Saturday, 30 April 2011

Day 9.1 - Food and drink

It's my last day in New York, and I spent the first hour of the day trying to jam all my stuff into my bags. I got there, but only just, just barely.

For my final breakfast prepared by Carlos, I was presented with chocolate, banana and walnut muffins. I can't bear bananas (slimy, yucky things) and I really don't like walnuts either. However, I can tolerate banana bread, so I gave it my best.

I shouldn't have doubted. They were delicious. Enough banana that I could smell it, but only lightly taste it; the walnuts were chopped and well-embedded and not walnutty at all. With a little frosting and some rich chocolate sauce, they were actually bloody good!

After finishing my packing, and lugging it to the storage place a few long blocks from Penn Station, I tried to connect with the HighLine Park at 34th and 11th. Except they haven't even started on that bit. I wandered a lot further, and ended up back in Chelsea eventually.

I stopped in at a couple of supermarkets, including a large one beginning with G (Grimwalds or somethingish), and the Chelsea Whole Foods and a Trader Joes (overwhelmingly own-name products). Each was interesting, and I did manage to find a single serve of challah at the Whole Foods.

It's a sweetish soft bread, and quite pleasant, if not all that. I followed that up with another mocha frappuccino (Starbucks has free wifi, and I get some caffeine and hydration too).

Friday, 29 April 2011

Day 8.3 - Wicked!

I realised on my last full day that I still hadn't got around to seeing Wicked, one of the things on my Really Must Do list. I got my way to the Gershwin Theatre, having gone via TKT (closed) just in case they had tickets. I got to the theatre early afternoon, and was behind two women trying to buy four tickets for the following night's show. The best they could get was four singles ($130 ea) in various parts of the theatre. They stepped aside to confer (they later did buy the four singles), and I enquired what was available for that night. The bloke apologised, saying he only had Premium tickets left ($250 each). I paused for a moment, and then though, bugger it, I'm going. Of the half dozen or so single Premium seats left, I asked him to choose the best one, and walked away with a seat for row 5 (EE 103). It was indeed a very good seat with excellent view of the stage, marred only slightly by the small child seated to my right who could not sit still.

I returned to the theatre around 7:30pm - there were plenty of signs warning that they began very promptly at 8pm, snarfled my apple pie dessert, and took a pic of the poster in the lightbox with my iPhone (I left my camera at home, knowing I couldn't take photos of the show).

The story is based on a book written by Gregory Maquire, heavily adapted (I've heard the book isn't great). The set-up is that Elphaba was conceived during an illicit liaison between her mother and a travelling salesman who supplied an intoxicating green liquid. Her father practically disowned her when she emerged from her mother's womb as a decidedly and permanently emerald infant. An awkward misfit, she was sent to school as an aide for her favoured but crippled sister and ended up sharing a room with the blonde and popular Galinda. Initially sworn enemies, a misunderstanding sees them become firm friends, a friendship later challenged by their love for the same boy.

It is explained to us how the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow come to be, each a victim of good intentions, and how Elphaba became the Wicked Witch of the West (a victim of bad press). Like all good musicals, the songs advance the plot, and there is a happy ending. One of my favourite songs was "Popular", partway through the first act, during which Elphaba gets a make-over, or rather, gets "Galinda-fied". There's another, which I can't remember the title of (Google tells me it's "Wonderful", which discusses how it's the victors who write history, or in the Wizard's words "Where I'm from, we believe all sorts of things that aren't true. We call it 'history'.", asking "Is [a man] a crusader - or ruthless invader?"

Day 8.2 - Quilt exhibition, American Folk Museum

The American Folk Museum is next door to MoMA. They had a big banner outside announcing an exhibition of quilts, called "Quilts: Masterworks form the American Folk Art Museum". As a quilter, I was keen to see it. It wasn't included in my NYPass, so I returned once it had expired. Unfortunately, so had the exhibition, the previous weekend. More precisely, it was a two-part exhibition, with Part 1 closing April 24 (Easter Sunday), and Part 2 opening May 10 (after I'd returned home).

However, the woman at the desk did alert me to a smaller exhibition at a branch location at Lincoln Square/Columbus Circle, a short bus ride away. The "Super Stars: Quilts from the American Folk Art Museum" exhibition was small, but worthwhile.

Just a quick pedantic aside: Quilting is the act of sewing layers together - usually a top layer, batting (the padding), and the bottom layer - often in decorative patterns. Patchwork is the sewing together of small pieces of fabric, often similarly shaped to create patterns, making up the top layer. There are other techniques for making quilt tops, such as appliqué, which involves sewing one piece on top of another.  In this case, the curators generally mean patchwork quilts when they say 'quilt', and discuss the patterns created by the patchwork rather than the quilting itself. </pedant>

As the name indicates, it focuses on the theme of stars in patchwork quilts. The introductory blurb talks about drawing inspiration from nature blah blah blah. In my experience, stars are popular because they are fairly simple patterns using simple tessellation and bold colours to create dramatic compositions. Photos were allowed, and I took plenty, some of which worked, and some were marred by reflections and the like. If you would like to see larger versions of the pics below, simply click on the image - it will take you to a full size one. Alternatively, you can click on the link above, where the Musuem's website has photos of some of the quilts. The website also has the name of the artist (where known), approximate date, composition, size and holding.

The one I like most was the Amish one, which understandably if unfortunately was behind glass. Which means my photos have lots of reflections. But if you can see past them, you can get a sense of the gorgeous muted colours, and painstaking quilting.

Day 8.1 - Food and drink

Despite being still rather full from last night, I wasn't going to pass up Carlos' breakfast. This morning it was guava empanadas, with a guava sauce. The dough was an excellent shortcrust, and the filling was a glorious deep reddish-orange. It could possibly have done with a side of cream, or even ice cream, to provide some lightness and contrast to the pastry, but it was still excellent.

I don't think I'm going to need much to eat today, but I'll tell you how I went later. Not sure what my plans are today - if the thunderstorms abate as promised, I'll have a wander along the High Line Park, and try to find some suitable doodads for work colleagues. (Last year, I was able to find some personalised dice, appropriate for Vegas.)

The thunderstorms did not abate, or rather they continued to come and go, so High Line Park did not happen. Instead, I putzed around until noon, then headed into town. realizing that it was Thursday already, and if I was going to go to see a Broadway show, I'd better pull my finger out. Times Square was as bloody awful and full of drifts of moronic tourists. And when the rain came down again, it got worse. I found some doodads for work people (don't panic, B!), and a t-shirt for me, and tried on 97 pairs of Levi's to see if they had something to substitute my beloved 513s which they discontinued yonks ago. (Answer: no)

Next up, it was time to find some lunch/dinner (ideally would last me the rest of the day). I took far too long trying to find something new and interesting, that I ended up hungry and desperate. I ended up in a diner (Astro Diner at 6th and 55th). Clearly catering largely to tourists, it had a stupidly huge menu, but it also had chairs and was out of the rain.

I ended up choosing the Clam po'boy from the Classics range, mainly because I didn't have the faintest idea what it would be. I didn't think it would be this (and wouldn't have chosen it if I did):

Heavily battered bits of unidentifiable rubbery stuff, stacked on undressed, warm lettuce leaves on an unbuttered toasted hot dog roll, with chips and a mayo with a slight hint of chilli. Meh. The sides, a small pottle of passable coleslaw and half a dill pickle (rather salty, but crisp), arrived well in advance.

I then went to the nearby American Folk Museum (next door to MoMA) but discovered the quilt exhibition I really wanted to see had closed the weekend just gone. However there was a smaller exhibition at a branch of the Museum at Colombus Circle. So off I toddled (see separate post), and then decided I should head home to shower and change before my show.

Back in town, I grabbed an apple slice, which I ate standing outside the theatre foyer. It was good - moist, lots of fruit and cinnamon, a little soggy (not in a bad way).

After the show, I decided to pick up some sushi hand rolls, if only because it was late and I might get peckish later, with no options available. In hindsight, I neither needed the food, nor the ten minute wait for the registers in the 24 hour Walgreens. Never mind. No pics, but they were brown rice inside-out rolls, with vegie stuff that wasn't avocado.

All up, not my most successful day, culinary-wise. Oh well.

Day 7.2 - Brooklyn Museum

Placeholder. It's a big museum and I got through all but the top floor, helped by the fact that a large section was shut off for some huge banquet that was happening that evening.

Probably the first museum that didn't focus on the art of dead white Anglo dudes. It has an extensive collection of African, Asian, Islamic and Egyptian art. The dead white Anglo dudes art was mostly in the area that was closed off, with the gorgeous huge atrium.

Anyway, I'll get to it in due course. Lots of masks and faces, so I think I'll do a special post on masks/sculpture of heads later on.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Day 7.1 - Food and drink

Another of Carlos's magnificent breakfasts. First up, bread-and-butter pudding (which he gave some other name), with a Grand Marnier-infused crème anglais. I'm not sure if I've ever had bread and butter pudding, but if it tastes like this, I'll be back for more. I suspect very few would be so good, though.

Served with it were the oatmeal cookies Carlos made yesterday, still delicious, with light-as-air whipped cream on the top. I'm not normally a fan of lashings of cream, but that didn't stop me from devouring all three of them.

I eventually left the flat somewhat after 11, and caught the train out to Brooklyn. I had been recommended to go to Kingston Ave (a couple of stops past the Brooklyn Museum) to get real Jewish food. It was fascinating!

Here in Harlem, Spanish is clearly the second (if not primary) language, and almost all signs are in both English and Spanish, including the aisle signs in supermarkets. The faces are mostly black and Latino, with white faces like mine fairly rare. In Kingston Ave, most of the faces are white Jewish, with a handful of black, Latino and gentile. The supermarket/kosher mini-mart I went into had a wide array of products, many familiar, some not, and some I wouldn't know because the packaging was written almost exclusively in Yiddish. I could infer they were biscuits (cookies), say, because they were in the cookie section and had a picture of a cookie on the front, but I couldn't tell you what kind. This particular store had a whole aisle (one of six) dedicated to baking supplies - whether that's because Jews bake a lot, or because it's harder to source kosher ingredients I couldn't tell you.

After wandering up and back, I chose a bakery/lunch place that had a substantial queue inside (figuring that was a good sign). While waiting I chose something in the display cabinet that looked interesting. At the register I discovered it was a spinach and potato knish, and it was fabulous! Excellent flavour and texture, somewhat greasy as it should be, and dirt cheap ($2).

Day 6.3 - Other stuff what I done tonight

I emerged from the Bodies exhibition (South St Seaport) around 5:45pm. It occurred to me that it would be a civilised hour in Aus (that is, 7:45am tomorrow), and that it would be a good time to ring. (The boys generally wake with the dawn, or at least 6:30am ish.)

Turns out they were all still in bed/just rousing, as they'd gone on a ghost tour the night before, and got to bed quite late. It sounds like they're all having a lot of fun, and getting along together quite well. Apparently even Dad's snoring isn't bothering them too much. They've been jet-boating and while they couldn't go zip-lining, it seems they did something which might be even better, flying under a hang-glider attached to a zip-line. I miss them, but I'm delighted to hear they're having such a fantastic time.

I also rang JD, who wasn't on the road on the way to work as I would have expected, and his phone went to voicemail. When I rang again, a couple of hours later, it turned out he'd decided to have a six day weekend, and was enjoying another day of sloth. He didn't quite make it up to Bridgey for a long weekend of skydiving. Sounds like he's enjoying it too.

Below the Bodies exhibition, there was a Gap store, and with a little time on my hands, I thought I might try on some clothes. They offer jeans in a variety of styles (slim, relaxed, curvy) which promised much. And didn't deliver.

I have generous thighs, and a smallish waist (not as small as it used to be, thanks to a few extra decades and the afore-mentioned kids). But even their curvy jeans were too loose at the waist (at least they didn't gape awfully), and too clingy around the thighs. And FWIW, I'm a size 10R, at least at the Gap. (The 12 was way too big.) Their jeans were no better fitting than ones I already owned, so I passed on them.

However, they did also have dress pants, with a similar range of styles. While I had the same complaints of these (loose, albeit not gaping at the waist, a little more figure hugging than I'd prefer around my thighs), I've found it much harder to source work-suitable pants. So I bought a pair of those. They're affiliated with Old Navy, so I found out where the nearest store was (19th and 6th), and headed in that direction.

This was actually the first time I'd been downtown - most of my exploring to date had been midtown (14th to 59th Streets). The streets are (a) named rather than numbered, and (b) much narrower and more higgledy-piggledy (buggered if I know how I'm supposed to spell that). There are a few tourist-targeted shops, and I managed to find a t-shirt for JD without too much profanity on it (I checked, the one I chose doesn't have F*ck on it, so you will be able to wear it in public, hon.)

Day 6.2 - Other stuff what I done today

A sketch of what I did today - I might tidy it up/flesh out the bullet points later.

Late start, spent morning catching up on blog

Considered going to American Folk Art Museum, but not on my Pass, so might save for Thursday or Friday (pass expires Wed night)

Decided to skip NY Hall of Science - just too busy all over, but especially for a hands-on type place.

Found a few t-shirts for the kids, and just pottering about. Had a wander around St Patrick's Cathedral (there was a service going on, but plenty of other tourists quietly wandering around). Neo-Gothic, complete (cf St John the Divine), statues of saints in each of the alcoves, each with a rack of candles burning - compare and contrast High Anglican with Catholic.

Tried to get ticket for Top of the Rock, but ten minute queue to get ticket for entry in 1.5 hours made me change my mind. Instead I went to Chelsea Market (see Day 6.1 for details).

After poking my head in at Filene's Basement (ironically, the top three floors of a building overlooking Union Square; reminded me very much of a Dimmeys store), I decided to go to the Bodies exhibition. No pics allowed.
Glad I went late in the afternoon, when it was pretty quiet. I could see they were equipped to deal with huge queues, suggesting it's much busier in the morning/at weekends.

It was interesting, and I picked up a few new bits of info. My knowledge of human anatomy is probably better than the average engineer-cum-accountant because my parents are doctors, and you pick up a surprising amount by osmosis. The bodies themselves appeared to all be Asian (I have some vague recollection that they're all Chinese, possibly former prisoners), and mostly male.

The room showcasing foetal development was separated off, making it easy to avoid viewing for those who might choose to. This was probably the most interesting for me. I was familiar with the written descriptions of the size of an embryo/foetus, but it was a different experience to see them.
(Just in case this bothers you too, I put the rest after the jump)

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Day 6.1 - Food and drink

Breakfast this morning was croque monsieur (aka ham and cheese toasted sanga) and red velvet cake, with a dollop of caramel semi-freddo. Red velvet cake is traditionally coloured with beetroot juice (although most these days use red food dye). Carlos' version was light and not sweet, and the caramel ice cream (melted while I devoured the toasted sanga) was the perfect accompaniment.

I also enjoyed one of Carlos' oatmeal and raisin cookies - soft, warm, not too sweet. Very good. And I didn't need anything more to eat until mid-afternoon.

Day 5.2 - MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art

Another placeholder. I'll get to it, I swear.

Day 5.1 - Food and drink

The day started, as usual, with another of Carlo's creations. This time, chocolate scones (light, flakey, not sweet), with lightly stewed strawberries. Oh, my!

The breakfasts alone are worth the price of admission.

After a slowish start (slight hangover from too much prosecco last night, as well as doing a load of laundry), I made my way into town. A little before noon, I decided I'd need something to sustain me as I went through MoMA, my primary destination for the day. I stopped in a Pret a Manger, a UK chain I'd seen in various locations. From their display cabinet, I chose a hot wrap with falafel, roast capsicum and cheese, and a cuppa tea. The wrap was good - hot, crisp-not-soggy pita-type bread, good flavours, not too bland. No photo though.

They also had free wifi, of which I availed myself (the wifi at the apartment had fallen over, turned out it needed to be reset). It was a good thing I'd had this, because it saved me from the massive queues for the restaurants inside MoMA, although I did get a cuppa around 4:30pm.

Day 4.4 - Museum of Sex

Placeholder (that is, I'll get back to it, but it's a gorgeous day outside, and it's already 11:30am)

Day 4.5 - Elaine's

Again, another placeholder - I might get to it tonight.

Day 4.3 - Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum

Just two short blocks north (uptown) from the Guggenheim is the less well-known Cooper-Hewitt, a branch of the Smithsonian. It is housed in the historic Andrew Carnegie mansion, occupying the block between 90th and 91st Streets, at Fifth Avenue. Presently undergoing renovations, there were only two exhibitions on show. It is worth noting you can access the restrooms (on the lower ground floor) without paying admission.

Photography was not permitted, so you'll have to follow the link above to see some samples. (I've hot linked the images below - please tell me if any of them don't work.)

The main exhibition, occupying the whole display area on the main (entry level) floor, is called "Set in Style: the Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels". This focuses on the magnificent items created by this firm, founded by two brothers-in-law in 1896. The jewelry equivalent of haute couture, the pieces are exquisite, if rather de trop (~too much) for my tastes. Nonetheless, it was much more interesting than I expected, and there were a few designs, methods and pieces that really qualified as examples of "design".

Unfortunately, the layout of the exhibits left a lot to be desired. There were a very few pieces around the outside of each room, with most of the pieces, perhaps 70 or so per room, jammed into a single display case in the middle of the room. With the descriptions and curatorial notes in the booklet given to you at admission, there were lots of not-moving people peering into the long glass domes, making it bloody hard to see anything. That, together with the aggressively protective staff, who would sternly tell you not to lean on the tables or touch the dome or do anything that might afford a slightly better view.

The exhibition itself was divided into six sections, matching the six rooms. The first, titled Innovation, showed in a video their patented "Mystery Set" construction method. This is how the designers can make planes of jewel-cut stones sit completely flush with one another, with no visible setting except around the perimeter. The manufacturing method spares no expense, from finding the huge number of stones that exactly match in hue, to the ten-year apprenticeship for the people who polish the settings, to the precision cutting and grinding of the stones that wears away half of each stone.

The second gallery, entitled Transformations, shows the ingeniousness behind some of the designs. Many of the pieces can be worn in different ways. The Walska brooch, for example, can transform from the brooch shown below: the pendant in the bird's mouth can be detached an hung from a chain; the wings can come off to become earrings (clip-ons); the tail comes off and can be worn separately as a brooch.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Day 4.2 - Solomon R Guggenheim Museum

The Guggenheim museum sits on Fifth Avenue, across from Central Park. I got there just after opening at 10pm, and there was already a queue to get in along the front, and around the corner. I nearly went past it and onto the Cooper-Hewitt, but saw that it was moving quite quickly, so joined it. The bottleneck was the revolving door, allowing only one person in at a time, but we soon got through that and into the great atrium of the magnificent Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building.

If you're unfamiliar with the building, you MUST go and find out more. I can't possibly do it justice here. Very briefly, the main exhibition space is a slow-curling spiral going up six layers, with additional exhibition space at each level. You will also see far better photos of the building than I was able to take.

The entry lobby was (not unexpectedly) swarming with people, with a long queue waiting at the admissions desk. Thankfully, my NYPass allowed me to queue-jump, and get my ticket from the Member's desk.

The main exhibition, called The Great Upheaval, is one showcasing the museum's own collection, showing the prewar development of the Post-Impressionists (that is, 1910 to 1918). Among other things, it shows the emergence of the Blue Rider group, and the development of cubism. The true non-objective art, with which the Guggenheim is particularly associated, isn't my favorite style, there were still some very appealing works in the exhibition. I haven't viewed it, but the link at the start of this paragraph has a video of the exhibition, if you're interested.

Although full of people, the artworks were spread out, with generally only one or two pieces per bay, so it didn't feel too crowded. Similarly, because you couldn't take photos in any of the galleries, people were actually looking at the artworks rather than looking through their cameras.

There was also a fair sized exhibit of Kandinsky at the Bauhaus, which was also interesting.

At the end, I perused the gift shop, but there was nothing that really grabbed my attention. Last time we'd been here, we'd bought a couple of t-shirts: JD got one with a Roy Lichtenstein work on it (a snarling dog, if I recall correctly), and I got one with a stylised representation of the building on it. This time, there was nothing that really appealed, nor that made it worth standing in the long queue for the register.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Day 4.1 - Food and drink

(Now updated - see after the jump for more)

Breakfast today was less extravagant, but no less delicious.

First up was pan de bono, a Colombian food. They are what I'd imagine a cheese puff to be, but made with queso fresco (a rennet-set fresh cheese) and tapioca flour. Light and fluffy and very yummy, especially when slathered with butter. I even remembered to take photos.

Also, Carlos had made some rum and raisin cookies, given a milk wash before baking. Or at least that's what he called them. In fact they were the most perfect shortbread you've ever had: light, with the perfect bite and none of the stodge that shortbread often suffers from. There were small bits of rum-soaked fruit, which added to the texture. As they cooled, they became crisper, but no less delicious. It would have been interesting to see what they were like when completely cool, but that would mean not eating them immediately, and I just don't have that kind of self-restraint.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Day 3.2 - Cathedral of St John the Divine Unfinished

The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine towers over Amsterdam Ave at 112th Street. It's big. It's really, really, really big. And like most really big, ambitious projects, it's still not quite done yet. Still to go are the towers (the south tower is slightly more 'done' than the non-existent north tower), the transepts (in their defense, the north transept was destroyed by fire in December 2001), the crossing and various other bits.

Unfortunately, the timing of their tours is such that I can't get to any of them, so my knowledge is gleaned from observation and the pamphlets I picked up there. All the photos were taken with a handheld camera, generally with no flash, so some of them are a little shaky.

Construction began in 1892, with the cornerstone laid on St John's Day, 27 December, 1892. The NY architectural firm of Heins and LaFarge won an international design competition with a Byzantine-Romanesque plan. The choir and East end of the cathedral were completed in this style.

It's got a very big organ. Which was in use with a rehearsal of the trumpet quintet.

A temporary shallow dome was constructed in 1909, in only fifteen weeks, to cover the Crossing. The Statue of Liberty, without her pedestal, would comfortably fit underneath it.

While the Romanesque style is beautiful and gracious, it is not really suited to really big buildings. Which is a problem if you're building the biggest Cathedral in the world.

In 1911, a new architect is appointed, Ralph Adams Cram, who changed the style to Gothic. The gothic arch transfers the weight of the roof and building out and down, which means that you only need internal pillars, and not weight-bearing internal walls. External buttresses help counteract the downward forces of the walls and roof.

Construction of the gothic nave began in 1925, and the 601 ft length was unveiled in 1941. Construction ceased as the US entered World War II with the bombing of Pearl Harbour one week later.

More to come, including the Great Rose Window, and the Portal of Paradise.

Day 3.1 - Food and drink

Today started with another of Carlos' magnificent breakfasts. Today, fresh baked scones (biscuits, he insists), made with buttermilk. Light, fluffy, tender, flaky, everything the perfect scone should be. With a large bowl of freshly made 'fruit compote', that is, lightly stewed apple (three kinds) plus pear, with the perfect amount of cinnamon. Again, soft and tender, and not remotely mushy or overcooked. The fruit kept its shape and a hint of firmness, but still melts in your mouth. Salivating yet??

Despite the less than delightful weather (ie it's raining steadily), I also had my walking food tour of the Upper West Side, with NoshWalks.

My first impressions were not great, and the criticisms I'd read seemed accurate. Myra, our guide, thought I was joining her on a different tour/day, she didn't have enough maps, and at our first stop (the huge Cathedral of St John the Divine) she gave us neither a time or location to meet up afterwards. It was only when one of the other tour-ees came and fetched me that I was able to rejoin the group. (I couldn't ring her as I didn't have internet access to retrieve her phone number; she didn't think I was on this tour so didn't have mine, and I didn't have a copy of the tour plan so I could meet up with them.) The food wasn't pre-ordered, although she did have us wait while she rang ahead to order at some places. She didn't have any contingency plans to accommodate the less-than-wonderful weather, and the whole thing felt extraordinarily disorganised, particularly from someone who had been running these tours for over a decade. But then I didn't want a slick, touristy type tour, so I stuck with it.

So, with that out of the way, on with the food. The food ranged from the okay to pretty good, and covered a diverse range of cultures and styles.

Day 2.3 - The Met


Saturday, 23 April 2011

Day 2.2 - The Cloisters

The Cloisters is several things. It is the name of a building in Fort Tryon Park, up near the northern tip of Manhattan island. It is also the name of the museum located in (and of) the building, which is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum.

The building itself reminds me of the follies found in C18th English gardens. It may not be a folly in the strictest sense, but it unarguably a contemporary assemblage intended to evoke ancient structures from different times and different places. It is a melange, a cornucopia, a fantasy mix of architectural remnants, most pinched from Europe before the Europeans got wise to the idea and banned the export (?theft) of such culturally significant items. (Okay, so the bits were mostly pinched from churches and monasteries that had fallen derelict since the French Revolution, but never mind. And we'll also leave aside the hypocrisy of refusing to return the Elgin Greek Marbles.)

[Insert disclaimer: I did a year of European Architecture 101 twenty-mumble years ago, and assert that not only are there likely to be errors in the following, you should be pleasantly surprised if I get anything right. At home, I might do some fact-checking etc, but on a single iPad screen, it's too much like hard work. Carrying on...]

In any given room at the Cloisters, there might be a low gothic doorway, and a high gothic lintel and a trefoil window and a romanesque arch, and so on. Okay, it might not be quite that bad - the romanesque arched (round) windows might be in the adjacent room to the gothic arched (pointy) ones, but it's still very odd.

Day 2.1 - Food and drink

Breakfast today was again a study in excellence. In addition to my cereal, yoghurt, tea, and juice, Carlos again delivered. This time, squares of perfectly cooked toast, topped with home-made full-fat ricotta (with a sprinkling of salt, which at first seemed odd, and very quickly seemed perfect), with a side of a soft-set chunky (homemade) marmalade. Yum!

Around 12:30ish, I had got to the front of the Met, and needed some tucker. I first went to the cupcakes foodcart, which had an array of gorgeously iced (sweet) cupcakes in a myriad of flavours. The menu on the side also told me they had savoury cupcakes, and I chose the 'Cini' (which by rights should be pronounced "chee-nee", being short for 'arancini', but I was corrected to "see-nee). It was a risotto ball with diced turkey and peas inside, and coated with a thin cornmeal crispy layer, which had presumably been deep-fried. It was pretty good, if a little bland. They also had a selection of teas ("black, green and mint"), and after confirming the black tea wasn't Earl Grey, I enjoyed a cup of that too.

While I sat on the steps of the Met to drink my cuppa, and devour my arancini, a group of singers assembled and serenaded us. Five black dudes (not blokes, couldn't call them blokes), ranging in age from perhaps thirty-ish to sixty-ish, sang beautiful harmonies accompanied by a non-black dude on the double bass. It was a short set, but long enough to finish my tea, and decide I needed just a little something more.

There was a hotdog stand immediately in front, and while the hotdogs had no appeal, they did offer knish. (Is it "nish" or "kuh-nish"?) Knish, at least from this vendor, is an inch high, 3" by 3" square, being a thickish (5mm) cornmeal batter enveloping velvety mashed potato, warmed on a grill plate. When I initially declined ketchup or mustard, the guy was a little surprised, so I relented and had a little tomato sauce. I ended up tipping off most the sauce - it didn't add anything to it.

The next thing I ate was a cannoli from the Met's Cafeteria. Meh. A cannolo (I presume that should be the singular) is a circle of sweet pastry, rolled into a tube, 1.5" diameter, then fried. It is then filled with stuff, in this case a moderately sweet butter icing. Not exciting. And another cuppa, while I examined the floor plan of the Met to determine which bits were essential viewing (most of it), and which I could reasonably skip this time.

I left the Met around 6pm, exhausted both physically and visually, and walked across to Lexington to catch the subway home. At my stop on 116th Street, I chose to see what the well-patronised "torteria" on the opposite corner offered. I chose a burrito carnitas (as the pastor, with marinated pork, was "all finished").

The burrito was a large soft tortilla, filled with flavored rice, chopped pulled pork, a savoury sauce of some type to moisten the rice and meat, plus lettuce and onion and garnish, all rolled up inside a layer of foil and cut into two. It was very good. I should have tried the self-serve sauces that were available - a red sauce, which looked like it probably had a bit of kick to it, and a green sauce, which probably had even more kick.

Tomorrow promises even more delights, as I have my walking food tour, despite the less than glorious weather forecast.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Day 1.3 - the bridges of Madison County Manhattan island

Paul Simon said there are fifty ways to leave your lover. There are probably fifty ways to leave Manhattan island. You can go by water - on a ferry or a water taxi or a sailing ship or a dingy. You can go by air - there were plenty of helicopters buzzing the city, presumably filled with tourists and SIPs (self-important people). There are four tunnels, two under the Hudson, and two under the East River. And there are repotedly 26 bridges, twenty or so we went under on the circumnavigation of the island.

There are suspension bridges.

(George Washington, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg).

There are cantilevered bridges.


There are bridges that look like baby versions of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

(Hell Gate)

Day 1.2 - Food and drink

There re an awful lot of restaurants and eateries in new York. I'm not surprised that some apartments have kitchenettes at best, on the assumption that you'd almost always eat out. Even the apartment where I'm staying, owned by a chef, has an itty-bitty teeny-weeny kitchen.

With a significant and visible Jewish population, I wasn't surprised to see many places declaring themselves to serve kosher food, although I did chuckle at the juxtapositions this generated.

I found myself downtown, and wandered into the Westside Market at 14th St and 7th Ave. Oh, my. A cheese counter to put the ones at Queen Vic Market to shame. A selection of cured and processed meats to have you salivating for weeks. But what really drew my eye was the massive (and I mean extraordinarily huge) selection of ready made foods available. Salads of every kind you could think of, served into lunch-size portions. A huge chilled display cabinet of dips and spreads. A selection of pastries and cakes and coffees and and and.

And an area where you could pick from thirty different items to be made up into a bento box. Lasagne, quiches, pies, stews, kebabs, salads, roast vegetables of all sorts. I couldn't not, but I had a hard time choosing. I ended up going for roasted asparagus, sautéed broccoli and spinach, and a mix of roast vegies with brussel sprouts, cauli, broccoli, roast garlic and baby roma tomatoes.

Day 1.1 - Pretty buildings

It was a gorgeous day in NYC today. Cloud clearing to a warm and pleasant day, if a little breezy in spots.

I started the day with a huge breakfast: cereal and yoghurt and orange juice and tea and a freshly baked, rich, moist, utterly exquisite death-by-chocolate muffin (with butter icing, caramel sauce and fresh strawberries).

I successfully negotiated the subway and got myself to Grand Central Station. I had to wander a bit down marble-lined halls of shops to find the Great Hall, but I got there. I didn't need to worry about being the only let's-play-spot-the-tourist. Half the people there (okay, not quite half, but plenty) had cameras out, from iPhones to full-on telephoto lens-bearing SLRs. It's not hard to see why.

Randomly picking an exit, I spotted the Chrysler building, but also a couple of other Art Deco-ish buildings across the road. (Someone with a better knowledge of architectural styles should correct me.)

Of course, the Chrysler building is classic Deco. From its gorgeous spire, to its imposing entrance, from to its Y-shaped lobby, to the brushed aluminium sconces.

I then set off towards the Empire State Building, which pipped the Chrysler's record as the world's tallest building less than year after the latter was completed. I remembered from last time that the ESB offered great views of the Chrysler Building. (By the time I got there, the queue to get in the building was down the block and around the corner. It could wait for another day.)

There were lots of other pretty buildings to distract me.

And that's just the Art Deco ones.

There were also the Beaux Arts ones, like the Flatiron building (so called because the shape recalls the shape of an iron.

By then, it was 11ish, and I figured time to start heading back towards 42nd Street, so as to get to the Circle Line ticket office by 12:00, to get on the 12:30 sailing.

But more on that soon.