Work and Play Days in New York City
Though the days mostly consisted of working, as most weeks do, we got to try a few new restaurants, a couple of different coffee shops, and I spent more than one evening in The Met. And on the weekend, we visited a few dream stores—New York City has so many dream stores!—purchases from which our minimal luggage saved us.
This Trip’s Hotel
Over the years, I’ve stayed in numerous places in New York City. This trip, we stayed at The Fitzgerald Hotel’s Grand Central location in Turtle Bay (east Midtown).
Though minimal on the frills, our room had a lot of space, they accommodated our request for a refrigerator, we had plenty of quiet, and it all came at the right price. As an extra bonus, the hotel doesn’t just have an Irish theme, replete with a picture of the current president of Ireland on the wall and an attached Irish bar—it has Irish front-desk staff and appears to serve as the go-to hotel for Aer Lingus flight crews coming in and out of New York City.
Also, per the name, Grand Central Station sits only one block away and dozens of quick-food options abound for meals and picnics. If you stay at The Fitzgerald Grand Central, visit the Hotel Chocolat next door for your chocolate fix. (Yum.)
Our Dream Stores
Arnaud wanted to see a bike shop in Brooklyn called R&A Cycles, which required our one subway ride of the trip. He didn’t get a bike and he didn’t even ask about bikes (he just wanted to ogle frames and wheels he’d mainly seen online and in races).
My store of choice: B&N Photo. We marveled at all the amazing AV-geek stuff and I bought a few small appendages for my cell phone to make recording a little easier. As I plan to do at least a few video interviews for my personal project, I wanted to talk with someone about how to ensure I capture sound without shouting and can get everyone in the shot without too much snuggling.
Arnaud then had to endure my testing the new equipment in our hotel room, as exemplified in this compilation video of entirely terrible static and moving pictures.
Our NYC Restaurants, Coffee Shops, and Food Treats
We walked into Loring Place for a weekend brunch to a noise-level assault. Not having a reservation relegated us to eating at the bar—thankfully. The bar area had a lot less chaos, which meant we could have a conversation while we enjoyed our food. And enjoy our food we did: I had a delicious baked-eggs dish with a rich tomato sauce, Arnaud had a salad with chicken, and we shared a savory strawberry mélange. Everything came through delicious, plentiful, and quintessentially fresh and vibrant.
We made another last-minute dining choice with Fig & Olive, which again meant no reservations, which again meant eating at the bar. Honestly, Fig & Olive didn’t make a huge impression; the fig salad I ordered passed muster, but not much more than that. Arnaud had an unmemorable salmon salad. At least Fig & Olive had a lower volume level than Loring Place. Shrug.
We discovered our café, Blank Slate, after visiting a possible work-plus-coffee spot and finding not a single seat available. After a bit of frustrated meandering, computers on shoulders, we wandered into Blank Slate and found a bright, light environment; huge, fresh salads—I really didn’t need to eat again that day—tea, coffee, and drinks; and a long table on which we could work. The only downside: The loudness (again). We arrived right before the lunch rush, and the resulting noise levels made a call with a work colleague almost unintelligible, even with the speaker volume turned to eleven.
And then, because I couldn’t go back to Europe without eating cookies—people don’t call me Cookie Monster without justification—Arnaud did a little research and found a bakery called Levain with a high reputation. And as a cookie connoisseur, I can aver that Levain deserves said reputation. I had the chocolate chip walnut cookie, which they handed to me still warm and gooey in the center with a crispy, crumbly edge, and a double-chocolate peanut butter cookie, which tasted a little too sweet for my preferences—yet which I still happily devoured.
Yes, you’ll find a queue snaking up the Levain Bakery stairs and out the door, yet the line moves quickly, the staff on the end of it have sunny attitudes, and I’d have waited even longer and have dealt with people a lot grumpier for cookies this good.
Levain has a bench out front on which to eat, and some people had spilled over onto adjacent brownstone steps, but I opted to walk to nearby Central Park to find a quiet, shaded bench for full treat focus.
The Met, Oh The Met
I love museums. I’ve seen a lot of museums. And among all these museums, The Met stands out as probably the best museum I’ve ever visited. If I could only get to New York City more often, I’d join as a member.
At this trip to The Met, I saw an exhibit on camp (not on camping, but on camp in fashion), a rooftop sculpture exhibit, a rock-and-roll instruments exhibit, and an exhibit of modern music-and-video in the round. Beyond these, I saw an exhibit of the art of The Netherlands—where I saw more Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Van Gogh than I did in Amsterdam and even found a Jan van Eyck, whose work the Reichsmuseum did not have—and luxuriated in a wealth of medieval and renaissance art, which I love.
Oh, and then the collections of Tiffany art, including windows and lamps and fountains; and the Egyptian tombs and sarcophagi and artifacts; and the small yet exquisite collection of Faberge eggs (in which I learned that Faberge died in exile in Lausanne, of all places).
And then, and then, and then… I spent at least eight hours over two days at The Met, and I didn’t get bored. In fact, I could have spent more time and still had interest levels left.
If you visit New York City and decide to go to The Met (which you should), buy your ticket on-line. It gets you a three-day pass to the museum and you can skip the line and walk right into the building when you arrive.
And even if you don’t much like museums, you’ll want the option to return. (Even I didn’t think I would want to go back, and yet—I did.)
New York City Street Scenes
We ended up needing the subway only for one ride because New York City calls for viewing on foot if possible. In strolling the city, you’ll encounter people, things, situations, and life that you won’t see anywhere else. (Truly, no city is like New York City.)
I only regret that I didn’t film and photograph more. (Including on the subway, where a singing duo serenaded our carriage. Quintessential New York City.) From a classic street-music scene in Central Park to an a cappella group performing during a Summer Streets festival along Park Avenue, to the amazing architecture and pops of flowers and greenery, the real New York experience, for me, takes place on the streets and in the parks.