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2nd December
2009
written by Tony
The view from the castle in Central Park

The view from the castle in Central Park

This was my first time in the city and Steph's second, though her first visit was for a conference and she didn't get to see much of the city at all. Fortunately for us (and our pocketbook) my half of this trip was sponsored by my employer. My visit to NYC was for a conference on dynamic environments through a trade organization I am a member of called  SEGD (Society of Environmental Graphic Design). The first day and a half of our visit (for me) was occupied with various seminars at different locations near Times Square. The conference was good, but the city was better.
XXX Bridge out of Chinatown. Crispy duck!

Manhattan Bridge out of Chinatown. Crispy duck!

We began our trip with what seemed like a somewhat conservative list (relatively speaking — this is NYC after all) of places to see and things to eat, but early in it was clear that we would miss some things and would have to go with the flow and see what we could. Thanks to our very gracious and accommodating friends, this will certainly be far from our last trip to NYC, so we didn't sweat it too much.
We stopped off in Times Square after we made it to our room.

We stopped off in Times Square after we made it to our room.

We got in Wednesday night and our excellent hostess met us at the airport and rode the MTA with us to our room. My first morning was spent at the Museum of Art and Design's new location off of Columbus Circle across from Time Warner Plaza. The building was gorgeous and the art was fairly interesting, but the exhibition was small. Let's put it this way, I ended up being glad it was included in the price of the conference. From there we went to the Hard Rock Café on Times Square for more seminars and a catered lunch. While it was the best meal I've ever had at a Hard Rock Café, I also feel like that qualifier tells you all you really need to know. Then off to an evening reception at Touch Nightclub, which had some great technology but was otherwise unimpressive.
Kofta? I barely knew her!

Kofta? I barely knew her!

During all of this Steph spent time with her friend and visited the Jane Austen exhibit at the Morgan Library, which she quite enjoyed. Once my conference time was up (Friday afternoon) we hopped-to and started our tour of Manhattan. First was lunch (on the street, of course!) at a pizzeria near our hotel for a New York Slice. It was good, but not life-changing. From there we wandered over to midtown where we found a halal cart right off of Times Square and got what was arguably the best meal we had while in the city — a kofta sandwich. Man oh man, delicious.
The Strand

The Strand.

After wandering around aimlessly, fighting over who was eating more than their fair share of the kofta (Steph lies, she tells filthy lies!) and drinking a Jamba Juice ("Jamba Jamba!" said like a muppet) we decided to head over to the Strand, because we can never resist a good bookstore, especially not one as famous as this. The Strand was rewarding in every literary way, and I just stumbled around and goggled on through their third floor rare books collection. Nursing aching feet and empty stomachs, we went back to our friend's apartment to regroup before a simply wonderful dinner at L'École, the restaurant of the French Culinary Institute. It was mostly a parade of hits with a few slight misses (forgiven due to the chef's student status) that left us both more than satisfied. After dinner we wadered down the island looking for the Brooklyn bridge. For something so large, it seems as though it wouldn't be very difficult to find. However, after wandering around the back streets near the financial district for a while we did manage to come upon it, and got to enjoy the vista on a cold, clear New York night. After our little journey we caught a train and went back to our surprisingly comfy hide-a-bed to sleep off our meal.
We shared a table with two gentlemen who spoke only cantonese through the entire meal

We shared a table with two gentlemen who were obviously pros.

Chinatown! Though we had visited already on Wednesday night, we were unprepared for the spectacle during the day. The morning was wet and overcast and yet Chinatown was teeming with people, a far cry from the quiet 9 p.m. neighborhood of Thursday night. We escaped the drizzle by ducking into a Chinese bakery to enjoy a pre-dim sum bun and then headed over to the Golden Unicorn to gorge ourselves on all and sundry small dishes. The experience was wonderful, though the dim sum was actually rather average. Despite this, we were thrilled to be anywhere where we get good Chinese food, as Nashville is a bit of a desert in this respect. After dim sum we headed out to see what we could see around town. We stopped by the Empire State Building, but didn't go up as the fog seemed to preclude the idea of having any sort of view. From there we headed over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This was perhaps the most intimidating and exciting art museum I've ever been to. Walking through the enormous
The entry gates of the Met

The entry gates of the Met.

collection was like stepping in to my art history textbooks. Everything I had spent four years studying was laid out on walls for me to stare at and breathe on. We saw maybe half of the collection, which took us three hours, and I was caught flat footed. I could go to that museum once a week for the rest of my life and never get my fill. From there we walked up museum mile and went to the Kandinsky exhibit at the Guggenheim (this was free Friday after all). The exhibit was exhilarating and the building was remarkable. Seeing it in pictures does no good, there is a lyrical quality to every aspect of the architecture that is only understood in person. From there, having worked up quite an appetite, we went to the Heidelberg, a German restaurant (featured in Anthony Bourdain's "Disappearing Manhattan" episode) across the street from our benevolent sponsors' apartment. It was an experience, to be sure. I didn't get to drink out of the boot because I lacked the needed cash for the deposit, but it was just as well since I don't have a thirst to match the stature of the boot. The fare was good and traditional and the joint was jumpin'. It would seem the Heidleberg is in no danger of vanishing.
Despair all ye who enter here

Abandon all hope, who enter here. The pastrami is good though.

Sunday was a stroll through central park, FAO Schwartz and down to Katz's Deli and then a rush to catch our plane. Central park was beautiful and the weather was phenomenal, sunny and warm. FAO was huge, and we did get to see the giant piano from Big, so that was nice. Katz's, though a New York institution, was horrific. Not that the food was bad mind you, in fact it was, hands down one of the best deli sandwiches I have ever had. No, no. This was about the customer service, which was among the worst I have ever faced. If not for the delicious sandwich, I would have simply left. The "system," which involves a yellow ticket (losing the ticket costs you 50 clams), no explanation, being herded like cattle into arbitrary lines, a line for the sandwich, a line for drinks and fries, a line for Katz's signature drinks, another line to pay, another line to pay with a card and then out the door. Not to mention a section that has waiters, but no explanation given as to how to use said section. Rude staff (not even New York rude, just rude) and a massive press of humanity that defies logic. I would never go back.
Mind the gap

Mind the gap.

From there we raced to the subway, which is generally easy to use during the week but, in places (especially near Katz's) becomes a nightmare of out of service lines and hard to find subway entrances. It's worth mentioning that at many stations the only way to get from a paltform for trains traveling one direction to the other side is to leave, cross the street, go down the block and find the entrance to the other side of the platform. And if you exit and then try to re-enter too quickly your card will think you're trying to share it with others and stop working. Awesome. Despite this, our journey back uptown to get to the airport was actually the only frustration we endured with the MTA. Every other use was generally a pleasure, albeit a crowded one. All in all, our trip to New York was great, and we didn't have nearly enough time to see everything we wanted. NYC is a great city, even if all you do is wander the streets. The people were actually quite friendly overall, the streets were safe and clean (mostly) and even being frustrated by the MTA (at times) was really a pleasure.
Friendly and talented buskers on the S line.

Friendly and talented buskers on the S line.

One of the many beautiful mosaics throughout New York's subways.

One of the many beautiful mosaics throughout New York's subways.

Chinatown!

Chinatown!

The Empire State Building, crowned in fog.

The Empire State Building, crowned in fog.

The Temple of Dandur at the Met.

The Temple of Dandur at the Met.

The Guggenheim.

The Guggenheim.

Waffle truck!

Waffle truck!

Not THAT good.

Not THAT good.

12 Comments

  1. 12/02/2009

    Oh these pictures make me miss NYC so much! Excellent photography. You’ve really captured the feel of the city.

  2. 12/02/2009

    I love your pictures – especially all the ones of food! And they also make me really dying to go there!

  3. I have only been to NYC for two, brief day trips, so it looks as though you’ve seen a lot more of the city than me. It sounds as though you had a good time. Great photos!

  4. 12/02/2009

    Love the photos and the food, Tony! Haven’t been, so thanks for sharing. Steph, you look great in blue. 🙂

  5. 12/02/2009

    Who is that little kid hanging around the waffle truck hoping that someone will buy her a waffle?? Is it the same little kid who fed bits of bread to a bird on a ferry in Ireland? heehee! Loved hearing about trip!

  6. 12/02/2009

    Those pictures are absolutely fantastic, especially the first one. I’m glad to hear you and Steph had such a great time! One day I will make it to New York…

  7. i love new york and lucky for me it’s a short ride away! glad you had a nice trip–looks like you packed in a bunch of stuff. the strand, museums, food, food, food! maybe steph will make it in for the BEA in the spring?!?!

  8. 12/03/2009

    I may make it to NYC this month, so how fun to read your run down.

  9. 12/06/2009

    Thanks for sharing this with us. Those are truly beautiful pictures.
    New York City is the best place in the world without a doubt.

  10. 12/07/2009

    It sounds like you had a great trip, and the pictures are just beautiful! I have never been to New York, but it’s somewhere I definitely want to visit someday. Judging by your pictures and what I’ve heard, the city is full of all kinds of interesting things to do and see, and I am just dying to visit that bookstore! Glad to have you back!

  11. 12/08/2009

    Thanks for all the wonderful comments! I’m quite happy with the photography myself. New York was wonderful and we can’t wait to go back!

  12. […] When Tony and I were in New York back in November we ate a lot of amazing food. Obviously.  But hands down, our favorite thing we ate was a lamb kofta from a halal street meat vendor.  It was a taste sensation, and I rue that we only ate there once AND that Tony would shove as much of it as possible into his gaping maw while pushing me into oncoming traffic to prevent me from doing the same.  I know the man loves me, but I am no match for that kofta. […]

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