May 25, 2010

I love New York in the spring

We have returned from our long weekend in New York City. We rented the same apartment in the Upper East Side that we had stayed in back in May 2008, which was nice since we knew the neighbourhood well and felt like we were at home. We were supposed to be a foursome but one of our party had to drop out at the very last minute to have emergency knee surgery so we ended up travelling with our dear friend Mara.

We enjoyed awesome bagels each morning from Tal Bagels before starting our daily adventures. This was Mara's first trip to NYC so we took her on a grand tour of the must-sees. The first night we took the subway down to 42nd Street in Midtown and walked over to Times Square to take in the craziness. I got us off at 42nd street on purpose because when we existed we were right across from Mara's (and mine as it turns out) favourite building in the world, the Chrysler Building. It was a hoot to surprise her by asking her to look up. She was in a nice state of quiet awe. We ended up walking a huge loop and got back on the subway at 51st Street and headed back up to the Upper East Side for dinner at one of the city's great 24-hour diners, Gracie's. We couldn't believe we were ordering dinner at 12:30 am!! I had a massive souvlaki platter that had about five pounds of pork and the greatest Greek salad I have ever eaten!!

The next day we had our bagels and cream cheese some very strong coffee and then walked over to Central Park. It was a gorgeous day and we just wandered around, taking in the unique sights and sounds of the greatest city park ever. By wonderful happenstance we ended up watching a hilarious street-show by three young black guys who called themselves "The Afrobats". Their routine was a blast, littered with sharp humour and a nod to prevailing ethnic stereotypes ("White not worry...there are only three of of us. We can't hurt all of you") and they worked the crowd like no busker I have seen before. They had us in stitches at they danced, jumped around, and entertained. It turned out to be one of the most memorable moments of the trip.

I then took us on a quick detour to find the cheery tree under which I proposed to mark in May 2008. While it was a little bit of a challenge to find that special spot, as the cherry blossoms were all gone, I am thankfully blessed with a very sharp sense of direction and I was able to find our special tree. Mara kindly took some photos of us reuniting with a place that will always be special for us.

We left the Park to take Mara down Madison Avenue so she could ooh and ahh at the windows of the famous high fashion houses. We finished our walk at Bloomingdale's and hopped on the subway at 59th Street and went down to 23rd Street in Gramercy Park so we could walk over to 8th Avenue in Chelsea, the city's primary gay village. Before we got there we went into the lobby of the Hotel Chelsea to see where so many movers and shakers of the art, literary, movie, and music worlds once lived.

Mark was delighted to have a proper visit in Chelsea, and after a fantastic lunch at Rocking Horse Cafe, we hit the stores hard.Mark bought himself a cool shirt at The Starting Line and me a cool shirt at Nasty Pig which was so sweet of him. We then walked down to Chelsea Market for some treats and a much-needed break.

Rejuvenated we continued our journey south and entered the West Village, my favourite neighbourhood. We walked along Bleeker Street and took a quick detour down Grove Street so we could show Mara the building used for the exterior shot of the "Friends" apartment where Monica, Rachel, Chandler, and Joey lived. We went back to Bleeker and continued browsing until we decided to line up for a spot on the patio at our favourite NYC restaurant, Bar Pitti. Just like during our trip at New Year's we had the same celebrity sighting as Famke Janssen came to dine with her Boston Terrier and a male companion about halfway through our meal.

After dinner we walked up to Washington Square Park and the hopped on the subway at Astor Place and headed back to our apartment to chill out. We ended up watching three episodes of "Sex in the City" which was a hoot to actually watch while being in the City! Given that Carrie Bradshaw lived in the Upper East Side we felt like we were neighbours.

Sunday morning began with some more bagels and raspberry preserves and then we were off on the subway down to the legendary flagship Macy's on 34th Street. We saw no miracles but we did see massive crowds of people and after grabbing a pretzel we took off on the subway to Lower Manhattan and got off at City Hall, and walked over to the historic South Street Sea Port. We peeked at the Brooklyn Bridge, went for an incredible lunch at New York's oldest surviving bar, The Bridge Cafe (serving food and/or drink since 1794!!), and then Mara hit the stores. We then hopped back on the subway to our apartment for some much-needed rest.

Our threesome parted ways at 7:00 pm as Mark and I hopped in a cab down to Theatre Row to the Imperial Theatre to catch the musical version of Billy Elliott. It was a good show with some very good parts. The standouts in the cast were were the awesome Canadian Kate Kennig ("Mrs Wilkinson") and the impressive Trevor Braun ("Michael"). Our "Billy" was played by 12 year-old Alex Ko, (there are 5 actors playing the lead role) who was certainly very solid and capable and effortlessly cute. He did not have the charisma or stage presence I was expecting but he performed admirably and it was an overall wonderful experience. Oh, and our seats were amazing: we could touch the stage if we stretched out our legs!!

We ended our night at another 24-hour diner back on the Upper East Side called the Viand Coffee Shop. It was the quintessential New York diner, right out of "Seinfeld" or a Woody Allen film. I had a massive plate of leg of lamb and some side mash and string beans. Mark opted for a giant club sandwich. We left stuffed and satisfied.

Monday morning we hopped in a cab to JFK, with a good load of memories and Alicia Keys singing in our heads...
Even if it ain’t all it seems, I got a pocketful of dreams
Baby, I'm from New York
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothing you can't do
Now you're in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Hear it for New York, New York, New Yoooork!

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