Matt and I drove up to Miami the night before our trip to New York, stayed at a marginal Holiday Inn Express near the airport, and then took their shuttle to MIA on Thursday morning. The fact that the hotel didn’t charge us to leave our car there for 5 nights, even though they advertised $10/day, made me a lot more willing to overlook their need for a huge upgrade.
I’d upgraded us to first class as part of Matt’s Christmas present. He unfortunately found out a couple days earlier when he opened the Delta app, but that was OK. It was THE BEST. We had a very pleasant flight into JFK.
We took the AirTrain to the Jamaica station, then took LIRR into Penn Station. The thing we’d neglected to remember about New York (having always taken a cab from the airport) is that you end up having to haul your suitcases up and down stairs a million times. Some of the stations have elevators, and some even have elevators that homeless people haven’t pissed in, but there aren’t many of them. It’s a pain, but I guess for the price difference you can’t complain too much.
We had an AirBnB on the Upper West Side, a half-block from Central Park. It was probably 300 square feet, but if it has a bed and a coffee pot, we’re happy. The owner was fantastic, too. He said we could just keep the $200 cash we’d brought for the security deposit, since we obviously weren’t going to wreck the place.
We bought 7-day transit passes; even though we were only there for five days, it was the same cost as 10 rides on the subway. We were likely to hit that number in the first two days, so that’s a pretty good bargain.
Having become very out-of-practice at winter, we were glad that temperatures in New York were going to be above freezing. I had my winter jacket, wool socks, mittens, and giant knit cowl, so I was prepared. I was also wearing non-flip-flop shoes for the first time in several months. Did you know if you don’t wear sneakers for months and then walk around a bunch, the tops of your toes get really sore? It’s true.
We hopped on the subway and rode to Bryant Square for the Christmas festival there. Besides Hamilton, the holiday-related stuff was what I was most excited to see in New York. Christmas in Key West, while fantastic, is very different.
This is the first thing we saw there. I was so excited.
For some reason, Facebook had a building there where you could try VR stuff. I don’t know.
We were hungry, so our first top was at a pretzel and hot dog stand. I got a cheddar and truffle pretzel, which was my new favorite thing ever. We walked around all the little booths set up there – the one big difference from the traditional German Christmas market is that most of them were just selling crafty/souvenir stuff, not holiday-related stuff. Which was fine, just not what I expected.
On the far size of the plaza were all the food booths. We got empanadas from one booth, and I got a tofu bao from another. (File under: things you can’t do that easily in Key West. It’s why we go to Miami a lot.) After that, we crossed the street to revisit one of our Copenhagen favorites: Joe and the Juice. We got ginger lattes, obviously. I’m sure their other stuff is good, but I don’t care. Ginger lattes.
We walked up 6th Avenue, looking at Christmas lights. Radio City’s tree was pretty spectacular. Holy crap, the crowds of tourists, though – it was hard to even cross the street, there were so many damn people standing around gawking.
Then we went to see the tree at Rockefeller Center. Again, totally mobbed.
We noticed St Patrick’s Cathedral was open, so we stopped in to see that (it’s massive). Then we walked past all the giant window displays on 5th Avenue, unsure of where we wanted to go next. I was getting cold at that point, so we needed to find something soon. We decided to see if the Campbell Apartment was open at Grand Central, because we’d enjoyed it a lot last time. We walked over there, and had to figure out where it was – I knew what side of the building it was on, but had forgotten you could only get there from the outside. Thankfully, Matt remembered that part. And… it was closed. Sigh.
We sat in the lobby searching Google to see what was nearby. We wanted to get dinner at some point, and have a beer. We decided on the Ginger Man on E 36th.
We had second thoughts the second we walked in, because it was absolutely packed and really loud. However, we happened upon a small table where people were just leaving, so we grabbed that. Service was shockingly fast, too. We had a few beers and ordered dinner, which was also really good. I’m sure it’s not *that* hard to find a good bar/dinner place in Midtown, but if you don’t know the area well it feels like a challenge.
We walked back to the subway and headed home for the night. That was the first point where we realized that the usual line running past our rental didn’t run very late (I think it stopped at 11), so we were going to have to be creative and pay attention to time if we wanted to use transit to get home.
Friday morning, while Matt was showering, I was doing some research on last minute show tickets. He’d looked on a few sites and had suggestions on options, so I decided to look into them further. We were really interested in The Great Comet (a.k.a. Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812) because we’d been listening to it a lot lately, but since it had only recently moved to Broadway and was starring Josh Groban, we figured there was no chance. I was shocked to see that there were a few tickets available on StubHub, *and* that they were selling below the face value of $75. I grabbed them up quickly.
We walked to a cute coffee shop nearby – named Joe and the Art of Coffee, not to be confused with Joe and the Juice – where we had scones and cortados. We then headed out for a pilgrimage to Hamilton Grange National Memorial in Harlem. (“It’s quiet uptown.”) We got there about 20 minutes before the tour began, so we put our names on the list and went to look around the museum. We watched a video about Hamilton’s history (which had obviously been recently re-edited to include music that sounded very familiar), and then it was time to go upstairs for the self-guided tour. The house actually reminded me of a few we’ve seen here, like Hemingway’s and the Audobon house.
From there, we headed to the East Village for lunch at Miss Lily’s 7A. We’d been to another of their outposts in NYC last time, plus the owners run our favorite dinner spot in Negril. I had a delicious vegetable roti and some of Melvin’s juice for lunch. So good.
From there, we rode over to the Union Square market to do some more Christmas shopping. They had many of the same booths as the other one, but also more Christmas-themed items. We picked up a few souvenirs there, then stopped into Flying Tiger (another Copenhagen favorite) and Eataly. We were carrying enough shopping bags at that point to warrant a trip back to the condo to drop it off, but stopped into the Belgian Beer Cafe nearby to warm up and have a drink first. As far as we could tell, the entirely of New York was out shopping and drinking at that point. Everything was mobbed.
On the way back, we stopped at Bryant Park to do some shopping at Muji and pick up our tickets at the StubHub office nearby. It was in the basement of a hotel, and seemed pretty shady, but apparently it’s totally legit.
From there, we headed back to the condo to change clothes. Then we went back out, this time to the Port Authority Bus Terminal stop, nearest the Imperial Theater. Since we didn’t have a ton of spare time, we decided to try to get into Beer Authority for dinner. It seemed kind of chain-ey (as expected, being so near Times Square), but the food was good and so was the beer selection. Plus they were quick!
From there, we walked over to the theater and joined the crowds pouring in. Our seats were a few rows up in the mezzanine, with a great view and little tables separating all the seats. There was a narrow stage behind our row, which the usher told everyone to not touch under any circumstances. The stage was set up in such a way that I thought there was a mirror on the back reflecting the orchestra section, because there were people seated there, coming in from the hallway. But no – we finally realized they did actually have seating all over the stage, some of it on couches and at tables. It was kind of amazing.
Then the show started, and from the first instant it was incredible. The actors were all over the theatre, dancing in the aisles and even on the stage behind us. It was a huge crew, and loud and energetic. I loved it. During the entire show, the actors would go in and out of the audience sitting on stage, joining them at their tables or couches. It was the some of the most interesting staging I’ve ever seen.
They passed out these shaker eggs to the audience for participation. We grabbed some that people left behind on the way out.
We rode the train back up to our neighborhood and headed down to Amsterdam Avenue, where the owner said there were a bunch of good bars. We decided on the least-crowded of the ones we saw (which was *still* pretty crowded), George Keeley. We had to stand for a while, but then a small table opened and we could hang out. We stayed there for a few rounds and then walked back to the condo.
Saturday morning, we got up and put on our cold-weather gear to go have brunch in Brooklyn. I was glad I kept my Smartwool socks after the move.
It took a while to get there on the train, but we finally made it to Mile End Delicatessen. We had to wait about 10 minutes, and share a table with some people who didn’t seem to want to talk to each other. But the food was great.
From there, we walked to the New York Transit Museum. It’s in an actual subway station! They had a ton of old subway cars from over the years sitting on the rails. All of them had original ads, which was really entertaining.
Not that much has actually changed in subway design over the years. The main difference is whether the seats are along the outer walls with a lot more standing room, or perpendicular.
Their exhibits about disaster mitigation and response were the most fascinating and terrifying. There was a big section on 9-11, and another one on Hurricane Sandy. Oh, and their store was pretty great too.
We had planned on stopped at Brooklyn Brewery, but Google thought it would take at least half an hour on transit, not to mention another 45 minutes or so back to the condo. Since we had tickets to Hamilton that night, we didn’t want to risk it. We decided to return to Manhattan and go back to Chelsea Market instead. Unfortunately, everyone in NYC had the same exact idea.
The important thing, though, is that there was vegan currywurst. It was legitimately spicy, too! I loved it. Just like Berlin.
I didn’t have much patience for too much shopping in such gigantic crowds, but we did wander through a few places. I got a couple Christmas gifts, plus this awesome ring for myself.
Then it was time to head back to the condo to drop our stuff off and changed. We got to Central Park right before (the very, very early – like 4:30pm early) sunset.
Then we headed back out, and rode down to the Port Authority station again. We walked to Gotham West Market, because we obviously needed Ivan Ramen for dinner. This was their miso-butter mazeman ramen. So good.
After dinner, we had more time to kill, so we stopped in at another spot we’d visited on our last visit to a Broadway show: the Pony Bar. It was a much less crowded and more pleasant experience than last time, too. (Even though it always means I get Pony stuck in my head for a week.)
And then, it was TIME. I’d purchased tickets to Hamilton almost a year prior in an American Express presale, so we’d been waiting for this forever.
We were directed up to our seats, which just happened to be the third row from the top, up three flights of very steep stairs. Of course the second we got up there we realized that there were no restrooms on that level, so I asked and was informed that they were in the basement of the theater.
We climbed all the way back down the stairs, and then had to climb four steep sets of stairs back up to our seats. But we were finally going to see Hamilton.
Matt and I had placed bets on how many times I would cry during the show. I’d listed off the songs and decided it would be four times. Matt took the over, and he was right. I’m pretty sure I cried eight times, including the entirety of Wait For It, and the last two songs plus the standing ovation. It was incredible.
We’d seen performances of the first two songs on TV before, and I’m really glad we hadn’t had the opportunity to watch the whole show that way. Those pieces were good, but didn’t have anywhere near the impact of seeing the rest of the staging for the first time. I loved it so much.
I made the mistake of not using the bathroom again at intermission or after the show, so by the time we reached 7th Avenue I realized I wasn’t going to make it back to the condo without stopping. We looking into a few bars along the way, all of which seemed clubby, packed, and awful. We finally found one called Smith’s Bar (I only learned this now, when Google informed me) that wasn’t as full, and had hilarious 2000s hiphop playing. Of course the bathroom was closed for cleaning when I got there, but it was available within 10 minutes. I had to buy Matt a beer to settle our bet about the crying, too.
Sunday morning, it was cold and we needed some indoor time. We decided to go to MOMA, after a stop at a bakery near our condo.
It’s always exciting to see a Picasso in person.
Not art, but people sitting in the lobby looking at their phones.
They had a Russian constructivist art exhibit, too, which is my absolute favorite. I’d written a bunch of papers on this style in college.
It’s so calming and authoritarian.
Also, constructivist dishes! So ugly!
We saw a lot of really great stuff at MOMA (and I feel like we managed to cover the majority of the exhibits, even though we were only there for a few hours). We also had a delicious lunch in the cafe. However, this is the best thing I saw there: this guy’s jacket.
We left there about 4pm and headed back to the condo to change clothes again for our 6pm dinner reservation. It was by far the coldest it had been (about 30 degress), and they were predicting snow. Since I’d be in a dress and open shoes, we agreed that a cab was in order.
We changed and walked over to Central Park. It took approximately 10 seconds to get a cab from there. It was 5:15, and we figured we’d have plenty of time to arrive for our 6pm dinner reservation. After it took 25 minutes just to cross Central Park, though, we were starting to worry.
However, the rest of the ride was faster, even though the snow had begun. We arrived at Gramercy Tavern at 5:50, and our table was ready promptly at 6.
We both had the seasonal tasting menu; mine was vegetarian and Matt’s wasn’t. He got the wine pairing, too. I had to screenshot the menu so we’d remember it forever!
It was all amazing, but that parsnip cake was incredible. I wasn’t able to eat most of the last two dishes (which totally throws off their dinner pacing when one person is done and the other still has food on the plate – they don’t want to clear the dishes). Then they did that thing where they bring not just dessert, but the dessert amuse-buche, and then the candy that comes with the check. I wanted to die, but at least I’d be dead of happiness.
(That’s the squid-ink pasta.) Here’s Matt being super-classy; I mostly took this so we’d have a shot of the lady in the portrait who looks like her hair is a couch.
Post-dinner (over two hours later!), we walked around the corner for cocktails at Dear Irving. It was a cozy little bar with a nice menu, and more importantly, it was the second place we’d been that evening that had not been so packed-full that it was standing room only. (Matt says I complained about this enough that it means I’ve already gotten used to living in a small town. I complain when Duval Street is a packed-full disaster too!)
Since we had to get up early the next morning, we headed back to the subway afterwards and were at the condo by 11pm to finish packing.
The next morning was a nightmare of hauling luggage up and down subway stairways and trying to pull bags onto subway cars so packed that nobody could breathe. It was pretty awful til about halfway to Jamaica station, and then we could sit down and ride to the AirTrain and JFK in comfort. We had easy check-in and security, got some breakfast and coffee, and boarded in the first class cabin for our flight back to Miami.
I watched the documentary The Last Man on the Moon and cried a bunch while knitting. We had a really good lunch, and were arriving in Miami before we knew it. It helped that our plane was the size of South Florida, I guess.
We grabbed our bags and got the shuttle to the hotel in Miami, and were quickly on our way back to the Keys to pick up our favorite parrot and be home in time for dinner.