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Vail Daily travel: Falling for NYC

Caramie Schnell
cschnell@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily
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Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part travel series about New York City. Check back next week to read the second story in the series.

It had been 10 years since I visited New York City, but the city’s electric energy felt very much the same when I visited earlier this month: Utterly intoxicating. My friend Brian and I took the train from Poughkeepsie into the city and stepped into a bustling Grand Central Terminal around 3:30 p.m. on a Sunday. As we made our way to the Park Avenue exit, we looked up and spotted a wedding ceremony being performed atop a staircase overlooking the concourse. An interesting venue, we mused, betting it wasn’t native New Yorkers taking their vows in one of the busiest places in the Big Apple.

Pulling our bags behind us, we hoofed it down Park Avenue to our digs for the night – Hotel Giraffe. The hotel is rated as one of the top five boutique hotels in New York City and we could immediately see why. The contemporary lobby had a very sophisticated feel and our posh room, with stunning black-and-white animal photographs on the wall, a balcony overlooking Park Ave. and a giant comfy bed, felt like an oasis.



We left the hotel and walked to nearby Madison Square Park and ran smack into an open air market – Mad. Sq. Mark’t. I drifted from vendor to vendor, checking out ecobags made from candy wrappers, which reminded me of the gum wrapper bracelets my aunt taught me to make as a child. I bought a pair of earrings wrapped with hand-dyed green silk. We asked one vendor about Eataly, located just across the street, and he told us he couldn’t even get through the door to use the bathroom earlier in the day. I wasn’t about to let that stop us from visiting the 50,000 square foot homage to food. Though it opened in August, the buzz was still firmly in place and indeed we had to wait in line briefly to get in the door.

About six steps into the store, and surrounded by a mob of people, I had a distinct urge to turn around and run. But then I saw aisles of jelly and jams on my right. And mounds of gelato on my left (with a line at least 20-people deep). And an espresso bar. Everywhere I looked, I saw something i wanted to look at longer. Suddenly I understood why journalists who stepped foot inside before me called it “Disneyland for foodies.” It’s much more than a supermarket with (seven!) restaurants, though it is that.



We wandered around the European-style food hall looking at everything from kitchen gadgets like expandable silver trivets you see at MOMA store, to giant containers of Nutela. There were aisles of pasta, all shapes and sizes, like the Pastaio di Gragnano, wide enough to stick my thumbs through, If i wanted. There were people everywhere and while it was chaotic, it was fun, and by the end, I was into it. Though we hadn’t eaten dinner yet, we split tiramisu and an espresso, as a man next to us gushed about the $50,000 espresso machine gurgling before us. I could’ve spent thousands of dollars in that store without even trying, but we got out for around $7. I considered that a feat, but really it was because I was too overwhelmed to do any more damage.

We trekked to two different restaurants – one closed, one with an hour wait – before grabbing dinner at a forgettable Philipino joint with undeserved praise on Yelp.com. But the beer was cold and tasted good after walking a dozen or more blocks. Next we headed to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (307 W. 26th Street) where many a Saturday Night Live performer cut their teeth. The line was so long we thought briefly about bagging it but, in the end, we were glad we didn’t. The laugh-out-loud show, “Asssscat 3000,” was hilarious. Robert Kirkman, author of The Walking Dead comic book, was in the audience (in town for Comic-Con festival) along with some people from AMC, the network that greenlit a pilot of the show and will premiere it tonight. One of the comics and Kirkland bantered back and forth for a bit, and got the audience laughing. We stood in the standing room only section in the back of the room sucking down PBR’s because it was hot and a little stuffy in the crowded room. But it didn’t even matter because we were belly laughing at the group’s on stage antics. It was improv at its best.

Wanting to cram as much into the night as possible, we left at intermission and headed back to Madison Square Park to swing by the Shake Shack (southeast corner of the park, near Madison and East 23rd St.) before it closed at 11 p.m. Tons of people sat at the tables surrounding the silvery eatery, eating hamburgers, fries and of course, frozen custard from the massively popular “shack.” There was no line – something that rarely happens, I’m told – and we sidled up to the window and ordered “The Hopscotch” concrete, vanilla custard rife with toffee chunks, hot caramel sauce and Valrhona chocolate chunks. “I don’t know if we can finish this,” my Brian said about three minutes before we were scraping at the bottom of the cup.



High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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