We arrived at La Guardia to a mild mid-70’s. We immediately purchased a 7-day MetroCard (less than $30 each) good for unlimited use on the subway and buses. We used it to take a bus to the closest subway station rather shell out $20 for a cab. It was already late afternoon by the time we checked into the hotel, so after getting settled in we headed for Times Square to take in the evening lights.
For dinner, we shared a huge bowl of ramen noodles at a Japanese noodle place – Sapporo. For less than $10, it was probably the best bargain in the City. I washed those noodles down with a draft Sapporo.
We spent a few hours walking Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was already about 2:30 by the time we made it to MMOA, so we just visited their gift shop. After a nap at the hotel we headed back to Times Square and walked down Restaurant Row: 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue. At 9th Avenue there are more restaurants running both north and south. We saw dozens of cuisines: Russian, Middle Eastern, Afghan, Indian, Spanish, Thai….you name it.
For dinner, we enjoyed a variety of empanadas at Empanada Mama, on 9th Avenue just north of 51st Street. We shared four: a Brasil, Cuban pernil, chorizo and Columbian-spiced shredded beef for all of $11. We finished off with a generous slice of pepperoni pizza topped with lots of large Italian sausage slices which we took “to go” from a pizzeria / deli. It was the best pizza I’ve had, so what they say about New York pizza is true.
Started the day off at Union Square, which has a “fresh and organic” market three days a week. Also, a few artists. Picked up a quart of non-pasteurized apple cider… tasted like fresh squeezed apples! Taking home some “ghost” peppers,which I’d not heard of before and was told are very hot.
The “big find” (probably of the entire trip) was a Japanese woodblock artist who had studied the art in Japan. Wonderful “pop” style! Check out his website, where you can order if you can’t make it to NYC.
Next, we headed to Battery Park and the financial district. We enjoyed an hour at the National Museum of the American Indian, in the former Customs House, which had an exhibit (A Song for the Horse Nation)showcasing wonderful bead work related to horses.)
I wasn’t too impressed with the financial district. There were huge lines for photos with the Wall Street bull, which is actually on Broadway. Lots of folks say “grab the bull by the horns” and a lot of photos were of that. But it’s dangerous to be close to horns and there was an equally long line of folks who wanted to be in a photo grabbing the bull by another portion of his anatomy…closer to the ground and very sensitive to pressure!
We ended up at Canal Street, on the edge of Chinatown. I bought a watch from a street vendor for $10. Says it’s a Casio. Looks nice and it works. I couldn’t resist 8 plums for $1 for munching on while we’re out and about.
We took it easy and spent the day at Rockefeller Center. On the way there, we stumbled upon the Philippine Mission to the U.N. and checked out an exhibit of masks made from shells. Since we weren’t familiar with the City skyline, we didn’t pay the $21 to go to the Top of the Rock.
Then, we wandered the area. Found a “clearance” store where Susie spent $15 for a white light jacket to combat the breezy 66 degree weather. I splurged $6 for a colorful “tall” City skyline mug which I’d seen for $12 at other stores.
We also came upon a street vendor with $1 jumbo pretzels so I indulged in a NYC icon. He had hot dogs for the same price. Both of these are usually $2.
We ended up at Times Square, where I stood in line for 30 minutes at the half-price ticket outlet. The contenders were: La Cage, Million Dollar Quartert (Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash) and Chicago. The latter got the nod and we received third row seats for $64 each. The orchestra sold out but mezzanine was only about half full.
I suspect most of these theaters are smaller than their Vegas brethren since they are much older. The Mandalay Bay and Venetian theaters, for example, seat 1,500. But prices are are about the same.
It was Susie’s 60th birthday, so we followed the song’s advice to “take the A train.” Except that instead of taking it north to Harlem, we took it south to Camden Plaza, the first stop in Brooklyn and adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge.
We strolled the Brooklyn Heights promenade, which offers panoramic views of lower Manhattan and then went down to Brooklyn Bridge Park for equally spectacular “eye level” views. Then, we walked the Brooklyn Bridge, which was disappointing. The pedestrian path is in the center of the bridge, unlike the Golden Gate, where they are on each side of the bridge. Also, views are marred by the girders.
On the Manhattan side, Chinatown is just a few blocks away, so we headed there for lunch. I was I culinary heaven! We stopped in at a restaurant that had a take-out “deli” of various meats which they chopped in front of you. We had a half-pound of spit-roasted pork (called “lechon” in the Philippines).
At a bakery we picked up some “sio pao”, a steamed bun filled with, in our case, roast pork. Also, some “hopia” a flaky pastry filled with, in our case, yellow bean paste. At another bakery, I finally found some “puto” – sweet, sticky rice cake.
After lunch, we wandered Chinatown looking for some “champuy,” – dried (fully dehydrated) plum seeds with a little flesh still on them and seasoned with salt and licorice. Could not find it, although I found some of its cousins. I expected Chinatown to be much larger than it is.
Next to Chinatown is Little Italy, which just happened to be celabrating the 84th annual Feast of San Gennaro. Of course, a festival is an excuse to jack up the prices of food and this was no exception, although there were a few “lunch” (to 4 PM) special under $10. We took a break to hear a man singing traditional Italian songs (in English and Italian).
By 6 PM, we were ready for dinner after all that walking. Fortunately, there’s a little VietNam next to Chinatown. So we splurged 😉 $6.50 for a huge bowl of “special” (there are many varieties) pho which we shared. What I like about pho is the sauce. We had a reddish-brown one that was tangy and a red one which was quite spicy. I put both in mine. Susie skipped both.
After four days of walking all over the city, we recharged by sleeping in all morning. The slowed down pace continued in the afternoon with a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
With only four hours, it was a rush to go through the Egyptian, Arms & Armor, and African & Oceania collections. More than 30 seconds at any item was dawdling. (I can admire the photos!)
On the way to these exhibits, I took very short detours when some objects caught my eye in the Byzantine collection and also Pre-Columbian gold jewelry in the Central & South American section.
We devoted the morning to the Museum of Modern Art. One of my high school classmates who lives in NYC was able to get us free tickets. (Thanks Marian!) We spent most of the time at the Media / Photography collection.
For lunch we headed to Greenwich Village. Checked out the Corner Bistro’s burger, which has been proclaimed among the best in the city. It was pretty big, but for $7 I’m not sure it was a value. The fries were obviously frozen. (Give me a Hardee’s Thickburger and seasoned fries any day!)
We walked off lunch by strolling down Greenwich Avenue. Found an African store with 30% off everything and we each picked up some funky rings. Lazed around Washington Square park for awhile, listening to a rock band of high school students and watching the “master” chess players who play you for “tips.”
That evening, we met up with four high school classmates at a Philippine restaurant where we spent four hours reliving the old days and catching up on the new ones. A fitting end to the week!