guy was at my door before I was. I was glad I didn’t let them work on it the night before because it was apparently not an easy fix. He had the whole thing torn apart. The bathroom was surprisingly nice. I wouldn’t stay here again because I think there are better options for the same price. I had breakfast at Zante’s diner down on the corner. It was good enough. Very reasonable prices and good service. I’ve never before seen the type of sausage links served here. They reminded me of giant, legless cockroaches. Next time I’ll have patties.
Random Thoughts – I liked staying in Tribeca and would definitely stay there again but I’ll have to come back to it after I’ve tried out a couple of other neighborhoods. I know it’s not always like that but you couldn’t pay me to go back to the Empire State Building unless I absolutely, positively knew in advance it wouldn’t be packed. There’s no shortage of head shops and sex shops in the West Village. I always pick people with strollers to ask for directions when possible because I figure they’re likely to be locals. When you enter a subway station and intend to return to it and want to exit at the same place you entered, turn around and look at the exit sign for the steps you just came down so you know which exit to use. Dining solo in NYC might be de rigueur but I was the only solo woman I saw at any of the bars I went to. It didn’t bother me a bit.
The kind of pizza you mentioned with the extra-thin crispy crust is apizza/New Haven-style pizza - one state over in CT.
Still reading through your excellent report!Edited: 18 June 2012, 14:58
Great report! Last I was there, the pizza at Trattoria Dell ’Arte in midtown is paper thin.
"since my German ancestors came through New York City before Castle Clinton opened in 1855, where they would have been “processed.”
There was no proceessing center before Castle Clinton. There names were on a passenger list and they were "off the boat."
Lee's Tavern in Staten Island has excellent bar pies with a cracker, thin crust.
*Their names - I always have to correct..
"I’d read good reviews about the food but decided to drink my dinner." My kinda girl! I am so with you on this.
Thanks for the review. Very informative and a great resource for us solo travelers! I am going to have to check out that hair salon.
Another thumbs down for the hotdogs!
Thanks for the pizza recommendations. I'll for sure check one of those out (probably not in CT though) next time. Looks like that might be August.
Re my Germans. They arrived on the Albus and the manifest says they arrived Nov. 25, 1850 but my gg-grandfather's application for citizenship says they landed Dec. 2. Maybe they went sight-seeing in between. Or not. His wife died on the voyage and she was buried at sea. I doubt if it was a happy time for them.
georgia - If it makes you feel any better I just typed "buried at see."
We did the secret subway stop of line 6, but you can't really see anything...^_^