Kim & Janet Visit New York City

April 11, 2009

newyorkskylineYes, it’s true, we went to the b-i-i-i-g city. We have the photos to prove it. And you are going to see some of them.

After hemming and hawing over whether to take a so-so cruise for Janet’s spring break, we decided instead to visit New York. Janet had been listening to the Jersey Boys CD for a couple of months and was really itching to see the show, and she hadn’t seen Ellis Island. Apparently she missed that marching band trip, the one where the band director got on the wrong ferry leaving Ellis and left 3 busloads of high school kids and chaperons sitting in New Jersey for an hour wondering where he was. Battery Park, it turned out . . .

affinia-dumontI was going to book a hotel in Midtown near the theater, but one of Janet’s friends suggested a small chain called Affinia. I found the Affinia Dumont on 34th Street in Murray Hill, and it was great. 35 stories but only about 7 rooms to a floor.

affiniasuiteWe had a junior suite on the 28th floor with a full kitchen and an executive desk setup, not to mention a corner view with the Chrysler Building out one window and the East River out the other. I felt like a big shot sitting there in my corner office. We admired a building across the street with nice gardens on some of the upper floors. At first we thought it was an exclusive condo, but it turned out to be the US headquarters and conference facility for Opus Dei (remember The DaVinci Code?).

newyork093The Barking Dog Bar & Grill – and yes, I did the usual and asked the clerk if he said “Barfing Dog” – was next door and served as the hotel’s restaurant. They have a small plaza where they welcome dogs to enjoy a meal with their owners (in decent weather). Their motto is Sit! Stay! Great place – we had breakfast there every day, and a couple of dinners too.

One evening we ran into Sandy Davidson, the owner of Annandale’s AnnSandra – one of Janet’s favorite shops – where Vicky has worked on and off for a couple of years. Sandy was also staying at the Dumont and was having Seder with her family and friends.

Weatherwise, New York did not exactly welcome us. We arrived late on a pleasant Sunday afternoon and toted our little suitcases six blocks or so up 34th St from Penn Station (we parked in New Jersey and rode the train in – yokels that we are, we first jumped on an Amtrak with our NJTransit tickets, and they booted us off at the airport to await the correct train). That was the last decent weather we had until we left on Thursday. Monday it poured most of the day, Tuesday was showers on and off, cold and windy, and Wednesday was more of the same with snow flurries. Spring, isn’t it lovely?

newyork05On Monday, Janet went to the ten-floors-of-shopping Macy’s at Herald Square, while I got in some exercise at the hotel gym (very nice, by the way). Janet had the forethought to be carrying the camera and took some pictures of Macy’s annual Flower Show, in between marveling at a whole floor dedicated to Petites and buying at least two pairs of shoes.

newyork071Monday evening we took Brendan’s advice and checked out Otto Enoteca, Mario Batali’s wine bar/pizza joint at 1 Fifth Avenue. Actually, the entrance is on 8th Street, but that’s waaaay too mundane an address for a celebrity chef joint. As is our practice, we went out on a limb with our dinner orders . . . she had the margherita pizza, but I was even more daring – pepperoni! With a glass of white zin! It was great pizza, and it was not done in an oven, but on a griddle.

desserttruck1After dinner, we went to find the Dessert Truck. Brendan told us it would be around St. Mark’s Place, just up 8th St from Otto. We searched the area twice, went around two blocks or so before giving up. We headed back to the hotel where we found the following note on the web site:


we will not be open tonight because of the weather. please watch the NCAA men’s championship game instead. thank you.

No, thank you! We saved room for dessert, but in the end we were thankful to have avoided the calories and had a nice walk. Then Janet went for a massage while I watched the Big Game. I had already lost my shirt and pants in the Big Johnson contest, so it was all fun.

newyork08Tuesday we decided to check out some of the NY cultural scene and visited the Guggenheim Museum. Although I enjoy a variety of abstract and contemporary art – for instance, I liked the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Tate Modern in London – I didn’t enjoy the art in the Guggenheim. In hindsight, I think we would have enjoyed MoMA instead, but Janet was completely put off by the thought of another modern art museum, so we went down Fifth Avenue to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Now this is one huge museum. So big, in fact, it’s almost overwhelming. We stayed only an hour or so – despite the $20 admission – but we enjoyed the incredible display of European royal porcelains.

newyork12It was so cold, though, we wound up heading back to the hotel for a nap – but not before we stopped by Macy’s so I could check out the ten-floors-of-shopping and get a photo of the Empire State Building (being rebuilt, BTW).

That evening we had dinner at a nice place in the theater district, Rino Trattoria, before going to the show. The owner said that it’s been a tough few weeks – the economy has been keeping both the locals and the visitors away. He was out in the street offering to pay for your meal if you didn’t like it! We enjoyed the meal so we didn’t take him up on the offer.

jerseyboyslogoFinally, we saw the show that was the purpose of our visit – Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Terrific show. Of course, the original cast has been gone since 2007, but the current cast is certainly excellent, and they are still packing in the crowd. We would see it again – I suppose that’s the ultimate compliment. And I understand it’s going to be in DC this coming October, so we probably will be seeing it again!

newyork10Last but not least, on Wednesday we braved the snow, wind and cold in New York Harbor to pay our respects to Lady Liberty and visit Ellis Island. Fortunately, I had booked reserve ferry tickets – otherwise we would have been standing in the cold, wind and snow for well over an hour just to get on the ferry. It was an impressive sight, especially when the sun came out in between the flurries as we were passing the statue.

We chose not to get off the ferry at the monument – we could not get tickets to go up in the statue, and it was too cold to just walk around outside – so we went on to Ellis Island.

ellisisland1Ellis Island was the point through which about 12 million immigrants, chiefly European, passed between 1892 and 1924, probably the greatest period for immigration in US history. (Restrictive quotas limited immigration after that time, and the processing moved to embassies and consulates overseas.) These were the third-class and steerage passengers on the steamships – the “rich” first- and second-class passengers were cleared to enter by the time the ships docked in New York, while the hordes of poorer folk were ferried to Ellis Island to undergo a number of screening tests to ensure they would not be “likely to become a public charge.” I know my grandparents were admitted from Denmark in 1909, but I could not find them in the Ellis Island records – it’s possible they had money enough to avoid it, but I wouldn’t have guessed that. About 100 million Americans can now trace their ancestry to Ellis Island. In the current immigration-unfriendly atmosphere, that’s amazing.

Afterward, we had a nice (but cold) stroll up the East River to the South Street Seaport. We’d been there before when Vicky’s TJ Marching Colonials played their Harry Potter show on a rainy October afternoon in 2002, but it was a lot more crowded this time. We ate a late lunch at Harbour Lights and watched people crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. Did I mention it was cold (and windy)? I guess they didn’t notice.

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email:

It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

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Kim & Janet Visit Charleston

January 22, 2009

We spent Inauguration Weekend in Charleston, South Carolina, partly because it was crowded and cold in NoVa, partly because we had a four-day weekend, but mostly because we had always wanted to visit Charleston. Vicky was here with the Girl Scouts 10 years ago, but she spent her visit with sailors on the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier moored in the harbor. (I suspect that’s where she must have picked up her salty tongue – it certainly wasn’t from me.)

“Why would Kim write an article about visiting Charleston in his Northern Virginia real estate blog?” you may well ask. And I will tell you:

  1. There is real estate in Charleston. Really expensive real estate.
  2. Parallels may be drawn between Charleston real estate and that of Northern Virginia areas such as Old Town Alexandria (barely).
  3. The interesting and entertaining blog article will attract visitors to my blog, and may cause them to read other informative articles, which will impress them with my knowledge, ability and personality to such an extent that they will develop a deep-seated and entirely understandable desire to contract with me to use my real estate services, and to tell all their friends, neighbors, relatives, and colleagues to do the same. At least, that’s my plan, and I’m sticking to it.
  4. Thus, the trip will be largely tax-deductible.

First, a word about the accommodations. I am a big fan of Trip Advisor, because it has a wealth of traveler-supplied information (to which vendors may respond), so my first go-to when planning a trip is that website for hotel opinions. Though Charleston is rife with hotels – about 6 dozen hotels and B & Bs in and around  the historic area – the Holiday Inn Historic District was ranked #3 by travelers. A Holiday Inn! Not because of the rooms, or the food, or the view, or the location – it’s not as close to the district as many others – but because of the concierge, Kevin McQuade.


Wow! I coulda had a concierge!

I will admit that I am not into asking strangers to guide me. I much prefer to do my own research and preparation, or ask knowledgeable friends. Thus I tend to walk right past the concierge in most hotels, barely acknowledging his or her existence. (Plenty of people think that about real estate agents, dontcha know? Allow me to publicly slap myself upside the head. Ow.) Nonetheless, because I was  intrigued by Kevin’s press clippings, they got our business. Recent examples (there are scores):

  • “We had an amazing time in Charleston and it was made all possible by the suggestions of Kevin McQuade.”
  • “Everything that has been said about Kevin is dead on!”
  • “Kevin clearly loves to share his city with his guests. If there seems to be a wait to talk to him, don’t worry. The wait is worth it.”

It was a brilliant move on my part, thank you very much.


2 Meeting Street Victorian B & B

We’d prebooked Magnolia’s online on a friend’s recommendation, but Kevin changed the reservation so we could go to Virginia’s On King on a night they were open. He got us into Cru Cafe that Saturday evening by pulling a reservation out of his pocket. He set up two walking tours (see below) and made some other recommendations we turned down because of the weather (it was relatively cold and threatened rain – and we will get back). He suggested several other restaurants we might like to try if we got a chance, and two we did – Hominy Grill for breakfast (twice) – and Poogan’s Porch for brunch. He whipped out menus from the restaurants, and gave us cards with walking and driving directions and his personal favorite meal suggestions on the back. By the way, we nearly ate ourselves into oblivion – this is a terrific restaurant town.


Chevaux-de-Frise is an iron bar projecting wicked-looking iron spikes. It was used on many of Charleston's gates and fences after the Denmark Vesey slave revolt conspiracy of 1822.

I imagine other concierges have tricks like this up their sleeves, too. But they won’t then tell you how unique Charleston is at night, and offer to take you on a private tour (he can’t do this for everyone, obviously, so he has to guess which visitors might be “hard-core” enough). They won’t meet you at 10:30 PM and walk you through practically deserted residential streets and alleys for two hours pointing out the lit gardens and courtyards, and the Chevaux-de-Frise. They won’t lie on their backs on the ground to get a photo of you standing in front of a romantic Victorian B & B. They won’t interrupt their conversation with another client the next evening to catch you getting on the elevator to ask how your day’s tour was. And they sure as hell won’t refuse your offer of payment.

The Holiday Inn facilities were certainly nice enough (breakfast was kinda ordinary), and all of the staff were very friendly and competent . . . but Kevin McQuade is truly something special. If my clients were as happy with me as we are with Kevin, I’d be a very wealthy real estate agent. I must have some work to do in that respect, because there don’t appear to be scores of reviews online telling everyone how spectacularly fabulous I am . . . yet.


Ed Grimball

So, we were up at 4:15 AM, on the road by 5:30, and walking the streets of Charleston with Kevin at midnight, having dined well at Cru – the mac and cheese is wonderful – and into bed ASAP, because the next morning we were going for a long walk with Ed Grimball. Ed is a Charleston native of 60+ who’s been doing his tour for about 15 years and really knows his stuff – and loves questions. He meandered with our small group around the historic part of Charleston focusing partly on history and partly on architecture, for the better part of three hours.


Rainbow Row

We learned a bit about the colorful Rainbow Row, how the Charleston piazzas – not pizzas – are oriented to shade the homes, the history and wealth of The Battery, and how Charleston came to be the city it is today. Turns out that 20 influential and determined people in 1931 managed to get a law – now The Law – passed, requiring any building reaching the ripe old age of 75 years to be preserved (or something to that effect). Sort of a gigantic and powerful HOA, which has turned out pretty well for Charleston, it seems to me.


Piazza - Colonnaded Porch or Walkway

The next day we met up with Tommy Dew, who took us around the same area for two more hours. However – and Kevin clearly knew this when he booked both of them – Tommy’s focus was on political history with additional insights on geology and climate. Our walk with Tommy was filled with commentary on how the events leading up to the Civil War (in Charleston – as in much of the South – it’s not the Civil War, but the War Between The States, Mr. Lincoln’s War, or the Late Unpleasantness), the war itself, and the aftermath of the war shaped Charleston as it is today. Sometimes provocative, always well-spoken, Tommy’s Southern perspective is rarely heard north of Richmond.


Porcher-Simonds House on The Battery


We’re going back, that’s for sure. We didn’t get to any of the plantation homes or gardens, Fort Sumter, or the Morris Island lighthouse, among many potential sights; and there are at least a hundred restaurants remaining to be reviewed. Janet hit the local shops while I wandered into Starbucks and located a nest of College of Charleston coeds, amongst which I happily cocooned until Janet returned to “rescue” me.


Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email:
It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®


If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service