Sunday, February 27, 2011

Empire State of Mind

As compared to last year, this year has been horrendously destitute of trips. However, that bug that bit me last year still rears its ugly head all the time. I calmed the little fellow a few weekends back though, boys and girl, by taking a trip down to New York City with Lilly to visit everyone's favourite violist and long-time best friend, the illustrious Emilie Grimes!

WHAT. A. CITY. I loved loved loved New York. All throughout the trip I kept thinking how much it reminded me of like a North American version of London. And that's pretty high praise coming from this devoted Anglophile. Honestly though, every last minute of the trip was enjoyable. If I had all the money I would move to New York in a heartbeat.

Well, having said that, I must eat my words if only a tiny nibble. The first eight hours of the trip (read: overnight bus) weren't the most riveting, but it is me we're talking about, so there was some good that Lilly and I were able to squeeze out of that trek. Luckily, we got seats together at the very front. Livingstone (the wonderfully named, sassy driver) saved them for us, which did afford some lovely views. I was in and out of uncomfortable sleep the whole time and it was nighttime, so less than illustrious for most of the trek, but waking up to the sunrise over the Manhattan skyline? Oh it had to be seen to be believed.

We pulled in at around 8:00 AM, and then walked our way up to Emilie's dorm at Julliard. Just that quick jaunt up 8th Avenue to Columbus circle, then along Broadway up to Emilie's was enough to sell me on the city. It just is SO BIG. I knew going into it that yes yes, Manhattan is a very tall city, yada yada, but nothing can compare you for the bright lights, big sounds of it all. There really are yellow taxis everywhere too. Again, I shouldn't be surprised, but you know me, starstruck by everything.

We had a quick breakfast with Emilie after getting settled, but as she had to attend to various prodigy-based business that day, Lilly and I were then let loose to wander the city. And boy howdy could you ever just had done that for days and days. We started by meandering throughout Central Park, and as you can see, we had the finest weather. It was hovering around 0 to -5 all weekend, with blue blue skies on the Friday and Sunday of our trip. All this made for the most charming jaunt around the park. Lilly has just embarked on an urban studies degree, so she was the officionado of fun facts about the grand ol' metrop, which, of course, made my heart sing. She told me all about the park, the plans of the city, and other little featurettes here and there as we meandered about, all whilst swooning over the beauty and splendour of it all. It really was astounding how the noise of the city just melts away as soon as you step into Central Park, leaving you just with birdsong, winding paths, and incredible views of what industrial man is capable of.

After soaking that in for a spell, we made our way down 6th Ave towards the MoMA. I had originally thought of heading to the Met, but I'm glad we took this option instead. It had a lovely mix of wacky contemporary (I'm not smart enough to actually appreciate it), famous names and faces, and pleasing exhibits. We were especially stunned to have come across van Gogh's "Starry Night", as neither of us knew it was there. Lilly was especially charmed; it's one of her all-time favourite paintings. There was also a lovely dose of Dali, Warhol, Picasso, Matisse, and Magritte; all very much to my liking. Especially charming was this wonderful dancing piece of magnetic tape, suspended mid-air between two floor fans in the lobby. Again, the views from inside? Spectacular.

We then went out a-walking again, to go look at all the lovely buildings that Manhattan has to offer. I could describe them all, but it would just be a big jumble of tall, impressive, famous, BIG, wow! and you would grow very tired of me, boys and girls. Instead, I present to you some shots of the highlights for me.

Taxi cabs, just like the Oranges of Sevilla for me

30 Rock

Steam Stacks?

The New York Public Library

Triangle Building!

Times Square

At the end of this (extraordinarily long and extraordinarily bipedal) day, we tracked down Emilie again at her school. Another friend of hers was in town for the evening (after having auditioned about the place), and she took us to one of her favourite haunts for dinner. It was SO New York. We took the subway over to Brooklyn to Grimaldi's Pizzeria, under the Brooklyn bridge. The inside was all kitsched-out, with red gingham tablecloths and green booths, just like you would want from New York. You could only order whole pizzas, so the four of us screwed up all our strength and courage and ordered one white (two kinds of cheese, garlic, and basil) and one regular (tomato sauce, cheese, garlic, and basil). SO GOOD boys and girls, again, just what you would have expected from a New York pizzeria. After all the good food, wine, and conversation, we hoiked it on back to the West Side, for tea and (black and white, so many Seinfeld dreams coming true for me) cookies before calling it a night.

We rose bright and early on Saturday to a bit of a mistier, grey-er day, but at least one where the three of us could gallivant together. First off, Emilie took us back to Central Park to show us her favourite spots that we missed out on. I could live in that park, so I was happy to go back as many times as we did. She took us to the memorial for all music lovers (probably got that name wrong), as well as to Strawberry Fields (did you know that was in Central Park? I thought it was literally English strawberry fields), and the Imagine memorial to John Lennon.

To warm up we got tea and soup from a charmingly rustic little restaurant, and then braved the bone-soaking mists (I told you it was like London) over to the Natural History Museum. We didn't have nearly enough time in there (is there ever enough time for museums?), but what we did see of the Asian Peoples and African Peoples exhibits was impressive, illuminating, and at time unabashedly silly. I love how straightforward, and a little racist, old museum copy can be sometimes. It didn't help that we were all really tired and that the three of us tend to the goofy when we're together, but it was good wholesome larks all the way through.

Then, it was to business, boys and girls. Serious Broadway business. Thanks to tkts, we were able to snag half-price tickets to see Chicago! We picked those up after braving the mist, lines, crowds, and lights of Times Square, and then went for "dinner" to another one of Emilie's (and apparently the world's) faves, Magnolia Bakery. I've never been one for cupcakes per se, but these were ridiculously delicious. So ridiculously so, that the $3.00/each we payed for them felt like we were being undercharged. After eating at the bar (standing room only in this place) we fanoodled about in anticipation of the show.

And WHAT a show. I've got a supersoftspot for Chicago in my heart, as I once competed with a song from it in the halcyon days of my singing youth. But, hoy, it's really quite the thing when put on by professionals. At first I was a little disappointed that it didn't have wild sets and costumes, but the talent and sparkle of the thing soon won me over. And our seats! We were just up from edge of the stage, spectacular view. After that incontrovertible highlight, we trekked back up to Emilie's hood for margaritas, cervesas, and nachos. The too-ing and fro-ing of the day combined with still lacking in sleep made for some very silly girls after not-too-much libation, so our "big night out in NYC" was just wonderful. We caught up, laughed about the nonsense of our lives now, the nonsense of our high-school days, and just generally reveled in each others' company. What more can a girl ask for, eh?

Lilly and I had to catch our bus back to the True North early Sunday afternoon, so our final morning with Emilie in the NYC was a little more muted, but still extraordinarily enjoyable. We went to yet another one of her favourite haunts, Alice's Teacup. This restaurant/tea house was decorated very much along the Lewis Carrol guidelines. A mishmash of Victorian teacups, saucers, and plates came with our delicious eggs benedict on scones, and every last detail was attended to. It just made me want to be a rich little girl, growing up in Upper West Side Manhattan. One can always dream eh? After breakfast, we took one last stroll around Central Park to Holden Caufield's duck pond and the children's area. Now THIS is what I call a children's area. No unnecessary kids mucking up the place, no structures, just climbable statues to great figures of children's lit. I was as happy as a bug in a rug.

With Alice and Friends

Hans Christian Anderson reading the Ugly Duckling to me and a friend

We then high-tailed it off to the bus station (taking our one and only New York taxi), and settled in for our trek back home. I always have such a hard time coming home, I just love travelling so much. It's nice to know that this time though, it won't be quite so hard to get back.


Your friend Lina.


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