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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.

Is this the ideal Brazilian beach we’ve been seeking? Sure is close!

A bit of Christmas cheer on the lunch table

From Porto de Galinhas we continued our journey a few more hours south to Barra de São Miguel in the little Brazilian state of Alagoas. Here we discovered Kenoa, a beach resort so close to perfection that we barely wandered outside of it.

A small boutique-style hotel, Kenoa reeks of style. The architecture is rough and minimalist. The food is the stylish creation of Brazilian celebrity chef Claude Troisgros, known for combining French technique and tropical ingredients. The service was super attentive, yet somehow friendly and relaxed.

Alas, readers, that means this installment has little text. You are just stuck with pictures. And besides the one above that I especially think captures the spirit of this place, you only even get a few of those. Because we were too busy enjoying our lovely home here to even take pictures.

The sublime view from lunch in the amazing restaurant at Kenoa

The view from the little pool in our room

This is a terrace you can get comfortable on

The view from the stylish hotel pool

Kenoa perfection

Savoring an incredible octopus salad

Did I mention the view from our private pool?

This is one of those rare places you really don’t want to leave!

A streetscape in our Jardins neighborhood

Sao Paolo turned out to be little more than a utility stop for us. That seems like a shame in a way, since it’s one of the biggest cities in the world. And it’s sort of the New York of Brazil, with tens of thousands of restaurants and innumerable shops and art galleries and nightclubs and bars. Many well-heeled Brazilians wouldn’t live anywhere else.

But for an outsider it’s a hard place to get a grasp of. It’s so huge and sprawling. It’s not very pretty. There are really no monuments or must-do sights that you’ve ever heard of. It’s knd of a mystery in a way, especially when its rival metropolis, Rio de Janeiro, is packed with sights and beaches that are practically household names.

If you have a 15-hour flight to get to Brazil it helps a lot if your plane has a bar!

Another big drawback is the city’s reputation for crime. Like in Rio, you hear and read so many warnings that you feel like staying holed up in a bunker. We stayed in a fairly posh part of town called Jardins, where you could walk pretty freely around, without too much worry. There were plenty of restaurants and shops to keep us occupied, especially since we had errands to run.

Ordinarily I would have liked to wander around historic central Sao Paolo, not too far from Jardins, to see its grand colonial architecture. But when the guidebook warns you to watch out for the countless pickpockets — and avoid the area altogether in the evening or on weekends, that deflates your interest quite a bit.

So we mostly stuck to our own neighborhood and got through our chores. It didn’t help matters that chores were more difficult than normal. Our first priority upon arrival in any new country is to buy SIM cards for our phones. The difficulty varies wildly from country to country, but Brazil turned out to be the worst. Most stores simply would not sell them without a Brazilian ID. Many phone stores were mysteriously closed on the weekend, even though everything around them was open.

And we faced a surprising language barrier in these stores and elsewhere in Sao Paolo. In so much of the world there is a strong presence of English, at least among young people in educated, urbanized areas. The biggest exceptions have been in China and Japan, and to a surprising extent here in Sao Paolo.

Nonetheless, I managed to eventually muddle my way through the complications of buying SIM cards using some combination of a few words of Portuguese, filling in with Spanish and Italian, and a good dose of google Translate. After two days of finally finding a place that would sell the SIM card, we loaded them in our phones only to find that it takes up to 24 hours for it to work. What the hell?

We of course managed to sniff out some great food here, and we got through our errands. And we did even enjoy just a taste of the things we love about Brazil. It’s super multi-cultural. People like to have fun. They stay up late. And now we are ready to hit the road and encounter all that we love about Brazil in some more beautiful places.

Jim, on the streetscape, as we churn through our errands

After a long walk to an Indian restaurant that was unexpectedly closed, we ducked into a nearby Italian place, where they served us outrageous amounts of tasty grub

Mark and Jim take over the airplane bar. And if you are wondering, yes, Jim is wearing pajamas.