Everything I Need to Know…

30 05 2008

…I learned from Sex and the City?

New York has Sex and the City fever this week. Movie theaters all over the city have had signs up all week advertising pre-sale tickets, the papers are all buzzing with the hype and anticipation, and I must admit I’m not immune. I discussed it yesterday over lunch with a friend, have been emailing about it with Liz (my Buenos Aires buddy) in London, and the girls here have been playing email tag all week to decide on a move-viewing date and post-movie outing. We won’t be in the throng this weekend, though, mainly because Libby will be out of town, and we can’t see the movie without one of the girls. That would be something akin to sacrilege.

But today, when I saw a group of women standing out in front of a movie theater, all dressed up and ready for the show, I got to thinking: what it is about SATC that gets us so excited, that makes groups of women not only plan seeing the movie, but plan travel so they can see it in New York?

The other night, when a friend mentioned she’d love an alcove apartment, “like Carrie’s,” another (male) friend commented on how strange it is that the show has influenced women so much. And sure, it has stimulated the way we dress, the places we eat, even the way we talk, but there are a few things far more important about the show (and now, I think, movie) than the really great style.

There’s New York, for one, which SJP has called the fifth character. The show is as much about New York as it is about the girls, and living here now I actually understand it. (At least in the summertime.) There’s something about New York City that captivates and overwhelms. It’s not just the Empire State Building and Central Park, but the Shake Shack, and the Union Square farmer’s market. It’s a crisp fall day, or better yet the first warm day after a brutal winter, when everyone comes out of hibernation and the parks literally hum with excitement. It’s the feeling that you’re part of all this, that in a city of nearly 20 million people from all over the world and all walks of life, you’re part of a community. Not to mention that New York (and SATC does likewise) makes the perfect companion for the single girl. Just ask Carrie herself.

And the reason that New York is a single girl’s companion is yet another reason we love SATC: New York, and the show, stand for independence, risk, and being an individual. I often tell people who ask how I like it here that my favorite thing about living in New York is that eight out of 10 people I meet are transplants, and not only are they transplants, but they moved here to follow some sort of dream (even if that dream was just to live in New York) and they took a huge risk in doing so. The SATC gals are grand because they refuse to be “tamed.”

But most the most important reason we love SATC is what it says about female friendship. Strong, unafraid (and stylish) females are what Around the World is all about, and my favorite part of that is celebrating girlfriends. The ones who help pick out date night outfits, and are there the next day to rehash every detail of said date, the ones who celebrate our triumphs and help clean up our messes, the ones who join us on trips, to stuff our faces or climb a mountain.

And with that, as a strong, risk-taking female and New York resident (and a Sex and the City tour veteran) myself, I welcome all the girls (and girlfriends) who have come to celebrate the movie. (Before, that is, I climb under my rock so no one spoils it for me.)

Oh, and did I mention that SATC is also about shoes?

Let’s Get Away from It All

27 05 2008

The thing about New Yorkers is that they rarely, if ever, leave New York. And Manhattanites? Good luck even getting most to leave their little island. For many, it’s a big deal even going to Brooklyn. When I first moved here, I had major island mentality. Manhattan has a way of becoming the world at large, and leaving seems as though it might cause a bit of a shock to the system. Or at the very least, it seems difficult.

And yet. Recently I’ve found that, though I love New York City, getting away from the crowds and the traffic is sometimes incredibly appealing. (Not to mention that when I moved I did so with the intention of exploring the East Coast at large.) And, more importantly, getting away is often as simple as the purchase of a train or bus ticket.

And so, a list of the not-so-far, getaways I’ve taken in the past few weeks, and how easy it was to reach them:

  • Newport, RI. Because as one of the oldest (and wealthiest) towns in the country, it is picturesque scenery and rich history all rolled into one: a pretty part town, craggy cliffs, and mansions that drip with class. Who wants to be a millionaire? The Peter Pan bus runs to Providence, or it may be worthwhile to rent a car. DestinationNewport.com is a helpful site for transportation and activities.
  • Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Yes, it’s still New York, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. There’s nothing like a little flower power to stimulate the senses and the imagination: it’s the fastest changing fashion in New York. Because cherry blossoms were so last season. A quick subway ride away. It’s close to the Q train.
  • Boston, MA. I actually went to Middleboro, a peaceful town not far from historic Plymouth but it’s easy to get to Boston, even just for the day, that I’m planning to go again soon. Plus, I have to see Plymouth Rock, which happened to be (in great anachronism) closed for renovation. The Fung Wah Bus runs from New York’s Chinatown to Boston’s Chinatown in just three hours and costs just $15 each way.
  • Cold Spring, NY. This pretty town on the Hudson is great for antiquing or exploring the great outdoors. Take a hike. Or a kayak or a bike ride. The Metro North train takes a little over an hour from Grand Central.
  • The Hamptons. Even if you’re not one of the lucky few with a “Hamptons connection” it’s not hard to get Out East for the day. If driving’s an option, it takes just two hours when there’s no traffic (we left early Sunday morning and came back late that night). The quiet alone is worth it. Then there’s the hot sand between your toes, the extravagant mansions peeking out from behind hedge fences, and the a night sky that beats even Grand Central’s rendering. Driving is great if possible, but the Hampton Jitney runs most of the day.

Cold Spring, Warm Day

20 05 2008

Not Henry Hudson. Rebecca, mountain woman.

It’s been unseasonably cold in New York of late. With the exception of a few lovely days, it’s been a lot of rain and gloom, and since I’ve been pining for summer since, well, February, it’s made me only slightly annoyed. Friday was one of the worst; I actually got caught in a torrential downpour with the kind of winter winds make it impossible for New Yorkers to keep an umbrella nice for any length of time (I watched helplessly Friday evening as poor Libby’s Elvis umbrella was sacrificed to the wind). It was an especially bad sign since we had a hike planned the next morning.

But Saturday morning arrived bright and clear. I met the girls at Grand Central Station, just an hour later we were in Cold Spring, a tiny historic village just 50 miles north of New York on the banks of the Hudson River. There was some sort of street sale going on, making small town Cold Spring more small town than ever. A few rickety tables had been set up on the sidewalk and a couple of ladies had started laying beaded jewelry on them. Across the street, the antique store displayed treasures on the sidewalk.

But cute as the town was, we were headed beyond it to Mt. Taurus. Along the way we passed beautiful country homes, many of which had big covered porches with rocking chairs on them, or massive yards overlooking the river. One such house was a large white one with a sign pointing out that it was once the home of Emily Roebling, the skilled woman who supervised the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge after her husband Washington fell sick. A woman with that much strength in 1883 was no small feat.

Once on the mountain we felt right at home. The lush, foresty trail was certainly different from the misty, jungle of Peru, but it made us remember, nonetheless. There were several shout-outs of “Amigos, just 30 minutes more, no?” in reminiscence of our guide Roberto, who, for all his patience and utter brilliance on the trail, had absolutely no sense of time (30 minutes meant at least two hours).

The first hour of the hike was pretty much all uphill, but after Salkantay this was nothing. And well worth a little sweat were the views of the Hudson, with the stately fortress of West Point (which we decided looks a little like Hogwarts) in the distance. We stopped for lunch on a big rock overlooking the river, and then kept climbing up the rocky terrain, until the trail plateaued and we were literally just out for a walk in the woods.

Yes, we are hardcore, and on a house.

The weather was ideal, the scenery stunning, and the company sublime. The trees were so thick their green leaves looked almost technicolor, and save for the trickle of the river (which we decided was just a stream compared to Salkantay) and our voices, there was a vast, peaceful silence. We crossed two bridges, both made of logs and a little on the treacherous side, but I didn’t cry. And after only three hours of hiking, we made it back to town.

My feet, which earlier that morning almost refused to be stuffed into my still-a-little-muddy hiking boots, were by now screaming, but the rest of me was happy. And a beer and some flip flops later, my feet joined the rest of me in a state of bliss. We drank beers on the patio of a restaurant by the river before catching the 5 p.m. train back to Manhattan, a lovely end to a lovely day. (And Sunday the rain returned.)

After-hiking dancing in the rain.

For more information on Cold Spring, this site is helpful. Metro North trains from Grand Central take about an hour and run every hour, off-peak $10.50.

May Flowers

14 05 2008

Since Thursday, I have been frantically playing catch-up after two weeks of visitors. Not that I’m complaining. The great thing about having visitors (aside from the obvious seeing people) is that you get to do and see things you wouldn’t ordinarily.

In the case of Adrienne’s visit it meant, as already noted, eating. A lot. In the case of my parents, it meant a little something else. Not that we didn’t eat (a lot), but having my parents meant playing tour guide. And since we did all the typical “New York stuff” the last time they were here—including the Grayline bus tour—I had to think of new things to do, which meant venturing out of Manhattan.

The forecast for the week Mom and Dad were here was more April than May: my trusty weather.com had it raining all week. But it turned out they brought the California sunshine with them, so we had May weather after all (even if it went away again when they left). That meant springtime activities, and, since Manhattan was out, it meant Brooklyn.

So off we headed to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on a lovely May day. I have never been, and was pleased to discover how simple it was to get there: just an easy jaunt on the Q train. Even better, we discovered that Tuesdays are free! It took a couple hours to wander through the whole park, and along the way we passed a several school groups, elderly outings, and mommy/baby groups who were wandering through or camped on one of the parks big open lawns. There were also, of course sundry artists with sketch pads or watercolors or massive cameras.

We saw tulips and azaleas and lilacs, but the best part was the cherry blossoms, which were in full bloom and amazing. They were all starting to fall and it was like pink snow in the air and all over the ground (and, it must be noted, in my hair).

No words needed.

No words needed.

And it was all so easy, I think I’ll become a Botanic garden regular. A friendly gardener pointed out bluebell lane, where nothing would grow under the shade of the big trees until some smart soul thought of English bluebells (though these, she told us, aren’t English at all). They were all just green but should be a field of blue by next week. Then I’ll be back in June for the roses.

I’ve already bookmarked their calendar of blooms. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even (heaven help us) take up watercolor. Okay, well, at least I’ll take some good photos.

A Little Bite of Heaven

8 05 2008

As I write this, I have retreated momentarily to the bliss that is the Havanna alfajor.

To explain: a few days ago I got an email from my friend and former EuroCheapo cohort Alex Robertson Textor, with whom I had coffee plans a few days later. All the email said was “What type of alfajor do you prefer, meringue or chocolcate? I will explain later.” Perplexed, but assuming he was writing something about the alfajor and needed my expert opinion, I quickly replied that the chocolate is best by far, because the meringue gets a little crumbly and takes away from the cookie.

Turns out, though, that Alex didn’t need my alfajor expertise, and actually doesn’t even agree with it (turns out he is a meringue fan). He was asking because his sister just returned from a trip to Buenos Aires. Bearing gifts. Alex showed up for coffee today and pulled two alfajores from his (new awesome recycled products) bag for me. Chocolate coated.

I simply couldn’t believe my luck (or Alex’s generosity, parting with two of them!), and didn’t wait more than 10 seconds before diving into the first. I gave the second a little time (an hour or so) but I couldn’t let it sit there on the table without wanting to eat it, so here I am, taking another bite of chocolate covered bliss. And I know it doesn’t seem possible, but it’s better than I remembered. The cookie has the perfect balance of a little bit of crunch and a little bit of flake, but it surely doesn’t overpower the star of the show: creamy, sweet dulce de leche. Ah happiness.

So a huge THANK YOU to Alex. And, since I surely haven’t blogged about the alfajor enough, a bit about Havanna, which might just as easily be called, simply, Heaven.

Havanna stores are all over Argentina. In Buenos Aires they are almost as ubiquitous as Starbucks is in New York. Almost. But they should be. While their main product is the amazing alfajor (covered with meringue, chocolate, or white chocolate), they also sell jars of dulce de leche, candies, and other scrumptious tidbits. Of note is the Havannet: a cone-shaped, chocolate-covered beauty that consists of a small cookie and massive amounts of dulce de leche. In both the Havannet cookie and the alfajor the cookie itself is just slightly infused with lemon, just enough of it.

Then there is the coffee, which comes in tiny cups and and, of course, a cookie. Havanna has the value meal to beat out anything McDonald’s might try. For just a few dollars you get a small coffee, a cookie, and sometimes even a tiny cup of juice, all on a pretty little tray. And did I mention that the coffee drinks are almost as deliciously rich as the cookies themselves? Cappuccino, mocha, white chocolate…

Maybe if I think about it long enough Havanna will come to me. (Oh wait. It already has.)

Resident Traveler

1 05 2008

I haven’t blogged in a while, and it’s not because I have nothing to say. In fact, I have sundry thoughts and new ideas that need to be written into a blog, but there just isn’t currently the time. What’s keeping my so busy?

Well, for one I’m currently in Travel Writing Bootcamp. No, it’s not jumping jacks and push-ups (though my poor gym-deprived body could probably use more of that). This is more like jumping jacks and push-ups for the mind. Or something like that. It’s a MediaBistro class that has certainly kept me busy. Each week I have to write a new story and pitch letter to review with the class.

Also, in the last week, I’ve been playing tour guide, or something like it. My college roommate and dear friend Adrienne paid me a much needed visit and was here all last week. While Age was incredibly easy in terms of guests, the pressure is always on to show your guests the New York bests, even if it’s really, as in the case of Adrienne, only because you make that pressure.

And so I found myself playing resident traveler, or traveler in residence. I know I blog about New York a lot, but there is something different when you actually have to look at it from the eyes of a visitor. And then there is that elusive list of all the places I would take a visitor that I can never find when the visitor actually arrives. And so, I record that list here:

  1. We started out the week with a night at the Bryant Park Hotel. (No, I’m not that impressive. I was shopping it.) Perfect timing too, because it was so warm and the park was filled with happy New Yorkers enjoying the sunshine. Oh, and we had a view of it all.
  2. Tuesday was dinner at Lil’ Frankie’s, which, it turns out is under the same ownership as one of my all time faves, Supper (it just so happens Supper was the restaurant of choice last time Age visited). Supper, I will say, wins hands down, though, or maybe we just caught LF on a bad night.
  3. Wednesday Age had pizza while I went to class, and then we met up for some fro yo Tasty Delight. (Ok, I know there is a trend here. And yes, our week revolved around eating. This is partly because Adrienne and I love to eat, and partly because we simply had evenings together, both working during the day.)
  4. Thursday evening was the big night. Dinner at the NY chic/LA reminiscent Cafeteria, where we shared a Mac Attack (3 types of mac and cheese) and chicken and waffles (yum!) and then off to dessert at Tao (did someone say mousse-filled fortune cookie?). And yes, we walked a lot in between.
  5. Friday we shopped in Nolita, only to discover that neither of us could afford even a glove there. Then we headed down to Soho where we had more luck. I think the highlight of the day was when I introduced her to Dead Sea salt soaps at Sabon, or could it have been the refuel stop for cupcakes at Sugar Sweet Sunshine? Not to take our eating mission lightly, we finished off the week in style with a dinner (and several bottles of wine) with the girls at Otto.

And now, still stuffed to the brim, I prepare for the arrival of the parents tomorrow. Get ready to start all over again…