Friday, May 29, 2015

NYC {days 4 & 5}

Tuesday morning I woke approximately 3 hours after going to sleep {smart} and had the world's largest hangover. But, I wasn't about to miss a day in NYC - so I rallied, kind of. While planning our trip, Tuesday was always referred to as "Patriotic Day" because our agenda consisted of The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the 9/11 Memorial. Before hopping on the ferry, we took the world's craziest cab ride to Battery Park and walked to breakfast at Inatteso Cafe. The french toast and iced chai definitely hit the spot.
After breakfast we boarded the ferry to Liberty Island. It was a really foggy morning, but even through the mist seeing lady liberty gives you such a feeling of pride and patriotism. 
deep in thought or trying not to vomit? you decide. 

This was my first time actually getting off the ferry on Liberty Island and it was really quite something. We had access to the pedestal {that part right under her feet} and seeing the statue up close and personal was really quite something. When you think of her history and what she represents along with the tons of security points we had to go through to keep her safe, it's hard not to get a little choked up.
"We love lady liberty!"

From there we got back on the ferry and made our way to Ellis Island. 
While I knew what Ellis Island was and meant {obviously}, actually visiting opened my eyes to what the immigrants entering this amazing country so many years ago really went through. It was so much more than what I'd ever learned. Additionally, we spent some time searching the Ellis Island records for information on my great-grandma and great-grandpa. What we found wasn't what we were expecting but at the same time wasn't all that see, Greeks tend to be QUITE the story tellers {read: they make shit up} so through the generations and my entire Big Fat Greek Family of storytellers, the true story has likely been completely lost and as a result we had a hard time pinpointing our bloodline's arrival from Greece. It was a little frustrating and disappointing while at Ellis Island, but it opened up some great conversations with the rest of our family and I'm anxious to piece together everyone's stories to get the real thing...or at least close to it, because I'm not convinced our Yia Yia told anyone the complete full story. 

When we boarded the ferry one last time we were greeted with blue skies and sunshine as we made our way back to beautiful Manhattan.
From Battery Park we made our way to a beautiful mall on the water for lunch. We all grabbed what sounded best but my cousin and I opted for Mighty Quinn's BBQ which was no joke. This was the first brisket I've had that challenged my mother-in-law's {don't worry MIL, yours is still better}! 

From there we walked a few blocks to visit the Freedom Tower and Reflecting Pools. I am incredibly lucky to have made quite a few visits to NYC and have had the privilege to see this area of town with two giant towers standing proud on the island's edge. I've also seen the city not long after the 9/11 attacks when this part of town was ash and dust and the city was eerily silent. From there I saw the rubble turn in to hope and as of this last visit saw a beautiful memorial honoring the lives that were lost that fateful day but also a symbol of strength and patriotism that speaks volumes. I get emotional visiting this spot every time and this last visit was no different. It's hard not to feel something deep inside and think of how awful that day was and all of the lives that were hastily taken. At the same time I walk away from the memorial feeling proud - proud of how we handled that day and the years to follow, proud of how we have honored those lost, proud of how we don't give in and most of all proud to be an American.

Turns out being that patriotic for a full day can wear a girl{s} out! We grabbed a subway train back uptown to the Plaza and 3/4 of us may have snoozed a bit - props to my mom for holding down the fort while the rest of us dozed!

Thankfully all of us girls were in agreeance that we needed some time to rest, recover and revive! And so, we took an hour or two at the hotel to regroup. Mega bonus for this girl - my cousin recently graduated from cosmetology school and was kind enough to give some TLC to my poor hairs who looked a hot mess after the previous night and daytime's activities. 
Yes I wore a robe. I used every excuse to wear my Plaza robe! Pretty sure I actually slept in it the night before. 

We regrouped feeling awesome and ready to tackle our last night in the big city. Our first stop was the Peninsula Hotel for some rooftop cocktails. It was a perfect night, we snagged a great table and my cousin and I used our detective skills to decipher what could only be described as a "working girl + successful businessman's initial consultation." From there we took a lovely stroll through Columbus Circle to Rosa Mexicano for dinner. It's funny because I think every single time except for one I have had dinner at Rosa's while visiting NYC and a couple years ago one came to Minneapolis and I have been there ONE TIME. It just goes to show, if it's not NYC, it's just not the same.
At Rosa's we were joined by my mom and aunt's cousin, Barb, who lives in New Jersey! I haven't seen Barb since I was 5ish{?}, so it was definitely a treat to be able to catch up with her, spend time with her and hear her stories about our crazy family! There really is something unique about the bond that Greeks have with their family and each other and this special dinner definitely proved that. 
It was hard to leave the restaurant and accept that our trip was coming to a close, but turns out when a restaurant closes, they will ask you to leave. We reconvened in our room for some last minute girl time but it was short lived as we were all exhausted - and also because I straight up fell asleep in the middle of the conversation. Sorry girls!

The next morning we all packed our bags, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways with a pouty face. My mom and I walked to Ess-a-Bagel {best bagel in NYC if you ask me} for a bite on the run to our flight. While my aunt and cousin hit up Lindy's for a slice of famous NYC cheesecake {still jealous} and a cup of coffee. 
There's not much I can say to describe how special this trip was to me. I definitely do not get to see my aunt and cousin as much as I would like so to have this quality time with them and create these fantastic memories with them is something I will always cherish! And to my little mama, well she is my travel buddy, and I am beyond grateful for the time we get to have with each other during our travel adventure antics!

We may not have any milestone birthdays coming up soon, but I think it's about time we start planning our next girl trip!

{Recaps: Day 1, Day 2 & Day 3}

Thursday, May 28, 2015

NYC {day 3}

Monday morning, I was up with the sun to knock one of my 31 before 31 goals off the list by running through Central Park. It was a foggy morning and an absolutely beautiful run. It seems strange to even say, but this may have been my favorite part of the trip. The park was so peaceful and I felt like such a New Yorker being up early, while the city was still quiet {or as quiet as NYC gets}, running with the locals and then of course rewarding myself with a Sbux treat afterwards. 

After I was stretched and showered, I met up with the rest of the girls for breakfast at Rue 57. Note to self: eggs, potatoes and a mimosa are a perfect post-run meal!

After breakfast we went to The Redken Exchange for a tour. My aunt and cousin are hairstylists at the salon my aunt and uncle own, so this was something really cool for all of us to see! Plus, they gave me some great advice on a new product to try to help my curls stay longer - score!

After our tour we mosied up 5th Avenue to FAO Schwartz to find some souvenirs for Kenley and stock up on candy for our afternoon bus tour.

Next up was the Museum of Modern Art! I am a HUGE fan of modern art and therefore much prefer MoMA to The Met. I always geek out being surrounded by such incredibly famous works of art created by some of the most adored artists to ever live. My personal favorite is Picasso and every time I see one of his pieces I get giddy. 
Beyond that seeing the works of Van Gogh, Matisse and Pollock {among others} is something truly special!

After MoMA stuffing our faces with New York pizza was absolutely necessary. We went to my favorite spot, Ray's Pizza, and did work. Yes I had two slices...I blame it on the morning's run.

After our tummies were full and our sodas were spiked with vodka, we made our way to the double decker bus once again, this time to take the downtown tour. 

We decided to hop off the bus and explore Little Italy. We found a great little bar which I can't for the life of me remember the name of right on Mulberry Street and stopped in for a glass of vino. 
From there we walked up Canal Street and bought a couple kitschy "I Heart NY" souvenirs then hopped back on the double decker bus to complete the downtown tour. We had plans to go up to the Top of the Rock, but this day was so foggy the visibility from the top was ZERO.  So instead we made our way to Hells Kitchen for dinner at 5 Napkin Burger
 {horrendous food photography - I apologize}

After dinner we walked up the block to Don't Tell Mama, an adorable little piano that is now a new favorite place of mine! The bartenders and waitresses are all Broadway actors so they get up and sing with the piano and BLOW YOUR MIND! Our waitress was the former lead in Hairspray! It was so much fun listening to such incredible music! 

At about 1:30am, my aunt and cousin smartly decided it was time to call it a night. My mom and I, on the other hand, decided it was time to head to a karaoke bar. We had been to Tonic before and loved it and decided we needed to stop in for one more drink. Well, one more drink lead to several more drinks, which lead to me rapping Shoop and making friends with some Spaniards who spoke just enough English to make fun of my broken phone screen and understand me when I made fun of them for wearing turtleneck sweaters in May. It was such a fun night and I am happy to have these fun memories with my mama. 
I can't be certain exactly what time we returned to our room, but I imagine it was just shy of sunrise and man did I pay for that the next day.

{Recaps: Day 1 & Day 2}

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

NYC {day 2}

Sunday morning we were up bright and early and ready for our first full day in New York City! We kicked off the morning with a Double Decker bus tour of Uptown Manhattan. 
It was an absolutely perfect morning to be sitting on the roof of a big red bus. The sites included Central Park, Columbus Circle, St. John's Cathedral, The Dakota, The Museum of Natural History, The Apollo Theater, Grant's Tomb and so much more! 
We hopped off the bus on the East side of Central Park and took a lovely stroll through the park passing by one of my most favorite parts of the city, The Bethesda Fountain. 

We continued our walk through Central Park to The Boathouse for Brunch. The spinach eggs benedict and breakfast potatoes were heavenly!

After brunch we hit up 5th Avenue for some shopping! We spent our time at Tiffany's, Burberry and Coach and walked away with quite the haul!

Once we'd sufficiently made our contributions to the New York economy, we headed back to The Plaza to primp for our night ahead!

Dinner on Sunday was at Carmine's in the Theater District, which in my opinion is the best pre-show dinner in the area! We split the world's largest Caesar Salad and the Penne alla Vodka which we were all sad we weren't able to box up and bring with us. So good! 

After dinner we made our way to the Eugene O'Neill Theater for The Book of Mormon. It was the first time seeing the show for all of us and we LOVED it! I was laughing so hard, I was crying on several occasions. 

After the play, we made a pit stop at Mastro's on the way back to the hotel. Mastro's is a favorite of ours from Scottsdale and the NYC location had just opened this past November. And because the world is so small the gentleman next to us at the bar were from Minnesota! They also had a great little band playing, so it was a perfect way to end a great day. It's also worth noting that this was the best Lemon Drop martini I've ever had.

 {recap of Day 1}

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

NYC {day 1}

It all started with Flo Rida. 

Not kidding. As if I weren't excited enough to spend 5 days in New York City with my mom, aunt and cousin - I met frickin' Flo Rida at the airport which started this trip off with an epic BANG! 
It's goin down for real. 

My aunt and cousin flew in from Arkansas, my mom and I from Minneapolis and then we all reunited at LaGuardia airport! 
 In the car from the airport, my aunt gifted all of us with an Alex and Ani bracelet complete with an NYC charm. It's such a special keepsake and a perfect way to remember this trip every day!

We stayed at The Plaza and loved every single second of it. Our rooms were beautiful, the view was beautiful and really every inch of the hotel was beautiful. 

Our trip started just as it should with some champagne in our room then, once we were dolled up, a trip to The Plaza's speakeasy bar for some cocktails. 

From there we made our way to one of my most favorite places in NYC, Avra, which is a little Greek restaurant. Being that all 4 of us are Greek, we have some pretty high standards when it comes to Greek food and Avra hits it out of the park. We had some cocktails and appetizers and were too busy enjoying the amazing food to snap any photos. After Avra, we walked to the Waldorf Astoria for a drink at Sir Harry's. The first time I ever visited NYC we stayed at the Waldorf and nicknamed it "The Mother Ship", so that hotel has a special place in my heart. 

Next we headed to Tao Uptown for dinner. Tao was PACKED and we had a little misunderstanding about our reservation {aka, I messed up} so we had about an hour wait but thankfully we found a great spot in the bar and enjoyed some martinis. Once we were seated, we were blown away by the food! My mom and I split the pad thai, rock shrimp lettuce cups and a california roll and holy smokes was it good! 

We walked out of Tao to pouring rain and if you've been to NYC you know hailing a cab in the rain is like trying to win the lottery and so we braved the elements and made a dash for The Plaza!
Once we wrung out our hair and removed our heels, we threw on some jammies and enjoyed another cocktail in our room along with some good old fashioned girl talk. 

It was a great first night in NYC, but the fun was just beginning!