New York, April 2017.

Mark & I went to New York for our second anniversary.  It’s where he’s from, and a city I always love and it was wonderful to share it together.  I hadn’t been there in spring before, and it was so lovely to see all the cherry blossoms.  Here’s my recommendations and favorite things from this go-round:

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To eat & drink:

Jack’s Wife Freda – this is a bustling little cafe that has style for miles and great food, too.  We ate in their SoHo location, and shared a bunch of things so we could sample the lot.  We loved the ease of walking in without a reservation, not waiting too long (we opted to sit at the counter, my favorite anyway), and that while it was brunch, we weren’t the oldest people in the room.

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Please Don’t Tell – this is a secret bar in the East Village.  You enter through a phone booth into this quirky space that serves high-low food and drinks – think amazing cocktails with tater tots.  It’s inside an unassuming hot dog restaurant.  I highly recommend, especially if you love secret rooms, mysteries, things like that like I do.

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Dear Irving – another amazing place for drinks. Mark surprised me with pre-dinner anniversary cocktails here – that man knows exactly what I’ll love, and I love that he finds it for me and makes plans to go.  I love a cocktail bar, and this one was perfection – it’s dripping in crystal curtains, art deco decor, tin ceilings and wood paneled rooms.  I also especially loved that you just flip a switch when you want service so your conversation isn’t awkwardly interrupted.  Highly recommend going here.

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Prune – this to me, is the perfect NYC restaurant.  It’s not hip or hot anymore, but it’s the classic neighborhood spot serving simple, yet delicious and healthy food.  You see a mix of people there too.  Again, there’s something wonderful about being in a city where no one ever stops going out to eat and drink, well into their 80s.

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To do:

My favorite thing, and luckily Mark’s favorite thing, is to just walk around the cities we visit with no particular agenda.  I like wandering and stumbling into something cool.  So we did a lot of that.  We started off with a day in Brooklyn – we went to Coney Island, which is where Mark remembered spending summer days.  Even in the rain it was easy to imagine it bustling.  We also spent a significant amount of time wandering in Manhattan and I checked off a few things I hadn’t done before, despite numerous visits to NYC.  Here’s my highlights:

Elizabeth Street Garden – while wandering around SoHo, we stumbled onto this extraordinary public garden filled with old, giant statutes.  They were arranged in such a a way that they created all these private seating areas, and it was a perfect place to just sit with a cup of coffee for a few minutes before continuing to wander.

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Steve Cohen’s Chamber Magic Show – Years ago, I read about this show on the blog Cup of Jo and bookmarked it as something to see someday.  On this trip, the timing was perfect – we were able to snag tickets for their Friday night show when we arrived.  It was the best way to kick off a trip – instead of feeling like we spent the day traveling, my Friday night memory is seeing this fun show.  It’s an old-school, almost vaudeville (but not as corny) magic show with card tricks that seem impossible, and other slight of hand tricks that I still cannot even begin to figure out (like linking wedding rings from the audience and “think a drink” where he pours random drinks out of a teapot).  I also loved that you must get dressed up to go – no exceptions.  It takes place in a suite in a fancy hotel, and dressing up makes everything go together and makes the experience feel like a happening.  With all the Broadway options, it would be easy to miss something like this, but if you’re thinking about it, bookmark this for your next trip.

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The New York Public Library – I have walked by the main branch of the New York Public library on probably 80% of the trips I’ve taken to Manhattan, and never walked inside.  This time I was determined to just walk in.  And I am so glad we did – it’s really something to see.  The grand reading room is the most amazing public space I think I’ve ever seen.  It made me want to have to study for something just to go there.  They also have exhibits throughout the library, and down in the children’s room, there’s the original stuffed animals that inspired the Winnie the Pooh series of books.  It’s grand, it’s free, it’s a lovely way to pass an hour wandering around.

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Grand Central Station – similar to the library, this is a spot I’ve walked by a zillion times and never had reason to go inside.  I’ve always loved photos taken inside and took the opportunity to play around a little with the slow shutter app on my phone.  (On this trip, I did my now-thing – I just walked around with my iPhone and a Holga – those shots to come later, once they’re developed and all that fun stuff.) It’s just something to see.  I was curious about the oyster bar there, but disappointed to find it in the basement and very fish-smelling when we walked inside (it was overpowering in a bad way).  In any event, popping inside a couple of classic institutions was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

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The Tenement Museum – while walking around, we stumbled on the Tenement Museum.  I’d heard great things about this museum over the years, and we happened to arrive a few minutes before a tour was starting.  It was a fascinating look into Jewish life in the garment district in the late 1800s/early 1900s.  Tours are about an hour long, and there are several to choose from.  We picked what was available, and learned about two families who lived in the building about 40 years apart.  The museum researched their lives through census records and by tracking down their descendants.

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