Bellas, fellas – been having a tremendous time on this road trip. Apologies for being a tardy blogger, I’ve been too busy having fun and catching up with friends both old and new. After leaving my friend Jenny’s place — mentioned in last week’s installment of The Journey, I’m currently in Harlem staying with my good friend AJ and his beautiful girlfriend Lauren, who works at the Ethan Allen flagship store as an interior designer. If you need an interior designer with a real sense of style, ask for her! She rules!
Yesterday my husband and I enjoyed a great day in Harlem. Not THE great day in Harlem, but a brilliant one nonetheless. Let me tell you all about it!
The standard oh-you’re-going-to-Harlem? advice is, start on 125th Street, and just kinda stroll around and check it out. Apparently NYC hasn’t gotten the memo that everyone’s ready for Spring already… it was cold yesterday! 125th Street didn’t care — it was just as bustling and fun as I’ve ever seen it, and I love the vibe. I gotta admit, 125th Street reminds me of my home country just a little bit — Fredrick Street in downtown Trinidad is just as busy and vibrant, with salesmen of all kinds hawking products you may not need but will probably buy anyway. Harlem’s specialties are tubs of shea butter and African black soap, incense and scented oils and CDs galore.
Best believe as soon as I heard rockers blaring from a rastaman’s speakers, I had to stop and add to my music collection! The wonderful thing about Harlem is, you can haggle a bit, and get your item for an even more reasonable price. Two CDs for $10? Thank you! And best of all, I asked for a semi-obscure artist — that’d be Johnny Osbourne — and the guy had what I needed right there. I happily spent my money with him.
I wanted to spend money happily at Ashley Stewart — some of their new Spring dresses really are so cute! But I experienced some really NOT cute customer service issues. Note to Ashley Stewart employees — if you see a customer with an armload of dresses trying to get your attention, stop. Listen. And just unlock the fitting room doors, if you’re not going to be waiting near that area to help people. Because if you don’t, you could be missing out on some big sales. I am sad to report that I left the store frustrated and empty handed.
That was NOT the case at the Carol’s Daughter flagship store, which is just gorgeous and transportative in the best possible way. The salespeople were friendly and attentive without being pushy, and I loved it. I bought the new Wash Away the Oil face wash, a bottle of Hair Balm, some Tui Hair Oil, and a tub of Coconut Wet Shine for Lips. Love you, Carol’s Daughter! Expect some reviews of these products soon — but I can already tell you the coconut lip stuff is awesome, moisturizing, and shiny. Two thumbs up!
Exploring areas away from 125th Street is also totally worth it and doable in an afternoon. After getting a little main street shopping, we headed out to Lenox Avenue to the adorable Settepani Bakery for hot chocolate and a plate of teeny gourmet-style cookies. A delicious and fun pick me up before we hit 116th and the Malcolm Shabazz Harlem Market — another great spot for super cheap African garb, wood carvings, and jewelry. Again, a great place for haggling. I got a super cute, super warm Trinidadian flag-emblazoned wool hat big enough to contain my mane, and a pair of gold circle earrings for less than $15. It’s all about the deals!
Last night I met two of my favorite Twitter friends — Tha Connoisseur, AKA Ann Marie of SoulAfrodisiac and the one and only Huny Young. We met at this cute little bar, Perks, that has a good happy hour and killer cocktails (order The Nutcracker! OMG it is SOOOOO good).
After cocktails, it was time for dinner and where better to be than Harlem? Soul food and ethnic cuisine galore is in store almost anywhere you look, but I was advised to head to Amy Ruth’s, and I suggest you do yourself a favor and do the same sometime. It’s THAT serious. I got the Honorable Keith Wright — a plate of the most delicious Southern honey-dipped fried chicken, served with collard greens and mac & cheese. I know, I know. I’m gonna burn it all off today with a lengthy stroll through Central Park!
I’m trying to be a better road trip blogger, so keep your eyes peeled for more posts this week. I’m on the move, but still thinking about my bellas!
Thanks to everyone on Twitter who gave me advice on where to go in Harlem, and special thanks to the folks behind Harlem One Stop and Around Harlem.com — you know what’s up! Love you, Harlem – hope to come back again soon!