Monday, 28 January 2008

eating up the Big Apple.

Well, we arrived back from New York this morning, and I have to say it really is the most amazing city! We packed a LOT into two days, but we walked most of it and it felt like there was something interesting around every corner. We just kept accidentally finding places that made me do a double take because it didn't seem reasonable that they should just be...well...real...and right there...!

Anyway, we arrived late on Friday night and caught a cab to our hosts' apartment on Broadway. The cab driver was a bit rude, but he was honestly the only rude person we met the whole weekend. For its reputation as a violent and unfriendly city, I felt totally comfortable walking around, and even down in the subway at night. And as opposed to San Francisco, I could count the number of homeless people I saw all weekend on one hand.

Nick and Gin had an amazing apartment with views of Broadway, Wall St, Trinity Church and the Twin Towers sites.

Elsie and I got up bright and early on Saturday morning to spend the day wandering the city. Whilst heading for Wall Street, we wandered by the Trinity Church which seemed surreal to me - a huge cathedral with graveyard in the middle of skyscrapers, but actually there were churches like this all over the place. We went in and found the Rebel Baroque Orchestra rehearsing for a concert of the Monteverdi Vespers, so we stayed and listened for a bit, before taking a few happy snaps of the New York Stock Exchange on Wall St.

We went and had a look in yet another big church, this one next to ground zero, which was equally ornate as Trinity but in a very different way, with chandelliers and seating in the round. We visited ground zero and looked at the construction going on (it's still pretty much a big hole at this stage).

We then walked through an area with lots of people selling fake handbags etc, and then wandered through Soho and Greenwich Village, where there were lots of funky little shops and cafes. We stopped for brunch at Joe's Pizza, which is famous for making New York style pizza. It was a bit of a dingy place, and full of workmen (and no women at all), but full it was, so we assumed we were onto a good thing. We ordered a (huge) slice each for below $3 each, and it was delicious. The pizza was thin and crunchy on the bottom but without being hard, and it had a simple tomato sauce with cheese on top. Really really tasty!

After brunch, we took the subway to Central Park. The subway was pretty grotty and smelly, but safe and fast. We didn't have to wait more than 5 minutes for a train all weekend, and the tickets were less than $2. First off in Central Park we saw Strawberry Fields - the section dedicated to John Lennon. We couldn't see much apart from a mosaic in the ground, so we wandered further through the park.

It's definitely an oasis in the big smoke, but I think it would be prettier in Spring, when it would be great for a picnic or something. In winter it was basically just grass and trees, although we did see yet another bird of prey (this one eating a pigeon).

We stopped in at FAO Schwartz - one of the largest toy stores in the world, and saw the big keyboard that you play with your feet which was great fun, although the toy store itself was a little disappointing. I think Mr Magorium has spoilt me.

For linner, we opted for a real New York bagel from Ess-a-bagel, and stopped in at the 5th Avenue Tiffany's along the way. . I went for the 'everything' bagel with olive cream cheese and Elsie had a sesame bagel with walnut and raisin cream cheese. They were good - nice and doughey, but BOY do those New Yorkers like their cream cheese! Almost an inch worth! They were very tasty, but I think the pizza was better. I also tried Matzah ball soup.

We found ourselves at the Chrysler building (what did I say about randomly coming across amazing things!?) which was just beautiful, and walked through Grand Central Station (ditto). We made our way to Times Square (I'm not really sure how it's a 'square' because it's very crowded and higgledy-piggledy and full of neon and people selling things) to try and figure out how to get Broadway tickets for the next day.

We then aimed for an Australian Pub (the Sheepstation?) in Brooklyn to celebrate Australia day and decided to get there by walking the Brooklyn Bridge by dusk. It was a great view of Manhattan, however when we reached the other side, we couldn't find a cab (because they were all heading from the bridge with passengers or for the bridge without) and ended up walking through some (slightly) dodgy areas to the last subway station before the pub and catching the train for the last little way.

The pub was weird - kind of what you'd expect an American version of an Australian pub would be, with lots of corrugated iron and wood, and playing 'Waltzing Matilda' and 'Khe Sanh'. But they had Coopers and a (n overpriced) bbq dinner. After dinner we went back to Manhattan for coffee, and stopped by Heath Ledger's apartment where there is an impromptu shrine of flowers and messages for him. Although I wasn't a big fan, it was nice to be able to pay our respects (in a way) to someone we knew a little (in a way).

We finished the evening at Cafe Reggio, which was apparently the first Cafe in New York with an espresso machine. The coffee apparently wasn't too good, but the place was great, with lots of dark, rich furniture and the walls cluttered with old paintings and busts and all sorts. I had a mint frothed milk which was tasty, and now I know what to do with the Italian mint cordial in the pantry.

On Sunday, we accidentally slept in and then got on the Staten Island to see the views of the city, and the Statue of Liberty. Elsie's camera carked it, but I made up for it by taking 75 photos! The views were beautiful, and it wasn't too cold, and all in all it was a lovely way to spend a relaxing morning.

After we got back we finally found a post office machine that would sell me postcard stamps, but I only bought 5 in the end because they were ugly printed ones and not actual stamps. We took a train to Spring Street and looked in the MOMA shop and bought some gifts for our hosts before heading for lunch.

We were aiming for Katz's to have a Reuben sandwich, but on the way found famous Jonah Schimmel's Knish Bakery, so stopped for a knish or two each. A knish is a big potato patty flavoured with different things. Elsie had a spinach one and a sweet potato one, and I went for the traditional plain topped with mustard. They were also very very tasty and I'm going to have to learn how to make them. We kept going to Katz's which turned out to be HUGE, as were the sandwiches. The place was absolutely packed and there were about 10 men behind a counter making sandwiches with lines before each. My sandwich cost $15 plus tax (!!!) but I think it was worth it - it was a serious serious sandwich, with freshly made corned beef.

We took a train to Times Square and joined a giant line for cheap broadway tickets. The line was actually quite fast moving, and we got tickets to Spamalot, a musical based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail. We walked to the Empire State building, which was a bit of a disappointment, and I think the Chrysler building was much more beautiful. We decided not to go up, but jumped into a cab and headed for the Museum of Modern Art, to which we got free tickets which was lucky because we arrived at 4:30 and it closed at 5:30 when we were expecting 8.

MOMA completely blew me away, and I just couldn't get over walking around each corner and finding not only works by artists that I studied at uni, but their most famous works - the kind of paintings that they put not only in textbooks, but on the front. I got a bit excited (and dorky) made Elsie take pictures of me in front of Van Gogh's 'Starry Night', and Duchamp's 'Bicycle Wheel' among others. There's definitely something about seeing these works in real life - it's so surreal to think that these works that you think only exist for you in books, are completely accessible to millions of locals every day.

After getting kicked out, we wandered up 5th Avenue (and looked in the windows of the expensive shops) before going into the Disney shop where I found a Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey pin. We had a quick look at Rockefeller Centre (and decided that Americans musn't know the difference between the Australian and New Zealand flags after finding ours conspicuously missing for the second time!). Elsie thought about buying some pretty gumboots while I got excited about Radio City Music Hall and CBS and then went to the Shubert (no that's not a typo) for Spamalot.

Spamalot was very entertaining - as funny as Monty Python but thankfully strung together with more plot. The theatre itself was absolutely beautiful inside - quite small but really intricately decorated and painted and gilded.

We went to an Irish pub for dinner and then into M&Ms World which is 3 storeys high and has every kind of M&Ms merchandise you can think of. You can buy M&Ms in any colour under the rainbow, and Elsie and I had our photo taken in front of the giant Elvis M&M.

That was it for the night, and first thing in the morning we jumped in a cab and got on the plane back to Chicago (and I have to say, Australian flights may be overpriced, but Qantas kicks the American airlines all around town in terms of quality, comfort and service).

All in all I loved New York. It was just like I imagined with tall buildings everywhere and something new and exciting or beautiful and interesting there for the finding. There were yellow cabs everywhere and even steam coming out of the grills in the road (apparently that's from the sewage in the subway...ewww...). I think I could quite happily live there because there'd always be something new to do or discover, and surprisingly I felt completely comfortable and safe everywhere. Hopefully I will come back for a longer stay one day.


Helena said...

WOW! Wonderful photo's- thanks for sharing them!

m∃ said...

Thanks! =)

Tate said...

I've been there it is a neat city.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I found your blog by hitting the 'next blog' button, and I just wanted to thank you for a well written (and entertaining) blog. It's fun to see an outsider's view on American culture... good pictures too!