Sunday, March 13, 2011

Satisfying wanderlust, locally

New York Skyline - Three
Originally uploaded by daverobson.

I had a fantastic day yesterday, hanging out with K&N who are visiting New York from Ottawa this weekend.

I got up early and caught two buses to their hotel and thus began our amazing self-guided walking tour of the city.

First stop was FAO Schwarz, quite possibly the most incredible toy store anyone has ever seen. Two guys dressed as toy soldiers opened the doors for us when we arrived, and then those employees closest to the door gave us a standing ovation when we got inside. What the?! It was crazy but quite funny. And remember the giant floor keyboard that Tom Hanks jumps all over to make music in "Big"? Well that's at FAO Schwarz and it is amazing. The employees take requests from the crowd and then they play the tunes - I was there to watch and hear them perform Beethoven's Fur Elise, just crazy. Around that point the kids started to crowd and it all got a bit intense watching the 'musicians' jump up and down from key to key. All I wanted to do was bellyflop and slide across the keyboard. I wonder if you'd get stun-gunned for that?

After that K introduced me to Bloomingdales; such a gorgeous place. We made friends with the shop assistant at the Chanel counter, then got stalked by every fragrance spritzer in the place, and finally allowed ourselves to purchase a pair of gorgeous Calvin Klein ballet flats (they are not grey, they're 'graphite'). Bloomies is onto something when they have a gorgeous man selling ladies shoes - it's an inspired sales tactic. Cha-ching!

We walked slowly back to the hotel to drop off our shopping bags and somehow ended up at Tiffany's. This is not a hardship, trust me. We convinced N to let us go in ("just to do one lap") and I went into a trance as I browsed the shiny, sparkly, shimmery displays of gorgeousness. The 4th floor is where all the Tiffany silver jewellery is and I just love it - the whole place; I mean, I can't pick a favourite. I am proud to say that I walked out empty handed though that was not an easy feat, I can assure you.

It was quite a relief putting down our bags at the hotel and heading off again, with two hands free for more commercial adventures. All the walking and fresh air had given us quite the appetite, so we went to visit The Soup Man (made famous on Seinfeld, "NO SOUP FOR YOU!!") who has reopened his little hole-in-the-wall store on West 55th. I had a delicious jambalaya and for $10, I got the large soup, some bread for dunking (hooray!), and for dessert - an orange and a Lindt chocolate. It was delicious and really good value. The store has little collapsible chairs and tables stacked up against the wall, and you just help yourself to set up an area to eat and when you're done, you just collapse the chairs & tables down again and stack them where you found them. No muss, no fuss - and nobody yells at you either. I loved it.

Replenished by the hearty soups, we kept walking downtown along Broadway, through Times Square which was typically nuts. It's easy enough to bypass Times Square when you're on foot, but sometimes you owe it to yourself to get caught up amongst the craziness and push and shove with the best of them. I think it has to be all part of the experience. I was actually quite pleased to go there because the only exposure I have to Times Square is when I've been going to a play or cutting through there to take the subway home. I've always been en route to somewhere else. This time I was literally just a pedestrian, looking around and soaking in all the souvenir stores, clothing outlets and struggling actors waving pamphlets in their desperate attempts to convince tourists to come and see their shows.

Once we'd made it through the hustle & bustle, we reached our destination - Fishs Eddy (which N, and now me, can't help but call "Eddie Fishers"). It's a dinnerware, houseware, bit-of-everything store which is amazingly cluttered but really gorgeous. And they sell groovy New York-inspired bowls and glasses etc that make excellent gifts. I couldn't resist the NY architecture magnets - even though our fridge is almost collapsing under the weight of our existing ones. These ones are little anyway; they won't do any harm.

While N browsed a nearby camping/outdoors/sports store, K and I rested our weary legs at Union Square. The sun was shining and everyone was out, enjoying the shops and the farmers market and generally just the great opportunity to get out and about.

We headed in the direction of the East Village and wandered past a guy on the street selling amazing vinyls. K couldn't resist picking up some Springsteen - one of the records had never even been opened before, so that was a great find. The guy selling the records suggested we visit the oldest alehouse in New York, so we wandered there next.

At the corner of E 7th St & 3rd Ave, McSorley's Old Ale House was established in 1854. It is a little bit tucked out of the way but was almost bursting at the seams by the time we got there. With sawdust on the floor, a creepy bouncer and low, dark ceilings it's a very 'old time' atmosphere. I couldn't tell you what kind of beers they have, or what the service is like, because we didn't stay. I am certainly going to come back another time, but maybe when it's a bit earlier in the day and the place isn't quite as busy.

We walked a bit further to the corner of 1st & 1st, to The Tuckshop - a great little place run by an Australian-Irish guy. Neither K nor N had been there before, and I had lured them there with the promise of Aussie beer and meat pies. I delivered on the former (Coopers Pales) but instead of the latter we split a pork & sage sausage roll which was delicious.

By this stage we were hungry again and we agreed that Italian food would go down a treat. I did a bit of Googling to find something nearby and we chose to visit Three of Cups. The restaurant doesn't have Italian decor at all, but the menu is really diverse and authentic and delicious. I devoured my mushroom tortellini and I don't think my lemon sorbet dessert even touched the sides. I was so famished! But the meal was great and the bottles of Chianti we shared were a wonderful reward for such a great day's exercise.

I'm up early again today (Sunday) and my legs are admittedly feeling a little tender. I don't think I'm going to be as tough on them today, but I am still going to get out & about. There are some flea markets that i want to see, plus a girl's gotta brunch - so that's on the agenda too. I'm just not sure where any of these things will take place. I had better put on comfy walking shoes - just in case...

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