Friday, October 22, 2010

New York Highlights

Brigid in our hotel.

The Strand Book Store. It's Mecca at the corner of Broadway & 12th. Unfortunately, I was so dehydrated from the train trip and exhausted from having worked night shift two nights prior, I didn't enjoy it as much as I would have otherwise, and couldn't remember any of the titles I had planned to look for.

The Pratt Institute. This is one school we came to see. It's in Brooklyn, and I'd never been to Brooklyn before. It was three subway transfers from our hotel in Chelsea, but we got there with no problem. Brooklyn looked very Brooklyn-y and Brigid and I were both impressed with Pratt, especially the library with the Tiffany glass floors and hanging shelves.

I realized that to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge was my earliest ambition, one conceived when I was about four or five and read The Lonely Doll. Hence, Brigid and I took that route back to Manhattan.

We took lots of cheesy tourist pictures.

Now, I simply must read David McCullough's The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Since we ended up in lower Manhattan, I insisted we visit the grave of Alexander Hamilton at Trinity Church. Alexander Hamilton is one of my favorite people of early US history. I would have liked to visit his house in Harlem, but it isn't open to the public right now.

Afternoon coffee at Cafe Reggio, which we stumbled into by chance. I didn't realize it is "the" original coffee shop of the village.

At Bloomingdale's we tried on expensive dresses. Then we went to the much cheaper Urban Outfitters across the street. Charlottesville has it's own Urban Outfitters, but our store doesn't have the furniture.

We made it to St. Patrick's cathedral in time for the 5:30 mass. I lit a candle to St. Anthony, in the hope that I will be able to find all the things I absentmindedly misplace.

After mass, a little more shopping. We had difficulty finding the subway station and stepped out of the crowd to consult my map. A man asked us what we were trying to find. I told him we needed the V train. "There's no more goddamn V train!" He was literally shouting, as if the V train, or its disappearance had personally offended him. "The M train replaces the V train!" He was still shouting. "Now what did I just say?" he demanded and I rolled my eyes skyward and recited, "There's. No. More. God. Damn. V. Train." "Very good," he said and pointed us in the direction of the station. Later that night, we went back to the Strand and I bought an excellent small street atlas of Manhattan and the first thing I did was look at the subway map, and what did I see? The goddamn V train!

A friend of mine recommended an Indian restaurant in the East Village. Here is what google maps came up with when I asked it to direct me from our hotel to E. 6th St.

E. 6th St. turned out to have many Indian restaurants: the "Taj" the "Raj" the "Taj Mahal,"etc. We wanted the "Raj Mahal" which was a slightly dingy below-street-level place, but there we had one of the top ten best meals of my life. Cheap, too. When we were finished eating, but bus boy took our plates and fussily scraped the crumbs off the tablecloth and dropped a dainty napkin over the stains we had made. We wondered why there was so much ceremony when all we wanted was to pay our bill and leave, but then we were each given a complimentary dessert. At the beginning of the meal, I had told Brigid that we would not order dessert because I hate Indian desserts, so we thought our little bowls of mango-jello-coconut-pudding-thing were hilarious. But the night was not over. The sitar player left his post, the proprietor turned on a flashing orange siren light, changed up the music to Happy Birthday, although not "Happy Birthday" as we know it, but a windy, dancy, Happy Birthday. The staff gathered around the table across the way from us and executed a neat birthday dance, twirling and clapping for the birthday boy at that table.

After dinner, we barely made it to the Strand before their 10:30pm closing time and I hastily scooped up some souvenirs for Jon and Seamus as well as my new street atlas.

In the morning we walked around NYU, and then the West Village, envying the houses, and did some more shopping.

We had some difficulty getting back to Penn Station the next day, partly because our bags were so much heavier and partly because I saw a sign at the 6th Ave. subway that said we could catch the "1" train there, but it turned out to be a subterranean passage between 6th and 7th Aves which didn't save any time, and in fact, caused us great difficulty because we were forced to climb and descend several sets of stairs with our bags. Once at Penn Station, I couldn't find the Amtrak area and thought for sure we would miss our train. At Amtrak, you have to stand and watch a giant screen which doesn't announce your track number until the train is ready to board. There were loads of people staring at that screen and I knew they were all waiting for the same train we were, which was headed for Philadelphia and Washington, because who is going to take a train to the Jersey Shore, or Niagara Falls on a Wednesday in October? When our train was finally announced, all 5,000 of us had to file down a single narrow escalator and show our tickets to the solitary Amtrak employee at its head. We had barely boarded before the train started to move, and of course finding two seats together was out of the question. We couldn't even find two seats in the same car. For this reason, I do not recommend taking Amtrak with small children.


  1. We encountered the same level of ridiculousness when we left Penn Station on Amtrak. I hate it when they do that because I'm convinced there's going to be a stampede and one of my kids is going to get crushed.

  2. Duly noted about the Amtrak warning.
    But the rest of your trip sounds like it was out of a dream.

  3. Looks and sounds like fun despite the occasional hiccup. The Google maps bit is hilarious!

    Way to switch it up with the new blog format--though I did wonder for half a sec if I'd come to the wrong place.

  4. Leaving Penn Station on NJ Transit is the same "hurry, here's your train, don't fall down the tiny escalator corridor experience".

    When getting on Amtrak at quieter stations, the conductor does everything possible to keep parent and small child dyads together. Leaving Orlando, we had to wait about an hour for seats with a window, but that was better than splitting up and sharing seats with consumptive riders.