Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New York, New York

I have been in many cities and countries around this world that have offered me so much joy and beauty, but there is something about NYC that holds a special place in my heart. Two weeks ago, Gregory and I had the opportunity to go to NYC for five days just the two of us. That is right, no kids! Thanks to a wonderful sister-in-law and friend we were able to steal some much needed time just the two of us; granted Greg was there for a conference, but the evenings were ours and the days were mine to explore the city and go wherever my feet and heart desired to take me. It was the first time as a mom that I had the chance to wake up on my own schedule and do whatever I wanted to do for not just one day, but 3 whole days! Now for those of you who are moms, you know what this means and you know that this is a fantasy that we all drift to when shit is hitting the fan at be on our own, by ourselves, in some foreign place to us (for me it is always a high rise hotel is some city) and to just be....and it was THAT, that I was able to do!

I spent much of my time wandering the city streets just checking out the diversity that it had to offer. During the days I spent some time on my own with a coffee in hand from a local espresso bar and book in my new bag (that was made just for this trip), but instead of reading I found myself just wanting to walk and surround myself with the local bustle of a city; a real city ( oh how pathetic Detroit really is...). Yes, I know you probably are thinking that NYC is too big to walk, and you are right, partially, but if I choose to do so and I found it quite easy to navigate on foot. And so I managed to go from our hotel in Manhattan up to East Village and through Soho and back to Manhattan again with just my trusty feet and a good pair of Danskos.

I also spent some time with a couple of friends from high school who transplanted themselves to the city almost ten years ago. Friends that warm my soul and make my heart smile. It was so refreshing to reconnect with a particular soul who I haven't seen in years, but still somehow knows me well. We spent a lot of time laughing about all of our stupidity in high school, but also spent more time getting reacquainted with where we are at now in life as adults. We haven't seen each other in six maybe even seven years, yet it was like we hadn't skipped a beat and we were still able to connect on the same level that we did 15 years ago with no expectation and none of the bullshit; which I have found can be so hard to do.

He ended up being the absolute best tour guide and introduced me to some of the best local secrets in East Village, Soho and Brooklyn and here are some recommendations if you find your self in NYC anytime soon.

*Macchiato Espresso Bar (midtown, E. 44th st.), was a small espresso bar a couple of blocks from my hotel and I found it by wandering through the streets looking for an independent local espresso bar; I refused to do Starbucks since there were so many other options! This place caught my eye by their bright turquoise sign and the dozen of old Italian men standing out front having lively discussions in Italian at 8 a.m. every morning. As you step into this place you feel as though you truly may be in a coffee bar in Italy, maybe Milan. It has a sleek, gorgeous interior and the coffee and espresso were definitely the best I have had in a long time. If you are willing to wait in a line that in out the door (maybe this is just early mornings, not sure) and don't mind being yelled at for your coffee order and having to yell it back... you will be pleased. The chocolate croissants were also fresh and out of this world.

*Moonstruck Diner (mid-town, 2nd Ave.), we went here for breakfast one morning and the eggs Benedict is decent, not great, but the interior of this cafe was worth the trip. Almost every inch of this place is covered in cut-glass mosaics. I can't fathom how much time and energy went into making these unique and beautiful creations.

* Stage Restaurant (East Village), polish diner with the best and most beautifully pink borst I have ever tasted and veggie cabbage leaves and fresh blueberry perogies that kept bringing my fork back to the plate for more and more and ...more.

* Bluestockings (East Village), an amazing independent bookstore that had a wonderful selection of feminist and LGTBQ literature.

*8 Mile (Soho), new Aussie bar, which we thought was a perfect location for two native Detroiters to enjoy a couple of drinks in the early afternoon.

* Vosges' (Soho), a haut chocolatier that has exquisite chocolate combinations and some amazing ice cream-vanilla cream with madras curry and coconut, mmmm..... Also their naga, woolloomooloo and red fire chocolate bars are divine. They frequently do free champagne and chocolate tastings.

*Total Wine Bar (Brooklyn), a small and cozy wine bar in the Park Slope district (5th Ave. & St. Marks) that offers a small selection of wine, beer and appetizers. I can't say that I tried a variety of the wines that they offer due to the fact that my tour guide/friend bar tends here and he had bought us a bottle of his favorite, which was superb. It is small and the set-up of the bar does seem a little unfriendly, but once you walk in and sit down it is obvious that is a local hangout known for it's friendly bartenders and crowd as well as the selection of good, inexpensive wine. If Mike is working tell him I sent you! Also, The Chocolate Room is two doors down just in case you love good chocolate and wine together :)

*The Chocolate Room (Brooklyn), has some of the best chocolate I have ever had, seriously! Particularly, the dark chocolate truffles filled with lavender infused caramel. I also sampled their layered chocolate cake and hot chocolate and well, my mouth is watering right now just talking about it. If you ever go to NYC or Brooklyn you HAVE to go here! That is if you like chocolate :)

*Brooklyn Museum of Art is now home to the beautiful feminist exhibit, The Dinner Table by Judy Chicago. This long-term installation is breathtaking and something that I recommend every womyn to see, even if you don't consider yourself a feminist. Although this exhibit does feature plates that are made to look like different yonis, there is more to this exhibit than the "vagina plates" as my tour guide likes to call them! This exhibit is a triangular table that measures 48 feet on each side and is the home for the 39 place settings that celebrate strong womyn throughout history. It does so by using the typical domestic mediums such as weaving, embroidery, sewing and china painting. For me, standing before these place settings and observing the meticulous detail that has gone into each place setting gave me such an appreciation for the many womyn (there were hundreds) who put in so much time into helping Judy Chicago create this installation. It is something that we, as womyn, can all appreciate on some level. If you are interested in this exhibit and are not going to make it to Brooklyn anytime soon you can go to the museum's websight and in their search engine type in "The Dinner Party" and you can do an online tour of this exhibit. It is nothing like seeing it in person, but does give you somewhat of an idea of how magnificent this exhibit truly is.

*Brooklyn Botanical Gardens is right next to the art museum and is so damn beautiful! I have been to NYC a few times in the past, and each time I had spent time in central park which is wonderful as well, but the botanical gardens feel magical. It has many different gardens to offer through all seasons: the lily pools and terrace, rock garden, bonsai garden, rose garden, herb garden, oh I could have spent a whole day just here in the gardens. These few pictures are the ONLY photos I took during this trip, which was strange since I am usually all about taking photos I guess I was was too preoccupied with other things.

The picture below is of the vegetable garden in which they use strickly as part of a day camp to teach urban children about gardening and vegetables. It is not that good of a picture, but you can see how large it is, which was very exciting for me to see!

Ahhhh....New York, New York. I miss you already!!!!