A quick weekend up to NYC in October 2016 led to a couple good finds I wanted to share. It is amazingly convenient when your cool New Yorker friends keep moving to new neighborhoods so you can explore them. Except for a visit to Central Park and the Met Art Museum, I hadn’t previously spent much time in the “real” Upper East Side. I loved trying out Eli’s Market for brunch. I got a kick out of walking around the JKO Reservoir, which is just very beautiful. I learned first-hand that exhibits at the Guggenheim are hit or miss if like my brother and me you aren’t a modern art fan, but it’s good to try new things.

I also love the concept of Open House New York. We only had time for one event, and I loved learning more about New York’s Town Hall and its history. I particularly loved that it was created by suffragists and helped a lot of immigrant families learn English and understand the importance of voting and democracy.

I also did love going to see Something Rotten on Broadway, in which Shakespeare is a Rockstar (literally) and a fortune teller’s insights lead to some truly amazing classic Broadway references. We enjoyed dinner beforehand at Print. We also enjoyed the very ’40s vibe  and delicious cocktails of the Rum House.

I also got to explore a little bit of the (Washington) Heights, which made the show so much better when I saw it this spring at Gala Theater in D.C., because my brother was renting an apartment up there. Every trip to the Big Apple is just a lot of fun.

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(c) 2012 Kathryn Pharr

As part of my work’s entrepreneurship program, we brought the top 16 participants of 2011-2012 for a two week tour of the U.S. entrepreneurship ecosystem.  I was really excited to be able to join them for the New York City and Boston portion. My flight got in early, and so finally I managed to go up the Empire State Building since it was two blocks from the hotel. Even though it was early November, it had just snowed. The view was breathtaking with snow coating the top of every building, but the windchill on the 86th floor was intense. That didn’t stop me from staying up long enough to locate several landmarks: Washington Square Arch, Flatiron building, Chrysler building, Bryant Park and the New York public library, and Erie Lackawanna Clock Tower of the Hoboken terminal. It was also the first time I’d had a chance to go into the Public Library, which I didn’t realize has exhibits like a museum. I was intrigued by their exhibit on lunch: from the creation of the meal to the power lunch to food trucks. It was a little depressing to realize that an oyster in 1901 was $2.05 cheaper than it is today.

DSC_1880True to my trips to NYC, the boots I brought broke before the first day ended. I met up with Samantha, and we decided on some black ones from Aerosoles that were so comfortable I walked over twenty blocks directly from the store.

Our trip naturally involved meetings around town, but the entrepreneurs were determined to see New York for themselves. After their transcontinental red-eye and several meetings, they insisted we take them to Time Square. I really enjoyed witnessing their excitement as we walked past Broadway billboards and other ads illuminating the Great White Way.
DSC_1524After finishing work back at the hotel, I researched details of Broadway shows for some of the participants. When others wanted a less expensive option, I suggested ice skating in Bryant Park then the Empire Building at night. It was fun to do some tour guide suggestions based on previous trips to New York. I enjoyed following part of the group to hear a live band in the basement of a brick building; we had a great time dancing. Could anything be more Greenwich Village?

Boston is an amazing hub for innovation and entrepreneurship with MIT and Harvard across the Charles River in Cambridge. We visited both schools as well as Mass Challenge and Cambridge Innovation Center. I enjoyed seeing the different approaches to promoting innovation at each location.

DSCN9132The night I arrived I met Erik, a friend of a friend, who showed me Cambridge, mainly the Friendly Toast, an incredible place if you like breakfast all day. I especially enjoyed perusing the Hitchtail menu, cocktails with names from famous Hitchcock films. Of course, I had to squeeze in a short visit to Public Garden, the site of Make Way for Ducklings. I was excited to ride the T, the underground system of Boston, and thrilled to stay at Hotel Commonwealth, where my only complaint was that I didn’t spend enough time in my hotel.

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(c) 2012 Kathryn Pharr

What I hadn’t expected was to end up being a guide in Boston, which I’d never been to before. During our one free afternoon, I found myself leading a group of our entrepreneurs from around the world along the Freedom Trail. All those Ann Rinaldi books and those years of American history paid off as I gave an impromptu tour describing Paul Revere’s midnight ride and the Boston Massacre with minimal reference to the pamphlet in my hand. (I did a victory dance in my head.) We paused for the Veterans’ Day Parade (to which some entrepreneurs were confused because we didn’t have police separating the parade from those watching). We also stopped in Quincy Square to watch the Red Trouser Show that did amazing acrobatics. We ate New England Clam Chowder and split a piece of Boston Cream Pie at the Salty Dog, a hidden treasure near the Cheers bar. The downstairs looked like the inside of a ship! While it was unseasonably warm (66*F) for November, I loved Boston. One of these days I’m going back as a tourist for the full trip.

Before I knew it, our group was back in D.C., and we were at the White House celebration for entrepreneurship our team had been working on for months. Madeline Albright came, and our panel of entrepreneurs were dynamic and impressive.

I really loved getting to know these bright science and technology entrepreneurs from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. They are creative and never seem to tire of seeing and learning new things. They are fabulous role models for young people around the world!

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Usually my posts are full of my adventures abroad, but I’ve come to realize that some of my domestic trips are awesome and also deserve some coverage…

This year I moved my annual trip to New York City from December to September (don’t get me wrong: I love the decorations, just not the biting cold and crowds). I can’t elaborate enough on how wonderful it is to get on a bus about half a mile from my apartment and not be the one driving up to the Big Apple. Sadly, I haven’t found the magical time to leave D.C. Over the last two years, I’ve tried the noon, 2 PM, and 6 PM buses and ended up in traffic somewhere along the way. Yet, hope springs eternal, and the visit is definitely worth the drive.

This trip I chose the 2 PM bus, so that I would not arrive so exhausted at 11:30 that I hug Samantha before I fall onto the sleeper sofa in her studio apartment. While this is my third visit with her in New York, I still can’t get over the fact that she has a Murphy bed. Somehow as a kid, I’d assumed that those had sadly disappeared with the 1960s, which filmed the movies  in which I learned of these amazing disappearing beds: one minute a living room, the next a bedroom! I will also admit that part of me loves coming to Greenwich Village/Manhattan because it is one of the few places in the good ol’ US of A that makes my apartment look like a steal!

Still, Sam’s place is really perfect: 5th Avenue near Greenwich Village, which was her dream when we were in college. The apartment building is old and complete with gilded elevators and lobby decor. It is close to so many cool and interesting things: we walk into Soho, we meander along the 5th Avenue shops, and we window-shop into the fabulous pastry and ice cream stores. In Soho, we ate at I Tre Merli, a fabulous Italian restaurant where I savored Ravioli di Cinghiale al Porto (homemade wild boar ravioli in a Port reduction sauce), perfectly paired with a lovely Montipulciano. I felt absolutely no guilt because Sam loves to walk. Each day I calculate we walked four to six miles; it was like a day in Europe.

(c) 2012 Kathryn Pharr

Because Sam is a walker, we also hike it along the High Line, which offers car-free strolling and lounging (courtesy of wooden beach chairs) along the historic freight line above Manhattan’s West Side. She first took me to the High Line last December on a particular cold day (25 Fahrenheit with winds) and insisted I should have the imagination to envision it covered in tourists and locals on a balmy summer day who were drinking cocktails and walking their dogs and generally enjoying the weather as if they had vacated the city altogether. This time, we tried a cold (but significantly warmer) Sunday morning, and I have to say that while I will one day get around to complaining about the heat while I’m at this park, I truly enjoy it even in the cold.

Seeing New York with a native (Sam’s first words were “Yo, taxi!”) brings the city to life in a way you never can capture as a tourist. She and Josh took me on a wonderful day trip to Governor’s Island, which though a free, 15 minute ferry ride from Manhattan, seems a world away. We had packed a picnic lunch and ate in the park watching ships and boats sail by the Statue of Liberty. The island was a Coast Guard station until 1996; one of our friends from college actually lived on the island for several years, which had its own schools. Now the island is a park with a fun playground (see photo to the left, we did not harm the actual Statue in any way that we will admit) as well as some lovely and interesting art galleries. The island is also partly a ghost town or that’s how it feels as you pass the dilapidated public library that is boarded up. Also, the stone church apparently has been de-sanctified. You pass what were clearly nice brick homes and then look out onto Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a big surreal and a great, affordable day trip while in the city.

(c) 2012 Kathryn Pharr

Another neat thing we were able to squeeze in was a visit to Little Italy for their annual Feast of San Gennaro, the patron saint of Naples, a New York City tradition that began in 1926. More noticeable than the banners of Italian flags, the tonnes of cannolis for sale, and the carnival games is the fact that Little Italy is now less than four streets. On the positive side, most Italians have assimilated into the broader city culture–a noticeable contrast to the ever expanding Chinatown. Naturally, my favorite part of the festival was the stages were locals were singing Sinatra and Dean Martin–just classic.

Of course, no trip to New York for me would be complete without a show. At the South Seaport TKTS booth (which seems to have increased in popularity since my college days), we found tickets to Nice Work If You Can Get It. On the last trip, Sam, Josh, and I had seen Sutton Foster in Anything Goes, and with Nice Work having input from P.G. Wodehouse and music by the Gershwins, I figured we were in for a stellar evening. We sat in our great seats at the Imperial Theater and as the show progressed I couldn’t figure out when the Gershwins had written a play that had all their hits in it. I was pretty sure at least one song was from “O, Kay!” Turns out I was right. This is a new musical with the Best of the Gershwins that melds the plots of several of their musicals. The result is a light-hearted and fluffy fun musical comedy. Kelli O’Hare was brilliant, and it was great to see Matthew Broderick live. However, I have to say that for me Michael McGarth as Cookie McGee stole the show; he was incredible!

(c) 2012 Kathryn Pharr

And once again, another fabulous New York weekend–this time in Autumn. This last photo is of the new World Trade Center, which as Sam and Josh were quick to point out doesn’t actually fully fill in the whole left by the Twins.