Tuesday, November 19, 2013

NYC is my playground

                                View of Columbus Circle from Time-Warner Center

So we've been home from the northeast USA for three weeks now and we've been knee-deep in house renovations since then.  Winter has now arrived on the Canadian Prairies.  Seasonal affective disorder appears to be in full swing.  Everything all at once, I tell you!  That's just how we roll.

Everyone's going to Manhattan!

The mad scramble to enter Lincoln Tunnel:

Our lovely hotel, The Warwick on W 54th and 6th.

One of the nicest hotels I have stayed in.  Built by William Randolph Hearst in 1926 for his mistress, Marion Davies, and all of their Hollywood friends to stay at while in New York.  There are photos of Marion Davies all over the hotel, and other movie star stills:

Our hotel room was very Jackie Kennedy.

The hotel is in a great location, Hubs and I walked most places.  The hotel staff were pleasant, the clientele was sophisticated, we enjoyed the luxury decor and the hotel was very quiet at night. 

Loved this old-school cab outside our hotel one day:

Our hotel was not far from Central Park, so we walked there on our first day.  I adored all the fine autumn colours.

                                           the sun was perfectly shining on this tree

Walking around, it felt like we were in a movie.  There was the lone saxophonist playing autumn jazz standards that day in the park.

                                                        Bethesda Fountain is always so lovely

I wanted to go to the Central Park Boathouse.  Badly.

I wasn't able to make a reservation on opentable.com but we decided we would show up at the restaurant anyway and see if we could get in.  After a half hour wait in the bar, we were seated in the restaurant.  The lunch was lovely and well worth the wait.

                                            Yum Yum

                                  I could stare outside for hours, such a great view

The San Remo apartment building views never disappoint.

After 7 years, we finally made it to The Russian Tea Room for dinner.

The Chicken Kiev dinner was okay...just okay.  Seriously though, I have made better chicken kiev at home (and those frozen chicken kievs I sometimes buy from Co-op that I bake in the oven tasted about the same as what I had at the restaurant!)  It was certainly very overpriced and even though we are willing to splurge on vacation (as you will see below), everything -- quality, food, decor, service, ambience -- has to be worth it.  There weren't any Christmas decorations hanging up around the restaurant like you see on youtube videos, aside from the red bulbs on the chandeliers.  That was a stretch and a bit misleading for me.  I did enjoy my vodka martini though - From Russia With Love.  I'm sure the restaurant was the place in its heyday, everyone has a story from there and if you want to go once, go....but it won't be a place you would go to regularly, at least not for me.  But I pretended the bartender's name was Ivan and the hostess's name was Natasha and we chalked it up to an experience.  

                                   the couple behind me seem to be getting on well

So, I will recommend the following places to dine:

The Central Park Boathouse, above.

Le Parisien.  It's a neighbourhood hole-in-the-wall French bistro, seats 30 people max.  Hubs and I discovered it on our last holiday to NYC in 2011 when we needed a place to eat on Thanksgiving Day.  We chose Le Parisien as it received great reviews on opentable.com, served Thanksgiving food at a reasonable prix-fixe menu price and wasn't far from our hotel on that particular vacation (The Kitano on 38th & Park Ave, the bistro is in the Murray Hill area.  Not far from Grand Central Terminal).   Our Thanksgiving meal was delicious and we decided to go back to Le Parisien on our next visit.  So, on our final night in the city, we went back there, and our meals were absolutely delicious (the best of our vacation, actually) and fairly priced.  The French posters, old feel and coziness of the bistro lend authenticity to the experience:

                    Le Parisien serves French bread from France, which is Hubs's favorite


Our favorite restaurant, 21 Club:

It's really hard to take good photos inside 21 Club (you can still see me with my cosmopolitan though -- 21 Club has the best cocktails....the gimlets are good too)

                  The Bar Room with the toys hanging from the ceiling

                          The Lounge

Hubs and I first came here on our honeymoon in 2006 and we've come back on every NYC holiday since.  I've written about it previously here.  It's just one of those places that we love...old-school New York with so much character and history.   The people-watching is great, too.  So interesting.  We've always been treated so well there by the staff.  Of course, when you dine at 21 Club, it's an experience, and you will pay for that experience.....but it is so worth it.  There is nothing like it back home and you will talk about it for years to come.

On a side note, we were sad to hear about the passing of The Reverend, Mr. Lorenzo Robinson, who was the men's restroom attendant for several years at 21.  Hubs met The Rev (as he was known) twice previously and said that The Rev was one of the most interesting people he had ever met.  The Rev showed Hubs his prized cuff-links -- one from President Reagan, and the other from JFK (which was given to him by a family member who had also worked at 21 Club before him). 

Unfortunately, he passed away on the Thursday evening when we first went for dinner at 21.  At the time, he was attending his sister-in-law's funeral and passed away after the funeral (after giving the eulogy!)   When we returned for a drink on the Monday night and Hubs asked if the The Rev was back at work, the maitre 'd sadly advised us The Rev had passed away the prior Thursday evening.  Our server for the evening told us some great stories about The Rev, you could sense the sadness in the air.....it was a quiet evening at 21 Club, like an end of an era....

On our last day, we dined for lunch at Michaels, a NY institution where movers and shakers make deals, hedge fund operators, execs from media conglomerates, UES charity donors and NY celebs congregate, the restaurant is featured regularly on David Patrick Columbia's New York Social Diary (particularly the famed Wednesday lunches for some reason -- names most always featured:  Da Boyz:  Dr. Imber, Michael Kramer, Andrew Bergman, Jerry Della Femina and Jeff Greenfield, Charlie Rose (we missed seeing him by a day), Media Executive Barry Diller (DVF's husband), Dylan Lauren, Star Jones, Debbie Bancroft, Fern Mallis, Sandra Lee, Bonnie Fuller, Desiree Gruber (Mrs. Kyle MacLachlan), Tory Burch....the list goes on and on.  Mr. Michael McCarty himself was in town that day for an evening event, this is the second time we've met him at Michaels.  He also has a restaurant in Santa Monica.  He stops at every table and greets his patrons.  (When I showed my boss his business card, he asked to photocopy it.  My $5 says Da Boss will lunch there on his next NYC vacation, which I am sure will be next year sometime.  He can't stand it when his staff travels more than he does, as he now has a deficit after a failed Chicago vacation which didn't materialize last year).

The interior of Michaels, which looks charmingly like 1992.  I love it.

                           Garden Room

          Mr. McCarty (with Patti (ugh) Stanger - in the front part, the "media" section)

Other Delights

We took in Lady Day (a musical about Billie Holliday), featuring the magnificent Grammy Award winner Dee Dee Bridgewater:


And a classical performance at Carnegie Hall by the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony.  11-year-old piano prodigy Daniela Liebman stole the show as the featured pianist.  She gave two encores and wowed the audience in her debut performance.  So professional, so brilliant.  Everyone was thinking the same thing.... "11 years old and playing Carnegie Hall?  Wow."


Carnegie Hall..... what a venue!  New York City has some spectacular performing venues (Carnegie Hall, David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, Radio City Music Hall, to name a few) ....and what about all those Broadway theaters?  I love them all and I feel very privileged to have witnessed some fantastic performances in all of them.

After the performance, we toured the gallery of artifacts.

On a quiet Sunday evening, we strolled around 5th Avenue.  It always amazes me how quiet NYC is on Sunday nights.... if you want a cocktail, the only places open are hotel lounges.

Pardon me while I window shop at night:

My favorite store, Henri Bendel, on 5th Avenue.

Hubs's requested visit to Wall Street.

Views from Battery Park:

The Freedom Tower is almost completed:

I always say to people, New York City has something for everyone ... 

*   *   *

I had a panic moment last Sunday when I accidentally deleted the Bethenny episode from our PVR.  I was trying to make room for the epic long Gone With the Wind, The Party and all the upcoming JFK specials (in HD) which were airing that evening that I deleted the wrong episode.  Panic ensued.  I dove for my laptop and thankfully found the episode online (free download).  I immediately saved it to a USB drive and created extra room on our PVR!   Win-win.  Here we are on the top right hand corner at the taping (2nd row from the top).

Speaking of JFK, of course this Friday marks the 50th Anniversary of the assassination.  "JFK:  The Final Hours" on National Geographic was quite good, did anyone else watch it?  

Next up, photos from another beautiful city we briefly visited on our vacation (and JFK's hometown) -- Boston, MA.


  1. Really enjoyed reading this LR, especially as I'm going to be there on my first visit in 2 weeks time. Carnegie hall looks wonderful and I'd love to visit 21 Club.

    1. You will love NYC, Sulky! And you will be there for the Christmas decorations & spirit around the City - I hear the windows at Bergdorf's have now been unveiled, you must see them (it's right on 5th Ave by Henri Bendel). I'd love to hear what you have planned for your holiday! The Christmas trees are spectacular too, the Rockefeller Center tree is fabulous, there's also a nice tree at Bryant Park too. E N J O Y!

  2. I need to add this to my Evernotes for NYC; I've collected similar for London and Paris, which are closer to being my 'playgrounds'. The last time I was in NYC was in the late 70s and everything I wanted to see seemed to be in scaffolding. We drove through from Montreal in the wee hours and H1 wanted to stay over night at the Algonquin, which was in slight disrepair to my eyes. All I could think about was leaving the car overnight in the car park to be stripped; I couldn't wait to get out of the city, it looked like a wild animal park to me! Obviously we were in the wrong places at the wrong time. Boy, do I wish now I'd given the Algonquin a go...

    1. My in-laws went to NYC in the 1970s too, they were there at the height of the crime and old Times Square, etc, they have said the same thing -- wild animals were running loose in the City! And all the graffiti everywhere. They can't believe we would go to NYC so many times but it's not like how it was, thankfully. Oh I know exactly where the Algonquin Hotel is on W 44th, we stayed at the Iroquois Hotel on W 44th in 2010 (which is next door to the Algonquin or a few doors down). There's some lovely boutique hotels on W 44th and some lovely places to discover. Carla Bruni performed a little concert at the Royalton last June, which is across the street from the Algonquin and the Iroquois ... and one of our favorite lounges, M Bar, is on W 44th as well, at The Mansfield Hotel. One day you will go!

  3. I love NYC - I never get tired of it! we are doing Florida this March Break, but will likely to NYC in late Spring/early summer. I never tire of it. never.

    Your pictures and stories are wonderful!

    Speaking of places past their prime to some - we spent a lovely evening a couple of years ago at Sardi's - so much fun!

    1. I never tire of it either! Each holiday takes on a theme and we focus on different things to do on each vacation. I love it. Florida sounds great too.

      Every time we've walked by Sardis, there's a lineup to get in!

  4. What a great post. It was such a nice break to read this and ignore the desolate winter landscape out the window here. LOL

    I always enjoy NYC. The Boathouse is a regular spot for us too. I've never been to the Russian Tea Room. My BIL who lives in NYC says it is a total tourist trap and should be avoided. Sounds about right.

    1. Your BIL is correct. Hubs and I actually ended up eating later that evening at one of our standby diners because we were hungry -- the portions at RTR were fairly small.

      It was so cold today, thank goodness for seat heaters in the car! That wind is horrible. Hopefully it eases off by this weekend or there will be some very grumpy people! he he

  5. Love your oufit with your fabulous bangs and scarf and modern cloche hat - you look fabulous. So jealous - your photos of NY are just sublime. Love that you stayed where Marion did. "Built by William Randolph Hearst in 1926 for his mistress, Marion Davies, and all of their Hollywood friends to stay at while in New York. " She was a really fascinating character...If you ever get down to LA on the beach near the Palisades is the home that Randolph built for her and loads of photos more of her. Sadly as soon as Randolph died, his kids came in the next night and took all the furniture and had the funeral away in NY. Loving your pics of food too!

    1. Thanks Jody! I am fascinated with old New York, old Hollywood, etc....so many fascinating characters. Some of them may have gotten away with plenty, but their lives were so interesting! I definitely want to see the home at the Palisades, will try on our next SoCal holiday.

    2. p.s. The Randolphs Lounge at the hotel has rosebud prints on their napkins (after Hearst's nickname for Marion)

  6. Wow, you guys know how to travel. I love all your stops in NYC. SO cool. I haven't been there in about 25 years and need to make a trip plan! Loved your outfit with the dress or full skirt! Also adored the green scarf outfit! You are looking so stylish Ms L!! Rocking those new bangs too. Can't wait to see your next post!! Nice to read when things get into SAD territory.Love escaping virtually. Great pictures too! xx

    1. Thanks Kim! :) Oh you definitely need to go on a holiday, there's something for everyone and lots for teenagers to do.

      p.s. the full photo of my 21 outfit is here (I had the skirt shortened after the party) .... http://magnificentoregregious.blogspot.ca/2012/03/another-successful-mad-men-party.html

  7. It's nice, especially if you get to stay in one of the nicer hotels in NYC!

  8. You really packed in a lot of wonderful stops around Manhattan on your trip, LR Your Central Park photos should be enlarged and framed--they are so lovely.

    It is sad if the Russian Tea Room's food has declined. We would occasionally dine there when we went to a Carnegie Hall concert. Perhaps it was an off day for the chef/staff?

    This post made me miss NYC. I can't believe I have been away for almost a year already!