Wednesday, November 24, 2010

NYC Nov 2010 cont.

Next we travel by subway to get to our housing and are changing trains at Penn Station.  Which is 34th street.  Which is Harald Square.  Which is Macy’s and the site of the parade in just a couple days.  We figure this is our opportunity to see the famous Christmas windows and the set up of parade route while all is quiet.  The window display is enchanting.  They took the classic story of “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” and depicted it through paper cutouts.  These are not your run of the mill snowflakes, but intricately designed, exactly cut and layered, full size dioramas of people and scenes.  One window shows mom sitting on a bed and the bedspread is incredibly detailed-three layers of different colored cutouts to make the flower details and each one just a little different.  The windows also incorporate movement in the scene and curtains that cover the entire scene briefly.  Lovely!  But a big part of the reason it was lovely is that we had the windows basically to ourselves.  This is one of my favorite methods of maximizing my travel-visit off season.  Why did we have it to ourselves?  8am Saturday before Thanksgiving.

Onto check into our lodgings!  This time I have tried something new for us-staying in an extra room of someone who is living there.  I looked at a couple of different websites for this type of stay and found this place on  We stayed with a family who had an extra room that is usually their office in the section of Manhattan where we wanted to be.  It was a fantastic experience-we met new cool people, felt homey and relaxed, and contributed a smaller environmental impact. 

Having dropped off our stuff we ventured out into the city.  The sky was clear so we headed to a new-to-us park, the Highline.  An elevated park on top of old railroad tracks, the Highline seems to be a big success as it was mobbed with strolling, chatting families.  It is relatively small but there are already two planned expansions.  A really neat aspect of the park is that they have incorporated old railroad rails, ties, and they abstractly reference rails in the seating and layout.  This is a great people watching spot and I would recommend anyone visiting the area to drop by.

At the north end of the Highline is the gallery district and I just happen to have a gallery that I want to visit-the ET Modern.  Edward Tufte is a genius of data presentation-if you are a scientist (or have an interest in design or presentation) and haven’t heard of him, check it out ASAP!  The gallery is the place for him to present his artistic work.  And he happens to be giving tours today (well, I planned it that way after looking at the schedule online).  This is the first time I’ve gotten the artists view of their own work in the person.  It was a little intimidating (wrack brain, try to ask something intelligent…nothing comes to mind, well, at least don’t knock over anything!).  But it was enlightening to look at the work in real time as he was explaining what to look for.  I really appreciated how light interacts with his works and the meta humor he injects into some of his works.

Onto one of my favorites-the Metropolitan Museum of Art!  In my mind it is one of the top attractions of NYC for visitors or residents.  The exhibits that present an entire room are the best: the temple of Dendur, the Japanese courtyard, the Zen garden, the Assyrian monument, and the new Jain entranceway.  New to me this time are the Christmas tree in the medieval section (which is still closed off), some new buddhas, and a new set of screens in the Japanese art section (the picture on the screen is of screens-nice!).  On Saturdays they stay open late and serve drinks and nice snacks so of course we have to try that.  Very nice-probably overpriced but you are clearly paying for atmosphere.  If you are thinking of checking it out the drinks the main gallery is busy and music filled while the cafe near the European sculpture garden is quiet, cozy and has an extended menu.  We have drinks and snack meal at the cafe-fancy ravioli, meatballs in sauce so thick it is stew and olives that have been spiced to taste like the holidays.  Phew!  Fantastic day-head home and sleep for 10 hours! 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

New York City

Ah-NYC.  I love visiting New York.  Visiting old favorites and finding new ones.  This visit is E---and I to see Pee Wee Herman on Broadway-but that is not until Sunday night and we arrive Saturday morning so there is plenty of time to do other things as well.  I hate to feel like I'm losing a whole day to air travel which means a few hours of really terrible sleep.  This is the first time I'm trying a neck pillow-everyone else uses them so they must be good for something-it turns out it doesn't do what I want it to!  Doesn't it look like it is supposed to hold your neck up?  Not so much.
Train into New York and our first nostalgia stop-Tom's Restaurant.  Most people will know this as the res RESTAUANT sign from Seinfeld, but we ate here as undergrads when it was famous for being in the Suzanne Vega song ("I am sitting in a diner on the corner....").  I remember mostly burgers and fries and milkshakes but go for breakfast-y French toast and sausage.  The thing is they have spruced up the place a little by replacing the cracked leatherette seats and the menus...but the atmosphere is actually still the same.  They have specific rules that are posted and don't even try to defy them.  Food is homey, unpretentious, and likely to put you into a food coma if you order too much.  Perfectly nostalgic.