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Trip Report NYC and The Berkshires

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First of all, a big thank you to all who offered advice. Much of that advice was employed this trip and some saved for future trips. We had a simply grand time and consider this to have been one of our best vacations ever!

The backgound details~we are two experienced travellers in our late 50's who were both raised on the East Coast and left as young adults. We have returned to Manhattan several times in recent years. We were headed East for our first wedding anniversary.

We left Oakland,CA on Rockridge BART to SFO and transferred from there to the skytain which dropped us in the United Terminal. I think our total trip time was 50 minutes and the cost was $8.40.

We flew United on FF miles and were disappointed the upgrade issue now seems to involve extra $$ rather than miles. The ride to NYC(JFK) went smoothly. We had Carmel Car pick us up(involved a reservation in advance and a call once we had cleared baggage claim). I do think this is the way to travel into the city from JFK. One avoids the taxi stand and the cost is about the same.

We stayed in a garden suite @ Chelsea Lodge Suites-W 20th between 8th and 9th. It was wonderful. We had decided we no longer need a "desk" and really wanted a kitchenette from which we could draw our own coffee and such. The suite was very basic(and may not be for everyone) but we loved it. The queen bed mattress was firm, the place was clean(with daily maid service), hot water was plentiful and flowed from a rain shower head in the very large bath and there was a lovely garden which served only two suites. We sat out there many a morning with coffee and some afternoons. Birds were plentiful. We were amused that this spot in Manhattan was infintely more quiet than our place in Oakland(we live in a historic, "destination" neighborhood with a michelin starred restaurant two blocks away). We were two blocks from subway stations and the surrounding neighborhood is lovely. We were two blocks from the High Line which I will cover later in this report. The "basic " nature of the place reminded us of some of the apartments we have rented in the 11th and the Marais in Paris to give you some idea.

We arrived in the evening on headed out to The Red Cat in Chelsea where we have traditionally dined upon our arrivals to Manhattan. We were less taken with the food this time although the service could not have been better. We are thinking we will change our "first night" on our next trip. We are thinking The Little Owl reviewed later in this report will become our stop.

Thursday was a clear day and we headed down to St Paul's Chapel near the WTC site. On previous trips to NYC we really stayed away from the WTC site because we were really at a loss about what would be the "proper respect". St Paul's housed many of the rescue workers on 9/11 and in its wake and now has an exhibit from that time. There is also a short prayer service for peace and reconciliation at 12:30 pm most days. It begins with short rounds of the bells for fallen fire fighters which will bring tears to your eyes immediately. From there we headed to the Staten Island ferry for a ride(free) around the harbor. We were taken by the number of Hassidim families(we later found out which holidays were in process). A young woman asked us if there were any Jews in SF which startled us to no end.

A note on the ferry~appparently from May~October to the left of the SI Ferry one can take a ferry to Governor's Island which is being renovated as a historic site. We would have liked to tour that Island had we known.

From there we hopped on the subway and ended up at Katz's for pastrami sandwiches.
We headed home and took naps. We headed out @ 10:30 that evening for dinner @ Momofuko Ssam. This was an experience. It's a David Chang place with lots of small plates. We were seated next to a "four top" which included a young woman who cooks there. We traded tastes back and forth. It was a tasting experience for certain.

Friday we had reservations for the first seating at Yasuda Sushi, uptown. We took the subway and arrived just in time. We sat at the counter(as one is advised to do) and tasted a variety of sushi some of which the sushi chef recommended. I am not a sushi fan but DW is and this was my treat to her. It is a religious experience, for certain. We headed out after lunch to MOMA. I found NYC's MOMA rather cold. I love photography and found its collection rather sparse. "Desmoiselles D"Avignon" is one of DW's favorite works and so we stood in its glory for awhile. There are a few of Monet's Lily Pond canvases(I thought of you, Lucie V) but once you have seen them hanging at L'Orangerie in Paris this exhibit really pales,imho.

We did a respectable amount of shopping in the museum giftshop and then crossed the street immediately to the subway. We headed home for another nap and regrouped later in the evening. We headed out to the Village to Malatesta (a small nighborhood place) and had a good meal.

Saturday was our first wedding anniversary. We have been together for 23 years but with the brief legality of gay marriage in California were able to wed a year ago in SF City Hall. This am we were beginning to get our "sea legs" for NYC and moved slowly out and about. We headed to the High Line which is a redux of old railway yards and is absolutely wonderful. We walked the full length and come down near the Chelsea Market. I found the Chelsea Market a bit overdone(we are spoiled by Ferry Plaza) but we did manage to buy some Ronnybrook milk(from the dairy stand) and some very good wine from The Chelsea WIne Vault. That evening we celebrated our anniversary at Dell"anima which is a very small Italian place in the Village. We really liked this place.
We had considered Lupa but opted for small neighborhood places this trip instead.

Sunday we headed to Brooklyn and the Brownstoners Flea Market in DUMBO. This was a small flea filled with collectibles. (NO TUBE SOX). DW bought an illustration from a 19th century book on pediatrics(her field) and I just wandered about. We did split a CT lobster roll(hot and buttered lobster) on that wonderfully buttered hot dog roll. There are a few food vendors at this flea which makes it all the better for poking about. It starts @ 11 am. From there we walked a few blocks to the Brooklyn Bridge and then walked across(a must for us when we visit NYC). It was a lovely day and the walk was invigorating. We bought one t shirt silk screened with an image of the Bridge mid span.

I really needed to pee and finding anyplace to do so near the bridge was impossible.
We tried to hail a cab from the entrance to the span (DO NOT and really do not near 3 pm on a Sunday). We walked over to Broadway and hailed a cab and headed to the Village. We had hoped to hit Stonewall and this became our opportunity. Relieved as I was, we settled comfortably into our seats inside the Stonewall and nursed weak Cosmopolitans while talking with some lovely men. One man was caucasian and in his 80's. He and his lover(now deceased) had left Indiana as young men(so did Cole Porter). He was a painter and his lover was a musician. They lived in NYC and Paris. The other man was a late 20's African American man who had been "out" since high school, raised in Dallas and was the son of two Evangelical pastors. He had recently worked on a documentary about gay marriage called "Tying the Knot". The whole exchange felt rather like a Gay "My Dinner With Andre" as we all shared our thoughts,feelings and experiences of being Gay and Lesbian in the USA.

We did some shopping. I absolutely had to hit Aedes Venustas, temple of olfactory delights. I loaded up on Agraria bitter orange soaps and Santa Maria Novella potpourri and Pomegranate products.

We headed home again via subway, read the Sunday Times and then headed to The Little Owl for dinner. The Little Owl fits about 28 people and is in the Village. It is quite comfortable and had very good food. Martinis became our evening cocktail this trip. They do not have a liquor license but make up for that with a very good wine list.

Monday: we headed uptown to 103rd and Lexington for lunch @ Moustache(it was in the hood-good cheap Middle Eastern fare) and then walked to 103rd and 5th to the Museum of the CIty of New York. This is an ok walk, a bit dicey and not for the faint hearted. BUT it was fine in daylight. We went to the last day of the "Mannahatta" exhibit which was a wonderful display of what NYC looked like when the Dutch arrived 400 years ago. We crossed the street and took the 5th Avenue bus which was thankfully diverted to the West side just before the Met due to the Columbus Day Parade. We hopped off soon after that and took the 1 home.

That evening we met cousins who live in NY at Perilla in the Village for dinner(very good martinis). This was one of our best dinners of the trip.

Tuesday: we did some more shopping in the Village(hit Greenwich Paper and Lori Maclean) and back to Aedes Venustas. Tuesday evening we had tickets to "God of Carnage" which was FABULOUS. We understand the cast is changing 11/18 so were thrilled to see it with the cast we did. Times Square feels like an acid trip and is really such a shock to the system after lovely and sedate Chelsea. After the show we hopped on the subway and headed down to Pearl on Cornelia(repeat) for their fabulous clam chowder and lobster rolls.

The Berkshires:
Wednesday am checked out of CLS and grabbed a cab to Grand Central Station. We headed up to North White Plains on the Harlem line(1 hour) and picked up our rental car directly across the street from the station (a Fodor's recommendation but I can't remember who gave me this tip-sorry!). We jumped on the wonderful Taconic and began our immersion into Fall Foliage right from the start. Two and 1/2 hours later we arrived at The Birchwood Inn in Lenox,MA. We had stayed here previously and really liked it. While a B&B, the Birchwood feels more like staying in someone's home.(in the good sense). We walked into town that evening for a dinner @ the bar at Alta. It's a new kid in town and the folks seem very nice. Food was mediocre.

Our room(The Loring) was up two flights of old house stairs which did require some committment. It was cozy. The bathroom did lack as the shower was really small and did not have hot water most of the time we were there. We kept thinking it was because we were the last to breakfast in the am and so most of the water had been used up. However, it also happened in the evening. Apparently, they have removed most of the abestos from the pipes this summer and have yet to insulate them. I would absolutely check about the hot water situation before booking. I really like the woman who owns this place and wish her the best. She really does attend to details and her cooking of breakfast and afternoon treats is done from the heart.

Snow flurries had begun to fall during our time here. We did take the Tyringham loop as someone had suggested and it was lovely. We also did try to stroll a bit in the Tyringham Cobble but it was so damned cold we headed back. When heading to the Berkshires, do download information from the Trustees of the Reservations. There are many open spaces which you might miss if not checking with them. We headed into to Great Barrington, shopped for gloves and walked around. That evening we headed back to Great Barrington for our best meal @ Allium which is a market driven place and very good.

Friday we decided to head up to Mt Greylock. We reached the summit to find beautiful foliage and a dusting of snow. What a picture. The stop @ the visitor's center on the way up revealed a glorious and perfect vista of color. We drove down the back side of the mountain and headed into N. Adams. We thought we'd have lunch and then visit the homestead of Susan B Anthony. We ended up at a place called Boston Seafoods in N. Adams. We sat among folks who came in and didn't want menus, they just wanted to know the "specials of the day". The booths were tended well and waitresses ran carpet sweepers after cleaning their tables. We listened to lively conversations about the Red Sox, bad umps and the virtues of fried fish. The food was actually decent and we felt like we'd slipped into local culture. We then headed to Pittsfield for a bit of antiquing. We headed back to Lenox and later back to Pittsfield for dinner @ Brix. Brix is a small bistro which also has a GREAT wine list and very decent individual pours. Food is good.

Saturday brought colder weather. We stayed close to home and shopped a bit. I needed to hit the Christmas store in Lenox to pick up things for the kids(like Rudloph noses etc).
We also drove out to Bartlett Orchards for some apple cider doughnuts. Fried dough..nothing better! We did venture to Stockbridge and viewed the lovely St Paul's Church there with windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany and sculpture by Chester(Lincoln Monument). We had a lovely lunch @ Once Upon a Table.That evening we drove to South Egremont for dinner @ The Old Mill. While we really did want to like this place, the food was really quite hit and miss. This was the first place on the whole trip I sent food back(and probably the third time in my life I have) but it was lobster rissotto with FUNKY lobster. I would not go back even to give them a second chance.

Sunday we left around 11 am and headed back along the Taconic. More color had revealed itself. We had an uneventful return of the rental car and then trip back to Manhattan.

We had reserved @ The Lucerne(internet rate=$320 for a superior queen). It was fine. We both took long hot baths(after days of cold showers) and headed to Kefti for dinner.
This was an obvious neighborhood hit. Food was good. It was loud!! Our first impression of UWS was there were alot of strollers, nail places and children's hair cut places. We likened it to Noe Valley in SF where we once lived and is a haven for young families who can afford to live in SF.

The best reason for staying @ The Lucerne was the next day. Prior to our departure from NYC, we headed to Zabar's and H&H bagels and loaded up on foods we cannot get the likes of here in the SF Bay Area. We ran out of time but otherwise would have liked to head to Riverside Park to see the Eleanor Roosevelt statue. Cab to JFK and home via sky train and BART then cab.

So far this am I have been to the Post Office(whatever happened to the vacation hold), the bank to see if we do have any $$ left, the grocery store and cleaned up cat barf on the rug and sofa. DW headed to work this am and I see clients this afternoon....It was all absolutely a dream!! I am still doing laundry!!!!

We have reservations for the same time next year, this time all in Manhattan.

Questions..let me know.

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