Journey to NYC
We took the UP Express to Toronto’s Pearson Airport and got through customs in a heartbeat. After finding our gate, we checked into the airport lounge. To our delight, we got in at no extra charge with Matt’s key! (Must have been because it was a small lounge) We took full advantage of the open bar and limitless kale quinoa salad and garlic linguine before boarding our flight.
Once on board, we watched the city below disappear into darkness as we left the ground, the city was a grid of white, orange, and yellow lights. Matt settled into Alien: Convenant on which I watched over his shoulder in appreciation of the cinematography. He said it was a scary film – just as well I couldn’t hear the audio or read any captions!
As we descended into New York, I found myself thinking about the Canada Reads novel American War I’d just finished reading yesterday, and Emily St. James novel Station Eleven from a couple years ago. New York looked like a very dark and lonely place from up above. Yet there was a twinkle of light and glow of spotlights in the clouds that gave the darkness life. The full moon shone above the plane, lighting the wisps of clouds with its glow as if we were in a gothic novel.
We got a bit lost on the transit there. We couldn’t find the bus stop for the bus Google told us to get on and the airport staff didn’t know either. So we got on a bus (free for the holidays!) and the driver dropped us off as a subway which turned out to be far off course. The transfers the bus driver gave us didn’t work on the subway, so we paid a fare.
AirBnB in Astoria
We eventually made it to our AirBnB. Despite the late hour of our arrival, our host greeted us with great energy! He was shocked we took public transit – apparently Uber costs about the same and is much faster!
The apartment was in an old building, reminding me of artist’s apartments in Chinatown of Toronto or Montreal. He’d put a lot of effort into decoration – retro kitch with a tropical beach theme. Not my style, but endearing.
Easter in New York: Day One
We slept very well on the memory foam mattress in our quiet little room. Matt woke me up with a kiss on my cheek – he was eager to get coffee! Our hostess was out. Much to our amusement, Facebook’s recommendations of “highly rated restaurants in your neighbourhood” was 7/11 and McDonalds.
We consulted Yelp for the best coffee spot in the neighbourhood. Top of the list was Astoria Provisions. They had a whole range of avocado and toasts recipes – Matt joked a millennium like me would like the place. (Ironically he’s the one who ordered the ricotta and honey avocado toast)
Astoria Provisions was unassuming at a rundown looking intersection with a library, car dealership, and industrial buildings that had all seen better days. Inside, the cafe was all white tile with blue trim. Delicious pastries sat on cake stands on the counter with bouquets of wild flowers. We sat with my back to the window, the warm sun warm on my skin. The waiter served us water in a wine bottle. (I always feel like a lush pouring a full glass of water from a alcohol bottle)
We ordered two coffees (it was very good), pull apart bread with New York cheddar and butter, and I got peppery grits with thick slices of ‘sugary bacon’! Thought I’d get a Southern themed dish after reading American War – the book still haunts me!
The pull apart bread was like the white of a pretzel covered in cheese, salt, and butter. It took the edge off our hunger as we waited for our food. Much to our delight, we also got free refills of our delicious coffee!
The food was very good – flavourful, detailed, and good quality. We were so full we didn’t have to eat until dinner – yet the portions were very reasonable.
Morning stroll from Astoria to Manhattan
We went for a little walk around our new neighbourhood after brunch to work off some of the carbs. Astoria Park was full of runners. The traffic filled the air with a constraint hymn as cars crossed the Robert Kennedy bridge overhead. There were workout stations along the park path with stretching instructions where buff old men huffed away and teenagers showed off at. Most of the trees bore bare branches, but much to my excitement we saw one cherry tree in bloom – a sign of spring!
From Astoria Park, the skyline looked like it was made from LEGO. The high rises rose up in a blocky and rectangular fashion. There was one very tall and narrow building that rose up far above all the others – like a stack of grey single LEGO bricks, using every last one in the box!
We walked to the Guggenheim, crossing the bridge we’d walked beneath at the park. The chain link fence rattled as cars zoomed past us on the highway, exhaust fumes making us dizzy with the noise, height, and speed. As we walked over the water, the chain link fence stopped. Now there was just a blue railing between us and the long drop below – no suicide prevention here! The concrete of the suspension bridge shook, jiggled beneath my feet. I felt queezy.
As we descended the bridge onto Randall’s Island, we found ourselves in a chain link tunnel. The speeding cars were above our heads now, making me feel better. Just the caw-thunk-caw-thunk of tires. We walked along the water for a bit, then over Wards Island Bridge, a pedestrian draw bridge, and then we were in Manhattan!
We walked in Central Park and sat on a bench for awhile. We watched the dogs chase squirrels and young families with their strollers. Daffodils poked up from the brown leaves and sparrows tweeted in the old growth trees. The smell of burnt sugar wafted over from the street vendors, mixing with the ode-de-dogue after the springtime thaw.
Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
As we headed towards the Guggenheim, we saw the grand gates of the Cooper Hewitt Museum. There was a big sign for an exhibition titled Access + Ability. As an accessibility professional, I of course had to go! So, Matt wandered off into Central Park while I paid admission for the Cooper Hewitt.
Adult admission was $18. I was given a big stylus that was attached to my ticket number. I could press the end of the stylus to a exhibition description and it’s information would be saved to my ticket number. I could then log in from home and see all the pieces I’d like from the museum! They also had interactive screens where you could design things like a hat out of copper and aluminium (at least, that’s what I did)
The museum was in one of the Carnegie family’s mansions. It was extremely ornate – hard to imagine one person being able to afford this, let alone multiple houses! The security guard told me they made their fortune in steel.
The accessibility exhibit had many pieces I’d already seen. Even my friend’s designer walking stick was featured! I was amused to see HumanWare’s braille display and Microsoft’s Inclusive Design toolkit there too. There were lots of wearable tech examples, and an interesting radio for people with dementia that looked like a Frisher-Price version of a vintage radio you could turn on or off with a big button.
Next door was an exhibition on sound in design and our associations with sound. Upstairs with the permanent collection, including an impressive room of contemporary jewellery. It was very interesting.
I exited through the gift shop. As my biological clock is ticking away, I was smitten with the “Future Designer” onesies, Frank Lloyd Wright Shapes for Babies, and braille children books. But I resisted temptation…
I met Matt in the courtyard of the museum. We sat next to a Parisian family sitting in the sun, while children amused themselves in the chairs that were like giant spinning tops. While I’d been in the museum, Matt had been sitting on a rock in Central Park enjoying the sun.
We walked next door to the Guggenheim. It was crawling with people. The entrance fee was expensive and none of the current exhibitions appealed to me, so we decided to go for a walk in Central Park instead.
We wandered aimlessly through Central Park, taking whichever path took our fancy. I stopped to take pictures of the spring flowers everywhere with Matt taking his signature panoramic photos whenever we reached a good viewpoint.
We exited the park at the Museum of Natural History. It was even more crowded than the Guggenheim! So, we sat outside on a bench and admired the planetarium from a distance. It was far too nice weather to spend inside a museum anyway – especially such a crowded one!
Our phone batteries were running low, so I rummaged through my bag for my charging cable and battery. Turned out both Matt and I had forgotten our charging cable. We can’t get home without Google Maps, so went on a mission for a charging cable.
While on our mission, I spotted a Goodwill along the way. So Matt left me to peruse the aisles while he continued the hunt for an iPhone cable. The prices were rather steep at this Goodwill, but I found two beautiful blazers for $20. It’s so hard to find blazers that fit well and I go through them so quickly as they are a wardrobe staple for me.
Zurutto Ramen and Gyoza Bar
Matt did a search for ramen in the area. The top hit was across the road at Zurutto. They had a truffle ramen – I was sold! Matt ordered the signature dish and we each got a bottle of Japanese beer: Kagua and Ozeno Yukidoke. We had some pork dumplings to start – everything was delicious! I woofed down my ramen – I was hungry! We had skipped lunch after all.
Time Warner Building
After scoping out the MET, we walked up Broadway then over to the Time Warner Building. Someone had a cat in a backpack with a bubble window and we passed condo listings that started at 3 million! Whoa!
A friend had recommended Bouchon Cafe there and to check out the sculptures on display. There was no seating at the cafe and our feet were so tired, so we ended up at boring old Starbucks. I knew it from a business trip to NYC years ago when I worked in the fashion industry. (Hard to forget the place an old man tried to proposition me with a purse stuffed with American dollar bills!)
The Metropolitan Opera
We had balcony seats at the MET for an 8:30pm showing of Turandot by Puccini. The front doors had a crazy lineup, but the doors at the garage level were much more civilized. We went in once the doors opened at 7:45pm and quickly changed out of our walking clothes into our opera outfit!
We checked our coats and knapsack for a total of $9, then preordered prosecco for the second intermission and got comfy in our seats. The theatre was gold with red velvet with a scalloped ceiling and Sputnik looking crystal chandeliers. We admired the two red concert harps in the orchestra pit below. I’ve never seen a red harp before!
Instead of surtitles over the stage like at the Canadian Opera Company, they had little screens in front of each seat that you could turn on or off; English or German subtitles. The screens were shaded so that you wouldn’t be disturbed by your neighbour’s screen if you preferred to have none in front of you.
The set was lavish as expected. The story took place in Peking and had acrobats doing flips and fight scenes. The first intermission came quickly and the singers came out to bow. We’d never seen a curtain call between acts before!
We lined up for coffee during first intermission. It was horrible – like gas station coffee at $5 a pop. Matt even found a piece of plastic in his cup. He was not impressed. What with the run down interior of the theatre and poor coffee experience, this did not meet our expectations for a world class theatre!
The intermission was very long – perhaps due to the complex set design. The set got “Oooohs” from the audience when revealed. I’d never seen a set so detailed in my life! Matt and I traded opera glasses to get a good look. The production was indeed impressive!
We picked up our plastic flutes of prosecco from the waiter we placed our order with and tried to find a good place for a selfie to commemorate another bucket list item checked off – the MET! Sadly, the lighting at the MET is not made for pictures.
Sitting back at our seats, I got chatting with the student sitting next to me. He goes to the opera or ballet once a week – apparently there are $20 standing tickets! Tomorrow was his birthday, so he’d treated himself to a sitting ticket. I thought that was nice.
After the opera, we made our way to the subway. We passed Trump Tower on the way – lots of cop cars around it. We walked along the edge of Central Park to the 57th Street subway entrance where we hoped on an F train towards Queens. We were both very tired and it was a long wait for the Q69 bus home so we hopped in a taxi to our cozy bed.
In the darkness of our room, Matt and I discussed the opera from under a puffy comforter. Matt was was disappointed with the tenor, acoustics, venue, and serving beverages in plastic cups. However, we both agreed the set design was excellent. Matt said he’d be interested to see the MET on screen and not have to deal with a venue that cuts corners everywhere – or just go to Berlin, Milan, Paris, or home in Toronto where our expectations are met/exceeded! Matt certainly has seen opera in a lot of amazing places!
Now I lay in bed writing this post on my phone. Its almost 3am now and I have the opera replaying in my head… There is the soft hum of a TV in the next room and the muffled sound of our hosts voices through the thick walls. I think I’ll sleep well tonight.