The Festival Of Sophie

This weekend was Sophie's big 30th birthday celebration. I decided to make it a full-scale festival, complete with fancy restaurant lunches, impromptu boat-rides, and one-too-many dive bars.

Day 1: Boats, Cigars & Jazz.

Friday afternoon, we dodged the summer rain storm and tucked into some grub at The Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, overlooking the lake. You never know what you're going to find lurking in these New York lakes...


After a couple of martinis, le wife felt confident it was in our best interest to jump into one of the rickety old boats and row our way through the duck-poop to kick the weekend off with a sweaty, humid bang.


I paid the gentleman the $15 boat fare, along with a $20 deposit. When I asked "Why the deposit? Are you afraid we'll sink the boat?" He glared at me and said, "You'd be amazed how often..." then trailed off to a severe mumble.

We clambered aboard the rusty old dinghy and attempted not to capsize. Within 2 minutes, a mutiny had upended my role as 'rower', and I was told to sit quietly and enjoy the view as le wife rowed us erratically through the reeds and roots of Central Park Lake. 

We passed an old man sitting on the shore who looked thoroughly disgusted that I, an able-bodied man was the only one not rowing out of the cluster of romantic dinghy dates surrounding us.

Upon noticing his gaze, Sophie leaned over and yelled "THIS IS WHAT FEMINISM LOOKS LIKE, SIR!" and angrily started flapped the oars around, leading us directly towards an embankment she couldn't see on account of her facing the other way.

We passed a small island of water birds, one of which looked remarkably familiar. Weird.


By some miracle, we returned to dry land without sinking and tapped the office window to get our $20 deposit back. The man handed it back, somewhat disappointed. I think he was hoping we'd have perished. 

The day continued to Act 2 as we stomped through the grass and across the road toward the Carlyle hotel: a New York institution. We perched ourselves at Bemelman's Bar, surrounded by the artwork the bar's namesake created in return for nothing more than a few nights' stay at the hotel. Bemelman famously drew for The New Yorker, Esquire and of course created the children's character, Madeline.

We made fast friends with Sharif, the bartender while Sophie tapped away on her laptop answering work emails before enjoying the sights and sounds of happy hour. A singer+pianist began playing the baby grand in the middle of the room as bodies flooded in. We were lucky to have arrived just before the rush, as the scene soon resembled the regular Monday nights when Woody Allen plays clarinet here with his band. 

We clocked off and wandered across the road to Bar & Books on Lexington for a sneaky cigar, whiskey and a long chat about the wonders of 30, and bidding a fond farewell to the frivolities of one's twenties. After nearly setting fire to my entire face, I decided it was time to move on to Act 3.

We flagged a cab and zipped down to Columbus Circle to wander into Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, Jazz @ Lincoln Center to see the incredible Kurt Elling sing his lungs out with his quartet. Le wife nearly had a conniption as it was the first time she'd ever seen him perform live. 

After the show, she approached him and said something to him in her Australian accent, which both baffled and charmed him. He shook her hand and smiled.


To take the edge off the adrenaline rush, we knocked over a couple of whiskeys at the Irish bar around the corner and capped off the evening.

Not a bad effort for Day 1.


Day 2: Gym, Spa & More Jazz.

Saturday morning we decided it was a wise move to start the day in the gym to pretend to work off Friday's indulgences. We arrived at the gym to find it was closed, inexplicably. Oh well... TO BRUNCH!

We spent the morning people watching at Lexington Brass, diving straight back into the booze pool with a couple of Bloody Maries and a Grapefruit Negroni. Who knew you could ruin a perfectly good drink so easily? The food, however, was incredible. Le wife did get one surprise in her eggs benedict that she hadn't ordered, but she didn't want to make a fuss.


We closed out and wandered around the corner to Le wife's surprise spa treatment. I didn't realise, but there was a huge street festival all the way down Lexington Ave that day, so it took a sweaty hour and a half to get home.


By the time I'd walked in the door, she was done.  Two disco naps later, we were up and about, Ubering to the wondrous Upland restaurant for more boozing and dinner. The place was packed, on account of its wondrous menu and incredible cocktails.

I was served a glass of champagne with what I thought was an olive in it, but on closer inspection found it was something far more sinister.


It was time to leave and Facetime the family back in Australia, so we wandered down Park Avenue talking to our nephew, Harry as he dressed up and ran around in his Superman costume. Finally a better Superman than anything DC has made.




Moments later we found ourselves in a bar called Turnmill, which we had all to our very own! Well... almost:



We took full advantage, before heading around the corner to The Jazz Standard to see Azar Lawrence in his quartet see us late into the late night.

We concluded with a whiskey nightcap at Old Town Bar on 18th and Park. I ordered a familiar looking tap beer before collapsing at home, ready for Day 3...

Day 3: A Hotel, A Park & Yet More Jazz.

After a lengthy sleep-in, I surprised Sophie with the final day's events for the #FestivalOfSophie... a stay at the Surrey Hotel on the Upper East Side: A gift from my family.

The uber driver we had on the way was telling us all about his custody disputes with 3 of his 13 children. Fun.
We checked in, and upon entering the elevator were presented with a giant, terrifying face on the wall. What a start.


I found the room, entered the key card and flung open the door saying "Surprise!!" only to see Sophie's confused face...
Turns out the surprise I'd organised was conspicuously absent.
Not to worry... at least we can get a drink at the bar!

We peered around the empty lobby bar to realise it was not open... When we brought this to the attention of the receptionist, she said we'd just entered through the wrong door. 

She showed us the same door we'd just walked through, and was as surprised as us to find the bar completely deserted- not a single bartender to be seen. 

She called out for someone, but to no avail. Eventually someone resembling a staff member arrived. We ordered a couple of bloody marys and I went off to investigate as to the whereabouts of the aforementioned 'surprise'.

Our dear friends, Anthony and Lauren arrived bearing grins and gifts to lift the day. We knocked back a couple of drinks and proceeded up to the room to find the 'surprise' had magically appeared, hours after I'd arranged for it to be there. Perfect.

Champagne was drunk, gifts were opened, rooftop mirth and merriment ensued. 
I won't go into the specifics of it, but due to the fact that the hotel had been split up and sold off, it was impossible for us to order drinks on the rooftop bar, or food, or.. well, anything really, so we once again descended to the now staffed lobby bar for some food.

Great view! Bad vibes...

Great view! Bad vibes...


Eventually, the time came for us to pile into a Gett and drive deep into the wilds of Astoria to watch Le Wife sing and perform on the piano at The Astor Room. More cocktails and dinner were had as still more friends joined us in celebrating the #FestivalOfSophie. A great big book of New York Jazz -a gift from Heather and Ed- was passed around for people to sign before they became to paralytic to write.


We closed out the Astor Room and had the generous Gary Leli drive Le Wife, Ethan Hall and myself back across the bridge for a nightcap on the rooftop of The Surrey... sadly, both the downstairs bar AND the rooftop were all closed off... I'm not entirely sure why, or how, but it was a bit silly... We decided to relocate. 

I asked the receptionist if she wouldn't mind having Sophie's gift sent up to our room so we didn't have to carry it around. She said, "But I can't until the morning, it will wake up the guest!"
I said "...What guest?"
She said, "The guest in room 410."
"But... Wait, you mean me? I'm right here. I'm the guest in 410."
She blinked.
"You won't be waking me... I'm standing in front of you." I said.

We stared at each other for a moment before I walked out shaking my head and trying to process the gross idiocy I'd just been part of.
As I walked away I heard the penny drop "Oh... " she said.

We wandered across the road to the Carlyle for some cocktails and enjoyed the jazz, capping off the weekend how it started at Bemelman's Bar. We wandered through Central Park, scaring ducks and nearly getting arrested before returning to the least-hospitable hotel in New York to retire for the evening.


The room service birthday cake I'd ordered ahead of time to have ready in the room had mysteriously not arrived, but I wasn't in the least bit surprised. A less than perfect way to cap off the #FestivalOfSophie.