It’s been over a year since we last left Chicago. In the interim, we did a couple of staycations downtown, but we’ve very much wanted to return to our normal travels. Thankfully, a combination of factors, including the ability to get a COVID vaccine, allowed us to feel comfortable flying again for pleasure.
So we converted a staycation into a trip to New York to visit friends and enjoy a change of scenery.
It was a strange experience taking the bus and train to O’Hare, mostly because it had been so long since the last time we did so. I was more anxious than usual (“Did I forget anything? The door’s locked, right?”), which I’m sure will diminish over time and experience. Our flight had been delayed by about 20 minutes but once we pushed back, we spent no time waiting on the tarmac and arrived at LaGuardia just a few minutes behind schedule.
We took a taxi to our Hotel in lower Manhattan, and it was a little weird to not have to navigate a lot of construction leaving the airport. The ride took about 20 minutes, which gave us enough time to check in, drop our bags, and make our 10pm reservation at Blue Ribbon Brasserie. We’d read good things and weren’t disappointed – escargot, fried oysters, skate with bacon/shrimp/potato hash, and chicken/sausage/seafood paella were all excellent (if more than we could reasonably eat). We also had a bottle of Digioia-Royer Nuits-Saint-Georges “Les Charmois” 2013, which paired well with everything, and a round of after-dinner drinks before calling it a night.
We woke up early-ish after our late night. After shaking off our sleepiness, we took our friends’ recommendation and walked to Mah-Ze-Dahr Bakery for specialty croissants and coffee. There was a line out the door, which thankfully went fast. After enjoying our breakfast on a bench outside, we walked up to Chelsea and stopped in at the Burgundy Wine Company for a bottle or two to go with dinner. We struck up a wine nerd conversation with Brian before selecting a 2012 Saint-Aubin and a 2017 Givry. Having bought wine way earlier than anticipated, we asked our friends whether we could drop it off now. They graciously agreed and we got a chance to chat with them for a moment.
Errand joyfully done, we headed west toward the High Line, a scenic walkway on the west side built on a former elevated train track. First, though: coffee. The High Line Hotel has an Intelligentsia Coffee truck permanently parked outside and a delightful outdoor space, and we enjoyed both (though it was a little chilly without sun). From there, we went up onto the High Line and walked north to Hudson Yards around 30th St. There we had lunch at Mercado Little Spain, a venture by Jose Andres and the Adria brothers to bring a mercado-like atmosphere to Manhattan. We went with tapas (croquetas, anchovies on pan con tomate, albondigas) and a glass of vermouth, which was just right. It also gave us a much-needed break off our feet.
After lunch, we walked across the island, going through K-town to Murray Hill and Kips Bay. By this point, we just wanted to sit for a while, and happened to find 787 Coffee, an excellent Puerto Rican coffee shop. We sat at a table outside and savored pastries and coffee, soaking up the warm sun. Refreshed, we walked south through Madison Square Park, Union Square Park, NYU’s campus, and Washington Square Park, where we found a bench and people-watched for maybe twenty minutes.
Finally, we walked up to our friends’ apartment. They have a lovely interior courtyard where we had a round of snacks and cocktails before going upstairs for dinner and wine. We had a wonderfully long evening, leaving around midnight to crash at the hotel.
We woke up reasonably early but had to work our way up to getting going. We decided to get a more substantial brunch, so we went to Jane, which had recently reopened, for a solid outdoor brunch. Afterward, we wandered around Soho and Nolita without much purpose other than to keep moving. We stopped for a while in Lt. Petrosino Square to people-watch, a little bit in wonder that we could be outside, masks off, and enjoying some nice weather.
We stopped back at the hotel to rest for a bit, and then headed back out to Hudson River Park. We meandered, sat, and meandered some more up to 14th Street, where we made our way back inland. We found ourselves in the Meatpacking District and picked up coffee and iced tea at Kobrick Coffee Co. After getting back outside, we lucked into a shaded table where we could enjoy our beverages and the warm weather (again, marveling at what used to be normal).Around 5:30pm, we started making our way to our dinner spot, Buvette. We met back up with our friends and enjoyed a perfect outdoor dining experience — a cozy table, a little space around us, and just-right weather. We started with a variety of Manhattans, followed by brandade (salt cod with olive oil and garlic), salade de poulet, and cassoulet with a bottle of Chenas (Beaujolais). We finished with coffees and all three dessert options before saying goodnight and walking back to the hotel to pack and get an early night’s rest.
We got moving very early to catch our 7:00am flight home. After getting seated on the plane, Virginia was upgraded to first class, leaving me with the row to myself. I was able to stretch out and get some work done before landing.