Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Breakfast on the Upper West Side

This information is by NO MEANS an extensive guide to breakfast out on the Upper West Side because we ate in most mornings.  We did, however, enjoy a few spots that were close by.....
  • Pier 72 - West End Avenue - Really a locals place... a few times we were there the owner was greeting children who arrived as if they were his grandchildren..... that's the kind of place to have breakfast!   Everything we had was generous and delicious.  I had one of my breakfast favorites (pancakes or corned beef hash) anytime we were there.  John loved the eggs just about any way they fixed them. 
  • Upstairs at the Fairway Market - 73rd and Broadway...... This spot was recommended by the owner of the apartment and it was a good suggestion.  It is above the actual grocery store so the dining area looks out on the Beacon Theater...... the prices were higher than our local spot (above) but the food was exceptionally good.
  • Fairway Market
  • Utopia - near the Subway entrance at 72nd and Broadway.....  A little bit more like a diner... definitely a good breakfast.
  • Aroma - 161 72nd Street ..... Great coffee and (as pointed out to us by Celeste) a nice outdoor dining area on the second floor that is a wonderful little quiet spot.
Because the bagels are so good in NYC (the claim is that because the water itself in NYC is good... so are the bagels) almost any spot you go serves bagels with traditional cream cheese, butter, or lox.  With so many options of finding bagels or other breakfast items (and NOT wanting to gain weight on vacation) we did eat breakfast at the apartment most mornings.

Leaving the City

Difficult decision..... continue seeing the sites of NYC and battle the hurricane or head for home.... an easier decision based on a few factors....
  • Our car was parked in an outdoor lot adjacent to the East River
  • Our apartment was only going to be ours through Oct. 31 at 11
  • We were missing family, Virginia, our home and friends
  • We capped our visit with a mini reunion of good friends  from junior high school days in Elizabeth, New Jersey... Terrific venue and a wonderful way to conclude our visit
  • We had an amazing 28 days in NYC

It was made more difficult by the fact that college friends, Grace and Carol were due to arrive on Sunday for a visit.  Their plan was to arrive by train and to stay through dinner until an evening train would return them to New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  We had been planning our day since before we arrived in New York at the beginning of the month.  But, calling off the visit and packing up turned out to be wise as anyone who has seen the TV for the last 2 days will know.
I have 2 photos... not mine.... so I don't know if they will show up on the post or not...

We had an easy drive home and beat the storm to Virginia. We were able to get a quick visit in with Beth and her family in Richmond before returning to Chesapeake.    We had no damage either there or to our shared home on the Outer Banks.  We felt quite a connection to all the storm stories, having just spent time in so many of the locations that are being shown.  From all the Facebook posts and texts with friends, former students, and relatives in the area most have fared pretty well.  Damage is severe to the locations on the Jersey Shore where we also have friends and relatives.  We await further information, as do so many others, and hope for the best possible recovery for the huge area impacted. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Travel Aids......

We couldn't have made it without the following:

  • Good overview maps... just to see the layout of the city and the boroughs.
  • Good walking shoes.... get over it... you WILL look like a tourist, but they are essential.
  • A smart phone..... great apps available... our most used were Hop Stop (transportation routing around the city), Fodor's NYC Guide, Garmin GPS, Museum A Go Go, and the one we WISH we had found earlier on Central Park!  (Has a feature to let you know where YOU are and where the nearest bathrooms are..... also historical background on each statue and venue in the park...
  • Podcasts..... we used them for entertainment, tours, background information..... BEST by far was the Bowery Boys who had a backlog of historical information on so many of the places we went. But also helpful were Insider Travel Guides, I Walked Audio Tours, The City Concealed,  Made in New York and the New York Historical Society.... all of them were free on Itunes.
  • An open mind about subway and bus transportation.... forays into the world of taxis was not enjoyable.
  • Friendly helpful people.... from the doorman in the building, the tram operator at Roosevelt Island, the guard at the Frick, the chef in the Polish restaurant  to the waiters and waitresses.... New Yorkers can be extremely helpful.... Exception: anyone whose job was security (United Nations Building, 9-11 Memorial Site etc.)
  • Friends and relatives who made the stay easier and much more enjoyable... Celeste and Joseph.... many thanks!

Ellis Island

John visited Ellis Island during our visit and as always, really loved it.  Because it was a school day part of his visit was spent obvserving the various groups and their enjoyment (or lack thereof) of this museum.  Whenever we go we bypass the Statue of Liberty stop on the ferry and just go straight to Ellis Island.  It was not the most beautiful day to take a photo of the scenery.... but anyone who visits NYC should put this near the top of their list.....

View from Inside Back to Lower Manhatten

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Riverside Park.... last visit.....

Our final morning visit to Riverside Park..... not sunny, but so comfortable.  The park seems to have extra runners preparing for the upcoming New York City Marathon.  We walked beyond the structure in the background of the photo and through the sculpture garden.   NYC really does well in its public spaces.... a great combination of wildlife and the arts....

This sculpture below really caught our eye....

New York Central Railroad - 69th Street Bridge

Friday, October 26, 2012

Roosevelt Island

Our last stop on our day's outings.... What a treat!  It is accessible by subway or tram.... we took the tram to get there and the subway to leave.  The tram gives great views of midtown where we had just seen the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and Grand Central Terminal..... we were just lucky to land next to the tram operator who was full of helpful hints and bits of information.  We had a great time talking to him during the passage across.  He had tales of people trying to move furniture in the tram as well as a very recent guest.... one of Roosevelt's grandchildren! 

Quite a history of this island...used to be called "Welfare Island"..... the above photo is the shell of the former small pox hospital.....the newly opened park to honor FDR is at the southern tip of the island so the views are amazing..... the walk along the East River is really pleasant and yet another podcast from the Bowery Boys filled us in on some historical background to the island.

This was taken along the walkway to the park.  You can see the United Nations Headquarters in this photo.

Grand Central Terminal

An amazing concourse!  We didn't plan to arrive in time for a tour, but thanks to a podcast by the Bowery Boys, we felt as if we were pretty well informed.  This is another place (like Penn Station) where 9-11 has taken its toll.... so many fewer of the old wooden benches..... there are still some in the food court that is on the lower level.   They have quite a selection of food available there.....It is an easy walk to go here from the Empire State Building.....

Chrysler Building

The view of the Chrysler Building is best at night..... but this is the view from Roosevelt Island.  We walked through the lobby but you really can't go very far before the guards stop you.....

Art Deco Label to Lexington Avenue

Empire State Building

We saved this landmark for the end of our visit..... turned out to be a good idea.... we were really able to see so many of the places we have visited during the month.  We arrived early (before 9) and it was really worth it.... we walked right past all the maze of ropes that are used when it is crowded....
Since I had been there with Beth the path to the elevators has definitely been improved.   The art deco interior is stunning and they have added a photo and artifact area that is very enjoyable before the elevators to the Observatory.   We had read on Trip Advisor not to bother with the 102nd floor and we found it to be true.....great view from the 86th floor and at the higher level we may have been above the clouds! 
Entrance to the Building

Empire State Building Guide.... love the uniforms!

View of the Empire State Building from the Circle Line Cruise

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Walking Tour of Harlem..... Big Onion Tours

All 4 of us set out for our Harlem Walking Tour with the Big Onion Tour group this morning.  We were a bit early (the express subways really zip you around town!) so we had a little extra time to explore the exhibits at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture......also a  Public Library.........wonderful photo exhibit in the gallery....... We met the tour right out front of this building (also very convenient to the subway we had just exited).  The 30 of us moved fairly easily around the blocks that the tour encompassed.

Abyssinian Baptist Church

These next two photos are from an area called Striver's Row.... just beautiful!

Saint Philip's Episcopal Church

Our guide did an excellent job informing us of the history of the area while blending it with updated information on the neighborhood.  As the tour entered the area on 125th Street where it was quite crowded it became a bit harder to hear... trucks, buses, etc.  .... but we certainly gained knowledge about the area.  The tour concluded at the Apollo Theater. There the guide was careful not to step on the toes of any tours that might be conducted within the theater by other operators.  After giving people advice on how to return to Manhattan or other parts of the city the tour concluded.

Our visit was not quite finished..... we did wander inside the theater and were allowed a peak into the main stage area by a friendly security guard.  But, the highlight of our visit to the lobby was the brief view into the life of this historic theater by a man named Billy Mitchell ( he leads tours and they would no doubt be wonderful!) ...... He told a few tales and while pointing out some famous faces on posters he would break out into song to remind us of the entertainer portrayed on that poster.
 So much fun!

Last stop was a visit to Sylvia's on Lenox Avenue..... another yummy lunch.... this time fried chicken with delicious side dishes.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Jersey Boys.... and "Girls"

Today's highlight was definitely a visit from my sister Barb and our good friend Muff.... both Jersey Girls..... our tickets were great......  the story of the Four Seasons was woven through their hits.......the crowd was not suprisingly right around our age.... some of whom insisted on singing every word.....

We had time for a little stroll in Central Park, a visit to the pier close to us in Riverside Park and of course, some yummy food.  (Can't beat Chinese for lunch and Italian for dinner!)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Asia Society and the Frick Collection

The cafe..... very nice!

From the lobby looking out.... no photo bans broken!

My goal following the window shopping was to visit 2 of the highly recommended smaller museums.  The first was the Asia Society...... interesting to say the least.... Instead of finding a small zenlike museum (as I had thought based on some posts on Trip Advisor) I found the museum was having a VERY modern exhibit.  When I mention that the most "zen" locations in the museum were the gift shop and the lobby near the restrooms.... that should give a small sense of the surprises from this particular exhibit.  The friendly guard at one part of the exhibit shared.... "think Tim Burton movie props....but not quite as good!"  I think he captured it!  The second floor housed more of the same only with the added feature of being ALL WHITE... so we had to put on booties to enter the room.  The installation included wrapped objects (very intricate) and lots of tiny balls of string.  No photos allowed... so I cannot share!  But, the name of the artist was Lin Tianmiao....

The Frick Collection was almost perfect.  It is a manageable museum ( can visit in 2-3 hours) at a reasonable price ($15 for seniors) in a beautiful building.  It includes an indoor garden area and the audio tour is part of that fee.  It would have been "perfect" if the first space we were herded to had NOT been the basement..... with intricate sketches.... definitely would have had a better sense of the "estate" like quality of the museum if we had not begun the tour there.