Saturday, September 19, 2015

New York City, aka Another Island: Manhattan

A little rain made the drive to New York City a little longer than expected but all went well and we arrived in time to have lunch with our home exchange family. We expected that 10 days would get us around Manhattan, to the Bronx (for the NY Botanical Garden) and to Brooklyn. We totally under-estimated the attractions of Manhattan.  And yes, it turns out that we only visit Manhattan. 

After settling in we combined exploring our "West Side” neighborhood (that’s the west side of Central Park at 85th St) with a shopping  run to Citarella’s and Zabar’s (both VERY fine “grocery stores”). Then off to Kefi, a local Greek restaurant for dinner where we had White Bean Soup, Meatballs with roasted garlic, olives and tomato along with a Pork Souvlaki sandwich...all accompanied by a Rapsani wine from maker Tsantali (nice Greek red). All in all very good and a nice change of pace in cuisine.

Friday we took a tour of Grand Central Terminal. The tour focused on the history of and architecture of the nearby area (quite interesting to learn how the city started at lower Manhattan and how no one could imagine it expanding up as far as what is now 42nd St (keep in mind that Harlem runs from roughly 96th to 142nd Street). Over time the rules kept changing and Grand Central evolved to include a massive underground track system. 

A neighborhood architectural detail that most folks fail to see.
Rats too need a home...

After the tour we explored the station a bit more enjoying the market (amazingly large & beautifully displayed) and the Apple Store inside the Terminal. Quite interesting arrangement, the store is on the mezzanine and does not have a door to lock.

For lunch we had tapas at La Fonda near the terminal…Patatas Bravas and Garlic Shrimp along with a couple glasses of wine. After lunch we took a few more photos around the Terminal and Times Square before heading back to our latest “home".

Rain was forecast for Saturday so we deemed it Museum Day. We walked across Central Park to the Guggenheim which turned out to be a big disappointment because because most of the exhibitions were closed while they set up a new exhibit. A few blocks down 5th Avenue is The Frick Collection. Much better! Like Isabella Stewart Gardner in Boston. Frick built the house with the intent of making it a museum. Very impressive. But also like the Gardner, photos were only allowed in the Courtyard! Drat!
Courtyard photos at The Frick

Later we enjoyed our classy lunch at the nearby Bistro Chat Noir (Mushroom risotto with a side of brussel sprouts and glasses of Sangiovese and Cote du Rhone). All seemed quite healthy and the Chocolate Souffle was way to tempting and excellent. So much for the waist-lines.

After lunch we walked across Central Park to Columbus Circle to sample of the shopping opportunities. While waiting to cross the street we encountered one of our neighbors from Sollano in San Miguel. What is the probability of that in NYC!!??

The shopping did not result in armloads of packages. We decided to walk home. But high wind and the start of rain intervened so we took the metro, a most convenient way to get around the city, especially with a 7-day pass.

Sunday, we are off to the races to see Riley, our nephew who was  in the Pro Run at the "Fifth Avenue Mile". While waiting for the race we met Mitch Merber, the Dad of another pro-runner, who is a close friend of Riley’s. We managed to catch Riley after the race for a minute before heading off to the Museum of Modern Art. We stopped briefly at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store and were amazed at the number of people there. According to one of the staff it was a light day.

With Mitch Merber, Dad of Kyle Merber at the 5th Avenue Mile
Pre race entertainment. These Break Dancers were impressive.
Another pre-race performance. Funny thing is that we saw the
equivalent of this as a native dance South Dakota!

After a quick lunch at MoMA Cafe 2 (creative naming, eh?) we visited galleries with works by Dali, Miró, Van Gogh, Gaugin, Cézanne, Warhol, Calder, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and many others.
Calder's "Gibraltar"
Frida Kahlo's "Fulang Chang and I"
Henri Rousseau's  "The Dream". Look closely for the flautist.

We also stopped at the newly refurbished St Patrick’s Cathedral. What great timing on our part, arriving only weeks before the Pope (St Pat’s had just completed it’s 3 years of cleaning and refurbishing in anticipation of our, oh, I meant his, visit.)
St Patrick's Cathedral

We walked back to the metro by way of Rockefeller Center and enjoyed the fountains and works of art around and on the buildings.

Monday we decided it was time to visit the MET (Metropolitan Museum of Art) and we dedicated an entire day to the task. The Directors Tour gave us a series of stops with dialogue and we filled the blanks with most of the remainder of the galleries. Five and a half hours later we emerged (we had 1/2 hour lunch break at one of the cafes). We may not have seen everything but we made a good attempt. But frankly it was kind of a blur. So Pat vowed to return for a visit focused on Tiffany and Monet.

Monet's "Waterlilies"...Whoops this one is really at the MOMA .
..but there were more at the Met and it's kind of fun to note the confusion. ;-)

Tiffany's "Autumn Landscape"
Tiffany's "Garden Landscape"
And for those with a shoe fettish, golden slippers (and finger covers)
from the Egyptian Galleries

We stopped at a nearby cafe for a glass of wine before heading home ...back across Central Park. We had some good lighting for photos of the skyline.

We decided that the easiest way to see a lot of what NYC has to offer would be a 6-hour tour of lower Manahattan, the birthplace of NYC. The Free Tour (i.e. no official charge but you pay what you think it is worth) gets good reviews. Wouldn’t you be a great tour guide if your level of pay was based solely on customer satisfaction? We thought so and it works. We took the metro to Wall Street where we met our tour guide at Federal Hall. The tour focus was on the history of Manhattan. More or less we:
  • Stopped at the  NY Stock Exchange building (an imposing marble edifice  completed in 1903 and not really the heart of the NYSE today. But impressive. The front was covered with a US large flag to honor the 9.11 victims.
  • Then we returned to Federal Hall to learn about it’s start in 1842 as a customs house, transitioning to become a branch of the Federal Reserve. Earlier, on the same site was NYC’s City Hall built in 1700 which became the first US Capital Building where George Washington was inaugurated.  We even saw the bible used by George at his inauguration. It was also used by Warren G Harding & George Bush (the first).
  • At Trinity Church we learned how wealthy the church is and why it continues to be tax-free (it has to do with huge donations of land to the city and the continuing of major social services to NYC residents. We saw the graves of Robert Fulton (steamship fame) & Alexander Hamilton and the sculpture known as "The Trinity Root”.  The sculpture by Steve Tobin consists of the bronzed roots of a tree that protected the nearby St Paul’s Chapel from debris after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.
  • At St Paul’s Chapel we learned how it housed the rescue workers for weeks and was the site of many impromptu memorials to the event, a number of which are on display inside. 
  • From there we went to the World Trade Center.  This encompasses many significant sites. The 9.11 Memorial, the Ground Zero Tree of Hope (a rescued tree that continues to survive despite constant struggles), the 9.11 Museum, the new Trade Center Buildings in various stages of completion and the growing NY/NJ Port Authority Hub designed by Santiago Calatrava to appear as a bird in flight)
  • We stopped at Chelsea Market, a bunch of food oriented stores in the old National Biscuit Co  (Nabisco) building, for a gelato & a cheese biscuit - enough of a snack to hopefully sustain us until we arrive at Little Italy.
  • After "lunch” we headed to High Line Park, one of the former overhead railways that served the Packing Industry. These old rail tracks had been ignored for years and now have been turned into a great park and the draw for new businesses and museums like the Whitney. Generally a nice place to walk and you can see the pier where the titanic was supposed to dock.
  • Spotted nearby "The High Line"
  • We then headed to Chinatown via the metro. There was the usual game playing and music in the park and a lot of businesses along the street. 
  • Little Italy is adjacent / surrounded by Chinatown. It was the time for the Festival of San Gennaro and the restaurants extended into the streets and there were Carnival style games and entertainment.
Dinner was at Pellegrino's in Little Italy, a pasta for Bill and Mushroom Risotto for Pat with a nice bottle of Primitivo. We returned home exhausted but satisfied.

Wednesday we rested. Well not really, we went to Zabar’s and picked up some items for lunch. A little chicken in red sauce with olives and pasta with a side of grilled vegetables. In the evening we headed to the theater district and we can tell you the “Beautiful” was beautiful. It is the story of how Carole King established herself as a songwriter and then as a songstress. Great music. Great story.

Thursday we learned about immigrant history at the Tenement Museum housed at 97 Orchard Street. Multiple tours are offered that share stories of shopkeepers, sweatshop workers, Irish immigrants, etc. We opted for the Shopkeeper perspective. The first stop was a German Bar / Restaurant and the associated residence from the mid-1860’s when the area was predominently German. We also learned about other small-businesses that later occupied the space (a turn-of-the-century kosher butcher, a 1930s auctioneer, and a 1970s undergarment discounter.)
Sign at the Tenament Museum
Lunch was at a Barcelona style taps bar, Boqueria. Among the best food and wine we have had  on the trip.  Truly enjoyable! Specifically we had Ensalada Romana (Hearts of Romain Salad with roasted Hazelnuts), Pimientos de Padrón (Blistered  Peppers), Patatas Bravas, Croquet Cremosa (some mushroom, some ham), Pintxox Morunos (Lamb skewers) and a bottle of Muga Reserve from 2010. After lunch, a little more shopping. Pat had to check our Dean & Deluca, another foodie destination. 

Veggies at Dean & Deluca
A few varieties and preparations of Olives at Dean & Deluca
In the evening we went to another play...American in Paris, a somewhat ballet-like performance with more fine music.

Friday we returned to the MET for that more in-depth look at the Tiffany works and 19th / 20th century European art (especially the works of the Impressionists.)

Monet's "Argentueil"
A few of the galleries of Western European Art at the MET
For dinner we opted for a taste of Turkey at Bodrum for dinner. Imam Bayildi (Holland eggplant stuffed with caramelized onions, pine nuts, parsley & garlic…yum, excellent!), Braised Leeks (leeks braised In extra virgin olive oil, with carrots, rice & lemon juice) and Adana Kebab (Turkish spiced ground lamb served over toasted pide, topped with yogurt & tomato sauce.) and and a Turkish red wine. Very enjoyable meal. We must return! 

We had a brief but interesting discussion with the two couples next to us after dinner …one couple is from NYC and the other from New Orleans.  We got some excellent pointers for our upcoming visit to New Orleans.

Saturday we shopped for wine, worked on our blog and indeed returned to Bodrum for lunch. This time for ...We went back to Bodrum for lunch. This time we had Pilaki (Cannellini beans, garlic, potatoes with extra virgin olive oil) and  Turkish Pizza with Roasted Fennel & Lamb Merguez Sausage...with a nice thin, perfectly charred crust.  ...and another bottle of Turkish wine. Plus baklava and coffee. What diet?

Next...on to Chadd's Ford PA.

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