Archive for September, 2013

New York – Part 2

Tuesday, September 17  Central Park, Friends & the High Line
The next day we were meeting some New York Customs friends for lunch, but we managed to squeeze in a morning walk through Central Park up to 77th Street and Strawberry Fields. I think I saw the same guitarist that I saw in 2002, still playing “Imagine” for the tourists. We hopped on the subway and met up with six National Field Specialists, now all retired: Patti Buffolino, Jeanne Dugan, Ted Gosciewski, Rick O’Connell, Richie Somers and Marty Rephen. We found Meson Sevilla, a Spanish tapas place on Restaurant Row and caught up with each other while chomping on sardines, calamari, croquettes and other small plates. Stupid, stupid, stupid!! I forgot to take a picture.


After lunch, Dave and I headed south to Chelsea to walk the High Line, a long-abandoned, elevated freight rail line that has been and is being converted into a walkway and garden. It has great views of the modern and old buildings nearby, unexpected art here and there and lots of benches from which you can take in the view. Descending to street level, we visited a couple of photographic galleries and stumbled on a wonderful art installation called “Sheep Station”. It was an abandoned gas station with the gas pumps rising up through rolling grass hills and lots of fake sheep; very unexpected in the middle of Manhattan.

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After walking what felt like miles and miles (but wasn’t) we descended at the end the High Line and found ourselves in old-fashioned, cobbled Gansevoort Plaza. We quickly settled on Pastis, a French Bistro for some al fresco dining. Harking back to one of our trips to Provence, Dave had a Pernod and I had a glass of sweet Dubonnet, followed by Moules Frites (mussels and fries). Yum! Refreshed by dinner and a sit-down, we walked over to Aperture Photography Gallery for an opening of works by Rinko Kawauchi. We stayed a while, but worn out by all the walking, headed back to our room.

Wednesday, September 18  Eating, drinking and being entertained

On Wednesday morning, we lounged around in the hotel lounge. They have a fantastic Lavazza Expresso machine that also allows you to steam the milk. I was making pretty good lattes as well as having steamed milk with my oatmeal. After getting our caffeine fix, we met Rick and Mary for lunch at the Chelsea Grill in the Theatre District. It was probably the most disappointing meal we had during our week. It was a Groupon-type deal for brunch, but they didn’t serve brunch on weekdays and had many restrictions. We cheered up afterwards by getting tickets to see “Big Fish”, a Neil Simon play. It had several big song-and-dance numbers and a touching ending.

Our day was not yet over. After going back to the hotel for happy hour, we met Mary and Rick and our friends, Jeff and Betty at 92Y to hear Linda Ronstadt and John Rockwell discuss her new book  “Simple Dreams”. Recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, she can no longer sing. (Yikes, that’s terrible!) She seems to have taken this in stride and talked about various stages in her musical life. She is a gracious lady. Jeff and Betty were tired, having flown in on a red-eye so we went our separate ways. Dave and I weren’t quite ready to call it quits, so we went in for a drink at Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse and soon were sipping a Martini (Dave) and a Manhattan (me) and discussing the Giants-Mets game with the bartender.  A nice ending to a long day.

Thursday, September 19  Hitting the drink, Brooklyn & San Gennaro

I had been feeling a little dicey all day Wednesday and had picked up some cold remedies at a drugstore. Sure enough, I had a sore throat and a distinct lack of energy on Thursday.  We decided to take a couple of harbor cruises. We found the water taxi on the West Side piers and motored down to Battery Park.



We then took the boat to Liberty Island. We didn’t even attempt to get tickets to climb the inside, just . circled the small island, enjoying the various views of the Statue of Liberty. We also got another we-were-there shot with the Freedom Tower in the background instead of the Twin Towers.

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Returning to Battery Park, we had a pleasant lunch there, then boarded the water taxi to go to Brooklyn. A large, outdoor photographic installation called Photoville was opening that afternoon. It displays photography in a large number of 20-foot containers. We got off under the Brooklyn Bridge and spotted a cyclone fence by the East River with yards of photographs hanging from it. We followed it north a while, passing a carousel and lots of people enjoying the river breeze. We were looking for a couple of galleries, but we were hampered by the fact that we didn’t have a map of the Dumbo (District under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) area of Brooklyn. We finally found the galleries and then were told that Photoville wouldn’t open to the public until 7 pm rather than 4 pm. We were also trying to hook up with Mary, Rick, Jeff & Betty to go to dinner and/or Photoville, but we weren’t finding the subway station or the Photoville locations. We got back to point we debarked from the water taxi and I decided to camp out at a café while Dave looked for Photoville. He called later to say it was about a mile south of where I was. Feeling crumby, I stayed at the café and Dave took a quick tour around Photoville.

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Rick, Mary, Jeff and Betty wanted to check out the Festival of San Gennaro in Little Italy. Dave and I finally found the Brooklyn subway station and met up with the others. As we turned onto Mulberry Street, a vista of lights and strolling people opened up. Every restaurant in an 8-block stretch had set up tables and chairs outside. They were interspersed with booths selling candy, ice cream, fried stuff and souvenirs, leaving a narrow, central path down which everyone ambled. As we got to one corner, the procession carrying the statue of San Gennaro, passed by.

We were getting hungry so Jeff and Mary asked a policeman the name of a good restaurant at which to eat. He said he couldn’t give out any names, but there was a good one up on the left side of the street. I don’t know if we ate at the one he was talking about, but amazingly, the six of us got seated outside, right next to all the action. Jeff immediately befriended the waiter and got some bottles of Italian wine on the table. Benito One provided us with some delicious antipasto and wonderful dinners. And then, the procession of San Gennaro went right by our table. Good luck indeed! After dinner, we walked a little further and we females managed to get a photograph with Mr. Cannoli, who looked like he was having a really good time. But I was fading fast so we said farewell and headed home. It felt very good to crash in our cool, quiet room.

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Friday, September 20  Guggenheim, Whitney, Top of the Rock and the Russian Tea Room

Friday was our last full day in New York. What to do? First up was the James Turrell exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum. It takes up the entire rotunda. We scuttled into the very crowded space and managed to acquire a couple of seats where we could lean back and gaze up at the changing light show. Luckier people had managed to snag space to lay down on the mat in the center of the rotunda.

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We decided to walk through Central Park on the way down to the Whitney Museum of American Art and ended up eating another al fresco lunch by a pond while a violinist played for us.  We had never been to the Whitney before and enjoyed both the space (huge) and the exhibit of Hopper Drawings. They displayed how much sketching and planning the artist did prior to painting. Another exhibit there was American Legends: from Calder to O’Keeffe, where we got to see more paintings by Georgia, one of my favorite artists. Tired once again, we repaired to the museum café where we ordered another sundae. Perfect!

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Due to a screw-up earlier in the week, we hadn’t been able to go to the Top of the Rock – the observation decks on the 67th, 69th & 70th floors of the 30 Rockefeller Building. But we had tickets for 6 pm on Friday, another flawless weather day. The sun was getting low in the sky and it was wonderful.

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We returned to our room, rested a while, dressed up in our most unwrinkled clothes and went to dinner, half a block away, to the Russian Tea Room. Sumptuous room, sumptuous food. We started with drinks: Dave had his usual Martini and I tried      Starters were Pelmini for Dave, Siberian style beef and foie gras filled dumplings in consume finished with black truffle oil. I had luscious escargot with brandy, morel mushrooms, garlic, cream and fresh herbs. I then had Chicken Kiev while Dave tried Kobe Tasting Perigord: Kobe beef and American grass-fed beef with marrow mashed potatoes caramelized cipollini onions, roasted sunchokes and morel mushroom reduction. Oh man, it all was so good. Dave managed to eat our shared dessert, a small chocolate cake with a molten center, cherry ice cream and a Grand Marnier cherry sauce, but I could only taste a tiny bite. It was a blowout in every sense of the word.

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Saturday, September 21    Flying home

The next morning we packed early to catch our 10:30 plane. Because it was another warm day and I was still feeling bad, we luxuriated in a taxi to JFK. Once our shoes, belts and electronics had passed muster, we went looking for breakfast. Here we were in one of the busiest airports in the world and what was behind security? Peet’s, another bakery and MacDonalds. We ended up with Egg McMuffins. (Actually they weren’t too bad.) Due to torrential rain in San Francisco (weird), our flight was delayed 45 minutes. We finally boarded and departed in light rain. The flight was uneventful until we began to descend. Then my ears plugged up painfully and I could not unplug them.


We landed to a wet tarmac but the rain had dispersed and it was a warm sunny afternoon. We took BART home and settled in. What a great trip. And now, one week home then we head out in the motorhome for Eastern California.

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Saturday & Sunday, September 14/15   Getting there and being there

What a trip! It’s the first time I’ve flown in 7 years. We chose Virgin Airlines which was a wise decision once we got past the angst of paying $50 per checked bag both ways. But we crunched in all our shoes, layers of clothing and weighed the bags on our bathroom scale. (The bags weighed about as much as Dave and I together would like to lose.) Dave brought his camera and the laptop so his carryon bag weighed a ton.


The flight was as pleasant as flying in coach can be. Virgin’s seats are comfortable and there seemed to be a little more leg space than I remembered on my last United flight. Dave had window, I was in the middle. A plump young woman sat next to me but exchanged her seat with a slender man, which gave me more space to deploy my elbows. Between my ebook and games of Mahjongg on the plane’s entertainment system, the trip passed fairly quickly.

Figuring out the AirTrain system at JFK was a little confusing, but we hooked up with Mary & Rick who flew on JetBlue and began hauling our luggage up and down the New York subway system. It seems like stairs predominate over escalators in most stations. We found our hotel, near Central Park, and settled into a quiet air-conditioned room that overlooked an inner terrace surrounded by other hotels and apartment buildings, kind of like Rear Window except the windows didn’t open. This hotel had a wonderful happy hour and we were very happy tasting lavender-scented filo pastries filled with figs and other goodies.

Rick & Mary were staying in the Union Square area in a funky apartment rented out by a jazz musician. Two striking features were a baby grand piano and a plaster ceiling that undulated with 18-inch-deep waves. There was a fire escape where you could lounge in a hammock and watch the street action. We wandered  through the balmy evening into the Chelsea area and found El Cocotero, a tiny, rustic Venezuelan restaurant. Nice. Mary then led us to the Magnolia Bakery. We were too full to eat the chocolate cupcakes we bought, but we munched them later in the room. Oh – my—God!! This bakery knows what’s important in a cupcake – a ton of rich chocolate buttercream. Amazing!


On Sunday we went down to the Empire State Building and up to the Observation Deck on Floor 102. What a view! There were clouds that made the sky more interesting.









We dallied in Bryant Park on our way to the Theatre District. What a lovely place to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.


We met up with Mary and Rick later in the afternoon to see “Once”, a musical about a Dublin street musician who is down on his luck when a Czech woman hears his music and encourages him to follow his dreams. It was a lovely production with great songs and good acting. While in line to get in, an elderly gentleman walked by us exclaiming “In California, we don’t have to wait in lines.” As he talked, he pulled a little bit of a red handkerchief out of his closed hand, then tamped it back down in his hand and opened his hand to show the handkerchief had disappeared. I told him he should be on stage. His reply as he headed away: “I’m 90 year old. I should be on stage?”

After the show, the four of us repaired to Connelly’s Pub & Restaurant for some beer and appetizers. The weather was absolutely perfect for sitting out on their patio, looking up to the skyscrapers surrounding us.





We made one more stop at Rockefeller Center because it’s close to our hotel. It was a balmy evening, romantic with all the lights in the trees.



022-130915-DSCN1332RockefellerCenterWe got back to our room later in the evening and were a little hungry. We found a nice little Italian place and had a good thin-crust pizza and salad.

Monday, September 16   MoMA and Greenwich Village

Monday was another gorgeous day. We took a short walk over to the Museum of Modern Art and saw their exhibit “American Modern – Hopper to O’Keeffe”. Small exhibit, but nice. It’s always fun to see works from old favorites that we haven’t seen before as well as artists new to us. The watercolors of Charles Burchfield entranced both of us. We had a pleasant lunch on a museum patio, finished off by sharing an ice cream sundae. If dessert seems to be an ongoing theme of this blog – well, it is. It’s more fun eating ice cream in warm weather. Going through a few more galleries there, we found Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”, my favorite piece of art.







After lunch we returned to the Empire State Building to take a ride. I expected it to be like Star Tours, a ride at Disneyland. You’re in a seat on a platform that moves as the images on the screen twist and turn. But this New York ride must have been created in the 90’s. It was bumpy and jumpy, narrated by Kevin Bacon who refers to his own six degrees of separation, with a grainy video screen. The video still displays the Twin Towers, so it’s at least 12 years old. Not worth it! Luckily, it was only one of the many entrance fees covered by our New York City Pass. That evening, we met Mary and Rick for dinner at the Spotted Pig, a funky little restaurant in Greenwich Village. Good burgers – great fries.


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