To my great sadness, we have no photos available (yet) for this day. Camera trouble again, so we used Eric's phone, but alas, are unable to download them. Hopefully, after he gets a new phone and transfers the photos, I'll be able to add them later.
Nevertheless, NOTHING can change what a great day we had on Day 2, otherwise known as Downtown Day. Despite being up pretty late the night before, we were up at 7:30 and out the door by 8:30.
Across the street from our hotel was, of course, a place called Bagel Express. Of course we had to have a bagel in New York, right? I had an "everything bagel" because I that's how I roll - garlic, salt, seeds, and whatever else makes a salty, savory, chewy round of glory. Lox spread for me, which was the lovely, raw-ish, smoked salmon mixed into cream cheese. Yum every day of the week, and twice on Shabbat! Eric had eggs and bacon on a roll. Coffee for me, fresh squeezed orange juice for him, but as usual he drank part of my coffee, too.
We hopped on the subway, being professionals by now, and got off at Wall Street. Hey! Look! There's Trinity Church! Heere at the Wall! So many of our sights, sounds and savors came from movies, I cannot begin to count. This one was from "National Treasure." It's a beautiful church.
The financial district is amazingly laid out. Large, old buildings, cobbled streets blocked to traffic, suits and cops and pedestrians and tourists like us. We saw the federal building where George Washington was inaugurated, and the Stock Exchange. We simply had to pay a visit to the Bull, and took both the appropriate and inappropriate photos. It's a huge, bronze (?) sculpture of what is now known as the Merrill Lynch bull. Sponge Bob was there. Have I mentioned that many parts of NY are both fascinating and surreal, all at the same time?
We then walked down to Battery Park. Another unexpected surprise! It's immense! It was so fun to be at the very bottom of New York City, on a warm, sunny September morning. We went all the way down to the water's edge and waved to the Statue of Liberty. She looked especially pretty that morning. People were boarding boats to go on Statue tours, or harbor tours. We wondered if the water was fresh or brackish.
Can I just say that squirrels and pigeons in New York are fat and tame, obviously well-fed and very used to human contact?
It was a bad shoe day. The only real answer for that problem when one is in lower Manhattan is a trip to Century 21. It's an immense, crowded and busy designer wholesale store, sort of like TJMaxx and Marshall's, times 10, all in one place. Woah. I bought a pair of Tommy Hilfiger flip flops that just exactly matched my outfit for the day (floral and black) and ditched my "comfortable and sensible" loafers into Eric's messenger bag. I could have spent more hours and dollars there, but we had an agenda!
Yes, we did pause at the World Trade Center site. We didn't have tickets for the memorial area, but we looked and the buildings and immensity of it all. My heart continues to break.
Another subway ride took us up to Canal Street. If you've ever breathed the words "designer knockoff" this is the place you have in mind. The instant a woman emerges from the subway steps, she is accosted by quick and shifty Asian women, with well-worn glossy fliers depicting photos of every designer handbag she's ever fantasized about. Mutters of "handbag, handbag, you want Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Coach?" are repeated over and over again, on every street and corner in the entire Canal Street area and into Chinatown. What they want is to escort you to a back room somewhere, away from the eyes of the police, to show you their illegal copies of designer handbags. In years past, the hawkers openly displayed their goods on street corners, but the police shut that practice down. Now, they continue to conduct their business on the sly, supposedly.
We were hungry and wanted lunch. Joe's Ginger was our goal, as I had eaten there once before and fell in love with the soup dumplings, noodles, and incredible prices. After stumbling a bit and over-consulting our map, we found our way to Mott Street and entered the tiny restaurant.
When you walk into a restaurant in Chinatown and there is a table of older Chinese people sharing numerous dishes, you know you've come to the right place. Other than those folks, we were the only ones in the place. Mid-week, right time of day, apparently. Last time I was there, it was Chinese New Year, I had to wait 45 minutes for a table, and had to share with another man and his horridly obnoxious 4 year old son who only ate pizza in his small life, and thus went hungry.
What are soup dumplings? The only way to know for sure is to eat them, but here it is: a Chinese dumpling, shaped "pouch style" filled with meat and/or vegetables and SOUP BROTH. Yes, in the dumpling. They come hot and moist in a steamer basket, ready to be moved to your large ceramic soup spoon that you've filled with the sauce of soy, rice vinegar and slivered ginger they bring to the table. My method is to poke the side of my dumpling to allow a bit of the broth to escape, then take the spoon to my mouth, support the dumpling with my chopsticks, and slurp-chew-chomp my way to heaven.
So we shared that, plus a plate of fat, pan-fried noodles with chicken and bok choy. Many tiny cups of fragrant green tea accompanied our meal. I'm convinced Asian people are healthy both because of the food they eat and the tea they drink. Talk about smooth digestion! We walked away satisfied and rich, to the tune of about $18 for both of us for lunch, including tip. Eating in NY does NOT have to be expensive.
I wanted to shop, Eric wanted to nap. That man could take (and has taken) naps in just about any place or situation. Once, at camp, he konked out on a bed of pine needles with a tree root for a pillow. This is not made up. I sent him to Columbus Park, where Chinese men meet to play Mahjong and checkers and card games, at a rather sedate yet cutthroat level. I advised him to look like a tourist on a park bench, rather than a homeless person. He'd be on his own if he got arrested, I assured him.
Pashminas, the lovely silky, cashmere-seeming scarves are plentiful in this area. I bough several, for me, friends, and Eric's co-workers. I bought cute little Chinese fans for my girls, and popped in and out of several shops, hoping to find a pretty, yet legal, "designer inspired" handbag. I ended up with one, disappointed there weren't more. But as the men and boys in my life say often, "Just how many purses do you need, Mom?" Chumps.
It started to rain, I bought an umbrella for $5 and advised the cute man who sold it to me to raise his prices when the rain starts. He laughed. So charming. Eric texted me that his nap was dampened, and to meet him in the pavilion where the neighborhood had gone to continue their games and their music. I found him, and again was transported in a way that only NY can produce - was I really there, or in a small village in China somewhere? I cared little - the experience was heady.
Time for a new culture and experience. Little Italy! They do, indeed, sit right there side by side. Guess what? There was a festival!
He's the patron saint of Naples, Italy, and we just happened to enter their world on the first of a 10 day festival. Lucky us. Mulberry Street was lined with food vendors, restaurants, games, drinks, souvenirs, artisans, and anyone else you can imagine. There are numerous restaurants on this street, and for the festival they had all built an outdoor seating area in front of their establishments, open on the sides but covered on the top. The rain had stopped, and we were in for a real treat.
It was time for espresso and cannoli. Hi there, http://www.sambucascafe.com/?p=1 - can you serve us?
The two most beautiful, charming, and friendly waiters gave us a primo table and took our order. Why not have a Prosecco? We were still celebrating our anniversary, right? Eric had a double espresso and a chocolate-dipped, chocolate-filled cannoli. I had two bites, and it did not disappoint with a crispy pastry, creamy rich filling, and lovely drizzling of more chocolate on top. Our charming waiter thought Signora needed her own dessert, so when Eric was done, he brought to me, on the house, a Tiramisu that he says "I made myself, just for you." Ha. While I had my first taste, he shared the secret recipe. I promised I'd write about him on my blog. And friends, this was not your everyday tiramisu. I could taste every single element of the dessert - the espresso, the amaretto, the lady fingers, the creamy mascarpone, the bitter cocoa. We demolished the whole piece. And of course, they found out it was our anniversary, so before we left, I got a kiss and two more cannolis, on the house (again) to help us celebrate later. Did I mention these boys were charming?
We walked all the way up Mulberry Street, many many blocks, It was a nice day, cooling and cloudy, but the rain stayed away, and there was a party, right? We bought t-shirts for the kids and generally enjoyed holding hands and being part of something special outside of ourselves.
My friend Darbi, from high school, lives in the East Village. We had a date to meet her and her boyfriend at 6:00 p.m., so we walked the whole way up, taking our time. Along the way, on Houston street (pronounced Hoh-ston, not Hew-sten) we stepped into http://katzsdelicatessen.com/ - which is one of the many places Harry and Sally met in the movie "When Harry Met Sally." The famous scene where she did that thing, that embarrassing and funny thing, and the lady at the other table said "I'll have what she's having" - took place at Katz's Deli. There's even a sign marking the table.
A bit of time to kill led us into a tiny cafe near Darbi's apartment, where we rested and read magazines and watched it start to rain and blow again. It was a peaceful hour.
Darbi and her darling Kiwi named Kelvin took us to what might be my favorite new pub. It's a LITERATURE pub! Really! Can you imagine?
The walls are covered with photos and paintings of every author you can imagine. The women's restroom is wallpapered with pages from Milton's "Paradise Lost." And when they bring you the check? It's tucked into a book! A real book. Ours was a collection of Hemingway's short stories. Figures, as I wrote my senior thesis about "A Way You'll Never Be." Page 402 in our check-book.
It was then around the corner to http://www.perbacconyc.com/ , a newer place that Darbi and Kelvin hadn't tried yet. Fun for them and us!
We started with the caramelized and grilled figs with (get this) gorgonzola mousse. It was really beyond delicious and simple and perfect. Eric and I then shared the Tortara di Manzo, which was cured beef tenderloin, shiitake and chantarelle mushrooms, poached egg yolk and mint pesto with sliced radishes. All piled in a perfect cylinder and beautifully presented. Succulent, really. Our shared entree was Tagliatelle Integrali al Ragu di Coniglio, which, translated, meant whole wheat pasta ribbons and a rabbit ragu. It was great, but the beef tartare was the best thing we ate there. Chianti was the wine of choice for the meal.
Did I mention that sharing food in New York is the way to go?
A fond goodbye to Darbi and Kelvin, and a cab ride to our hotel was the lovely end to a full and beautiful day.
Tomorrow - we do Midtown. Today Show, library, shopping, French bakery, street food, Waldorf, neighborhood pizza and pubs.