Friday, February 20, 2015

NYC Welcomes Us (with Bitter Cold Temps and Gasp-Inducing Prices)!

February 20, 2015
New York, NY

Baby, it's cold outside!!
Today is the day (finally!) that we pack up and prepare to move out of the hotel we've been calling home for the past 10 days.  I thought I'd use these quiet moments of the final calm-before-the-storm that has been our relocation process to reflect on our transition to New York City.  

Yesterday, we got the call from our Nestle relocation-hired moving truck driver, crazy-Gabe-from-Hungary, saying that he was in Cincinnati and expected to be in Manhattan on Saturday.  That's tomorrow!  His most recent ETA was for this coming Monday so he is ahead of schedule - this was very good news, indeed!

Our stay at the Springhill Suites in Midtown has been reasonably comfortable and pleasant, after the initial challenge of squeezing the contents of four suitcases and a giant duffle bag into a Manhattan hotel room. It required a little shifting of furniture and relocation of contents ("ok, so where can we possibly stick the ice bucket???"), but we managed and have been living in peace and harmony since our arrival last week.  That said, I am very excited to be moving into our new apartment tomorrow!  

It has been a strange ten days, to say the least.  Not tourists, but not true residents, living without all of our belongings and without a kitchen to stock, we filled our initial days with a combination of practical and necessary activities and fun, touristy, new-resident diversions. Doing much of anything proved challenging, as the entire east coast has been experiencing near-record cold temperatures since our arrival on February 11th.  It's been bitter cold, to put it mildly. 

In our room, preparing to leave the hotel
Reminiscent of our Christmas holiday trip to Korea a couple of years ago, the outdoor temperatures are so low that even indoors, many places are quite chilly.  I have typically been very comfortable wearing my coat inside.  

Enjoying a lunch of hot soup from Hale & Hearty in the Grand Central Station Dining Concourse.
In fact, I am typing this in the lobby of the hotel, while I wait for our room to be made up, and can feel my fingers turning stiff and numb, it is so cold even inside (and despite my layers, heavy sweater and SmartWool socks).  I am really wishing I wore my coat down here! We prepared for the chilly northern temps as much as possible, bringing all the winter gear we could manged on the plane, but this former Michigander-turned-true-Californian is having a hard time coping and adjusting to this severe winter weather.  Wish me luck. Please.

After an uneventful flight on Virgin America, we started off life in our new hometown on a great foot (despite the cold), stumbling across a wonderful little Italian place, thanks to Scott and Yelp, for our very first meal as NYC residents.  Upon checking into the hotel and getting organized, we strolled over to the charming Hell's Kitchen restaurant Tavola.  The place was bustling at about 8pm but we were seated quickly towards one end of the long communal table that runs almost the length of the cozy dining room.  We shared a few small plates - a roasted beet salad, wild boar and veal meatballs (amazing!!) and a black seafood risotto - and a main of a chicken piccata-like dish with artichokes, all washed down with a very drinkable Montepulciano.  All the food was very good, the service attentive and unpretentious and the atmosphere warm (both literally and figuratively!). We vowed to return and already I can't wait!

Still salivating over the memory of the boar and veal meatballs from this Hell's Kitchen eatery!
During our extended hotel stay, we've continued our theme of eating and drinking and spending too much money on an almost-daily basis and while not fool-proof (a certain Irish pub whose name I can't recall, luckily for them, is testament to this), have found it quite easy to find very tasty food.  In fact, I have already begun a list of restaurants to which we desire to return!

Scott had our first five days here in town off of work and on our first day here, Scott, always on the ball as he is, walked over to the DMV, applied for his New York State driver's licence and returned to the hotel all before I managed to take a shower!  Needless to say, I have yet to pay my own visit to the DMV... 

That afternoon, after picking up the keys and doing a walk through at our new apartment, we wandered over to the new World Trade Center building and the now-completed 9/11 Memorial fountain.  

Trying to stay warm at the World Trade Center 9/11 Memorial
The memorial was little more than a giant hole in the ground the last time we were here in 2006 and it is a beautiful tribute.  

9/11 Memorial
This was followed by the less fun excursions of shopping for ties and spending an hour-and-a-half in the largest store on earth, as the 34th St. Macy's store sign proclaims (or something like that anyway) - and I believe it - searching for a warm, wool topcoat for Scott (in a 36 short - no small feat in this town) that he can wear over his suits to work. It has since become his everyday coat, as it is by far his warmest outerwear.  I only wish I had one too!

I had wanted to go ice skating in Bryant Park, near Macy's, but it was just too darn cooooold!!!
We have not seen any friends since our move (although we shared a lovely dinner out with former-SF friends Kris and Jessica, while on our our apartment-hunting trip a few weeks back).  However, the day before Valentine's Day, we had the amazing good fortune to cross paths with my dad and step-mom, Steve and Lucia, while they were in the city for Lucia's radiation treatments at Sloan Kettering.  Scott found an adorable French bistro called Sel et Poivre, located on the Upper East Side, convenient to the hospital, where we shared a leisurely three-course prix fixe lunch filled with entertaining tales of food and travel. Everyone was in excellent spirits, despite the cold weather and circumstances that made the visit possible, and it provided Scott and me with a much-needed break from the logistical planning and practical matters that had been filling our time and our minds since our arrival.  It was absolutely wonderful to see both Steve and Lucia and was definitely the kind of afternoon that memories are made of!

At Sel et Poivre
We tried to use Scott's limited time off from work wisely but it was just so cold that we didn't see or do as much as either of us would have liked, even spending one of the coldest days in our hotel room simply reading, napping and planning our new life together.  The cold, combined with lingering jet lag had exhausted me and we left the hotel on Sunday only to grab dinner at Reichenbach Hall, the outstanding and well-priced German beer hall located right on the same block as the Springhill Suites.  

The jagerschnitzel, sauerkraut, potato salad and picked beets were all positively superb at Reichenbach Hall!
We did take the subway down to the East Village, the preceding day (which was Valentine's Day, incidentally), where we stopped in at the famous Strand bookstore and took in a matinee (Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon).  

At Grand Central Station, taking our first subway ride as residents
Hoping to avoid the Valentine's Day dinner crowds, we had an early dinner at The Smith, a trendy NYU-area eatery across from the movie theater.  We arrived at the restaurant at about 4 pm to find the large, spacious, design-conscious dining room packed with youthful, boozy brunchers, eating giant plates of eggs and French toast and who were probably just waking up as we were in the middle of watching a movie.  The food was good but the scene was a bit much for these middle-agers and I doubt we will return there anytime soon.

On Scott's final day of 'vacation' we decided to take advantage of the President's Day sales and headed over to Sleepy's on Fifth.  It was one of the colder days we'd experienced thus far but luckily this popular mattress chain has a showroom just a block from our hotel and so off we went!  We spent an unsatisfying hour-plus lying on three mattresses over and over again, in an attempt to make a decision.  We couldn't agree.  Scott let me 'win' since I am the one whose back hurts on our current mattress.  It was an hour (and $1,300) I'll never get back.  Oh, and did I mention that it was freezing in the showroom? Delivery is on Wednesday.

After the mattress ordeal, we decided to do something fun.  We headed down to Chelsea to check out the Rubin Museum.  We weren't quite ready to tackle the Met or other large museum and it sounded small and manageable. Other than that, I didn't really know anything about it.  As it turns out, it is full of Asian art, largely small, intricate paintings, arranged in series, of ancient yoga positions.  It was one of the least interesting museums I have ever seen.  I guess I am just not an Asian art lover. Or a fan of tantric yoga. So sue me.  However, as luck would have it, we happened to be there during the Marc Riboud photography exhibit.  The photographs, taken by this French photographer while on a three-year jaunt to Asia in the mid- to late-1950s, were absolutely wonderful!  This exhibit and the fact that the building was the warmest public place we'd been in days were the saving graces of this visit.  I highly recommend seeing this exhibit if it happens to be in a city near you. 

Our first five days passed quickly in a blur of cold and overwhelmed confusion (at least for me!) and before we knew it, Scott was ironing his shirts, suits and ties that he had packed along, in preparation to head off to his new job at Nespresso.  With Scott at work, my days began to revolve around a daily walk to the apartment, dropping a few things off in order to lighten the load, picking up mail, doing a load of laundry (which involved discovering a broken washing machine and "supervising" subsequent repairs) and scouting out the local grocery options, most of which induced a severe case of sticker shock and moderate depression.  I also returned to the giant Macy's near Times Square and the nearby DSW to search in vain for warm winter boots. I don't think I will ever ever be a fan of shopping at that crazy monstrosity of a department store.  And apparently all the winter boots have been bought up, now that it is almost March.  Oh well.  Money saved!!

During Scott's working hours, my time in the hotel has been spent fighting the crowds in the barely-heated breakfast room off the lobby for my daily tea and frosted flakes, whining about the cold on Facebook, posting photos of said cold, engaging in Facebook threads about where to buy things here in NYC that might be vaguely affordable, catching up on Season 5 of Parenthood on Netflix (so sad it is over!; now I have to wait for Season 6 to come out on Netflix, but at least the new season of House of Cards is coming soon!) and ordering online lots of stock-up items that we could not move.  Prior to our departure, due to moving company regulations and the fact that we were arriving in New York via air, we had to throw out hundreds of dollars worth of cleaning supplies, refrigerated food, pantry staples and alcohol.  Now I am engaging in the fun task of spending hundred more dollars to re-purchase many of these items for our new home.  Thank goodness for that Nestle relocation package lump-sum is all I can say about that!!

Moving day is tomorrow and I anticipate it with equal parts excitement (to have a permanent home) and nervousness (about being able to fit all of our belongings into said home).  Wish us luck and stay tuned for more tales of Scott and Caroline in NYC!

More photos:
Bye bye San Francisco!  We'll miss you!
Getting excited to land in our new hometown (well, actually Newark)!
New York fashion: men in flamboyant faux fur coats
The communal table at Tavola
The new World Trade Center
Scott show his Oaklandish pride at Bryant Park (but is mostly just happy to have a warm hat to wear!)

The view from our hotel room.  It was 6 degrees out when I took this photo and these guys were out there working!

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