Category Archives: Travel

07.25.17Date Night in Koreatown (Featuring KBBQ)

One thing we love about NYC is that there are so many vastly different neighborhoods within one city. It’s so exciting to find pockets of stores, restaurants, and people that are so different from our own neighborhood. While my parents were in town, we had traditional German food in our own neighborhood, Yorkville, and Italian food on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. Both meals were incredible, and it was fascinating to see cultures thrive in this melting pot that is America.

After eating German and Italian, I was reminded of how much Rob had been wanting to try Korean BBQ. It was my turn to plan a date, so I did some research on Korean food and restaurants in Manhattan’s Koreatown. Koreatown is nestled between 5th and 6th Avenues, going from approximately 32nd street up to 38th street. I finally settled on a Korean BBQ restaurant for us to try: Jongro BBQ. It included grilling on the table and all kinds of meat selections, which I knew Rob would like.

Jongro BBQ doesn’t take reservations and can be a little tricky to find. Here’s my tip: go on the early side (we got there at about 6:45pm) and look for the Citibank on the south side of 32nd street (across from Wongo), go into the stark bank lobby, and take the elevator to the 2nd floor. It will empty you right into the vivacious restaurant where you can put your name down with a hostess.

The wait time was approximately 45 minutes, so we headed back out to the street and popped into several Korean shops and markets. First up: a Korean bookstore and music store. We found one of our favorite authors, Tim Keller, in Korean! We had fun trying to recognize various books based on cover imagery.

Next up: a Korean beauty store. Korean culture is known for high standards in beauty; women in Korea spend more money on cosmetics than women in any other country! A massive difference between American and Korean beauty is how they achieve beauty. Americans mostly have a three step beauty regime (cleanse, tone, and moisturize). Korean women, on the other hand, have a ten step beauty regime, including makeup remover and oil cleanser, water-based cleanser, exfoliation, toner, essences, serums, booster and ampoules, sheet masks, eye cream, moisturizer, and sun protection. It was fun looking through all of their products. I had heard about a baby foot peel on a blog, and was so intrigued when I first read about it. The product in store caught my eye, so I had the sales clerk tell me about it. She had me sold! I picked it up for my Koreatown souvenir. I’m a little nervous to try it, but I’ll report back once I do!

After the beauty shop, we popped into a Korean market. It was packed (with food and with people), but we perused the aisles checking things out. We wanted to try green tea mochi, but were afraid of it melting before we got home. A spicy wasabi dried pea snack also caught our eye, and Rob brought those home for his souvenir. We’re excited to try them!

Finally, we got a phone call that our table at Jongro was ready, so we made our way down the street to the restaurant. We were seated at a large booth that included a grill and heater in the center of it. After asking some questions about the menu, we settled on a beef platter to share (it included a few different cuts). The order also came with Korean accoutrements: kimchi, scallion salad, pickled onions, bean paste, soy sauce, macaroni salad (?!), and a tofu soup. Our server brought over the meat and cooked it for us in batches. Then we assembled lettuce wraps with the meat, rice, and sides. It was delicious! To be honest, I was hesitant about many of the sides, but I loaded my lettuce wrap with them anyway. So glad I did! We enjoyed our messy, flame-filled, fun dinner in Koreatown and would wholeheartedly recommend a visit to the neighborhood. Next time we’ll have to do karaoke, too!

06.19.17Chihuly at the New York Botanical Garden

This spring when the New York Botanical Garden announced a new exhibition featuring Dale Chihuly, Rob and I knew we’d be making at least one trip to the world-class botanical gardens in the Bronx to catch a glimpse. Chihuly’s colorful blown-glass work can be described as “breathtaking works of art that dazzle with color, light, and form.” For years, I’ve loved seeing his work at various museums. I first saw a piece as a massive chandelier-like fixture in the lobby of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Then I saw more of his work on display at the Mint Museum in Charlotte. And just recently, Rob and I came across one of his sculptures hanging above the second floor rotunda at the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C.

We made our first trip to NYBG’s Chihuly exhibition on my birthday when we attended the annual Daffodil and Wine Festival. On that trip, we checked out some of his quirky, gorgeous glass sculptures sprinkled throughout the gardens, as well as the more museum-like display inside the library. We wanted to save the sculptures inside the conservatory for another planned visit! So last Friday night, we took a picnic to the Jazz + Chihuly concert on the lawn of the conservatory and then went inside to see the sculptures with all the greenery and flowers. I had never been through the conservatory at dusk, but it was spectacular. The Chihuly sculptures were all lit up and truly breathtaking.

Whether you go at night or at day, whether you visit the sculptures in the conservatory, the library, or around the gardens, just make sure you go! The Chihuly exhibition is running through Sunday, October 29, 2017.

06.14.17A Weekend in Washington, D.C.

Inside the stunning Orangery at Dumbarton Oaks

Washington, D.C. has always been a favorite city of mine. I visited a couple times growing up, I spent a summer interning there, and I visited my sister more times than I can count when she lived there. So when a friend’s wedding in D.C. fell close to our anniversary, Rob and I decided to make a getaway of it. We took a day off work, decided to do lots of new-to-us activities, and planned our days around the restaurants we wanted to try. Keep reading to find out how we spent our long weekend in our nation’s capital, favorite restaurants and sights, and helpful tips when traveling to D.C.

Friday night:
We arrived via Vamoose bus around 11:00pm and checked into our hotel. We popped a bottle of champagne we’d been saving to give our getaway a celebratory start!

Saturday:
We had a leisurely morning at our hotel, The Mayflower. Rob picked up breakfast from Sunrise Cafe right next door. Then we headed to the Renwick Gallery when it opened at 10:00am. The building is a National Historic Landmark, the first built expressly as an art museum in the United States. There are two floors of craft and decorative art, but my favorite was June Schwarcz’s pottery exhibition.

Following an hour at the Renwick, we stepped out and were just yards from the White House. We snapped our obligatory selfie and made our way to the other side of the White House for our lunch at Old Ebbitt Grill. This restaurant has been a D.C. tradition since 1856, and we both loved our meals (the buffalo chicken sandwich for Rob and the French dip for myself).

After lunch, it was time to get ready for the afternoon wedding. We got gussied up at our hotel and then grabbed a car to Capitol Hill Baptist Church. The wedding ceremony was absolutely beautiful, full of emotion, and a joy to witness. We had a couple of hours between the ceremony and the reception, so we walked a few blocks in the neighborhood east of the Capitol. I love this residential area of D.C. and picked out some of my favorite town homes. We also popped into a charming independent book store, Riverby Books, to browse their selection.

Cocktail hour began in the early evening at the Army and Navy Club, right off Farragut Square. It was a beautiful venue and full of history. Dinner and dancing followed — one of the most fun dance floors we’ve torn up :).

If we hadn’t had the wedding to attend, a great Saturday option would’ve been Eastern Market or Union Market.

Sunday:
We had another leisurely morning and ate breakfast in bed (brought back from Sunrise Cafe again). We walked around our neighborhood and then headed to lunch at Founding Farmers. This was our favorite meal of the trip — we shared the chicken and waffles and added a side of fries (so good!).

After lunch, we switched hotels so we could use points to redeem a free night at an SPG hotel. Then we headed over to the gardens at Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown. This had been on my list of places to visit for a couple years, and the gardens are simply stunning. They reminded me quite a bit of the Boboli Gardens in Florence, and it felt like there were secret gardens and passages everywhere we turned. If it hadn’t been 95 degrees, I could’ve spent hours in this space with a good book. We explored the gardens — finding lots of shade! — and then took a leisurely stroll through the charming streets of Georgetown as we made our way to Georgetown University for a walk through the campus.

We continued making our way through Georgetown and browsed the stores on M Street, the main commercial drag of the neighborhood. By then, the heat was getting to us, so Rob suggested the best idea ever: Root Beer and Coke floats at Good Stuff Eatery. It’s been years since I’d had a Root Beer float, but it brought back the best memories of summer fun with my cousins. Not to mention, it definitely did the trick in helping to beat the heat.

After a bit more window shopping, we headed down to the Georgetown waterfront for our dinner at Farmers Fishers Bakers. This restaurant came highly recommended by D.C. friends. It’s a great location, a huge menu, and so many fun cocktails. After dinner, we walked along the Georgetown waterfront all the way to the Lincoln Memorial. By then, the sun had set and the Lincoln looked so majestic lit up at night. It’s such a powerful experience to visit our nation’s monuments and memorials.

Monday:
We decided to spend Monday by the National Mall. We went to the Hirshhorn Museum for some contemporary and modern art, popped into the Museum of American History for a few minutes, and then went to the National Portrait Gallery. One of the great things about D.C. is that all the Smithsonian museums are free to visit, making bouncing around guilt-free. However, we definitely could’ve spent a lot more time at the National Portrait Gallery. Although we had been to that one before, it’s our favorite museum. It’s a fascinating look at American history through the lens of impactful Americans and their portraits.

After a morning of museum-hopping, we got a leisurely lunch at Zaytinya right across the National Portrait Gallery for some delicious Mediterranean food. After that, it was time to freshen up (again, the heat!) at our hotel, pack our things, and head to Arlington for our bus departure. It was a wonderful weekend celebrating dear friends and making memories for ourselves!

Tips:

  1. Always, always, always make a restaurant reservation if possible. All the restaurants we ate at are on Open Table, and we got to eat right when we were ready instead of waiting up to an hour and a half for a table.
  2. Walk as much as you can! Walking is always the best way to see a city, get a lay of the land, and find hidden gems.
  3. Look up the city’s event calendar ahead of time to see what free activities you can join (festivals, concerts, parades).