Blogging...and New York

Sometimes I look at the 29,000+ phones on my phone and wish I could automatically blog about everything on there. SO. MUCH. CONTENT. CONTENT OVERLOAD!!!!

I still love reading good blogs - favorites like Cup of Jo, Smitten Kitchen, Dinner: A Love Story, The Stripe, Wit & Whimsy, Aspiring Kennedy, and now Babyccino. It is weirdly calming to open up Feedly and start clicking on blogs that I love. And there are many blogs I miss like The Wednesday Chef and Orangette.

But I’ll never be a full-time blogger because I am doing what I would do here for major brands. I am a full-time travel editor, which encompasses so much – interviews, writing, editing, meetings, events, creative brainstorming, presentations, speaking – and travel.

I started this blog ten years ago and called it Hotel Belle, to write about hotels. Since then, the world of hotels has been corrupted by influencers and even true travel editors have a hard time standing out. My favorite is when someone says - “This is the best hotel I’ve ever stayed at.” But when you stay at 5 hotels a year, are you really an expert? Consumers want to know who they can trust. Trust has pretty much been annihilated. And there are so many different levels of travel - I’m a “luxury travel” expert, but I also love a three-star family-run hotel.

There are hundreds of hotels that I’ve visited and never mentioned on here - when I first started, that would have been unimaginable. Of course, I was also writing for places like National Geographic, where I worked for nearly 9 years, which took up most of my time.

Over the past few years, I pop on here when I have 15 minutes free and want to just slap something up. I dream of time to write about all the restaurants, museums, tours, hotels, and cities I am so lucky to visit (and try to update all the guides when I can). We spent two weeks in Argentina and Brazil - I have a million notes, did so much research, talked to so many people. I really want to get that guide up.

Also, travel means something different to me now. I travel slower (with a baby and for myself). I don’t care about the hot restaurants that will close next year. I want a neighborhood spot where I can people watch and dream about who my fake friends are if I lived there. I still love museums and insider tours. I love a great food tour. I want to spend time in places I love, and not necessarily go to all those far-flung places right now (although my favorite trips have been to places like Egypt and Turkey).

With moving to London, I am motivated again to document our future life in London (and hopefully traveling in Europe) - for no one else but me. We’ll see how that goes.

I want to remember our last few months in New York. We have really made an effort to experience and LIVE in our beloved New York City. I am leaving with very little regret, because I feel like I always did that - took the long way home over the bridge, stopped for 20 minutes in the park, went into The Met when I had an hour free. But I will miss this city immensely.

Places I visited where I had never been:

  • Domino Park in Williamsburg (so cool)

  • Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, Bronx Zoo (all great)

  • The Little Red Lighthouse (a haul to get there, but cute with kids!)

  • SeaGlass Carousel (magical)

  • Roosevelt Island Tram (not worth it, LOL)

  • The Met Breuer (not my favorite)

Favorite places I returned to (over and over again!):

  • The Met (I feel instantly better when I walk in here)

  • Central Park (forever and ever)

  • Prospect Park (our beloved weekend tradition of off-leash, coffee at Cafe Martin, eating on the playground benches in Park Slope, and the farmer’s market on 5th Avenue - then walking all the way back to Brooklyn Heights)

  • Riverside Park/91st Street Garden (so nice, feels like You’ve Got Mail)

  • Brooklyn Botanic Garden (the Bonsai collection was new to me!)

  • Chinatown (I crave Vanessa’s dumplings but also loved Shanghai Dumpling for soup dumps)

  • Natural History Museum (Just awesome in every way)

  • Columbia/Riverside Church/St. John the Divine (See below!!)

When I first moved to NYC, I took most visitors up to Columbia and to see St. John the Divine, an enormous unfinished church that was badly burned nearly 20 years ago. It’s so impressive, though. And if you have time, Riverside Church is worth a look, too (although it’s best to go for the famous Christmas carol concert!).

I was so happy to spend half a day with Alex and Sophie there. We went to Community Food & Juice for lunch (highly recommend), snapped a photo of the Seinfeld restaurant (Tom’s), and stopped at Sal & Carmine’s for a classic NYC slice on the way back to the subway. The Columbia main quad is so gorgeous and you don’t feel like you’re in NYC. Definitely worth half a day of exploration!

Spring in New York

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We should have decided to leave New York in the depths of winter. Spring in New York is definitely my favorite time of year (followed closely by late October, after the heat finally disappears and the air smells like firewood and apples). I will never tire of tulips on the Promenade or Park Avenue, of the pink trees blooming, of the general cheery mood after months of hibernation.

Top to bottom: Upper East Side, Prospect Park, Brooklyn Heights, Washington Square Park, Park Avenue, Central Park, Brooklyn Heights, West Village.

The Panorama and (Another) NYC Love Letter

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I have always taken advantage of New York City. I’m a licensed NYC tour guide. I walk the bridges every chance I get, most often the Brooklyn Bridge but if it’s too crazy, the Manhattan Bridge. I walk from the Upper West Side through Central Park to SoHo and back home to Brooklyn Heights. I explore the neighborhoods, try new restaurants, go back to old favorites. I go to the opera and to Broadway shows. I grocery shop at only-in-NYC places like Sahadi’s, Kalustyan’s, Eli’s Manhattan, Raffetto’s for fresh pasta, Di Palo for mozzarella, Zabar’s, and Citarella - and in Brooklyn, Union Market, Fish Tales, Staubitz Market, Perelandra, and Fairway. Plus Whole Foods Gowanus, of course.

I have always felt the more I do here, the more there is to do. It doesn’t get old or stale. I constantly add new things to my “list.”

But one thing that has been on my list for 10 years has been the famous Panorama at the Queens Museum. And we finally went there this weekend. Built for the 1964 World’s Fair, the scale model of NYC’s five boroughs (where 1 inch=100 feet), is just so cool. You can really grasp how huge and small it is at the same time.

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What hit me the most was all the memories that swept over me looking at the city - from the Statue of Liberty to the George Washington Bridge, from Lincoln Center and the Museum of Natural History to The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Washington Square Park. I tried to find the street I first lived on (binoculars would have been useful), Thompson Street. I looked for the street I currently live on. I looked at JFK and LaGuardia and wondered how many times I have flown in and out of the city. I looked at the whole chaotic, beautiful city and my heart almost burst.

Then we walked through Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, by Meadow Lake (a lake literally surrounded by highways), and over to Forest Hills, a neighborhood I love in Queens. We didn’t have time to stop into Natural Market on Austin Street, pick up dumplings at Bangkok Cuisine, or wander through the gorgeous Tudor homes in Forest Hills Gardens. We had to get back to the baby. But I’m happy to have checked another thing off my never-ending NYC list.

The Unisphere, built for the 1964 World’s Fair.

The Unisphere, built for the 1964 World’s Fair.

Three Days in Milan, Italy

I loved traveling with two-month-old Sophie to Milan (just over 3 hours from Zurich on the train) and can’t wait to show her these photos when she’s older. I’ve even already blocked out the massive, annoying flight delay on the way home to NYC.

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A baby forces you to slow down. (No sh*t, said every mom everywhere.) Honestly, this is still the hardest part of adjusting to baby life for me, even when we are home. We stuck mostly to the touristy center of Milan, near our hotel - the fantastic Mandarin Oriental, Milan. We stayed at the hotel for dinner twice and went out once. And we spent most of the days exploring, giving her (and us) a break in the late afternoons.

My highlights:

The beautiful old-world cafes Marchesi 1824 (now owned by Prada) and Cova (now owned by LVMH), basically right next to each other on Milan’s fancy Monte Napoleone shopping street.

Staying at the Mandarin Oriental - there is just nothing like returning to a fancy cocoon after a day in a European capital. It’s the best location, five minutes from the Duomo and Teatra la Scala (opera house), with great people watching. Pro tip: Get the bright green minestrone soup at the bar for a pasta break. It’s so good.

Walking out of the Mandarin Oriental

Walking out of the Mandarin Oriental

Scoring same-day tickets to The Last Supper thanks to the Mandarin’s concierge team. It made me want to reread The Da Vinci Code, but it is truly spectacular, though much more faded than I expected, and somehow looks alive. Get there at your exact entry time!

A visit to gourmet grocery store Peck - the produce made me wish I had an apartment to cook in.

A bubbly, fun lunch at Luca e Andrea in the Navigli canal neighborhood (not L’Altro Luca e Andrea). Luca e Andrea was the perfect tiny gem for lunch, filled with Italians and Nancy Meyers-movie music. The canal area is fun to explore, but I’d never go on a busy summer Saturday. Best during the week in the off-season.

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Luca e Andrea

Luca e Andrea

Strolling through the beautiful Brera neighborhood, and stopping at Obica Brera for lunch. (We have an Obica in NYC, and it’s a chain now, but it’s so much better here.)

Walking to 10 Corso Como, Milan’s original fabulous shopping center, and getting coffee at the cafe, plus shopping at the enormous Eataly.

I can’t help but love Eataly all over the world.

I can’t help but love Eataly all over the world.

Dinner at Giacamo Bistrot, a great neighborhood spot a 20-minute walk from our hotel.

A stop at La Rinascente, Italy’s famous department store, and checking out the 7th-floor food hall, with great views of the Duomo from the restaurants. It’s not the best department store food hall I’ve been to (that honor goes to KaDeWe in Berlin), but worth a stop.

Views at La Rinascente

Views at La Rinascente

Trying a famous panzerotti (basically a pizza Hot Pocket) at Luini - the lines get crazy around lunch, so try to go right when they open.

Visiting the top of the Duomo on our last morning. It had been 17 years since my last visit and I’m so glad I did it again. So worth it!

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I had grand plans to visit two highly praised museums - Armani Silos and Fondazione Prada (there’s a cafe there designed by Wes Anderson!) - but next time. Other restaurants on my list: Al Porto, Sadler, Il Cavallino, La Pesa Trattoria 1902, Cracco’s - but we’ll need a baby-sitter for these.

Walking in Brera

Walking in Brera

The Best Thing I Did Before I Had My Baby

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By far the best thing I did was prepare and freeze a ton of dinners. This is not new advice. But I took it with gusto and I am pretty proud - eight weeks after Sophie’s birth, we have one more frozen bag left.

Not only did this food sustain us when I couldn’t even remember how to use a can opener, it helped me prepare for her arrival. It helped to (finally) slow down, and savor that last bit of time “alone.” It allowed me to listen to podcasts like The Daily and Taste.

I made: chicken soup with orzo, butternut squash soup with apples, pasta e fagioli soup, pulled BBQ chicken, slow-cooker brisket, and turkey chili. The only thing I wouldn’t make again is the brisket, but it was still good. I was going to make three more recipes, but our darling Sophie arrived one month early. Side note: I liked the Dinner: A Love Story blog before I had a baby, and now I have developed a deep obsession with it. I want to hug Jenny’s first cookbook and read it every night. So many of her words speak to how I feel as a new mother, and how I want my family to be.

This would make the best gift for any new mom - make and freeze something delicious, write the date in Sharpie, and bring it straight to her freezer.

While we’re on the subject of food, Sophie has enjoyed quite a few restaurant meals already. I took her to Ristorante Morini for a ladies’ lunch before we went to The Met; we took her to brunch at Loring Place (new favorite NYC spot) and for a festive outing at West Village favorite Rosemary’s; she’s been to Heights Cafe and Gallito’s Kitchen in our neighborhood. NYC, in general, is a great place to have a newborn. I’m able to get out and about without feeling stuck in our apartment. If only I didn’t have to lug that stroller up and down so many stairs.

Part of me wants to show her the world; part of me wants to never leave the bubble of our cozy little apartment. I will always treasure this time.