eating my way through NYC (alternate title – adventures on the New Jersey Turnpike)

After a wonderful nights sleep, the 3 of us girls casually had breakfast and packed up the car for our little drive to NYC.  It was a dreary day, perfect for driving (who wants to waste a sunny day in a car?!).  Like the motherly type I am, I had a cooler full of bottled waters and some healthy snacks from Whole Foods.  I didn’t want my girls to get hungry/ill during our road trip.  Little did I know that we would be stopping every 45 minutes so someone could pee.  I never realized how true the phrase “girls have tiny bladders” was until this day.  It didn’t help matters that Kristin wanted a Starbucks and a bottle of water every other stop either…

I must credit Kristin for the above photo.  Shannon and I were having way too much fun stuck in traffic and singing along to Glee on my iPod to take pictures ourselves.  After potty breaks in Maryland and New Jersey and a lunch break at Wendy’s in Delaware, we arrived at Shannon’s place in Brooklyn.  It only took 7 hours.

We spent our first few hours on a walking tour of Brooklyn led by Madame BKL herself, Miss Shannon.  It was drizzling a little, which just added to the fun since, like all 10 year olds, I love puddles.  We got to see some awesome views like that of the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges above and even the famous Jane’s Carousel.

 Unfortunately, it was closed or else I would have been on a horse before you could say “ride, Sally, ride”.  Instead of riding a faux horse, we rode the metro.  It was getting quite chilly from the rain and I was the only one with an umbrella, so we were happy to find warmth in the underground metro.  Quite the oxymoron, I know.  Don’t believe me?  Check out these 2 happy girls:

Shannon walked us around Soho for a bit before taking us to a cute little place for expensive wine and a yummy, stinky cheese plate.

Needless to say, it didn’t last long.  After a bottle of wine and some good conversation, we walked a few blocks over for dinner at a lovely little place called Home.  Kristin and I “weren’t that hungry” (note the quotation fingers here) after all the bread and cheese, so we split a vegetarian risotto.  We licked the plate.  Another bottle of wine later, we huddled under the umbrella to catch a cab back to Brooklyn.

The next day, Shannon drove us into the city to a parking deck so I could leave my car since we’d all be parting ways that afternoon.  She pointed Kristin and I towards a few cafes and we settled on brunch at Le Pain Quotidien.  Here I am enjoying a caffeinated hot beverage:

Another 5 pounds later, we began our walk to the 9-11 Memorial.  Along the way, we stumbled upon a very familiar stoop….

Any lucky guesses? No?!  Why, that’s Carrie Bradshaw’s front door!  As 2 Sex and the City enthusiasts, we were excited and couldn’t wait to snap a pic.  After a brief photo-op, we continued on our way to the memorial.  Kristin reserved our tix, so it was easy peasy.

Pictured above are both of the Memorial fountains where the Twin Towers once stood.  To the left is a tree that survived the catastrophe.  Seeing the tree still standing reminded me that even in the greatest darkness, there is still life.  The names of those who perished are carved along the edge near the section of the building where they were thought to have been at the time.  It was difficult to read name after name and know that they were important to someone.  I couldn’t help but imagine if those were the names of people I worked with every day.  I don’t think having them memorialized in this way would make it any easier.

We could only take a short time of walking around the memorial that, to me, felt so much like a graveyard.  We decided to try to find our way around on the metro so I could pick up apartment keys from my friend Laura, who I would be staying the night with.  Somehow we ended up right back in Brooklyn.  Sometimes, the line you’re on decides it’s going to skip some of its stops.  In the words of Kristin, the metro can suck it!  We did get a free show from a mariachi duo during our ride…

We de-metroed ourselves at Grand Central Station, pausing for a photo and to listen to a song from a girl performing live with her band.  I didn’t recognize her but I got a free CD!

and

We gleefully hailed a cab to navigate us to Madison and 5th.   A quick hug and key-swapping later, we were famished.  Luckily, just outside of Laura’s office building is this fabulous place called Madison Square Eats, which has various vendors from the area serving their signature dishes.  We each got a brick oven pizza and a beer.  Oh, and of course a cannoli.  When in NYC…

Afterwards we took a stroll through the Flat Iron District to attempt to burn off at least half of the calories we consumed at lunch.  I don’t think we burned much, but we certainly saw some pretty architectural sights.

We headed back towards my car and Kristin got her bags and headed to the bus station for a fun ride back to DC.  I had a meeting and tour scheduled with an amazing lady named Stephanie at Charity Water.  If you’re just tuning in to my blog, I will catch you up to speed.  I have devoted a few odd years and many long hours to nonprofits that I absolutely love and believe in.  Charity Water is one of these.  They build wells in Third World and developing countries to provide clean water to those who need it most.  They remind me every day that I am so blessed not to be poisoned by the water I drink.

Although it was just a quick tour and chit chat with Stephanie, I was extremely nervous as I took the elevator up to their floor of their office.  If I could someday work for any organization in the world, it would be this one.  Mr. Scott Harrison is my hero.  Every story they tell, whether through words or pictures, displays the difference they are making in the world with something we take for granted daily.  As I entered the office and saw the walls lined with photos of the people whose lives and villages they are changing, I had to choke down tears.  I didn’t want to seem like a complete baby when I met Stephanie (a quick note about Stephanie…it says a lot about an organization when the receptionist is one of the most intelligent, compassionate and inspiring people you’ve ever met. Oh, and she hugs. Yeah, we were fast friends.).

I was speechlessly proud to have my picture taken with a jerry can and to have been able to give up birthday presents this year so that someone in the world could have clean water.  I didn’t get to meet Mr. Harrison, but I saw him in his office hard at work saving lives in Africa.  Total inspiration.  I may or may not have nearly peed my pants.

I didn’t want to leave, but I was in need of a shower.  I walked the 2 blocks to my car, unwillingly paid $60 to the parking garage and drove to what felt like the other side of the city to another garage near Laura’s apartment.  I felt like a native city girl driving like a cabby through NYC.  I showered, checked my email and iced my then very swollen ankle before meeting Laura in Curry Hill.  We went to a vegetarian Indian restaurant, where I had the best curry my mouth has ever savored.  And a cool Indian beer.

and

It was a delicious night catching up with Laura about her life in the city as a Maxxinista and mine in my small, exciting town and reminiscing about our semester in Paris.  It seems like so long ago, yet it’s still so easy to pick right back up and feel like we’re back in undergrad, learning the ways of the French.  After dinner we walked back to Laura’s, where I had the best night’s sleep of my entire trip.

I had big plans for my last day in the city.  I was going to spend it all at Broadway!  I didn’t have tickets to any shows, but I was going to take my chances doing the lottery at Wicked.  I saw it when it was touring in Charlotte a few years ago and have been dying to see it on Broadway ever since.  For those of you who know nothing of this lottery, here are the details:  some shows offer a lottery 2 hours before showtime to fill open seats.  You write down your name, they spin all the names around in a BINGO wheel and draw 10 names. If your name is called, you get 2 tickets for $30 each.  Your chances double if you partner up with someone (in case either of you is called), so I was excited when a retired widow from New Jersey asked to be mine.  We didn’t win, but it was nice to make a new friend.  Still determined to see a show, I moved next door to the lottery for Godspell, where I partnered up with Jeff, one of the cast of the traveling tour of In The Heights.  Oh yeah, I know people.  Luckily, we did win and immediately proceeded to grab some yummy Italian before the show.

I love meeting new people (obv.) and it was so fun sharing stories about our very different upbringings and experiences over lunch.  I can’t wait to see where Jeff goes next!  About the show…it was amazing!  I saw it in high school but haven’t seen it again since it’s big revival.  They updated a lot of the jokes and quips to make a more relatable story of the 12 disciples and Jesus for teens and young adults.  I particularly enjoyed the joke about everyone in Heaven having IPads because Steve Jobs is there.  Laugh and sigh.  I would definitely recommend it.  There’s even a grape juice communion during intermission.

My day didn’t end there.  I was going to meet my old Elon/Paris/AXO pal Courtney for dinner and ended up walking close to where she had work.  SInce she had gotten off early, she met up with me and we walked 20 or so blocks to grab my bags from Laura’s and cab it to her place near Central Park.  We were both starving by the time we got to her apartment and walked to Amsterdam to enjoy a lovely 3 course dinner at The Mermaid Inn.

I had the best time eating like we were students in the Latin Quarter again, except this time we shared stories about grad school, mortgages and married life (she and her husband just had their 1 year anniversary…so cute!).  Some things never change…like our love of food.  We walked back to her place and watched the season finale of Revenge before heading to bed.

I needed a good night’s rest if I was going to brave the NYC streets to Connecticut the following morning!

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