After the annual family reunion, John and I took an extra day to explore the Finger Lakes region of New York State. We started Sunday morning at Watkins Glen, where a 3-mile round trip hike follows cascading waters through a narrow gorge. The paved trail even goes behind two waterfalls!
Driving north along Seneca Lake, we gazed at sloping hills covered with vineyards. We stopped at Rock Stream, where we tried wine produced with grape varietals unfamiliar to us, for example, dry Niagara (white) and DeChaunac (red), two delicious dry wines. The winery also makes grappa, brandy, and port. Next time!
A short drive took us to our lunch destination: the Wienery. Sausages galore and roasted carrot dogs for vegetarians.
Inspired by a recent Food and Wine article, we spent the rest of our time in the small town of Geneva at the top of Seneca Lake. Here is the opera house:
I got a scoop of gelato from a coffee shop and then we sidled up to Lake Drum Brewing for samples of their delicious beers and ciders: sour brett, sour red ale, ginger cider, and brown ale.
At 3pm, we checked into the bed and breakfast, which had originally been the home of William Smith, who founded the eponymous college in Geneva. Thunderstorms passed through and we had a chance to relax for a few hours before walking back to town for dinner.
Lake Drum was still the only thing open, so we went back for another round and listened to Creedence Clearwater Revival on their record player.
Up the street at Wicked Water, we sampled lovely wines produced by a Brazilian couple — well, the husband is an engineer who helps out his wife and we had a great time talking with him.
We ate dinner at Halsey’s, a place focused on well-prepared Italian food in a relaxed setting. We shared the house salad with goat cheese, nuts, and cranberries. Then, I had an awesome vegetable pizza covered in caramelized onions, cooked in Halsey’s wood-burning oven. John had the truffle burger with sweet potato fries and amazing crispy brussels sprouts petals. Stuffed and happy, we needed a walk.
Down by the lake, we sat to watch the lightning flash far off over the water. A view of the lake from earlier in the day:
Having explored most of the open establishments on that quiet Sunday night, we made one last stop before walking back to the B&B. At the Linden, karaoke night was just starting and though we considered each doing a number, the spirit didn’t move us.
The next morning after a tasty breakfast — eggs baked in bell pepper halves with cheese — in the high-ceiled dining room of the B&B, we drove to the Corning Museum of Glass, part art museum, part science center. We skipped the demos and hands-on sections to enjoy the historical glass and contemporary art collections. What an amazing place with so very much to see.
And then the long drive home! The new fan clutch in our 25-year-old car kept the old girl from overheating. Hurrah!
Deanna, John, and I all sleep in to recover from the dancing and late-night pizza. Around 11am, we make our way to vegetarian hot-spot, Dirt Candy, where we meet up with a friend of Deanna’s. Cyn is a Dirt Candy fanatic and has literally had everything on the menu. I’m not a big brunch person, but that’s the only reservation I could get. And lucky for me, Dirt Candy’s brunch offers the range of options from savory to sweet. I decide to order everything involving beets: beet juice mimosa, beet coffeecake, and a beet reuben. I also try, from everyone else’s plates, the red pepper fritters and some biscuits — all so good! Now more than ever, I want to go there for dinner!
Deanna heads off to do a few errands, while John and I board a bus north on the Bowery from the light bulb district to the Flatiron district. Over the last two days, John and I have seen posters everywhere for Night Fever: New York Disco 1977–1979, The Bill Bernstein Photographs. It’s a free exhibit at the Museum of Sex and we’ve got little else to do, so we brave the crowd of college students and bachelorette partiers. The gallery is outfitted like a disco with lights and pumping music: “It’s Raining Men” incites a rowdy group of 50s-ish women to squeal with delight. The photographs mainly feature nude, intoxicated people on roller skaters, covered in glitter. However, we do leave with an appreciation of the disco scene’s inclusivity and diversity.
Snow is falling, so we quickly devise a plan to see the Nomad Hotel’s famous Library Bar. We don’t have a drink, but merely peek in to confirm that indeed it looks just like the pictures.
We take another short walk to the eternally crowded Eataly, where we marvel at Italian beers and impossible pasta shapes. I buy a few chocolates.
As the snow falls harder, we try to find somewhere to pass some time and keep warm. We walk down Fifth Avenue and stop in a few shops along the way. Dough, a place on my donut list, isn’t far, so we turn down 19th and discover Bottlerocket, a cute wine shop. At Dough, all the seats are taken by people who have long since finished eating, but can’t bring themselves to go out in the snow. John and I share one of the mammoth donuts — so heavy and cakey it’s almost meaty — and shuffle on, a little disappointed.
Directionless, across from a church, we huddle under scaffolding. There’s not enough time to visit the Merchant’s House Museum, so I quickly look to see what jazz clubs in not-too-far-away Greenwich Village have music happening right this instant. Smalls Jazz Club turns out to be the perfect spot to hole up on a cold, windy, snowy day. John opens the door and I follow the carpeted staircase down to the doorman, like a friendly Charon transporting us to a musical underworld. It’s a cheap cover (so was crossing the River Styx) and we’re lucky to get two stools near the back. The trio, led by Jonathan Thomas, enthralls us and we stay for a bit of the jam session that follows. It’s instrumentalists only and just one woman, a small lady dominated by her baritone sax. Around 6pm, as it starts to get crowded, we depart and climb the stairs up to a world where the snow has stopped.
Back in Brooklyn, we relax with Deanna. She introduces us to the wonders of GrubHub, which yields delicious pasta and risotto delivered to the door, while we introduce her to the delights of The IT Crowd, a British comedy that yields much laughter. It may be New York on a Saturday night, but we are all happy to be together and out of the weather.
Day 4: South Street Seaport to Chelsea
I made plans to meet a friend for breakfast at the Bagel Pub, but somehow our texts got crossed and one of us ended up at the wrong location. John and I enjoy our bagels immensely, but I feel badly that the promise of a meet-up fell to naught. We take a short subway ride and end up in the Financial District. Trinity Church is especially beautiful in the snow.
At South Street Seaport, the sun feels so good. I drink my tea until — at last — it’s time for the Audubon Society Eco-Cruise! A friend of Deanna’s leads the 2-hour tour on a NY Water Taxi. We travel through the New York Harbor and out past the Verrazano Narrows. There on a small rocky island, we spot 15 seals! We can only see them through binoculars, but the sight is glorious. Shaped like gray bananas, they lie in the sun and look across at us.
Back on land at 2pm, John and I seek out lunch at the Dead Rabbit, named “The World’s Best Bar 2016” (more on that). Quiet and laid-back, the Dead Rabbit offers delightful cocktails, including the best Irish coffee ever, and excellent food. I love my pisco punch and our meals — mushroom gnocchi and a scotch egg — rank up there as some of the best restaurant food we’ve ever had.
We aim to visit the Whitney Museum of American Art, but subway maintenance confounds us. Walking from Union Square, we realize that the Museum closes in less than 2 hours — not enough time to walk there and enjoy the exhibits. As we pass by the Donut Pub, another on my list, we pause to regroup and elevate our blood sugar. Now these are classic, perfectly executed cake donuts! At the recommendation of two girls eating near the cash register, we buy one yeast donut topped with Fruity Pebbles.
John and I pick up the food hall thread and visit both Gansevoort Market and Chelsea Market, two places where we can be warm and walk around. I like small Gansevoort Market and would like to go back when I’m not stuffed. Chelsea always feels too crowded with churning crowds, but I do like the clothing and craft shops there. John and I stop to examine a quirky scarf with pockets, made from recycled men’s suits. Surprise, surprise, this handmade, unique item is a bit out of our price range.
At last we arrive back in Brooklyn. For dinner, Deanna invites a friend to meet us at a nearby pub. We are content with another low-key evening before having to head home the next morning. John and I share that Fruity Pebbles donut for dessert. Mmm, sugar.
What a splendid four days! Thanks to Deanna for hosting us!
Notes for Next Time
Here’s an outline:
See: The Whitney, a house museum (like Merchant’s House), a show
In 2011, I attended the Zlatne Uste Golden Festival, but have never been able to return due to work…until 2017! At last! The festival was just one of many delights during four days in New York.
Three days after arriving home from Toronto, John and I load up the car for New York. The drive up couldn’t be easier, especially now that we don’t have to stop for tolls. I simply chant “EZPass EZPass” and clap as we go through the express lanes.
In Brooklyn, Cousin Deanna stands in a parking spot and flags us down. Christmas trees lie on the sidewalks and it smells wonderful. For lunch, Deanna takes us to her spot, Le Paddock, where we all go nuts for deviled eggs.
Day 1: World Trade Center to Greenwich Village
John and I head to Lower Manhattan for a hedonistic walking tour. We start at Le District, part grocery store, part French-themed food hall, to enjoy a red from Vacqueyras and a white from Savenniéres at the wine bar. A scoop of espresso ice cream follows for me! From there, we follow the Hudson Greenway bike path north to Greenwich Village.
We wander through narrow, quiet streets and spot one restaurant. From the corner, it beckons us with its multi-pane windows and the candlelight within. We see people inside and decide we should be early diners too. Sitting at the bar of the Little Owl, truly little with barely 10 tables, we drink Mondeuse and Falanghina, while I eat delicious Eggplant Parmesan.
From there, we stop at Employees Only, a cocktail bar that routinely lands on lists. The friendly doorman draws back a black velvet curtain and we find ourselves in the 1920s. The only anachronism is that the bartenders wear chef’s coats. John has the Billionaire’s Cocktail — bourbon, lemon, grenadine, absinthe bitters — and for me, Besos Calientes — tequila, grapefruit, lime, habanero bitters. For the two of us, it’s such a relaxing moment. We haven’t seen each other much the last few weeks and tonight we are finally catching up.
On Bleecker Street, we look at the shops and ponder why a crowd is peacefully dissenting “Let her go! Let her go!” outside a police station. (One person across the street tells us a woman put a poster up where she wasn’t supposed to have, but how does that warrant arrest?) Like good Americans, we quickly forget justice and start shopping. John almost buys a vintage vest, but it is too small. Then, I spot the rainbow-colored storefront of David’s Tea and buy two small bags: Turmeric Glow and North African Mint. Good stuff! We take a whirl around Murray’s Cheese.
John hasn’t eaten much and when he spots the word “tacos” across from Murray’s, his hunger suddenly reveals itself. At garage-like Tacombi, we’re lucky to get seated right away. I move to non-alcoholic drinks and have a super sweet horchata. John tries almost every kind of tiny taco they have — fish, beef, pork, all delicious — and I eat two of the sweet potato-black bean tacos. With corn on the side, we are so content. It’s a short walk to the F train. And what do you know? We home in Brooklyn at 9pm.
Day 2: Upper East Side
For today we have two goals: see art and explore another food hall. On 58th Street, we strike out at Fika, a Swedish coffee shop that by 10am is cleaned out of every last morsel. But with a short walk east, we find heavenly croissants at Plaza Hotel’s Food Hall. We scope the place out and confirm our plans to return for lunch.
In the shadow of Trump Tower, we walk to an unremarkable office building. In search of Galerie St. Etienne, we mistakenly press the elevator button for the 4th floor. The doors open onto a bizarre scene: in a cavernous space, white and purple lights flash and sputter. We can’t see anyone and there’s an accompanying sound, reminiscent of the blaring noises in Mad Max: Fury Road. We know it’s some kind of art installation, but we’re desperate to get away. On the 8th floor, however, we find the Galerie, tucked amidst doctors’ offices. The exhibit “You Say You Want a Revolution: American Artists and the Communist Party” brings us here. Hugo Gellert and Sue Coe are two artists whose work strikes us.
At the Society of Illustrators, a few blocks north, we check our coats and settle into exploring this institution, which exhibits art, holds competitions, and offers workshops for artists. We see work by the most talented illustrators living today in the exhibit: “Illustrators 59: Uncommissioned, Institutional, Advertising”, an annual juried show. Then on the upper floors, John and I marvel (har-har) at the work of comic book illustrator Tony Harris. Still yet on the third floor, we see a Norman Rockwell mural and wonderful work by artists who designed covers for classic magazines like Woman’s Home Companion and Redbook. For John, this is a pilgrimage. Next time, he’ll go to one of their themed sketch nights!
For a break, we walk over to Central Park where the sun spills over the rocks and the wind can’t reach us.
Then to lunch at the Plaza Food Court! Seats may be hard to come by, but we eventually get a spot where we have no choice but to listen to a younger woman describe to an older woman, a family friend it seemed, every step in her thought process about whether to move in with her boyfriend. Meanwhile, my broccoli and feta sandwich from No. 7 Sub is fantastic, while John’s fennel sausage from Todd English hits the spot. While I finish up, John decides to find dessert; he comes back with a bag of hot cinnamon and sugar doughnut holes from the Doughnuttery. I buy a small canister from Kusmi tea and then we pick up a kouign amann pastry to eat later. Oh heaven!
Inspired by our visit to the Society of Illustrators, we set off for the St. Regis Hotel, where a Maxfield Parrish mural of “Old King Cole” dominates the bar. In San Francisco, we paid a pretty penny to sit beneath Parrish’s “The Pied Piper of Hamlin” at the Palace Hotel. The drinks cost even more here! But the little bar snacks are delicious.
For the last mural of the day, we take a short subway ride up to the Met. In 2013, we went to the AXA Equitable Tower only to learn that the Thomas Hart Benton mural, American Today (1931), had been moved! Now, in 2017, we see it in its new home — a custom room where one can sit surrounded by the 10-canvas panorama!
While at the Met, we also see an exhibit about Max Beckmann, a German artist who moved to New York in the late 1940s. He apparently spent much time at the St. Regis Hotel and the Plaza Hotel — exactly like us! And I finally get to the Costume Institute!
A happy day of art and with so many lifelong dreams met, John and I board the subway back to the Brooklyn.
Now with Deanna, we head to dinner at Le Paddock and then on to Golden Fest at Grand Prospect Hall. The festival has gotten bigger, but the wine is just as strange and the music just as brilliant! I know to strip down to a tank top and jump into the circle. Deanna and John join me off and on, but mainly I am left to swirl in a sea of sweaty hands and nimble feet. I give myself over to the arrhythmic beats and bilateral dancing patterns.
When I can dance no more, I go upstairs to the balcony to watch from above. Here one can easily spot the factions, the dancers out of sync, the knowledgeable dancers doing some trickier variant. It’s a marvelous chaotic soup.
Following tradition, we three must have pizza after Balkan Fest! No one remembers where we went six years ago, so Deanna and John do some searching and decide on American Cheez, a bar that serves free pizza when you buy a drink. Really? Yes! The owner treats us like he’s known us forever; 70s rock plays; the women’s bathroom is plastered with old John Travolta photos; posters everywhere; a few TVs — one showing an old movie. The owner gets down his Trump and Ron Burgundy figurines and puts them in all kinds of compromising positions. We love the whole spirit of the place. And truly, there is nothing better than pizza at midnight, but really I’m exhausted and ready to sleep.
After two years, John and I were due for a visit to New York City. The more I travel the more I appreciate NYC as a cultural and fashion mecca. I’ve never been to the megalopolises of Asia, but New York seems to me the ultimate city. We spent four solid days there this time with two nights in Midtown and two nights in Brooklyn.
After checking our bags at Penn Station, we ate lunch at Sullivan Street Bakery to experience their pillowy, yet crusty bread. John enjoyed the Cuban sandwich and I was pleasantly surprised by the room temperature “cavolfiore” pizze with cauliflower, olives, hot peppers, and Parmesan.
We found a staircase to the sun-drenched High Line easily. The elevated park offers inviting spaces for relaxation, engaging sculpture, and gorgeous views of the surrounding neighborhood. May this wonderful example of clever city-scaping be a lesson to urban planners!
After exiting the High Line, I consulted my map for other points of interest in Chelsea. First stop: the British mini-mart, Myers of Keswick. Although I didn’t buy anything, I’m comforted by the fact that I can find Cornish pasties this side of the Atlantic.
The Chelsea Market‘s narrow walkways bustled with shoppers and, packed in with my fellow foodies, I felt overwhelmed by the number of shops and restaurants. I’d love to go back when it is not a Saturday afternoon and when I have a ravenous appetite.
To console our disappointment in learning that the Hotel Chelsea is under renovation, John and I went next door to El Quijote. Little seems to have changed since this restaurant/bar opened in 1930. We reveled in being the youngest couple there and entertained ourselves by identifying the easy listening instrumentals (I heard “Alfie”).
As we continued north to go back to Penn Station, we took a detour to the antiques flea market in a garage on W. 25th Street. In one booth, we saw some amazing printed art books from the 1920-40s. The George Gershwin Songbook with illustrations by Alajalov was tempting, but we refrained. Across the street from the market, we visited a vintage store with some beautiful pieces.
We returned to Penn Station, got our bags, and walked ten blocks north to the Royalton Hotel, across from the Algonquin. (Unfortunately, the hotel has a very silly website featuring a large picture of a woman’s legs. It’s much better to look at the Visa Signature Hotels page for it.) I rested my feet for a short time before hustling down to Murray’s Cheese in Greenwich Village so we could have grilled cheese sandwiches before the 6pm cut off.
Greenwich Village Crawl
The subway got us down to the village quickly. Murray’s is a cheesy paradise and offers plenty of other tasty treats. While we waited for our sandwiches, we looked at the catering menus and catalogs. On a bench outside, we ate the gooey, satisfying melts, which had a little tomato and pesto as well. Next time I would like to attend one of Murray’s classes, which typically focus on how to pair beer or wine or cider with cheese.
Sated and stuffed, I led John to the Market NYC, which features crafts and clothing by local artists. I bought a flapper-esque hat and earrings made from old tin signs. Woo! I also went to McNulty’s Tea and Coffee to look for varieties of Japanese green tea. McNulty’s has a delightful, old-fashioned atmosphere. The tea is not self-service and I had help from a young man who helped me find bancha tea, a green tea varietal I’d never heard of before. Turns out, it is quite tasty.
In search of jazz with no cover charge, we stopped for drinks at the laid back Arthur’s Tavern, festively decorated for every possible holiday. John and I had fun talking to the Macedonian bartender and analyzing the trio which played original compositions by the Japanese pianist leading the group.
Our long day caught up to us, so we headed to the hotel for a night cap. The dark, warm lobby has a sleek fireplace and comfy chairs — a perfect place to relax.
Each time we visit New York we have gone to a different museum. Early on Sunday morning we rode the A train to the very last stop to see the Cloisters, an extension of the Metropolitan focusing on Medieval and Renaissance art. We loved the museum for its fantastic objects and its atmospheric presentation. Every museum should have outdoor spaces, fountains, and living plants (these were all in the reassembled period cloisters). With only 20 rooms and a clearly guided route that took us through the museum chronologically, we exited feeling refreshed and energized by the experience rather than overwhelmed and exhausted. Highlights included the exquisite sculpture “Standing Virgin and Child” and the famous unicorn tapestries.
We walked through the park surrounding the Cloisters and left by a different subway station. Sometime later we re-emerged at 86th Street and walked across Central Park while eating super salty pretzels.
Once on the east side, we walked to the Neue Galerie, which features Austrian and German art. This small museum contains exquisite paintings and drawings by Gustav Klimt and fantastic work by German Expressionists. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the dimly lit room housing faint pencil drawings by Klimt of gorgeous, sensual women, who upon close inspection — one had to follow the lines of the figures’ arms and hands — turned out to be masturbating!
All the stimulation couldn’t suppress the rising hunger for lunch. We happened upon a Dean and Deluca, got sandwiches, and ate them in Central Park.
After lunch and a good sit on a park bench, we started walking along Madison and later 5th Avenue. John and I discovered our differing approaches to high end shopping. He has no fear and can touch a $2,000 dress without qualms. I am afraid to go into any such shops where I feel I do not belong (some kind of inferiority complex here). Also, I don’t want to draw any attention from the hawkish salespeople (although others were quite friendly even though there was no way we could buy anything). As a non-serious buyer, I don’t want to waste people’s time, although John and I can be rather entertaining. In Barney’s, he picked up a pair of sunglasses which resulted in a cartoonish encounter with the salesman who said “Hellooo?!” as he stuck in face into John’s. Saks Fifth Avenue provided us more freedom to wander at will and I viewed the women’s department as a kind of fashion museum (like seeing the first ladies’ dresses at the Smithsonian). Later on, we peeked through the windows of Bauman Rare Books and John checked out Hickey Freeman suits. We finally compromised that if I refused to go into shops, I would at least keep a list of designers to look up online, free from social anxieties, at home.
We had walked some 40 blocks so we returned to the hotel to rest before getting ready for a big evening out!
A New Tradition
We took the subway downtown and arrived at the Flatiron Lounge for pre-dinner drinks. We had the art deco bar almost entirely to ourselves and talked with the friendly bartender who convinced us to try the cocktail flight of the night: three mini-drinks with sherry. I discovered a new personal favorite — sherry cobbler — with sherry, simple syrup, and fresh fruit.
Whereas I have anxieties about fancy clothing stores, John got a little nervous about our dinner date at Gramercy Tavern. However, we couldn’t have had a better experience or better food. We had planned for this foodie splurge and tried the vegetable tasting menu. We tried a new (to us) white wine, an Austrian gruner veltliner, which was delicious on its own and accompanied the parade of courses spectacularly. Five savory courses featuring kale and cabbage, brussels sprouts, vegetable salad with farro, curried squash, and finally mushrooms, celery root (the new “it” vegetable), and polenta preceded a dessert bonanza! Dessert part 1, a mango panna cotta, cleansed our palates for part 2, a coconut chocolate cake with divine butter pecan ice cream. And then! came an assortment of gorgeous chocolates. And then! after we paid the bill came the little goody bags — a mini-coffee cake for each of us to have the next morning at breakfast. We felt truly pampered by the waitstaff who were kind enough to laugh at John’s question “What is the record for napkin dropping” (since he had done it twice without realizing and newly folded napkins would appear for him like magic), but professional enough not to answer it.
Despite being dressed up, we were so close to Forbidden Planet comics that we stopped there after dinner. Then, because it was a beautiful night, we took the subway uptown to the Kimberly Hotel’s Upstairs bar on the 30th-something floor. The view was lovely, especially because we were in the midst of the skyscrapers and not looking down on them. I’d love to go back to this totally chill spot in the summer when the bar isn’t glassed in.
Though I was wearing heels and my feet were killing me, we both felt a sudden urge to go to the Empire State Building. We took a taxi the 6 blocks to the hotel, so we could quickly change. By 11:30pm, we were on the 86th floor:
There’s something intoxicating and lovely about eating an amazing meal and then visiting romantic high places.
We slept in on gloomy Monday morning, ate our mini-coffee cakes, checked out of our room (goodbye amazing shower!), and left our bags at the hotel before going downtown. In the cold and mild drizzle, we visited the cemetery of Trinity Church where we found a delightful assortment of spooky gravestones.
We walked by elegant City Hall and decided we needed a second breakfast/early lunch as the rain picked up. At Andy’s Deli on Broadway we found warmth and delicious sandwiches.
We took the subway a few stops north and spent a good while in foodie heaven at Eataly. Since we didn’t want to go back out in the cold just yet, we scoured every corner of the shop and came out with an assortment of chocolates, meats, dried pastas, and a loaf of seeded semolina. The bonet-flavored (amaretto and cocoa) “pralines” by Bodrato are quite possibly the most divine mass-produced confections John and I have ever had. I wish I had bought bags of the other flavors!
The weather improved slightly so we walked around the Flatiron District toward Chelsea and stopped at a few vintage stores. After a short time we took the subway uptown near the hotel and looked for the AXA Equitable Tower on 6th Avenue, where we had hoped to find a Thomas Hart Benton mural, but it had been moved in December to the Met.
Before picking up our bags, we had lunch at the Long Room, a friendly Irish pub in Midtown with an awesome draft selection and to John’s delight, buffalo bangers and mash! Each month the pub features a different brewery. John tried Sixpoint‘s Belgian farmhouse ale and the next day while eating lunch at a different place I tried Sixpoint’s Diesel, a rich stout.
With our luggage we got on the F train for a long ride to Brooklyn. At three o’clock we arrived at the doorstep of John’s cousin and lounged around the rest of the afternoon.
When hunger struck, we walked to Hamilton’s, where we found comfort food (I had mac and cheese as well as a stellar kale salad with dried cranberries) and, surprisingly, Greek wine by the glass. I enjoyed my Nemean red. The restaurant’s folky soundtrack (perfect for a dreary Monday) got us talking about music straightaway.
A Very Long Walk
We didn’t set out to walk seven miles, but that’s what happened. It all started with a sunny morning on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Then we picked up where our self-guided cemetery walk left off on Monday. We visited the site of an African burial ground, now covered by a federal office building (290 Broadway). I enjoyed the informative exhibit, which incorporated archaeology and forensics. The guards were so fixated on getting us to go in to watch the exhibit’s 20-minute movie (which we didn’t), when they should have told us that there was more to the memorial behind the building outside (which we totally missed!).
In Chinatown, we saw one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in North America: the small First Shearith Israel graveyard. A short distance away we found the Eldridge Street Synagogue, a gorgeous temple built in 1887. We entered the building at the basement level, but weren’t really sure where to go. John and I stumbled upon some kind of ritual or prayer service when we went upstairs to the sanctuary. In our befuddlement and embarrassment, we quickly left, so we didn’t see the interior.
We continued our wanderings north and slowly honed in on the Doughnut Plant, where we ate three light, tasty cake donuts and rested our feet. Then, we visited the Essex Street Market, bought a fruit cup, and enjoyed it in Tompkins Park. Throughout our trip we relied on the public toilets in the New York City parks. Tompkins, however, offers no stall doors in the men’s bathroom; even curiouser, the doors to the women’s were sawed off mid-thigh level, but there was still a working lock!
While in the East Village, I also got a hair cut at Whistle. I had never been to a salon where I was asked whether I would like water or something else to drink and Will gave me a fun, but professional cut that I have been able to style successfully at home! The fact that Whistle has two resident dogs made the experience even more awesome!
Bolstered by my new ‘do, we continued window shopping through the village with stops at vintages stores, Trash and Vaudeville (who can forget a name like that?), and a few book stores. We also walked down streets just to gape at beautiful fire escapes. Around 3pm, we found ourselves near Cooper Union and saw the Barrel. The restaurant was nearly empty, but we found good food and relaxed while deciding what to do next.
We walked through NYU and over to Greenwich Village, where we stopped for a drink to rest again. John realized that our cash was running low and we thought that finding an ATM for our bank would be a fun adventure. Deceitful Google maps directed us to Wall Street so we began walking down 6th Avenue and eventually made it to Broadway. Our walk through SoHo yielded gasps from me at the sight of every 19th century Italianate (if I have my architecture correct) building:
Closer to Wall Street, we saw an incredible art deco government building:
We found an ATM, the one we were looking for didn’t exist, and we also discovered that there is a T. J. Maxx on Wall Street. Yes, there is. We saw it.
Totally wiped out, we heaved ourselves onto the subway back to Brooklyn.
Calling Eastern Europe
Visiting New York inevitably provides me an opportunity to get in touch with my mysterious Eastern European heritage. There’s no doubt I have a bit of Bohemian Czech, but there must be something else as well. Last time I stayed in Brooklyn I went to the Golden Fest; this time I persuaded John and his cousin to come with me to tiny Barbes to see Slavic Soul Party for their standing Tuesday-night gig. To our unexpected delight, they played Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite during their first set (I still need to listen to the original), before launching into their standard Balkan brass band party music for the second set.
The young crowd really knew how to squeeze in tight and after 90 minutes or so of having my spine misaligned and being jostled I was ready to go home, as much as I was enjoying the music. If there’s no room to dance, it’s just not as much fun. John and I hadn’t really had dinner, so we got late night pizza slices before riding the subway the few stops to home.
When I awoke my legs and feet refused to move. I spent the morning relaxing and doing stretches. At some point John and I went for a walk to Prospect Park in the hopes that light movement would get me limber again. Nope. We stopped in a mini-mart for Tylenol.
Around 1pm, we gathered our bags and got on the subway to Penn Station. We found a healthy lunch at Chickpea and ate in the Amtrak waiting area where there is plenty of good people watching to be had. By 3pm, we were settled in proper seats on the train and heading through the coastal marshes back home.
Now that I’m back home and have recovered from our invigorating escape, I’m looking toward our inevitable visit in the future (I can’t help myself!).
Other notes: Still need to go to the Guggenheim and to the New York Historical Society. I also need to pay a proper visit (i.e. not 10 minutes before closing time) to the NYPL. John’s interested in checking out the Society of Illustrators museum.
John and I hit the road again last weekend to go his family reunion in Binghamton and Deposit, NY. Since I can’t possibly go somewhere and not see anything new, we took some extra days to check out Saratoga Springs and Cooperstown. Credit for most of the pictures goes to John.
An old-timey resort town with spectacular houses, a race track, mineral waters, spas, excellent food, beautiful parks, and a curiously large number of hat and dress boutiques.
We arrived in the early afternoon and headed along Broadway Avenue for an introduction to the town. I enjoyed seeing the old hotels, like the Batcheller Mansion Inn and the Adelphi Hotel, constructed in 1877, left to decay, and then restored in the 1980s. Then we went with our hostess to the racetrack. It looked like just about everyone else in town (tourists and natives alike) was spending a day at the races. At the park inside the gate folks sat around relaxing, smoking cigars, and checking the stats. We didn’t place any bets, but we did watch two races, enjoyed the ambience, and tried the spring waters from the spigot at the track.
Before dinner we stopped in Saratoga Spa State Park to see the Roosevelt and Lincoln Spas, the Performing Arts Center, and Warming Hut. We also tried the lovely water from the State Seal Spring. I’m not keen on the mineral water with natural carbonation; it has a slight sulfur smell and tastes a bit odd, but the usual spring water was refreshing. I think during our time in Saratoga, we tried water from four of the total of 17 springs around town.
For dinner we ate at Wheatfields, where I had the biggest, strongest mojito of all time, and then walked across the street to Putnam Market for dessert and wine. To share with my companions, I choose a large lemon bar (satisfying tart and creamy) and a toe-curlingly delicious peanut butter mousse in a cup make of chocolate cookie crumbs (sort of like what you’d make a pie crust with). John and I were also happy to see wasabi peanuts, which we haven’t seen since Germany, and bought a cup of those (I only see wasabi peas around here).
The next morning we all enjoyed breakfast at the Bread Basket Bakery. Apparently I was rather predictable in my choice of raspberry cornmeal muffin. John and I got a loaf of bread to eat on the road and then took a final walk in Congress Park before saying our goodbyes to our most excellent hostess.
The road to Cooperstown followed the Mohawk River through farms and canal towns. We stopped to poke around in the Springfield Cemetery before reaching Cooperstown. On the outskirts of town we saw the massive Farmers’ Museum and the Fenimore Art Museum, both of which we plan to visit next time we go to Cooperstown…oh, let’s say next summer.
The downtown section of Cooperstown is adorable. We loved the public library across from the Baseball Hall of Fame and, honestly, Otsego Lake made my knees weak it was so gorgeous.
Our plan was to visit Brewery Ommegang, a few miles south of Cooperstown, but they were closed in preparation for a weekend beer festival. I hadn’t quite recovered from my disappointment when we passed a sign for the Cooperstown Brewing Company in nearby Milford. For a whopping $2, we got to try all 6 beers while the apathetic, bitter, and perhaps hungover dude behind the bar poured us our samples. His ‘tude didn’t matter since the beers were good, especially the special ale, stout, and porter. We bought two six packs and on our way out studied the map of the Cooperstown Beverage Trail. Onward we headed to the next stop, Bear Pond Winery. Here we tried 6 wines for $5 and the wines were from Bear Pond and other local vineyards. Our favorite was the Traminette from Fulkerson Winery in Dundee, NY. We also bought some sinus singeing horseradish pickles and NY cheese. On the final leg to Binghamton we marveled at a glowing field of sunflowers…
I plan to complete the rest of the Cooperstown Beverage Trail by visiting Ommegang and Fly Creek Cider Mill next time I’m in the area.
Top 10 Reasons Why the Reunion Was Awesome
in no particular order
1. Fire and s’mores.
2. World’s best banana pudding.
3. Crazy fun people.
4. Being on a farm with cows and a guinee hen.
5. Samples of spectacular homemade jellies: like garlic, wine, and herb/garlic.
6. Badminton and frisbee.
7. Big sweet dog who eats shuttlecocks and frisbees.
8. Inflatable contraption for people to bounce around in (“Moonwalk”? “Bounce Hut”?).
9. Sidewalk chalk.
10. The Hammock.
Muncy Suprise Somehow I got it into my head that I could find the burial place of some of my Muncy relatives (great-grandparents and such). I confirmed my supposition with my mom and then asked John if he wouldn’t mind stopping in the Muncy cemetery on the way home. When I saw how big the cemetery was, I almost gave up, but John parked and suggested I walk around for a bit. So I did. And about 10 minutes later (probably a bit less) I had reached one end of the cemetery and saw a monument with the name “Shoemaker.” I didn’t immediately recognize any of the names, but when I rounded the corner I saw a stone for Emily Shoemaker and Harry Houston, my great-grandparents. What a shock to have actually found them! And it turns out the other names on the monument are relatives too! So here’s who I found (all ancestors of my mom’s father):
Great-great-great-great-great grandparents: Henry Shoemaker Sr. (1731-1797) and Barbara, his wife (1743-1817)
Great-great-great-great grandparents: Henry Shoemaker Jr. (1762-1805) (first postmaster of Muncy!) and Susan, his wife (1763?-1835)
Great-great-great grandparents: Samuel Shoemaker (1791-1873) and Mary, his wife (1795-1880)
Great-great grandparents: R. Fleming Shoemaker (1835-1893) and Almira, his wife (1840-1923) (daughter of my namesake, Lanah Lowmiller)
Great-grandparents: Emily Shoemaker (1875-1950) and Harry H. Houston (1880-1959)
Super exciting for me! And I’m looking forward to going back to find the Lowmiller plot. This has inspired me to do a little more research on my family and visit the materials my mom and her siblings have collected.
So the summer is winding down and it’s been a good one, but I’m ready for the fall.