Tuesday, June 28, 2011

NYC: The Mother of all Cities

View of Tribeca from the hotel window take by R ...
I love big cities and NYC is the mother of all cities. I am a city girl at heart and can't see myself living somewhere in a small town. Each time I come here I ask myself - could I live here? And usually I say yes (if I had a great deal of money). I like the intensity, the variety of people, the vibe, the culture, the sense that there are a million things waiting for you to do. Americans are generally much friendlier than Canadians, not nicer exactly, but warmer to strangers. I love the sense of all the different neighborhoods sitting cheek by jowl - from Central Park West to Tribeca to Greenwich Village to Brooklyn to Harlem ... I like the confidence of Americans, their energy, their general good-heartedness. I won't spoil the moment by indicating what I don't like about American culture (a great deal) but NYC contains much of what I do like.

Back in NYC with the kid for the second time in her young life. Our last trip was three years ago with R's brother T and his family. I was pleasantly surprised as to how undaunted she was by the intensity of the city (J was 11 then). We had gone in July - it was sweltering and at the height of tourist season, the streets clogged with new smells and throngs of people, but she soaked it all in as did her cousins M and A who are younger than J.

We flew Porter Airlines for the first time - loved the ten minute cab ride to the airport at the foot of the lake, the quick processing through the airline system, the Porter lounge with free drinks and snacks. The flight was uneventful and pretty much on time. Less fun was being one of the hundreds of International flyers being processed through Newark airport which took almost an hour and then trying to find our pick up point for the shuttle to the hotel at the Hilton Garden Inn in Tribeca which took another hour. But we were in our room and settled by 3pm.

Shakespeare & Co. Booksellers
Grace Church in NYC

A few things about the hotel: a very friendly staff, smallish but elegantly styled rooms, free Wifi, a cool view of Tribeca from our windows, and a simple but pleasant breakfast was part of the package. Down the street is a pretty little parkette with two pianos which the public is encouraged to use so most nights there will be playing and singing from the park (and sometimes dancing) - could you imagine that in Toronto? Love the location of the hotel.

We ventured out in the late afternoon to explore Tribeca. My goal was to reach the Strand Bookstore, 828 Broadway, where R and I usually stock up on books when we are in NYC. On the way, traveling north on Broadway, we passed a few of our favourite haunts and some new places to explore: Yellow Rat Bastard, Anthropologie, a new Japanese retail store called Superdry, Shakespeare & Co. Booksellers, the lovely Grace Church ...

The Strand Bookstore, possibly the best I've ever been to
At the Strand, I picked up How Fiction Works by James Wood and Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It seems more upscale now ... better organized, a bit cleaner, the staff more professional. Better, I think, but something has been lost too - a certain seedy comfort?

One time when we were there a woman got into a screaming fight with another woman in a wheelchair on the curb outside the door ... the older woman (more affluent, not in the wheelchair) was disturbed by something the other one had done and started shrieking, "You're an animal! You're an animal!" You can imagine how that went down with the other woman who was yelling back at her at the top of her lungs ... Is NYC a bit more polite, less hostile? It seems to be so. 

We tend to have late dinners while were are here. As our hotel is very close to Little Italy, R found a charming restaurant called da Mikele at 275 Church St. Not inexpensive, but our dinner of great pizza and pasta was topped with a delicious limoncello sorbet and grappa at the end of the meal. Our waiter was Sardinian and very attentive, very kind. If we had not been caught in the midst of a very loud private party in the restaurant it would have been perfect. 

Rolled back to the hotel, stuffed with food (we ended up taking most of the pizza back to our hotel - the portions were so huge) and I was remembering the first time R and I went to New York in the 80s and we saw, I think, Dinner at Eight, at the fabulous Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, and literally danced down the avenue towards our grungy little hotel after the film, we were so excited to be in NYC. Still am.
The Tribeca Arms across the street from da Mikele (taken by J)

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