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This piece was originally published on Waddle and Medium in 2016.


City Hall Subway Station
The Gorgeous City Hall Station - Credit: Jeremiah Cox/SubwayNut.com

You might miss it if you blink, or get off the train.


October 27th, 2016: the birthday of a few friends on Facebook, 10 days until the U.S. Election, and the very significant to my life 112th anniversary of my frenemy, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (M.T.A).

I’m not quite sure how my obsession with all things subway related began.


I think it’s combination of growing up without any kind of decent mass transit (the only subway I knew was a sandwich), a love of history, and a curiosity about how a city so large moves about so quickly in quarters so small.

Sure, we all have those days we hate the subway.



When I have those days, I sometimes just have to remind myself that HUMANS DUG OUT THESE TUNNELS WITH THEIR BARE HANDS. Related note — my commute to/from work is between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Can I repeat: humans built tunnels through water!


Among the remarkable things involving MTA is my favorite secret spot in NYC.

The myth, the legend, the 5 second wonder that is the original City Hall Subway Stop.


This original subway platform was decommissioned once the trains became too large to fit with the curve of the platform. It’s a true tragedy, because this station is a work of art!

When I first moved to the city I began asking seasoned New York colleagues and friends if they had ever seen/been to the this original subway platform. The responses were almost unanimously the following: “Is that a thing?” “Is that even real?” “I’ve heard about it, but not sure if you can even really see anything or how to see it.”


LET ME TELL YOU.

It’s real. It’s magical.


It’s the New York secret you can show off to all dates, out of town guests, and groups of friends you need to know how much of a New Yorker you really are. (It will also only cost one subway swipe per person!)


I’m hopefully not hyping things up, because it’s truly something you see for approximately 10 seconds or less- but it’s a time warp you don’t want to miss. The vaulted mosaic ceilings, colorful ornate mosaics, and original still lit windows draw you instantly back into the era where this was the BIGGEST thing to happen. Ever.


The Bowery Boys podcast has an excellent three part series on the history of the MTA and if you’re a NYC history nerd like me, you’ll devour it as quick as the pass through this original station. (It honestly makes this spot even more impressive!)

So whether you’re running around the city on an adventure date day, showing your parents the sites of the city, or just curious about this quirky historical spot in NYC, here’s how you see it:


STEP ONE. Ride the 6 train headed downtown from at least Spring or further uptown. (I think it gets a little fishy trying to get on the train headed downtown at Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall, as it’s the last stop).


STEP TWO. When the train reaches the last stop, Brooklyn Bridge — City Hall, do not get off! Just don’t! They may tell you to get off, and you might feel like you have to get off since it is the last stop, but ignore the conductor! When the train car empties and the doors close it feels a little bit rebellious, and a lot a bit exciting! At this point you’ll want to find a good window on the right hand side of the train (facing the direction the train is traveling).


STEP THREE. Keep your eyes peeled. Don’t get distracted. If you’re not looking out the window you truly might miss it. *NB: It’s best to do this during the day for better visibility, as more natural light fills the station.


All of this happens as 6 train makes a very short loop through the original city hall station, turning around to head uptown. Leaving behind the platform of yesteryear.


The abandoned City Hall subway stop is a cool, quick, cheap thing to do in the city that leaves you near so many great neighborhoods to continue any date or site seeing.


Impress your friends.


  • Chromatic Caroline

Visiting Spa Castle in Flushing, Queens.


Note: Spa Castle provided me with a complimentary day pass including food and beverages during my visit. I was not obligated to write this post, but had such a great experience that I’m choosing to share more about it here. While there, I chose to purchase the K-Scrub which was well worth every penny. More on that later.

 

Have you heard of Spa Castle? If you’ve lived in New York City for approximately six months or more Spa Castle is bound to come up in casual conversation at least once, if not multiple times. People talk about Spa Castle as if it really is a mythical castle in a distant land. Something that sounds too wonderful to be easily accessible in New York City- the land of crowded trains, noisy streets, and never ending exhaustion.


It’s crazy to believe there is a place in New York City where you can just sit and relax. A place that's within the 5 boroughs, but not your own apartment. A place where you can force yourself to lock your phone away and disconnect. A place where, if you chose, you can have every inch of city grime deeply scrubbed off of your skin.


Lucky for us, it’s not in a distant land…it’s just in Queens.


For the past four years, I had made up a magical image of Spa Castle in my head. Having spent a couple of summers in Santa Fe, NM during graduate school, I absolutely LOVE a good spa. What's not to love about some intentional self care? After couple of friends and colleagues who had been to both the spas in Santa Fe, and Spa Castle in Queens gave me their positive reviews, I was very excited for my upcoming visit.

Rather than giving you a full play by play of the visit- I want to give you a list of highlights to expect when you visit, as well as some tips that I think also helped on ours.

1. It really is the size of a castle. It sadly doesn’t look like a medieval castle, though there is a comically huge decorative door in the main atrium area beyond the locker rooms. There are four floors of spa amenities including indoor pools, outdoor pools, far more saunas than one can count or are probably necessary, endless massage rooms, and a full Korean restaurant. There's a salt sauna, a gold sauna, an ice room- I'm always a little skeptical on what they actually do, but they must do something, it's a castle after all!


Non-descript entrance into the magical world of hot tubs and body scrubs.

2. Go Early. Alternatively, go on a weekday if you can. It likely quieter on weekdays, and also $10 cheaper during the week. If you can only visit on a weekend like us, definitely force yourself to be a morning person. Think of it as waking up early to go somewhere to keep sleeping! (There's literally a naping area. It's in the middle of the big atrium, so I'm not sure how feasible it is to nap...but if you need it, it's there.) The main reason to go early is to avoid the crowds. We visited on a Sunday morning, arriving close to opening. It was virtually empty for the first couple of hours we were there. Around 12:30pm the pools became more crowded and the swim up bar opened giving it more of a party vibe than a spa vibe upstairs. Still great, depending on what you're looking for. NB: They also allow children at the spa, going early gives another advantage of avoiding the tiny humans.


3. The locker room pools/saunas require mandatory nudity. Just something to note if that's not your thing. There are plenty of other areas at the spa that require bathing suits or the provided uniform. I will say that the pools within the locker room are probably the best pools at the facility including targeted jet pools, hot tubs of different temperatures, and two cold plunge pools. If you follow note 2, you'll likely have this entire area to yourself. The K-Scrubs also take place in the locker room pool area.


4. If you're going to eat a meal there, eat at the Korean restaurant upstairs. Trust me. If you wan't just a snack or something lighter, the best option is the smoothie/froyo bar on the third floor. Adjacent to smoothies on the third floor there is a snack bar with sandwiches, pizza, coffee, and a by the pound salad bar with various pre-made salads. Skip the snacks on the outdoor pool level, and save your appetite for something from the Sky Garden Korean Restaurant. NB: You won't have to carry around any money or a wallet during your visit, anything you chose to buy including spa services is charged to a tab connected to your wristband/locker number.


5. The upstairs pools are legit too. Hot pools, warm pools, jet pools, waterfalls in pools, pools within pools, private reservable pools. You'll have all the options in the world on the 3rd floor pool area. My favorite area was the indoor lounging pools which have targeted jets for your back and feet. They also are indoors so I could sit there for a long time and not worry about a sunburn! Win! The larger indoor pool has a swim up bar, but I decided a $15 cocktail wasn't in my best interest after purposely dehydrating my body via hot tub and sauna. Wouldn't have been a good look.


Indoor lounge pools doing the Lord's work.

6. Research deals and promotions online! I'm not made of moneybags, but I definitely plan to return to spa castle. In order to do so I'll likely use one of the many promotions available on Groupon/Living Social etc. If you plan to go, you should do the same, and you might be able get a great package deal with spa services included.


7. Transportation is manageable. There are a variety of ways to access spa castle without a personal vehicle. Spa Castle operates a shuttle between the spa and their sister hotel the One Boutique Hotel located within walking distance of the 7 Train.. It's also possible to take a bus from the end of the 7 train, but it involves a longer walk. For quickest transportation, an Uber/Lyft from the Flushing/Main St stop of the 7 train is about $10-$12.


9. If you are considering a service, look into the K-Scrub. It's one of the least expensive bang for your buck services offered at the spa, hence was my choice for a little extra self care. I really had no idea what to expect, but I have now decided it will be an annual treat. In brief, every inch of your body gets fully scrubbed with a towel glove that is essential sandpaper. It's a very common practice in jjimjilbang, the term for Korean bathhouses. Who doesn't love seeing dead skin roll off their body like dried paint flecking off the side of a building. It's delightful.


10. Go with an open mind and create your own spa experience. Everyone will likely have a completely different experience. There are a lot of negative reviews online, but as we all know, generally only people who write reviews have bad things to say. There are parts of the spa that could use some updating, but there are also parts that are totally lovely. I imagine I would not like it when it's crowded, so I'll only go early in the AM to beat the crowd. I tended to get bored sitting in the saunas but could have sat in the various pools for endless hours. I'm sure spa days don't bring the same rejuvenation to everyone, but if you've never tried, it's worth a shot!


BONUS TIP: Plan to spend a long chunk of time there. If you're going to spend the money, it's not an in and out situation. Check out every pool and sauna, enjoy every space, or even take a nap if you're that person.

A regal pool oasis in suburban warehouse Queens.

  • Chromatic Caroline

Here’s a dish from my childhood that brings on ultimate nostalgia.


Earlier this year on a return visit home to Hollywood, Florida my mom and I went out to lunch at one of her favorite spots - Piccadilly Cafeteria. While there I had the famous carrot soufflé for the first time in maybe 10 years. It inspired me to write this post.


It's very likely 95% of you don’t live anywhere near the national treasure of Piccadilly Cafeteria, so here is a little slice of Americana.

Vintage Picadilly
Vintage Picadilly Cafeteria Photo By Wtylerallen at English Wikipedia,

Piccadilly Cafeteria was founded in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in the 1930s and gradually expanded all over the gulf-coast/southern United States. It’s a cafeteria style restaurant serving classic southern comfort food. Famous for the southern classics like fried chicken, with recipes that are apparently well guarded.


In 1998 Piccadilly acquired Morrison’s Cafeteria which is how we were gifted with its presence in South Florida. Morrison's Cafeteria was essentially the same concept with a similar origin: 1920, Mobile, Alabama. With the majority of their locations in Georgia and Florida, Morrison's was the Cafeteria style restaurant near our house growing up.


I have blurry memories of the original Morrison's location in Hollywood. I do remember the giant scale next to the check out register at the exit of the dining room. That scale was used for weighing small children. Yes, the children. I remember getting hoisted up on the scale, to determine the cost of my meal. Young children's meals were a penny a pound based on their weight. I'm sure there was an age cut off, but that was less of a concern for me as I wasn't the one paying. Either way, What a deal?! I'm sure it brought a lot of families into the restaurant, including my young parents who could go out to eat and pay less than a dollar for my sister and I. Penny a pound night was once a week, and included clown making balloon hats etc. in the dining room, a double win for a kid like me who loved food and a party.


As mentioned, in the late 90's all Morrison's were acquired and converted in to Piccadilly restaurants.

That's really where my story of the carrot soufflé begins.


Morrisons, and what became Piccadilly was a regular dining spot for my family. As soon as I was tall enough, and could sort of hold my own tray, going down the line choosing my own food was exhilarating. An entree, two sides, and a bread. It usually involved my parents telling me I had to get something green as one of my sides. Though 95% of the time I was able to choose the far superior orange sides before anyone noticed: Mac and Cheese, and Carrot Soufflé. In a recent discussion with friends about buffet restaurants, I also had the realization that today's beloved Kale was simply used as the vehicle for presenting bowls of Jello Jigglers and the like. Kale was garbage in 1995, and I kind of respect that.

My Childhood Heaven. The Piccadilly line at the Hollywod, FL Location. Image taken from Google Maps

When I went back home in February, I was oddly determined to get back to Piccadilly. While my parents go regularly, it had been a long time since last time I had to chose between Texas toast or a dinner roll. (Pro Tip, always get the Texas toast). The location near my folks in Hollywood is the last standing Piccadilly in South Florida. It's a time warp to an era of fast-casual dining before anyone knew what fast-casual dining was. While the restaurant is experiencing a resurgence with the aid of Food Ordering Apps and To Go Service- nothing will replace the cafeteria experience that comes with Piccadilly.


The carrot soufflé is by far the most notable dish at Piccadilly. In the early days of recipes on the internet Copycat recipes were a huge hit. Finally people could share what they've figured out in their mad science laboratory kitchens. Recipes for knock-off chain restaurant favorites filled the kitchens of America. While probably in less demand, Piccadilly copy cat recipes were no exception. Once my mother figured out how to use the internet, carrot soufflé became a regular side at Thanksgiving.


Picadilly carrot soufflé
My Picadilly carrot soufflé. Exactly how I remembered it.

The carrot soufflé is a perfect mix of carrots, eggs, sugar, salt, butter, and vanilla. Baked to achieve a crisp top, and fluffy center, topped with more powdered sugar. What's not to love? Is it a side? A dessert? Who cares, it's delicious! Connie Ogle for Miami.com writes “it taste like all that is holy and pure about your childhood.” Honestly, I couldn’t have said it better than that.

 

If you don't live near a Piccadilly and want to try the carrot soufflé yourself, here's a copy cat recipe from our local paper. If you do, August 14th is Free carrot soufflé day. (That last sentence is sponsored by my mother, who told me after I told her about this post.)