The first day in a new city after a 6-hour red-eye flight always makes for some delusional sightseeing. After landing just before 7am, falling asleep in an Uber ride to Manhattan, and dropping our luggage at the hotel in the center of Midtown, Matt and I got some much-needed coffee and sat in a green park nestled between landmarks such as Grand Central Station, Times Square, and the New York Library. We watched well-dressed young professionals walk briskly towards offices while old men, free of deadlines, played chess on stone tables. I tried to contrast the energy of the place with tech-centric, Neverland-esque San Francisco. You definitely wouldn’t catch anyone wearing sweatpants and a company-branded hoodie to work here.
Once all of the members of Matt’s family trickled in by way of Newark, Penn Station, JFK and La Guardia, we headed south to have lunch at Chelsea Market. The converted old dessert factory was now a long open brick building home to a collection of shops and vendors, featuring original ghost murals and industrial piping. German beers in hand, we browsed tables of vintage jewelry, organic herbal soaps, and artists’ renditions of the NYC skyline.
Out the back door of the Chelsea Market and up a set of stairs was The High Line, an old elevated railway line transformed into a 1.5-mile public promenade, complete with views of the Hudson to the West. In some ways The High Line, which winds through and along and between the buildings and docks of Manhattan, could not be more intertwined with the city. But at the same time it has the feeling of a protected oasis, insulated from the noise and chaos of the busy streets. About two stories off the ground and buffered from brick facades on either side with carefully designed greenery, it’s a perfect way to see New York from the vantage point of the pedestrian while also feeling elevated from the daily grind.
At the northern terminus of The High Line, we returned to the level of the locals (which smelled faintly of urine) and meandered our way across Manhattan towards the Flatiron Building, where we stopped at Eataly for a beer and a quick break for our tired feet. Matt and I felt like we could walk some more, so we turned south to make the two-mile trek to the Financial District. We took Broadway through SoHo, past NYU design buildings and art galleries, and wondered out loud what it would be like to live in New York. We loved the energy, the bursting creativity and the diversity of industries. We loved the pedestrian lifestyle and the youthful spirit. (This was all before we had to take the hot, crowded, pushy subway from Grand Central Station at 8:30am on Monday morning, which quickly extinguished our enthusiasm for New York living).
We let the Freedom Tower be our guiding beacon once we reached the Wall Street area, and soon we arrived at the Ground Zero Memorial. We approached the footprint of the north tower and when the fountain came into view I felt the sight take my breath away. Water was flowing over all four sides into a lower infinity pool, where it cascaded again into a smaller, deeper square in the center. The innermost pit was so deep that the base was invisible, giving the illusion that the water would continue to fall forever into the depths of the earth. Names of the people killed on 9/11 were engraved into the stone on the outside where viewers watched the waterfalls. The shape of the pool paid tribute to the space left over from the actual building, and the design held the appropriate gravitas of the space. It felt like a perfect memorial to the people lost that day.
Breakfast the next morning was, of course, New York bagels. Our whole group headed up 3rd Avenue to Essa-Bagel in Midtown, waited in line 40 minutes, and got our orders from grumpy men behind the deli counter. My everything bagel had significantly more cream cheese between the two halves than I had ever seen before. Thank you, New York City, for this unforgettable contribution to American culinary staples.
Matt and I split off to take the subway to the Brooklyn Bridge, where we walked out to the center on the raised wooden pedestrian median and saw a whole new view of Manhattan. On our north-bound walk from there we passed by the very intimidating courthouse, and alongside the border to Chinatown on our left and Little Italy on our right.
I wanted to explore the East Village, where most of the food and drink recommendations from my friends were centered, so we picked up Matt’s brother Tyler and bee-lined to Morgenstern’s, a hipster ice cream shop featured in Master of None, where we tried the very trendy black coconut ash ice cream (verdict: good but not very flavorful… it's also slightly unnerving to eat black ice cream). We brought our cones and walked through the tree-lined streets, past barber shops, brunch meccas, and import boutiques, and down alleyways of colorful murals. I was pretty smitten with the East Village.
The wedding activities began that night with a welcome dinner in Brooklyn, so we made our way through the tunnel early to stop at Brooklyn Brewery, one of Matt’s dad’s favorites. The tasting room is located in one section of a massive warehouse, which is also hope to a bowling center / concert venue called Brooklyn Bowl. We squeezed nine people onto a long wooden picnic table along the tall wall of windows, a group whose members had assembled that weekend from Florida, Texas, California and Philadelphia.
The dinner was held at a rooftop Japanese restaurant with an indoor-outdoor setup and beautiful views of Brooklyn and the Statue of Liberty. Dinner began with a sushi buffet, and the bride’s brother’s folk band played as the sun went down. Everything was gorgeous.
We spent the next morning with our good friend Sean, eating a delicious brunch at a place called The Smith and wandering through Central Park. We had to dodge the annual Jewish Parade that ran up the east side of the park, but besides that it was a calm and warm day to meander.
The wedding was held at Brooklyn Winery, a gorgeous industrial space with huge skylights, dangling Edison bulbs, and a green wall of plants. This was my first Jewish wedding, and each ritual and tradition was so beautiful, from the smashing of the glass to the dancing while holding the bride and groom aloft in chairs.
Before flying out on Monday afternoon, we had a goodbye family brunch at the William Vale Hotel in Brooklyn (with views of the Manhattan skyline across the East River), then explored the Williamsburg neighborhood on foot. I could see why the area is so trendy for twenty-somethings; we passed by brunch restaurants, vintage clothes stores, and hipster coffeeshops. We even found a typographic mural outside a café done by one of my favorite lettering artists. Matt and I had a final beer with his brother Tyler at a German biergarten (which we had to ourselves on a Monday at noon), and ended our NYC weekend with — fittingly — a lox bagel.