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.

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.

3 Girls, an Island, and a lot of Pizza

10 04 2008

My very beautiful and very talented friend Tiffany has decided to apply to be a host on Globe Trekker. I know she would be fabulous at the job and have been helping her with her audition tape, which has to be a five minute tour of some place. Living in Brooklyn, she chose her home town. From this experience have come several adventures, the most recent of which was yesterday’s trip to Coney Island.

Yesterday Tiff, Libby, and myself went to frolic on the boardwalk, where, given that it was off-season, there was lots of room to frolic. It was freezing, and after lots of hard work filiming (and goofing off) we found ourselves cold and starving. Tiffany had recently seen a great pizza place on TV, and had subsequently heard rave reviews about it from her friends. We had to wait half an hour in a coffee shop for Totonno‘s to open, but it was well worth the wait.

Being Italian myself, and daughter to a world-class pizza maker, I consider myself something of a connoisseur. I am not usually satisfied with any old pizza, since I can make my own. In fact, when my brother came to visit me in New York we went on the quest for a great slice of NY pizza. We were both sorely disappointed in the city that is supposed to be famous for just that. But Totonno’s is the real thing.

It was established in 1924 and looks it. It’s tiny, a one room pizzeria that seats about 40 max, at small formica tables and booths. The white tin walls are embellished with designs and wallpapered with photos of famous visitors from years past, including Babe Ruth and, oddly, Conni Chung. We somehow found ourselvs under several pictures of the Bush family. Oops.

The waitress, whom we thought might be part of the family, suggested a large and a small pizza for the three of us, claiming that she herself was known to eat a large on her own. Then she gave use topping suggestions. The large would be spilt, half original with cheese and marinara, and half white pie with garlic, peppers and onions. We eagerly agreed to default to the expert and settled down with a few Brooklyn Lagers (including fun varietals like the Winter Ale and the Pennant Ale). Then our waitress went and made our “pie” herself. We watched her work the dough, pile on the toppings and slide it into the huge oven behind the counter.

Then we chatted with the group of older men who were causing a ruckus in the booth behind us. They were all from Brooklyn, complete with thick accents, and visiting Totonno’s on the whim of one of their group who had since relocated to Mississippi, without losing his accent despite 20 years. Their pizza came first and within seconds we were far less interesting than the concoction before them. And when ours came a few minutes later we understood why. it wasn’t just a pizza but a work of art: colorful and oozing gooey cheese, and that was before we even tasted it.

And taste we did, over and over. We devoured the large and decided that the small was still in order. Though the traditional was good (perfectly seasoned marinara and fresh mozzarella) we decided to reprise the white pie for our small. And then we ate it all. I think I ate five slices of pizza yesterday, and then I was in a food coma for about five hours, but it was well worth it. The crust was thin and crispy throughout, the cheese was gooey, and the combination of garlic and sweet onions was fantastic. I promised the girls a pizza party at my house some time soon, but I fear it won’t quite compare.


3 04 2008

I’m guilty this week of blog neglect. What have I been doing that’s so important it’s kept me from blogging? Many things, actually. (Cue list…)

  • Freelancing. Yes, freelancing! I’m editing Barcelona hot spot reviews for a soon-to-be-launched website (which for now must remain nameless).
  • Spending time offManhattan. That slick transition really just means more freelancing. offManhattan is a great (green) site that promotes travel and exploration with an eco-friendly bent. My first piece is a review of the Brooklyn restaurant Relish and I’m looking forward to visiting and writing about more places and events in the Tri-State area.
  • Reading several books at once. I’m currently into Their Eyes Were Watching God, Eimi (a recently re-published and formerly out of print E.E. Cummings prose work — woohoo!), and I’m soon to be starting up (again) my 2-women book group on the discussion of Anna Karenina. Is it weird that with all these going on I have a strong urge to dive into Franny and Zooey for the thousandth time?
  • Drinking tea. My new “office” is just five minutes from home. It’s called Gramstand and it’s fabulous. The upstairs is warm and airy with a handful of small tables, but downstairs the basement is converted into a little lounge/office, complete with a few couches, one family table, and several small tables for working or socializing. I’ve been going there several times a week and camping out for the entire day. It’s a good way to work and get out of the house. And their many varietals of tea are all delicious and good for the soul (though my personal fave is the rich, delicious Vanilla Teaccino, or as I like to call it, Heaven in a Cup).
  • Eating. Lent is over and I can have sweets again, but I have yet to order alfajores. My consolation prize was a slice of peanut butter pie at Old Devil Moon. There aren’t words to describe the amazingness of this pie: creamy, peanuty, chocolaty, with a gram cracker crust. I wanted to lick the plate.
  • More reading. On top of all the books I’ve been reading, I’ve been catching up on my magazines too. Currently I’m spending a lot of time sifting through the New York Times Spring Travel Magazine that’s recently come out. I looked at one article and can’t stop looking. I suppose I can write it off as research though…