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new york

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eat new york

the last vestiges from my most memorable trip. piecing out and savouring my delicious dean & deluca chocolates. sipping on cups of tea (with scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam!) and thinking of the next time we visit new york.

Lost in the music, Travel the world

listen to clint mansell

oh yes, they did!

the live audio webcast of clint mansell’s performance at st paul the apostle is online! so for everyone who wasn’t able to attend this magnificent performance, have a listen and understand why were were blown away.
and in our case, with this webcast, we get the pleasure to relive the concert again. and again.

not only that, having clint mansell retweet my tweet the day after, will also add to me remembering this experience fondly.

i love that mansell feels strongly about fans putting away cell phones during concerts. i joined in the conversation and was super thrilled to get a reply.
ahhh, that’s why i love twitter. the ability to connect with someone whose work you’ve long admired. and if you’re really lucky and they are as responsive to fans as mansell is, you might even get a reply.
don’t you just love what the wildhearts encourage their fans to do at their concerts? i don’t know who they are, but i love them already. and i think it’s awesome that the yeah, yeah, yeahs have started this policy at their shows. hopefully, other bands will follow suit. nothing is more annoying as an audience member than to see a sea of blue pointed at the stage, obstructing everyone’s view.
as if a vertically challenged person like myself, doesn’t have enough problems at a concert.
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the inside track

culture vulture like us? thrifty too?

as a first timer to new york, one might not know that admission prices in museums may be of a suggested nature and that on some days, there is no entrance fee.

i remember when i first got there and someone told me this “insider tip”, it was like a revelation. armed with this fact, i was able to go to the museums on a frequent basis. and not just museums, but also to gardens and zoos.

here are some of my faves and when to take advantage:

metropolitan museum of art – pay what you can afford (recommended $25)

american museum of natural history – pay what you can afford / free 445pm-545pm (suggested $19)

MoMA – target sponsors free admission fridays 4pm – 8pm (suggested $19)

guggenheim museum – pay what you wish saturday 545pm – 745pm (otherwise $22 admission)

whitney museum – pay what you wish friday night 6pm – 9pm (otherwise $20 admission)

museum of art & design – pay what you wish thursday night 6pm-9pm (otherwise $16 admission)

the cloisters museum & gardens – pay what you can afford (recommended $25)
new york botanical garden – free all day wednesday / free saturday 10am-noon (otherwise $20)
the museums may not be free, as they are in london, but they can offer that option at specific times.
days when museums are closed varies, so check before you go. for a full list of all new york museums and their admissions and schedules, click here.
oh and if you’re a movie buff like sean and i are, find your favourite locations that have appeared in memorable movies at on the set of new york or worldwide guide to movie locations. that’s how we tracked down the headquarters in ghostbusters.and now you know!
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there’s only so many minutes in a day

with only 4 days and 3 nights in new york, there’s only so much that one can see.  sean and i were out from morning to night and covered a ton of ground and yet, there were sights we just couldn’t fit in… i think we did pretty good, all things considered.

here’s what we’ll be sure to see next time:

* guggenheim museum
* whitney museum
* museum of art and design
* rose centre for earth and space and hayden planeterium at AMNH
* new york public library
* chrysler building
* flatiron building
* grand central terminal
* south street seaport

and let’s not to forget about the other boroughs:

* new york botanical garden
* the cloisters
* brooklyn heights, prospect park, park slope, williamsburg
* brooklyn museum
* MoMA PS1
* new york aquarium
* museum of the moving image
* bronx zoo
* coney island

and of course, more time needed for:

* MoMA
* soho / east village / lower east side / west village
* central park: great lawn, bethesda terrace, alice in wonderland, bow bridge, hans christian anderson, shakespeare garden, strawberry fields, pale male and the central park hawks

as it was sean’s first time and i wanted to make sure he saw the greatest hits, i was not able to indulge in a couple of things i would have liked to do, which is why the next time, the following goes straight to the top of the list:

* tea & sympathy for afternoon tea
* falafel at chickpea
* falafel at maoz vegatarian
* parkoras, chana masalas and parathas from baluchi’s
* strand bookstore
* friends building – grove & bedford in greenwich village
* breakfast at tiffany’s holly golightly’s apartment – 169 w. 71st avenue
* see an opera at the met or a ballet at new york city ballet

there’s always something to see or do in new york. and however long you visit, it always seems like there’s never enough time. and every morning when you wake up, new york will have you thinking, “what AM i going to do today?” instead of “what is there to do today?”

how many cities can inspire that? until next time…

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we heart new york

i’m in a new york state of mind….a wonderful trip that will be remembered for a long, long time. so happy that i got to share it with sean.

for a taste of all that we saw, press play for the slideshow or click here to go to my flickr.

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escape from new york

for our last day, we decided to leave the island. if only for an hour. walking around new york the past couple of days, sean and i got to see neighbourhoods and their different flavours. we cut across the beauty and tranquility that is central park. we stood in awe of architectural skyscrapers.
but sometimes it’s not enough to see it from within. sometimes one wants to see it from the outside. just travel one train stop to brooklyn or new jersey and you’re sure to get an amazing view of new york. or you could, like us, take the ferry to staten island.
we got off at bowling green and headed towards the ferry terminal. due to damage wrought by hurricane sandy, battery park was behind fencing. unfortunately, we were not able to get up close to see the sphere, the metallic sculpture that was damaged during the 9/11 attacks. it’s amazing that it only sustained dents and holes when the world trade centre collapsed.
the ferry ride is free and runs on the half hour. the terminal was already packed with people and you can kinda make a bet with yourself that almost everyone there was just going for the ride and don’t actually live on staten island.
sean and i snagged ourselves a spot on the deck and watched the skyscrapers recede as we sailed past liberty, ellis and governors island. although the statue of liberty stands at 301 feet tall, from ground to torch, sean thought it looked mighty puny. in his mind and from all the movies he’s seen with the statue of liberty, he envisioned it as being as tall as the empire state building! that’s hollywood for you.
course, i was right. as soon as the ferry docked and we disembarked, almost every single rider was headed back to the city. and not in a slow and orderly fashion, either. as the returning ferry was already boarding its passengers and it would be another half hour before another came in, everyone started sprinting, in hopes of catching it.
as did we. but with one difference. sean and i were fake screaming and fake acting hysterical a la the scene from war of the worlds. you remember that scene… where tom cruise, his children and what seems like the whole community, wait around to board the ferry that would take them away. and then the 3 legged alien tripod arrives, gives off that loud, blaring sound and pandemonium erupts. everyone screams and runs for the ferry.
yea, we were acting that out. and making that nasally blaring noise. and laughing hysterically while doing it. we’re such dorks.
but we all ended up missing the ferry. it wasn’t too bad though. while we were waiting, an acapella group showed up and entertained the crowd with their renditions of motown songs. that’s what i love about new york – entertainment pop-up style.
when we got back to manhattan, we headed to the east village for lunch at jebon sushi and noodle. we got some miso soup, sushi, vegetable spring rolls and the scallop skewer served with malaysian satay peanut sauce.
after lunch, we walked up st marks place and i noticed the asian-fication of the street. there was jebon, grand sichaun, natori sushi, ramen setagaya, kenka izakaya, yakitori taisho, udon west and a japadog. but to name a few.
i even made friends with a panda. who incidentally did not try to harass or extort money out of me like elmo or cookie monster at times square.
we saw a little bit of the lower east side, then back up to soho where i bought a couple of things from dean and deluca. LOVE that store. then to greene street to take pics of the rows of lofts with cast-iron facades.
then it was onto 5th avenue for our last hurrah before leaving for the airport that night. we stopped in at FAO schwartz – cuz you got to, right? and did a little last minute shopping at uniqlo.
we called for car service to drive us to JFK. a tip: the cost of taking car service is almost the same as taking a cab. but much more of a luxurious ride! and worth it! the drivers are way more personable and the interior is clean. next time, i’ll have to remember to book car service when arriving in new york too.
everything ran smoothly. we got to JFK in plenty of time. got through security with no fuss and no lines. feasted on very delicious 4 cheese pizza at wolfgang puck express.
side note: we really lucked out in the food department. everywhere we ate was super tasty. but then again, this is new york. you have to be good in order to stay in business.
so, bellies fed and all our senses more than satisfied, we headed home on the redeye.
so many things that we’ve seen. so many things we still missed out on. and because of that, we will be back, for we heart new york.
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the artful tourists

a trip to new york would not be complete without visiting the magnificent museums. course, being total culture vultures, we spent the 3rd day of our trip at not one, but three of them.

we hopped the train uptown to the metropolitan museum of art. a favourite, i used to come here at least 2-4 times a month. there always something new to see. and i knew that sean would love it as much as i do.

and i knew exactly where we’d begin – the egyptian art gallery, housing one of the largest collections of art outside of cairo. we saw masks, sarcophagi (although no mummified bodies and animals like that found at the british museum), jewelry, the tomb of perneb and the impressive temple of dendur in the sackler wing.

besides the egyptian wing, i showed sean another favourite part of the met – the european sculpture courtyard.

and as if that wasn’t enough, i made sure he marveled at the painting of the buddha of medicine bhaishajyaguru in the asian wing.

it was almost too much for poor sean. he was awestruck and visually gorging himself on everything. he joked that if he was a cartoon, there’d be steam coming out of his ears, what with so much to process. it was partly my fault, as i was dragging him throughout the galleries, so that he doesn’t miss out on things that i knew he’d love.

it would take us weeks, nay months, to see the over two million pieces in the met’s mammoth collection.

so many things we still did not get a chance to see.

to our dismay, we had to skip over all the paintings as we were on a strict schedule. that meant not appreciating any of the museum’s 2500 old master and 19th century european paintings. no rembrandt, vermeer, picasso, van gogh, rubens, caravaggio, impressionists or post impressionists.

i also didn’t get to visit the costume institute, which was temporarily closed.

and that was just the first half of our day.

in need of fresh air and a chance to unwind mentally, we took a stroll through central park. but not too leisurely as we were coming up to our next stop – american museum of natural history.

saying that the size of the AMNH is huge would be an understatement. there are 46 exhibition halls, spanning 4 city blocks. one could easily spend weeks here too, what with their holdings of 32 million specimens and cultural artifacts.

we started out in my favourite area, the hall of biodiversity, with its 100 ft long spectrum of life wall display and the hall of ocean life, presided over by a 94 ft model of a blue whale.

sean, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough of the life-sized dioramas of animal life in their natural setting. he also thoroughly enjoyed the hall of meteorites, as well as, the hall of human origins, which displayed the skeleton of lucy.

and of course, the piece de resistance, the fossil halls, with the world’s largest collection of dinosaur fossils. we skipped through a lot of the other exhibits, just so that we could have enough time for the dinosaurs.

unfortunately, there was an event planned for later that evening, so the rotunda was closed and we were not able to get up close and personal with the giant barosaurus, which is also the highest free-standing exhibit at the AMNH.

i wished that we had more time there, as we didn’t even get to the rose centre for earth and space. but we did close the place out.

sean and i were dog tired at this point. and famished. i didn’t care where we ate. i was happy with the first place we see. fortunately, sean had the good sense to steer us away from the shake shack. (too many kids) and instead, we sat down at cafe frida next door, an intimate little mexican place on columbus avenue.

we ordered tortilla chips and guacamole, which was served in a “molcajete” volcanic stone mortar. sean had the shrimp flautas, crispy rolled corn tortilla tacos garnished with lettuce, salsa verde & guajillo, creme mexicana and crumbled cotija cheese. i ordered the quesadilla with a blend of melted mexican-style cheese on a corn tortilla.

so tired were we that we didn’t notice at first, who sat down next to our table. it was actors michael mckean and annette o’toole. oh my god. we were sitting next to lenny from laverne & shirley and superman’s mom in smallville! well, i was thinking lenny, while sean was thinking david st. hubbins of spinal tap. and we both thought of a mighty wind, best in show and for your consideration.

sean and i were nerding out, but not to the point of fangirl/boy-ing them. i thought that perhaps they were working on a project together, but they’re actually married. all the more reason not to interrupt their dinner. i  mean, they’re just regular people right? who just happens to act for a living. well, i’m sure we made an impression with our not so graceful, nay, clumsy exit upon leaving.

somewhat energized, we headed over to lincoln centre for the performing arts. the metropolitan opera was performing faust that night. then a funny thing happened. upon recognizing lincoln centre, sean paid homage to ghostbusters by dancing around like dr peter venkman when he was trying to impress cellist dana barrett. a second ghostbusters reference on our trip!

as it was friday night, that meant that there was no admission charge at the MoMA, as it was generously sponsored by target. we got there half an hour before closing, just so we could look upon edvard munch’s the scream. it was the last day it would be exhibited and i couldn’t miss that.

like leonardo da vinci’s mona lisa at the louvre, the scream was displayed behind bulletproof glass, in a low lit room. upon gazing on the iconic piece, i was surprised to see that it was drawn by pastel on cardboard. later on, i would read that there were 4 versions made in various media and the painting i thought we would be seeing is actually in a museum in norway. this pastel version at the MoMA was on loan from a private collector. also on display was the lithograph print.

i wanted to show sean my favourite piece at the MoMA and that was the four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter by cy twombly. but to my surprise and disappointment, it was no longer on view.

we did, however, get to see the starry night by vincent van gogh. but that was about it for the MoMA. again, if we had enough time. which seems to be the recurring lament of the day.

at this point, my feet and thighs were seriously hating me, but we had one more stop to make. and that was nintendo world at rockefeller centre. talk about nerd heaven. gamers on the first floor,  in teams, competing against each other for prizes. of all the places one could be at on a friday night in new york. this was their idea of a good time. ah, games – the universal language.

sean bought some items and we headed back to chinatown, utterly exhausted. we had been on the go everyday, leaving around 10am-11am and returning home well after midnight. i’m used to traveling this way – exploring the city by foot – and am glad that sean was able to keep up.

and he gave me a foot massage at the end of the night. that, right there, was better than anything i could’ve bought in the stores. yes, i think i’ll keep him as a travel companion.

Lost in the music, Travel the world

a spiritual experience in new york

up and at ’em, george mcfadden! it’s daylight in the swamp.”

our second day in new york, we awoke bright and chipper and set off by foot from our loft in chinatown to the brooklyn bridge. turns out we almost walked ourselves right into the metropolitan correctional centre, where they house pre-trial and holdover inmates. now that would be quite the story to come back with! the armed guards told us we were one block off.

getting back on the right track, we came across the iconic bridge that links manhattan and brooklyn. the bridge was the world’s first to be built out of steel. it took 600 men and 16 years to complete. the stroll across the bridge offers fab views of city towers through intricate cable work. sean and i only walked half of the one mile span, as the bridge was being renovated and smelled overwhelmingly of spray paint. plus we also wanted to give ourselves enough time to explore lower manhattan.

heading back towards the financial district, we stopped in at financier patisserie for a quick bite. the egg and gruyere cheese in a hot pressed croissant was scrumptious and hit the spot.

we made our way to old world trade centre site and walked around the fenced perimeter, taking in the nearly completed freedom tower, aka one world trade centre. unfortunately, due to our packed schedule, we had to pass on the september 11 memorial and museum.

instead, sean ended up chatting with an ex-fireman at the ladder co. 10 bronze memorial wall, right around the corner. having an emotional-filled conversation with someone who had been there to witness that fateful day, sean said it ended up being his top highlight of our trip.

our next stop brought a little levity to our afternoon. perhaps not a huge tourist attraction, (compared to the empire state building et al.), we searched out 14 north monroe street in tribeca. what was there? the firestation that served as HQ for dr. peter venkman and the rest of the ghostbusters! yea, we’re nerds like that. besides us, we were joined by 3 other tourists. no waiting in line-ups. just waiting for someone to come by to help with some picture-taking.

when i left new york in 2007, the highline was just being constructed, so one of the things i wanted to do on this trip, was to see this elevated train track turned stylish park in the west village. opened in 2009, the highline runs from gansevoort street in the meatpacking district to 30th street and not only offers great views of the city, but also a bit of respite from the street level traffic below.

from there, we took the subway to columbus circle and walked to the church of st. pauls the apostle, for what ended up being the highlight for me on this trip — the clint mansell experience.

the rare event was mansell’s first live performance in new york and saw him performing with a string quartet, full band and video projection. it was the very reason we decided to go to new york. (not to mention, the furthest i’ve ever travelled for a concert)

we arrived an hour before opening and there was already a line-up wrapped around the block. and then some. over 1000 fans packed the church for the performance, more than regular sunday morning congregation, i’m sure. it was an incredible venue for a concert. amazing acoustics, of course. and we’re pretty sure it was actor kieran culkin sitting 3 pews in front of us.

bonus! director and collaborating partner darren aronofsky came onstage with a few words and to introduce clint mansell and his band. what a complete surprise!

the music was absolutely sublime, i barely have the words to describe it. sean and i were completely entranced and taken to a place which i can only describe as spiritual. it was an unforgettable night and one that we felt so lucky to be a part of. it seems that the new york times also thought glowingly of it.

double bonus! i got a copy of the setlist!

still on a high from the concert, we floated along central park south to grand army plaza on 5th avenue for some window appreciation. i’ve always been a fan of the highly creative saks 5th avenue window.

with all the excitement going on, we had completely forgotten to eat dinner. so before heading home, i just had to take sean to great NY noodletown on bowery street in chinatown. i LOVE this place. not only was it just a stone’s throw from where i lived and opened until 3 or 4 in the morning, but it is the only place that i know of that serves shrimp only wontons. that might sound insignificant, but it’s not. i have not come across any place in vancouver that serves shrimp only wontons. it’s always either pork or  shrimp mixed with pork. HUGE, really. especially for a pescetarian like myself.

sidenote: i once saw actor daniel craig dine here. it was right before casino royale was due to be released. i knew of him from layer cake and am pretty sure no one else there realized there was an on the cusp movie star among their midst.

anyways, back to the wontons. it was yum-my! and utterly satisfying. and if i had the means, would fly back in a new york minute for those bad boys. that’s how good they are.

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hello new york!

we celebrated our anniversary and sean’s early birthday by going to new york this year. sean had never been and i was super excited to show him all my old stomping grounds. the last time i was there was in 2008, so i was more than ready to visit one of my favourite cities in the world.

we took the cathay pacific red-eye because it was a non-stop flight. in the past, red-eyes to europe killed me, what with the time change and my inability to not partake in the in-flight entertainment. so going into this flight were my very good intentions of sleeping and being refreshed when we land. but darn it to hell, there was dinner (!) service, as well as, this is 40 as one of the movie choices, which had us guffawing out loud. so by the time that was over, there was only about an hour before we landed at JFK. so much for sleep.

we hailed a cab and headed to our loft accommodations in chinatown, which i booked via air bnb. the first order of business after unpacking, was getting a nap in. the 4 hours proved to be helpful, although we still felt (and i’m sure looked like) zombies.

we decided to take it easy and stay below 14th street. we grabbed lunch in little italy at buona notte on mulberry. i had been there before with friends and remembered it being quite tasty. yes, i know the entire street is tourist trappy, but we were too hungry to care. we ordered the very delicious ravioli di ricotta al pomodoro or ricotta cheese ravioli sauteed with fresh tomato and basil.

energized from lunch, we began exploring. everywhere. started up broadway, hit NYU area and up to union square. it was fun for me to see sean taking it all in. how very different new york was from vancouver and anywhere he’s ever been to.
after union square, we headed back down to greenwich village and stopped at washington square park. and by the time we circled back to broadway, we were famished again.
we had a second lunch at pret a manger. the first time i ate at pret a manger was during my london trip in 2008. the food was tasty, convenient and not too expensive. i was pleasantly surprised that they had expanded to new york. we tucked into a gargantuan tuna sandwich and seafood chowder, which i totally recommend — purr-fect comfort food for this sunny but chilly day.
after re-energizing back at the loft for a couple hours, we hopped on the subway to take us to herald square. macy’s, the world’s largest store, was holding their annual flower show and i wanted to check out their sumptuous south asian themed windows.
from there, it was just a hop, skip and a jump up to the insanity that is times square, also known as the “crossroads of the world.” when i had lived in new york, i avoided that circus sideshow like the plague. that is, unless i had a friend visiting and they of course, would indubitably want to see the it.
it was still as i remember: all lights, neon and flashy ooh-la-las and tourists everywhere you turn. and the buskers and costumed characters intent on shaking people down for money with their antics. still, as a first-timer, you have to experience the explosion of neon that is times square.
sensory overload was the word for the evening, as sean was taking in the times square news ticker, nasdaq headquarters screen, the TKTS area in duffy square with its set of stairs going nowhere and the brill building flashing coca-cola messaging.
after our trip through “the zoo”, we made rockefeller center our last stop. we checked out the easter bunny display in the channel gardens, the atlas statue and the prometheus gold leafed bronze statue over the sunken garden. but the thing that floored sean the most was the art deco skyscraper that is the 70 story limestone GE building, the centrepiece of rockefeller centre. he was completely awestruck by how majestic and strong it looked.
did i mention that it was freezing that night? new york was still in the clutches of winter and they just had a snowstorm the week before we arrived. so although it was forecasted to be sunny and bright the entire time we were there, it would also be cold one, with highs of 8C-12C and lows of -1C-5C.
by the time midnight rolled around, we were half frozen, so we called it a night and headed back to chinatown, whereby, we promptly passed out. but with a smile on our faces.
hello again, new york.