little redhead takes on the big apple.

I always wish that I blogged more about my travels. I am so fortunate to be given the opportunity to explore and enjoy cultures, cities, and life outside of my mountain city, and I need to do a better job documenting it. So, why not start with an incredible trip to NYC?

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In early March, I had an idea–after a truly terrible year, my mom was yearning for some positivity. I was (and currently still am) enjoying an incredible job that encourages vacation days. I’ve always known my mom’s dream to visit New York–after all, she is a Jewish lady who appreciates theater and bagels. Once the idea struck, it all started coming together, and I realized what I wanted to do for my mom’s birthday: buy her a ticket to New York City. After seeing the incredible plane ticket prices, I didn’t even think twice as I confirmed my purchase. Two days later, I found the perfect Air BnB. I started reaching out to my mom’s best friends and closest family members–telling them my idea and saying that if they wanted to know the perfect gift for my mom, this was it. So many people pitched in and contributed to this dream coming true for my mom. If you ever need a reminder that the world is good, just ask for a favor–you’ll be blown away by the generous capacity of others.

The waiting of telling my mom was definitely the hardest part. I told everyone else instead–including my father, who I was sure would spill the beans. The closest anyone got to telling about the surprise was…me. After a couple Dark & Stormy’s at a party, I casually slipped in our conversation that I had recently bought tickets from Charlotte to….and then trailed off before I completed my thought. Either my mom didn’t notice or assumed I was talking about a different trip, and thankfully the secret remained.

At the end of April, I finally got to reveal the surpirse. I hid the itinerary of our flight and information on our apartment in what she thought was actually her gift, a wallet she had asked for. For one of the few times in my life, I saw my mom completely speechless.

As we fast-forwarded to June, some mild preparations got us ready for the trip. Broadway show tickets were purchased, accomodations were confirmed, dinner reservations were made. And now that you know the back story, I’ll share exactly what made this trip so dang special.

We left Friday afternoon for our adventure and arrived in the city around 6pm. After hailing a car (Mom’s first–but certainly not last–Uber experience), we were dropped off at our apartment in the East Village. On our drive, we were able to see a couple of landmarks, including the Empire State Building. Since I had been to NYC a couple of times, I forgot the wonder that comes with seeing some of those famous places you’ve seen on television, films, and in books for a lifetime–it’s very different when it’s live and your first time seeing them.

After a quick check-in at our Air BnB and some freshening up, we headed out to Mom’s first dinner in NYC at The Redhead. Traveling with Mom was great because our appetites are similar–we were able to share the restaurant’s signature dish (fried chicken), a strawberry mixed green salad, and some asparagus and were happy & full. While finishing up our drinks, my friend Lindsay popped in and surprised me to say hello!

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After dinner, Lindsay suggested that Mom and I check out a bar on Saint Marks that was known for awesome margaritas. Upon our arrival there, however, the place was packed to the gills–so we headed next door to Holiday Cocktail Lounge, where I indulged on a Bourbon shot/IPA combo, a couple whiskey sodas, and Mom enjoyed her signature drink–tequila with grapefruit juice. We had fun people watching and enjoying such a NYC-vibe.

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The next morning we woke up nice & early so we could get bagels before all the hungover whippersnappers head out of their apartments. Through some light research, I found that the best bagels in the East Village could be found at Tompkins Square Bagels, so that’s where we headed. Let me tell y’all–those bagels did not disappoint these two Jewish women. We both enjoyed one of an onion variety–Mom had regular cream cheese, while I sampled their bacon herb. The conclusion? Delicious!

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After breakfast we took a stroll through Tompkins Square Park–it was very lovely and serene. The parks tucked inside the city always surprise me with their calmness. You would think that in a concrete jungle, it would be nearly impossible to find greenery and flowers that rival our own here in Western NC.

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After our walk and a bit of resting, we met up with Lindsay to walk to brunch. We had a fantastic stroll through several neighborhoods, ending up in West Village to eat at The Garage. The food and company were fantastic, and it was great catching up with a dear friend face-to-face rather than through Gchat and blue text bubbles. I’m also glad my Mom and Lindsay finally got to meet each other!

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After brunch, Mom and I continued our NYC journey to meet up with an old family friend at the High Line. We started at the Meat-Packing District end, and I it was incredible! I had never done it before, but we thoroughly enjoyed our strolls above the city. Incredible fauna, fantastic views, and smaller crowds (compared to other parts of the city) were all a plus. I’m so glad I got to experience it with my Mom (and Jenny too, of course!).

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Believe it or not, despite all our walking and traipsing around town, we still had to muster energy for the highlight of the trip–Mom’s first Broadway show! We took another Uber back to our apartment, rest for about half an hour, then grabbed another car to see Times Square. I think that no matter how I hard I had tried, there was no way I could fully prepare my Mom for this part of the city–she was still taken aback from the madness of it all. We were able to snap some pictures (because I mean, it is the quintessential first-trip-to-NYC souvenir!), get some kitschy gifts for my Dad and Craig at the tourist shops, and made it in time for the show. We purchased our tickets through Today Tix, and I cannot encourage all of you enough to use their services in the future–our tickets were nearly half the price of what others paid for the same seats (if you ever use the app, please user my referral code: MAQEG). We ended up seeing “The Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”, which won the Tony for Best Musical in 2014, and it was AMAZING. We laughed until we cried, and it was awesome to have another first-time experience with my mom (neither of us had seen the play before).

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After the show and an adventurous ride back to the East Village, we stopped by Artichoke Pizza for an authentic NYC slice. We were both so hungry and tired, but still enjoyed pizza the size of our heads thoroughly.

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We woke up the next morning and took our time appreciating our apartment and our last NYC wake-up call. After a bit of lounging, we headed to famous Katz’s Deli so Mom could enjoy her favorite food–a hot pastrami sandwich, and this time from a real authentic Jewish deli. The walk there was pleasant and it was a beautiful morning, and that pastrami was THE BEST (we made awesome food decisions in NYC, if you can’t tell). We ate until we were stuffed and loved looking at all the celebrity photos on the walls, and stared with contempt at the folks who sat at the When Harry Met Sally table instead of us. When we could eat no more, we rolled out of the restaurant and back to the apartment to prepare for our trip back home.

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Although it was a short trip, it was an incredible one–being able to experience my mom’s first trip to NYC was something I’ll always remember. There’s something so wonderful about travel and the ability to see how different parts of the world work, but there’s also nothing like coming home. I was squealing with joy when I saw those Blue Ridge mountains–it’s always a relief to be back in my favorite place.

Thank you so much to so many people–for the wonderful friends and family that donated to make this trip so easy and fun, to the friends that let me explode with excitement while telling them our plans, and to our gracious friends in NYC that spent time and shared wisdom with us. I send so much love to each and every one of you.

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