Tuesday, July 12, 2016

New York City and beyond

This is the first time where the travel got the better of me and I lost track of my blog! I spent a lot of the time catching up with some friends I have been blessed with for over half a lifetime so I don't feel so badly.

When in NY we decided to explore some new places (to me, anyways): Williamsburg, in Brooklyn NY and Harlem. What an interesting experience!

Harlem was wonderful, with the old brownstones being beautifully gentrified. We met a wonderful guy who was very proud of his neighborhood and the continued improvement work. We saw inspirational messages and gorgeous buildings.

We also met a man selling CDs who didn't take kindly to my kind response of "no thank you" and proceeded to call me a white racist b*tch for not supporting him by purchasing. My temper flared until he walked off to accost another poor 'white' soul, and I realized how sad it was. The guy talking to my friend actually apologized to her for me, on behalf of the man that accosted me. Given the waves of violence and racial violence lately, the incident has stuck with me.

We then went to Brooklyn Heights to wander around a bit and walk along the water to enjoy the lovely views of the Manhattan skyline. We then went to Williamsbugh which was interesting. The main road is under the elevated train for a ways, and it provides a sub-terranian feel. The streets are overflowing with litter. The shops are a mix of ethnic Jewish shops like hat shops and matzoh shops, and tourist stores. A number of Hasidic Jewish men walked the street in their black suits, hats, white shirts and tallit. It was a really interesting place. We walked around for a while then headed back to the city.

We planned to walk the lower east side, but overshot it on the subway and went to Greenwich Village. We walked around one of my favorite parks, Washington Square Park, enjoying the live music and entertainment and the arch. There was a man covered in pigeons while feeding them. We got some macarons to feed my addiction-- oh, how I love this incredible French delicacy! yum!

We planned to do a sunset 'cruise' on the Staten Island Ferry but the weather didn't cooperate so instead we wandered.

We enjoyed three slices of pizza in two days-- oh, my favorite! I'm not supposed to eat gluten though thankfully I'm not allergic. Yum.. I thought I'd pay for it but thankfully, didn't. :) We enjoyed the last slice on the rooftop deck of our hotel after wandering around the area of Madison Ave and Central Park. Heavenly!

We got up and enjoyed our last diner experience before heading for the train. I love NYC diners. The brusque waiters and cranky old man at the register. So much fun! We took the train back- my friend to Boston and I to Hartford to meet my manager and team. So much fun to meet them in person and to get to know them better. I met everyone then my boss and I walked the waterfront then grabbed a drink. We talked for a while then went out to dinner with my team to a fun place called Black-Eyed Sallys. My friend from my early 20's joined us and then we headed back to her house in Enfield where I got to meet her lovely family.

She lives in a beautiful Cape Cod house so reminiscent of New England in an area of lush green. I worked in Enfield after college for a few years and lived one town over. My manager actually lives right next to where I did so who knows if we might have crossed paths 20 years ago?! Her husband is wonderful and she has two gorgeous boys. I had such a fun time meeting them and catching up with her. I took the moment to run around barefoot in her lush grass, of which there is little in Phoenix. I raced around in the dewy cool grass, skidded on a hill and wiped out. Hilarious!

We drove up to Central Mass to meet a college friend, and I stayed with her for a night. It was wonderful catching up with her and her husband, and getting to spend some time with her son. We went to his baseball game and then enjoyed a night out at a really great seafood restaurant in Worcester, the Sole Proprieter. Yum! We then went to a great little wine bar for a chocolate sampler and wine. I woke full the next morning so it was a wonderful evening!

The next morning I took the train to Boston to meet my best friend during my high school years and 20's. We kicked around Boston a bit and walked along the waterfront which was really beautiful. I'm sad to leave my town, as always. Let the homesickness begin..

Boston and Day 1 NYC

Home, sweet home. It feels so good to be here in Boston. So very familiar and yet feels like another lifetime that I was here. I guess it kind of was as it was almost a quarter of my life ago..

I got in last night and was met at the Copley bus stop by my friend and her adorable dog, Oliver. What a cutie! We dropped by bag and caught up a bit then headed to our favorite neighborhood tapas restaurant, BarLola. it's only a couple of blocks away from her place and we both love it. We walked back along the greenbelt of Comm Ave, which in my opinion, is one of the best streets in Boston.

We decided to take a detour for some groceries and walked a bit past to the Christian Science Museum to walk by the reflecting pool and look at this really nice church at night.

We woke up this morning and caught up some more and kicked around then headed over to the Mapparium. How did I not know about this amazing place, built in 1935??? http://www.marybakereddylibrary.org/project/mapparium/

Unfortunately you're not allowed to take pictures, so views of the website will have to do. It's amazing! Built in 1935 of hundreds of stained glass panels, it is a glass representation of the globe from 1935. Countries like Burma, Siam and the Soviet Union are represented, while we noticed the geographic lines from other countries dramatically differed. It was beautiful and with my travel obsession, really amazing to see. the acoustics in the room are also incredible and if you stand in the center of the room, your voice projects in surround sound. From one end of the room you can hear a whisper in the other end. Well worth seeing!

I then picked up my bag and headed to the W Hotel where I met my friend, Colleen. She and I worked together around 16 years ago and used to take the T into the city most Friday nights for girls' night out. We didn't have a lot back then so would go to really nice places and share an appetizer or get a salad with some wonderful wine to enjoy the experience. We took a fun walk down memory lane trying to remember all the fun places we went to. We're on the tenth floor and have a great view out the window.

We quickly set out walking and headed to the Rose Kennedy Greenway, one of the last phases of the "big dig" project in Boston. I believe it's where 93 went through the city and for years the gridiron littered the area and it was a major eyesore. They removed it all and planted a lovely park with grass, statues, sculptures, a carousel and other interesting places to walk around. We detoured to find lunch at a really great place called State Street Provisions. It's newer but Colleen had eaten there a year ago and recommended it. it was great! I got ceviche, which was interestingly done with scallops and tiny little melon balls, and a salad with figs and glazed pecans. We got a great little drink of campari, grapefruit juice and St Germain.

We decided to wander around a bit, going through Faneuil Hall and enjoyed the many street performers and the groups of crowds surrounding them. We wandered through part of the financial district seeking an elusive place we used to go, and wandered back to the Common where we decided to stop at Teatro for drinks. We enjoyed a prosecco and a hot tub (yum) looking out at the people walking by.

Colleen booked a massage at the hotel so we headed back. We decided to go to Newbury Street for people watching and dinner, and though we debated going to one of our favorite old haunts, Sonsie's, we decided to go for tapas at Tapeo. Who can get tired of tapas when you can order lots of amazing things??

Newbury Street is great people-watching, and a fun time walking down looking at all the pretty people. We took our time walking back laughing that we used to stay up much later. I won't tell..

The next day we walked around the Common a bit then she headed out to rescue her mom from her kiddos. They're great kids, but a lot for a grandmom.

I returned to my friend's apartment to drop off my bag and we headed to Beacon Hill for lunch, one of the most picturesque parts of town in my opinion. Narrow streets are lined with mature trees, with shops on the lower levels of the brick buildings. The sidewalk is cobblestone and brick and uneven after many years of traffic.

I decided to walk back down to the North End, one of my favorite areas. It's the Italian areas, and there's something so comforting to me hearing the older Italian men talking in their native language with a Boston accent. I meandered through the narrow windy streets enjoying the smells of Italy.

I crossed the street to the Rose Kennedy greenway, still fascinated by the view. This area was littered for years with the gridiron from 93 passing over the city. Now it's a lush green park with water fountains, and an overhang/shade area of steel girding reminiscent of days of old. It was beautiful and peaceful. I wandered down a bit of the greenbelt and found a sign in bright yellow that said, "Nothing's for keeps except that we must keep going. You'll spend your entire life searching, ok? We all want to belong. So let's all get along, make the most and hope. May this never end."

I meandered through the city, wandering the windy streets around the financial district and through Quincy Market again, walked up the many steps of Government center, thinking of how many times I had done that in the past. Too many to count.

I made my way back to the apartment on Commonwealth which is such a beautiful street with a greenbelt running through the center jutting out from the Public Garden. A short while later, a great gal I used to mentor when she was in High School called that she was on her way in and I passed through Back Bay and made my way to Copley, passing the Copley Church and park and the Boston Public Garden. We met with a huge hug in front of Copley Mall. We went through some of the South End and went to a little French pastry so I could introduce her to one of my favorite sweets, a macaron.

We walked to a place I found, a speakeasy called Wink and Nod. LOVED it! It was beautiful, service was great, drinks were incredible and creative and food was really good. Such a fun night and I was sorry it was over so soon!

The next morning we woke up early to catch the train to NYC. Our first mission in NYC:

We got to our hotel on the east side, the place we stayed at last year, and decided to head up to Harlem. I'm not sure if I've ever been there and was curious to see it given the reading I had done about the gentrification. It was much more diverse than I expected, though still heavily weighted towards African Americans still.

We went up a bit and I got to see the Apollo Theater, which was the location for one of my favorite albums from the King of the Blues, BB King. Right before we got to the theater there were three guys selling CDs. One approached me and I said, "no thanks" and kept walking. He started yelling at me about how was he supposed to make it in this racist world and that I was a white @#$ bitch and a racist, going to a Black part of town looking at Black things eating Black food and not supporting the locals. I was shocked and got mad (yeah, I know.) At first I was mostly shocked and asked if he actually thought he would get money from me after insulting me, and then he started calling me a racist bitch and my temper flared. How is him calling me what he did not racism? I yelled back for a moment and decided to just walk away. He followed me for a little bit then sadly, found another (apparently white racist) guy to accost.

Meanwhile my friend was talking to another guy selling CDs and I guess when the other man started yelling at me, he said to please tell her friend (me) he's very sorry. My friend tried to keep walking down the street but I waved her back to avoid going near the awful man, and I told her what happened.

Fantastic selling technique.

 We meandered through the neighborhoods, gawking at how beautiful so many of the brownstones were. We met two really nice men, one of whom lived on the block and took a lot of pride of how well it had been brought back to its original condition. He pointed out a house being worked on now. It was a nice conversation a great to shake off the last interaction.

We walked a bit then headed back down towards the hotel. We found out a couple of days ago Manhattanhenge was happening again. It happened last year at the same time we were in town as well, however it was too cloudy to see. So we decided to go further south in the area of Grand Central and 42nd as that's one of the recommended viewing points, where the sun goes down symmetrically through the buildings, perfectly framed. Once again no luck as it was cloudy, but the sunset was really beautiful.

Manhattanhenge- 2 Sam and Shona- 0

We stopped at the Macaron Cafe for a before-dinner sweet, then looked around for a happy hour place. And looked, and looked. Of course on the way home from dinner we saw lots! We went to a place called La Biblioteca and felt our every year. It was very dark, incredibly loud, and the drinks didn't have any liquor to speak of. It was a place I might have gone to 15 years ago but the average age was around 30 so we high-tailed it out of there quickly after we drank our over-priced 'soda.'

We then found a nice little Indian place for dinner and it was really good. We walked a lot today and wanted to get off our feet. It was a nice break and tasty. We then walked back to the hotel and went up on the rooftop deck to enjoy the views. It's crazy early in the city that never sleeps, and yet, we will.. and soon!