We skipped the leftovers and took a Black Friday non-stop to the City, with a capital C. As in New York. Traveling with two of our favorite people to make memories with landed us in the heart of Bryant Park, overlooking the Winter Village complete with darling pop-ups sprinkled around the square. Natural light poured into our room at the Bryant Park Hotel through six-foot-windows that pleased my love of symmetry. The room decor is minimal and appropriate because of the cityscape that created a scene no artwork dare compete with.
Like a sort of initiation, the first stop for our quad was Halal Guys at 53rd and Sixth. We’ll never be certain if it was our near-starvation point or if it was really just that good, but those guys make a combo plate of halal that almost made us forget it was below freezing and we were eating outside.
As the one member of the tribe who had previously walked the streets of the City, my personal trip highlight was capturing the view from the eyes of the three first-timers. I might argue that mine was the sweetest view.
We walked to Central Park, narrowly avoiding the angry raccoons. Do you know how many people are stretching their arm out in front of them, aimlessly attempting to snap a photo? Let us all be better at offering to take their photos. At one point, two guys from Mexico City just wanted a photo and I could tell they were struggling. I have oddly long arms, so I couldn’t help but offer to help give theirs a break. You might have thought I handed them a crisp Benjamin when I asked if I could snap their photo. They said to make certain it was in Portrait mode…I checked…it was in Spanish and I was quickly reminded how limited I am.
The below freezing temperature took its toll and the Warhol exhibit at the Whitney was exactly what we needed to warm up. The line to enter was around the block but there is always a way. And we found it. They have an “Out of State” Membership and for a few bonus bucks, we bypassed the shivering locals and spent a couple of hours getting to know Andy.
We ventured back outside to brave the cold by walking amongst the buildings and away from the streets along the High Line, once a working above-ground train, now preserved as a creative and thoughtful walking path. By dinner at Calle Ocho that night, we had finally begun to thaw. The restaurant has moved since I first fell in love with it, some 10 or so years ago, but they still make the best Sparkling Mojito I’ve ever tasted.
As our guys set off to their first morning at the Greater New York Dental Meeting, gal pal, Holly, and I settled warmly into our bistro chairs at Balthazaar. Are you picking up a theme here? Food. We ate our way through Manhattan and I’m not mad about it. We brunched over a mimosa and a cappuccino, French toast and waffles, while inhaling the freshness from the in-house patisserie. SoHo’s vibe continues to fascinate me. Cool, hip, original, approachable, layered, and full of texture. That’s how I would describe this part of the city as an outsider. Am I close? On our way to indulge in macaroons from Ladurée, I wanted to pop into Free People. What really drew me in was the beauty of the building itself and the creativity of the window display. The aforementioned descriptive words? Yeah, that’s how I would describe the windows there, too. And while this store is not small, nor is it locally-owned or full of handmade goods, my experience with the people was something I won’t soon forget. The people (LJ and Audrey specifically) made my shopping experience special, memorable and original. They made Free People FEEL small. That is something all businesses can do better. If you are big, how can you make your clients’ experience feel small and unique? If you are small, how can you think big and beyond?
It had been a New York minute since we had last consumed food, so we found the guys and proceeded to Katz Deli (you know, “I’ll have what she’s having…”) That line though…we weren’t having it. Instead we went back up the street and took a number at Russ + Daughters. Friends…fellows eaters, this was an experience and the food was the exclamation point. The anticipation builds as you eagerly await your number to be called. All the while your mouth waters when your eyes gaze longingly at the chocolate-covered-everything and house-made sweet breads on one side. On the other, tension rises as your number draws near and you have to decide. What type of bagel? Do you want it toasted? And what will you have on it?! I’ll let you in on a secret folks. You cannot go wrong. What makes a good bagel? One that you don’t have to work to eat. When you take a bite, there is no chewy or tough texture, instead a slight toasted outside edge with a light inside. If your jaw hurts after eating a bagel, go somewhere else, or find a way to get to Russ + Daughters. The everything bagel is the wise decision because you basically get them all at once. I went for egg salad and my man chose smoked salmon with horseradish cream cheese and capers. Oh, and you won’t see it on the menu but get a half-sour pickle. It’s a bite of history. Eat it on the bench just outside the door and think about how you would still be in line at Katz…
Sadly, we didn’t catch a tour at the Tenement Museum, but it is high on our list for next time – go ahead and book your tour now, step back in time and gain perspective.
Since it was all booked, we took a different tour…ish. We skipped the Uber ride and opted for a ride below the streets on the Subway. Needless to say, walking is absolutely the fastest way to get from A to B in the City, folks. Subway traffic is no joke. And standing on a Subway when it is at a standstill on an angle is an adventure, we’ll leave it at that.
I’m pretty certain my watch was confused about a day and a half into our trip. Reaching 10,000 steps by noon isn’t, let’s say, my norm. I’m a little offended it didn’t send some alert to make sure it was really me, like, “Hello, Rachel, is this really you? Should I report this as a stolen device? We don’t typically DO this much…ya know…movement.” At one point, I was minding my own business, just walking, for crying out loud, and Siri popped up on my wrist to say, “It looks like you’re working out, want to start an exercise?” Burn. I get it, I need to move more. On the regular. Noted, Siri.
After a quick wardrobe change, we made sure to grab our umbrellas as we set out for dinner and a show just when the rain was about to unleash. Bea hosted our quad for an unfussy, mouthwatering meal, unexpected cocktails, complete with award-winning films playing on each exposed brick wall.
We ascended the steps of the Gershwin just in time to find our well-placed seats (I mean, is there a bad one in the house?). The cast of Wicked offered an impeccable performance and I caught a glance at the faces of the three first-timers to my left and it is safe to say, they were thoroughly entertained.
It was back to SoHo for brunch at the Cupping Room the next morning. Theirs was the first Vanilla Latte I ever had back before I really drank coffee and it was even better than I remembered it a decade ago. We were nestled next to a fire under a skylight, eating once again. From there, we strolled through TriBeCa, where Holly and I could not get enough of the storefronts and details.
Our destination was to pause and reflect at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. We spent time doing just that. We popped in our earbuds and each listened to Robert De Niro fill us with details, facts, and mostly perspective. Two spots were the most impactful to me personally. The Slurry Wall. It’s shear magnitude is something that I could not appreciate before, once I stood next to it, I ached. Mr. De Niro said it now stands for “Durability of Democracy”. As I slowly moved through the museum, deep within the very center, at the core of it all, are the faces of the 3,000+ souls who lost their lives. I was caught by a little girl with pigtails named Juliana Valentine McCourt. Again, I ached. As Mr. De Niro said, it wasn’t only the City that was attacked that day – it was America.
With quiet hugs, we went our separate ways again, the guys back to expand their knowledge and the gals to continue to explore. We stayed around the Financial District. We got a caffeine buzz from an Australian matcha tea shot at T2 and my eyes were aglow with the rainbow of colors found amidst their walls of contemporary packaging. Across the street, the sharp edges of the building were softened by the textures in the Anthropologie windows. The upper level was a sort of palate cleanser from the outside, refreshing, warm, glowing with candles and the scent of well, Heaven, probably. Descending to the lower level took us on a spree of mauve, rust, cinnamon, turmeric, poppy and midnight hues – from home goods to eclectic accessories, it was all about the details.
I won’t go into how 97% of our Uber drivers drove Grey Toyota Camrys. Or how that one time, one member of the quad opened the passenger door to an aforementioned make and model vehicle only to learn he was NOT an Uber driver. NOR was he John. And he certainly had NO intention of getting us to Bryant Park Hotel. Nah, no need to go into that.
We split up for date night. They ventured into West Village for a tour with cousins who are local to the City. We went out for Italian at Cafe Fiorello and our waiter, London, didn’t just serve our dinner, he made it a dining experience. Not only that, about halfway into our meal, my aunt and uncle walk in for dinner with their long-time friend and colleague! Never has New York City felt smaller than in that very moment.
It was their last morning of courses and it was early, so we sent them on their way and we stepped it up a bit. We wore our pencil skirts and prepared for a day on the Upper East Side. First stop, the library. She was curvy in all the right places, but edgy too. Full of character and history, her stories abound. Our path took our four feet along Fifth Avenue and we made sure to sidebar into the store called And Other Stories. If you aren’t already familiar, ladies, go ahead and make yourself so. Think of her as the cousin to Madewell, who loves to travel, doesn’t mind a dressy event here and there, works in a smart casual environment and always has a bit of a creative pop, even when on the weekends.
We browsed the windows of Chanel and Gucci, stood where Audrey often had her breakfast at Tiffany’s, we got lost in the music playing overhead at Saks while looking at the Rockefeller Tree, then paused at St. Patrick’s.
Ultimately, we landed at the Plaza. We were guided in the direction of the Palm Court but not before Holly stopped to inhale and notice the obvious but understated scent of gardenia, which we later insisted on finding and purchasing. Check and check.
Afternoon tea at the Palm Court. I’ve never been a small girl at Disney’s Bippity Boppity Boutique, but this is the grown-up equivalent, in my opinion. It is completely unecessary, over the top, exquisite and fabulous. Add a glass of champs, of course. They give you a postcard to send home along with a six-inch chocolate Plaza Hotel, every Home Alone watchers dream come true.
And cue the rain. Our pencil skirts were totally appropriate for tea, and nothing else. Do you know how you walk fast in a pencil skirt? Yeah, you don’t. Do you know how you take stairs in a pencil skirt? It’s called an elevator. We were trying to make it to the Met and let’s say, it took longer than a New York minute. More like 20…to go less than a mile.
Everyone else in the City had the same idea. “It’s raining, let’s see some art.” Imma stop right here and give a little shout out to Staci at the Met Info desk, girlfriend let us in as her guests, bless her heart. We were convinced she just handed us the entire world. That is, until the museum closed 27 minutes later, to our surprise. Still, Staci, those 27 complimentary minutes made our day.
Luckily, our dinner reservation was about 10 steps across the street from our home away from home. The Bryant Park Grill was posh, great for date night, and our waitress was that fun and quirky kind that seems to be perched on a cloud. Also, I fell in love with Matua Sauvignon Blanc, it is crisp, light and oh-so-refreshing.
By the last day, our quad split. We stayed behind for the remainder of the day. At one point we shopped alongside Donatella at The North Face…yeah, as in Versace. C’mon, everyone needs sweet, cold weather duds, even if you do run an italian luxury brand.
Our craving for the best pizza in the City was finally satisfied at Patsy’s thanks to advice from local blogger and mother of five, Naomi Davis (Love, Taza). That pepperoni with crumbled sausage made me want to sing, I was so happy. Instead, I put that energy into basically skipping a few blocks over to Magnolia Bakery for a few additional calories of Banana Pudding and a delightful, searing hot Vanilla Latte. Because really, what IS the point of a latte that gets cold before you leave the shop?
Before we knew it, we were jetsetting on that same non-stop back to our stomping ground.
This Oklahoma gal is an observer at heart. I notice details. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that traveling is a minute-by-minute opportunity to broaden, explore, notice, consider, deepen, watch and listen. Style is a part of all of it. Here are some notable ways I was influenced by style in New York City:
Nobody really cares. In a good way. It really doesn’t matter what you are wearing, there is a place for you, the key is finding your village, it seems.
White Sneakers//With everything. Adidas, Tretorn, Puma, Vans, and even off-brands like Zara and Mango have cool versions. They are paired with everything from slacks and a sweater, to jeans and a white tee with a fitted blazer, or a dress/skirt and a fun jacket. You will very likely wear them into spring and all the way through summer until they begin to wear out and you are into another pair. They are here for a bit, promise.
Creative Socks with Booties//Sure, it’s a bit chilly up in New York, but the addition of socks with low-cut boots doesn’t have to stay in Manhattan. Try something neutral if you aren’t ready for a pop of color or an eye-catching pattern.
Getting High//No, no – Not like that. Pants, seeing a lot of ankle-length pants on women (thus, the socks with booties) and men’s pants are sitting well above the ground, proudly showing a pop of the sock with each stride.
Layered Mock Turtlenecks//These are under everything from dresses, tees and vests. If you put away your summer and fall clothing in preparation for Winter, think again – consider layering a turtleneck and tights underneath and your wardrobe just expanded, doll!
Faux Fur-Lined Hooded Coats//If they have a coat, it has a hood and that hood is lined with faux fur. It’s pretty self explanatory.
Black Leather Pants//Love them or hate them, they are here. Do everyone a favor and COVER your tush, DO IT. By a couple of sheer tanks that are shorter in the front and draped over your rump to layer when you channel your inner Catwoman. Keep everything else simple, a soft sweater to offset texture or a white tee tunic with a jean jacket and yes, those white sneakers.
Polka Square Collection//For those who are currently wearing your pieces, you will be glad to know, their debut in New York went well. All kidding aside, each set that I decided to wear was noticed and they seem to have an appeal even in the country’s fashion capital. So, wear them proudly, gals! Stay tuned for new baubles coming very soon…
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