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Transformations are inevitable as cities and people adapt to change, some are wonderfully revitalizing like the new shops and restaurants in the Meatpacking district, others are simply more commercial like the chain stores and tourist traps in Times Square. The changes in Battery Park are less noticeable at first glance, with modern high rises and busy thoroughfares bustling with energy as they always have in lower Manhattan.

One World Trade Center is a reminder of transformations that have occurred here on many levels, not all of them physical. Quality of life depends on how you react to challenges and changes. New York City channeled its grief by building the tallest building in the Western hemisphere, a beacon of life standing high above the skyline.

My last night in New York started with a glass of champagne for $16 at nearby North End Grill.

I wasn’t going to eat the fabulous looking bread,

but when they offered me a plate of a delicate salmon rillette, I had to spread it on something:)

Crisp radishes with coarse salt and an anchovy sauce also arrived before my order

of grilled sardines for $16, so fresh and artfully done that I wished I had more room to try another dish.

Walking over to the Memorial after dinner, the sound of water and the wide open space

were soothing to the senses, easing the transition from past to present.

I rented a place with AirBnB in Chelsea for part of my stay and my wonderful hosts, Kenny and Romeo, made my trip even more fun. The apartment is on the upper floor of this building in the gallery district, with views of the Hudson, and near many bus and subway lines, so getting around town is a breeze. If you prefer to get to your destination directly, the concierge will hail you a cab.

The lobby is sleek and modern,

with a waterfall in front of the elevators,

and even the elevators are designed beautifully.

A 24 hour gym is in the building and there are sitting areas by an outdoor atrium.

My rental was in the middle of the living area, but my host had his own room, so it was like being in a studio apartment.

The toilet is HEATED and has a built in bidet:)

This view of the sun setting over the Hudson is from my bed!

The rental is walking distance (or two stops by bus) from Chelsea Market, so for a quick bite, I went to Mokbar, behind the spice merchant. I was too early for Happy Hour when they have small plates and discounted drinks, but I was so happy to have a place open all afternoon, unlike in Paris when everything closes between lunch and dinner.

I chose the bulgogi rice bowl for $13, which was loaded with grilled crisp beef and vegetables, but I added garlic spinach $2 anyway. It was a big hearty serving and the kimchee was a perfect spicy acidic counterpoint to the rich beef.

I’d never had Tiger beer ($7) from Singapore and was so intrigued by the name I ordered it, and now I think I may actually like a beer enough to order it again! The Gold Medal awarded beer is smooth and rich, a perfect accompaniment to a hearty bowl of beef. The total with tax and tip was about $28, but as I learned in NYC, everything is a bit pricey compared to LA or even Paris. If you’re looking for  a bite of something less expensive, my friend from LA suggests the taco stand directly opposite Mokbar which sells $4 tacos which are as close to West Coast tacos as you’ll find in NYC.

One of the main reasons I rented a place in Chelsea was because a good friend lives in the neighborhood, so the advantage of being a few blocks away from her place meant we could walk to meet each other at a place like Tia Pol. What better way to start off a reunion than with a glass of Cava? This brut was delicious, so we had two 🙂

She recommended the crispy artichoke and asparagus salad for $13 to start, and it was much tastier than it looks; the crisp artichoke added a nice earthy texture to the tender romaine and white asparagus, and the lemon vinaigrette perfectly dressed the salad. One person could easily make a meal of this if they weren’t very hungry.

Since I love anchovies, I got two of the olive, pepper, and anchovy skewers for $2 each, and they were so good, I forgot to take a photo before eating one:)

The lamb skewers with Moorish spices at $7 for two were perfect little bites of flavorful meat.

The crispy marinated fish with lemon for $12 was a bigger plate and we were very happy splitting the plate that would’ve been too much with all the other plates we had ordered.

She wanted the patatas bravas for $8 with a spicy aioli, and I took a bite just for research:)

The classic flan for $6 was a smooth sweet way to end the night.

As night fell on the city, it was time for me to go to bed,

where Romeo was waiting for me 🙂

For authentic Chinese food, the best bet is usually to go to a city’s Chinatown, so while I was in NYC, I went back to a neighborhood that I used to know as a child. Like all of New York, it has changed dramatically and at the same time, pockets of familiarity remain.

The streets are still lined with fruits and vegetables offered for incredibly low prices,

especially for exotic fruit like rambutan and dragon fruit.

Vegetables more familiar to western palates are also a bargain,

as are vast arrays of shellfish,

and roasted meats, ready to eat.

No, I didn’t eat here, but this place shows how the diversity of New York comes together through the common bond of food.

I was craving beef chow fun, a rice noodle dish which just doesn’t taste the same in Paris as it does in the states, so after some research I ended up at Hop Kee. It wasn’t until I was at the subterranean entrance that I realized this was the same place I used to go to when I was a child with my family.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who used to eat here 🙂

When I walked in they immediately started speaking to me in Cantonese and when they saw the blank look on my face, they gave me an English menu. About 3/4 of the diners were Asian and this place only accepts cash, so if you want an authentic local place, this is a good choice. The beef chow fun for $6.50 was a huge plate of tender beef with bean sprouts, greens, and rice noodles. It didn’t need any condiments even though there was an array on the table.

I ordered the sauteed watercress redolent with garlic for $8.95 to go with my noodle dish, even knowing that there was no way I could finish either plate. The beauty of huge portions in the US is there is always a doggie bag option for leftovers, and I took half of both dishes to go after satisfying my craving for Chinese food.

On the border to Chinatown is Little Italy,

and the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn,

so there are plenty of places to walk off your meal 🙂

Chelsea Market is both a place to shop and a place to eat, with temptations galore,

from shops selling every conceivable kitchen gadget,

to wines,

and food, both raw and cooked.

Need spices

or nuts to add to your recipe? No worries, it’s all here.

Freshly made pastas,

shellfish,

sushi appetizers,

chowders,

smoked fish,

or cooked lobsters,

with a side of caviar,

or some fresh fish.

A Japanese television crew was filming a first taste of Maine lobsters as I filmed them 🙂

For sweet lovers, there was cake, gelato, and freshly made donuts.

The hardest choice is where to go next 🙂

A pictorial of the Chelsea neighborhood.

During the day, the views from the High Line, which used to be a highway and is now a long walkway and park, has views of the city and the Hudson.

There are many places to sit and walk above the streets of Manhattan,

and graffiti can be both artistic and profound.

If you prefer, you can stroll street level

or use the ride share bikes

to get to the Chelsea Park and Pier.

There’s a sports complex with golf at one end of the Pier,

and a view of New Jersey across the Hudson River.

Chelsea has an art district where galleries open to the public the first Thursday afternoon and evening of every month with wine (donations appreciated); the area is around 23rd to 25th St at Tenth Ave and galleries stay open until about 9pm.

There’s a Farmer’s market on Saturdays, offering a rainbow of fruits and vegetables for locals.

A tree may grow in Brooklyn, but they grow in Manhattan too 🙂

For me, breakfast always begins with coffee, so I went to Joe for a macchiato to start my morning.

I should have just gotten my caffeine at Donut Plant,

because their cappuccino was the best I had in NYC 🙂

The hand made, natural ingredient donuts were great, from the vanilla yeast,

to the tres leches,

and excellent cinnamon sugar. At about $4 each, they are worth the splurge in both calories and $ 🙂

My friends told me Maison du Macaron had great croissants, as well as macarons,

and other sweets,

but after living in Paris, I found them good, but not great.

I missed real NY bagels ever since I moved to CA decades ago, so I was thrilled to find Brooklyn Bagel, literally next door to my friend’s apartment (she never goes because she prefers croissants)! They have a full deli counter with flavored spreads, sandwiches, soups, and smoked fish.

Yes, they make their bagels on the premises!

The flavored spreads range from scallion and cucumber to smoked salmon and tuna,

but I chose plain cream cheese on an onion bagel,

and enjoyed every wonderfully rich warm bite (they will toast the bagel for you if you ask them). The regular size is easily enough for two, but I “somehow” ate the whole thing 🙂

One of the things I miss most from the US is bacon. Thick cut, chewy, crisp, fatty American bacon is as hard to find in Paris as a Dodo bird (the bacon they sell is either so salty you can’t eat it plain (because it’s meant to flavor a stew), or something akin to Canadian bacon. I went to Trestle for a full American breakfast, with eggs, hashbrowns,  bacon, and toast. I loved that I could get tabasco for my eggs (like finding a Dodo bird egg in France), and that the orange juice was freshly squeezed. It was a $25 breakfast including tax and tip, but for someone who hasn’t had these simple pleasures in years, it was worth the exorbitant price tag.

A brunch breakfast bowl at Cookshop was also pricey at $16 for this plate of kale, spinach, faro wheat berries, feta, hazelnuts, egg, and falafel. It was a hearty bowl but could have used a bit of zing with either spice or acid to perk it up.

A bottle of old Brown Dog Ale was a great accompaniment for $8,

as was the view from the sidewalk patio of the  High Line Hotel.

I ate at Estiatorio Milos in Las Vegas, but their restaurant in New York City was one of the best seafood meals I’ve eaten in the US. Many of the items on the menu are flown in directly from the Mediterranean, and the fresh flavors shone in every dish. It may have “slightly” helped that my eating partner was Greek and spoke to the chef in Greek before our meal:)

The interior decor is a simple wispy white, with a private dining area above the main dining room.

If a chef says, “Let me give you some things to start with”, you should just say “Yes, thank-you” and smile. The first appetizer was a simple crab claw, so fresh, tender, and juicy that we did not even taste the sauce on the side. The olive oil for the bread had freshly snipped oregano leaves in it, which the waiter snipped from the tabletop plant before whisking it away.

The second appetizer was langoustines served with a brandy shot which the chef said should be used to dunk the heads in before sucking out the insides. We did as we were told after eating the ethereal meat from the tail 🙂

The third appetizer was a stack of lightly fried zucchini chips with a wonderful coarse salt and sour cream center which were so addictive we “somehow” finished it.

After THREE appetizers, the chef chose a fresh branzino, already deboned for us. When he asked the simple question of “Did you want the head?”, I was immediately overjoyed. The fish was simply done with capers and parsley, with nothing masking the purity of fresh fish.

A side of greens,

and after the main dish course, there was of course fresh cheese,

and greek yogurt with honey and fruit to finish the meal when you tell the chef that you have no room for dessert 🙂 A bottle of Nichetri wine from Santorini and all this fabulous fresh seafood was over $500 for two with tax and tip, but if you want to taste the best of Greek seafood in the US, it’s still less than the price of airfare….

Circo is across the street from Estiatorio Milos, and is as Italian as Estiatorio is Greek. The Maccioni family’s casual offspring (Sirio is from Le Cirque) has a fun circus atmosphere with seriously old school roots in its menu. A $25 lunch prix fixe menu is a bargain for a midtown restaurant with this kind of quality.

The lunch menu was more than I could eat, so I chose the Cacciucco Alla Livornese, one of their signature dishes, with monkfish, prawns, calamari, octopus, mussels, and clams for $29. It was everything a hearty rustic seafood should should be, with earthy aromas and depth of flavor.

My companion ordered the arugula salad for $14 and added chicken $7, because after the meal at Estiatorio, there was literally no real estate left for more food.

Even though neither of us had room for dessert, a plate of little bites was offered with espresso, a sweet way to start the afternoon.

It doesn’t seem like I’ve been in France that long, but after two years, coming back to the US was a bit of a culture shock. I’d forgotten how it was to live in a place where stores are open everyday, all day!

 Some places, like churches,

schools,

my favorite grocery store,

 and a gym, all looked like they were European (yes, that building is a gym).

 The buildings looked much more modern,

some with gritty character,

others with a more gentrified feel,

 but the huge cars,

parked on top of each other for a rate of about $50 a day,

 big dogs,

 and mounds of garbage, day

 and night, reminded me I wasn’t in Paris anymore.

Rockefeller Center’s ice skating rink,

the esplanade,

and the Christmas tree atop Radio Center Music Hall, all welcomed me back as a tourist in the city where I was born 🙂

London is famous for its fog, and it would be a charming setting if you are not trying to travel into or out of it on a plane. The fog decided to blanket both London and Paris the night before I left for NYC and it wrecked havoc with all flights scheduled to go in or out of airports for days. After hours of delays, misinformation, and redirection by the British Airways staff, I finally got on the last Virgin Atlantic flight of the night to JFK thanks to the splendid LHR agent Louise G. This was my “virgin” flight with Virgin Atlantic and they are now my favorite airline. My seat had goodies waiting for me as I boarded, including an eye mask, toothbrush with toothpaste, pen, earplugs, and slippers in a “feel good kit”, headphones, and a clever blanket which had a cutout so you could slip it over your shoulders without excess material at your neck! This was standard issue in ALL seats, with extras like pj’s in upper class (yes, you get to take the comfy pj’s with you)!

The plane also had an ingenious remote/phone combo which accessed the broad range of inflight entertainment which took six pages to describe in the in flight magazine.

The staff was as cheery and professional as I’ve ever encountered, including one steward who literally climbed up on an armrest to help me get my coat from the overhead compartment because she was as tall (or short) as I am!

I even enjoyed (and watched) the entire safety demonstration because it was so much fun; this scene is about how to properly fasten your seat beat 😉

For an 8 hour flight, there were two meals and two snacks and yes, the flavors were as good as they sounded. The only time I’ve eaten this well on a flight was on Air France’s Business Class, of course Air France had better wine, but then that is a given, non?

Not only was the food fresh and healthy, it actually had flavor!

Arriving at JFK airport, the Airtrain got me from the airport to Jamaica station (where you buy your $5 ticket before exiting), and then I connected to the subway (on the same Metro card, just add a dollar amount of $3 for each ride) which not only runs 24 hours a day, but has technology which updates where you are on the route, as well as the connections and stops along the way! After Rome, this was like being in an altered futuristic universe!

American hotels like the Hilton Midtown may seem small compared to other cities in the US, but by European standards it is huge and full of deluxe features for the price,

like a big TV,

huge shower, and plentiful FLUFFY towels!

The view from the 22nd floor wasn’t bad either!

Coming back in the US after more than 2 years in France, and being back in NYC after more than 20 years, I had certain cravings. Katz’s Deli was made famous in the movie “When Harry Met Sally“, but they are famous to me for their pastrami. There is of course a sign showing you exactly where Sally had what everyone else wanted 😉

Pickles come with every order,

and I urge you to get a knish, which in NYC, is basically a fried bit of delicious mashed potato, either filled with something or plain. This knish was bigger than both my hands:)

Classic fries always go well with a sandwich.

A sandwich is about $20 and sides all cost about $5; this is HALF of a pastrami sandwich, and if you can finish a whole sandwich in one sitting, I bow to your appetite!

The best part of any trip is seeing friends 🙂

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