Neighborhood Tours: Morningside Heights

Friday, July 26, 2013

Of course, I saved the best for last.  One Manhattan neighborhood in particular stands out as the most memorable, most life-changing of them all... the one I called home for two years (and will always believe is home for all the years to come).  Trust's worth the 1 Train trek to 116th Street/Columbia University.  

Ah, Morningside Heights.  The neighborhood is this glorious mix of a real life Gossip Girl and tourists at the Seinfeld diner.  Don't you just love New York like that?  

Seriously though...  If you must, go and take your photo.  But do not, I repeat, do not eat there.  Worst meal of my whole life.  At any given time of day or night you can find at least three drunk college girls there crying to their friends about something, as well as a handful of tourists outside on a sightseeing spree.  Instead, let your first stop be Hungarian Pastry Shop at 111th and Amsterdam.  Go early and get the chocolate croissant before they run out.  Or go late at night for coffee and dessert.  Either way, it's delicious.

You should take your Hungarian Pastry Shop treats across the street to the garden at St. John the Divine.  There's a dispute over whether this is the world's largest cathedral, and it just happens to be in my neighborhood.  But the gardens are beautiful and the church is even better.  Take a stroll inside after  breakfast.

Also, it's right near the hospital where I spent oh so many nights.  If ever I was leaving St. Luke's around breakfast time, I considered it a sign from God to go to Hungarian Pastry Shop on the way home.  If you need a hospital in New York, I can put in a good word for you.  They love me there.  But if I'm going to go with you for moral support, it will cost exactly one month's Upper West Side rent.

No matter the season, Morningside Heights has a fantastic farmer's market every single Thursday and Sunday, rain or shine or blizzard or heat wave.  It's right in front of Columbia University at 116th street on Broadway.  From Christmas trees to summer flowers, it's just the best.  Check out the maple cotton candy, hot apple cider, muffin stand, and homemade granola.

Now, speaking of Columbia University, definitely check it out.  You can't access campus buildings without a student ID, but just the walk through campus is gorgeous.  While you're there, check out Joe's coffee on the second floor of the building on the southeast corner of 120th and Broadway (conveniently referred to as Northwest Library...cause why not?).  Best coffee in New York City.  

If you're in Morningside Heights, you might as well make the trek to the Cloisters.  The Cloisters is as far north as you can go and still be in Manhattan, way into Washington Heights.  It's a commitment for sure, but is a beautiful little treasure of a Renaissance museum in the equally fantastic Fort Tyron park (of course, they have a Renaissance fair).  The Cloisters looks like it used to be a monastery...but really it's all thanks to Rockefeller money.  Just take the M4 bus right at Columbia's gates to the very last stop.  

Best part of living in Morningside Heights?  Other than the feeling of getting back to good old quiet home after a crazy day downtown, it's the food of course.  Well, actually, you could probably find more gourmet restaurants elsewhere in Manhattan, but it's home you know?  The places I ate every day.  Here's a quick rundown...

In the mood for a salad or sandwich?  Milano Market at 112th and Broadway...

Best brunch in Manhattan, which also happens to be vegan/veggie friendly?  Community Food & Juice at 114th and Broadway.  Go for the eggs benedict with regular bacon instead of canadian bacon.  Not so vegan friendly, but who cares.

Casual burger, fries and shake?  Mel's Burger Bar, of course.  This one (at 110th and Broadway) was our go-to Friday night.

Bad Mexican food that still hits the spot for a TexMex girl?  Blockheads Burritos at 106th and Amsterdam.  Really, it's probably not that good.  Loveable though.

Bar food done really well?  Amsterdam at 119th and Amsterdam.  Best nachos in New York City.  Not something you would make a special trip to the neighborhood for, but I've never ever had bad food there. If you look closely, you'll see that many of my NYC friends photos look suspiciously like Amsterdam cafe.  Seriously, those nachos...

My favorite?  Max Soha, of course.  Located at 123rd and Amsterdam, this entire restaurant is the size of my current living room.  Ten table restaurants are the best part about New York City.  Amazing fresh pasta.  Try the carbonara.  Or the ravioli special.  Or one of everything.

Hungry yet?  And sometimes, if you're very lucky, they film a Justin Timberlake movie right on your block.  Care to time travel a bit while you're in New York?  Just head to Morningside Heights...

And, well, it's just that Morningside Heights looks like this...

...just like home.


I wish I could look outside of my 1300+ square foot condo and see the New York City skyline.  Not that I could see it from my apartment window in Manhattan, but in my mind I definitely could.  With three weeks down in Kansas, I can honestly say that I've never loved a job like I love this one.  They are such great people.  But more often than not, I leave work for the day and am a little surprised to find wide open sky and bunches of trees and a car waiting for me in a parking lot at the bottom of the hill.  I have more cable channels than I could possible ever watch and a whole room just for laundry.  Fourteen windows and a garage for that car that's not quite like the subway.  Still, it's really quiet.  And I miss my city.

Why can't I have the job and my family two hours away and this apartment on the Upper West Side?  (Um, because I don't have $10 million dollars, but that's a different issue.)  You know, with a handsome Jesus-loving man to have dinner with every night and one of those royal babies.  (Come on, that kid is cute.)

I mean, all I every really wanted was everything.

Big City Living

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The thing about New York is this...

It's all about have the opportunity to do the most amazing, unrealistic things in the world on a daily basis, regardless of whether you actually do them.  Only a New Yorker (one who has actually lived there) will completely understand, but it's the beauty of living on that tiny little island on the Eastern Seaboard.  Stay in bed all weekend?  No problem.  You still had the option to do pretty much anything imaginable.  In the mood for a movie?  Might as well go to a Broadway show instead.  Need to just relax and read a book?  Probably going to do it in Central Park.  Behind on your workout routine?  Take a run on your regular route...down the West Side Highway looking at the Manhattan skyline.  Want sushi for dinner?  Head to Morimoto.  Date night?  Sunset sail around the Statue of Liberty.  You get the idea.  Don't even care that you think I'm bragging.  Because, really, I'm not.  It's just life in New York.

And better than you ever dream it could be.

A Week In Kansas

Monday, July 15, 2013

Just a few snapshots of my first week in Kansas.  This pretty much sums it all up...

It's too way quiet for sleeping and the people are so nice it freaks me out.  Other than not being able to walk anywhere other than a Walmart, so far so good.  I guess I'll stick around Kansas just a little bit longer.

Make a Friend

Sunday, July 14, 2013

People.  This is actually happening at the University of Kansas soon.  I am so excited.  I may or may not have a team of fabulous student interns spending their days writing random funny questions on red and blue balls.  It's a student affairs nerd's greatest dream.

You're kind of jealous, right?  That, or a little concerned about how much money I spent on school to do a job that involves a ball pit.  Either way.  Student affairs and preschool are not all that different sometimes.  Feel free to visit me at work and join in the awesomeness.

Home Sweet Kansas

Seriously, is this road trip ever going to end?  Before setting out on our cross country adventure, Baby Sister and I made a little deal with Just Matt.  This short version of this deal was that if we simply couldn't make it any further, he would just come get us.  I'm not sure Just Matt agreed to the terms of the deal, but Baby Sister and I definitely did agree.  Well folks, we called for our Just Matt ride from St. Louis.  If you need to know why, please refer to earlier posts involving bomb scares, West Virginia, American Girl, Restaurant Impossible, major storms, and the Russian mafia.  You see, it wasn't so much the driving that bothered us...the driving was actually not bad at was just all the strange stuff that happened along the way and pushed us past the point of delirious.  (And no, Just Matt did not actually have to come get us.)

Luckily, we got our beauty sleep at the St. Louis Ritz Carlton.  And let me tell you, it was worth every penny of the money I didn't pay.  Thank you, travel reward points, for our hotel and Baby Sister's plane ticket.  The events of last year are finally starting to pay off.

So day three.  After finding this cute little local bakery, we trekked to the arch for a not so rainy view of the landmark.   Turns out that when you get to the arch, there's not a lot to do other than stare up at it for a few seconds.  We were definitely not actually going up inside that thing.  Crazy talk.

Besides, Kansas was waiting.  I'm not sure Baby Sister had ever been so excited.  She was kind of ready to get home, I think...missed her husband and her dog.  We properly stopped at the first Quick Trip we saw, then attempted to relive some childhood memories at a throwback Stuckey's truck stop from the good old days.  Turns out the rest of them went out of business for a reason.  But before we could get Baby Sister home to Wichita, we had to make one little stop in Lawrence to check out my yet-to-be-seen new home.

All that sky really freaks me out.  I'm not used to unoccupied land that is not Central Park.  But we found the perfect way to end our great American road trip, with an all-American small town softball game and a sweet pup that missed his girl.

Road trip with Baby Sister?  Absolutely the best birthday present I could have ever received.  And after driving 1600 miles from my front door to her's, I love that my new front door is exactly 160 miles away.  She's just my favorite thing of all the things.

My Old Kentucky Home

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Oh, the road trip.  Or as we lovingly referred to it...Donuts Across America.  It's true people.  So many donuts.  Now, if you're counting, so far the trip has included Magnolia Bakery cinnamon sugar donut muffins, mini doughnuts from Chelsea Market's Doughnuttery, and half a dozen Doughnut Plant treats.  So obviously we couldn't break tradition now.  After the 14 hour Pennsylvania/West Virginia day, we weren't quite ready to leave our cozy Columbus, Ohio hotel room.  But Buckeye Donuts at The Ohio State University awaited.  It's open 24 hours...cause you never know when you might need a donut.

But people...bigger things were waiting for our day.  Triple Crown Kentucky Derby kinds of things.  And if you're not familiar, those are the best things of all.  Three short hours from Columbus came Louisville, my first hometown.  It's where I got my start.  First stop?  Plehn's Bakery, the Chief's favorite, for Triple Crown pie and cheese straws.  

Next up?  My first house.  Look how cute it is.  Baby Sister and I discovered that it's at the corner of Wallace and Willis.  Obviously, those are our new nicknames.  Don't they sound like old school newspaper reporters?

Let's be honest.  There was one and only real reason for our Louisville detour.  And it involved going to the race track instead of going to church that beautiful Sunday morning.  Don't judge.  You're secretly jealous.

Now, in addition to horse racing (and betting), the highlight of our Churchill Downs time was absolutely the Kentucky Derby museum.  It was spectacular.  We tried on hats, dressed up like jockeys, played Derby trivia, and designed our own silks.  Not too surprisingly, we knew way more about the Derby than the 18 year old frat boy tour guide.  

I know, I know.  You just can't get over how cool we are.  We can't help it.  One last stop on the way out of Louisville, just to see what all the fuss was about...

Did you know there are a lot of bridges out there in America?  Lots of rivers too.  All but one of our state line crossings were over a river.  With Ohio and Kentucky down for the day, we were off to Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri.

Twenty minute outside of St. Louis, our lovely little road trip day turned to a full out tornado kind of day.  Baby Sister drove through total blackness, horrible rain, and major flooding highways.  By the time we finally reached the Illinois/Missouri state line (also on a very big bridge), we looked down to see that the bridge was actually crumbling away from the heavy rain.  Let me tell you, that's just such a warm and fuzzy feeling to experience.  We could just barely make out the outline of the Arch a few feet away.  So far, not loving St. Louis.

Safely on the Missouri side of St. Louis, we headed straight to The Hill.  Now, everyone told us that The Hill was the place to be in St. Louis.  Old school Little Italy with a St. Louis spin.  What we found, however, was super sketchy.  After crossing the tracks in the thunderstorm, we arrived at a kind of random neighborhood with a few restaurants.  Mama's on the Hill was one of the few open, and with a packed house and an hour-long wait we assumed it was good.  Until we overheard the wait staff talking about how they filmed Restaurant Impossible two days earlier.  You know the one...Robert Irvine transforms a failing restaurant into a still failing but not quite so bad restaurant.  Just add it to our list of strange occurrences from the road trip.  That, and the Russian mafia doing the tango in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton when we checked in for the night. don't all stay at the Ritz Carlton on your road trips?