We hit the road in NH at about 6:00 AM, didn't hit any traffic, only stopped once at Starbucks for breakfast and once at a rest stop for a quick potty break and managed to be in midtown Manhattan by 10:30 AM. The hotel actually let us check in early, so we had a few minutes to drop our bags off and freshen up before hitting the town for the day. We stayed at The New Yorker Hotel which I definitely recommend- it's a decent price for what you get. I've stayed there in the past and you really can't beat the location. The rooms are standard size for NYC, which means they are tiny. This one had a particularly small bathroom, but included a small desk and a seating area. Honestly, I would have gladly given up the seating area in exchange for a bit more counter space in the bathroom. One perk of the hotel choice was our view:
Yes, that's the Empire State Building.
After quickly freshening up, we grabbed a quick lunch at the Tick Tock Diner, adjacent to our hotel. Not the best or the worst dining experience you'll have in the city. Yes, it's more expensive than it ought to be, but it's also smack in the middle of mid-town, so you can't expect reasonable prices even if you're grabbing a bite from a hot dog cart on the corner. We each got a salad, and while they were pricey at about $12 each, they were also ENORMOUS and fresh. Not bad for the middle of winter.
Next, we hopped on the subway and zipped on down to Canal Street. I wanted Melanie to experience the whole faux-handbag shopping experience. Even if we didn't plan to purchase one, it is still an interesting "underground" experience. Unfortunately, we must have looked like narcs, because it was darn near impossible to even come within 50 feet of a knock-off. We even got so bold as to ask some shop keepers for specific labels only to be told, "Oh, no, no, no- we don't do that. No, no one does that." When we finally managed to convince someone to show us a faux-Burberry, it turned out to be the poorest quality plastic bag I've ever encountered. So, not only is it extremely difficult to find them, they are not very convincing. It seemed like a total bust to me, but Melanie seemed to at least enjoy the unique experience. Neither of us bought a bag, knock-off or otherwise, but we still had fun shopping and looking at everything in Chinatown.
Melanie: smiling, but unimpressed with the handbag selection- faux or otherwise.
After that, we did some more shopping in SoHo. I got a new winter coat and an amazing pencil skirt, both from Daffy's, one of my favorite NYC stores. Great prices, great selection. Melanie seemed a bit overwhelmed by it, but after realizing it's sort of like TJ Maxx or Marshalls, she seemed to settle into it. I also got a cheap pair of sunglasses in Chinatown as well as a cool capelet that is pretty much exactly like the one I admired in this post (second item listed) except it's a pretty teal instead of grey. By about 3:00, we were pretty shopped out, so we decided to go back to the hotel and freshen up again before having dinner with Melanie's family.
We walked up to Times Square and were both pretty amazed by all the LED billboards. I love how crazy it is in Times Square- there is so much to see, it's like sensory overload.
I didn't do a great job taking this photo- I meant to get more billboards in the background. Sorry, Mel.
Next, we checked out what was playing on the Great White Way in case we decided to catch a show later on. My vote was for Spiderman, simply because it's such a monstrosity. It's been all over the news for the major injuries its actors have suffered- a concussion, two broken wrists and- the day before we arrived in the city- a major fall that landed a Spidey stuntman in the hospital and shut the show down for several performances. The posters look cool, but I'm shocked it hasn't been shut down completely:
It was starting to get pretty cold, so we went early to the restaurant where we planned to meet some of Melanie's family- her aunt, uncle and two cousins. We met at Carmine's, a fun, casual, family-style Italian restaurant in the heart of the theatre district. If you've ever checked out the other blogs I read, you'll have seen that I subscribe to a blog called "Chunk: A Story of Loss." This blog is written by Melanie's cousin Emily Leonard. Her two sisters and her parents are the people we met for dinner at Carmine's. After finishing an incredible, (and incredibly HUGE) meal with her family, I've come to a better understanding of her weight-loss struggle. Here's the run-down: we started with a house salad, which is easily big enough for 8 people (there were 6 of us), followed by the biggest dish of fried calamari I've ever encountered. Next was an enormous stuffed artichoke. I was pretty full at that point. Fortunately, by the time we finished our appetizers, we hadn't even placed the order for the entrees, so we had a bit of time to rest between courses. When the chicken scallopini and pasta pomodoro arrived, I was still feeling pretty full, but it would have been rude not to have some, right? When those plates were clean, I thought we were done. That is, until Melanie's Aunt Jen ordered "The Titanic."
The Titanic: Flourless chocolate brownie, topped with chocolate and vanilla ice cream, real whipped cream, hot fudge, bananas, strawberries, pineapple, nuts and some kind of wafer cookie.
After we finished dinner, we all took a walk to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas tree. We also saw a proposal on the ice skating rink and some very entertaining skaters.
Someone once told me the tree at Rockefeller Center is actually about 50 trees nailed together. They were lying. The trunk on this tree is about 3 feet wide. It measures 74 feet tall and I can't even begin to guess how many lights are on it. It's truly a sight to see.
My hair looked pretty awful by this point in the evening and both Mel and I were pretty exhausted. We walked her family back to Penn Station which is right across the street from our hotel. We saw some sights along the way including the Macy's windows. Despite the fact that it was barely 10:00 PM, we both climbed into our beds and fell asleep almost immediately after our heads hit our pillows.
NYC: Day 2
The next morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast after checking out of the hotel. We had checked our bags, so we were free of them for some more gallivanting around the city before heading back to NH. I had a small shopping list to attend to in the garment district. After a visit to Mood and a couple other stores, my list was done, but we were not done shopping. We happened upon a Betsey Johnson "pop-up" sample shop where I got a fabulous leopard print handbag and Melanie scored the most adorable dress I've seen in a long time:
Her dress was $40 and my bag $35- total bargains! After that, we stopped by Bryant Park where there was an art show in full swing. My favorite part of that experience was when a jewelry seller told me that if you wear large accessories, "you must be really insecure." I didn't happen to be wearing anything super large at the time, but both Mel and I cracked up at her remark. If only she knew how insulting she'd been!
By the time we finished at Bryant Park, both Mel and I were exhausted. We didn't even have it in us to try to see a matinee. Back to the hotel, we called for the car and hit the road. Other than some traffic in Connecticut, the drive went well. I promise to take photos of all my shopping booty so you can see the breakdown of my bargains. Until then, enjoy the rest of this year- I can't believe it's almost 2011!