Adventures in NYC, Part II

This is the second part of my adventures following Adventures in NYC, Part I.

Without further ado, Part II:

Monday

Husband has to attend workshops by 9AM each day, and the hotel provides free breakfast, so we’re up and eating by about 8:15. Monday is the day I’ve allotted to regain my bearings around the big city, as well as do some good ol’ fashioned exploration on my own. The night before, we perused the Time Out magazine (a monthly publication that tells people what’s going on in a particular city), and saw that the Three Kings Day parade was happening in Harlem. I wasn’t sure about it the previous night, but I decided to make my way there about mid-morning, both to see this annual event in a borough I hadn’t spent much time in, and to test out my ability to use the subway.

Spoiler alert: success on both parts! Thanks to trusty Google Maps and copious signage throughout the subway terminals, I navigated the trains with ease and made it to my destination with nary a hitch, save my own incompetence in walking in the correct direction. Long story short, I got a good, brisk walk in on a sunny day and some nice sight-seeing in Harlem on a quiet Monday morning, and I eventually caught the parade’s procession about thirty minutes in. Camels and children and crowns, oh my! The parade stopped traffic wherever it went, so it was easy to follow with the small crowd gathered around it.

By the time I finished my parade-watching, it was lunchtime, and no website or guide I’d perused went anywhere near Harlem when telling me where to eat. Back to Internet searching, I went, and found Silvana, a little Mediterranean shop and restaurant a few blocks from where I caught the parade. My love of trying little bits of everything led me to get the salad platter, what turned out to be quite the large plate of six “salad” choices: hummus, Israeli salad, baba ganoush, matbucha (tomatoes, garlic, and jalapenos), labane (a delightful soft cheese), and ezme (a rich mix of roasted eggplant, bell peppers, onions, spices, and honey), and a basket of pita breads for dipping. I’ll just say I overate and still didn’t finish the platter, and leave it at that for now.

One of my few food pictures. I told you my camera was crap. But the food sure wasn’t!

The rest of my evening was originally dedicated to bopping around Times Square and finding dinner, since husband would be fed by the workshop people this day. Turns out, I ate too much to be able to even consider dinner (I ended up having some of the free dumplings provided by the hotel as their “cocktail hour.” Yay, free!). And, after about thirty minutes of walking and stopping in various big stores, like Hershey’s Times Square and M&M’s store, I realized I didn’t like shopping as much as I used to, and that my stomach didn’t even want to think about buying chocolate. So, I headed back in the direction of the hotel. Before turning in for the night, I stopped into Midtown Comics, a two-story shop filled to the brim with (you guessed it) comic books, comic book merchandise, and nerd items galore. One could spend hours perusing its wares (and I returned to Midtown Comics on at least three other occasions throughout the trip, mostly because it was convenient to the hotel and it was something to do nearby). Fairly early night after a long day.

Tuesday

This day, my friends, was Cat Day: I booked a session at the cat cafe Meow Parlour that included an hour and a half of petting and playing with adoptable cats, as well as a tea, a bunch of macarons, and a pastry of my choice from the cafe next door, Macaron Parlour. (If there were any such place in Asheville, I probably would’ve come home with ten more cats. This is why the cat cafe in NYC was a safe place to go – I can’t easily take ten cats on the plane ride home.)

What was that? What macaron flavors did I get? Glad you asked! Earl Grey, Fig, Giggity (a mixture of chocolate, peanut butter, marshmallow, peanuts, and dulce de leche), and Party Time (salted milk chocolate and dulce de leche), and a couple of broken ones for free: Cheetos (yep, it was weird. Not as gross as it sounds, but I’m glad it was free) and Pistachio (delightful). The everything croissant (like an everything bagel, but in croissant form) rounded out the light lunch.

Laura. FFS. You can’t take pictures of amazing food, but you can take copious pictures of adorable adoptable cats? Yes. Yes I can:

After my time slot ended, I departed from the cat parade and headed to Bravissimo. If you don’t know what this store is, you can look it up – it’s amazing. I’ll just say that I usually have to order online, since the original store is based in London, but I realized that they opened a U.S. location in SOHO, and I was there in a flash after the kitties. I spent a good deal of time getting re-fitted and managed to buy some merchandise in the end. Long story short again, I also stopped in yet another nerd shop nearby called Toy Tokyo, which had so much dumb awesome Japanese toy and comic merchandise in its tiny quarters, but managed to avoid buying all the things. Or even any of the things – I was saving my money for the Nintendo store later in the week.

It was getting on early evening at this point, and husband and I had tickets to Sleep No More, an immersive theatre experience of Macbeth set in a 1930s hotel. More on that in a moment. I headed back to the hotel, where we took advantage of the hotel’s (free) light dinner and wine before heading to the McKittrick Hotel. This was a theme for the days this was offered to us: eat an early light dinner in the hotel, then get a small late-night bite after our show or activity.

So, Sleep No More. Oh. My. Gosh. So. I taught Macbeth for years. Husband and I re-read nearly the whole thing together right before we came to NYC. We see theatre productions on the regular. Sleep No More was absolutely something else: I’ve been describing it to people who ask about our trip as “immersive theatre meets haunted house.” It was nothing like I’ve ever experienced, taught, or seen in a production, and it was incredible.

We began the evening in a small cocktail hour space with NYC-priced cocktails (I did not partake, as a) they were expensive, b) most of them were absinthe-based and I’m not a fan of the taste and c) I wanted to be fully awake for the experience) and what seemed to be hordes of people crowding in every minute (it was probably more like 150 people total, but I hate small spaces and crowds. Nightmare material). Thankfully, after about half an hour of feeling crunched in, they began calling us in by small groups according to playing cards we picked as our “room keys.” I was part of the first group to be released into the hotel space: we were given masks, told not to speak, and ushered in to a dark stairwell.

The next three hours (yep) was a dark, vaguely unsettling, exciting blur of exploration and exhibition. We were given essentially free rein of four? five? levels of floors decorated as hotel lobbies, rooms, meeting rooms, apothecaries, even a graveyard and a haunted forest, to explore and wait for action. And there was always action: you could either wait in a particular space for actors to walk into and perform, or follow a particular actor around the hotel to see where they would lead you. I did a good combination of both, with more exploration of rooms in the beginning and more observing in the latter half of the show. The lights were very dim, the space was silent, save for haunting melodies of old records or sound effects playing in some rooms, and many other patrons were jumpy (I accidentally scared a couple of people just by walking into rooms). By the end of the show, my feet and back were exhausted from walking and running around the space, and I was ready to leave the eerie atmosphere behind. If you’ve read Macbeth, you have an idea of what atmosphere I’m talking about; now, multiply that by about five, and channel Roman Polanski.

I’d totally do something like it again. If you have the chance to do this, do it. Don’t ask questions. Just do it.

Husband and I needed both food and a more lighthearted space after the experience, so we walked back through Hell’s Kitchen towards our hotel and found Farida, an Uzbek restaurant recommended online the week before. We wanted to make sure to get a few cuisines in that we don’t have in Asheville (or anywhere near us, for that matter), and this fit the bill. We shared a delightfully savory plate of plov, a meat and rice pilaf that was so tasty, I even ate the carrots in it (trust me – this is a huge deal), as well as side salads, crusty bread, and a pot of hot Uzbek tea. The meal took the edge off our hunger and the remnants of the show, and we turned in for the night easily afterwards.

Next time, adventures to Broadway, bougie restaurants, and Barcades! And maybe a recipe or two. Until then, stay crunchy, my friends.

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