Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Pre-BlogHer Recap

Holy cow! Have you ever felt so overwhelmed that you don't know where to start? That's me thinking about my BlogHer experience. I had so much fun and packed so much into five days that I've just been sitting here looking at a blank screen trying not to hyperventilate.

I have a plan now though... today we discuss all the fun that we had in New York prior to the start of the actual conference. Then we'll delve into the conference itself - specifically my recommendations for brands who are looking to connect with bloggers while at BlogHer or any other conference. I have lots of opinions about that - and if you do, too, share them! It can only make things more productive for everyone.

But let's start with before the conference starts, shall we? Please excuse the lack of pictures. Since I don't have a fancy camera (yet), I felt rather inadequate taking out my little point and shoot around everyone else who was taking fantastic pictures, so I didn't take nearly so many as I'd once hoped I would.

Melisa and I flew out to New York together. She booked the 6am flight on Wednesday and talked me into joining her. While that meant getting up way earlier than any human should have to (at O'Hare only one security line was open, if that tells you anything), it was worth it to have the whole day in front of us.

Miraculously, our flight arrived early in New York, and we quickly gathered our luggage and got into the near-vacant cab line. Remembering the advice Patty had given, I asked our cabbie to take us to 6th Avenue, between 53rd and 54th. It's possible I had minor panic walking up to the line trying to remember where our hotel was, but my brain somehow woke up enough to pass along that tidbit before going back to sleep. I think I sounded like someone who knew what she was doing.

Once we arrived, Melisa and I headed up to Central Park to do some reconnoisance for our 5K on Friday. Ok, so really we were walking to check out the Shake Shack's location for lunch later that day. Much like those plans, we never made it to check it out before our roommate Sue called to say that she was on her way from Penn Station to the hotel.

Once we picked up Sue, we were off on our "sugar day," as I called it. We started out in Soho at Dean & DeLuca's original store, which was really foodie heaven. I could have stayed there for hours, but other places beckoned.

For example, we had to get lemonade at Balthazaar - where Melisa did not trip in the intersection and meet Brad Pitt, much to her sister's disappointment. And yum, was that good lemonade!

Our next stop was Magnolia Bakery for cupcakes - and yes, again we were headed to the original. As we began our walk, Melisa and I noticed the same cute little shop. And when I say little, I mean l.i.t.t.l.e. It was literally one of those New York places that is a hole in the wall with shutters they open to the street. And they sold mini filled cupcakes with flavors like cookie dough and mint chocolate chip and PB&J.

Just because we were on our way to get cupcakes doesn't mean that we couldn't have mini cupcakes first. They were truly tiny. Amongst ourselves, we came up with three different flavors to try, and they came in a little paper tray - so adorable.

I looked at my friends and asked who wanted to try first. Sue picked up the mint chocolate chip cupcake and popped it in her mouth. Melisa and I looked at each other in shocked silence for a moment before both bursting into uncontrollable laughter. Poor Sue. Apparently she hadn't quite understood our intention of each taking a bit of the three cupcakes to try them all. Melisa and I shared the remaining two cupcakes, however, and then we were off to our original destination.

As we were walking, we happened upon a photo shoot. There was a pretty fashionably dressed woman doing interseting poses on a street corner with men holding up and then putting down sun filters as the clouds came and went. Up the street, we could see a "Got Milk" truck, but when we asked the photographer on our way back what the shoot was for (they were on a break then and no one was around but him), he insisted it was for birth control. We don't believe him. None of us recognized the model though.

We finally got to Magnolia and chose our cupcakes. It's a tiny little store, and the cupcake selection wasn't quite what I was expecting. You choose a box (or a plate) and pick up your own cupcake - essentially chocolate or vanilla - with either chocolate frosting or a pastel colored frosting. Somehow, I was expecting... more. More unique flavors or decorations or something. The rest of the bakery had all sorts of neat stuff that I was drooling over, but we came for cupcakes and I got my cupcake. Yes, the purple one.

From there, we hoofed it back to the hotel to meet our other roommate Momo. Melisa and I changed for tea at the Plaza (yep, more sugar and more on this event later). After tea? I met up with our group at Serendipity where there were people waiting outside with their luggage. It's was a great people watching opportunity.

Serendipity though? I would be find never heading back there again. The food was completely mediocre - and the waiter messed up two people's orders. The famous frozen hot chocolate we went there for (I know, I know... more sugar!) were beautiful, but they were really hard to drink. The chocolate chunks kept getting caught on the bottom of my straw, as did the chunks of not blended enough ice. The frozen chocolate itself tasted pretty good, but it wasn't easy to drink. And the whipped cream on top? Ick. I like whipped cream, but this one had no flavor whatsoever. And of course friends of mine who live in New York heard I went there and immediately had other recommendations of better places to get the frozen hot chocolate. Oh well!

After stuffing ourselves with yet more sugar (I was smart enough to share mine at least), we walked over to Dylan's Candy Bar. Wow is that place huge. It's of course way different from the quaint, old fashioned, super long dark wood bar I'd pictured in my head. It was bright and loud and smelled like all sorts of candy (best time for me to go, as I had zero interest in even touching any of the candy there at that point). The two floors were very fun to explore, and they had just about anything and everything you could imagine. I did find it interesting that the international candy section contained only Japanese candies, but that's just me.

You'd think we'd be done at that point, but somehow we weren't. We hung out in the lobby bar for a bit, chatting. And somehow we learned that the waffle truck was parked outside for the bloggers available and was giving out their special waffles.

We decided to investigate. We weren't really going to eat any. After all, we'd eaten so much already. But no one else was ordering anything, and the guys (Paul and ... ummm his partner) were really nice and funny. So the three of us decided to split a single waffle. We ordered it with a special Nutella like spread that has a graham cracker like taste. And Nutella. And strawberries. It was heaven. It really was too bad that we could only eat a little of it.

From there? It's possible that we just collapsed into bed, knowing what was coming the next day.

On Thursday morning, we woke up early (again) so we could take the subway down to Brooklyn and then walk back across the Brooklyn Bridge. At 7am, this was gorgeous. There were a few runners and bikers, but the bridge was quiet and peaceful - with mostly us oblivious girls wandering across it and taking a zillion pictures.

I loved how there were the points of interest along the bridge where you could stop to read about the history of the bridge and what New York looked like at various points in history. Curious me loved reading all that. My favorite part though? Ohhhh the beautiful breeze that buffetted us as we walked.

I found it really impressive that there were serious joggers going across the bridge. There was a man who was obviously in much better shape than his partner, but you could see him cheering her on and her continuing because of that. There were the commuters biking across to get to work. And there was the sweat soaked woman with a small bag over one shoulder. We saw her later at one of the open areas of the bridge. She was leading a fitness class with another six or so people right on the bridge. It was so inspiring to see her doing that - knowing she was following a passion and had found a way to make a living at it and also realizing that her workout when we saw her had only just begun.

Once across the bridge, we walked over to Ground Zero. On our way, we saw a great founding in City Hall Park, so we decided to stop to take a picture of it (ok, the camera experts did - I was along for the ride though). As we got closer, we realized that it wasn't just the fountain we'd be taking a picture of. Inside the fountain was a man. He appeared to be bathing. We didn't get close enough to confirm whether he did or did not retain his clothing.

Once at Ground Zero, we wandered a bit. It was surprisingly crowded there, and the signage wasn't all we'd hoped. While there was a ton of information on the fences surrounding the construction site, the observation deck has been removed (or at least it doesn't exist where my Droid's GPS took us - and on a side note, BOO to Google Maps for taking away the walking and public transportation navigation with the most recent upgrade; this was not cool). We did visit Engine Company Number 10, which was the fire station located nearest the fallen towers and were the first responders. The memorials there were so moving, and I'm grateful that it's still an operational firehouse. We thought about visiting the Ground Zero Museum, but it wasn't open yet since we had been up and out so early that morning!

Instead, we walked over to Chinatown where we saw all sorts of neat little shops, although we didn't have a ton of time to browse them. We were accosted by the "Gucci, Coach, Prada, Luis Vuitton" criers who were eager to show us their wares in back rooms. We didn't go. I wish we had more time to explore Chinatown - and have some dim sum - but it wasn't to be.

As the noon our approached, our group sans me headed back to the hotel for various tours they were starting. I walked up past NYU to Bar Six where I met two high school friends for lunch. I had some extra time, so I did some wandering of the streets in the general area which was fun. This also provided my most entertaining experience of the weekend. As I was walking, a woman stopped me to ask me for directions. And the best part? I knew how to get to the street she was looking for. I am a rock star.

Lunch with my friends was great. Bar Six has awesome and unique food and is a really neat and quiet atmosphere, perfect for catching up with friends I hadn't seen in two years. Time with them always flies too fast, but hearing what they're up to and sharing some fun stories made it a great hour plus. And it reminds me that I need to spend more time with my friends just relaxing and catching up.

Once my lunch was over, it was time for me to start my conference activities. But in the twenty-six hours before that, I think we did a pretty good job exploring New York! And I wonder why I'm tired now!


Pat August 12, 2010 at 12:53 PM  

Wow, you packed a lot in on that day! Sounds like a ton of fun, especially being with your blogger friends and old high school friends.

I loved the shot of the man bathing--so weird!

That waffle with the Nutella and strawberries looks fantastic.

septembermom August 12, 2010 at 4:40 PM  

You were very busy during that trip! So glad that you had fun with all your buddies. I so wish I could have been there too. The man bathing shot doesn't surprise this native New Yorker too much. We've seen it all, it seems on the streets of great NYC!

Sherry @ Lamp Unto My Feet August 12, 2010 at 5:30 PM  

Oh, wow! It looks like a lot of fun! Look at all those yummy treats, too!! OH, my!! :D

Michelle August 12, 2010 at 10:11 PM  

Pat - We did! I think we did a week's worth of touristy stuff in our short time, but it was a blast!

Kelly - I wish you had been there, too. Hopefully next year. And yeah, I told some NYC friends that we were in the park, and they freaked out because apparently that particular park is infested with rats. But hey, it worked as a place to bathe....

Sherry - Oh the treats were yummy. We had a blast exploring all the good places to eat. Ok, not ALL of them because that isn't possible, but you know what I mean. I need to go back for the Shake Shack though!

Lucy August 12, 2010 at 11:49 PM  

Whirlwind couple of days! Wow!

And I think I'm on a sugar high just reading that! :)

Alexis AKA MOM August 12, 2010 at 11:53 PM  

OMGosh I'm so jealous I so want to do something fun like this! Ok the cupcakes made me drool!!!

The guy in the fountain would freak me out.

Visiting the firehouse would be breathtaking.

Michelle August 13, 2010 at 8:35 PM  

Lucy - Oh they were! And that was more sugar than I've ingested the rest of the year, probably!

Alexis - The firehouse was inspiring. Really inspiring, as was all the activity in the area and the general feeling of action. Great times all around!

Karen August 14, 2010 at 8:11 AM  

I think Becky saw that same exact photo shoot! Funny how in such a big city you two were in the same spot at the same time.

Michelle August 14, 2010 at 9:58 PM  

Karen - Did she get any better answer than we did? I LOVE what she was doing in the city. So much more worthwhile than what we were.

Melisa with one S August 20, 2010 at 7:04 AM  

We did SO MUCH. I still can't believe it!!

As Cape Cod Turns August 20, 2010 at 8:26 PM  

Boy, I sure could go for a mini mint chocolate chip cupcake!

Michelle August 24, 2010 at 9:33 PM  

Melisa - I KNOW. We ROCKED NYC :) I couldn't have asked for a better travel buddy.

Sue - If you say so. I wouldn't know how those were ;) The cookie dough ones though.... yum!

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