May 25, 2016

A Winter Weekend in NYC

Let's talk about New York.

And maybe get my obsession with plane photos out of the way first.

You won't see me in many pictures as
I was on prednisone during this time and refused to relive my high school days of severe moon-face, but I still had a blast. I was pretty proud of my Christmas present (I scored a really good deal on the plane tickets)--I've been making an effort to give the gift of experiences more than things, and this was precisely that.

The downside is they're usually more expensive, but I can talk myself into mini-vacations by saying it's for multiple things, like the time I bought him tickets to see his favorite team play at the New Orleans Superdome where he had family nearby. Who doesn't love grabbing a drink and some beignets in downtown Nawlins?

I tried to make the Big Apple less of a wait--for the Titans game, he knew about it before his birthday in August, and had to wait until November. This time I wanted to surprise him with something close to Christmas (but enough time to request off, etc.). I did much better keeping my mouth shut this time around, buying the tickets three months in advance... I only spoiled it a few days early when I was in the hospital and needed a pick-me-up.

Now, I had been to New York City before -- on the way to Buffalo for an FCCLA cluster meeting, where I was fortunate enough to cross the Canada border and see Niagara Falls...which made up for the measly 24 hours I spent in the big city from on top of a double decker bus. I wouldn't let us make the same mistake this time. He hadn't been before, and perhaps if he could've picked anywhere, it definitely wouldn't have been there -- but I couldn't afford international tickets and Portland just didn't have the same deal. Nonetheless, I firmly believe New York has something for everybody (especially food wise, you know what I'm sayin'?), and he's a big museum type of guy, and lord knows there are plenty of those.

We arrived on a Friday night and had until Tuesday morning (utilizing MLK Jr. Day that Monday). With so much to see, including the necessary touristy-type things he had never seen before as well as a more local experience, we had a lot to squeeze in to a small amount of time.

Our first stop after checking into our hotel (we booked a great deal at the Best Western Plaza in Long Island City... it may not have been the cleanest neighborhood, but the hotel was super nice, had full hot breakfasts, and the subway was across the street, zipping us into the heart of NYC in just a few minutes) after a quick let's learn how to use the metro system lesson was the Museum of Modern Art. We tried to make the trip as cheap as possible, especially since it was a surprise for him and not something he'd exactly been saving up for, and I unfortunately couldn't afford to treat him to much more than the plane tickets for Christmas... keep in mind, I'm a social worker from Arkansas, the salary is under 30k. Friday night so happened to be free entry night at MoMA!



We caught the Picasso Sculpture exhibit and were able the see my mother's favorite painting: Starry Night. Growing up with so much exposure to Van Gogh, he's certainly one of my favorites as well.

We really wanted to see a comedy show/experience everyday local life without going overboard on the touristy stuff that we naturally had to see as well. While Arkansas is getting better--especially Fayetteville--in terms of comedy shows (if you know where to look), it still has nothing on NYC nightlife. The Creek and the Cave folks were ecstatic to learn from us visiting Arkansans that they're on Google. It was a very cool venue, with tasty snacks and drink options and it may have very well been one of the most hipster places we visited. We dreamed of going out and enjoying more nightlife afterwards but we were tired after a full first evening and so we decided we would walk back to our hotel and catch 2 AM some other night in the city that never sleeps. Because we're from Arkansas and we do.

The next morning we took the long journey to the Cloisters in Upper Manhattan. We were really loving all of these suggested admissions (which we did end up paying in full for students anyways), and the fact that it would get us into the Met within the same day. We really nerded out on all the medieval knickknacks, reading each and every plaque thoroughly. I'm sure he and many historians would kill me for calling them that. I was more fascinated with the architecture. The cloisters themselves were borrowed from the French abbeys at Cuxa, Bonnefort, Trie, and Saint-Guilhem--and they are beautiful; pink marble, faded detail carvings, it was like be transported to an entirely different age. Even thought it was January the gardens within and in the surrounding areas were lovely.


Now, Central Park ain't got nothin' on the Buffalo but I think it's incredibly cool that this concrete, skyscraper, overly-populated city has reserved such a large place for nature: 843 acres. While there was no way we had time to see all of it, we made sure to grab some traditional hot dogs and kebabs before making our way in to enjoy the park (on what would unknowingly be the nicest day during our stay). We had heard of the Belvedere Castle so we stayed mostly in the mid-Park section.

I took a lot of really bad panoramas on this trip.

The American Museum of Natural History seemed like an obvious next stop since it was next door - the line was incredibly long, it was a packed Saturday and they had just released the Titanosaur, but they did a decent job moving it along quickly. We managed to breeze by mostly everything, lingering more in the Rose Center for Earth & Space and the dinosaur exhibits, naturally.

I believe it was around this time that we found our way into a pub--The Dead Poet sounded promising but packed so we went across the street to St. James Gate to warm up with a couple of Irish coffees and potato & pea samosas. It was already dark out by the time we made it to the Met, but we were dead set on... well... seeing as much as we could before our feet gave out. We didn't see nearly as much as we would have liked, though I did get to see all of my Van Gogh's and we spent a good while in the medieval art hall (noticing a trend, yet?)--not to mention we both drooled over the last week of Ancient Egypt Transformed as soon as we arrived--but we could have spent an entire trip in this museum and still not read every little detail, so I was satisfied. Not to mention my feet ached and I was craving some pizza.

I once took a class on Sondheim, who wrote a musical based on this famous Seurat painting.
I can now mark off MoMA, the Met, & Musee d'Orsay for Van Gogh's!
So naturally we made the long journey to the Brooklyn Bridge so we could try Juliana's, one of the many places to claim throne to Best Pizza in the Country. I have to admit, it was delicious and it was our first introduction to Brooklyn Brewery. We capped the night off with some cannoli before buying ourselves a bottle of wine and settling in to our hotel bed for the night where, if I remember correctly, a really bad horror movie played on the already-fuzzy television (my only complaint about that hotel - and not that we needed a TV in this city!). I'm pretty sure I was asleep within a couple of minutes. Once again we failed to hit the town...and we would eventually learn that we were never going to have our late party night.

We knew there were several views of the city to pick and they all ran about the same price ($32) - considering our budget we knew we should just pick one, so we settled on the One World Observation Tower since it was the tallest. Instead of looking out of the crown of the Statue of Liberty we elected the free Staten Island Ferry first thing in the morning. I believe we missed one of the walking tours we wanted to go on this day (as well as the next, and some of the ones we were interested in conflicted with time), so we decided to take ourselves on a self-guided walking tour based on this list, backwards.

Occupy Wall St. Movement took place here.

 As I stated, we ended this tour with the One World Observation tower - seriously one of my favorite parts was the elevator ride up... though I could have done without the ear popping. It's all digital and has all of the facts popping up; I basically appreciate that they try to make showing you a view worth $32. However. Just as we arrived to the top of the tower, from the time we bought our tickets at the bottom... it had begun to snow. And it was foggy. And we could barely see anything. And it was honestly pretty funny.

It was during a late lunch at Harry's Italian, in the middle of a plate of seafood linguine, that we realized we were going to be too late for a brewery tour my friend thought he had planned accordingly for. We decided to make up for this by going to BigaLICe Brewing back towards our hotel in Long Island City. We each had a flight and I don't think I've ever beaten someone down to the bottom of those glasses until that night. It was the coziest little brewery I'd ever been to... unless you count looking through the window at the space allowed to brewmasters at West Mountain Brewery in Fayetteville, ha! I loved the vibe and was a fan of the free nutty-m&m trail mix. We also talked with a local couple and they gave us some recommendations.

I had been dead set on finding some quality ramen, which was maybe a fifteen minute walk through the snow as the buses were done for the evening. We tried to keep it classy and not draw pictures in the white windshields of parked cars but we had also just had a flight of beer each and were in very good moods. When we arrived at the quaint, moody Mu Ramen they told us it'd be a bit of a wait (and even the waiting area was full as they basically seat a sole long table in the small dining room) and that we might relax at Bierocracy next door for a little while.

I loved the old world beer hall vibe (and let's be honest, the complete we're-in-hipster-nyc vibe which is different from the hipster-southern-town vibe). I don't remember which beer I had but it was good and tall and just long enough to strike the names off the wait-list above ours next door.

I'd never had "real" ramen up to this point - though like most college students, I'd had plenty then as well as childhood to the point that I hadn't quite been ready to return to those orange packages (and still can't eat more than a few bites if I'm being honest). It was so delicious and I'm sure the sake had no influence on my opinion or how quickly I fell asleep that night.
Apologies for the Snapchat quality.

We were lucky enough to have accidentally booked our trip to NYC at the beginning of their winter restaurant week. Basically, we were overwhelmed with the options but knew we should probably make a reservation, so we picked Claudette at random before we left Arkansas and arrived there the next morning after finding ourselves in the middle of Washington Square. The restaurant was so light and bright in the heart of Greenwich Village. For the starter I chewed on some grilled montauk squid with chickpeas, eggplant, sweet peppers, harissa, and parsley. The main course was Claudette Cassoulet duck leg confit and flageolet beans, and while I was perfectly happy with my star anise creme brulee, and the ice cream made me drool.

This was the other day the walking tour just didn't work out. We fixed that problem by getting lost walking around near the Manhattan Bridge, Chinatown, and Little Italy, but not before going to the recommended McSorley's Old Ale House and having the dark beer (there's only one other option: light) at the oldest Irish tavern in NYC (fun fact: it only started allowing women inside after legal force in 1970). The walls are full of historical paraphernalia, none of which have been removed since 1910 and includes wishbones hung by men who left for World War I and never returned.

We traveled over to the Brooklyn Brewery and finally got that beer tour in - which was an awesome deal after you take in all the samples and the beer glass you receive (he even bought a t-shirt). This was probably the largest brewery I'd been in to date - it was absolutely massive in comparison to BigaLICe Brewing.


Lastly, I really wanted to see the "real Chinatown" of Flushing, Queens and my friend really wanted some quality Korean BBQ, so it was an easy compromise. However, it was horrifically overpriced and I couldn't rely on the service to get a drink refill while eating spicy BBQ so it's the only particular place I can't recommend.

Before our lunchtime flight, we hurried over to Arthur St. in the Bronx (the "real" Little Italy) to grab some fresh mozzarella for us and his family and a couple bottles of chinotto. Some of that cheese was eaten fresh - the other put into a delicious pasta dish upon our return. It was a lovely way to end the trip and I can still smell those cured meats.

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