About Cheryl Lock
Cheryl Lock is a former magazine, newspaper and website editor turned full-time freelance writer. She has worked on staff at the Daytona Beach News-Journal, More and Parents magazines, as well as for Learnvest, the leading women's financial website. Her work has also appeared in Newsweek, Forbes, Ladies' Home Journal, the Huffington Post, AOL Travel and more.
Cheryl was born in Nuremberg, Germany and grew up moving around every few years as an Army brat. The urge to travel has been with her her whole life. While she calls New York City home, Cheryl makes it a priority to travel as much as possible throughout the year. Some of her favorite places include Iceland, the Great Barrier Beef, Cabo, Rome, Calabria and Munich, although she hopes to never stop exploring. Cheryl blogs about her travel adventures (and what's happening in and around New York City) at Weary Wanderer.
Latest Posts by Cheryl Lock
Here’s something that I’ll say about chasing the Northern Lights in Iceland…..in February. No matter how rugged up you think you are — you’re not. If you think you have too many pairs of socks on … you don’t. Do whatever you can to stay as warm as you can while you’re out there waiting for those Northern Lights, because you could be out there for a very, very long time.
The lights were …. well … pretty fantastic friends even despite the bitter cold wait.
Just magnificent, people. The light Gods were with us that night, and it was an experience we’ll absolutely never forget.
We started the morning and early afternoon off by renting bikes in Reykjavik from this very Harley-looking dude on a very dilapidated street with lots of graffiti that was only a few blocks from our hotel and only one street over from one of the main downtown streets.
And it may have been freezing that day (and in some parts treacherously icy!), my friends, but the views were still absolutely glorious. We rode around the entire rim of the city from about 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., just taking it all in …
One of the natural thermal beaches that you’ll find all around Iceland. Pretty amazing.
After our ride we were both eager for some coffee to warm us up, and I really wanted a tasty treat.
When you are in a new place, one of the most amazing things is to note the cultural differences. I noticed babies who were asleep when their parents arrived were left outside….in the carriages, bundled up and sleeping soundly away. One mother inside had a baby monitor at the table with her, but I didn’t really think twice about it … until I later realized that the reason was because her baby was asleep outside in her stroller!
After Mar we headed towards the water to climb up a hut made out of hay which is used to dry fish and take pictures of the water. Strange I know but that’s exactly what we did.
Silly husband. I think those aren’t for riding.
^^ See. A hut of straw that you climb up.
See. Dried fish guts inside the hut.
Top of the hut.
We had booked a shuttle transfer from the airport to our hotel, the Best Western, ahead of time, which I would highly recommend since if you’re staying in Reykjavik, it will probably be about an hour away. Sine we arrived at 6 a.m., we couldn’t check in to our hotel, so instead we hit the streets! The cold, dark streets. Neither one of us really had any idea where we were going and nor did we ask. Remember that the sun doesn’t rise until about 9:30 a.m. in the winter in Iceland, but none of that mattered!
We spent the morning walking around downtown, drinking coffee at Te & Kaffi, stumbling upon the most adorable and classy violin-making shop I’ve ever seen (note to self: take up the violin again), and checking out some of the local stores in the downtown area, most of which don’t open until the sun has fully risen by 10 a.m.
The gorgeous church that pretty much starts the main drag of downtown Reykjavik.
Also, this picture was taken around 8 a.m. Nary a glimmer of sunlight in the sky!
Umm, right?! How amazing is this violin studio??
One of these things is not like the other …
During our wanders we also happened upon The Laundromat Cafe, which I had read about and knew I wanted to visit. The place has a seriously adorable, 70s-style laundromat downstairs, while the upstairs doubles as a restaurant by day, bar by night, and all-around bookstore (they color code their books, like I do!) and people-watching heaven.
Oh, and my eggs and tomatoes weren’t too shabby, either. (As it turns out, Icelanders are pretty proud of their tomatoes. They consider all other tomatoes grown from outside of the country to just not be good enough … and after tasting theirs, I can see why.)
By the time we headed back outside, it was snowing gently — the perfect Icelandic weather! As a side note, I have already mentioned that the sun doesn’t rise until 9:30 ish in the winter, but it also sets around 5 p.m., so if you’re a daylight lover, you really need to plan your time wisely to make the most out of what little you’ll get of it if you travel here in February. I wasn’t quite sure how I would take the fewer hours of daylight.
After our nap, we headed over to Cinema No: 2, which I had also read about, to take in two videos — one on the formation of Iceland and its geography and people, and another on the Northern Lights (for which we would have a tour to try to find ourselves the following night). The Cinema was small but super cozy, with couches and an old-school popcorn machine and a lovely man in a warm sweater to take your money at the door. The “movie screen” is really a projector screen, and the videos themselves seem pretty old, but it doesn’t matter. The history of Iceland and its nature and the Northern Lights have been set for years, so there’s really not much updating that needs to be done. On the other hand, it’s a bit expensive (about $30 for both of us) … but it was worth it. A very nice thing to do on your first day in Iceland. Just be sure to double-check the times if this is something you’d like to do on your own trip. The Cinema isn’t open all day (I believe we went around 6 p.m. to catch our movies), so it would be a shame to head all the way over there and miss them.
After the movies we went straight to Micro Bar, a tiny little bar located behind the lobby of The Center Hotel, practically directly across the street from The Laundromat Cafe. The trick is to just ask the locals …
For dinner, we had originally tried to make a reservation at Fridrik V, but unfortunately we couldn’t get in. Then we read about Snaps (which also made that top beer places), and tried it out as well as Noodle Station, a hole-in-the-wall Thai soup store that smelled delicious and had lots of locals eating there.
Even without the snow, though, I know I would have fallen in love with Saratoga. The downtown area was so charming (and of course it was still decorated for Christmas with twinkling white lights and red bows everywhere … that certainly didn’t hurt it), the people were so friendly and every place we went had really great food and drink.
Our first stop was a recommendation of my cousin’s — Ravenous, for their crepes and Pommes Frittes. They come with all different kinds of dipping sauces. We tried the Aioli, Cajun Spicy Mayo and Mango Chutney. Seriously delicious.
My warm apple cider with orange wasn’t too shabby, either.
After stuffing our faces, we decided to check out the town for a bit before checking into our hotel.
^^ This hotel was closed for repairs, but I thought it was just so beautiful.
After our little introduction to the town we headed to the hotel.
So about the hotel. I feel like I should start by saying — it was perfectly lovely. Seriously, very lovely — charming even. I mean look at those cute horse wreathes that greet you at the front door! The building is kept locked at all times, and the friendly innkeeper lets you in when you arrive. There’s a warm fireplace and classic, historic decorations — everything about this place is cute and cozy and nice.
I just have a small but. The thing is — we paid a lot for our room. Like … a lot. (It was $300 after taxes, and that was the lowest priced King room available.) And for some reason I had convinced myself that I booked a room with a jacuzzi tub, and you know how when you think you’ve done something, and get your hopes all up for it — well I just really wanted that jacuzzi tub! And I mean, the room was fine, people. Honestly, it was quite nice. Perfectly pleasant. Very well looked after. I guess I was just … expecting more. What can I say. I’ve spent a lot of time in a lot of hotels up to this point in my life, and I’ve spent a wide range of money on those hotels. All I’m saying is … besides location (and the seriously scrumptious breakfast that’s included in the morning!), I’m just not quite sure this place was worth the price. That’s all.
But moving on! Despite the disappointment of not having a jacuzzi (!), we still had a whole night ahead of us. Our first night stop would be to The Wine Bar — another of my cousin’s recommendations. A huge plus of Saratoga Arms — all of our stops were within walking distance, even though it was about 0 degrees outside!
We sat by the fire and the white lights twinkled and our waitress was lovely. And we ordered the warm olive appetizer and Chris a Manhattan and me a glass of white wine. Then we both ordered another glass of wine — red this time– and here my friends is where I’ll share a little something with you. It was here at The Wine Bar in Saratoga Springs, New York, that I had — ready for it? — the best wine of my life. I mean … seriously! This friggin’ wine was so. amazingly. delicous. Even Chris was jealous. I had the waitress give me my menu back so I could write down exactly what it was, which was a Santa Julia Malbec from Argentina/Menoza. It also was organic, which I honestly think might have made a difference.
If you are in Saratoga and find yourself at The Wine Bar (which you should … thanks for the recommendation Alyssa!), you must, must, must try this wine! You’ll thank me later, I promise.
Anyway, after warming up with wine, we headed back out into the cold to our dinner reservations at Mouzon House. Here’s where I have to give Saratoga Arms another big shout out — about two days before we were meant to arrive I received a welcome email from them with parking instructions, town and weather information, as well as a list of local restaurants that they recommended, Mouzon House being one of them. They even called and made the reservation for us. (Am I being a hotel snob about this place? Probably. The more I write about it the more charming I feel like it was.)
Anyway, the Mouzon House. Another massive, humongous hit!
^^We were a tad early for our reservation, so we sat at the bar and ordered some drinks first. Our bartender told us she was also a realtor, and she had helped her friend purchase the restaurant. The building had formerly belonged to the Mouzon family, and the woman who they bought the house from was the first African American woman to graduate from the local community college. She said the fact that they wanted to keep the family name in the name of the restaurant was a big reason why she thinks they were given the deal in the first place. The majority of the house had been left as is — even the rooms upstairs were still in bedroom form. Oh, and there was a ghost. The ghost was a friendly ghost, Mrs. Bartender told us, but she didn’t even have to say that .. Chris and I have a feeling about these things, and we already knew.
^^ Somehow the restaurant knew it was our one year anniversary — I guess the hotel told them when they called?Anyway, they gave us our creme brûlée with a candle in it, and that was super cute.
For dinner I ordered the vegetarian jambalaya, and Chris had the steak. We also ordered the asparagus appetizer and another bottle of wine, and everything was to die for. Perhaps even more amazing, though, was the fact that the couple sitting directly across from us was celebrating their 56th wedding anniversary — and they could not have been cuter. At one point I looked over and the woman was fixing her husband’s shirt. When they left he helped her put her coat on.
If only Chris and I can get that lucky to be as in love as day one at our 56th anniversary.
So at this point in the evening, I had also wanted to check out the 9 Maple Ave. jazz bar, but unfortunately all the wine I had already consumed started to make me feel like the warm hotel was calling my name, so we called it a night.
The next morning we were up early though. Breakfast is served between 8 and 10 in the dining room, and it’s a sit down, order type of breakfast. I got the oatmeal (remember I wasn’t feeling well!), and Chris had the chef’s special mushroom omelet which, in his words, was “the best omelet I ever had in my life.”
Okay fine — so Saratoga Arms was quite lovely, I get it. It’s just that when you’re spending that much money, you might as well splurge an extra $50-$60 and get a room with a jacuzzi or a fireplace. That’s just my opinion. Noted for next time.
After breakfast we packed up and checked out, and headed back into the town to check out a couple of other stores we had seen the day before. We even ended up finding an old vintage New York City map for $6 — the best find!
I also wanted to check back on this house we had passed when trying to find the parking garage for the hotel. I mean … check this place out …
Stowe Vermont on a snowy December day where we stayed in a Stoneybrook cabin with a fireplace, huge kitchen and gorgeous views.
The view from the back porch of our bedroom on Friday morning, after it had snowed all night.
Unfortunately we arrived too late on Friday for me to catch the lesson. (Word to the wise for any of you snow bunnies who might want to take a lesson at Stowe — they start at 10 a.m. on Fridays — maybe every day but I can’t say for sure — and they go for an hour and a half in the morning, then break and meet up again at 1 for another hour. And they’re expensive! With my gear rental and the group lesson, I ended up paying around $230. Ouch … but worth it!)
Anyway, since I wouldn’t be snowboarding on Friday, I did this instead:
^^Found the bar …
^^Had an extremely delicious Bloody Mary while I waited for everyone to meet me for lunch.
Saturday was different, though, my friends — Saturday I actually took a lesson! And let me tell you — by the end of it I wasn’t half bad It ended up being a private lesson when no one else showed up for the class, so that’s always a good thing.
Of course I never left the beginner’s hill but hey — I need to leave something to aspire to, right?
Saturday night we headed into town to the Vermont Ale House, which had awesome beers, amazing music and tables made of chalkboard so you could draw on them. It was pretty much the best.
We left yesterday to make the drive back to the city (in a snow and rainstorm, no less!), but Chris still got in a half day of snowboarding, I took a hike with my uncle and cousin’s boyfriend on the trails right near our cabin and Steph and I checked out a bit of the town.
I think it’s safe to say Stowe was a major success, and that we’d all love more than anything to make this trip an annual thing.
I recently checked out Yayoi’s painting exhibit in New York City. Impressive!
How gorgeous are those colors? Her work is so interesting and full of life — I really enjoyed it. (The heat of the gallery made it infinitely more enjoyable, I’m not going to lie. At that point in the morning they could have literally been showing me photos of poop, and as long as I was warm I would have swooned.)
On my way out I noticed another, smaller line at a third entrance to the gallery. I had read about these, for lack of a better word, “tentacles” that were a separate part of Yayoi’s exhibit, and I was wondering where those were, but my brain was too frozen to ask. Luckily, this was the magic door that let me to that exhibit. So I braved another 10 minutes outside (teeth chattering the entire time), and was ushered into the “tentacle” exhibit. You have to take your shoes off to enter, and you get one whole minute in there.
Totally worth it.
This is Yayoi herself. In a room adjacent to the tentacle room, there was a video playing on loop of the artist reciting a poem, followed by a brief glimpse
of the infinity room.
So beyond cool.
This is the poem that is being read aloud by Yayoi in the tentacle room.
It’s hard to read, so I’ll pull out my favorite line here:
“Was the beauty of the end of one’s life nothing more than an illusion?
Would you give me an answer to this?
Devoting all my heart to you, I have lived through to this day
Hoping to leave beautiful footprints at the end of my life …”
All-in-all, I’d give the exhibit as many stars as one possibly can. Unfortunately the exhibit ends this weekend. I was contemplating heading back really early Friday to see if I can make it inside the infinity room, but I’ll have to play that by ear.
(P.S. I could go into detail on the exhibits, but explanations of how Yayoi put together her work are much more beautifully explained in the articles I link out to above. For more info on how she made everything, I’d recommend checking those out.) A little Christmas cheer as I made my way back from the exhibit.
The Monkey Bar. What can I say? I have officially found my favorite restaurant in Manhattan. If you come to visit NYC, and you’d like to go a classic, old-timey New York restaurant (and you’re willing to dish out some dough) — this is the place for you.
Some history first. On the heals of the end of Prohibition, the Monkey Bar opened in 1936 on the ground floor of Hotel Elysee in Midtown (which was, at the time, one of the fanciest hotels in the city). It quickly became the go-to hangout for old-school New York celebrities like Tallulah Bankhead, as well as the place “a number of significant events” occurred (says the site) — like when Tennessee Williams mysteriously choked on an eye-dropper and died there.
Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.
The bar was purchased in 2009 by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and his wife, along with hotelier Jeff Klein.
And the mural. Oh this mural, my friends. Created by illustrator Ed Sorel, the three-paneled mural runs along the entire length of the back wall of the restaurant, and then onto some adjoining walls as well. It features many significant figures from the Jazz Age, those same figures that used to call the Monkey Bar their favorite hang out. You can click on the mural link above in this paragraph and it’ll bring you through the entire mural and explain little histories about all those on it.
One of the many, many things I loved about this place was how it felt like two completely different places. The front entrance (reached from the street) has the feeling of a really fancy, old-school bar, with a real live piano player in the corner and a bar with monkey murals in the background.
But then move through the bar area to the back of the joint, and the actual restaurant area is much more subdued and romantic.
Plus — the monkeys! Monkeys, monkeys everywhere! And yet somehow — they managed to be tastefully done.
(I apologize in advance for the graininess of these photos. As I mentioned, it was quite dark, and since it was, you know, a somewhat classy joint, I was trying my best to be discreet with my photo taking. Chris may or may not have been mortified.)
^^ I mean, look at this menu! So detailed!
^^ The dessert menu was just as beautiful as the main one.
^^ This mural guys. This mural.
^^I was convinced this was Marilyn Monroe. Chris said no.
Unfortunately he was right. (I hate when that happens.) It’s Mae West.
The food was not outdone by the ambiance. I ordered a seasonal cocktail (The Harvest Punch, with rum, mulled cider, cognac, lemon juice and nutmeg) and Chris had the Improved Whiskey Cocktail. He says his was fantastic (I don’t know anything about that … I don’t like those kinds of drinks), but I can tell you right now mine was. We ordered a crab cake appetizer to share (best damn crab cake I have ever had in my life), and I ordered the Saffron Risotto for dinner. Chris got the Colorado Lamb Rack. We both thought our meals were incredibly delicious.
Discussing the joint on our walk back to the subway afterwards we were trying to decide what to rank it. Neither one of us could come up with any negative things to say about it. Even our waiter was polite and quick and lovely. Nary a negative thing to say, people. Not one damn thing.
Great job, Monkey Bar! You will mostly certainly see us back here!
One of the things I love most about NYC is all of the events. On any given night, in any given part of the city, you will find events for all sorts of fabulous things. Book launches. Magazine fashion shows. Movie premieres. I used to go to a lot more of them when I worked in magazines, but now that I don’t go to as many, that makes them all that much more special when I do.
Tonight it was all about cookie decorating. Emily Schuman of Cupcakes & Cashmere fame brought her fabulousness to Club Monaco on 5th Avenue for some appetizers, drinks, cookie decorating and discounts. (Club Monaco stuff is nice, but I mean …. that sch&*% can be expensive! Even with the 20% discount that attendees received I didn’t end up buying anything ….).
So I grabbed a friend and we headed on over for the fun.
Club Monaco is gorgeous! How have I never been inside here before??
One of my absolute favorite sights
Gettin’ our cookie decorating on!
Emily in all her glory. It was like a celebrity sighting.
(And yes, I’m aware how stalkerish this photo is.)
The clothing displays were so sophisticated. I thought there was something really beautiful about them.
This looked pretty, but it seriously tasted the worst.
After the event we didn’t quite feel like going home yet, so we headed over to the Union Square Holiday Markets to check them out.
I just love the Empire State hiding out in the background.
Bis bald, friends! Hope you’re all having a fabulous Tuesday night as well.