Monday, December 31, 2012

New York Saga Pt. III : Sex and the City Tour

One of my favorite shows about friendship

On my second day in New York I headed out for the Sex and the City tour. We met at the Pulitzer Fountain across from The Plaza. Of course, I got lost on the walk there and ended up being late; luckily, the tour guide waited for me.  As expected the tour was packed with women with the exception of two men, who clearly had been dragged alone for the ride by their sweethearts. Right from the start the tour guide was feisty and hilarious-she actually cursed and hit the bus driver because of a malfunction-and kept everyone in stitches. We were supposed to watch clips from the actual show, but the  bus's VCR wasn’t working (hence, the mini beating the bus driver took). So, the tour guide ad libbed which was still entertaining.

A big part of what made the tour so enjoyable is that you actually see more of Manhattan in a matter of a few hours than one might accomplish in a few days. In doing this, the tour takes you to some of the key locations that were filmed in the show:

  1. Harry Winston Jewelers where Charlotte and Trey purchased her engagement ring.
  2. The Meatpacking District  location of Samantha’s apartment where she fought with some very noisy transsexual prostitutes
3. The famous Magnolia Bakery where Carrie and Miranda ate cupcakes and she divulged about her new crush, Aidan, “His name is Aidan. And I believe him to be very cute.” We were all given a
cupcake of our own to eat courtesy of the tour.
  4. To Carrie’s neighborhood where each person takes a picture on Carrie’s porch

  5. Shopping in Soho and Greenwich Village

  6. For a cocktail at Aidan’s Bar where I ordered a cosmopolitan. What else?

  7. The Pleasure Chest where Miranda took the girls to get their very first “Rabbit” (if you don’t know
        what I’m talking about, then quickly rent season 1). I will only tell you that I bought a coffee table  book that I absolutely l love.
Chilling on Carrie's Porch

Being on a tour bus with so many other fans of the show made it even more fun. We laughed at the tour guide;s impersonations, quizzed each other on episodes, and debated our favorite love interest for Carrie. The tour guide was very funny and extremely nice; she took great care to make me feel comfortable since I was alone.  Having the opportunity to actually experience some of the things like the cupcakes
and the stores and bars where the show filmed made the experience even more memorable. I would recommend that anyone who loves the show take this tour. 

If you’re going to New York, but don’t want to take this particular tour, then Zerve has other very interesting tours of New York that are worth checking out. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

The New York Saga Pt. II: My Hotel and Love on the Streets

In my last post I told you how I decided to take a trip to New York alone. New York is full of so many great memories that it may take several posts to share it. Let me tell you a little bit about my hotel and how I navigated the city streets.

The Hotel

My little boutique hotel. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name but it was truly hilarious staying at this little gem. First, it was smothered between two other buildings, and it was so inconspicuous that I walked past it every time I tried to return after a day of sightseeing. I knew that if I reached the alley I had gone too far and promptly turned around. Second, I had heard that New York was notorious for its’ small hotels. However, I didn’t expect my room to be so small that I could lie on the bed and cross my ankles on the toilet. Oh and whenever I took a bath or shower my entire room steamed up so that I had to wait until it all cleared to take down my hair. Plus, there was one “engineer” that fixed everything from the TV to the heater.  I didn’t care, hell, I was in New York!  The service was great and I had no intention of being in my room except to sleep and bathe. It was safe, cute, clean, and a few short steps from Broadway.

The Streets Pulsate

Part of the allure of New York is that it lives up to its’ reputation as being the city that never sleeps. One night after I checked in with my friend to let them know I was safe, I decided I needed some Haagen Dazs ice cream. This was about 11:30 p.m. on a Wednesday. I put on my coat, waived at the desk clerk, and headed out. Everything was jumping and bustling. Since nothing seemed to be closing anytime soon I figured I’d pop into the bar on the corner and have a quick drink and then go get the ice cream. That’s just what I did. I had a drink and made small talk, which I am not good at, with a few people in the bar. It was fun. The ice cream was only slightly better than the bar company.

Exploring the City on Foot

On my first day there I couldn’t handle my excitement so I threw my bag on the bed and almost immediately headed out to explore. I had just made it to the corner of a busy street when I met a man. Yep, not in New York for two hours and already approached by a man; one staring at me so lustily and with a huge smile that my golden cheeks were actually blushing pink. He asked expectantly if I was married. I am not, but I nodded yes that I was married. He looked up at me with a big smile and said “damn”.  You might have just noticed that I wrote he looked up at me. This is unusual as I am only 5”2.  My admirer was a dwarf, I think, or maybe a midget. I have nothing against dwarfs at all, but I am partial to men that are taller than me. Consider it a character flaw.
Ice skaters at Rockefeller Center

Anyhow, after that fun experience I kept walking and stumbled upon Radio City Music Hall, Times Square, and later Rockefeller Center where I saw a postcard picture-perfect scene of people ice skating. Later that week on my third day in New York I went back to Rockefeller Center to Top of The Rock which was glorious. The ticket booth salesperson warned me that it was cold, but I assured him that I would be fine. “I’m from Chicago”, I said boastfully (for some reason strangely proud of my ability to withstand frigid weather). He said, “Oh, you’ll be okay then.”  The view of Manhattan was amazing and definitely worth it.  It was so cold that day (to NewYorkers) that the only people up there were me and the security guard. He was a sweetheart who offered to take a picture of me. I wonder if he thought I was alone because my friends abandoned me because I was crazy enough to want to go up there in the cold?

Times Square-Check out P.Diddy
During and after both of my tours I wandered around Manhattan. I can honestly say that it’s my second favorite city to get lost in after Paris. I walked up and down upper Manhattan window shopping at high end stores. I didn’t bother to go in-I just waved and smiled at the security guards. I didn’t see the point of creating unnecessary heartbreak for myself. I ventured over to Barneys and challenged myself to go on every floor. It was worth it. Even though it was winter I saw lots of women wearing Juicy Couture sweat suits and bared belly buttons holding tea cup dogs while appraising clothes and fragrances.

I also had fun pretending that I was going to buy a purse from the street vendors. I have to say that those purses looked pretty darned good-and I do know my purses- but I’m a purse snob and didn’t want to own an inauthentic anything. I did buy my cousin Aaron two of the nicest silk ties I’d ever seen from an old Jewish man for $10.

Did I buy any food on the streets? I didn’t. However, I did eat in a deli. Remember New York is a city full of delis and I wanted to try one. Question: Were they eating in a deli on Seinfeld? Anyway, it was pretty good. I had a sandwich that was so damned big I had to take half of it back to my room. Now that I think about it I also bought a muffin that was as big as my head and I was able to eat it for two days. You can probably tell I didn’t spend a ton on food.  My one food splurge, if you can call it that, was at Virgil's for barbecue and it was very good. When I told my father this he thought it was hilarious. He’s a food fanatic and travels to do two things: eat and gamble. The fact that I was in New York City and not eating like a mobster was beyond crazy to him. Hey, I had my priorities……shopping.

Next Post- C.Bradshaw, shopping tours, and Broadway

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The New York Saga: How I Ended Up Solo In NYC

Time to Stand Alone
 The advertisement by Jet Blue listed $49 each way from Chicago to New York for several dates in February. I almost fell off the Blue Line "L" platform because it seemed too good to be true. I rushed to my desk at work to tell my friends that this was it-the NY trip- and we couldn’t pass it up. I waited for the excitement level to match mine. It never did. I was deflated and confused. Didn’t they understand? This is a round trip flight to NYC for a $100!!!  Unfortunately, it was a bad time for everyone else. Or in hindsight maybe no one was as fixated on New York as I was.  I was so disappointed. I had been thinking so much of New York especially after becoming obsessed with Sex and The City. And, of course, I love fashion and wanted to see the stylish New Yorkers up close and personal. Well, after much internal agonizing and talking my co-workers ears off about it, I made a decision.  I was going to New York alone. This was a big deal for me at the time.  I tended to base all my decisions around the opinions and support of my friends. Everything seemed to be less interesting, exciting, or important if they weren’t involved. Yet, I just couldn’t get pass the nagging feeling that I needed to take advantage of this chance to go to Manhattan.

NYC On the Cheap
I went to Border’s and bought a book, Frommers: New York on $99 A Day.  Through Frommer's  I learned that going to New York between January and February was a great way to save money on hotels. Sure, it was going to be cold as you know what, but I was a single girl working on a private college salary and I needed all the savings I could get. Plus, I’m from Chicago and figured that I could withstand the cold with the right tools. By tools I mean thermal underwear, tights, and my trusty Timberland boots.  I perused the book to get dining recommendations and learn about the best places to shop.

After booking my flight I found a deal for a boutique hotel in the Theatre district through I chose the hotel based on the price and its’ proximity to a few major attractions. I knew I didn’t want to have to spend a ton of money on taxis. So, I was definitely hoping to walk most of the time. I also purchased a voucher for a shuttle to and from my hotel. Finally,  I went online and booked the Sex and The City tour (an obvious necessity) and a shopping tour of the garment district. My entire four day trip came  to a little over $550 with tours included.

Making a Safety Plan
While everyone seemed a little surprised I was taking the leap to go alone, they were also worried about how I would stay alive on the “mean” NY streets particularly my Uncle Keith. He said I needed to be careful because it would be like an episode of Law & Order “where the last footage they will have of is of you getting on the elevator.” He was adamant that I stay in Manhattan and not venture into the boroughs. I also figured that I would only wander the streets until no later than 9:30 or so.  I told my friend Melody and my aunt to expect a text from me every night by 10p.m. and if they didn’t receive it to call the police. I  was NOT kidding.

The plan was set. Everything was in motion and there was no turning back (I mean really no turning back because nothing was refundable).  I was about to head to New York city and I was doing it alone. I was so excited, but not just about the trip; it was liberating to do something just for me and not to base it around other people.  This trip was a big step forward for me.

Stay tuned for more about my NYC trip.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Travel Passion Puzzle

I’ve always wanted travel ever since I was a young girl. I think my interest in travel, visiting other cities and countries, sprung from my intense love of reading books.   I can tell you the exact book I read that sparked my interest in New Orleans: French Silk by Sandra Brown Yep, you read that right. No, it’s not on par with Hemingway, but I enjoyed it. More importantly, Brown’s description of New Orleans food, the French Quarter, and overall culture was utterly seductive. I felt I just had to see it for myself.  New Orleans is my upcoming trip for next year.

Of course, cinema is also a great inspiration of mine for travel.  New York was already a place I wanted to visit long before I ever saw a Woody Allen movie. I can’t put my finger on what I possibly read or heard that instigated it, maybe it was my interest in fashion, but I can tell you that nothing compared to HBO Sex and The City’s illustrious depiction of the Big Apple. I became a full-fledged, unapologetic Sex and the City groupie after my first episode. The fabulous four represented everything I needed and wanted to be and they looked so damn good doing it.  They went to art galleries, plays, funky lounges, restaurants, hell, they went to Fashion week! They had their own weekly breakfast spot. I needed that life. I couldn’t wait. I think I actually went to the bar in my small college town (insanely small) and tried to order a Cosmopolitan. The most exotic drink they had was a Long Island.

Oh, and then while at home one day with nothing to do I watched two Woody Allen movies which have become among my favorites: Hannah and Her Sisters and Manhattan. I cracked up watching Allen’s Mickey character in Hannah and Her Sisters walk through the park ruminating about the futility of life, and making fun of the joggers and the fat woman having to “tug all that fat around-she should put it on a dolly”. Even now I get a chuckle of out that. Anyway, it was the park and Allen strolling bundled up in that coat and it just all seemed so bewitchingly cosmopolitan.  It wasn’t just Sex and The City that made New York seem so vibrant, even a tiny, witty, miserable man could do it, and he’d been doing it much longer. It must be fantastic.


Of course Paris was etched on my brain and heart as a place to visit. Again, I’m sure that a book or some tale of romance (I went through a huge romance novel phase in my teens) ignited my interest in Paris. Yet, a couple of movies really pushed it over the edge and the first one, as I’m sure you can guess was Amelie. The film is just so funny and compelling and beautifully filmed who could resist it? As I was watching it, I started to wonder? “Can Paris really be that gorgeous?” I’ve watched a lot more French cinema and I utterly love it. I have a lot more to watch and I can't say how I'll choose what to watch and where to begin, but Paris became even more important to me as I fell more deeply in love with the movies. 

We all have things that inspire our big passions. For me, it was reading books and watching movies that made me intrigued and curious about things outside my current surroundings. Even though my parents didn't take me on trips, that didn't stop me from daydreaming about where I would go on my own. I often hope that other people will find something that pushes them to travel and get out of their comfort zone. Maybe I should recommend a good movie….