Tag Archives: Cocktails

An Afternoon on the Edge of Manhattan

Recently my friend Anya visited me for a weekend.  Every trip I try to show her a different neighborhood in Manhattan.  For this visit we picked Harlem and were joined by our friend Beurre.  Our first stop was the Morris-Jumel Mansion, which is the oldest house in Manhattan and technically in Washington Heights/borderline Harlem.

Anya and I at the Morris-Jumel Mansion

George Washington used the Morris-Jumel Mansion as his headquarters during the Revolutionary War.  I last visited the home in middle school and I was excited to see the addition of mannequins in historical costumes.

Cut-out George Washington looks like he's enjoying facebook

Love the historical costumes!

After doing a self-guided tour, we admired the architecture of Sylvan Terrace, which is a block of historic wooden row houses across the street.  All of the homes, with the exception of one holdout, were restored in the 1980’s with Federal funds.

Charming Syvlan Terrace

We walked from Sylvan Terrace to our first official stop in Harlem, the City College of New York (CCNY) campus.  CCNY was the first public institution of higher education in the United States and the school’s Collegiate Gothic campus is GORGEOUS.  The campus is 35 acres and runs from 130th Street to 141st Street.

City College campus is very reminiscent of the Ivies and Seven Sister schools.

We continued our walk to 125th Street, which is the most famous street in Harlem.  There are a lot of large stores on 125th Street and some signs of gentrification (MAC makeup, H&M).  We stopped at the Apollo Theater, where an informal memorial wall was set up outside for Whitney Houston.

Beurre and Anya in front of the Apollo Theater and Whitney Houston memorial wall

125th Street (Hotel Theresa was Fidel's lodging of choice on his 1960 visit to NYC, but it's now an office and school building).

By this time Anya, Beurre, and I were ready for a pick-me-up, so we headed to Patisseries des Ambassades, which is a West African/French bakery and café on 119th Street.  They had tons of delicious looking French pastries.  I asked the waitress what was the most popular (always a good way to go when you are indecisive/everything looks appealing) and she said the almond croissants, but they were sold out.  Instead I ordered a latte and chocolate almond croissant and it was the best (and also the only) chocolate almond croissant I’ve ever had (this sets a low standard, but still it was outstanding!).

Latte art at Patisserie Des Ambassades

After coffee we walked around Lenox Avenue where we passed many beautiful brownstones, the historic Lenox Lounge Bar, and other impressive architecture.  Unfortunately it started raining, so I didn’t take any photos.  We stopped at Swing Concept Shop, which was a very cute boutique with dear prices.  We were planning on checking out more boutiques, but it began POURING, so we headed to the Red Rooster for cocktails.  For those of you not in the know, the Red Rooster is a soul food restaurant owned by the acclaimed Swedish-Ethiopian chef Marcus Samuelsson (formerly the executive chef at Acquavit).  As the site of a $30,800 per plate Obama fundraiser last year, it’s probably the trendiest restaurant in Harlem.  I read online that it’s impossible to get dinner reservations and since I’m not a big soul food fan anyway, I was happy just getting drinks there.  I LOVED the atmosphere!  The décor was lovely and it nice to see such a diverse crowd.  I also greatly enjoyed my drink (the Savoy = vodka, lemon, muddled grapes, agave), which tasted very refreshing.

Relaxing at the Red Rooster

Following cocktails we headed back downtown to change for dinner, but we were all in agreement that we want to go back to Harlem on Anya’s next NYC trip.  Hopefully it will feature better weather!  Even though I don’t love soul food, I liked the Red Rooster so much that I am now curious to try the food.  You might see it in another post soon!

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“Let Them Eat Cake!” – Day Trip to Versailles

For our third day in France, we ventured outside Paris to a destination a mere 35 minutes away: VERSAILLES!  This was my fourth time visiting Versailles, but it was still one of my favorite days of the trip and I saw several sites I hadn’t seen before.  We took the RER train and then walked about fifteen minutes through the cute town of Versailles to reach the chateau.  After waiting on a long line, we bought “passport” tickets, which gave us access to all of the buildings on the property for 18 Euros.

Versailles (notice the well camouflaged construction on the right)

We started at the main chateau.  The king and queen’s private apartments are only accessible by guided tour, but the passport ticket allowed us to walk through numerous staterooms and the king and queen’s magnificent bedrooms.  We opted against the guided tour because we wanted to visit other properties on the estate.

the King's Bedroom

the Queen's Bedroom

gold gilding galore!

the Hall of Mirrors

After touring the chateau, we had a nondescript lunch in the cafeteria and then bought tickets for the trolley to tour the rest of the estate.  It would have been nice to walk from building to building and enjoy the gardens, but the weather was rainy and cold at that point.

Gardens at Versailles

Gardens and ominous clouds

Our first stop was the Grand Trianon, which is a smaller chateau on the estate that was built by Louis XIV for his mistress.  This was one of my favorite stops, since there was a fashion exhibit in the space, co-sponsored by Versailles and the Musée Galliera (a fashion museum in Paris).  Throughout the beautifully decorated palace, mannequins wearing clothes by avant garde designers like Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen were juxtaposed next to the 18th century wears that inspired them.  Unfortunately no photography was allowed inside, so I couldn’t capture the cool exhibit.

the (pink) Grand Trianon

After the Grand Trianon, we took the trolley to the Petit Trianon, which is another chateau on the property.  Louis XV built the Petit Trianon for his mistress, Madame de Pompadour.  Louis XVI later gave the Petit Trianon to Marie Antoinette, who went there to escape the “pressures” of court life.  The house was less ornate than the main chateau, but closer to how I would personally want to decorate my home.  We were excited to see an outpost of Angelina’s tea house and ordered two cups of the famous hot chocolate (there were also outposts of Laduree and Angelina’s at the main chateau, which I don’t remember seeing on past visits).  By that point it had stopped raining so we enjoyed the hot chocolate on the terrace outside.  It was a nice pick-me-up, but was a little too pudding-like to get my vote for best French hot chocolate.

Temple of Venus in the Petit Trianon's gardens

Following Angelina’s, we walked through the gardens adjacent to the Petit Trianon and reached the Hameau de la Reine (Queen’s Hamlet).  Despite having been to Versailles multiple times, I had never been to the Hameau before because it only opened to the public in the early 2000s and it’s a bit of a walk from the main chateau.  The Hameau is now my favorite part of the estate!  The Hameau consists of twelve farmhouses that were built for Marie Antoinette, who enjoyed dressing up and pretending to be a farmer in her leisure time (though a real farmer’s family maintained the working farm at that time).  Today the Hameau is an animal refuge and petting zoo.  It’s also the most bucolic and serene place I’ve ever seen!  The only thing that disappointed me was that the buildings weren’t open to the public.

Hameau de la Reine (the bell tower is so picturesque, it looks Disneyfied!)

One of many cute little farmhouses

the Queen's House

Animals!

More animals and charming buildings

The last trolley stop was the canal, but we didn’t get off because we were tired and it was late.  When we arrived back in Paris, we selected Bistrot Victoires for dinner, aptly described in my Time Out guide as a traditional French brasserie with budget prices.  I ordered steak tartar, which came with the traditional accompaniment of French fries.  I don’t order fries a lot for health reasons, but they were delicious!

Steak tartare and condiments

After dinner we went for a nightcap at the Café de la Paix, which is a historic café (c. 1862) located across from the famous Palais Garnier Opera House.  I ordered kir, a traditional French aperitif consisting of crème de cassis(blackcurrant liqueur) and white wine.  The prices at Café de la Paix were dear, but well worth it for the opulent atmosphere (and one drink never broke the bank!).

Sitting outside the Palais Garnier Opera House, one of the most beautiful buildings in Paris!

Café de la Paix

Frescoes, stucco, and gold gilding decorate the interior of Café de la Paix

Please check back on Friday for day 4 of my Paris series, in which I visit my favorite neighborhood, the Marais!

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