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These streets will still inspire you!

Earlier this year I had a nice mini vacay in NYC. It was so nice to head in and not have an agenda. Well, the only thing "planned" was The Black Keys at Madison Square Garden, but that was not until Monday pm and I arrived Friday evening.

I jet-setted from RDU and arrived in New York at dusk which, by the way, is an amazing time of day to be flying into NYC. The sun was setting in the West providing the skyline of the city with an amazing backdrop of pinks, yellows and oranges. It's hard to believe how drastically the sky can change, just in just a matter of moments. Not more than 30 min prior I was flying over the Atlantic with blues skies and puffy cotton ball clouds resting below the plane. Once we landed I grabbed my bag from the claiming area and stood in line for a taxi. From here I ventured to the Upper West Side. I've never been that far North on the island, so I was excited to see what it was all about. My friend Caitlin and her lover boy Jonathan live in an old brownstone just west of The Park (Central Park). $55.00 dollars later, tip included, I arrived at their humble abode. Jonathan greeted me at the door, along with Georgia, their pup. Immediately I notice how spacious the apartment was. Every other, well almost every other apartment I have been in NYC was half the size. Apparently you can get a little more for you buck on the UWS. I arrived at their house about 7pm. I was surprised by how quiet it was- especially considering it was a Friday night. It was rather different than previous Friday night arrivals I have had. The side streets were quaint and more of a family environment. It was kind of refreshing to be in a "real neighborhood".

After a couple cocktails at their casa we walked a few blocks to Cafe Frida, a little hole in the wall authentic Mexican spot but with an interior that had a hip atmosphere. The place was tiny, so thank goodness we had a reservation. We were sat right then.

Side note: You got to love a place where you walk in on a Friday night, in a busy city and you don't have to wait, even with a res... automatic bonus points.

The place held about 60 people. Perfect. Cozy. Ideal. The lights were dim, very dim and candles were lit everywhere. Frida's wait staff was on their A game and the food was just what one wants after a not so long work day and couple hour flight. We shared fresh homemade guacamole and queso. For supper I had the Tacos de Pollo Pibil and it was scrumptious. Not to mention the drinks were poured to perfection each and every time. We sampled several margaritas. After a couple hours at dinner, it was time to move on. We walked down Columbus Ave. with our buzz and minutes later appeared at Prohibition. Lucky for us it was Live Hip Hop night. This was the most unlikely group for a hip hop band (band members and crowd).  Let me try and provide you with a visual.

Drummer: Cool Rastafarian looking fella. Bassist:  Asian, creeping behind lead singer. He had long beautiful dark locks. Lead male vocal: Medium size build black man who, not to be stereotypical but, looked like a hip hop singer. Keys: Skinny white boy with light wash blue jeans, sneakers and graphic t-shirt accompanied by a long silver chain necklace. Lead female vocal: Curvy black girl with big hair who at first sight we said, yep- we are staying to hear her. She's going to rock out. She did not let us down.

A nice melting pot of men on the prowl, Cougars, Grandparents (it must be noted they were dancing at their table to each song), a large table of Latino's celebrating a birthday. Us.

Around 2:30 we head home. I get snugly on the couch and lights are out. Seriously out.

I woke up Saturday morning excited to see my old pal Mr. Jennings. He flew up from ATL. Aaron and I have known one another since I was senior at NBHS! Over the years we have lead very different lives, but still maintained a good friendship. He was heading up to NYC for The Black Keys and asked if I wanted to join. Of course I did! We were set to meet at our hotel, Gramercy Park Hotel Saturday am. After love and hugs from C & J I hop in another yellow and head South. It took about 25 min to get from point A down to point B. I dropped my bags at the front desk and set off to find Aaron on or around 21st Street.

Fun Fact. Streets in NYC travel East/ West. Avenues travel North/ South.

Aaron discovered a little farmers' market while he was waiting on me to arrive. I of course wanted to see it too, so after sharing a slice of white za, we wandered back that way. I suppose it's just as normal to have farmers' markets in big cities, I guess I was not used to it. Right there in the middle of a large piazza were about 30 vendors selling everything from Empire Apples to Ostrich eggs!

From there we walked to Washington Square Park where we found children running and laughing, students doing homework, colored sand artist, tourist and a young man play a grand piano. The sun was shining and it was a great way to start the time we had in New York. We sat for about 30 minutes before heading back to the hotel to rest and freshen up for dinner/ drinks in the Meat Packing District

Walking into Washington Park

We were set to have an dinner at Pastis. Before dinner we went up to the roof top at the Hotel Gansevoort for a cocktail. The view is amazing. Several drinks in, we headed across the street to check out the Boom Boom Room. It was a little to early to live up to the name, but nonetheless pretty awesome. The Boom Boom Room is at the top of The Standard Hotel. It's swanky and again, unreal views. After a couple more drinks there it was time to head over to our reservation. Pastis is a French inspired bistro complete with community hand washing areas, black and white tile, vintage mirrors and amazing vino. It comes highly recommended by friends on the reg. From there we headed over to the West Village to meet some friends of mine from NC at White Horse and Dublin. After several drinks that crew was ready to go home and we were not! So we walked the streets and stumbled across some live jazz at some local dive bar. Around 3:30am I decided it was time to make our way back to the hotel... after finding a slice of pizza.

Roof top at Hotel Gansevoort
Boom Boom Room, top of the Standard

Sunday- we slept in then tackled the day. We had lunch at Beecher's  and it was uhhhhmazing. They are famous for their mac and cheese. From here we wander around our hood slowing making our way to the Chelsea Market. Here we did a lot of window shopping and people watching. We got lunch from the seafood market and local bakery. We saw a petite Asian woman eat an entire lobster (for lunch & alone) we saw amazing knives and cookie cutters, the most intricate baked goods we'd ever seen, very cool and local art work, and we filled up at The Filling Station. We slowly made our way out to The High Line to enjoy our lunch. The High Line: what an extraordinary and unique way to make use of an old space!

After resting for a bit on The High Line we mosey through the West Village down to SoHo for a little shopping and exploring. We walked the streets for hours even winding though Chinatown & Little Italy. We had reservations at STK in the Meatpacking that evening so started heading back North to the hotel. I've eaten a lot of good food in my travels, but not much beats an amazing filet cooked to perfection with fresh sides on a cool evening after a couple long city days. It's just great comfort food!  After dinner, worn out - we wobbled to the street with full bellies. One thing a big heavy meal does is induce a food coma. So we decided to just go back to the hotel for a few drinks in our cool bar then call it a night early. I did have big plans for Monday, anyway: NY Library, Bryant Park, Grand Central Station and of course a quick walk through Times Square, since we were over there and all!

I wake up excited to start the day. For one, it was Monday and I was not at work. Second, I was so excited to see NY Library and Grand Central- two landmarks I'd never seen. We pop into a little coffee shop to help kick off the day and then we were off.

First Stop, NY Library. I'd seen it on movies, heard about it and read about it, but now I was going to be able to have my own understanding for 'her' cultural statement and beauty. She lived up to the hype. Two huge Lions guard the entrance. While walking up to the steps, you can just feel that something special is waiting for you inside. With over 53 million items that reside here, no wonder it is the second largest library in the country. That number alone makes it worth the want to walk in. For more info read here.

Being overwhelmed by the NY Library, we decided we needed to take a drink break. Bryant Park is located right behind the NY Library, complete with lawns, swings, an old school carousel, benches, tables, fire pits, heaters and a bar. Bryant Park is just what we needed! We plopped down by the fire pit while sipping drinks,  taking it all in.

Beautiful Flowers in the Public Restroom at Bryant Park
Refreshing beverages went down rather well and gave us the incentive to keep moving! A few blocks away Grand Central Station sits. Walking up, if you are not looking at the details, it would be hard to see what the hype is about. However, if you do pay attention- the architecture, moldings and sculptures that adorn this stone builiding are breathtaking.  Even once we entered, it looked like a typical large train station. Shops, ticket booths, eateries, and small terminals line the halls of the interior.  But then, just when you think you will not make it to the main concourse, you see a glimpse of gold and green. Just enough peeks out to intrigue you and make you want to keep walking. It's worth the search. All of the sudden, you are in this huge terminal with hundreds of people all having different reasons for being there and you are surrounded by beauty. Beauty created by man, not nature. The green dome with gold detail lures you in. Once lured in, you notice something is a little off. It's the sky. They sky painted on the ceiling of Grand Central is painted backwards and the stars not where we think they should be.  Some believe it was done this way to represent God's view of Earth.

Yes, Yes, I know, Times Square is very touristy... but it was right there, so we did a quick walk through. If you have never been to NY or it's been many years, while it is a clusterf**k, it is kind of fun to walk through!  The buildings with large bill boards, the lights, the news, the people... oh the people! From here we tried to go see the 9/11 Memorial. Little did we know, a little research should have been done. You can not just walk up and do the protocol. We only had a couple hours before time to head to the concert; so very unfortunately, we did not make it inside. If going in, I did not want to be rushed, I wanted to take my time and take it all in. I have been told early evening is the best time to go because the sky is in the early stages of preparing for sunset and the names and fountains are lit up. We did however get to experience the adventure just finding the place and take in all the work going on to rebuilt the towers. Along one street we walked down, there is wall sculpture that made us stop in our tracks to look at every inch of it.

Monday night was what we came to NYC for; The Black Keys were playing at The Garden. I'd  never been to The Garden so I was beyond thrilled. Mr. Jennings had gotten floor section tickets, so we were going to experience it in a way most do not.  For concerts The Garden holds 20,000 people. We, along with couple hundred others had the space directly in front of the stage. We had room to dance and had an unreal view of everything going on around us. The sound bellows out and bounces off the walls- it really is incredible.

On a total natural high after the show we did a little bar hoping in search of more live tunes. Little Branch, 55 Bar, and a few others we can't recall! Finally, in the weeeeee hours of the morning after walking into a LGBT Pizzeria it was time call it a night. Noon flights would come a lot sooner that expected in the morning!

After several trips and many memories made, New York still inspires myself and others and here is the proof:

Concrete jungle where dreams are made, oh, there's nothing you can't do, now you are in New York. -Jay Z

For in that City, New York, there is a neurosis in the air which the inhabitants mistake for energy. -  Evelyn Waugh

Cut off as I am,  it is the inevitable that I should sometimes feel like a shadow walking in the shadowy world. When this happens, I ask to be taken to New York City.  Always I return home weary but I have the comforting certainty that mankind is real flesh and I myself am not a dream. - Helen Keller

There is no place like New York, no place with an atom of its glory, pride, and exultancy. It lays its hand upon a man's bowels; he grows drunk with ecstasy; he grows young and full of glory, he feels that he can never die. -Walt Whitman

-Emily Ballard


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