We Are Home! And 13 Twitter Personalities To Follow in 2013

Thank you for voting on Christopher Elliott's poll for 13 Travel Twitter Personalities To Follow in 2013! I got second place, with National Geographic's Andrew Evans in first and travel host Peter Greenberg in third. Talk about great company!

After nearly a week without power, we returned to our apartment in Greenwich Village this morning. This entire week made me love our life in New York even more, though obviously I wanted to be home. I feel even luckier to live in this city that has pulled together like it did, and with such good friends nearby.

If you're looking for Broadway show ideas, we saw The Heiress last night (with Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens!), and really enjoyed it. Since we live so close to Washington Square, I loved that the setting was the park in the 1850's.

We crashed with our good friends that live in Carnegie Hill on the Upper East Side and it was fun to really get to know the neighborhood. It has a wonderful community feel (we've started calling our friend Mel the mayor of Carnegie Hill - she knows everyone!) and is one of the best places to raise a family in Manhattan. I loved visiting The Corner Bookstore, which was the inspiration for the little bookstore in You've Got Mail; Kitchen Arts & Letters, which carries only cookbooks and books relating to food & drinks; Caffe Grazie & Sarabeth's for meals out; and Yura on Madison for delicious prepared foods and coffee in the morning.

New York still has a lot of rebuilding to do - here is a great list of opportunities to volunteer or donate in the aftermath.

Icon of Stationery: New York's Mrs. John L. Strong

 I have always admired fiery, entrepreneurial women who can pull themselves up by their bootstraps in the midst of life's challenges.  Behind Mrs. John L. Strong Fine Stationery, the fashion couture equivalent in bespoke paper orders, is a woman who did just that. Flora Strong started selling stationery out of her sister's trousseau shop after the 1929 stock market crash, and grew to sell in top department stores and to celebrities and royalty until her death in 1979. 

New owners expanded the business after Flora's death and then sold to designer and socialite Nannette Brown and her husband in 2002.  But people weren't buying uber-luxe stationery during the recession and Mrs. John L. Strong declared bankruptcy in 2009.  Despite this, Strong is beginning to thrive under new ownership.  New Orleans native Jacqueline Kotts purchased the company soon after the bankruptcy and moved to New York to run it.  I visited with Jacqueline in her Madison Avenue office and instantly wanted to be friends.  She remembers falling in love with the stationery on a visit to Barneys. "The handwritten note isn't dead, but very much alive," Kotts says. "It should be a part of our lives because it makes such a huge impression." 
Eighty-two years after it began, Mrs. John L. Strong unveiled a tiny, new 100-square-foot retail store at 699 Madison Avenue in New York, a treasure box for their "ready-to-write" selections.  For custom orders on calling cards, wedding invitations, holiday cards and more, the main office remains upstairs on the 5th floor, where it has been for 30 years.  But hand-stamped, hand-engraved and hand-lined stationery does not come at a bargain price, with boxes of 12 cards starting in the $80 range. 

I Love New York: The Surrey Hotel on the Upper East Side

I just had the most relaxing, wonderful, much-needed New York weekend. We hung out with friends, brunched, walked for miles, saw a great off-Broadway show, read all the New York papers, and sat in Washington Square Park. 
Inspired by New York, I wanted to share these photos I recently took on a visit to The Surrey on the Upper East Side.  It was announced last week that The Surrey is now the only New York City hotel to be under the Relais and Chateaux umbrella of properties. 
The location could not be better for uptown New York-you are a few skips away from Central Park and everything wonderful on Madison Avenue. I was surprised at how totally comfortable the entire hotel is, with dashes of wit and whimsy.  Kate Moss stares at you upon entering the small lobby, with a large gray and white marbled "rug" underfoot. 
Surrey LobbyKate Moss Greeting Guests
Completely overhauled two years ago by acclaimed designer Lauren Rottet, each room feels like the most fabulous dressing room in an Upper East Side apartment. For the price of a room night, I can become that super chic New York lady with an apartment near the park. 
Daniel Boulud's Cafe Boulud is off the lobby, as is the refined yet quirky Bar Pleiades.  I always say go eat at a hotel if you can't afford to stay there, and a lunch at the always-busy cafe is a great way to experience The Surrey.
Bar Pleiades
Lauren Rottet designed the space while imagining "Coco Chanel strolling around the Upper East Side with this as her pied a terre." She says in this interview, "I formulated scenes of her coming in, tossing her coat aside, talking to the doorman and retiring in the bar for a cocktail. Then I designed the sets for those scenes." 
I love the red bookcase in this suiteMarble perfectionThey have a lovely rooftop lounge designed to look like an English garden.  It was closed when I was there. 
Suite view Suite terrace
The spa at The Surrey is one of the most inviting I've seen in the city. Lauren Rottet's precise attention to detail carried on to each spa room, bathroom and sitting area. 

The Surrey takes you back to a 1920s New York that I wish I could time travel back to, if only just for a night. And now I can. 

It was such a beautiful fall day that I decided to take a long walk on my way home down Fifth Avenue's Central Park sidewalk just around the corner from The Surrey. Perfect! 

Sunday Brunch at Bistro Chat Noir

I didn't realize what a celebrity haunt Bistro Chat Noir is on the Upper East Side.  VIP sightings: Anna Wintour ordered a salad with no dressing, Kelly Ripa loves it, Gwyneth Paltrow & Steven Spielberg have been, and Ramona Singer from the Real Housewives of New York City had her birthday party here.  We went for their Sunday brunch, which was great.  The music selection was a little strange (Early 2000's Coldplay, Amy Winehouse) and didn't really fit with the French bistro-style setting. But it's a totally cozy, neighborhood gem type of place.  With good weather, the outdoor seating is especially nice. 

A Slice at Lady M Cake Boutique


Lady M Cake BoutiqueOn a free Sunday afternoon, I decided it was time to try Lady M Cake Boutique on the Upper East Side.  I had just heard Ted Allen talk about their Mille Crepe cake on Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate, so I split one slice of the 20-layer crepe cake with my date.  With a name like Lady M, I was expecting a flowery parlor atmosphere but it was instead an all-white interior that made their beautiful cakes the star.  I liked the mille crepe but will try their picture-perfect strawberry shortcake next time.  And it's on the list as a place my mom will love. I'll take her next time she's in town to split a slice and get two cups of coffee. 

Mille CrepeLady M Interior