It was our fifth annual "nano-honeymoon," our nickname for our getaway weekend without the kids, since we never had an official honeymoon (though, you could say our first 8 years--without kids--were one, I suppose.) We've been to the same hotel near Union Square four times and then Block Island once. We love the alone time, the break in routine, the relaxation and restoration, exploring both the familiar and the new.
The kids spent the very rainy weekend with their NYC grandparents, devouring a ton of Chinese food (both in restaurants and at home), visiting the beach when they could, and going to the movies. They also spent some time playing computer games with their uncle, Goo, introducing him to Dragonvale. They had a great time and were sad when we showed up.
We were a little sad to show up, too! Re-entry into the world of chores, work, bills, and discipline can be rather harsh, but at least there were no hairballs all around the house when we got home. We have a wonderful cat sitter who takes good care of the cats and house when we're gone. She even made friends with our new cat, Eris. And the tree work we had done came out just fine (our tree guy could only squeeze us in this weekend and we weren't changing our reservations.) See, the electric company is brazenly cutting down many of the town's lovely huge trees because they are caught in the wires. It's awful (the whole state has been razing trees along highways and state routes--it looks like another storm hit.) And so, with hopes of saving the giant maple on the side of the house, which is officially a town tree, being on the other side of the sidewalk, we surreptitiously paid to have the tree trimmed and entwined or dead branches removed. I hope it helps. The tree looks shorn, but perhaps it won't be cut down, if the electric company ever gets to the secondary roads.
Okay, back to the fun part.
It was, as I mentioned, a wet, humid, hot weekend, which isn't our favorite, but we didn't have any firm plans and we could change activities as needed. A combination of restaurants, walking, browsing, books, Harry Potter, doodles and Zentangle, flowers, and rainbows--just lovely!
Our first stop was Craftbar, one of Chef Tom Colicchio's restaurants, where we had reservations for a late lunch as part of NYC Restaurant Week. Oh, it was so good--celery shrub tonic; my first of many mint ginger lemonades; cold sunchoke soup with a black garlic reduction; a delicious pecorino fonduta with honey, pine nuts, and crostini; a table salad; a perfectly seasoned and roasted Amish chicken breast with kale, fava beans, and pickled eggs; duck hearts with dumplings which Mama liked; a light and creamy vanilla parfait; and a divine chocolate peanut butter tart with peanut brittle and peanut ice cream. Oh, and cappuccino! Mmmmmmm!
We walked off the meal at the art supply store, Dick Blick, where I picked up more pens and canvases for Zentangle and Art Rocks; we also got two little books--642 Things to Draw and 642 Things to Write About--which we filled out off and on and a coloring book of Delft tiles which we used a set of blue colored pencils on. We also made our first meander around the Greenmarket in Union Square. At the heat of the day, we took a break in our room, a lovely back room in the Inn at Irving Place, in a jewel-like 19th-century brownstone (a friend, seeing photos of the lobby, asked if we were staying in Downton Abbey!) I loved the large mirror, grated fireplace and mantle, tall windows, fluffy duvet on the bed, high timbered ceiling, moldings, and wooden floors. It's like being back in time. But with air-conditioning, hot running water, electric lamps, wifi, and flush toilets. (I'd never really make it in the past.)
At dusk, we walked the Highline, which I had never walked before. It's a perfectly New York kind of garden, on the abandoned elevated rail lines. I loved the dense plantings of the informal garden--black-eyed susans, the purple spiked gayfeather, and the lovely purple coneflowers--plus the water features (I waded one foot in!), the public art, the exposed rails, and the views of the city and river. We got some refreshing treats from the People's Pops, blueberry with jasmine and grape with coconut cream. The most unexpected part of the Highline were the three topless women walking around with a topless little girl and a topless man; and he was photographing the whole thing, particularly people's reactions. Two of the women--women of color--seemed to relish the nude exotic stereotype of the female "other" by artists like Gauguin--with elaborate necklaces and translucent wraps (and she didn't have on anything underneath); they posed but didn't seem to undermine the historical paradigm at all. The Caucasian woman was voluptuous, the nice way to say overweight--with large sagging breasts that clearly breast fed and a stomach that's held at least one child--but she was subverting the Rubenesque stereotypes of languid, sexed big white women. Plus she was cursing up a blue streak. It was all very odd. Especially because it doesn't seem to be illegal for women to be topless (cops came and went, actually throwing two skateboarders off the Highline.) All of which is good, i.e. the right to be topless, but honestly I'm not quite sure I understood the point. It wasn't particularly political or even performative art; if anything, it seemed like exhibitionism intended to shock. And good ol' NYC barely batted an eyelid. Everyone noticed but no one seemed particularly shocked or bothered. I was intrigued but also a little . . . bored by it.
We went to nearby Chelsea Market afterwards, wandering the shops of arts and crafts (including cream-coloredlace in hoops, which I'm inspired to make, with a small crochet hook, a little like my mandalas), books, and food items. We ate some delicious crepes--a lemon sugar one and a truffled mozzarella one--and some currywurst, plus some Fat Witch brownies and some chocolate orange peel from Li-Lac, which is a shop we had visited in the Village on one of our first city walks together back in 1994. I liked the architecture--despite reminders of its role as abbatoir--and how it has been converted into a modern-day market. And there were twinkle lights! Also, lots of rainbows around town . . . .
We took a cab back to Union Square, grabbed some falafel with fixings (chickpeas, cabbage, beets, carrots, and garlic sauce) and another mint lemonade from Maoz, and headed back to our room for the night. I just love walking through NYC. I miss it. But I know it isn't always easy to live there--so many people, traffic, expense, dirt--which is why we still visit.
We slept in, til almost 10, and wandered over to brunch at Friend of a Farmer--toasted quick breads (lemon, banana chocolate chip, cornbread, zucchini bread) with apple butter; pumpkin walnut pancakes; chicken salad; and iced coffee. Very tasty. And I love the incongruity of the homey farmhouse decor--even pig and chicken plates! plus ingredients in jars, baskets, etc (looks like some of the cross-stitch patterns I have)--in downtown NYC. But sitting chair to chair squeezed in together, you never really forget where you are.
After brunch, though not hungry, we wandered Bedford Cheese Market next door, picking up interesting things--buttermilk chocolate bar, orange blossom water candy, little pepperoncini sticks, chewy Haribo candies for Bud. Our local grocery stores just carry the usual things, for the most part; if we want unusual international or epicurean food, we pretty much have Whole Foods. I like the little markets of NYC.
Then we went to Forbidden Planet, which looks more and more like Hot Topics every year, with more toys of popular culture staples (Doctor Who, Marvel superheroes, Star Wars) than comic books and alternative culture artifacts than there used to be--but the air conditioning is better! Strand Books was very crowded, typical Saturday afternoon, I imagine. We browsed the art books and I picked up a Zentangle title which, according to Amazon, hasn't even been released here yet. We also got a book about NY architecture. The shop was clearly getting ready for the Harry Potter launch that night, with HP books and such around, including a "Hermione 2016" t-shirt. We hadn't chosen where we were spending HP night.
We wandered our little neighborhood--the house where Washington Irving lived, the tavern "O'Henry made famous," and Gramercy Park, the last enclosed private garden in NYC. I left a tangled Art Rock at the gate (I'd left another in the planter right outside our inn), after gazing at the formal garden inside. Then we had a delightful walk through the Greenmarket; it was more packed with booths and customers than the evening before. My favorite maple lemon mint tea, handspun and dyed yarns (picked up two skeins of cream to make some embroidery hoop hangings a la Chelsea market), artisanal garlic, and these gorgeous English garden roses with a dense sphere of petals, a light scent and delicate pink color. I carried them around the rest of the day, as my own poesy, sniffing them as we went. We stopped at Gothic Revival Grace Church, with its stained glass windows, faux stone plaster tracery, and a memorial to a parishioner who gave up her seat on a Titanic lifeboat for a woman with children at home. We sat in Washington Square, looking at the surrounding buildings, the people, and the gathering clouds; Mama always remembers childhood summers there while Ma finished her PhD at NYU.
Next, lunch at Mario Batali's Otto, one of our favorites--outstanding spinach salad with ricotta salata and honey truffle dressing; roasted beets; crusty bread and thin breadsticks; delicious fusilli with sweet Italian sausage and escarole; pasta putanesca; and amazing desserts--a butterscotch pudding with coffee bourbon glaze and rosemary biscotti and a sweet corn gelato with polenta cake and corn crema. Mmmmmm. Mmmmmm. And iced cappuccino. We watched it rain outside while we debated our choices for the rest of the day. We opted for some down time in the room doodling and resting, then another evening out, despite the rain.
I had fun with two new Zentangle books, including The Great Zentangle Book (which, according to Amazon, isn't out yet!) and Zendoodle, which together introduced me to Rubenesque and Geo-flower. Love these new tangles!
In the driving rain, we stopped to pick up some Belgian food--sausage and stoemp (mashed potatoes and, in this case, carrots) plus mac and cheese, and a sugar waffle--which we ate in our room while we waited for midnight and the release of HP. We both did some more drawing and some Dragonvale. I'm on level 20 now. Not bad for about a week of play.
We finished reading HP on Sunday morning, a real page turner. Nice to be back in that world and to see HP as a father.
We breakfasted downstairs surrounded by the lush decor of the tea room, with gorgeous pink roses leftover from a baby shower the day before. Almond and chocolate croissants, Earl Grey tea, and the New York Times, with some drizzle outside. An ideal city Sunday morning. We popped back to the Bedford Cheese Market to grab sandwiches to go--a baguette with Chandoka Cheddar and Parma Cotta for me, tuna with gruyeter and pickled onions and eggs for Mama--which we snacked on in the car parked next to Gramercy Park. We could admire the trees and surrounding buildings through our windows and sun roof.
And that was it. We went to fetch the kiddos, stayed for awhile talking to everyone, and made it home with time for dinner and some down time before bed. The cats were glad to see us and, though we loved our vacation, it was good to be home.