CUWAM: Seeing the sunny side of life on a day of NYC drizzle

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At the conclusion of yet another fun filled day, thinking about the characters I met, the sites I saw, the food I ate, brings with it a feeling of happiness, of time well spent…

The day got off to an amusing start, I caught the train to 42st street, for I was meeting a friend for a free yoga class in Bryant park ( more on that shortly) With time to kill, and the urge to something that typifies the NY experience, I went in search of a Starbucks Coffee Store….This coffee giant gives the impression of being on every NY street…but I was forced to walk 5 blocks….can you imagine…a whole 5 blocks for my coffee…an outrage in American standards!!Upon locating a store, I joined the queue and was greeted by a hostess, who took my order, and conveyed it back to the barista via a microphone headpiece….

It was a site to behold…Although the barista was a mere 2 metres from the Starbucks ‘ hostess’, with all the seriousness of someone performing open heart surgery, my order was placed : ‘ Coffee order for Kate, a small Cappuccino to go, I repeat, Coffee order for Kate, that was a small Cappuccino to go’….Wow wee, today was going to be a great day, and I left the store with coffee in hand to the sound of the next order being placed ‘ Coffee order for Joe, Grande Americano tornado double twist mocha with regular chill beans and maple syrup’ or something to that effect!!

Back in Bryant Park I was honoured to be catching up with a friend I meet whilst working at the 2010 Ubud Writers Festival in Bali…Magda, home country Czech Republic, now self proclaimed global citizen of no fixed address…who happens to be staying in NY for the next couple of months.

A true creative spirit, it was so lovely to see Magda again, and with Yoga cancelled due a slight drizzle, we decided to have breakfast together.

Applebee’s in Time Square…what can I say…A true American chain, a once in a lifetime dining experience ( I hope!!) , providing us with a breakfast spread consisting of pancakes, bacon, eggs, potato grits and syrup, French toast with blue berries and more syrup and unlimited coffee / juice.

Over the Applebee’s feast, Magda and I chatted and chatted, and caught up on a years worth of gossip…It was quality time with a great girl, in a less than quality establishment, but when the company is good it does not matter where you are…

Parting with Magda ( who I will see at my b’day celebrations tomorrow night…stay tuned for that update!!), I proceeded in the direction of the Modern of Modern Art…which…was closed on Tuesday!! Oh well, I picked myself up from this slight hiccup and went and spent some time in one of the only internet cafes in the Theatre District.

Some hours later I emerged, and strange but true, I was once again hungry….Junk food is not sustaining!! I headed back to a store I had visited the previous day, Amy’s Breads, and had a small snack of soup and bread…

And it is here that I will reflect that yesterday’s epic journey on foot began to pay off, I knew my way around the city just that little bit better, I could recall where places on interest were…I revisited apet shop I had seen on 48th street, this time stopping to photograph the cat that sat in the shop window…this cat had ‘tude…NY style ‘tude…respect.

I then took the subway to Soho, and perused the back streets, stopping for a peanut butter cookie at Vesuvio Bakery, a cooking so rich I was left feeling parched!!

I took solace in a lovely Soho bookshop, the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe.Selling second hand books, this café is staffed entirely by volunteers, with the profits from all book sales providing monetary support for the homeless and people living with HIV. Books were purchased whilst sipping on an ice tea…la de dah!!

Getting in the bookstore vibe, I spent more time in a bookstore in Little Italy…reading up on books I did not intend to buy, but that were very interesting….finally purchasing a book from the American Fiction section….The History of Love…fingers crossed that it is good.

By this stage it was nearing 7pm….As I was ever so close the Bowery House, I decided to drop off my yoga gear and books before venturing out for dinner.

And I had clear ideas of were I was going….to Porchetta, a small take out joint in the East Village,specialising in central Italy’s classic boneless roasted pork. To say that this meal was heavenly is an understatement…words cannot do justice to the salty, crispy, succulent pork goodness that was housed between a cibatta roll….

 As a young girl I had formed a club with my brother Michael, and family friend, sisters Miriam and Claire Delaney. The club was called Pigsnorters…and as a collective, we did what kids do best…pig out on food….I am putting it out there, right here, right now….a Pigsnorter reunion at Porchetta, East Village…the four us, together again, partners welcome, pigging out on the best pig dish perhaps on planet earth…Who is in??

It took great strength no to devour a second helping of pig roll, but having earlier discovered that the charms of Princes Street, just off Bowery, I strolled along the footpath, staring into quaint bars, retro eating housing and came across another Bills Bakery…Though I could have eaten yet another Key Lime pie, I was strong and parted with $3 for a Red Velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting….

On my return to Australia, I do believe I could be some kilo’s heavier…and that gym membership that I have on hold whilst I travel with need to be put to use when I land in Oz…But if I am fatter, I am happier for it…..The NY food scene has been thoroughly impressive

Tomorrow….is a day of blogging rest…it is my b’day and I will be out and about enjoying myself…..The tales that will follow are sure to amuse and inspire for I am meeting up with Magda, and two others…friends of friends , two people I have never meet but come highly recommended!!…for a birthday meal in Union Square, Midtown NY….a Mexican restaurant which specialises in frozen pomegranate margaritas….watch this space!!


CUWAM : The Big Apple…Biting off more than I can chew

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I have returned from an epic day, 11 hours of hitting the NYC pavement, walking from 1st Street to 57th Street  and then some, getting lost numerous times, pacing the same streets twice, some three times, guide book in hand…an momentous day, and one I will look back on with fond memories…right now I am just tired, my back is sore and I am slightly sunburnt.

 My thoughts my first return to last nights meal of Dumplings….outstanding….No need for gimmicks at this Dumpling house, there was no Chinese Andre Rieu like at my fav dumpling house from Sydney, just good food, plain and simple…I went for the mixed vegetarian dumpling plate….And a colourful assortment of steamed goodies were presented, ranging from pink, green, orange and pale white dumplings. Reminiscent of a Cadbury Box of Roses…they were a delight.

The waiter at Dim Sum Go Go  provided lessons on how to eat them…They were NOT to be doused in soy sauce, Sydney style, rather dipped in a sweet / sour sauce that tasted Vietnamese in origin, then you were to dress each dumpling with a mix of pickled ginger and pop it in your mouth…Pure Dumpling heaven…I would recommend anyone who is a fan of dumpling goodness to go go to Dim Sum Go Go….

And now to day three in the Big Apple, and a conscious decision was made to stay on Manhattan Island today, there would be no side tripping to Brooklyn ( though the desire was strong) First stop breakfast, and after my guide book, the Time Out Shortlist guide to NYC proved so successful last night, I followed its advice again for breakfast in the Lower East Side.

Clinton Street Baking Company…I went there for the buttermilk pancakes….it was what my guide suggested ….but I was still rather full from last nights feast and knew that it would be a stretch to get through a pancake stack….But I could not be reasoned with…One serve of banana and walnut buttermilk pancakes with maple butter syrup please…..

With a strong black coffee in tow, the mission to complete my plate of food was aborted at the half way mark…Despite this, I was rather pleased with my efforts….Not only was the meal good, but so was the café company, I got talking to fellow breakfast buddy Gary, about the abundance of good eating options available in NYC, the pace of life in the city and the overwhelming site seeing opportunities available to visitors….

With enough fuel in by body to see me through till Christmas ( and calories and fat no doubt) I took to the streets, determined to find my first site seeing attractions for the day: the High Line.

The High Line is essentially a high rise park, an abandoned freight train track providing the framework for a modern day oasis for the NY citizens and tourist alike. With the sun shining, it was the perfect day to get amongst its splendour. Doing what I do best, listening into conversations, I heard one local remark with such passion, it almost bordered on aggression ‘ This is simple ingenious’

And the High line is…taking was essentially a large portion of a disused raised railway track, that no longer had a purpose, and turning it into living, breathing green recreational area for a city and its people that live their lives in what can best be described as a concrete jungle.

I walked through the tree line railway tracks, which are now walking paths…floating above the NY street pavement, giving me a new perspective on the city skyline and making me feel like I was part of it …creating ample photo opportunities and allowing for playful camera work….To put it simply…I loved it and would recommend it.

So thank you to my godfather Greg for suggesting this attraction to me, and to the New Yorker on the subway, who when I asked her for directions on day one, suggested if I only do one this in New York, the High Line should be it.

On leaving this floating paradise, I rejoined the throngs of people who had come out for the day….And perhaps I should have stayed sky high, because my decent to earth was underwhelming or rather was overdone….

I headed on foot to midtown, Time Square, Madison Square Gardens, shopped on Fifth Avenue, visited the Theatre District, Hells Kitchen….And not only was I there…but 1000’s of other people as well….It was too much for this girl who had spent the last two days wondering in aimlessly through the streets of Brooklyn, with probably another 500 people ( a manageable number!!)

But don’t get me wrong, there were highlights, but my trek simply confirmed, that for me, Time Square and the like are not the NY I now love, rather the NY I would be happier to admire from afar.

Highlights- eating a key lime pie in the 1950’s inspired bakery,Bills in Chelsea….Devine….Window shopping two other bakeries with similar themes American home made treats, Amy’s Bread in Hells Kitchen and Crumb found between 8th Ave and Broadway.

Shopping in Tiffany’s on Fifth Ave…for my friend, JK, who asked me to replace her lost 30th b’day gift, a sterling silver infinity chain…Why not!! A chance to get enter this iconic jewellery store and actually by something was an offer I could not refuse….It was there that I used the bathroom, see photo I could no resist ( bathroom 3 times as big as Bowery Accommodation!!)

More shopping at my favourite store, Urban Outfitters and eating a packet of corn chips from the ever present drug store, Duane Reed…a pharmacy that sells so much junk food it should be illegal!!

Dinner was enjoyed, rather devoured and the Time Out recommended, Baoguette, a small restaurant at St Marks Place, 2nd Ave. Specialising in baguettes, it was hard to choose….eventually I decided on one of there signature sandwiches, Sloppy Bao, spicy red curry beef, green mango, basil, lemongrass with spicy chilli and coriander sauce…And there is no denying, I could have had seconds!!

Instead I walked home via Whole Food Markets, for that little something extra…I ate a small portion of warm broccoli salad, complete with 6 whole clovers of garlic ( I counted), finishing the evenings feast in my room, demolishing the remaining half of my Key Lime pie from Bills….

A day of highs and lows….

A day of food glorious food

A day for an 11 hour walking marathon that left this entrant, on crossing the Bowery House finishing line, both exhausted, overwhelmed, content, curious and eager to compete again, in tomorrows event

And there will be a NYC blogging break for a couple of days now…I am to immerse myself in birthday behaviour…a day or two off…see you soon!!

CUWAM: New York , A place like no other

Day One: reflections being post from Williamsburg, Brooklyn on what is day two

And a sound track to read to accompany the words below….

PM Dawn…with their mid 1990’s classic : Moving on Up

Alicia Keys…New York

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New York, you are making me feel guilty….I no longer pine for Paris or parts of Denmark…I just love you…..Today I feel back in love with the city I last visited 6 years ago with my good friend Rhonda…and it is the kind of love that has me wishing I lived here, that I could relocate my life, relocate Flora and set up residence in Brooklyn…is that too much to ask?

I arrived in NYC late Friday night ( 16th September) and I reflected on the shuttle bus ride to my hotel on how much ground I had travelled in 1 day. I had breakfast in Copenhagen, lunch in London and peanut butter M & M’s for supper in NYC….An epic day which saw me pass out at my hotel / hostel The Bowery House, Bowery, NY as soon as I arrived.

The Bowery House is interesting to say the least. It is located in a fantastic part of Manhattan Island, near China Town and Little Italy….the building was originally use was as a hospice for war veterans to recover after the Second World War.

I have my own room, and it would be no more that 2m by 2m…It is super tiny, and I remember when I booked this place, questioning whether or not I would fit into the bed on offer ( the bed measurements were online as I’d say it has been an issue in the past)…I fit, just….my feet hang of the edge….but you do not come to NYC to sleep and I could not be happier with my cell!!  Yes, the Bowery House reminds me of the flat I love and live in Clovelly…only 10 times smaller!!

So on day one I took to the streets…..Wondering aimlessly at first in the hope of finding an internet café…..Feeling the need to embrace all things American, my first stop was Starbucks…I really just wanted to walk around with the coffee in my hand…It would help me fit in…It is what EVERY New Yorker seems to carry….I stood in line, and reached into my bag for my wallet…only to find it missing….Was is stolen? Had I packed it into my handbag that morning?

I walked back to my hotel, concerned that if it was stolen, the next 5 days would be spent without money, making insurance claims and talking to the NYPD…..Thankfully it was safe and sound in my room….And feeling relieved I then took to the streets with a purpose….I would go to Brooklyn, the NYC place of coolness…

But before Brooklyn…an aside : Anyone who knows me, knows that I love food, and I have always had a fascination for supermarkets….and today I found a market place that ticks every box: Whole Food Market, NYC….AMAZING….I was in heaven, and an everything bagel, grapes, apple and banana later I left the store heading for East Village…in the full knowledge that I would be back again ( probably too many times to mention in this blog!!)

Brooklyn Flea Markets are held every Saturday in a school yard. It was a market great for sourcing vintage clothes and collectables for the home…For me, I was more interested in people watching….For the people of Brooklyn seemed to be seriously cool…Very edgy, aloof even…and I felt slightly out of place, but not enough so that I would leave…there was lunch to be had.

Not that I was hungry but I felt it would be a disservice not to eat with the locals, so from the stall with the longest queue, I acquired a South American dish called Pupusa’s….with picked cabbage, jalapeno, and chill sauce….interesting and very filling.After leaving the markets I decided to resort to a favourite pass time…walking…in no particular direction….but the desire to find an internet café was high…After passing a seriously cool farmers market, internet access was made possible at the Brooklyn post office on the net….very entertaining as I also got to listen in on customer conversations as I typed away…The trials and tribulations of a Brooklyn local….You do know that the postal service has gone to the dogs, don’t you?! ( the very words of one unhappy customer)

To the streets, discovering a great café, Pedlar Cafe, and having a very NYC moment, the kind I had in Paris on my first day, feeling happy and sad at the same time, was it jet lag?…who can say…but then and there I decided that NYC, in particular Brooklyn, the East Village, would hold a special place in my heart.

And more strolling, this time along Smith Street were every shop window caught my attention…Window shopping and the type that you part with your cash was never more appealing!!

With the sun beginning to fade, the Subway took me back to Bowery, and I emerged from the underground….perfectly placed in front of my new favourite supermarket: Whole Food Market.

And to market, to market I went, purchasing numerous salads from their self-serve salad bar along with a garlic bagel for good measure….and this was consumed upstairs at the market….in a communal dining hall…heaven.

I now sit in my tiny, tiny room, typing away, conscious of the fact that I have written so many words about my current destination…more so that any other part of  the trip thus far….but for that I will not make excuses….Like a baseball player, aiming to hit a full run and get back to home base, New York has the same pull for me…It is a place, after a few more visits, I could see myself calling my home away from home….

So good night, sleep tight and don’t let the bed bugs bite…I am overly full on bagels and salad and am eager for the sun to rise tomorrow so that my daytime affair with NY can continue….

Quote of day 1: When I asked the waitress at McDonalds if the suburb I was in was Brooklyn she replied, not with a simple yes, but’ You in Downtown Brooklyn baby…woo wee’ Gotta love that enthusiasm!!

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