Saturday 2nd June 2012.
I woke a couple of times in the night, still thirsty after the traumas of yesterday. Otherwise, I sleep well, and wake properly at 5:00am, feeling a bit weak but pretty much-recovered overall. Amanda is sleeping soundly, so I read my eBook until 5:35 when she also rouses and we have coffee and a muffin in bed while watching the local news and weather. They reckon it’s 65 degrees now, with 76 predicted for this afternoon, so the umbrella might have been (hopefully) a waste of $$!
Culture fix planned for today – MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) – somewhere we’re both excited about seeing.
We take our showers and leave the hotel by 8:00am. What the…? It’s overcast and very lightly drizzling! It’s also the first time I’ve ever noticed clouds lower than the buildings!
This won’t do at all! However, it does appear that the skies are lightning somewhat, so we decide not to bother going back in for the brolly, and head east, across two blocks to 6th then north to the Rockefeller.
Entering the GE building by the main entrance, we make our way down to the dining concourse to Starbucks for a proper coffee. I am a bit peckish, so I buy a Greek yoghurt pot too.
We sit at a table near the Plaza windows to enjoy our drink. There is a strong WiFi signal available so we check our social media sites.
Coffee cups drained at 9:00, and we climb back up to 5th.
The sun has reappeared, and it feels pleasantly warm as we drop down to E43rd St and enter Grand Central once more. Amanda’s 5:30am snack is a dim memory now and we find a diner in the lower concourse where she buys a hot bacon, egg and cheese croissant and I top up my sugar and hydration levels with a low-risk fruit cup and a bottle of water.
We’re finished by 9:30 and, exiting the Station we wander up Madison, gazing at the wonderful buildings. The back of St Patricks Cathedral is particularly fine:
… and there are many other architectural delights, with the bonus of some striking sculpture.
We’ve a bit of time to kill before MoMA opens at 10:30, and as we find ourselves outside FAO Swartz, it seems rude not to pop in and see what all the fuss is about.
After availing ourselves of the restrooms in this incredible store, we leave at 10:15 and make our way back down 5th to the Museum, which lies between 53rd and 54th streets.
We already have tickets, purchased as a discount combo at Top of The Rock, so bypass the longish line and wait in the impressive foyer for ‘rope-drop’ at 10:30.
Most reviewers recommend starting at the top floor, level 6, and working your way back down, so we head on up by way of the escalators and commence our browsing. I could write a full trippie just describing the wonders of this establishment! But for anyone not that interested in modern art it might make quite dry reading, so to summarise, we spent the next 90 minutes or so admiring stunning works by Picasso, Magritte, Van Gogh, Warhol et al….
….and to Amanda’s distinct delight, a glorious canvas by her favourite artist, Marc Chagall:
The views of surrounding streets from the gallery windows are worthy of a mention too:
There is a beautifully landscaped sculpture garden at ground floor level, and we rest here for a while, in hot sunshine, while I catch up on my notes.
Leaving at about 12.30, we head across 6th, which is closed due to a large street market, before realising that we have come out of the museum on the opposite side of the block and are going west instead of east! Doh!
My appetite is still building slowly back to normal, and instead of anything heavy and meaty I really fancy a decent, non-chain pizza. The Rough Guide recommends a restaurant at the base of the Met Life Building (effectively back to Grand Central again) and we head down that way. However, when we arrive, we find the place (Naples) closed, contrary to the guide! Poo.
There don’t seem to be any more decent Italian places in the immediate vicinity, so we need a Plan B… why not jump on the Subway and head Downtown, where the Guide offers a wider range of possibilities?
The easiest way to the trains is by walking through the Met Life and into GCT again, and we take the next southbound train to Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall station. It’s lovely and sunny here too.
The Rough Guide describes a small place on the edge of South Street Seaport, called Aqua, very favourably. It’s only round the corner and takes little time to reach.
We are greeted warmly by a waitress, and take one of the few tables on the pavement outside. The immediate surroundings are a bit industrial, as there is a lot of construction work in the area, but it’s warm and sunny and we’d rather be outside.
Brooklyn Lager and Pinot Grigot to drink, with a large bottle of water each (fizz for me, still for Amanda) while we peruse the menu. Amanda selects Lingine Con Gamberi (fresh shrimp, cherry tomatoes and a white wine sauce) and I ask for a Bufalina Pizza (buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and basil).
The food is served promptly and is perfect – beautifully cooked and presented.
It’s about 2:00pm when we finish our meal and pay the bill - $58 + tip. Amanda has wanted to visit South Street Seaport for some time, and so we walk across the street into the first of several, beautifully restored and converted former warehouses, now a mix of quality merchandise, clothes and food outlets.
The shopping area extends across to the water’s edge, passing under an elevated roadway, and onto the old Piers.
Here we find a delightful mix of restaurants, bars, boat excursions and more shops. We wander happily around over and through the complex.
There’s even a beach!!
Us and the Brooklyn Bridge:
The birthday meal venue for tomorrow: The River Café, under Brooklyn Bridge:
Once again we regret that we have already eaten. This is certainly somewhere we would revisit, perhaps on a future trip, in order to spend an afternoon or possibly an evening eating and drinking.
We stroll back towards and through the business district, with good views of the new Freedom Tower under construction, along Church Street to the incredibly busy Canal Street.
Amanda’s footwear is causing her some minor discomfort, so she buys a pair of gel (in)soled thongs. (They turn out to be great choice and serve her well for the rest of the visit.) It’s 4:30pm.
We don’t have a specific destination in mind, having ticked off our main objectives for the day, but we enjoyed rambling through Chinatown and Little Italy 6 years ago, so head up that way.
The streets are mobbed, and walking through the crowds is not particularly pleasant, especially around Chinatown and the pavement food shops…
…and we are mildly perturbed by the way live fish and crabs are being stored, so we cross Rivington Street and walk up towards the East Village. Not an unattractive area by any means, but less charming than Chelsea and Greenwich.
We happen upon this place, and, given its history and reputation, we are underwhelmed by the dullness of the location.
Oh, and here’s what happens if you forget to recover your bike in some parts of New York, even if chained up!
We/I are getting a bit weary now, and Midtown is many blocks to the north. The Subway seems to be the sensible solution, and we make our way to Astor Place Station.
There is a contemporary rock-bagpipes/break-dance group performing in the centre of the Place, so we watch them for a couple of numbers before descending to the station platform.
It is 5:20 when we arrive back at Grand Central (we should just move in here I think!) and after a quick restroom stop in the basement, we park up at Cipriani Dolci (cocktail bar) overlooking the main hall.
We both choose wine over cocktails and sit at the bar for a time to enjoy them whilst people-watching below.
The two (generous measure) drinks cost the thick end of $30 – not cheap but, given the location, not bad value either.
Retracing our route from this morning, we cross 5th, 6th and 7th and head back up to the hotel on W48th, arriving at 6:45. I reckon we have covered between 10 and 12 miles on foot today, far less than yesterday, but more than enough!
After showers and a half hour or so nursing a Bud on the bed, we are almost tempted to call it a day and go to sleep, but it just seems too early. Dressing up a little bit, we leave the hotel about 7:30 in search of a bar where we can relax and ideally get a snack or light meal if we feel hungry later.
Only a few yards from the hotel lies a cheerful Mexican bar/restaurant called Sombrero, and as one of the pavement tables is free, we park ourselves and order a pitcher of Margarita. Now, from past experiences in various countries, this could be either a wise choice or a grave mistake, as the quality of Margaritas we’ve bought in similar places in the past has varied from wonderful to appalling! This one however is lovely! Cheers! (Incredible value too – for $27 we had three large glasses each!)
We spend a couple of relaxing hours getting outside the jug of Margarita, accompanied by a some snacks and fries, royally entertained by listening to a young, loud and increasingly drunk Aussie girl at the next table discussing her sex life with her mid-50s African-American lady companion. It’s clear from the conversation that these two have only just met, and seem a very odd match, but the eavesdropping is great fun!
The evening vibe and bustle along the street and the nearby 8th Avenue is regularly punctuated by frequent call –outs for the Fire Station on the corner – the pump (54) screams out 3 times in less than an hour!
We end the night planning the birthday itinerary for tomorrow, and head back to the hotel, and early bed, at 9:30.
Tomorrow: Amanda’s 40th! Back to Chelsea for Breakfast and another Highline fix, Bryant Park, NY Public Library, and dinner at The River Café under Brooklyn Bridge.