I live in DC, which is a great place to live and visit. I try to make the most of it. However, I also love to leave my home and see what the world has to offer. Come and join me!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

New York, New York

K spent last year in Kosovo, during which time I took care of her mail and stuff (we are neighbors). Taking care of someone's mail for a year is more trouble than it sounds like, which K, being the awesome person that she is, realized. So to thank me for my services she got us tickets to ... wait for it ... XANADU! The Broadway musical! On Roller Skates! Based on the cheesy/hilarious/awful 80s movie. This movie was hugely influential on my childhood. I thought it was the height of artistic achievement and it created a dream of roller-dancing in me that has not yet died. When I found out they were making it into a musical I immediately set up a google news alert for it. So for a year I'd been DYING to see the show and was so.excited about it. In addition to tickets, K cashed in her Marriott points to get us a swank room on Times Square. It was deluxe.

I had to go fabric shopping in the garment district, of course. I saw Ricky of Project Runway fame, who was *not* wearing his signature mesh hat and therefore it took me a while to place him. The garment district has a strong Orthodox Jewish influence, so most everything is closed Saturdays. I did my shopping there on Friday (here's what I got) and spent Saturday sightseeing.

On my sightseeing day I finally went to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Though I have been to NYC many times by now, I haven't done too much touristy stuff because I'm always visiting friends or there for a specific event like Mermaid Parade. I took the subway out to Battery Park and got ferry tickets to see the Statue of Liberty and the immigrant's entry point.

The ferry runs every half hour and once you get on the boat it's a quicker ride than I would have thought. You get nice photo ops of the shoreline as you travel, as seen in the panorama above.

Liberty is both smaller and more beautiful than she looks on TV. The island is quite small, it's just her and a path around her. The issue is that since 9/11 they have severely limited the number of people who can enter the Statue. If you don't order online ahead of time or arrive at the ferry ticket booth before 8 am you probably won't get to enter. As I had done neither, I had to content myself with walking around. It was COLDFREEZINGCOLD so it was a little unsatisfying. Had it been a nice day it would have been lovely to read a book in the park, but of course the park would have been mobbed so that probably wouldn't be possible. The Museum is in the Statue, which they should really do something about if so few people are going to get in, so I only spent half an hour there until the next ferry came. Luckily, despite the variable weather it didn't rain and I got a cool backlit photo from the strong sun. I also found someone with whom to exchange camera favors (and for serio nobody goes there alone--it was hard to find another single) so I got my photo in front of her, but it's impossible to get a person and all of her into the frame at once.

The next quick ferry ride was to Ellis Island. They have restored the main building to the form it took during the height of its use as an immigration reception center in the nineteen-teens and made it a museum. I don't know of any relatives who came through Ellis Island (I'm sure there were some, but it's not a big part of our family history), but I did spend a summer in law school researching the stories of Chinese immigrants during that time period for a professor so it was cool to go there. The building is GORGEOUS. Lots of open space inside, and elaborate gothic detailing outside.

The museum is excellent--it offers interesting tidbits but not information overload. I loved loved the large format photo prints on the second floor. Most of them were taken by an employee who was an amateur photographer and they're just amazing. I was cold and hungry so I only stayed for half an hour--one ferry cycle--there, but I definitely see myself coming back just to soak in more of the building. I mean, check out this dome!

To warm up from the cold I went to Magnolia Bakery and waited in line for half an hour for some cupcakes. I am well-aware that this is insane. On the way back to the subway I stopped at a restaurant and picked up some lentil soup, thank god.

I highly recommend the ferry trip out to Liberty and Ellis Islands. The ticket was $12, inclusive of boat and admission. It would be worth some forethought to get up into Liberty, and I'd recommend this for a warmer day than my barely-above-freezing experience.

Marriott Marquee. Our 26th floor room had a view of Times Square. The hotel has a nice gym, though I hadn't brought my gym clothes. The Marriott family is Mormon and there was no mini-bar (not sure if this is standard as there was a spot for one) but there was pay porn. We didn't purchase any. The beds were comfortable and the toiletries outstanding. I took the shampoo and conditioner to keep in my locker at the gym.

Artisanal. This is the restaurant outpost of the famous cheese shop and damn did it smell like cheese. I love cheese, but the ripe odor was almost enough to give me a headache. The wine list was nice. All around us people were ordering rose bubbly but I just got a normal varietal. A friend and I split the artisinal fondue with apple pieces for dipping (yum) and the spinach gratin which was fucking amazing. Seriously, the spinach gratin warrants the f-bomb. K ordered the beet salad, of which I had an excellent bite. We were in a drama corner, apparently. The first couple near us was having a horrible fight. When the second couple was seated the girl excused herself to the bathroom and the guy put a gift box on her plate. It was a pair of expensive pearl earrings. She acted weird about them and he was obviously disappointed by her reaction.

Pommes Frites. As the name suggests, this spot serves only french fries. They are in the Belgian style. I'm not sure what that means really, as I didn't have fries in Belgium, but they are medium sized and frenched. Frenching is the practice of frying twice with a cooling period in between; this results in a crisper fry. That is why the whole Freedom Fries thing was SO DUMB. French fries are named after the process by which they are cooked, which is named after the chef that invented it, NOT after the country. Dumb. Anyway, the fries at Pommes Frites were quite good. I actually favor skinny limp McD's fries but I wasn't turning my nose up at these. Their schtick is dipping sauces. Basic ones are free, fancy ones are 75 cents each or three for $2. I got parmesan peppercorn (best), sambal olek (a nice spicy chili dip), and bleu cheese (too creamy for my taste--it tasted like bleu cheese mixed into mayonnaise). There aren't many dine-in spots, but for the few that there are they have holes cut in the bar and tables to hold your paper cone of fries, which is cool. The small size was plenty--the portions are American sized, not European sized.

Juniors. This is a Brooklyn diner with a location on Times Square. It was good for a quick bite after the show, but I wouldn't seek it out. The mac'n'cheese looked and tasted orange. However, the grilled aspargus was delish and the complimentary beets and pickles were yum. They are "famous" for their cheesecake. I got a strawberry piece to go. The "strawberry" goo was horrible, but the cheesecake itself was rich but not too sweet. The crust was cardboardy.

XANADU!!!!! I don't think it's actually capitalized or followed by exclamation points, but I must shout its name. OMG it was so funny. It perfectly treads the line between being ironically hipster cool about the movie, and being flat out campy fun about the movie. And it's on roller skates. Can one hope for anything more?

The Eastern Travel Chinatown bus. It picks up near Gallery Place metro stop in DC, drops off near Times Square in NYC four and a half hours later (with a stop in Baltimore to pick up passengers). At $35 round trip (well, $36.50 with a fee for booking online), it's cheaper than tolls, much less gas. And the train? It's two.hundred.dollars. When I was in private practice and therefore rich I took the train. Now it's bus all the way. The only bad thing is that you have to either dehydrate yourself or use the scary, awful bathroom on the bus because there are no stops (the stop in Baltimore is just for passenger pickup).

All photos, including many more of Liberty and Ellis Island, are here.