Tag Archives: Brooklyn

New York City 2019: A Mermaid Parade, The East Village, and a lot of Great Food

Visiting local friends in New York City: The Coney Island Mermaid Parade, Exploring the East Village, Williamsburg, and a lot of great food.

 

I finally feel like I really got to know New York City. My three previous trips to New York City were all quick two-day adventures, mostly focused on hitting up big attractions in the city. This was a solo trip to visit my native New Yorker bestie Keith, for 6 nights. Keith and his partner Mike were kind enough to put me up in their Inwood apartment guest room, and I timed my trip around the Coney Island Mermaid Parade in June. Having seen most of the big tourist attractions, I was able to spend my 5 days in New York City having fun and and exploring some of the amazing food and quirky attractions New York has to offer.

Day 1: The Museum of Sex, The Guggenheim, and a Tiki Bar

Following a three hour flight delay due to thunderstorms in New York, an evening of catching up with Keith and Mike, and a good night’s sleep, I was ready to head out into the city.  Keith’s suggestion for the day was the Museum of Sex in the mid town area. They were having an exhibit on sexuality in the 1970’s -early 1980’s punk scene, and Keith had read about a bouncy house made out of boobs. That there was a bouncy house of boobs was really all he had to say, but the punk exhibit sounded great too.

The punk exhibit was interesting, focused on the early punk scene in New York City. Punk celebrity fashion, show posters, show videos, and photographs were displayed with a lot of text about sexuality in early punk culture.

There was also an exhibit on the history of the stag film, with video clips of various pornographic films and cartoons from the 1920’s on display along with an informative history timeline of pornographic films.

The main highlight however, was SuperFunLand, which was a carnival like exhibit with a kaleidoscope room, various carnival games, and as promised–a bouncy boob house.

SuperFunLand at the Museum of Sex
SuperFunLand at the Museum of Sex
SuperFunLand at the Museum of Sex
SuperFunLand at the Museum of Sex
SuperFunLand at the Museum of Sex
SuperFunLand at the Museum of Sex
SuperFunLand at the Museum of Sex

SuperFunLand costs a bit extra (I think like $4 extra), but it is totally worth it. You only get about 5 minutes in the bouncy boob house, but I really don’t know how much longer than that I could jump around on boobs to Van Halen’s “Jump.” It was a good amount of time for me.

Bouncy Boob House at Museum of Sex
Bouncy Boob House at Museum of Sex

After bouncing on boobs, we went down a dark velvety hallway to a door titled The Tunnel of Love. The ticket man asked us if we were prone to seizures or motion sickness, and if we minded being squirted in the face with water. We weren’t sure what we were in for, but we swiped our ticket cards and forged ahead.

The Tunnel of Love was a large-scale immersive short film exhibit with moving seats and special effects to make you feel like you were moving through the film. And yes, we were squirted in the face with water twice. It was a little sexy, a little psychedelic, and a little obnoxious. Overall, I’d recommend. A note about motion sickness: I am very prone to motion sickness, and I was fine.

After the Museum of Sex and a bit of meandering in a book store and getting coffee, we were ready for a bite to eat. One of my bucket list food spots on this trip was celebrity chef Eddie Huang’s Baohaus in the East Village.

Baohaus New York
Baohaus

I wished I was a bit hungrier, as I wanted to try all the baos. I settled on the Chairman Bao with pork belly, relish, crushed peanuts and cilantro. Keith tried the Birdhaus Bao, which was fried chicken with a lemon-garlic aoli, crushed peanuts, and cilantro. They were really good and if there weren’t so many other great places to eat in New York City, I would have gone back and tried them all. Note that one bao is snack-sized, two would be more of a meal. They also serve rice bowls and taro fries, which we did not try.

Baohaus New York
Baohaus New York: The Birdhaus Bao and the Chairman Bao

Second on my East Village bucket list was getting dessert at Milk Bar. Milk Bar is chef Cristina Tosi’s creation, most famous for her cereal milk ice cream, and Milk Bar Pie (formerly known as “crack pie,” but I guess someone gave them flack about that). Paddy and I really enjoyed the episodes about Milk Bar and Cristina Tosi on David Chang’s segment of Mind of A Chef (Netflix), and I needed to see what the fuss was all about.

Keith and I both opted for the cereal milk and compost cookie ice cream swirl combo, with compost cookie topping. It was pretty damn good, but not something I would go out of my way for specifically. You do have to be someone who really likes the salty-sweet flavor combo (which I do) to enjoy this ice cream.

I really wanted to try a piece of the Milk Bar Pie too, but there is only so much sugar I can consume in one sitting. I vowed to return.

*Note: Milk Bar has several locations around Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as other states.

Milk Bar East Village
Milk Bar East Village
Milk Bar East Village
Cereal Milk and Compost Cookie swirl ice cream at Milk Bar East Village

 

Later that evening, Keith and I took a walk through Central Park on our way to the Guggenheim Museum.

Central Park
Central Park

The Guggenheim Museum was having a private preview party for it’s members to come view the new Basquiat exhibit after hours. Keith was a member, and what is more New York City than a private party at the Guggenheim?

The Guggenheim had a really awesome corkscrew layout, where you can walk (up or down) the spiral to view the art. There are off-shoots from the spiral levels to larger exhibit rooms. There was also a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit that was really interesting.

The Guggenheim Museum
The Guggenheim Museum
The Guggenheim Museum
The Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim Museum is normally open from 10:00 AM to 5:30 PM daily, and Saturdays until 8:00 PM. Check it out.

After the Guggenheim we took a cab to the East Village to meet up with Keith’s partner Mike for dinner.

Mike has been trying to eat a more plant-based diet lately, so he suggested Bar Verde, a Mexican restaurant serving only plant-based dishes. Bar Verde was packed, but the wait for a table wasn’t too long.

We started with the smoked pineapple mezcalito cocktails, which were pricey ($15) but delicious. We also tried the hearts of palm ceviche, and several types of tacos including tempura avocado, maitake mushroom carnitas, and farro chorizo.

Bar Verde plant-based Mexican food
Bar Verde plant-based Mexican food

I’m not a vegetarian but I do love veggies. The array of veggies used in all the dishes was extremely broad, and everything was packed with flavor. I would absolutely recommend this place, even if you aren’t vegetarian.

After dinner, we went to the one Tiki Bar in Manhattan: Otto’s Shrunken Head.

Otto's Shrunken Head tiki bar
Otto’s Shrunken Head tiki bar New York City
Otto's Shrunken Head tiki bar
Otto’s Shrunken Head tiki bar

Otto’s Shrunken Head was having Rebel Night, a 50s and 60s vinyl dance party that happens every third Friday of the month. We ordered some drinks at the bar (I got the squealer– a lychee and passion fruit slushy in a pig tiki mug) and made our way to the back room to check out the dance party.

*Tiki drinks at Otto’s are $20 including a tiki mug. If you don’t want your mug, just return it to the bar when you’re done for $6 back.

I thought it might be fun to do the twist to some old vintage vinyl, but the back room was full of people who actually knew how to dance. There was a group of about 12-15 people in full vintage rockabilly attire, with rehearsed swing-dance style moves. I was not going to try and join in with that, but was happy to drink my slushy pig on the side bench and watch. It was impressive.

We didn’t stay out crazy late because we had a mermaid parade to judge the next day.

 

Day 2: The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

I timed my visit to New York City around the Coney Island Mermaid Parade in June after Keith told me it existed. We had purchased judge-ships for $200 each well in advance, which included bleacher seats, port-a-potties for judges only, free beer and food, a t-shirt, and the opportunity to view and judge the mermaids. Because mermaids.

Coney Island was a two hour subway ride from Keith’s apartment in north Manhattan, but it was worth it. We donned sailor attire for the occasion.

Coney Island, New York
Keith at Coney Island, New York
Coney Island, New York
Coney Island, New York
Coney Island, New York
Coney Island, New York
Coney Island, New York
Coney Island, New York
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade

I wrote a more in-depth post on the mermaid parade and how to be a judge, which you can read here.

The parade and costumes were fantastic, and I would absolutely recommend it if you are in New York in June. I read later that there were approximately 850,000 people at the parade. Bring water and sunscreen and try to arrive by 11:00 AM if you want to avoid subway crowds and stake out your spot. Or be a judge, and get a great seat in the shade with all the amenities.

Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade

The parade lasted from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM, and included three marriage proposals and one actual wedding. The costumes were impressive, and glitter was everywhere.

After the parade was over, the “mayor” of Coney Island did a beach opening ceremony, which we missed. We walked along the boardwalk where mermaids from the parade were posing for photos. The beach was definitely open, and very crowded.

Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island beach
Coney Island beach

We had enough of crowds for the day, so we headed back to the subway station to go get dinner and relax a bit in Brooklyn.

Keith’s friend suggested a little French Bistro called Bar Tabac right near the subway in the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. We got a little side walk table outside, a nice shady spot to wind down after a day of crowds and mermaids. I had the calamari and the gazpacho, which was delicious on a hot day. Bar Tabac was very cute and everything on their menu looked amazing. I would definitely recommend this place for lunch or dinner if you are in the area.

Bar Tabac, Brooklyn
Bar Tabac, Brooklyn
Bar Tabac Brooklyn
Calamari and gazpacho at Bar Tabac Brooklyn
Bar Tabac Brooklyn
Moroccan chicken dish Bar Tabac Brooklyn

The Mermaid Parade and long subway journey wiped us out, so we ended our Saturday night watching Golden Girls at Keith and Mike’s apartment.

 

Day 3: Lazy Sunday Brunch in Harlem

New Yorkers love their Sunday Brunch. My celebrity chef nerdery led us to Marcus Samulesson’s Red Rooster in Harlem, an easy subway ride from Keith and Mike’s north Manhattan apartment.

Red Rooster has a “gospel brunch” on Sundays, with live gospel singers as entertainment. They don’t take reservations for brunch, and I was worried that the wait might be long. To our surprise and delight, we walked right in and were seated right away.

Red Rooster Harlem
Red Rooster Sunday Brunch in Harlem

I will warn you, Red Rooster is a bit on the expensive side. Expect to pay for brunch what you would for a nice dinner. That being said, the food is heavy and delicious and you will leave full and happy.

We started with some bloody marys, which were strong. I had to try Marcus Samuelsson’s fried chicken that I’d heard so much about, so I ordered the Hot Honey Yardbird which came with sweet corn succotash and tomato salad. The chicken was crispy and a little sweet, and the tomato salad and succotash was the perfect fresh and acidic compliment to the heavy fried chicken.

Hot Honey Yardbird Red Rooster
Hot Honey Yardbird at Red Rooster

Keith had the Rooster Slam, which had a little bit of everything, and Mike had the NY Cheddar & Kale Omelette. Everything was outstanding.

Rooster Slam Red Rooster
Rooster Slam at Red Rooster
NY Cheddar & Kale Omelette Red Rooster
NY Cheddar & Kale Omelette Red Rooster

One of the gospel singers walked around the room with a portable microphone, serenading diners.

When we left, there was a line out the door. I guess we hit the right time. Red Rooster lived up to the hype, and I will definitely want to come back on my next visit to New York City.

After brunch we walked around Harlem a little bit. Mike has a thing for cookies, and said that I had to try one of the enormous cookies from Levain Bakery. We stopped into their Harlem location to pick some up for dessert that evening. The cookies are huge, more like a cookie mountain. I can attest that they are delicious. The bakery was tiny, and there were a few other baked goods for sale, but it was clear that the cookie was the star of the show here. They come in chocolate chip walnut, chocolate chocolate chip, chocolate with peanut butter chips, and oatmeal.

Levain Bakery Harlem
Levain Bakery Harlem
levain bakery
image from https://www.levainbakery.com/chocolate-chip-walnut

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking in Inwood Hill Park, and having drinks with friends and watching the Women’s World Cup at the Tubby Hook Tavern in Inwood.

 

Day 4: Wandering in Williamsburg

On Monday, Keith and Mike had to go back to work so I had a day to myself. I had read about a plus size consignment clothing store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, so I decided to wander around Williamsburg for the day.

Williamsburg was an industrial neighborhood in Brooklyn without a lot going on until the 1990’s. As with any trendy neighborhood, low rents brought in artists and young people and gentrification set in. Williamsburg is now a hipster-mecca in Brooklyn, and I was curious to see what it was all about.

Mural in Williamsburg
Mural in Williamsburg

After three days of walking all over New York, my feet were a little beat up. I had a little time to kill before some of the shops in Williamsburg opened up, so I got a reflexology foot massage at Happy Foot Spa on North 5th St.

Feeling relaxed and my feet rejuvenated, I walked over to Plus BKLYN consignment boutique. It was a super cute shop, but the inventory was a little low. I didn’t find anything I loved this time, but would recommend checking it out if you are a size 14+.

Plus BKLYN Williamsburg
Plus BKLYN Williamsburg
Plus BKLYN Williamsburg
Plus BKLYN Williamsburg

I poked around in a few more shops on Bedford Avenue before I got a little overheated walking in the hot sun. Time for lunch and a cold drink.

I had originally scoped out Pies and Thighs as my lunch option for the day, but after just having eaten fried chicken the day prior and it being so hot, I wanted something lighter. I ended up at Pearl’s, a Caribbean spot on North 8th St, and ordered a refreshing jerk chicken salad with mango and arugula. A variety of sauces were brought to the table, the best of which was a creamy garlic sauce that I ended up slathering all over my chicken.

Pearl's Caribbean restaurant Williamsburg
Pearl’s Caribbean restaurant Williamsburg
Pearl's Caribbean restaurant Williamsburg
Pearl’s Caribbean restaurant Williamsburg

Later that evening, I met up with Keith and Mike in the East Village for dinner at Prune, another restaurant on my celebrity chef nerdery list. On Mind of a Chef, one of our favorite cooking shows on Netflix, Paddy and I fell in love with chef Gabrielle Hamilton. I loved her aprons and mis-matched pots and pans, down-to-earth cooking style, and her creativity. She hates letting anything go to waste in her kitchen, which is also something I greatly admire. I was excited to try her cooking.

Prune New York City
Prune restaurant, New York City

Prune is tiny but intimate. I was glad I had made a reservation, as the place was packed on a Monday night.

We started with the shaved celery salad with blue cheese toast, and the fried anchovies. The anchovies were simple but delicious. The celery salad was really impressive. I wouldn’t think to make celery a star ingredient in anything, but here it was, hogging the spotlight drenched in butter on blue cheese toast. And it was fabulous.

Celery salad with blue cheese toast Prune New York City
Celery salad with blue cheese toast at Prune New York City
Fried anchovies Prune New York City
Fried anchovies at Prune New York City

For an entree I ordered the roasted duck breast with braised beans and smoked tomato vinaigrette, which was smoky and cooked perfectly. Mike had a medley of different veggie dishes which was their vegetarian option, and Keith had some gargantuan hunk of meat on bone that I can’t remember what it was. Forgive me, I was enamored with my duck and wasn’t paying attention.

The dishes didn’t have the prettiest presentation, but that is exactly Gabrielle Hamilton’s style. Food cooked with lots of flavor and love that doesn’t have to dress to impress. I am looking forward to going back here again with Paddy someday.

Prune New York City
Prune New York City
Braised duck breast Prune New York City
Braised duck breast Prune New York City

As tempting as dessert was at Prune, we wanted to cap the evening off with dipped soft serve from the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop around the corner. New York’s best soft serve is big, gay, and covered in delicious toppings. No matter what your sexual orientation is, you have to have Big Gay Ice Cream in New York City. Complete with Heimlich maneuver instructions illustrated with Bea Arthur and a unicorn.

Big Gay Ice Cream New York City
Big Gay Ice Cream New York City
Big Gay Ice Cream New York City
Big Gay Ice Cream New York City
Big Gay Ice Cream New York City
Big Gay Ice Cream New York City

Keith got the Dorothy cone, which was vanilla soft serve with dulce de leche syrup and crumbled nilla wafers. I naturally opted for the salty pimp, another vanilla soft serve cone with dulce de leche dipped in salty dark chocolate. What’s not to love?

Our subway car’s AC was out on the way back to north Manhattan, so we got a free impromptu crowded public sauna to end the evening. It was gross. Se la vie.

 

Day 5: Catacombs and the East Village

Late Monday night before I went to bed, an ad popped up in my Facebook feed for a Catacombs tour at Saint Patrick’s Basilica in the Nolita neighborhood. I didn’t have any solid plans the next day, so I booked it.

The tour is run by Tommy’s New York and is a tour of the tombs underneath the basilica, which contain members of New York’s historical elite. Buried here are bishops, congressmen, and members of the Delmonico family, as well as many others.

The tour started at 11:00 am, where we got a brief history of the church in a waiting room across the street from the basilica. We were then led to a basement room under the church where two huge wooden doors creaked open for dramatic effect, revealing a dark hallway lit only by candlelight and an eerie red glow.

Catacombs Saint Patrick's Basilica New York City
Entrance to the catacombs under Saint Patrick’s Basilica, New York City

Before you get too excited, this isn’t like the catacombs you might see in Paris or other parts of Europe. You aren’t going to see any real human bones. Overall this tour is mostly an interesting New York City history lesson, and not much of a macabre experience. It was fun to tour it by candlelight, however, and we were all given a souvenir electronic tea light to walk with and help us read the inscriptions on the tombs.

Turns out the gothic red glow illuminating the hallways was from red exit signs in the back of the catacombs. It did make for a nice effect.

The catacombs under Saint Patrick's Basilica, New York City
The catacombs under Saint Patrick’s Basilica, New York City

Our guide was informative and fun. If you have time and want to learn about some historic New York families and feel like getting a little spooky, this is a nice way to spend two hours. I’d recommend it as a good escape from the heat or rain as well. That day I was happy to escape both.

We got a brief tour of the inside of the basilica before afternoon mass started, and ended with a tour of the cemetery surrounding the church.

Saint Patricks Basilica New York City
Saint Patricks Basilica New York City
Saint Patricks Basilica New York City
Saint Patricks Basilica New York City

Saint Patrick’s Basilica is only a few blocks from the East Village, so I walked over there after the tour to have lunch and do some shopping. On my agenda for lunch was the B&H Dairy, a kosher deli in business since 1938. B&H advertises itself as a vegetarian restaurant, but in truth it is a pescatarian restaurant (they serve fish). I don’t eat beef, so I thought I’d skip the long lines at Katz’s Delicatessan in favor of this place (I’ll go to Katz’s someday with Paddy on another trip, he is all about the pastrami).

B&H Dairy New York City
B&H Dairy New York City

Seattle is seriously lacking in the kosher deli department, so I felt like I couldn’t leave New York without having some matzo ball soup at a kosher deli, and I’d also never had a knish. I bellied up to the lunch counter and ordered both.

B&H Dairy New York City
Mushroom knish at B&H Dairy New York City
B&H Dairy New York City
Matzo ball soup at B&H Dairy New York City

I have mixed feelings about my meal choice here. On one hand, I was happy to tick New York City matzo ball soup and a knish off my New York checklist. On the other hand, I was kicking myself for not ordering one of the tuna fish or white fish salad sandwiches on thick homemade bread that I watched the deli guy constructing. The sandwiches looked AMAZING, while my knish was kind of like eating mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy. I am determined to revisit this place on my next trip and order one of those sandwiches.

After lunch I walked around and looked at some of the shops in the East Village. Two that stood out for me were Enz’s, Obscura Antiques and Oddities, and Trash & Vaudeville.

Obscura Antiques and Oddities is just that, a place to look at and purchase odd stuff. I am drawn to the weird, so this was right up my alley. Old post cards, creepy dolls, taxidermy, and other random items are for sale. I didn’t find anything I was in love with, but it was fun to explore.

Obscura Antiques and Oddities New York City
Obscura Antiques and Oddities New York City

Trash & Vaudeville is punk rock, and if you have a love for outlandish shoes this is your place. I found Paddy an awesome button down shirt with jellyfish printed on it. Their lack of plus sizes however was a little disappointing, especially when they carried a lot of brands that made their styles in plus sizes.

Trash & Vaudeville New York City
Trash & Vaudeville New York City

Enz’s is a tiny boutique rockabilly clothing shop right next to B&H Dairy. The shop owner was really nice and makes a lot of the dresses herself.  I loved a lot of them, but sadly she doesn’t have a lot of plus sizes either.

I stopped by Milk Bar again to try and get a slice of their famous Milk Bar pie, but they were closed for repairs that afternoon.

I ended my evening spending time with Keith and Mike and their friends. This trip I felt like I really got to know New York City outside of the tourist trail. It was nice to have time with friends and to see different neighborhoods without the pressure of trying to check places off of a sight-seeing list. The East Village is my favorite neighborhood in New York, but there is still so much I haven’t seen. So many meals not eaten. There will be other trips to New York City in my future, I can assure you. There is something for everyone in New York.

Being a Judge at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade

Anyone can be a judge at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. Here’s how to do it, what it costs, and what to expect:

I am not a New Yorker. I’d never even been to Coney Island before. However, when my native New Yorker friend Keith told me about the annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade in Brooklyn every June, I ended up planning my entire visit to New York around it. Mermaids, glitter, beaches, summertime–I was in!

When Keith told me we could be judges at the parade, that sounded exciting (and important!) I researched it online, and found only sparse information on the Mermaid Parade FAQ. From what I could find on the web page, being a judge requires a $200 membership donation (tax-deductible). In exchange, you receive a t-shirt, free admission to the Coney Island Museum and sideshow performances all summer long, and a seat on the judge stands. I could only assume that a seat on the judge stands meant not having to stand, and a killer view of the parade. At this point in my life, standing for three hours is not something I am able to do without quite a bit of discomfort, and I was not so interested in doing that in a large crowd in the hot sun without guaranteed decent view of the parade. While expensive, the mermaid parade judgeship was worth it to me for that alone. Keith got us the judgeship tickets, and we were excited.

*Tip: to guarantee a judge spot, book your judge membership tickets early. We bought ours in late winter once I had booked my flights.

Keith and his partner Mike were sent an email about a happy hour meet and greet for the mermaid parade judges in May, and they went. They said they had a great time, and reported to me back in Seattle that all the fellow judges they met were really cool and that they were really looking forward to the parade. Apparently, the happy hour included karaoke where the song choices were limited to Ramones and Rolling Stones songs only.

Parade Day:

I made it to New York, we donned sailor outfits, and embarked on the two hour subway journey from Keith’s north Manhattan apartment to Coney Island on parade day.

Coney Island, New York
Coney Island, New York
Coney Island, New York
Coney Island boardwalk, New York
Coney Island Mermaid Parade, New York
Keith and I, Coney Island , New York

Our sailor outfits got a lot of attention. We posed for several pictures for and with strangers. Since we were judges, I thought sailor outfits would be appropriate. There were going to be plenty of lovely mermaids at the parade.

The email communication Keith got a day or two before the parade instructed us to report to the judge stand area at noon (parade started at 1:00). After meandering around the boardwalk for a bit, we reported for duty.

Judge Experience:

Judge stands, Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Judge stands

We were given a program, judge badge, a t-shirt in the size of our choosing, and some other random swag like Swedish Fish and sunglasses. I was glad that we got there to choose our seats before the judge stand was full, because the stands were only partially shaded. I need shade or I’ll burst into flames.

Here are some more perks of being a judge in addition to shade and seating, now that I have had the experience:

  •  Porta-potties for the judge area only (rarely a bathroom line and not far from your seat!)
  •  If you are someone who wants to be up close and get great photos, you are not limited to sitting in the stands. You can walk up to the barrier and get a great front row view in a section only available to judges (no crowding from the general public). We were able to do this as we felt like it, without worrying about losing our spot on the stands or in the barrier area. There was enough room for everyone.
  • Complimentary beer from Coney Island Brewing
  • Complimentary salads and sandwiches. I didn’t get a good look at the food but it seemed that the options were some nice looking BLTs or vegetarian wraps, and salad.
  • Bribing the judges is encouraged. Parade participants often give candy, crafts, booze, and other gifts to the judges. Some handed out individual gifts and some offered bottles of booze or treats that the MC put out for judges to partake in at their leisure.

*Tip: Bring a small bag to carry your t-shirt and mermaid parade souvenirs/bribes.

Our MC donned a judge robe and wig, and announced each parade group as they came down the parade route. We were given a judge sheet on which to write our top three picks for several different categories, including Best Mermaid, Best Sea Creature, Best Motorized Float, Best Musical Group, Best Neptune, etc.

Coney Island Mermaid Parade MC for the judges
Parade MC for the judges, announcing a large, blue parade participant. Not sure what he was supposed to be dressed as.

The participants/groups in the parade all had numbers, but the numbers weren’t always well displayed, and it was hard to keep track of each group. To be honest, I was a pretty terrible judge and was more focused on taking photos and enjoying the parade than remembering to write down various categories.

I think it would be helpful for judges if a list of all the entries for each category were listed on the back of the form with their name/title of the group or costume and the number. Regardless, there were so many good costumes and groups that it was hard to decide.

 

The Parade:

Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Sea anemone costume
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade

The parade started leisurely, and included one marriage proposal in the beginning. It was sweet, she said yes, everyone clapped and cheered, the parade went on.

A bit later in the parade, the MC was trying to get everyone to pick up the pace. A second marriage proposal happened, and the proposer was trying to give a big romantic speech. The MC asked loudly into the microphone if they could propose while walking and to hurry it along. I felt kind of bad for them.

*Pro Tip: If you are a participant in the parade and want to propose to a fellow parade participant during the parade, try to make sure you are towards the beginning of the parade procession.

There eventually was a real wedding during the parade as well, which the MC obviously knew about because he alerted us to it ahead of time and officiated the (very quick) ceremony. It was short and sweet and fun. The groom’s ring was a giant inflatable ring that the bride adorned him with.

Real wedding on a float in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, officiated by the MC
Real wedding on a float in the parade, officiated by the MC

Towards the end there was a third rushed marriage proposal, and a tractor float had a tire roll off of it, breaking down and leaking brake fluid everywhere. The MC ended up having to try and direct everyone around the float and the parade fell apart a bit. Overall though, the parade was a fabulous display of creativity.

Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade
Coney Island Mermaid Parade

Once the parade was over, we turned in our judge ballots and walked towards the beach. The “Mayor” of Coney Island does an official beach ceremony to officially open the beach for the season following the parade, which we didn’t get over to the beach in time to see. The beach was open, and it was super busy. Lines for the beach bathrooms were very long, so we were glad we made use of our private judge stand porta potties before we headed to the beach.

Coney Island Beach
Coney Island Beach

 

Advice for Parade-Goers:

I would absolutely recommend being a judge at the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, especially if you are from out of town like me and want to have a unique experience. If spending the dough isn’t for you, I think you can set up camping chairs along the boardwalk parade route, but you’ll need to arrive pretty early and be prepared for rain or shine (umbrella suggested).

Also note that the subway is very crowded to and from Coney Island right before and after the parade. Lines for metro card machines were also long, so be sure to have your metro card balance up before you go so that you don’t have to use the machine (subway is $2.75 each way).  I would not recommend driving there if you have a car, traffic and parking I’m sure are atrocious.

 

Resources:

Mermaid Parade FAQ

Be a  judge at the next Coney Island Mermaid Parade

Be in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade

 

New York City 2016: A Whirlwind Weekend in Manhattan

New York City 2016: a whirlwind spring weekend in Manhattan. A reunion with long lost friends, riding the Staten Island Ferry, seeing the sights, good food, drinks, and dancing.

 

All of the three times I’ve been to New York City have been quick, whirlwind trips not lasting longer than a weekend, and this trip was no different. This trip was a bit spontaneous, as some long lost friends of mine planned a quick reunion in New York City where our mutual friend Keith lives.

In high school I was an AFS exchange student in Denmark for a year, and while on exchange made some very fast and close friendships with other exchange students in the program from all over the world. With the exception of my good friend Keith, most of us have not seen each other since we parted ways 18 years ago.

Our friend Busi from South Africa was in the states and kicked off the reunion in New York City idea, and when three other friends joined in, I decided I had to go. I was able to stay with Keith in Brooklyn, which helped with expenses (and was a lot more fun than a hotel). Our primary focus was hanging out with each other, but we were able to get out and experience a little of what the Big Apple has to offer.

 

Day 1:

I arrived at 8:00 AM on a very uncomfortable Delta red eye night flight from Seattle, with the tiniest seats, most constricted leg room, and a screaming baby and toddler two rows behind me.

Slightly delirious and ecstatic to exit the plane, I found my way to the air train to Jamaica Station. (The air train goes to two destinations and alternate stops at the terminals. Be sure you get on the one you want). Upon arrival at Jamaica Station, you buy a metro card at the machines when you exit the train. The Sky Train costs $5.00, and subway fare is $2.75 per trip. A new metro card is $1.00. Once you have your card with enough funds to exit the station to the subway trains ($8.75 for a new card), you can swipe it to go through the turnstile and head to the trains.

New York City subway map
New York City subway map

I found the J train towards Brooklyn/Manhattan, and in about 45 minutes made it to Keith’s apartment. I crashed out for a few hours while he was at work.

Once refreshed, it was time to meet up with my friends, who were all arriving in early afternoon. I’ve used the New York City subway before, but not by myself. I found it to be extremely easy with Google Maps app on my phone. Just put in the destination, choose the public transportation option, and calculate your route from your current location. Had I not had a smart phone, it probably would have been significantly more challenging.

New York Subway
rarely empty New York Subway

It took about an hour to get to the Times Square Marriott where most of my friends were staying (there are two Times Square Marriott hotels, by the way, I found that out the hard way). Once we all met up and caught up a bit, I was starving. I wasn’t the only one, so we walked a ways and ended up at the Martinique Cafe in Greeley Square. It was pretty late afternoon, so they had lots of tables available. The lunch menu was pretty average, with burgers, salads, pizzas, and pasta and everyone was able to find something they liked. I had the salmon BLT which was good.

When we finished lunch it was already 5:00, and we wanted to squeeze one touristy thing in that day so we subway towards downtown to see the 9/11 Memorial.

9/11 Memorial New York City
9/11 Memorial
9/11 Memorial New York City
9/11 Memorial

The 9/11 Memorial is comprised of two fountains in the original locations of the Twin Towers. The square fountains are in the footprints of the original towers, with water running down the sides and into a smaller square hole in the middle. Around the edges of the fountains are names of people lost that day. Many trees are planted around the fountains.

The 9/11 Memorial website states that its design “conveys a spirit of hope and renewal,” but that’s not the feeling I got from it. While the trees around it could symbolize renewal and growth, the main focus is two giant black holes with water disappearing to small drain-like holes in the middle. It looked more like two big, black, sad fountains of death with water (often seen as a symbol of life) going down the drain. I suppose that isn’t exactly inappropriate considering the tragedy that the fountains are a relic of, but if the intention was to give a spirit of hope, I think that they missed the mark a little bit.

Design interpretations aside, it was a sobering spectacle seeing the footprints of the towers and remembering the news footage from that day. I can only imagine what it was like to be there at that time.

It was getting late, and Keith was off work. We took the subway uptown to the East Village to meet up with him for a drink.

We found Keith at the Boiler Room, a very dark gay dive bar in the East Village. There wasn’t much light or anywhere to sit, so we decided to move on in search of a good place to have drinks and catch up.

We walked around the corner to the Fish Bar at 237 E 5th St, which had a nice perfect-sized table for all six of us in the corner. The Fish Bar is tiny, and they don’t serve fish, just drinks. There is a fish theme, however.

The Fish Bar in the East Village New York City
The Fish Bar in the East Village
The Fish Bar in the East Village New York City
The Fish Bar in the East Village

There is a big fish mural on the wall, colored lights and hanging lanterns around the bar. It’s casual, ambient, and a fun little spot to have some beers and talk.

The Fish Bar in the East Village New York City
The Fish Bar in the East Village

The East Village is probably my favorite part of Manhattan that I’ve seen so far. There are lots of funky little bars and restaurants, all oozing with character and ambiance.

After several rounds of beers and lots of catching up and reminiscing, it was getting later and time to find some food. We made our way down 2nd Ave and stumbled upon a little tapas restaurant called Bar Virage. They didn’t have enough seating inside, but it was a weirdly warm night for March so we decided to eat al fresco on the sidewalk tables.

The small-plate tapas were perfect, so those of us still semi-full from lunch could get a small bite, and those who were hungry could order a bit more. I had the chicken shwarma sandwich with a side salad, and it was delicious.

Bar Virage in the East Village, New York City
Bar Virage in the East Village

Bar-Virage-New-York-City (1)

Bar Virage in the East Village, New York City
Bar Virage in the East Village
Bar Virage in the East Village, New York City
Chicken shwarma pita sandwich at Bar Virage in the East Village
Bar Virage in the East Village, New York City
Bar Virage in the East Village

We called it a night at 11:00, so that we would have energy for some sightseeing the next day.

new-york-city
Flower shop in the East Village

 

Day 2:

Keith had to go hunting for a new apartment that day, so we made breakfast together and then parted ways. I took the J train from Brooklyn down to the end of the line at Broad Street to meet up with everyone else at the Staten Island ferry terminal. When I exited the subway, I found myself right in front of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street.

New York Stock Exchange
New York Stock Exchange

Wall Street New York City

new-york-stock-exchange-wall-street-new-york-city (4)

We had decided we wanted to be tourists and see the Statue of Liberty, and Keith suggested taking the Staten Island ferry instead of the Statue of Liberty boat. The Staten Island ferry is free, and the Statue of Liberty cruise costs around $18-$21 depending on if you want to climb up to the crown or just stand on the island and look up at Lady Liberty. As I was walking through Battery Park towards the Staten Island ferry terminal, I saw a gigantic line winding through the park to get tickets and another gigantic line to get on the boat. No thanks.

If you aren’t hell bent on going up in the crown or seeing the Statue of Liberty up close and personal, you can get a great view including the Manhattan skyline from the Staten Island ferry, which departs every half hour on the half hour. And it’s FREE.

When we got on the Staten Island ferry, it was clear that everyone else seemed to have the same idea we did. Getting a spot on the outdoor viewing deck on the right side of the boat to see the Statue of Liberty is at a premium. We were able to get a spot.

Staten Island ferry viewing deck
Staten Island ferry viewing deck–snag your spot fast!

You do get a pretty great view of the Statue of Liberty. Not super close up, but good enough for us. The view of Manhattan in the background is great as well.

Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty from Staten Island Ferry
Manhattan from the Staten Island ferry
Manhattan from the Staten Island ferry
Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty

The ferry ride took 30 minutes. You can’t stay on the boat and ride back, you have to exit. Most people seemed to exit and try to get right back on, but we’d never been to Staten Island and were hungry for lunch, so we thought we’d walk around a bit and find a bite to eat.

Staten Island isn’t really set up like a typical touristy island, so there wasn’t a whole lot to see right near the ferry. A couple restaurants were even closed and open only for dinner. We ended up at Steiny’s Pub on Hyatt St. The food was average, and the homemade chips were greasy, but it was a nice little place to hang out with a friendly bartender.

Steiny's Pub Staten Island
Steiny’s Pub Staten Island

On the ferry back to Manhattan, I was able to get a couple good shots of the passing ferry going the opposite direction from the main level front of the boat. There weren’t as many people on the main level, everyone seemed to want to be on the upper decks.

Staten Island Ferry
Staten Island Ferry
Staten Island Ferry
Staten Island Ferry

My friends staying in Times Square wanted to go back to their room to change before we went out to dinner, so we headed back to their hotel to charge phones, chill, and let them change clothes. But first, obligatory cheesy Times Square mini Statue of Liberty tourist pics.

cheesy tourist pic in Times Square
cheesy tourist pic in Times Square
Artist near Times Square
Artist near Times Square

Keith texted us to meet him at Nurse Bettie, a bar on the Lower East Side. Nurse Bettie was a tiny and adorable little bar with a pin-up/burlesque theme to it and a surly bartender playing 80’s goth hits.

Nurse Bettie Bar New York
Nurse Bettie Bar
Nurse Bettie Bar New York
Nurse Bettie Bar
Nurse Bettie Bar New York
Nurse Bettie Bar

After happy hour at Nurse Bettie, we ventured out in search of sustenance. Finding a table for a group of 6 on a Saturday night at  7:00 without a long wait was most likely going to be a tall order, but we got lucky down the street at Sauce, an Italian restaurant where another group of 6 was just finishing up.

Sauce restaurant, Lower East Side New York City
Sauce restaurant, Lower East Side
Sauce restaurant, Lower East Side New York City
Sauce restaurant, Lower East Side

Sauce had nice ambiance, and good service. I had the arugula salad with a simple dressing of salt, olive oil, and lemon with some thin sheets of parmesan cheese laid flat on top, and the porcini mushroom raviolis with truffle oil and brown butter sauce (a special that night). Both were delicious. Everyone else seemed to enjoy their meals as well, although my friend Ginger said the chicken parmesan was a little mediocre.

Arugula salad at Sauce
Arugula salad at Sauce
Sauce restaurant, Lower East Side New York City
Sauce restaurant, Lower East Side

After dinner, we went out in search of another spot for drinks. We wandered uptown and into the karaoke bar Sing Sing on Avenue A, deciding to see what the people at the bar were singing. There wasn’t much singing going on at the bar, mostly in the private karaoke rooms for rent. After my friend Kevin stood at the bar for close to 8 minutes waiting for service and kept getting ignored (it wasn’t even that busy), we decided to move on.

Just a half block down from Sing Sing we came upon the Pyramid Club, which Keith was trying to steer us towards. Pyramid Club is all 80’s, all the time. It was early, but people were starting to trickle in. There was a very random mix of people dancing to some very eclectic 80’s new wave on the main floor, with another dance floor downstairs playing techno. We had no problem getting drinks from the friendly bartender, and danced the night away. As it got later and more packed, the music get less eclectic and the DJ started busting out all the hits. I wound up with a pair of bunny ears. By 1:00 AM, we were exhausted from bustin’ moves to “Billie Jean” and “It’s Raining Men,”  and belting out lyrics with the crowd to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.” It was a cheesy good time.

Pyramid Club New York
Pyramid Club New York
Pyramid club New York City
Outside Pyramid Club after dancing the night away. Complete with photobomber

 

Day 3:

It was all too short of a visit and it was time for me to go home on Sunday. Keith and I slept in a bit and then had breakfast at Little Skips, a hipster coffee shop near his apartment in Brooklyn. He had a grilled cheese sandwich and I had a burly “Philly Bagel” sandwich with lox, tomato, avocado, and cream cheese. It kept me full all morning and afternoon.

Graffiti in Brooklyn
Graffiti in Brooklyn
Graffiti in Brooklyn
Graffiti in Brooklyn
Philly bagel sandwich at Little Skips, Brooklyn
Little Skips, Brooklyn
Philly bagel sandwich at Little Skips, Brooklyn
Philly bagel sandwich at Little Skips, Brooklyn

I flew back on a 2:00 PM direct flight to Seattle on Jet Blue, which is now my favorite airline. If Jet Blue flies to New York from your city, I highly recommend it. So much better than the cramped Delta flight I had on the way over.

There is so much more of New York City I want to see. I left this trip feeling like a pro at the New York City subway system, which I’m pretty happy about. Paddy and I are hoping to get back there next year on the way to Europe. Stay tuned for more of our adventures.

 

New York City 2012

Our weekend in New York City, May 2012: Brooklyn flea markets, an East Village speakeasy, Art galleries in Soho, cannolis in Little Italy, Ground Zero Memorial, and dinner at Les Halles

 

A visit to Keith, one of my oldest and dearest friends in New York City was long overdue. So we decided to stop off in New York  for a weekend visit on our way to Ireland in May 2012.

Keith is a New York native, and the two of us met as American exchange students in Denmark back in 1997. He grew up in upstate New York and now lives in Brooklyn. I had visited him in New York once back in college when we were 19, and we took a couple day trips to NYC during the visit. Being dirt poor college kids who were too young to go to bars and too poor to go to them even if we could, we spent our time in the city visiting all the standard New York tourist attractions: The Empire State Building (with an hour long line to the viewing deck), the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Chinatown, etc.

This time around as an adult, I was looking forward to seeing the real New York City (or as much as we could in two days). Paddy had never been to New York but was perfectly okay bypassing most of the tourist traps and letting our now New York City local tour guide lead the way. Keith gave us the best possible tour anyone could have given us in the short amount of time we had, and left us wanting to return and spend some more time in the future.

Click on any image below to view larger

Day 1:

We flew to New York on Jetblue, which is now our favorite domestic airline. The flight was non-stop, the service was excellent, personal entertainment screens were available and the snacks were unique and delicious. We arrived in the afternoon on Friday, and Keith met us at the JFK subway station to take us back to his place in BedStuy, Brooklyn, only a few minutes away on the subway.

After we were settled and refreshed, we were ready to head into Manhattan to start the evening. Keith took us to the East Village and showed us Japantown, where we poked around in funky punk rock thirft shops and ate some delicious $3.00 falafel gyros from Mamoun’s. I was hoping to go back later that night for round two at the weird and extremely enticing Japadog, but alas we didn’t make it back. Next time.

Joe Strummer mural New York City

Big Gay Ice Cream Shop New York City
Big Gay Ice Cream Shop

We bought some beers at a 7-11 and Keith took us to his work building in Chelsea where we took the elevator to his office and then climbed up the fire escape to the roof. The fire escape ended up being a bit more terrifying than I expected, as you can see right through the steps to the dizzying drop to the alley below.

Fire escape New York City
Fire escape view
fire escape New York City
Yikes!

We hung out and drank beers and looked out at the city. The Empire State Building lit up bright blue in the distance, and roof top water tanks were in our line of sight for miles on top of all the old buildings.

New York City night time rooftop view
Night-time rooftop view in Chelsea
New York City empire state building at night
Night-time rooftop view in Chelsea

After a couple beers we carefully climbed back down the fire escape and walked around the corner to catch a glimpse of the famous Chelsea Hotel, where Sid stabbed Nancy and a whole slew of artists and musicians lived in the 1960’s and 1970’s, including Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, and Leonard Cohen. The hotel was under renovations so we didn’t get the best photos, but I took a few anyway.

Chelsea Hotel, New York

Chelsea Hotel, New York
Chelsea Hotel, New York
Chelsea Hotel, New York
Chelsea Hotel, New York
Chelsea Hotel, New York
Chelsea Hotel, New York
Chelsea Hotel, New York
Chelsea Hotel, New York

Finally, we thought we’d at least take a moment to visit Times Square. I suppose it’s worth a looksie, but we didn’t stay long. It’s a pretty huge tourist trap. Lots of flashing electronic billboards, street performers and people in costumes looking to pose with tourists for photos to get tips, TGI Friday’s, Red Robin, and all that American processed chain restaurant grossness. We stopped for a photo op for approximately 10 minutes.

**Note: When in Times Square, watch (and hold onto) your purse or bag. It’s a common spot for purse thieves and pick pockets to prey on tourists who are dazzled by their surroundings and not paying attention.

Empire State Building
Empire State Building
Times Square
Times Square
Times Square
Times Square
Times Square
Times Square
Times Square
Times Square

We called it a night after that and headed back to Keith’s apartment in Brooklyn.

 

Day 2:

 

Saturday morning, we slept in a bit and then Keith took us to one of his favorite brunch spots in the Ft. Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, Chez Oskar. Delicious eggs benedicts, crepes, and bloody marys.

Brunch at Chez Oskar, Brooklyn
Brunch at Chez Oskar, Brooklyn

After brunch, Keith took us to a nearby flea market where you could find art, furniture, vintage toys and Star Wars collectibles, clothes and random odds and ends.

Brooklyn Flea Market New York
Brooklyn Flea Market

Above: Brooklyn flea market

brownstone apartments in Brooklyn New York City
Typical brownstone apartments in Brooklyn
brownstone apartments in Brooklyn New York City
Typical brownstone apartments in Brooklyn

Next, we hopped on the subway into Manhattan for some sightseeing. I couldn’t help but notice that there seem to be very few fat people in New York. I’m pretty sure that can be attributed to the fact that there are no escalators or elevators in the subways–you have to go up and down multiple sets of stairs to get to the trains, and also to the amount of walking New Yorkers do. Driving and parking anywhere is expensive and ridiculous, so most people walk, take the subway, or take a cab. The subway is an extremely efficient way to get around and trains run very frequently.

First, we walked around the upscale SoHo neighborhood and looked at a couple art galleries and one very fancy expensive guitar store (Paddy had to stop and drool for a minute or two).

SoHo New York City
SoHo
SoHo art gallery New York City
SoHo

After that, we made our way to Little Italy and Chinatown. It was 80 degrees out and we were getting a little hot and tired, so we stopped in for some  refreshments at Cha Cha’s in Little Italy. It’s the kind of kitschy Italian place with celebrity photos on the wall– small, cute, and intimate. I had some refreshing peach sorbetto and Paddy and Keith had some outstanding homemade cannolis.

Cannolis at Cha Chas Little Italy New York
Best cannoli ever
Cannolis at Cha Chas Little Italy New York
Cha Cha’s in Little Italy

Little Italy is almost entirely engulfed by Chinatown these days, but there’s at least a block or two left and it’s worth a visit.

Little Italy New York City
Little Italy
Little Italy New York City New York City
Little Italy
Little Italy New York City New York City
Little Italy
Little Italy New York City New York City
Little Italy

We walked through some of Chinatown too. Interesting place, but we’ve been to a lot of Chinatowns in our lifetime, and they are all pretty much the same. (Side note–the best Chinatowns I’ve ever been to are in San Francisco and Victoria B.C.)

Chinatown, New York City
Chinatown, New York
Chinatown, New York City
Chinatown, New York
Chinatown, New York City
Chinatown, New York
Chinatown, New York City
Chinatown, New York

By this time we were pretty tired and it was time to head back to Keith’s place and freshen up a bit before dinner.

After we’d changed and gussied up a bit, we took the subway down to Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial for a visit before dinner.

The first time I visited New York City with Keith was in 2000, before 9/11 changed the city’s skyline forever and New York was left with a wound so deep that for many it will never fully heal. I was prepared to feel something when I went to the memorial museum, but I wasn’t quite prepared for exactly how choked up I got. What got me the most were the photos and possessions of the firefighters, surviving and dead, giving up their lives or their health that day to try and save their fellow New Yorkers.

New York City twin towers
Me and Keith in 2000, the Twin Towers in the background

 

Ground Zero New York City
The rebuilding at Ground zero
Ground Zero New York City
The rebuilding at Ground zero

 

For dinner I had made an advance reservation at Les Halles, as we are big Anthony Bourdain fans and that was the restaurant he was the head chef at for many years before his career on the Travel Channel. We are also big fans of French food, so we had to try it out. We had the escargot, beet tartare, and pate appetizers, Paddy had the beef bourguignon, Keith had the steak frites, and I had the moules frites in white wine, shallots, and garlic. It was all fantastic.

Dinner at Les Halles New York City
Dinner at Les Halles
Dinner at Les Halles New York City
Dinner at Les Halles: Escargot and Beet Tartare
Dinner at Les Halles New York City
Dinner at Les Halles: Pate
Dinner at Les Halles New York City
Dinner at Les Halles: Keith with Steak Frites
Dinner at Les Halles New York City
Dinner at Les Halles
Dinner at Les Halles New York City
Dinner at Les Halles: Moules Frites
Dinner at Les Halles New York City
Dinner at Les Halles

After dinner, we headed back to the Lower East Side and the East Village to get some drinks. I became aware that I seemed to be the only woman in Manhattan wearing tennis shoes on a Saturday night. Every other lady on the street was limping around in 4-6 inch heels. I pitied their poor feet. The casual, practical Seattlite in me would never be able to conform to New York fashion standards.

The East Village was becoming my favorite neighborhood. Every block had a plethora of tiny, quaint, hole-in-the-wall bars and restaurants you could duck into. New York City in general is the quintessential American cultural melting pot, and you can hear three different languages being spoken in the span of a single block on a regular basis. Buildings are old, the culture is rich, and there is something to see around every corner.

In the Lower East Side, Keith took us to a dark stairwell guarded by a man who for whatever reason approved of us but denied access to some 22 year-olds trying to head down at the same time. We descended the stairs and down a dark, dirty basement corridor to The Back Room, a 1920’s style speakeasy co-owned by actor Tim Robbins. Keith said that they probably denied access to the disappointed kids back on the street due to their age, they like to keep it more of a classy place for people who are a little bit older. Or maybe we were just hot. Who knows. Note: if attempting to get in, go earlier in the evening and dress sharp.

The Back Room Speakeasy New York City
Speakeasy

We were there at 9:00, pretty early for a Saturday night. There were a few people in the bar, which had 1920’s style furniture, decor, and dim lighting. The antique couches were all reserved but the waitress said we were welcome to sit there until the reservation party came in at 10:00, which was nice. (To reserve some couches for you and your friends, you have to pre-order a whole 5th of booze for the table area and/or there is a very high beverage minimum. I can’t remember the amount, but it was somewhere between $500-$1000.) We ordered some very tasty albeit very expensive craft cocktails all served in coffee mugs just like they were during prohibition.

The Back Room Speakeasy New York City
The Back Room
The Back Room Speakeasy New York City
The Back Room
The Back Room Speakeasy New York City
The Back Room
The Back Room Speakeasy New York City
The Back Room
The Back Room Speakeasy New York City
The Back Room
The Back Room Speakeasy New York City
The Back Room

Paddy was investigating a suspicious-looking globe near a book case in the corner when it opened and a security guy told him he couldn’t stand over there or touch the globe. There was clearly a secret entrance to a VIP room back there. I can only imagine how much you have to spend to reserve that for your party.

At 10:00 the reservation parties arrived and we paid our bar tab and moved on.

Keith then took us to one of his favorite spots, The KGB Bar in the East Village. The Bar has a Russian communist theme for whatever reason (there is a lengthy explanation on their website that I didn’t have the patience to read all the way), but the atmosphere was cool and the Russian beers were tasty. There wasn’t anything going on that night but their website mentions poetry readings, open mic nights, and burlesque shows. We stayed there until we were ready to call it a night, talking, drinking Russian beer, and people watching.

The KGB Bar New York City
The KGB Bar
The KGB Bar New York City
The KGB Bar
The KGB Bar New York City
Tasty Russian Beer at The KGB Bar
The KGB Bar New York City
The KGB Bar

 

Day 3:

We woke the next morning very sore from all the walking the day before. Keith wasn’t phased. I think he actually got up and went jogging while we slept in, then came back and made a smoothie. Maybe I should move to New York.

When we were ready to go, we headed over to Williamsburg, Brooklyn and got some brunch at a Mexican restaurant (Sorry, I can’t remember what it was called). After brunch,  we went to another flea market in Williamsburg in a park with a great view of the Manhattan skyline. Keith bought some antique ceiling tiles to hang as art in his apartment.

Williamsburg, Brooklyn New York City
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Williamsburg, Brooklyn New York City
Manhattan view from Williamsburg, Brooklyn

New York City

Williamsburg, Brooklyn New York City
Graffiti in Williamsburg
Williamsburg, Brooklyn New York City
Graffiti in Williamsburg
Williamsburg flea market Brooklyn
Keith with his antique ceiling tiles

We were flying out to Dublin, Ireland that evening so we went back to Keith’s apartment in the afternoon to relax a little and get ready. When it was time to go, we said goodbye to Keith and got on the subway back to JFK airport. What should have been a quick, easy, straight shot to the airport ended up being a long, hot, sweaty, confusing ordeal as they were doing work on the track that day and we were re-directed onto a bus for part of the way in a not-so-great neighborhood. But we made it. Lesson learned though–it’s always good to check the New York subway service advisories.

New York City is an amazing place and we can’t wait to go back for a longer period of time next time. Another friend of mine just moved to Brooklyn as well, so now we have another excuse to visit.