Finally, a day to explore with husband! I do enjoy solo travel, but there’s a reason why I married the guy: I love experiencing new adventures with him, and I feel like I can be more of my goofy self with him around. But enough of my sappiness.
Before he was able to join me (he still had a morning session with his workshop), I explored the magic that is Eataly: a massive store/complex full of Italian eateries and ingredients. Holy crap. I stuffed my face with a giant pistachio cannolo (yes, singular cannoli) which I probably should have saved for sharing but didn’t want the packaging, drank a shot of espresso from a crazy espresso machine robot-looking contraption, and just browsed the shelves and shelves of olives, cheeses, pastas, and other Italian goods to my heart’s content.
I met husband an hour or so later at the nearby Lego Store (a smaller version of what exists in Rockefeller Square), where we perused silly models and super-rare construction sets for a bit before heading to actual Rockefeller Square. The moment I’d been waiting for all week finally came: The Nintendo Store!
Oh, man: ridiculous Nintendo merchandise abound. My favorite parts were the displays of gaming systems over time, as well as the sheer variety of plush toys. (Alas, however, they did not have either plush I wanted at the time, and the dude I asked said they rotate selections pretty frequently based on shipments.) Eventually on this trip, however, I purchased Zelda pajama pants and a super comfy long-sleeved Zelda shirt, so it wasn’t a total loss.
We enjoyed a pain au chocolat from nearby Bouchon, a French patisserie (I have their crazy beautiful and intimidating cookbook). Delicious. We perused the plethora of delightful toys at FAO Schwarz (I was especially enamored of the play food. Always have been, always will be. #fatkidforever), as well as just did general sightseeing and picture taking at important points. The weather this day was considerably warmer (like, in the 50s and sunny), so being outside was actually pleasant.
Next, we headed to Brooklyn for some sightseeing, more bougie food, and a brewery upon recommendation of a friend. We went to Time Out (yes, of same Time Out magazine fame), a giant food hall with too many choices that didn’t take cash. I chowed down on a kara-age bento bowl, while husband got a pork sandwich slathered in tasty enchilada-like sauce (he’d be able to describe it in more detail than I).
Hangries over, we walked outside to a gorgeous view of the Brooklyn Bridge and the riverside right near sunset (completely unplanned magic hour, anyone?) and read many a plaque, as is husband’s wont. It was a peaceful break from the hustle and bustle of the last several days, just taking in the sights and people by the river for a half hour or so.
Afterwards, we made our way to Other Half Brewing, but not before stopping in to a (blessedly free) god-awful hipster art exhibit in a warehouse, as well as for a brief chat with a dude at a VR (virtual reality) cafe? Bar? Place? Sure, place. Other Half, tucked inconspicuously down an empty Brooklyn side street, had Asheville-priced craft beers, a hipster crowd (I think I counted one man without a beard), neon lights, and some damned tasty beverages for us to sip for about an hour. Ahhhh, comfy.
We were due at the Comedy Cellar at 7, so we headed back on the subway to Manhattan, pushed our way through a super crowded bar, packaged our phones into mailing envelopes (yay!), and sat literally front and center, up close and personal to several acts on a tiny stage.
If you’ve never been to a comedy show, you know that this placement means you’re just asking to be heckled, and heckled we were! To be fair, it was a very cozy venue, so everyone got their fair share of heckling, especially from the MC. My favorite part was recognizing and geeking out over Judy Gold, who I’d seen both twice in person (thanks, UNC!) and a few times on TV, and being personally ridiculed by her, both for living in hippie-town and for being married to a man. Ahhh, my life is truly complete!
My second favorite part was being told by an audience member afterwards that I was a “good sport” for taking all the heckling. You don’t teach high schoolers for nearly a decade without growing about four more thick skins.
We ate falafel from Mammoun’s, people watched while eating said falafel, and headed back to Times Square and the hotel for some much-needed rest.
Saturday was our Big Day Out, woo! And what a lovely day it was, weather-wise – unseasonably in the 60s and sunny as all get-out. We began with a tour of the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, a showcase of some of the coolest technological timelines and advances in design that I’ve ever seen. And this was design in everything: decorating, clothing, building materials, architecture, plastics, horticulture, even decay.
I designed a cat wallpaper (pictured below), ogled a glow dress (a dress made of glowing silk!), came face to face with racial biases in a simulator, and generally felt better about what people are doing in the world to combat pollution, climate change, and unsustainable practices. “Plastic is a design failure” still rings in my head, as well as the methods that scientists are now using to reuse and eliminate the billions of tons of the stuff still floating around on our planet. If you have a chance, go to this museum: it’s small and easily explored in a few hours, and is so. Friggin’. Cool.
After the museum, we found a nearby deli (because come on, NYC without a deli sandwich? Not happening) and got a filthy Philly cheesesteak and a reuben that I want in my facehole right now. We also walked by what appeared to be a hole-in-the-wall ice cream shop, apparently rather famous with good Google reviews, and got ourselves nice big scoops right before the crowd showed up. Yay!
We walked off said sandwiches and ice cream with a good, long stroll through Central Park which was, unlike two days previous, full of runners, bikers, and park-goers enjoying the sunny, warm weather. Ahhhh, people! A haven of trees, water features, and general relaxation in a giant, bustling city. Thanks, Frederick Law Olmstead!
We explored Belvedere Castle, strolled through the Shakespeare garden (a grouping of plants based on lines in Shakespeare plays and sonnets), walked past an adorable kids’ birthday party in a puppet house, and generally just enjoyed the bare trees and blue-ish skies of the day. Eventually, a little before sunset, we headed back to Rockefeller Square for some final sights, shopping, and eats.
I returned to the Nintendo store and finally bought things: some dumb Zelda pajama pants (with pockets!) and a really comfy Zelda long-sleeved shirt, then headed to meet husband at St. Patrick’s cathedral.
Oh man. We have our beautiful basilica here, but there is nothing like a grand cathedral, and this one is grand. Awe-inspiring swaths of marble, gold-trimmed nooks dedicated to different saints from all over the world, and just the sheer enormousness of the space, despite the many tourists walking about, left me speechless. A note to anyone wondering the question that we overhead outside the cathedral: yes, you are 100% allowed inside of a Catholic church, even if you’re not Catholic (unless they’re closed, of course). Go in. Go see. Go ask questions. All are welcome, y’all.
We took our obligatory picture in front of Macy’s, since we were both in Miracle on 34th Street throughout December, as well as walked inside the giant space for a bit (but were way too tired and hungry for shopping). It was after 8 at this point and we hadn’t eaten, nor did we want to take a subway anywhere. We hadn’t had any Indian food or Chinese (aside from the noodles on the first night), and we ended up finding Spice Symphony, an Indian-Szechuan fusion restaurant.
Mmmmkay, so this place. Food was excellent – husband got Szechuan paneer, and I got a very tasty (and spicy!) fish curry. But dang, this was by far the snootiest place we’d been to the whole week. Let’s just say we accidentally asked for still water (okay, I asked for still), then realized the mistake and changed over to tap, and our respectability was all over from there. They were never outright rude, but we definitely didn’t feel like we belonged after that. Still, once again, excellent food.
We concluded our evening with a brief walkthrough of Grand Central Terminal, which, for both of us, was reminiscent of train stations in London and Norwich. Awwww. So elegant and echoey, and full of people just getting their night started. Loudly.
As for us, we headed back to the hotel and off to bed after Big Day Out.
A short day, this one, since our flight was near noon: we got bagels from a shop near the hotel (not the most “authentic” or “delicious” bagels in the city, but still pretty danged good), got ourselves a Lyft (so much easier than at the airport), and got through the airport and back home with nothing eventful to speak of.
All in all, a trip full of tasty eats, sights, and shops, with a nice big dent in both of our wallets. One thing that I miss, and that I always like about bigger cities, is being either walking or subway distance from wherever I want to go. I hate driving, and I hate that I have to drive practically everywhere I want or need to be around here. Our bus system is not the best: we were only able to take a bus from the airport, after walking across a busy road (yes, it didn’t even stop at the airport!), about halfway to our house, and had to Lyft the rest of the way back. We seriously need more, better, and cleaner public transportation everywhere if we want to keep traveling farther than a mile or two from our homes.
That’s it. That’s NYC 2020 for ya! I hope you enjoyed our adventures in the big city. Until next time, stay cozy, and have a drink or a slice of cake (or both) on Sunday, my birthday, in my honor!