I visited New York City a few months ago and afterwards wrote about my perfect weekend. And it was perfect, filled with long aimless walks through the Village and meals shared with old friends, many of whom I hadn’t seen since before moving to Shanghai. I was able to reconnect with the city I used to call home. The only downside to all this was that I barely saw my husband. I dashed off to brunch with girlfriends while he did his own thing, and when my husband and I were together, we were always surrounded by other people, whom we love greatly.
Normally on our Manhattan visits, we stay with a dear and generous friend. When I mentioned the dates we planned to come up, she said she might be out of town. Immediately the wheels in my head started to turn. Wouldn’t it be romantic if we stayed in a hotel? Wouldn’t it be special if we sought out the places and experiences that were most meaningful to us? What if we spent the weekend seeking out foods from the region of the world we’re moving to? An idea was born!
Thanks to steep off-season discounts and a lot of luck, we managed to score a room at the Park Lane Hotel with an incredible view of Central Park, my favorite part of the city. We could literally see into the windows of the Plaza Hotel, just a few doors down. How on earth did we get here? Even the hotel clerk who checked us in seemed amazed that we got the room we did for the rate we paid, which included breakfast.
Every morning, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the hotel’s dining room, with white tablecloth service and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Central Park. There was fresh fruit and pastries, artisan butter disks imprinted with the Park Lane logo and tea served in sterling silver pots. A girl could get used to this!
After breakfast, we strolled through Central Park, enjoying rare moments of solitude and reveling in the stark wintry landscape. One morning a heavy sleet began soon after we set off and it quickly accumulated, dampening the sounds and weighing down our umbrellas. Aside from a few other hearty souls, we were the only ones out. But rather than hop in a taxi, we pulled up our collars and soldiered on, all the way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, some two dozen blocks from where we started.
We arrived at the Met just as it opened and were amazed to find so few people inside on a Saturday. We wandered through the Greek and Roman sculpture wing, reminiscing about our time in Athens and dreaming up plans to go to Rome. Hopping continents, we marveled at the Egyptian mummies and reconstructed ruins before soaking up the colorful brushstrokes of the French Impressionists.
We spent hours in the Strand bookstore, browsing through the stacks and buying more than we could comfortably carry. We walked past Radio City Music Hall, whose pink neon lights looked romantic in the misty evening light, watched the skaters at Rockefeller Center and gazed in wonder at the marvelous creations inside the Lego store.
Times Square may not seem especially romantic, with the heaving crowds and pushy touts, but the dazzling lights never fail to impress me. Every time I stand on the corner of Broadway and 46th Street, I’m reminded of the weekend I first moved to Manhattan, full of youthful dreams and ready to prove that if I could make it there, I could, in fact, make it anywhere. (Thank you, Mr. Sinatra!)
We rode the subway, reliving our city experience of years past, and walked around the East Village. And when the chilly temperature became too much to bear, a frothy cappuccino in a cozy cafe was always near at hand.
How would you spend a weekend in New York city?
What destinations do you think are most romantic?