New York is beautiful in its own way even in the dead of winter. And we figure if we can get through January we can get through anything.

Hello again readers. Since we landed in New York City on January 2 we have been pretty quiet on our blog, right? Since that landing ended our 5-year, 8-month travel adventure, we’ve also been debating whether to end the travel blog or turn it into something else.

We’ve decided on “something else.” We love having the blog as a record of our adventures and especially a place to put our favorite pictures. And while the full-time travel adventure has come to an end, other exciting adventures keep unfolding. And we keep taking pictures that would like to have a nice home as well.

So welcome to MarkAndJim.com 2.0. We are going to try to write about our adventures monthly or so and see if that works. But we’ve got some catching up to do, so here is a summary of our first month of readjustment to non-nomadic domestic life. We will try not to include any spoilers!

We spent most of January living in a hotel right on Union Square, where the farmers markets are legendary

Our first home in New York felt a lot like our recent homes elsewhere. We spent 26 nights in a hotel as we tried to figure out how to find something more permanent. We spent all of that time at the W hotel right on buzzy Union Square, arguably right at the edge of lower Manhattan. Union Square is a great location, close to all the downtown neighborhoods where we wanted to look for a place to live.

Truth be told, we had a pretty good sense of EXACTLY where we wanted to live before we even got to New York. We’d been watching property listing in New York for most of the last year, always wishing we could find the perfect thing for us, which would be a large space with good bones in need of a total renovation. Our last home in Cambridge was our own creation, a loft space that we planned and designed ourselves. And it was perfect for us. Thinking about living in New York, we could never imagine ourselves with anything less than a space imagined and designed just for us. And we are willing again to suffer through a year of renovation to get it.

62 Cooper Square

The Carl Fischer Building was built in 1926 and housed a music publishing business for decades. Our 11th floor future home is highlighted.

Back on November 30, in Egypt, Jim saw a new listing on Zillow, which captured both our imaginations right away. It was the full 11th floor of the historic Carl Fisher Building at 62 Cooper Square in NoHo — an unimaginable 6,500 square feet, with 40 windows facing every direction with sweeping open views. And badly in need of a total renovation! NoHo is a great neighborhood surrounded by our other favorite neighborhoods — Greenwich Village to the West, the East Village to the East, Union Square and Flatiron to the north, and SoHo, NoLiTa, and the Lower East Side just to the south. OK, something must be super wrong with this property.

When we arrived in New York on January 2, our agent, Mara, had already set up a grueling couple days of property showings, starting that very afternoon. And the first property on the list was 62 Cooper Square. From the moment we walked into that space, nothing else was ever going to be able to compete. What was the awful thing wrong with it? Absolutely nothing. We could hardly believe someone else hadn’t scooped it up in the month since that listing first appeared.

We were blown away by the vast expanses of raw space at 62 Cooper Square. Now this has potential!

The front of the unit looks out over the historic college called the Cooper Union and the ultra-hip East Village

I know what you are thinking — sounds expensive! And yes, New York’s astronomical real estate prices take some time to get used to. We are lucky to have the budget of people who started and eventually sold a software company. But Cooper Square, with its big, open, unfinished spaces was priced so much lower per square foot than almost everything else we were looking at. You pay a lot more per volume to walk into a beautifully furnished spaces with appliances and finishes somebody else picked out. By our accounts, this property will be a bargain even after investing heavily in the renovation. Plus we know we can turn this into the perfect place for us.

As Mara shepherded us through a grueling schedule of property visits, nothing came close to Cooper Square. Every listing compared unfavorably to its value and potential. We’d barely cross the threshold of the next property before we’d be saying, “But Cooper Square This” and “Cooper Square That.”

So within just a few days we made an offer. And after another two weeks of anxiety, negotiation, excitement, and worry, we signed a contract to purchase the 11th Floor of 62 Cooper Square. We were aware then that we were embarking on a long and difficult process to turn the place into our dream home. Ahead of us lay months of agony to close on the property, make renovation plans, get permits to build, hire a contractor, and complete the construction. But by the end of January we had a signed contract and a newly hired architect.

We traipsed through many beautiful properties with Mara (in the white hat), but everything compared poorly to 62 Cooper Square

This was the rooftop of an apartment that belonged to the playwright Edward Albee. It was an interesting but quirky place that needed major renovation, but would still be quirky

196 Orchard Street

Until we had that contract in hand, we were afraid to make any other commitments in New York or anywhere else. We constantly feared the deal would fall through and it could take many months to find something else we could be so excited about. Would we stay in New York all that time? Or run away to somewhere else to sulk?

But now it was time to find an apartment for the year or so it would take to renovate Cooper Square. We felt little enthusiasm about finding an apartment, feeling like we’d be living in temporary squalor for a year. After looking at lots of dreadful listings and visiting a few dreadful apartments, we discovered a sparkling new apartment building in the Lower East Side and fell in love.

Because everything about real estate in New York is hellish and complicated, it took us well over a week to apply and get approvals to move in. On January 25 we got our keys to the new apartment and embarked on a mad three-day shopping binge to acquire the things we’d need to move in. After all, we’d been living out of suitcases for nearly six years. We had NOTHING required to live in an apartment. No furniture, no dishes, no sheets or towels or silverware or toilet paper or cookware. Finally, on January 28 a whole set of rented furniture was delivered, and we moved out of the W Hotel and into our new home at 196 Orchard Street. It felt really weird to have a place to call “home” again.

Our new apartment before the rental furniture got delivered. Here is Jim taking a break from our 3-day shopping marathon.

One of the best things about living in New York is that we have a surprising number of old friends here. That includes my college friend Mary Beth, here with her youngest daughter Fiona at one of several wonderful dinner parties they’ve hosted for us.

Dinner parties are Mary Beth and Sven’s house are pretty serious gastronomic affairs. This is the stunning fish dish that Sven put together.

Plus everybody loves to visit the Big Apple! Bart and Ann came down from Boston for a super fun weekend.

New urban planning strategies and new construction technologies have led to a new generation of super tall and skinny skyscrapers called “pencil towers,” here rising above Central Park

Cool modern shapes at the World Trade Center

New York is a very international town, as witnessed by signs for the construction workers in our apartment building in English, Albanian, Russian, and Spanish. Over 37% of New Yorkers were born in another country.

That’s Peter Stuyvesant, Director General of the New Netherlands from 1647-1664

We were anxious to get to New York so Jim could see a doctor here after his health scare in Brazil. They filled all those little tubes with his blood and eventually concluded that he’s in pretty good shape.

Mark on our balcony before breakfast with the morning sun hitting Mantiqueira Mountains behind him

This was the end. After over 2,000 days of traveling the world, our last stop would be at a glorious resort 4,000 feet above sea level in Brazil’s Mantiqueira Mountains. But first a little note about this post.

We were here the end of December 2018, though I write it in mid-April 2019. After over five-and-a-half years of traveling and editing pictures and writing, we were ready to move to New York, find a place to live, and settle down. And then there was that whole pulmonary embolism thing where I could well have died in Rio, meaning I had to find a doctor quickly to see what had happened and whether the doctors in Rio had treated me properly. (Spoiler alert: they did. And I survived.) So when we got to New York the morning of January 2 I had other things on my mind and somehow just never got around to finishing this final post.

Fast forward to April and we’re in London, our first overseas trip since Brazil. We’ve been enjoying New York and found an amazing loft in New York; we closed on it the day before leaving. It will be a total gut rehab, so there will be many months of work before we can move in. In the meantime we’ve decided to post here occasionally, whether on a trip like this (London for a few days and then two weeks in Italy) or just about fun things to do in New York. And I’m sure the good, the bad, and the ugly about a big renovation project in Manhattan. To write those things, though, we first need to finish off Brazil, so here we are.

Every morning after breakfast I’d come out to this comfy lawn chair to read. For a couple hours I would be the only one there. Nothing not to love about that experience.

For our last and final stop on this fantastic adventure we stayed at the Botanique Hotel & Spa, up in the mountains outside of São Paolo. It is really a special place, isolated, beautiful, peaceful. They grow a lot of their own produce and so the food there was special. I suspect that there might have been some great hiking in the area but, as I was recovering from that pulmonary embolism and was under doctor’s orders to not exert myself, I was remarkably inactive. Up early, read on our balcony, breakfast, read out on the back lawn, lunch, nap, read, dinner … you get the idea.  At one point, after a couple days of inactivity, I tried to go on a little hike up into the hills with Mark. I got a little way up the hill and just had to turn back; Mark finished the loop above and around the resort but it was just too much for me.

Mark took this photo on his hike above and around the resort. Almost the definition of serenity.

And so it was decided: I would finish our epic adventure sitting around doing pretty much nothing. The weather was beautiful, pleasantly warm but high enough in altitude that it wasn’t at all too hot. The sort of place I would probably love even more if I’d had the opportunity and ability to have been more active, but a perfect place to be inactive.

Fireworks

And suddenly it was New Year’s Eve. The resort, in the middle of nowhere, had its own fireworks, with champagne, of course. The next morning, New Years Day, we were up and eventually headed to the airport in São Paolo for an overnight flight to New York and the start of our new life. Just like that, a new adventure begins.

All around the property there were these raised beds where they grew both decorative flowers and lots and lots of produce for our meals. It doesn’t get more local than that.

Another favorite reading spot. Imagine lounging here in the late afternoon sun reading Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Pretty nice, huh?

A view of the lodge from below. That top balcony was ours.

Breakfast was typically served right here with sweeping views of the mountains

There I am, waiting for breakfast

For the Holidays the resort had hundreds – literally hundreds – of these yellow plastic balls just rolling around everywhere. Festive and cute.

Did I mention that I enjoyed my reading time here?

Relaxing at lunch, reasonably happy that I hadn’t died in Rio

And yes, I know it’s horribly blurry. But what could be a better finale to this amazing journey than champagne and New Year’s Eve fireworks. Late the next morning we were off to the airport and a new life.

Up at the rooftop pool at the Emiliano Hotel on Copacabana

What can you say about Rio de Janeiro? It’s truly one of the great cities in the world: beautiful coastal location, fantastic beaches, great climate, good food. It has everything you could ever want in a city. Unfortunately our experiences here haven’t always been so ideal. We were here the first time in 2005 and on our first day we were robbed at gunpoint. Kind of colors your memories. And makes you a little paranoid on your return visit.

This time, though, we were determined to have a better experience. We flew down from the city of Maceio, a little under three hours so no big deal. I was hampered our entire five-day stay, though, with a bum leg; I didn’t know what happened but my left calf was so sore and swollen I could hardly walk at all. And on top of that a mild cold I’d had turned seriously nasty – eventually coughing up blood and with sharp chest pains one night.

There are only a few great cities in the world that have great beaches. Along with Barcelona and Sydney, Rio is at the top of the list.

I had the sense that I should see a doctor but how are you going to arrange that the weekend before Christmas, which in Rio is also the start of summer? So I soldiered on, having meals in or right near the restaurant, limping over to the beach just across the street. Not ideal but not horrible either.

After five days we hired a car to take us down the beach a few hours to Angra dos Reis where we’d reserved a beautiful room for four days over Christmas. On arriving there I asked while checking in if they had access to a doctor, as my leg was causing real problems. To their enormous credit they came through, with their house doctor coming to our room (they’d upgraded us to a stunning suite, one of the most beautiful rooms we’ve ever stayed it). She poked around a bit, asked a few questions and got very serious. She was quite certain I had developed deep vein thrombosis, essentially blood clots in my leg, and the chest issues I was experiencing was a pulmonary embolism, part of the clot moving up to my lung.

We weren’t in Agra dos Reis long enough to get good pictures and this doesn’t begin to do justice to how beautiful it was, or at least how beautiful our room was. It was Christmas Eve, and as the doctor had forbidden me to walk the hotel served a beautiful dinner on our balcony. Fortunately she had not forbidden alcohol so dinner included an amazing Negroni. OK, two Negronis.

She explained that the condition was very serious and that I was not to set foot on that leg at all. It was too late that night to go back to Rio but they arranged for a car the next morning to take us back directly to the emergency room of a private hospital.

So that’s where I spent the next three days in Rio, one day in the ER, one day in the ICU, and one final day in a private room where they could monitor my progress. The first two days were bad; CT scans and echocardiograms and blood tests and EKGs and doctors and nurses and technicians and god only knows what. And no standing at all, not even to go to the bathroom. Just lying there with nothing to do except wait for the next person to come in and push and prod and poke.

I can’t believe how old and frail I look in this picture. I’m attributing it to the hospital gown and wheel chair, not my actual age.

In the scheme of things I was pretty lucky. They found not just one but two embolisms – large embolisms, the doctor assured me – in my lungs but they had passed through without damaging my heart. And the best part? The whole thing, all the care and three days in the hospital and all the tests and everything came to under $2,300. I’ll bet that in the States it would have literally been 10 times that amount or more.

And the rest of the good news is that I seem to be fully on the mend. I’ll be on blood thinners for months and am banned from exercising for a few weeks at least. Given mortality rate of pulmonary embolisms, though, I’m feeling pretty lucky.

While I was still modestly mobile we discovered El Born, a great tapas bar with good cocktails and good wine.

Other than that? I wish I could have enjoyed Rio. Our hotel during the first stay was on Copacabana and we enjoyed parts of a few days on the beach. There was some big event during the weekend that made it all more crowded and just difficult than it would normally be, but again, how bad can Copacabana be? Part of what I love about Rio, and I remember it from our first visit years ago, is that you see a little bit of everything on the beach. There are all the beautiful bodies that inspired The Girl from Ipanema (the next beach up the coast), but plenty of old sagging bodies, too. Black, white, brown, old, young, gay, straight. Amputees even. You name it, it’s on the beach here.

On our return visit we stayed – Mark stayed, that is; I had less attractive accommodations – at a hotel right on Ipanema where he could walk up and down the beach when he wasn’t schlepping over to the hospital to see me or filling my prescriptions or going to a bookstore to get me something to read. We thought it was strange that in the ICU they banned electronics of all sorts: no phone, no iPad, not even a Kindle. We pushed back on the iPhone since that was the only way Mark and I could communicate about where they were moving me, how I was doing, when he was coming to visit, whatever. And it turned out I needed the Google Translator app on my phone since while the doctors all spoke English reasonably well essentially none of the nurses did. The doctor eventually caved and let me keep my phone but it seems as though the issue isn’t one of perhaps the electronic fields would interfere with something in the hospital. It seems the issue is that too many patients complained that their phones were stolen while they weren’t paying attention so the solution was just to ban them all. He said I could keep my phone as long as I took complete responsibility for securing it. I did and I did.

Mark enjoying a little free time in Rio when they closed off visiting hours

And speaking of great service. The hotel we’d reserved in Agra dos Reis, a Fasano hotel, had a branch in Rio and they just effectively transferred the reservation up there. They certainly could have charged us for the room we’d reserved for four nights and then charged us again in Rio but to their credit were really great about helping us. When all was said and done the money we saved on the hotel practically paid for my hospitalization!

We’ve been to Rio twice now. The first time we were robbed and the second time I ended up in the hospital for three days. I’d like to try this one more time but I’ll admit to being a little gun shy. Meanwhile we have one more stop in Brazil as we head up into the mountains of Saô Paulo state for New Year’s Eve. Then it’s on to New York and our next great adventure.

Mark enjoyed walks along the beach when he was free of hospital duty

Christ the Redeemer reigning high over Rio. When we were here in 2005 we went up there but this time we had to enjoy it from afar

A little Christmas cheer