25 Lessons Learned in New York City

Jul 21, 2014

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 “One’s life and passion may be elsewhere, but New York is where you prove if what you think in theory makes sense in life.” -Miuccia Prada

Travel always offers the most amazing, and often unexpected, lessons and aha moments. Whether about how to travel more efficiently as to enjoy the trip more fully or on a grander scale of how to live our best life and tap into an interest we didn’t realize we had, travel is an unequaled catalyst for tethering out answers to questions we may have had for quite some time or didn’t know we had until the answer stares us in the face as we sit in the theater watching the play unfold.

While on my flight home, I took a few moments to make a list of all of the lessons I learned on my recent trip to New York City. Incorporated with pictures captured while making my way around the city, links to recommended places are included. Enjoy the tour!

1. Prosecco makes a wonderful celebratory drink.

Kicked off my trip at Bemelman’s Bar at the Carlyle Hotel and enjoyed some fantastic live jazz music. As a way to begin the trip, I met up with NYC stylist, Tiffani Rogers, who chose a bubbly prosecco to toast to arriving in NYC.

2. Travel in style just in case.

Having arrived on a direct flight from Portland, Oregon, that was extended by four hours, an extra stop in Detroit and touching down in torrential rain and lightening bolts, I was thankful I chose attire that was chic enough to get me in the door at The Carlyle after coming directly from the airport.

3. Do what you love. Foster your expertise.

Zabar’s. A family run speciality food store since 1934. Perhaps you remember this scene from You’ve Got Mail? Not only a grocery, but also a place to eat breakfast, lunch or a snack. Quick service and fantastic fresh bagels.

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4. Call ahead to the hotel if you will be arriving late.

5. Check recent “Best of . . .” lists from reputable local newspapers and magazines to find delicious places to eat.

Known for their $4 cookies, Levain Bakery on the Upper West Side is an institution that now ships its cookies worldwide. And while you might think the price is high, trust me, these aren’t your average cookies. Extra large, crispy on the outside, and gooey on the inside. They also offer breads, tarts and other pastries. A petite bakery with very friendly service.

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6. Read the reviews in the Arts & Entertainment sections in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and The New Yorker to discover new Broadway plays headlining talented stars.

My reason for making the trip was instigated by a review I read in WSJ in March, and everything else fell into place.

7. Learn to navigate the local transit system to save money and your feet. Keep in mind, the first attempt to figure it out most likely will be frustrating, but keep asking questions until you found your footing. Another added bonus, when you hop on the subway or bus, you are able to still wear those heels that complete your outfit without killing your feet.

8. Visit limited time exhibits. Devour every corner one your desired exhibit. And don’t feel obligated to tour the entire museum. It’s far too exhausting, and it dilutes the overall experience from the most inspiring exhibits you are drawn to.  Quality over quantity.

Charles James, the first American couturier, the focus of the current exhibit, Beyond Fashion, at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  As you will see in the following pictures along with his quotes displayed throughout the exhibit, he took his talent and his understanding of what fashion was and elevated America’s understanding of high fashion. The exhibit is open through August 10. (Please forgive the grainy photos as no flash was allowed, and the lighting was purposefully very dim which made it all the more dramatic.)

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~One other gallery I visited in the MET was the European paintings and found Rembrandt’s “Self Portrait”. I also stopped by Garry Winogrand’s photography exhibit that is available for viewing until September. With street style photos of New York City and other major cities around the country during the 50s and 60s, it was an inside look into the everyday lives of Americans. I highly recommend a visit.

9. Discover a quiet respite close to nature to enjoy lunch or a snack. Find a seat on a bench and write in your journal or simply collect your thoughts. 

After wandering all around the park, I still find no other place better to relax and enjoy both nature and the city than the benches to the left of the Bow Bridge along The Lake.

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10. Find small theaters specializing in particular genres of films. Often they show films that are not out in wide release, and viewing on a big screen truly turns the event into an experience. Also, often matinees will be greatly discounted. The first showing at The Paris Theater is half price ($7).

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11. Prior to taking in a Broadway play or musical, stop at an elegant restaurant to enjoy a pre-show drink. An opportunity to dine in luxury without breaking your budget.

Just before heading to 46th street to take in Broadway, I stopped into Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain and enjoyed the crowds and a sip of wine. Drawn to the European brasserie aesthetic and inspiration, I wanted to check it out.

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12. Discover why Broadway is bewitching.

The musical that drew me back to the city this summer, If/Then starring Idena Menzel (of Frozen and Wicked fame) is a new play that just began this spring and runs through October. Needless to say, I was not disappointed, and hearing Idina sing in person is not something to be missed. Read my review here.

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13. Let go of expectations and experience what the restauranteur is trying to introduce its patrons to and why. Savor the experience.

Jody Williams’ West Village restaurant Buvette opened in 2010, and as was mentioned earlier this spring on the blog, she has now opened up a second location of Buvette in Paris. While tiny, as it only seats 50 people, it is well worth stopping in. I chose 8 am (when it opened) on a week day and was seated at a great spot to take everything in. However, on the weekends, I’ve heard the line is out the door, as they do not take reservations. However, the food is fantastically French – in size, but most importantly, in flavor and top quality ingredients. And while I didn’t get a chance to try it, I’ve heard her Chocolat Chaud is out of this world (find the recipe in her new cookbook if you would like to make it yourself).

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14. Reduce the over-abundance of tourists during the summer, and travel during the work week or go earlier than peak times to get a great seat.

15. Satiate your curiosities. Biting into the iconic cupcake from Magnolia Bakery in the East Village was decadent, yet light and bursting with flavor. Start with the classic – vanilla, vanilla. It changes the entire meaning of boring, and reminds the tastebuds why a classic earned its title.

16. See a particular locale with your own eyes rather than through Hollywood’s lens. Make your own conclusions, breathe the air, take in the scenery, walk down the sidewalk – take away mentally what inspires you and create something similar in your own life no matter where you live.

So, I was in the West Village, and while I’m not interested in the endless SATC tours that are available, I just wanted to have a look for myself at the street where SJP led her fictitious, yet beloved Carrie Bradshaw’s life. While this isn’t her exact stoop, (the address that was given was under construction, so I’m not sure I wrote it down correctly), it is on the street where she lived, and it was a lovely, quiet neighborhood, treelined street.

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17. Ask for recommendations from fellow travels you strike up a conversations with and check out those that pique your interest.

While watching If/Then, I struck up a conversation with the lady seated next to me who was in the city to celebrate her birthday with her husband. While we shared the places we had visited and what we still had planned, she suggested I head down to the Flatiron District and check on the largest Italian Grocery in the city – Eataly. It was something to see. I only wished I lived a subway ride away as I would have stocked up my kitchen.

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18. Appreciate what is taken for granted. See past the photos and gather the story behind the image.

I’ve always been curious about the history of The New York City Library, and since they give free tours daily from 11am -1pm (an hour long), I pounced at the chance to learn how it all came to be. And while I won’t share everything I discovered as you can find the information on their website, an interesting tidbit I shared on Instagram was the names of the two marble lions that stand guard outside on their perches – Patience and Fortitude. Named by NYC mayor in the 1930s, Fiorello LaGuardia, chose these characteristics as he felt these were the two required to persevere through the Great Depression. Learn more about the lions here.

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19. Grab the daily newspaper, a late lunch from a French-trained baker and plop down in a park to people watch.

With four locations throughout NYC, Maison Kayser was founded by baker Eric Kayser who was formerly trained in Paris. This Parisian bakery has sweet treats as well as the classic baguette with ham and cheese. On my last full day, I stopped in for a late lunch, packed it up and crossed the street to Bryant Park on 42nd street located behind the New York City Library.

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In the summer free yoga classes take place in Bryant Park. With more than a handful of mats to put out, the team began an hour and a half prior to the start time in order to set up for the crowds. Learn more here.

20. Stay in a hotel or an apartment that is centrally located to all that you wish to do.

Staying at the Avalon on 32nd street, I was perfectly located to head downtown to the West Village as well as uptown to Central Park. And being situated just two three blocks from Penn Station and 1-2 blocks from two other subway lines, it was easy to get around. Beautiful, large rooms with free wi-fi, I was incredibly happy with my accommodations.

21. Dine with locals as they can introduce you to parts of the city that tourists would never know about on their own.

22. The last evening at your destination, dress up and have a dinner at a fantastic restaurant. Refuse to look at your clock as you’ll be able to sleep on the plane and savor where the conversation takes you.

As I mentioned on Instagram, this particular outing was one I had waited for for quite some time. Recommended by Carol Cottrill, Le Colonial is a French-Vietnamese restaurant on East 57th street. The service was unmatched, I have never been so taken care of, without feeling bothered. And the company (Cottrill and my editor) was magnificent which made it all the more special. (Oh, and the food, delicious.)

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23. Save money when going to or from the airport in NYC by taking the NYC Airporter shuttle. With one way tickets that cost only $13 (versus upwards of $50-60 for a cab), you can purchase your tickets a head of time online, and they pick up and deliver at Grand Central Station and Penn Station to both LaGuardia and JFK.

24. Work in the Reading Room at the New York City Public Library to be inspired. 

Unfortunately, this item is still on my bucket list as it was closed for renovations; however, if the pictures are any indication, I can’t wait to work there some day.

25. And remember, being yourself, rather than following the crowd will always be a more assured path to not only success, but contentment.

“The most successful people are so original.” -Idina Menzel

I recently heard it said somewhere that we must travel as much as possible when we are able, even if we don’t think we have the funds to do. And while I would never recommend breaking the bank or going in debt to pay for a trip, I do believe that if we want something to happen, there is always a way. I have, perhaps unconsciously, followed this advice each time I step on a plane, and I have never regretted any of the adventures I’ve had the opportunity to experience. No matter where you travel, I wish you safe and eye-opening journeys. Thank you for coming along with me and stopping by today. Have a wonderful Monday and a lovely start to the week.

~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:

~While in New York City – Day One, Day Two, Day Three (2012)

~33 Lessons Learned in Paris (2013)

~34 Lessons Learned from Paris & London (2012)

 



22 thoughts on “25 Lessons Learned in New York City

  1. Good morning from Belgium,
    I enjoyed every little bit of this article, thank you for sharing so enthusiastically what a simply luxurious travel is all about.
    A dedicated reader of your blog
    Lyndia

  2. Thanks for the post about NY. I particularly liked the photos of the Charles James exhibition as although I would love to see it, the chances of that happening are low (I live in Australia!). I have the book from the exhibition but it is lovely to see the dresses as they are displayed in the museum. Thanks.

  3. Thank you for sharing your travels. As I have my morning iced coffee and prepare for my work week …it was a delightful way to begin the day.

  4. I enjoyed my mental vacation to the Big Apple!

    Ditto what you said about staying in a place centrally located in your itinerary–less time darting all over and more time enjoying oneself! Pauline Frommer (of Frommer’s guidebooks) suggested in recent radio interview to do just that. Oh, and she also mentioned journeywoman.com for its useful tips for the woman traveler. I think the website could use better organization but it is fun to browse.

    1. Thank you for the website recommendation. You are exactly right, choosing a central location helps to reduce stress and unnecessary time wasted traveling to and from. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Shannon, as the others said, thank you for the virtual tour of NYC as I have not visited in years. I am planning a little out of town trip for this upcoming weekend and look forward to taking in as much as possible, even if it is just down the road to Dallas 🙂
    Cheers to a lovelly week ahead

  6. Enjoyed the “trip”! I love the energy of New York! The fashion exhibit looked lovely and I think I’m going to order some cookies :). thank you

  7. Shannon. I really enjoy your blog. Regarding the James Beard exhibit, did you receive permission to take photos? When I was there , photos were not allowed. Please explain yo your blog loving community.

  8. For a terrific view of Manhattan, go to the rooftop garden at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There is usually a sculpture exhibit there also. Spectacular on a clear day and always interesting despite the weather.
    Your suggestions were great. Buvette for late night cocktails (sit at the bar) is the perfect end to a great day, and a place to plan the next. The bartenders will give some good suggestions for “off the beaten track”.

  9. Thanks for the wonderful list Shannon. I have lived in NY for 16 years and had never been to the Paris Theater. I went for the first time on Saturday, because of your post and it was a wonderful experience. The ladies were all so fashionable and the film was amazing and thought provoking. Your blog always leave me wanting more.

    1. I’m so excited to hear you went! It really is a lovely theater and the audience is of a sophisticated fashion. In fact, during my visit, a couple walked in late while the film was underway and they were whispering. More than a few in the audience did not hesitate to “shush” them as the film was deserves their full attention without distraction. 🙂

  10. Your NY trip looked wonderful! My aunt lives there and I’m lucky to be able to visit often. Still, your trip has given me more than a few new ideas. On a slightly different note, what did you wear on the airplane? I agree with what you said in #2 but always have trouble “pulling it off.” Thanks! 🙂

  11. A great post! So glad you found some of my favourite places…I work 2 blocks from Eataly!…and thank you for some great new suggestion! By the way…I so enjoyed the movie “A Five Star Life” which opened at The Paris last week’

  12. You have mentioned many of my favorite New York places. The Carlyle was also home to the late, great entertainer Elaine Strich. I believe her place was Room 309.

  13. Thanks for this post. I live in NYC (40 years) and it has reminded me of some things I’ve wanted to see that have gotten lost in the daily routines of my life here (Chas. James exhibit for one). Also it has encouraged me to get out of my routine and try a few new restaurants and neighborhoods. Used to walk all over every weekend but as obligations piled up I’ve not kept up the exploring as much but I need to do that again. Great post and glad you had a wonderful visit.

  14. Hi Shannon,

    I am so glad NYC was great! I adore the city! It’s fun and never boring! Did you know you could eat out every night for 50 years and never eat at the same place in NYC!

    As a past pastry chef, I love Maison Kayser. Thanks for sharing as usual!! Always a treat 🙂

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