{Trip Report} NYC Holiday Style

I’m sooo behind on my trip reports! Since December I’ve been to NYC, FL, and Lake Placid; plus, I have another trip in a week. I must get cracking! Okay, so here we go….. All last year I thought about going to NYC for a weekend. Originally, I hoped to go in June. But, plans fell through. As the year grew older, I realized that a holiday trip would be ideal. Christmas decorations make the city such a magical place, so in December I made the trek with some beautiful friends of mine. 

DAY 1: With Dunkin Donuts coffees and a full tank of diesel, Keri (my next door neighbor) and I set off for NYC in the morning in my trusty Jetta. The drive through NY, PA, and NJ was mostly boring, though we did cut through some mountains near the end of the four hour trek. We opted to stop once for some lunch and a bathroom break. I had no desire to drive into Manhattan or compete with the aggressive taxi drivers, so I valet parked at Seacacus Junction at exit 15x off the NJ highway. As we unloaded our bags, the valet raised an eyebrow, and questioned us: “and HOW long are you staying?!” Okay, so we may have packed a ton of shoes and wine, but this was a much needed girls trip! We definitely regretted our packing choices as we lugged those heavy bags around the train station, then on the NJ train to Penhttps://leighuf.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1044&action=edit&message=10n Station, and THEN to the Metro, and THEN on the E train, and FINALLY the three blocks to our hotel. Both Keri and I had sore muscles the rest of the trip, but we had plenty of wine. And shoes.

Packing Must Haves

We opted to stay at a highly rated midtown Best Western on 49th Street, and we loved our choice. Though the lobby was small and the elevator slow, the hotel room was amazing. We had a huge apartment with a separate kitchen, living room, dining area, bedroom, and a Carrie Bradshaw-esque bathroom. We checked into our room and my friend Meghan met us there. We unpacked, celebrated GIRLS with a glass of wine, and eventually headed to 5th Ave and Central Park. We snapped photos, drooled over the Christmas decorations, store windows, and some pretty Jimmy Choo heels, and climbed a rock face near the Plaza Hotel. We eventually strolled home to get ready for out dinner out at STK Midtown.

The BIG Apple

In.Love.With.These!

We ultimately decided to walk the .8 miles to our dinner venue. I wore high heeled boots and regretted the decision about a quarter mile into the walk. After a few wrong turns, we found the place and were quickly ushered to our table (fyi- I reserved via Open Table one month in advance). The service, food, and ambiance were divine.

ny3

Interior of STK.
photo by M.E.

Shall I have beef…. or beef?

We all ordered different steaks, and I found my skirt steak to be flavorful and cooked perfectly. HOWEVER, I totally wished I had ordered the skirt steak special. It was more flavorful and tender than mine. Our enjoyable experience included talking with the couples sitting at the table next to us and ending our night at the restaurant bar where we ordered a round of drinks and socialized with one of the restaurant chefs who was celebrating his last day of work before heading home to the Caribbean.  Eventually we left to check out Time Square and the Rockefeller Tree (before they pulled the plug on the lights), and we retreated to our Midtown hotel.

ny1

photo by K.G

DAY 2:

We set the alarm for 9am, but I think we all stirred way before that due to the typical NYC sounds. After a quick breakfast in the lobby, we met our private guide for the day. I found Dan of StreetWise via Trip Advisor, my favorite go-to site for reviews and vacation ideas. He was ranked as one of the top ten guides in the NYC area, and he definitely did not disappoint.

He was early for our tour and extremely sweet and personable in person. Dan happily took us around NYC’s neighborhoods. Despite the ridiculous snowstorm, we opted to check out Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho, and Greenwich on foot. He remembered all my special requests like sampling dumplings in China Town and checking out a deli in Little Italy; he was very flexible.  My girlfriends raved and raved about him post-tour. It was definitely the perfect way to explore unfamiliar areas of the city. We passed many huge tour groups and couldn’t help but say “thank goodness” we weren’t part of them. We loved having Dan all to ourselves.

Foot rub and fruit anyone?

Chinese market

Fresh frog anyone??

Little Italy
Photo by M.E.

Can you see us? This is the point where the snow and cold started to get to us. I put my camera away at this point. Brrrr! Luckily he stopped for espresso and hot chocolate a little later.

Okay, I did have to take a pic of Carrie Bradshaw’s place.

After parting with Dan three hours later, we stopped at the Spice Market restaurant for lunch. It’s a dimly lit Asian restaurant decorated in rich reds and intricate wood carvings. We were immediately seated in a very dimly lit corner on white leather chairs. We marveled at the decor- it was really spectacular! After ten minutes, our eyes finally adjusted to the lighting so that we could read the menu. For a minute, I considered using the flashlight app on my cell. For lunch, I opted for the $25 prix fixe brunch menu and ordered the fried chicken with biscuits (biscuit was a bit dry). I had a side of maple bacon (sinfully good balance of sweet & salty) and the sangria (tart but tasty). I also tried the mimosa (it was perfect, meaning more champagne than OJ). The price for all of it plus tip was $44. A bit pricey, but a memorable experience.

Afterward we walked next door to the packed Chelsea Market, an old brick mill that has been converted into a shopping and food mecca. It was too crowded to truly digest and enjoy. I did manage to pick up a few gifts at the spice market. The aroma of all the spices was intense and intoxicating. The man who collected my chosen spices had yellow hands; I gather that many people had recently ordered turmeric or curry powder from him.

Chelsea Market was packed.

I wanted to spend longer in this store. *Foodie Alert*

So fragrant.

After browsing and snapping some pics, we bundled up and caught the subway back to our hotel where we shed our wet attire and placed them by the radiator. We put on some tunes and relaxed with a glass of wine.  We had given ourselves plenty of time to shower, relax, and prepare for our epic dinner at Beauty and Essex. I even got to practice my makeup artist and hair styling skills on Meghan.

When we were perfect, we descended to the the darkened sidewalk to hail a cab. The snow was still heavily falling and we instantly realized that heels in slushy snow weren’t a good idea. My glitter platform five inch heels were an accident waiting to happen! Additionally, we discovered that hailing a cab would be impossible.

We slowly strutted ourselves up the street to the Waldrof Astoria and hopped into their cab line after trying to convince an off duty cabbie to drive us to the lower east side. The shady driver offered to go ‘off meter’ but made no promises since he said the roads were messy and he had no clue about our destination. The doorman at Waldrof was sweet and ended up getting us a Towncar after about a 20 minute wait under a heated lamp.

Beauty and Essex was definitely epic: I took the last reservation one month in advance. It’s a trendy place that attracts beautiful, hip individuals; seriously, we swear that the table next to us included porn stars. Oh, and our Brazilian waitress was flawlessly beautiful. To gain entry, you have to enter through a nondescript pawn shop.

Entrance to the restaurant is through the backdoor.
Photo by M.E.

After pondering the menu, we ended up splurging on a variety of small plates such as bone marrow and lobster tacos. Yes, bone marrow. It was a bucket list item for me. When it arrived, I must admit I was hesitant to try it. But the high price tag reminded me that there was no turning back. In the end, I found it buttery, flavorful, and perfect  on toast with the shallots and sea salt. I forced Keri and Meghan to try, and hey, they didn’t spit it into their napkins. Long live BONE MARROW!

Dessert spread

The highlight was the free pink champagne served in the ladies restroom.  I must admit that it was the longest I’ve ever spent in a public bathroom. Can can you not when the champagne flows freely?

Happily Hanging in the bathroom.
Photo by M.E.

After a long meal, we went back to our room to enjoy 90’s music and an aperitif of red wine before heading to bed.

Day 3: We again slept in til 9, and again no one slept soundly. I did manage to get about 5 straight hours in before a high pitched car alarm started screeching. It went through three cycles before the owner turned it off. But then crazed, fast, and furious cabbies started their obsessive honking. I literally wanted to throw unopened the window and shout “shut up!” Instead I dozed off and on til I gave up. We packed, drank some coffee, checked out, stored our bags with the manager, and set off for our last day in NYC.

We were quite pleased to see blue skies. Some slush still remained from last night’s storm, but overall it was a pleasant day in the city. We made the short walk to Grand Central where we marveled at the main hall. We quickly browsed the shops; I ended up purchasing an eclectic blue pepper grinder from an artisan.

GRAND Central

Ceiling detail

After snapping some photos, we high tailed it to Tiffany’s on 5th Avenue, so Meghan could purchase a necklace she’s always wanted. We were greeted by at least five employees, escorted onto an elevator, and warmly welcomed by the elevator attendant. When we expressed interest in purchasing something, we were immediately handed over to a very friendly sales associate. It was a pleasure shopping in this store! We were all amazed by the glittering diamonds on the main floor.

At this point we decided it was time for a final drink, so we crossed the street and opted to check out the basement of the Plaza Hotel. The specialty food area was buzzing with activity. We found a lunch counter that served wine and beer, so we all ordered a round plus an artisan cheese plate to share.

Before we knew it, one glass turned in to two. When we looked at our phones and realized the late hour. After purchasing some decadent cupcakes for Xander and Nick, we walked over to Fifth Ave to say goodbye to Meghan (who was off to see the MOMA). Keri and I walked up to Laduree in hopes to purchase some macaroons, but the 20+ person deep line out the door convinced us that it wasn’t meant to be. We hopped on the E train and retrieved our bags from the hotel. Our final trek was to Penn Station where we met the NJ transit train to Seacacus. I texted the valet, and my car was waiting for us when we arrived in New Jersey. Our four hour drive home was uneventful, except for the snow during the last hour. When I rolled up into my driveway, the fuel alert told me I had 0 miles left on my tank of diesel. Yes, I had made it to NYC and back on one tank; the Jetta had traveled over 540 miles during this round-trip. Not bad, I say!

In Conclusion: We had a fab time! It was a glorious girl’s weekend, and I look forward to it again. Maybe that’s why I prebooked a room for next December at the same hotel?

Expense Report: I’ll spare you the details of this expensive two night trip! However, I did manage to come in under $1,000 dollars. All in all, it was money well spent.

Note: Big thanks to Meghan (Keri) for allowing me to feature some of her superb pics on this post! She’s a super artistic photographer, and she truly captures the magic of NYC. Check out her Facebook page! I realized on my NYC trip that my camera was acting screwy again, so I didn’t use it that much and missed photographing many NYC moments. My trusty Xsi was dropped a couple years ago, and Canon tried to fix it. Unfortunately, it’s never been the same. I caved last week and finally bought the new 70D. Now I just gotta figure out how to use it.

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