I have visited Harlem numerous times in my life but never really as a tourist. So there I was recently on a big tour bus, heading uptown on a sweltering day, escorting a group of French executives and feeling I was exploring the neighborhood for the first time. We went with the New York Visions Travel Group on the Harlem Spirituals Gospel Tour.
The architecture was majestic, the history epic, but to see the area fixed up and yet still tattered on the edges was uplifting and depressing at the same time. I really got to absorb the information as I was doing some translations into French…stories of freed slaves, rent parties, jazz, the crack years and now the resurrection of the famed quarter.
Our guide was an animated actress/French expat who, despite her arrogant attitude, gave a great tour. We made a pit stop at the Schomburg Library, a public library that is a research center for Black Culture. My dad had done research there in the ’70s and ’80s and I had vague memories of visiting as a child. Then we headed to a church to witness and participate in a gospel-music-infused service. Continue reading »
Who doesn’t love a good cupcake, those perfect hand held mini/maxi treats. Growing up in New York, in winter, my best friend and I used to wear earmuffs. I’ll never forget when one, somewhat inebriated “bum” (as we used to call them) asked me “What’s up cupcake?” I knew I looked like a cupcake wearing the big furry cupcake-like muffs. I also liked the reference.
Now, as a mom I have become somewhat of a cupcake connoisseur, both as a baker and a consumer. My older son was such a cupcake fan I would make them for each birthday. We have a picture of him just about to bite one at his party for practically each year of his life. They are displayed in frames on our fridge to this day.
Every time I go home to visit my mom in NYC, I have to hit Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street in the West Village. I often claim the kids really would LOVE to go, but in truth, I look forward to the pilgrimage and I am not alone. Usually there is a line around the block. Since it opened in 1996, Magnolia has been featured in Sex in the City, The Devil Wears Prada and Saturday Night Live mock rap which is hilarious, among other shows and films shot in the Village. Continue reading »
Last week I wrote a post about the sad reality of British Pub closures. Well now some good news for diners and drinkers this side of the pond. It seems the recession has created a new trend in restaurant and café schedules. Many owners, in order to make ends meet, are expanding, yes, expanding their hours and menus. A recent article in the New York Times entitled: “As Checks Shrink, Restaurants Stretch Hours” describes how in New York City, many watering holes are now open for breakfast or even the traditional dead zone between lunch and dinner.
Feeding and hydrating the growing legions of unemployed and frugal foodies has not only altered the hours of business but transformed restaurants’ repertoires. Some high end places are expanding meal service and creating cheaper menus to attract cost conscious diners. With more time on our hands, we may want to take a break from the economic woes of our time, turn off the tube, unplug and get out and partake of some frugal breakfasts or pre Happy Hour libations. Certainly for visitors to the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps, making it even easier to find what you crave whenever you crave it is good news.
Have you noticed this trend in your neck of the woods?
When I travel back to New York City to visit my family, I always fly JetBlue. When my boys were younger, I loved the play area at the airport and always found the staff to be incredibly pleasant and helpful. The pilots often let my transportation-obsessed sons visit the cockpit, even in this post-9/11 era. The on-demand, personal TV at each seat is always a bonus, even though I cringe at the thought of them watching six straight hours of Sponge Bob. Oh, and the online booking and electronic check-in is easy and I’ve found the ticket prices are usually good. The departure area was looking a bit ragged the last time I flew with my little one in June, so I wasn’t surprised when I got an email from JetBlue stating: Our new home at New York’s JFK International Airport will open October 22. Continue reading »
We make a pilgrimage to Coney Island every summer when I visit my family in New York City. It is a long and eventful subway ride from Manhattan to the tip of Brooklyn. It reminds me of my childhood: the thrill of the rides, the joy of winning a crappy stuffed animal, the Nathan’s hot dog, the skee ball frenzy, the mix of cultures and characters and so much more. Now, one ingredient in the classic summer recipe is gone. Astroland has closed, yet another New York gem unable to make it in these hard times. The three-acre amusement park, inspired by the 1960’s space race, was one of my favorite spots. A recent article in the New York Times laments the loss. The iconic rocket ship that bears its name in the shadows of the Wonder Wheel has been a backdrop for many a photo in my family. One day when I was a kid, we were headed to Coney Island for a family outing, and a 94-year-old neighbor scoffed, with a twinkle in her eye: “Coney Island, that place was seedy in 1905.” That’s what I love about it! I often recommend a trip out to Coney Island to friends who ask me for my New York favorites. I’ll have to see what it is like minus Astroland.