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!

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.

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.

Ordinary, Extraordinary New York City

Our apartment is slowly starting to fill with more STUFF than ever. Two cribs (regular and travel), a co-sleeper, a stroller that I wish I could just push around without a baby because I love it so much, clothes, baby books, accessories…and there is still so much more to come. But I’m also more allergic to stuff than ever, especially given that we live in a lovely but small Brooklyn apartment. (I still order way too many shoes.) It somehow still doesn’t even seem real that we’re having a baby. I feel her kick all the time, and hear her heartbeat, and we have one final scan next week, but…still doesn’t feel real. I am told this is normal.

I feel like I need to take advantage of every New York City moment before she gets here (and then I get to show her around!). We had this sort of ordinary weekend in NYC, a moment of calm before the chaos of the wedding next week and the baby. But, like most days in NYC, they still somehow feel really special.

I started out the weekend wedding dress shopping on the Upper East Side, and walking all the way down to the East Village to meet Alex. Because I will not be my skinniest ever on my wedding day, we went to Danny Meyer’s fast-casual pizza place, Martina, and then went to ChikaLicious Dessert Bar a couple blocks away. I have literally wanted to come here for ten years and it’s so worth it. The owner, Chika, is a former Wall Street banker, and she works with such grace and precision on these insanely delicious but light and airy desserts. There’s champagne with raspberry ice cubes, wine, coffee, and a general jazzy, fresh vibe. It’s been open since 2003, and now they have outposts all over Asia. But it still feels so perfectly New York. And get the “cheese cake” - it’s always on the menu, and it’s the perfect creamy, sweet, and tart balance.

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On Sunday, we met friends on the Upper West Side for a very early breakfast (their tradition that we crash every few months, at Cafe 82 on Broadway), and walked down to Meatpacking to check out the massive new Restoration Hardware complex in the old Pastis space. (I miss Pastis, the French fries, and the French-y vibe.) It’s impressive, with a ladies-who-lunch-feeling fifth-floor restaurant, a little coffee shop on the third floor, and huge pieces of furniture, all in shades of “fog” or “sand.” This isn’t where you come for bursts of color.

On the way down, we walked the entire High Line, from 34th and 12th Ave. Trudging through the rain, it was like watching an entire city transform, as Hudson Yards becomes built up with gleaming apartment buildings and offices above the train tracks, and installations like “The Vessel” come to life. Of course, there will also be a massive shopping complex, including NYC’s first Neiman Marcus. Where so much of New York feels crumbling and in need of repair, this part feels alive and new. And soon we were in Chelsea and Meatpacking, familiar old neighborhoods.

I hope for a few more weekends like this before baby girl arrives. (We can’t wait.)







A Magical East River Ferry

The Brooklyn waterfront looks worlds apart from when I first saw it many years ago.

The expansion of the East River Ferry this year is changing the area even more. We hopped on a few weeks ago, and absolutely loved it, quickly adding to the "must take all visitors" list. It's breathtaking and beats any Circle Line tour - and it's only a few bucks.

The River Cafe under the Brooklyn Bridge.

The River Cafe under the Brooklyn Bridge.

Hop on at the DUMBO stop (after getting an almond croissant at Almondine, pizza at Juliana's, or fancy brunch at The River Cafe) and take it to 34th Street. You'll see a rapidly changing Brooklyn and Queens landscape. It's also quite fast, unlike the turtle-ing city tour boats.

Here's the East River ferry schedule and a great article from the New York Times on how the ferry is changing the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront. 

Long Island City, Queens.

Long Island City, Queens.

Once we got off at 34th Street, we wandered our way up to Central Park, which made for a pretty great cross-borough walking in NYC kind of day. Anyone else obsessed with their step count on the iPhone? I live for the 20,000+ steps kind of days. 

The 34th Street stop.

The 34th Street stop.

Central Park.

Central Park.