One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Month: October 2021 (Page 1 of 2)

Day 7 and 8 – Upstate, Brooklyn and Wrap Up

Day 7

For Friday, we headed out of the hotel, hit Angelina’s Bakery again for a quick bite before heading to Moynihan Train Hall at Penn Station.

We booked an Amtrak train north out to the city to Poughkeepsie, NY with absolutely no idea how any of this works. ha

They don’t assign seats, so you get to play this fun little game where you wait in the main hall until they assign a track and display it 15 minutes before departure. Then everyone rushes to that track to get a good seat.

We didn’t know this. ha So, we were in the back of the line, so by the time we got routed onto a car, there were of course no seats together. And, being New York, even when I said “sorry, Norah… I guess you’ll have to sit by yourself here” loud enough to be sure multiple people heard me, no one offered to move. ha

Oh well. Lessons learned. Finally after we all sat in different rows some woman offered to move so Norah could sit with Kegan, so that was nice. But it really wasn’t a big deal either way. She’s old enough now.

The train was basically like a nice airplane with all first class seats. Each set of two seats had its own power outlets and plenty of legroom and wide enough seats for real people. There was only “coach” seats available for the ride north so this is a Coach car. I booked Business Class on the way home, and it was pretty much the same, a bit more legroom between the seats (but there was plenty in coach too) and then the seats had a flip down footrest. Also, the business class car is the caboose, so you don’t have people moving through trying to get to the cafe car. Also- the cafe car was sort of cool- I didn’t get a photo, but it was like a bar/food stand that took up a full car with some booths for eating.

We arrived at Poughkeepsie without issue. Took about an hour and a half.

I have ZERO pictures from the entire day. ZERO. I was on an inside seat with a wall between two windows for my Amtrak ride up. So even though I could stretch up my neck and see the gorgeous Hudson River Valley and changing leaves, I couldn’t photograph it. Norah and Kegan had a window… but of course when I asked Kegan if he got any photos. No. ha

I had signed up for ZipCar online and reserved a car at the station, but when we walked out of the station, I learned they changed my pickup location to across town. Still not sure why because I reserved a CRV and the CRV was parked in the Zipcar spot but didn’t show on the available cars or that it even existed. … SO… we had to get an Uber to our car. But, it only took 15-20 minutes and we were on our way.

ZipCar is a car share app. You sign up to use a car and you walk up to it, unlock it with your phone. There is a fuel card to use to fill it up if it needs it, there is a EZ-Pass for tolls, and you can drive up to 150 miles with no additional charges. It would be convenient if you lived around New York… but otherwise, I’m not sure how useful it would be since it was a little pricey ($150 for an 8 hour rental) but around here, to not have to park a car, maintain a car, etc if you only need one every 2-3 weeks or so…. its a cool model. The car we got was pretty dirty, the steering wheel was sticky, it wasn’t maintained the best, the brakes squealed…so it wasn’t a glamorous experience, but it got the job done.

Because I drove as well, of course there were no photos of any towns or anything we saw.

We were supposed to drive straight to Woodstock to meet a friend for lunch, but she wasn’t feeling great, so she decided it was better to stay home.

So… we just meandered around to various small little towns north and south of Poughkeepsie checking out the area- Kegan and Norah have never been to anything “New England” so it was literally just driving into towns, seeing their downtown, driving around the Hudson River, etc.

We drove by the Vanderbuilt Mansion, Franklin D Roosevelt’s home and a bridge named after him. We really liked Wappinger Falls, Fishkill, Newburgh area.

We ate dinner at an excellent Mexican restaurant. I’d go back just for that. I asked what we wanted for dinner, Kegan starts googling, says “looks like there’s Mexican right up here”. Immediately Norah is like YES! 100%. Mexican. ha We laughed…okay this kid apparently needs some Mexican food in her life.

The child ordered chicken nuggets and fries when we got there. Who’s child is this? Someone come get her. ha

Right behind the restaurant on a high hillside was this awesome sprawling mid-century modern house… and both were right across from a giant Home Depot. So, we decided we were all set to move here and live. ha Huge mid-mod house, walkable to margaritas, train to the city, with a Home Depot across the street?? Sign. Me. Up.

We caught our train back to the city around 8pm.

Kegan captured a photo of Norah and I twinning at the train station. Apparently, I dressed my kid just like me today. Black quilted shoes, jeans, green shirts, ponytails. What can I say, I guess I know what I like. ha
The train hall at night was very pretty with the LED lights
Taking one last photo in front of Madison Square Gardens, all lit up in New York Knicks colors. I’m sure they had a game tonight. The blue and orange colors of The Knicks are a throwback to the Dutch flag, for the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. And the name is short for Knickerbockers- which stuck as a New York history when Washington Irving wrote a satirical History of New York under a pseudonym Deidrich Knickerbocker in 1809.
One last capture of the Empire State Building down the street as we walked north. Technically, it wasn’t the last sighting since we could see it from our hotel room.

Day 8

Our last day exploring New York! We decided to explore Brooklyn a bit today. We took the subway south from Times Square down through the Wall Street area and under the river popping up in Brooklyn.

We walked a few blocks into DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) which used to be abandoned warehouses and shipping docks but now has been revitalized and is a very pricy and trendy area with a great view of Manhattan and a coffee roaster on every corner.

I had pre-ordered breakfast at Butler because their menu looked good and I figured in this area on a Saturday morning, it would be packed. It was busy…but not as busy as I expected.

They had mini sausage rolls, and we thought maybe they would be like the sausage rolls in Ireland! Nope. Ha but still decent except mine had a raw pink spot of pork in it
This smoked bacon, runny egg, truffle aioli on brioche sounded amazing- but it was bland and the bun just tasted like a mushy cheap hamburger bun. I wasn’t impressed lol

Walked back a bit to get the iconic Manhattan bridge photo of Norah.

Found our way up onto the pedestrian walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge
Norah wanted to take a perspective photo where she was holding Kegan in her hand. He was annoyed but complied lol

Walking around the neighborhoods, Brooklyn had a much more chill vibe than other boroughs. It’s so interesting how every part of New York can feel so different… and we didn’t even make it to The Bronx or Long Island or Staten Island this trip.

We made our way to Clark Street and entered the subway there to ride down a few stops to the Brooklyn Museum and Prospect Park

We didn’t have advance tickets here because today was just a play-it-by-ear day. There was a pretty big line so I wasn’t sure we would get in- but we did.

The lobby had these massive 18 ft tall wooden statues by Brooklyn-based artist KAWS. He likes making large statues that had riffs off of consumer goods. There was another of his statues in front of 30 Rock although I didn’t know what it was at the time.

A lot of the art was a little “artsy” for me. I would look at it, try to understand it, then when I didn’t I’d go read the plaque on the wall to explain to me what the intention of the piece was. I love that art exists and that people have the artistic talent to see the world in a new and different way. I’m just a more tactile and objective person usually.

This exhibit was in the Feminist Art wing, and showed a place setting for any groundbreaking female throughout history or female goddesses in various cultures.
There was a replica of the Statue of Liberty behind the museum that used to sit atop Liberty Warehouse in Manhattan until 2003.
Norah discovered Strawberry Perrier and wanted to take the can home as a souvenir because she thought you couldn’t get it there. Hahaha so if anyone sees this around Indiana, please let me know where. Ha

After the museum, we grabbed an Uber up to the Williamsburg neighborhood because I had been talking with an old high school classmate that lives in New York to see if she wanted to meet up for dinner some evening. We decided Saturday worked best for both of us… and Williamsburg was an easy spot between us to meet.

She walked the 4 miles down from her apartment (right??) to meet us at a vendor market called Smorgasbord that had about 50-60 vendors set up selling food and drinks.

It was very crowded, but like with everything in New York, it went smoother than it usually does at home when things are crowded because people know how to act and how to queue. You just weave your way through, people let you pass through the line and you go about your business. Same with driving, it’s a mess of traffic and honking and pedestrians but there are far fewer wrecks than you’d see elsewhere with this level of chaos.

We waited for a table to open up and we snagged it and sat and chatted for over an hour catching up on life.
We got a lobster roll from Oyster Party
More dumplings from Mao Bao- but they were OK at best.
Norah got a Nutella S’mores sundae from Bona Bona
After we ate and talked, we all grabbed a drink from this stand (I didn’t grab the name)
The New York skyline from the pier in Brooklyn. It was such a nice day with the breeze picking up as it was getting ready to rain for the evening.

We said goodbye to our friend and headed away from the water towards the subway. Found a famous New York resident on the tracks while we waited 🙂

This was the highlight of the day. Lol Norah, not paying attention, smacked right into a subway steel beam. I tried to catch her but she didn’t hear me. Ha here she is pictured with tear streaming face and her sweaty face imprint she left on the beam. I made her take a photo as a way to get her laughing and also-because I’m a bit of a jerk.

We were back to midtown and back to our hotel by 4:30pm feeling like I was wasting my last night in Manhattan but it was rainy and expected to continue all evening until midnight. So, we watched Hocus Pocus, packed up our suitcases and grabbed – you guessed it- more Asian food for our “last meal”. It really was my “last meal” of sorts. I have been binging on everything I see all week and tomorrow it’s back to the calorie counting grind until Thanksgiving for me 🙂 I’ve lost 30 lbs this year and hope to lose another 30! But that won’t happen with dumplings and pizza every meal! LOL

Pork buns
Popcorn chicken
Shrimp dumplings
Peking duck buns
Soup dumplings that have broth inside of them. It was my first time having them. They were really good!

Wrap up

Sunday morning, we grabbed an Uber to LaGuardia. Only took about 1 minute for it to arrive and with almost no traffic, we were to the airport way ahead of schedule. We woke up at 6:45am and we were at the airport by 7:35. Pretty great timing. But, our flight didn’t leave until 9:55, so we sat around, had breakfast and then dealt with seat issues again. I’m guessing because the flight change before we left messed something up in the computer. I showed seats on my app, but my app told me to see a gate agent for seat assignments. I went up and the guy told me it was fine. Then I realized I had no clue when to board- so I went back up to ask that and the lady spent 15 minutes trying to figure out the situation herself. Eventually we got our same seats it showed in the app, the very back row of the plane, but we were boarding group 7, so we had to check our carryon bags.

But, just happy to have seats on the flight as it was the only direct to Indy today.

All in all we had a great trip! We saw a ton of sites, experienced a lot of culture, didn’t really have any major issues

They say almost a million cars come into Manhattan a day looking for half as many parking spots. I definitely think driving in Manhattan is doable- but it’s the parking in Manhattan that I couldn’t handle. I love the public transportation options available. Subway, buses, ferries, trains….you name it, you got it.

I’ve said for years, living in the country is a young person’s game. Ha mowing, gardening, upkeep, driving long distances to everywhere and everything….I want to retire to Manhattan. Doorman, elevators, public transport, delivery everything including groceries. Tons of recreational options and hobbies, small space to maintain, no exterior maintenance…that sounds like the best life to me.

Kegan says I might convince him to make that happen down the line, but likely not in this country. I asked him his thoughts overall- he said it was good to see and visit but if he never saw Manhattan again? He wouldn’t be upset. He didn’t hate Brooklyn and he liked it upstate but he said too many crazy hobos and druggies running around everywhere and just too much going on. His brain would be up on high all the time spending too much time there.

Norah says she liked everything except that it smelled like marijuana everywhere we went (which it TOTALLY did-people just walk down the street with a burning joint. ) and there were too many people haha she said she isn’t used to that many people every place you go.

So overall, it sounds like I will not be convincing my family to buy an apartment in Manhattan anytime soon (Kegan’s mom can breathe easy for a while longer that we stay local haha)

Our next adventure to blog about will be Christmas-New Year in New Orleans, so we’ll catch up then! Thanks for following along with us!

Day 6 – Flushing, Queens and Jackson Heights

Today is the day of eating I have been waiting for all week. Ha Staying in midtown right off Times Square has its advantages, in that the 42nd Street port Authority Bus Terminal basically is the hub for almost every line of the subway in the city… and if you can’t get there from 42nd street, you walk south to 34th street and grab a train or subway from Penn Station, or you walk East and grab anything else at Grand Central. So, I wanted to get out of Manhattan and explore an area of “locals” so we took the 7 train as far out as we could take it, to Flushing.

Flushing is a very diverse melting-pot neighborhood with Chinese, Nepalese, Korean and other ethnicities all mixed in. The Main Street/Roosevelt Ave intersection in Flushing is the 3rd busiest intersection in New York! It’s a bustling place.

We had 20 subway stops out to Flushing, but it honestly only took about 35-40 minutes total. It seems like a crazy commute, but no worse that if I worked in Columbus while living where we live in Freetown. It’s 40 minutes to everything lol

Flushing is one of the 5 original Queens towns from when Queens county was established when the British took over the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam in 1683. It has a bit of history.

Walking out from the subway station, you definitely had no doubt you had stepped into a very large Chinatown… but the pace was slower than Manhattan- people walked a little slower. It was busy and very “close” with awnings over the sidewalk, goods spread outside the store. But again, I’m drawn to this sort of community and network feel- not the modern sterile sort of shiny glass and elevators. Plus- the food in these places! You’d have to roll me down the sidewalk if I lived here. I might quite literally become one of those 600 lb women they have to knock the wall out to get her out of her apartment in a medical emergency! Lol

All of the shop signs in Chinese

We were headed to Asian Jewels, a Chinese dim sum house where they serve you from carts of steaming baskets of dumplings and small plates. This has been consistently rated as one of the best places for dim sum in New York, so the day was quite literally planned around this meal! Ha

Dim Sum started as small plates served to farmers and travelers along the Silk Road in tea houses as a means of serving some sort of food with the tea. Tea houses were sort of the pubs of the time and place. People gathered here for conversation and relaxing in the evenings after work or before settling in for the night. Dim Sum now is just a style of Chinese cuisine typically served for breakfast or lunch. Most places even in the US don’t serve dim sum after 3 or 4pm.

All of the Chinese waitresses LOVED Norah and kept commenting on how beautiful she was. To the point she was super embarrassed and quietly told me she wished they would stop. haha She’s definitely growing up and getting more self-aware. She had to perform in her school’s talent show last week and she said her hands were shaking because she was nervous. I don’t think this child has ever gotten nervous before.

The start of our spread. As you can see on the left, as you select off the cart, they mark your card depending on the price of each dish. We had pork buns, shrimp shumai, tripe, some sort of scallion dumpling.

After eating, we had quite a bit of a walk across to Flushing Meadows- Corona Park. It was needed. I needed to digest all that food.

This park was created for the 1939 World’s Fair. It was an ash dump until the 1930’s (featured as the Valley of Ashes in the Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald). Robert Moses, the great urban planner/public works creator around New York responsible for parks, highways, the Verrazano Bridge between Staten Island and Brooklyn, the Battery Tunnel, the Bronx Expressway and a lot of other great and controversial projects, led the creation of this park.

The park contains the Billie Jean King Tennis Center-which hosts the US Open Tennis tournament annually.

It contains Citi Field- the new stadium home of the New York Mets, after Shea Stadium was demolished in 2009.

It also hosted the 1964/1965 World’s Fair… which actually had a lot of impact on the world as we know it today, but you probably don’t realize.

Walt Disney consulted on designs and exhibits. The Its a Small World ride and song that we know was actually conceived and designed for the World’s Fair here! It ran here for 2 years, and was then repurposed into a ride at Disneyland theme park in California. Eventually copied and installed for Disney World in Florida.

The same with The Carousel of Progress, designed for the General Electric pavilion- Disney’s “most boring ride” to most people and kids- but one of my favorites. haha The carousel with animatronic people and animals and a theme song of “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” was designed to showcase technology and innovations and was cutting edge for its time. Sidenote: we got stuck on this ride a few years ago. We were stuck in the 1920s over and over and over and over. haha It was only like 15 minutes, but we definitely played that scene quite a few times before they shut the ride down. ha

Also, the concept of the metal seats on a conveyer belt used to usher people through rides originated here as they were expecting 70 million guests to come through the fair over 2 seasons. Disney eventually would use this concept in his parks for tons of rides.

Initially, Walt Disney wanted to use the Flushing Meadows site for his east coast park to recreate what had been so successful in California…but eventually, he purchased the swampland in Florida and made it into what it is today. It recreated the landscape and altered the American family dream to include a trip to Florida to visit this park.

The Unisphere was installed for the 1964/65 World’s Fair by US Steel
This column from an old Roman temple was gifted to New York by Jordan for the World’s Fair.
You may recognize these towers or the Unisphere from the Men In Black movie with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. The movie theorized that the world’s fair was a cover for the arrival of aliens to the planet and these towers were their spaceships lol
Spotted a friend off the side of the path. Just a big fat groundhog finding some food.

We visited the Queens museum which houses an amazingly huge miniature diorama of New York.

You walk all along the edge of the room to see various boroughs and buildings.

The exhibit goes dark every few minutes and it lights up to show the city at night.
Upstairs they had tons of memorabilia from the World’s Fair.
General Electrics pavilion called Progressland which included the Carousel of Progress Disney ride.
Another scale replica showing the layout of the various vendors and pavilions of the World’s Fair.

I really didn’t think there was much else to see here. There were a few artist exhibits and posters.. but it all felt a little over my head in terms of appreciating the art of it all since I’m not a real artsy person… but then I stumbled on this little room in the corner, dedicated to the design of Tiffany glass. It turns out, Louis Comfort Tiffany was disappointed at the quality of glass available and decided to open his own glasshouse furnace in 1893 in Corona Queens, just a mile or two from this museum. It was very rural at the time and allowed him to keep his glass recipes secret, well away from competitors in Manhattan. In 1901 he added a foundry, woodworking, metal working and other services to give him complete production control of all aspects of his business.

Charles Tiffany- his father- was the founder and owner of Tiffany & Co Jewelry…and Louis C Tiffany, started out as an interior designer and quickly found a passion for stained glass panels. This leaded Tiffany glass is what he became known for and what lives on today. A Tiffany lamp sold at auction for over 3 million dollars a few years ago! Supposedly you can find more common models for around $5,000. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually seen a real Tiffany lamp in anyone’s possession. I thought I had because there are so many of these style around, but it seems they may all be reproductions or rival designers made to look like Tiffany lamps. I don’t know all that much about them, I could be wrong. If anyone reading this does know- please let me know!

Some Tiffany lampshades in the exhibit

What I found the most interesting was this case exhibit showing that they were cut and then wrap each individual piece of glass with copper, to help the solder stick to the piece.

Then they were assemble the lamp over a metal dome pattern to ensure the design was correct and shaped correctly.

There were 2 of these big racks full of flat glass sheets of Tiffany glass.
A collection of turtleback glass tiles. These bumpy, wavy tiles were used alone or in combination with the more geometric and smooth designs.
My favorite piece in the collection.

As we were leaving the Queens museum, a lady walking past us said “they are doing a puppet show up there… I wish my daughter was with me to see it… but I thought your daughter might like to see” – And she did!

It was a cute little modern rendition of Little Red Riding Hood put on by the City Parks department. The puppet mobile performs in a different park 5 days a week 6 months of the year. I think they said their schedule was on the parks website.

We walked a good few blocks to Corona which seemed to be a more Latino geared area where Flushing was more Asian. Kegan said he saw about 6 people that I looked like, so yep- must be in the Cuban and Puerto Rican area! Ha

When I lived in South Florida, people would walk right up to me without missing a beat and start talking to me in Spanish. And then if I didn’t understand or couldn’t answer them, they’d roll their eyes and walk off. At first I was like how rude! But after a while I realized it’s because I look very Cuban haha and these old ladies were super offended my young butt didn’t even know Spanish.

For the record, my DNA shows 0% Italian, Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rica. or any other nationality people usually think I am. I’m a conundrum lol

I was so excited to see that Benforamo- The Ice King of Corona was open! I was afraid I just walked a mile for nothing. But if there is creamy Italian ice at the end, then it’s all worth it. This is the standard for Italian Ice. In business for over 60 years. They have like 50 different flavors and multiple sizes to choose from. It was busy with almost everyone walking by grabbing at least a small $2 cup.

If you’ve ever seen the intro to The King of Queens- you basically just hit the highlights of our day. Ha they are walking down the street in what appears to Jackson Heights (where we headed next) lounging in the Park, underneath the US Steel Unisphere globe, eating at Benfaramos… hilarious. I only found this intro after our visit while looking at the Benforamo website lol apparently, they live in Queens on the show. haha I thought the title was just a play on Queens, Kings, rooks, etc…never actually put it together! So now I feel stupid. lol

I had been seeking a bubble tea since breakfast Dim Sum so we had our Uber drop us off a few blocks early when I saw the stand.. and because I felt bad for the guy sitting in traffic trying to get the 3-4 blocks down that I had keyed in. I didn’t know it was SO busy there!

We walked on down under the 7 tracks seeking a Birria taco truck. But it turns out, the truck doesn’t show up and serve until 5 and it was only 3:30. Boo. I’ve never had birria tacos, but they are the new fad food showing up all over social media and my Indy foodie food group. I figured this would be a really good spot to try them. But I guess we’ll have to seek them out closer to home.

I can’t believe i didn’t take more photos of Jackson Heights! This lone picture of a produce shop is all I have to show for a mile of walking. Shame on me. It was a very neat, culture rich area. I really liked it.

As we approached the Jackson Heights subway station, I spotted a place I had bookmarked to go and try Nepalese food. The photos people had taken of the dumplings and soup looked amazing as well as the rice dishes. We still weren’t super hungry and I felt guilty taking a table to only order a bit… but they weren’t super busy, plenty of seating open, so we went in.

Norah ordered French fries again. Don’t know what’s up with that… but whatever. She’s been good this whole trip- if French fries are her choice for lunch/dinner- so be it. Ha a little comfort of home I guess?

We didn’t know what to order so I started stalking their social media and ordered what someone else had that looked amazing.

Paneer momo. Very rich creamy cheese filled dumplings with herbs and maybe some greens or spinach of some sort. Cress? Leek? I don’t know. But heavenly.
The Goat Momo in Jholi (a spicy herby broth)

I immediately googled and made sure I could make this again in the future because it was going to be a LONG flight and Uber out to this restaurant again haha and there were plenty of recipes for momo in jholi. Let me know if you want an invite when I recreate this masterpiece at home. Ha we were reading a recipe and tasting the broth, making sure we agreed that those ingredients were definitely present here. Oh my Lordy.. it was so good. It was so good that after we got to the hotel later in the evening, we tried to go order more dumplings in broth, knowing full well that Times Square Kung Fu kitchen would never live up to this, but the restaurant had just closed. Probably better. Ha

I loved these hammered copper drinking glasses and pitchers. If I ever open a restaurant I’m stealing this idea. The cold metal made the water seem that much colder and more refreshing.
All the poor commuters heading East away from Jackson Heights towards Flushing. The trains were packed to capacity with this many people waiting to add to it. I can do the crowded trains, but I loved that we were headed the opposite way on a mostly empty subway car with seating available 🙂

The rest of our evening was boring. We were in the hotel by 6pm and didn’t leave again. Norah got some iPad time, Kegan watched TV and I caught up on blogging.

Tomorrow we catch a train out of Penn Station to go upstate to Poughkeepsie to explore the countryside of New York along the Hudson River Valley.

Day 5 – Museum of Natural History and Van Gogh Experience

We took the subway north this morning to 72nd street on the upper west side so we could walk towards our museum and pass Zucker’s Bagels and Smoked Fish for breakfast.

Norah chose avocado toast with an egg
Kegan got The Classic- smoked salmon, tomato, red onion, capers, cream cheese on a marble rye bagel.
I got The Delaney. Egg, Swiss, pastrami and a potato latke on a pumpernickel bagel.
We walked past the New York Historical Society on our way to the Natural History Museum and there was an Abe Lincoln standing on the steps.
The American Museum of Natural History.
There were giant halls lined on two levels with these amazing dioramas and taxidermies specimens of various animals.
In 2014, the museum added a planetarium, space theater and many space exhibits to its collection. Norah spent the most time here reading every plaque and screen.
There was a special exhibit called The Nature of Color that we had to get special timed entry into. It was very pretty as it was all laid out by color.

The dinosaur skeletons were particularly cool. So many full remains!

My favorite “dinosaur” is the Giant Ground Sloth. These things are sooo cool. I love when we find a skeleton. This particular dude is the largest skeleton ever found. He was massive. Or she… I don’t want to be presumptuous.

They had a very large collection of pacific Island items including a statue from Easter Island. Also, tons of Aztec, Inca and Mayan items as well

One of the more interesting items I thought were these diorama recreations of various port and trade cities at a high point in their history.

Some other random items we liked today:

The blue whale is a famous symbol of the museum. It has also become a Covid vaccination point during the pandemic. The blue whale even got a vaccine bandaid added to his fin as PR for the site.
Giant Sequoia slice
I really liked seeing all of the pre-homo sapien skulls that have been found that have helped create the evolutionary timeline. I’ve seen many documentaries on various species but it was cool to see them in real life.

Amazingly, we didn’t get tickets to the Hall of Gems and Minerals- I couldn’t figure out how to join the virtual line… figured maybe it was already sold out for the day since online said it usually was… and Norah was disappointed- but when we passed by the entrance, the attendant let us in anyway without asking for tickets! Ha there was no line so I assume since it wasn’t stacked full of people, anyone could go in but we’ll just pretend we were super special 🙂

After we had seen all our brains could take of museums for the second day in a row, we headed down to the subway back towards our hotel to grab some food. The subway station was decorated appropriately.

We chose Ben’s Deli because Kegan didn’t want to miss a good Jewish deli hot pastrami and matzah ball soup.
Norah twinning with the subway signage.

He said the pastrami was great and the pickles were spot on… but he actually likes my matzah ball soup that I make better! Haha

After dinner we hung out in our hotel for an hour until it was time to head south towards Wall Street again to visit the Van Gogh Interactive Exhibit on Pier 31

Right outside the entrance we found the Irish Famine Memorial. A real Irish famine house that has been brought to lower Manhattan to honor the Irish immigrants to New York during the potato famine. Pretty neat to see snuggled in overlooking the water from the top and in between giant modern skyscrapers

The Van Gogh exhibit was very cool. I’m admittedly not much of an art buff- and of course I knew a couple of Van Gogh’s majorly famous works, but so didn’t realize he was so young when he killed himself (37), I didn’t realize he was roommates with fellow artist Paul Gauguin and I didn’t realize that an argument with Gauguin led to the famous “ear” incident where Van Gogh cut off his own ear with a razor blade and put it in an envelope and dropped it off at a nearby brothel.

Needless to say, they weren’t roommates after that, Van Gogh checked himself into a mental health facility and remained there painting. He was discharged in 1889 and within months shot himself in the abdomen and died two days later.

Tragic story, terrible mental illness. Beautiful art produced from the madness.

The best part was this giant room of projectors that created this immersive experience of being inside various paintings. It constantly changed and created a 30 minute or so video with sounds. I enjoyed sitting and taking it all in.
After the immersive room, you could select a coloring page and “paint with VanGogh”. After you colored it (with the 6 color choices of crayons they provided ha) you could scan it to display on a projected art wall.

After coloring, we entered the VR experience room where we wore Virtual Reality headsets for a 15 minute ride through Van Gogh painted fields to see some of the villages and scenes he painted. Then, because we had VIP tickets, we got to select a Van Gogh printed poster to take home.

Overall, a great experience. There are many of these around the country right now. I highly recommend a visit!

We walked to the World Trade Center subway station after we left to ride back up to midtown/Times Square

Tomorrow we’ll head out through Queens to Flushing- the end of the 7 train line to experience some of the outer boroughs and search out some great Asian food.

Day 4 – The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Broadway

Today will be a pretty short post even though the day was fairly long 🙂

We took an Uber up to The Met to save some time because we got moving a little late and we had timed entry tickets to The Met. We had the Uber drop us off at Butterfield Market, a swanky little grocery with sandwiches and coffee and a surprise for me- a sushi counter! I love sushi rolls for breakfast, so I was set. ha

They also had Cape Gooseberries, my favorite fruit! I have been growing them for the last few years but we didn’t do a garden this summer, so I hadn’t had any because they aren’t very common… They are a Peruvian Ground Cherry, sort of like a tomatillo/tomato but tastes sweet and tangy like passion fruit.

Kegan found a Scottish Smoked Salmon sandwich on brown bread, so he was pretty thrilled as well.

Since we had a couple minutes extra, we ran by William Greenberg Desserts and got a few mini Black and White Cookies- a staple of New York! If you ever watched Seinfeld, there was a whole episode about the black and white cookie. Most of the major long-standing places that made black and white cookies seemed to have closed their doors during the pandemic… but William Greenberg is still open and standing.

We grabbed a table outside The Met and ate our breakfast of sushi, smoked salmon, fruit and cookies! ha I’d like to think people were looking at us weird, but truth is- it’s New York, no one gives a hoot about what anyone else is doing. ha

First, we visited the Rome and Greece wing. I wanted to make sure I got to see all of that before my brain was overloaded and I was missing things. Roman history is definitely my favorite (I’m sure you know that if you’ve followed this blog at all. ha Every trip- ROMANS! ha)

Some art students were sketching items from around the Roman and Greece galleries. Norah thought maybe it might be a drawing contest and she wanted to know if she could enter. I told her they were art students and if she practiced enough at drawing, maybe that was something she could do when she got older. (She has shown a real knack for graphic design already)- she promptly started photographing items to draw later 🙂

Some highlights of the Egyptian exhibits

The American Wing had tons of colonial furniture, clocks, Tiffany glass, jewelry, paintings… some of my favorites:

A large section was devoted to Medieval and European Portraits

Finally we walked through the Asian art wing. I don’t know a lot about Asian history or a Cambodian statue from a Tibetan statue.. but there were some intricate pieces and colossal statues that caught my eye.

After we had seen all our brains could take of the museum, we headed out behind the museum into Central Park.

First stop was the Group of Bears statue.

We walked along to the Obelisk or Cleopatra’s Needle.

It was a gift from Egypt to the US in the 1880s… and is over 1000 years older that Cleopatra!

We had to sit and rest because I was wearing dress flats all day in a museum and then walking across Central Park just trying to not look like a tourist for our Broadway show. ha Also, the Gershwin theater required Norah to have a negative Covid test within 6 hours of the show, so we sat and gave her the test and waited for the results. Then I photographed the test, alongside her passport for Identification and a phone screen showing the date and time.

When we arrived, the girls checking vaccines and tests were super impressed with our preparedness. haha

Continuing on across Central Park we passed Belvedere Castle, a miniature castle designed as a focal viewpoint for various parts of Central Park and situated on the highest point in the park. Central Park is so busy and so many people exploring, it’s hard to imagine…but from the 1940s to the 1980s, this castle was shut down and a target of vandalism and disrepair until it was restored and reopened. Blows my mind because now all of New York is so busy and so upscale/nice/clean…It’s hard to imagine the New York of the 1980s or early 1990s. or even more so, the New York of the late 1800s or early 1900s.

There is a nicely manicured area called Shakespeare’s Garden.

We entered the subway at the Museum of Natural History station- which we’ll be right back up to tomorrow to visit this museum

We found a Shake Shack right around the corner from the theater that had a nice table outside that we relaxed at and ate for over an hour waiting on our time to go through the Covid line to get in. They separated out different seating areas into different times of arrival and our seating area was the first group set to arrive 50 minutes early.

Turned the corner and realized we were at the Ed Sullivan Theater where they film The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Wicked plays in the Gershwin Theater, named after George and Ira Gershwin- playwrite and lyricist brothers. Since 2003, Wicked has been playing here. It has the largest seating capacity of any theater on Broadway with 1933 seats

We were definitely the first group in. Totally empty theater.

We had the front 3 seater row of the mezzanine overlooking the lower level and the stage. Wasn’t the best view in the house- but we didn’t sit by people we didn’t know and there were no tall heads in front of us….so it was a great seat for me 🙂

The play was very good. I loved the “alternate” story of the Witches of Oz. It was no Hamilton. ha That musical BLEW.MY.MIND. I’m not sure anything else will ever live up to Hamilton. This one was objectively good, though.

Seeing 2,000 people file out of a theater all at once was interesting… lol

Passed the New York Times building on our walk back to the hotel

Walked through Times Square again because we decided to walk the 10 blocks instead of trying to hop the subway one stop since 2000 other people were headed that way too. It was a decent walk through the busiest weirdest part of Manhattan. ha Tomorrow is the Museum of Natural History and the interactive Van Gogh museum in the evening.

Day 3- Chelsea, Flatiron, Central Park South, Columbus Circle

Today started out with a quick subway ride to Chelsea to have breakfast at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. There are only 5 or 6 of these around the world. This one is a 3 story collection of seating and bars offering booze and coffee, pastries, fancy sandwiches, tasting flights of various coffees. All in a fancy schmancy setting of walnut furniture, fireplaces and copper. Designed to celebrate their coffee and their process.

The Cold Brew Bar. I could use one of these installed at my house. ha

Honestly, it was good food, but we were both underwhelmed at the coffee. Maybe we aren’t fancy enough haha. My cold brew- the whiskey-aged- tasted like a shot of whiskey…legit. I had to just drink it fast. ha The prometheus blend was watered down so much it didn’t have much flavor…and the nitro cold brew which is normally served cold when I order it at a regular Starbucks was lukewarm. Kegan said his espresso was so bitter, he didn’t enjoy it and he orders straight espresso from Starbucks constantly. Off day? perhaps.. or perhaps thats the true profile their coffees should have and we just don’t understand. ha either way, decent experience, not a necessity ever again.

I love these old buildings with the above street bridges connecting them. Such a cool throwback and I’m sure was such a posh addition for residents or workers here especially in the winter when there is snow on the ground.
This is an old elevated rail line that has been converted into a walking elevated park called the High Line. We’ll be walking along it in just a bit.

We headed over to the Hudson to see the newest park in Manhattan, Little Island. Public space built out over an old Pier no longer in use. Has a very distinctive look from land or the water.

Norah added her name to a wall of names as part of an art project designed to help people feel more connected and together as part of a post-Covid re-opening.

Walking along the High Line. It was such a peaceful little walk. Would be very cool if you lived near here and your daily commute or travel took you up and down this path.
They left the original train tracks in place which gives the park a very overgrown reclaimed feel to it as you are walking. Almost like you’re in a space you shouldn’t be allowed in.
Norah played with a couple kids on this playground for a bit. She’ll say she’s exhausted and then beg to go play on every playground we see. I don’t think she understands how you get tired.

We had tickets to the Museum of Illusions that I knew Norah would love because she watches a bunch of YouTube videos with these sort of optical illusions all the time.

Following this museum we walked towards the famous Dominique Ansel bakery. Famous for inventing the Cronut. I’ve had his baking cookbook for quite a few years now and he gives his recipes for Madelines, cronuts, cannelles, etc but I always wanted to actually get something from his bakery. Turns out still, to get a cronut, you have to order them two weeks in advance. So I did…. Just plain cronuts. 6 of them- the smallest order I could make.

There was some confusion, they couldn’t find my order (even though I had my order receipt and # -but they don’t go by order number. Ha it was a bit of a mess) but they handed me 6 cronuts and I left. But they weren’t what I ordered. Ha turns out we got 6 salted caramel cronuts that were filled with a crème and iced with a caramel fudge. And they were cold. And they had definitely been in a fridge since yesterday. So I think they lost my order and I got whatever was set aside for mess ups such as this. Ha and they weren’t that good. But a flakey layered cronut needs to be eaten within hours of baking. That’s why we had a one hour pickup window.

Sadly. Kegan and I agreed that ol’ Dominique may have gotten a little big for his britches. Ha but oh well. Sometimes when you’ve been wanting something for years, it will likely never live up to the hype… but this was especially disappointing because everything about it was objectively not right. Ha

Walking along the area we ended up walking around New York University-NYU campus.

There was a science related home decor store that I wanted to stop into called The Evolution Store. They had some very interesting insect and animal specimens for purchase as well as fossils and gems.

Our walk took us along to an unassuming building that you would never know the history of without seeing it labeled on Google Maps or specifically seeking it out. This was the former location of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory- and the famous Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in 1911.

The shirtwaist fire was the deadliest industrial accident in the city. 146 garment workers, mainly young Jewish and Italian women newly immigrated to the US who burned to death inside the building or were killed when they jumped from the 8-10th floors of the building to the pavement below.

The workers were locked into the work areas to prevent the girls from taking unauthorized breaks and to prevent theft. When a fire started the doors were locked from the outside and no one could escape and the guy with the keys had left the premises. The owners of course were not locked in and they escaped to the roof when the fire started and left all of their workers inside to die.

Sidebar- I’m no fan of labor unions these days… but it’s because of things like this that they exist at all. Large organizations with all the power will never do what’s right by workers without workers having some leverage. Usually that leverage is the ability to leave and go to the competition…but in early industrial days, there were so many immigrants coming in every day- you were lucky to find employment and there was someone else waiting to take your spot when you died at your machine. The girls in this factory were only making the equivalent of $300 a week in today’s money for six 12 hour days.

The owners were never convicted of any wrongdoing and went on to open another factory- where they were also fined multiple times for locking women in to that factory too. Doesn’t take a leap of the mind to figure out these men were evil and had zero regard for the women they employed.

One of the bystanders watching the girls jumping to the deaths was Frances Perkins. She would go on to organize worker’s rights and eventually 20 years later would be the Secretary of Labor under FDR, the first woman to serve in any president’s cabinet.

We proceeded to walk through Washington Square Park, a big open space around NYU and Greenwich Village area with a big fountain and a famous arch dedicated to George Washington.

This is the Hangman’s Elm on the Northwest corner of the park. It is supposedly the oldest tree in Manhattan.
Norah found another playground to explore. Earlier in the day, we discovered not every playground is accessible to everyone. We were eating our cronuts near a playground and when we went to let her in, we realized you had to apply for a keycard to access the playground and there were signs saying not to allow piggybacking in through the gates. It was a good lesson for Norah to learn that not everything in this world is for her and sometimes, we don’t get to do everything.

Just a street over from the park is the Washington Mews, an private gated cobblestone streets with adorable buildings on each side, which since the 1950s has housed offices for NYU. Before that, some artists lived here, and before they were houses, they were originally horse stables. A cute little street to walk down.

We hopped the subway to the Flatiron District to see the flatiron building and couple other sites before heading up towards Central Park but the building is currently under construction and has scaffolding all over the outside! A bit disappointing. I read that the entire building is empty through 2023 while they do an overhaul. I always pictured people living here and that single window on the skinny end was likely some posh living room or bedroom window…but turns out its all corporate office space. No residential at all. So, instead, it’s just a bunch corner office executives with the awesome offices.

Just on the other side of the intersection is Eataly. A fancy Italian market with hot food and sandwiches and gelato.

We grabbed some food and ate it on a park bench outside.

Right next to Eataly was a Lego store that Norah wanted to visit (it is her vacation, too ha) so we went exploring. I made some notes for Christmas, it wasn’t totally lost time.

After that, we hopped on the subway again and headed North to Central Park…completely forgetting I had art museum tickets to ARTECHOUSE and planned to tour through Chelsea Market that we were supposed to hit before leaving the area. Whoops. North we went.

When we exited the subway there was this huge black building. I thought it was cool. Turns out its Trump International Hotel. ha I knew it looked familiar! and it also explained why there were 30 cops surrounding a crazy guy who had just spit on some lady’s face who was just walking down the street. We were like “why are there so many police officers around to begin with??” turns out it’s because this building invites a lot of controversy and likely a lot of threats and security needed.

Here at the entrance to Central Park at the Merchant’s gate entrance (a name given in the 1860s to show appreciation for the role commerce in the city’s economy) stands a monument dedicated to the 258 American soldiers that died aboard the USS Maine.

The USS Maine exploded while docked in Havana, Cuba which was under Spanish Rule at the time. The ship had been sent there is protect US citizens due to Cuba revolutionaries and anti-Spanish violence that had been occurring. We of course wanted Spain out of the Americas since they controlled Puerto Rica, Cuba, Guam and others….and this explosion- which is still debated about what or who actually caused it- was the battle cry that finally got Americans ready to go to war. “Remember the Maine!” became the catchy phrase that would lead the way.

We backed Cuba’s right to independence and signed a declaration that authorized our president to use force if necessary to secure that freedom. Spain declared war on us. But then we declared war on them the next day! and made it retroactive 4 days prior! HA! sure showed them… ha

But Spain wasn’t prepared to fight a major war across the ocean against a foe like the US. It didn’t take long for the US to capture the Philippines. Then to free Cuba from Spanish control- with the help of a young secretary of the Navy Teddy Roosevelt and his volunteer group of cavalrymen called “the Rough Riders”. After that, the Spanish signed the Treaty of Paris- freeing Cuba, signing over Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States and selling the Philippines to the US for 20 million dollars.

The irony in this, is that the Philippine rebelled against their NEW oppressors and the US lost 10 times the number of men in 3 years putting down Philippine rebellion than they did fighting Spain.

Anyway, after the USS Maine explosion occurred- William Randolph Hearst decided there should be a monument to the tragedy and raised funds by running ads in his newspapers, collecting donations small and large until they could build this monument.

We ventured on into the southwest corner of Central Park

The beauty of New York City and why they are able to build such monumental skyscrapers here is that the island is basically solid rock. the bedrock is just under the soil and in some places, like in central park- its actually above the soil. People were relaxing on the rocks, hanging out. So naturally, Norah wanted to as well.

After wandering in Central Park for a bit (don’t worry, we’ll see more later) we had a Norah event planned at Columbus Circle. On Columbus Day… haha I had no plans of that, just a coincidence.

The Shoppes at Columbus Circle is a very nice retail plaza that is a part of the Time Warner complex- the most expensive piece of real estate in all of Manhattan.

They even have Botero sculptures in the main atrium.

We were headed for a store called CAMP. One floor was retail games, toys, books and a few fun items to play with… but the 2nd floor was a kid art studio- including a paint splatter room, spin, art, painting ceramics, making slime and other fun hands-on items.

We were very early, so we went downstairs and explored- they have an old truck the kids can climb inside and play with.

They had a sequin room that I wanted to go play in. ha

After this, I had plans to go back up the edge of Central Park and see a few famous Upper West Side buildings like the Dakota building where John Lennon lived, then go across into Central Park and see the Strawberry Fields John Lennon memorial…. but Norah was done. Like, she kept it together in the mall, but no way was I going to get her to walk more and spend another couple hours out. I know that kid’s limits. ha So… back towards midtown on the subway we went, grabbing carryout sushi from a shop called Wasabi on our way.

Tomorrow we’ll spend most of our day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and see Wicked on Broadway.

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