We dropped our bags at the hotel and headed straight over to Chelsea Market. It was crowded that Saturday afternoon! We walked through the whole thing and looked at every restaurant and food counter before finding a spot at a community table right in the middle of everything. I love sitting at a community table and it felt right to be sitting there surrounded by strangers in a big city. It was so far from my regular life in a way that was exciting. We came to this part of town for the food and shopping at Chelsea Market, a walk on the High Line and to find Mood Fabric. We ate fancy deviled Eggs and overpriced hamburgers as our first meal in the city. The shopping in the actual market was fun. The thing we thought was a flea market was really just a bunch of artsy boutique stalls.
We added a trip to the High Line because it was close, and I had seen it on Project Runway. I thought it would be nice but in truth it was extraordinary. THIS IS A DO NOT MISS EXCURSION for a beautiful day. The High Line is a space that was an elevated train track and has been transformed into a public park on Manhattan’s West Side. The flowers, the view, the water towers, I love them all.
We were tired from our early start and all the walking so when we could not find the Mood Fabric store easily we gave up and went back to the hotel to rest a little before our Broadway play. We stopped by a drug store/grocery store and grabbed some snacks and meat and cheese for dinner instead of going out. We rested and then got ourselves ready to go and headed out to see Wicked on Broadway.
We have been to lots of plays, enjoyed theater in lots of places, but there is something so special about Broadway. I had heard so much hype about this show from teenage girls. I was pretty sure it would be vapid and shallow, because I had only heard the one song, Popular. It was definitely more than the simple feel-good show that I expected it to be. We had a wonderful time and I was able to keep at least this part of the trip a surprise.
Day two: Museum Day
Our list of museums was long and since it was Sunday we were short on open hours. I told my Birthday girl that she should look at the museums online and find one excellent exhibit at each of three museums that she wanted to see. This is how I like to do large museums with extensive collections that you could spend days exploring. I can’t spend all day in a dark museum when the weather is beautiful. We started at the Museum of Natural History. As fans of the movie Night in the Museum we were excited to explore here.
This is the exhibit we keep talking about.
Standing in front of a tree that lived on this planet for 1,341 years is a bit mystical.
Unlike art museums, the displays themselves are the art at a museum of natural history. The way that the collections of artifacts and representations were displayed lead you through the exhibit and tell a story from the natural world. It was just breathtaking. I could not help imagining my life as a New Yorker and how I would love to come to this place any day of the week and read every word of every display at my leisure. What would it be like to have a kind of ownership of knowledge over this place and it’s treasures?
We walked out and across Central Part for our next stop. It was a beautiful day and we took our time enjoying the stroll and the day. I love to travel with the freedom to stop and read a chapter of Dorthy Sayers when an inviting bench appears.
We arrived at the palace known as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We sat and sketched Greek sculptures. We looked at John Constable’s cloudy skies and felt the light radiate out of Joseph Turner’s paintings. We found my always and forever favorite, Camille Pissaro. We ate lunch there in a glass building. It was glorious.
There was one disappointment in our day. We were going to finish by visiting The Frick Collection. We got there with an hour to explore but the “pay what you will” hours were only the first two hours of the day and I was not going to pay full price for one hour. We left to go back to the hotel and rest for a bit before we made a nighttime trip to Times Square.
Some people love Time’s square, some people hate it. It is not a stop I make every time I am in the city, but first-timers should experience it and the only time I can come close to enjoying it is at night when the spectacle of the lights and the consumerism are most intoxicating. My main requirement in finding a place to eat was just not a place we can go toat home, in NC. We ate at a sweet little Mexican restaurant. We then walked around as tourists and enjoyed the sheer silliness of this place. I know that people come to the US and visit New York and think this is what America is like. This place is so separate, so other, and that is why it is fun to visit. Times Square takes aspects of our culture and screams them at visitors, but please as a visitor from another country, don’t let this place define America for you, just enjoy it for what it is, crazy, loud and odd.
We walked back to the hotel. It was dark, and we felt so adventurous to be out and about on our own in the big city late at night.
This is the day my baby turned 16. We had less of a plan for this day. I asked the birthday girl what she wanted to do on this day and she said she just wanted to visit the NYC public library lions. How could I say no? This visit was the first in an interesting string of visits to other famous libraries. I had no idea at that moment of all the places we would go that would connect this palace of books with so many others we were to visit within the next 12 months.
When I mapped out the places on the list as I planned, I noticed that we could just ride the subway south to our lunch in China Town and hit several places to shop on the way back to grab our bags and head to the airport. That lunch was so good, and I write about it here. We were so close to the 9/11 memorial that I thought we should probably see that. We did not have time to see the museum, but we certainly could see the monument and the new One World Trade Center building. I was completely unprepared for how that place would affect me. The monument is so beautiful and full of meaning, then beside it, that one single building that rose up into the clouds of that day. The atmosphere was mournful, the rain hit the black granite and rolled down like tears and I could not help but cry when I thought about how I was watching The Today Show, feeding my baby as I watched the tragedy of that day unfold. Here I stood with that baby, now 16 years old, and I was sad for the world she is inheriting and proud that we have not forgotten.
We walked around The Oculus and enjoyed the space and respite from the rain. Then we headed back uptown and made a few stops to shop along the way. We stopped a place called Flying Tiger. I could not resist finding it when I read it advertised as what would happen if Ikea and the dollar store had a baby; that is exactly what this place is and I love it!
We walked through the Union Square market on our way to The Strand bookstore. This part of town felt like the movie You’ve Got Mail and I want to explore here sometime on a really nice day when I can take my time.
We came to the stand bookstore to see why it is so famous. I wish I had come with my book club book list for the year. There are rows and rows of used books here. It is huge! We just walked around to soak it all in.
Our trip was at an end and we headed back to grab our bags and a taxi to the airport. We left intoxicated with success. We never got too horribly lost and saw almost everything on our list. I had introduced this young woman to NYC and they fell in love.
I would love to hear from you about what bookstores should be on my list for next time because I know New York City has several that appeal to different people and serve different purposes.