Sometimes, you just gotta get the hell out of Dodge. With the new house and all, Andrew and I didn’t take a real vacation last year. But we soon discovered that no matter how much we love our home, it still has the power to induce stifling cabin fever. So in the spirit of “absence makes the heart grow fonder,” we booked a short trip to New York City.

I won’t bury the lede: we had a fabulous time! It might have been even better than two years ago. It never rained. It was warm with a light breeze (i.e. none of that soupy, melt-the-oil-absorbing-powder-right-off-your-face humidity that mars summers in the nation’s capital). We had two random celebrity sightings! We ate well. We walked a lot (hello NikeFuel points!). And we absorbed the vibrant energy of Manhattan that’s like nowhere else on earth.

A little background: I enjoy working within constraints because they streamline decisions—whether it’s the small-screen real estate of iPhone apps for my day job, or a count-on-one-hand number of days in the sleepless Big Apple. The set parameters for this vacation were viewing several must-see art exhibitions over the course of four weekdays. Since different museums are closed on different days (although the Met and MoMA are now currently open seven days a week), I easily came up with a general itinerary.

Without further ado, here’s my chronicle of Day One:

We arrived at our lovely hotel, the Elysée, in Midtown East in the early afternoon. (If you’re looking for a quiet hotel with Old World European charm, fresh flowers everywhere, friendly service, free wifi, an incredible complimentary breakfast, then this is the place for you.)

Along West 55th Street on our way to lunch at La Bonne Soupe bistro, we literally passed by Chris Rock (Yes! Chris freakin’ Rock!) who was walking while talking in his unmistakable voice to two dudes who were flanking him. He was wearing a white dress shirt and black slacks, apparently shooting a movie in the area. I was too starstruck to grab my phone. (I bet I looked like this.) You’ll have to take my word for it.

After lunch, as we headed towards MoMA, I saw this orange scaffolding that looked like Christo’s “The Gates” installation in Central Park.

At MoMA, we saw the museum’s first major exhibition on the work of Le Corbusier. The architectural models were my favorite part, but photography was forbidden.

Another highlight for me was Ellsworth Kelly’s “Chatham Series,” fourteen paintings that have not been exhibited together since 1972.

As Roberta Smith wrote in the New York Times, “Mr. Kelly made shaped paintings using a brilliantly obvious method: abutting two ordinary rectangles to form an inverted ‘L.’ The looming vertical paintings evoke giant rulers, or details of architecture, especially posts and lintels.”

The exhibition was in celebration of the artist’s 90th birthday last month. Andrew commented, “Isn’t ‘Ellsworth’ a fitting first name for the creator of these inverted ‘L’ shapes?”

No two works have exactly the same measurements.

These are from Ellsworth Kelly’s series “Line Form Color.” Ink on paper and gouache on paper.

More from Mr. Kelly. Clean lines, geometry, strong colors. Love.

We spent the rest of our visit happily wandering through MoMA’s permanent collection.

Iconic: Jasper Johns, Flag.

Donald Judd, Untitled (Stack), 1967, lacquer on galvanized iron.

I didn’t catch the name of this sculpture but I thought it worked well with the Donald Judd piece above.

Mark Rothko, No. 3/No. 13, 1949, oil on canvas. (Btw, do you like these green J.Crew shorts? Oh good! ’cause I wore them a lot during this trip.)

Tom Wesselmann, Mouth, 7, 1966, oil on shaped canvas.

Andrew capturing Jasper Johns’s “Target with Four Faces.”

Andrew taking a photo of Jackson Pollock’s “One: Number 31.”

Me posing in front of “Gun with Hand #1” by artist Vija Celmins. (Btw, my comfy lavender-striped top is Saint James for J.Crew.)

Winding down the afternoon in MoMA’s serene Sculpture Garden:

Alberto Giacometti, Tall Figure III, 1960, bronze.

Stark lines: facing Giacometti’s sculpture.

Panoramic view of the blissfully uncrowded garden.

Leaving MoMA, I couldn’t ignore this Sol LeWitt installation.

We returned to the hotel to freshen up, relax in the lounge and enjoy the complimentary happy hour and hors d’oeuvres. Our next stop was dinner at nearby Angelo’s Pizza, a casual neighborhood restaurant which served the best pizza I’ve ever had. We ordered a large pie with sausage, peppers and mushrooms. It arrived with a blistered, charred crust that was the perfect combo of chewy, crispy and thin. No soggy greasiness. Super-fresh ingredients. Good ratio of cheese to tomato sauce. I would have snapped a photo but we were too hungry. You’ll have to take my word for it.

To aid digestion, Andrew suggested we stroll east towards Sutton Place Park. (I had never been there.) It was a picturesque ending to our first day in New York.

Andrew looking towards FDR Four Freedoms Park located on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island.

The 59th Street Bridge at dusk.


Hotel Elysée | 60 East 54th Street (between Madison and Park) | New York, NY 10022 | 212.753.1066 | | Trip Advisor reviews

La Bonne Soupe | 48 West 55th Street (between 5th and 6th Ave.) | New York, NY | 10019 | 212.586.7650 | | Yelp review

MoMA | 11 West 53 Street | New York, NY  10019 | 212.708.9400 | | NYTimes review of Le Corbusier exhibition | NYTimes review of Ellsworth Kelly Chatham Series

Angelo’s Pizza | 1043 2nd Avenue (between 55th and 54th) | New York, NY 10022 | 212.521.3600 | | Yelp review

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