I already re-capped much of our NYC trip in all of its holiday splendor, but one thing I neglected to mention and should not be forgotten is the Big Apple Greeter Program.

big apple greeter program

After having had such a wonderful time with the Chicago Greeter Program, it didn’t take any convincing at all for us to sign up for the Big Apple Greeter Program. We were lucky to be matched with a greeter, Sal, very quickly and we were instructed to call him when we arrived to the city to confirm our tour time and date.

When we arrived, snowy weather was moving in, and I called Sal to figure out the best time. Although we had planned on Monday, we decided to give it a try for Saturday based on the weather reports. He was really friendly and – of all things – had visited our home town of Mount Pleasant many times, all the way down to having friends who lived in our neighborhood. We say it all the time, but wow, small world!

The morning of our walk looked like this…

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it was cold. And snowing. Snow looks so beautiful in the pictures but I discovered it’s kind of obnoxious to walk around in. Nevertheless, Sal met us in our hotel lobby and we set off into the winter wonderland to explore.

When you sign up for a tour, you specify whether there is an area you want to see or if you’re open for the tour guide’s pick. We decided to go for the tour guide’s pick because whatever they’re the most passionate about was bound to be the most fun for everyone since we know little of the city’s neighborhoods. Sal took us to Battery Park, or “where it all began” I suppose, and we walked up from there into the Wall Street area, Chinatown, and all sorts of cool places.

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What I enjoy most about these kinds of tours is that they are much more of a conversation. There’s definitely history involved, which I love, but you can also gain such a wonderful perspective from spending a few hours with a local – what did this area used to be like? Where’s the best pizza? Is crime really better like they say it is? Do most people take subways or walk? How old would you want a kid to be before they rode the subway alone? Random questions, but there’s a whole lot of random swimming around in my head when I travel, so having someone to ask is quite handy.

Have you ever done a tour like this? Do you like to take tours when you travel or wander on your own? Little of both? Happy Monday!

Going through these photos today in 80 degree weather here in Charleston — literally, the window is open — it’s hard to believe that this was where we were only a week ago!

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I’m so glad we got to experience New York at Christmas though, and having the snowfall really only enhanced the experience. Truly, around here, we just don’t get snow. Maybe once every five years. And when we do, it doesn’t stick, so the blankets of white and frozen lakes in Central Park are pretty enchanting for a couple of Southerners.

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Of course, the city was beautiful and festive even without the snow! To round out the experience, we went to see the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, which was a lot of fun. It sort of seemed like a rite of passage touristy thing we had to do, and while I’ll admit it ended up being a bit more for kids than I quite realized, it was still fun and really cool to go to that venue.

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I admit defeat in the Christmas light photo taking department, and I blame it on my thin Southern blood. It was all I could do to exist in those freezing temperatures, much less bust out the tripod and wait for long exposures. But here are a few shots anyway.

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It was such a blast and I highly recommend spending a couple days in the city around the holidays. It was such a different experience from our springtime visit.

Merry Christmas friends – I hope you’re spending it with your favorite people in a warm, cozy and happy home!

I am one of those people who has to figure everything out. I simply cannot rest otherwise.

So that makes magic shows kind of a problem.

Which really amuses the fiance (ah so fun to say!).

So he found a magic show to visit in NYC – Steve Cohen’s Chamber Magic. And even though I left baffled, I have to say, it was incredibly cool.

It’s in a suite at the Waldorf-Astoria and only 40 people are there at any one time. What was so cool about that was almost everyone got to participate – I got to shuffle cards (which I suck at) and drink the margarita he poured out of the teakettle (you would have to visit the show to see what I mean). He was an excellent showman too – funny, witty, and impeccable with his illusions!

So at the end of the show he asked that if we enjoyed it we share it with friends, because he doesn’t advertise. He said repeatedly that this show was his dream – an intimate setting where you really interact with the magic. So my good deed for the day and thank you for a very fun evening is to pass on the “referral” – it’s a must-do if you ask me!

Okay I hope you don’t get tired of my gabbing about my trip, but I figured we’ll just chalk this week up to all things NYC. When we went to Paris as students, we were so broke we literally subsisted on barbecue chips from vending machines, so now that we’re grown-ups, we tried to live it up a little. I scouted out food recommendations from everywhere I could find them, so here is the list of where we actually ended up + what we thought…

Magnolia Bakery

So many people told me to go here, and it was worth it! It’s adorable first of all, with interesting flavors like orange and hummingbird cupcakes, crazy cute little mini-cakes, and all sorts of yumminess. We brought ours home with us and my dear friend Seastar Arts has one with her name on it!

Central Park Boathouse

When I made the reservation here I didn’t know how special it would end up being, but as it turned out, it was right near where we got engaged. We ate here Saturday night and it was delicious, great service, and mostly just a really really neat ambiance to be on the lake in the middle of the city. I will say we went around 6:30 so we had time to make the magic show (more on that later) and the sun was in our eyes a lot. Bring shades lol.

Peter Luger’s

I had to tear the leftover bones from my brand new fiance’s fingers this steak was so good! I’m not a huge beef person, but I had a burger and it was just burger + onions, and it was actually delicious. It didn’t need anything else. Really good and really hard to get a reservation, so we went at lunch and got right in. So worth the trip to Brooklyn! Oh, bring cash. They don’t take credit cards.

Serendipity

I’d heard so much about the frozen hot chocolate, I just had to go. It was delicious. We spent $15 on dinner and $30 on dessert lol. We could hardly even make a dent in it. This place is so wonderfully quirky and the desserts were so good!

Lombardi’s

It’s true, the pizza is amazing. We went with the good old original Margherita (did I spell that right?) and it was delicious. You. Must. Go. Cash only here too.

Carnegie Deli

Largest quantity of pastrami I’ve ever seen in my life. Robert and I split the sandwich and mine looked untouched when I was done. Really really good and the walls are just plastered with famous patrons of the deli. We really enjoyed it.

Baked by Melissa

Girl’s got a good business! The cutest, mini-est cupcakes served from a mini location (in most places I believe you would call it a closet) in Soho for $1 each. She has more than one location and the cupcakes were really good. Try the cinammon and the red velvet, loved them.

The city made such a huge impression of me. At all hours of the night, people criss-crossing the gridded sidewalks on one level, beneath them people zooming along on crowded subway cars in every direction, above them people stacked up 70 stories tall in huge buildings reaching up to the sky.

So today I thought I would just do a post and the patterns and repetitions in a crazy big city such as New York….

…colors bright and dull, lined up in rows and rows in stores but on the streets themselves too, in the people and the buildings…
…exposed, beautiful fire escapes climbing up buildings as far as you can see…
…lights! lights! lights! neon and flashing bulbs everywhere…
…street and subway performers of all varieties…
…food trucks. You can get a hotdog at 7AM…
…street fairs…
…walk signs + revolving doors….you better have that figured out!…
…not sure what the point in the don’t honk sign, as honking is a recurring theme…
…tulips + flowers in general, in the medians and the parks. Although it did remind me a bit of the Joni Mitchell song: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot…they took all the trees & put them in the tree museum…”…

til tomorrow, my dears!

Why, you ask?

Because apparently they are everywhere in New York City in the springtime…

…and because I got engaged there over the weekend!

The details are mine to treasure, but I couldn’t resist sharing with you the news. It was magical, early morning in Central Park, and a weekend spent exploring NYC for the first time together. A girl couldn’t ask for anything more!

Til tomorrow my dears :-)