Day Four – Bridge Work, No Time For Pizza, But We Don’t Want The Irish, Pastabilities, Old St. Pat’s, What The Hell Did He Say, Anniversary Party, Looking For Art In All The Wrong Places, Mary To The Rescue, C’est Trés Bon, Subway Pole Dancing and Ménage à Trois
There would be no early wake up call this morning after yesterday’s marathon day. We were all down in the Chelsea Pines breakfast room between 8:30 and 9 where a United Nations meeting had broken out. There were our new friends from Australia, newlyweds from London, a couple from Western Canada and a French guy from Normandy who repeatedly kept correcting me on my French pronunciations. I felt like I was at a restaurant in Paris. Mon Dieu!
Thanks to the previous day’s events, we were now known as The Walking Dead, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t muster the energy for a morning adventure. It was off on another subway safari that took us near where we would take our stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge.
A little confused as we exited the three million stairs from the subway to the street, another friendly New Yorker, originally from Budapest (we all make it a point to learn everyone’s history before letting them get away) noticed our collective looks of bewilderment and guided us to the street where we would begin our journey.
Temperatures were expected to be in the low 70s, the sun was shining and for a moment our feet had renewed vigor. We all took photos of a large, silver building that looked as if it could have been designed by someone on his fourth martini, but the structure was cool looking, and we took a bunch of photos of it with the sun glistening off its façade.
The bridge was under renovation, but still it was a nice walk, although we would recommend taking the subway to Brooklyn and then walking back toward the city to enjoy all the views heading in that direction.
There are walking lanes and bicycle lanes on the bridge, so it is best one keeps focused to make sure they are in the correct spot…
…especially when stopping for one of the frequent photo ops.
A bridge policeman told me that there used to be a lot of collisions on the bridge, but they have decreased with increased awareness.
The walk was relatively easy compared to some of our other activities.
We had 12:45 reservations at The Tenement Museum. Since Kim and Mary are Irish, Mary had booked the Irish tour. There’s an old line from Blazing Saddles (as usual in poor taste, but in context, funny), which ends “…but we don’t want the Irish.” While funny in the movie, the tale told of the Irish immigrant family at the Tenement Museum is anything but a happy story.
The tour lasted about 90 minutes and gave details of the tough life in the small dwelling inhabited by the family. Once inside, there are no photos, and having been a scofflaw the day before at Fraunces Tavern, I stuffed the camera in my pocket.
Afterward, I wished we had grabbed some pizza at Grimaldi’s, because we were starving. However, it was only a short walk to Little Italy, and a place called La Mela Ristorante, recommended by some friends of Kim and Mary. It was located at 167 Mulberry Street, which was apropos since I was once again Mulberry bushed. It was nice to sit down.
Our waiter sat us down and explained to Mary about the menu. After he left, she asked, “Did you understand a word he said?” We didn’t, but when he returned we smiled and pretended we knew what the heck he was talking about and ordered. I believe he did use the word “pasta” and “fresh,” so we ordered some fresh pasta. Sharp as tacks, this crew.
Similar to our other Italian experience, the food was fine, but not memorable. We shared platters of pesto gnocchi, penne vodka and rigatoni Bolognese, which turned out to be the best dish of the three. Two platters would have been plenty for the four of us.
This was New York City’s first cathedral church that was dedicated in 1815.
We walked around the interior of the church, admired its stained glass windows and then meandered through the charming streets of SoHo. There were galleries galore, but we didn’t stop in any of them because Kim (our official art aficionado) had a scoop abut a Chelsea Art Walk on this evening that would have free libations (foreshadowing alert).
It was getting late in the afternoon, so we hopped on the subway so we could arrive in time for our first free drinks of the evening at The Chelsea Pines’ 25th Anniversary celebration. When it comes to freeloading, our foursome has become quite proficient.
On the first leg of our subway trip, the reoccurring theme of a subway conductor calling out stops in garbled static that could not be understood by the human ear happened once again. “What the hell did he say?” I asked the group.
Another New Yorker, recognizing our plight asked where we wanted to get off. After we told her, she said, “You will be getting off in three stops.”
“We don’t understand anything he is saying,” Kim said. “How do you know?”
She politely answered, “Because I’m a New Yorker.”
“How does a tourist know?” Kim asked.
She quickly answered, “You ask a New Yorker.” Damn, I love this city!
We arrived back at the hotel (thanks to the kindness of strangers) at 4:45. At our station, we noticed some little subway sculptures that we were told tell tales about different stops. Artist Tom Otterness started the Life Underground project in 2002 and it seems to have taken a life of its own.
Some quick showers and change of clothes and we were downstairs, and the United Nations had grown to include some additional people from England. We had traded my morning French professor for another Frenchman with the appropriately movie-themed name of Olivier. I was going to ask him if it had been a Long Day’s Journey Into Night for him to get here, but was afraid I might end up like Hamlet.
As we entered the area of many galleries, the only thing missing were open art galleries, a festival and free wine. “Where did we read this?” Kim asked his lovely bride. By now, Mary was walking with Tracy and remembering fondly her single days.
I didn’t help things by quoting my own version of Shakespeare. “Paintings. Paintings. Wherefore thou art?” Finally, after passing by a number of closed art galleries, there was one that was open, and it did have a number of people hobnobbing (I believe that’s what art people do). Kim ducked in for about five seconds, and it was time to head for the East Village and our French restaurant for the evening.
As we neared the subway, Kim reached in for his subway pass. Obviously in his excitement for the upcoming Non Art Festival, he had left his pass in his other pants. Not wanting to risk further blisters, Kim paid five bucks for his round-trip to the East Village.
Although our reservations were for 8:30, we arrived about a half hour early because of all the art we didn’t get to see. They said they would clear a table soon, and we bellied up to the bar for a pre-dinner cocktail.
Lucien (14 1st Avenue) is a quaint little place, and like most things New York, it was quite loud, but not nearly the decibel level that we had a Piccolo Angolo a couple of evenings before. Lucien was very cute (they had their autumn pumpkins out) and reminded me of a Paris bistro. After ordering our cocktails, Mary noticed the female bartender grasping her hand in pain.
A little background: Mary is not a doctor, but she plays one on vacation. No matter what ails you, Mary seemingly can reach into her bottomless purse and pull out any medication that can help you. I was sure that if I’d have had a heart attack on the streets of New York, Mary would have pulled out a defibrillator, yelled “Clear” and we’d only lose about five minutes of time to our next stop.
At the bar, our bartender was losing some blood due to a pretty nasty cut on her finger. Not to fear, Mary pulled out band-aids and an ibuprofen from her medical bag (um, purse). In gratitude, the bartender poured us all a free glass of champagne, although with her injury and our resident doctor’s help, Bloody Marys would have been a funny touch.
After being seated for dinner, I started with Escargots de Bourgogne ($13). Tracy and Kim opened with the Salade d’Arugala et Fenouil ($10), arugula salad with shaved fennel and parmesan. Mary tried the Salade de Betteraves et Chèvre ($11), a salad of beet, goat cheese and sprouts in vinaigrette.
We were off to a great start.
Tracy went for the Short Ribs with mashed potatoes and Brussel sprouts ($26). Mary had the Onglet au Vin et Champignons, Hanger steak in a red wine mushroom sauce ($24), while Kim decided on the Saumon Grillé avec une Réduction de Porto et Balsamic ($20), which was served on some seasonal fresh veggies. Everything was very, very good.
A bottle and a half of red wine later, we had thoroughly cleaned all our plates with a completely satisfying meal. My sweet tooth finally showed up, so I also had a Tart Tatin with Cinnamon Ice Cream ($9) for dessert. Lucien gets four thumbs up from our group.
Speaking of thumbs, before we departed, we made sure the bartender was still upright, and after thanking “Dr. Mary” one more time for her medical expertise, we were outside on what could definitely be considered a warm October New York night.
On the subway home, obviously the wine had begun to take effect on Kim. As subway trains are wont to do, this one came into the station hot and stopped rather abruptly. Standing and holding on for dear life, Kim went into an impromptu version of what could only be called a very poor rendition of Elizabeth Berkley as a stripper in Showgirls. Although no one threw dollar bills at him for his pole dancing prowess, there was some very genuine laughter tossed his way for his efforts. Thankfully, there was not a two-drink minimum.
Back at the Chelsea Pines, Tracy and I said good night to Kim and Mary who had another flight of stairs to navigate.
Curled up next to our door was our little friend Charlie. Jay had told us that sometimes Charlie sleeps with the guests, and he will let them know when he needs to leave to take care of business.
In our three full days in NYC, we had seen a lot and not slowed down for a moment, but still hadn’t wandered into any major museums. Tomorrow that would change. We would also go on a great outdoor stroll and be treated to our best dinner of the trip.
Next: Day Five – AROD Sucks, A Walk In The Park, Friends, Strawberry Fields Forever, Membership Has Its Privileges, Walking in The Footsteps of John Paul II, Bottom Of The Rock, Taking The Plunge While Kim & Mary Take A Hike And Hip To Be North Square