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Trip Report A Weekend Trip to the City That Never Sleeps….NYC

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With a day off for Veteran’s Day taking a long weekend trip to NYC was an easy decision to make. Mom and I were scheduled to leave Savannah on Thursday evening at 6:45pm and arrive in NYC at 9pm. As we sat in the airport terminal in Savannah and the destination board at our assigned gate had not changed from the previous 4pm flight to Detroit I gazed intently at the text message from Delta that had just appeared on my mobile phone…yes, the flight was delayed…our new arrival time was now 10:45pm…ugh.

This wouldn’t have been so aggravating if we didn’t have an 11:15pm dinner reservation at Babbo, a restaurant I’ve wanted to dine at for a very long time. It was with a heavy heart that I called the Babbo reservation number and cancelled the dinner reservation. I was deluding myself to think that with a 10:45pm arrival time we’d make the dinner reservation time.

We did arrive at LaGuardia airport at 10pm and by the time we checked into the Washington Square Hotel, conveniently across Waverly Place from Babbo, it was just about 11:15pm. Not wanting to completely give up the notion of setting foot in Babbo we walked across the street and had drinks at the bar.

The interior of Babbo is lovely and the food being served around us looked delicious. I ordered a pear and ginger bellini and nearly swooned with the first sip it was so good. Mom had a nice, smooth white wine and we became fast friends with the couple sitting next to us who were in town visiting their college-aged daughter.

By 12:30am and after 2 drinks we were ready to call it a night and sauntered across the street to the hotel.

Friday was our “heavy” theater day. I had purchased a Living Social deal for two tickets to see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. I did this because in all the years of growing up in the shadows of NYC and being taken by my parents to more Broadway shows than I can count, we never saw the Rockettes kicking it up at Christmas time. With the Living Social deal we had to pick up the tickets for the 2pm performance 2 hours before the show started. In my usual style we got to the box office at 11am and fortunately we were able to get the tickets and then do a little window shopping in the Rockefeller Center area and lucky for us, the massive Christmas tree was just delivered hours earlier and we got to see the tree pre-decorations.

At 1:30pm we made our way to Radio City and waited in the line to get inside. I was surprisingly pleased with our seats in the rear orchestra on the aisle, but mostly surprised that in what seemed like a full house we had 4 empty seats next to us! The show was fun and boy can those Rockettes really kick high!

The show ended at about 3:30pm and we made our way to the Times Square area. Our original thought was to go to the Marriott Marquis in Times Square for a glass of wine but then I remembered the Renaissance Hotel is smack dab in the middle of Times Square and I thought the chances would be pretty good of a cocktail lounge being above the “action” there. And boy was I right. There is a great little lounge called the R Lounge with a fantastic view straight down Broadway and 7th Avenue. We were even lucky to grab one of the last two tables that had a perfect view! We had a couple glasses of wine and the spinach dip, and both were very good. It’s a great place for an adult beverage with a terrific view!

Just before 6pm we headed to Toloache for our 6:15pm pre-theater dinner reservation. Toloache is a Mexican Bistro at 251 W. 50th Street, here is their website www.toloachenyc.com I found this place using Google Maps. I was looking for a restaurant near the theater district, but not in the middle of Times Square chaos. When I zeroed in on this place it intrigued me because mom and I usually go for either French or Italian and this would be something different. The restaurant website looked promising and I made a reservation. We were not disappointed, the meal was great.

At 6pm-ish the restaurant was packed but the vibe there was electric. We really liked the atmosphere, high ceilings, yellow walls with lots of ceramic tile and hanging lanterns. The big draw here is the gazillion tequilas, but we did not partake of them. Our server, Ambrosia or Rosa for short, was terrific and her recommendations were spot on. We had a cheese and truffle quesadilla starter, and a bottle of Spanish red (very reasonably priced at around $38). Mom had the lamb special and I had the Veracruz paella and both were delicious. Typically we don’t order dessert but the carrot cake with lime cilantro icing sounded too good to pass up and we shared this miniature delight of a cake. I had an espresso but mom totally won the coffee category, she had the orange zest and cinnamon coffee and she was kind enough to let me have a sip. Wow! Was that coffee fantastic, the best we’ve ever tasted!

We were finished the meal in about an hour and then made our way to the Palace Theater to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert. I absolutely loved, loved, loved this show. I’m sure the people sitting next to me weren’t thrilled with me practically dancing in my seat and singing every song (under my breath, of course!) but this was such a fun show.

When the performance ended we made our way over to the taxi stand at the Marriott Marquis and waited in line for a taxi, yes it was a long wait, probably close to 45 minutes, but we were tired and didn’t want to hop on the subway.

As we settled into bed this night the weather was warm-ish, well, at least it was warm-ish in our room. The Washington Square Hotel is an older building and let’s just say the heating/ventilation/air conditioning system doesn’t appear to be the latest and greatest version, so we opened the window. Well, bless mom’s heart, the woman can sleep through anything, I on the other hand, cannot and when a car alarm continued to go off sporadically for 4 hours I knew I was doomed. I don’t think I slept at all that night, but hey, we were in NYC the city that never sleeps, right!

Saturday morning dawned bright and early for me. Oh, did I mention the curtains in the Washington Square Hotel room did not cover the entire window and our room was facing east…you guessed it, I knew exactly when the sun was up! I should say I don’t mean to disparage the Washington Square Hotel, the price we paid ($200 per night) was a good deal and the location was good, just off Washington Square Park and around the corner from the W. 4th Street subway station where several subway lines stop. It’s just an older property with fewer modern amenities, but the room rate does include a very nice continental breakfast.

After breakfast we headed over to the Chelsea Market because I had another Living Social deal for $20 worth or merchandise from Buona Italia, an Italian grocery store and I really wanted to buy (I know this will sound odd) Italian canned tuna in olive oil. Don’t laugh, it’s really not easy to find where I live. After a quick shopping spree in the market and a stop at the FatWitch brownie shop for the much coveted (at least in my family) chocolate mint brownies, we went back to the hotel to drop off our purchases.

We then took the subway uptown to the theater district, had a coffee to kill an hour before the 2pm performance of Relatively Speaking. This show was comprised of 3 one act plays. The first act was our least favorite of the three. Our favorite was the last act, which was written by Woody Allen and it was pure Woody Allen, funny, funny, funny.

Relatively Speaking ended at about 4:30pm and we were back on the subway heading to 23rd Street to meet up with our friend AnnMarie who happened to be in NYC this weekend too. We had arranged to meet between 5 & 5:30pm at Birerria, which is the rooftop beer garden at Eatly. Having been to Eataly before but not Birerria, I didn’t realize that even to go to the bar for drinks you have to check in with the host, probably because it was a Saturday at 5pm, the place was packed to the gills. We stopped at the host stand downstairs in Eataly and gave my mobile phone number. They would text message me when space was available at Birerria…how high-tech! I then sent a text message to AnnMarie telling her what was going on and we were near the bookshop waiting to go upstairs.

Of course, I got the “go ahead” text message from the host before AnnMarie arrived. So as we were making our way up in the elevator I sent AnnMarie another text message telling her what was up. Mom and I made our way to the bar at Birerria and fortunately there was one seat available that mom nabbed, while I stood. We ordered a glass of white wine for mom and a glass of prosecco for me (big surprise there!) Within 10 minutes the gentleman next to us offered me a seat…I was shocked and happy…chivalry is not dead after all! About 10 minutes later AnnMarie arrived and we had a great time catching up on what was happening in our lives.

Just after 7:30pm we left Birerria and could finally speak to one another without shouting and walked 5 long east/west blocks to The Red Cat Restaurant at 23rd Street and 10th Avenue. I can’t even remember how or when I heard about this place; all I recall is that I read somewhere Frank Bruni the former NY Times food critic had nice things to say about the place. It also helped that when we settled into our seats on the flight to NYC on Thursday there was an article in the Delta Sky magazine about this restaurant…coincidence….hmmmm?

We had a fantatic meal here. A couple of cocktails to start for me and mom, AnnMarie had a glass of red wine. Our server, Paul, was incredibly friendly and funny, nicely attentive, but not overly fussy. We shared two starters, the country pate, which initially Paul told us, was sold out, but then miraculously became available; maybe it was AnnMarie’s smile that helped him find the one last slice of pate…hmmmm? The second starter was the burrata with eggplant caponata and prosciutto. The pate won the top prize in the starter category!

For our main dishes, mom had the pork chop and said it was perfectly cooked, it must have been really good, because she wasn’t even offering any tastes! I had the cod with pearl pasta and mussels, the broth this was it was absolutely delicious. AnnMarie had the skate with carmelized cauliflower and it looked terrific and she said tasted wonderful.

To finish things off mom and I each had a glass of the homemade limoncello, which was a perfect ending to a great evening with one of the kindest, warm-hearted people we know…AnnMarie, rocks!

All three of us walked one block to 9th Avenue so mom and I could get a taxi going in the downtown direction and AnnMarie set off on foot back to her hotel. I’m happy to say that this evening I was actually able to sleep and there were no car alarms blaring at 2am.

Sunday morning came all too soon and we were up and getting our bags sorted and packing what few things we had with us. The car service I booked with (Carmel Cars) wasn’t scheduled to pick us up until 1pm, so we walked to the Cornelia Street Café for brunch. We really enjoyed this place and the food was good, brunch fare. The fresh squeezed orange juice was especially good.

After brunch we poked into a few shops on Bleeker Street, Murray’s Cheese, O & Co (Olive oil products) and them we stumbled upon the NYC brunch of Grom the Italian gelateria. Not that we needed to eat any more, but we did stop in for a cup of the ciocolatta calda with the most delectable whipped cream. That hot chocolate rivaled any I’d had in Italy last November.

We meandered back to the hotel, with a short stop in Washington Square Park, and picked up our luggage and the car service arrived 5 minutes early and whisked us back to the airport. I think we must have had a relative of Mario Andretti, because that driver got us to LaGuardia airport in 20 minutes.

Our flight home was on time and uneventful. It was an oversold flight and the gate agents were seeking volunteers to give up their seats for a later flight. We choose not to volunteer, but they did get 5 willing passengers, eventually,and for $400 in travel vouchers per person.

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