Tuesday, December 7, 2010

'Empire State of Mind'

[Chorus: Alicia Keys]
New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothin' you can't do
Now you're in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new
Big lights will inspire you
Let's hear it for New York, New York, New York

Well the song's got a nice ring to it and it was exactly how I felt once the NYC skyline from our boltbus rambled into sight - I love it after being in 'quieter' Dallas and even historic Philadelphia.. I miss the bright lights, the hustle and bustle of city life, sidewalks swarmed with people having coffee at all times of the day (Orchard Road coffeehouses and void-deck kopitiams alike) and of course, being able to grab groceries and snacks just minutes away from where we stay..  

While I was expecting women dressed up in designer garb similar to what I saw in Gossip Girl and Sex and the city, I was swooning to see alot more bag ladies in NY than I have experienced in the months in Dallas, even in more upmarket areas of Highland Park & Preston. Just seeing the multitude of yellow cab and hearing the sounds of police sirens at all times of the day in NYC gave me a lil buzz.. I love it!

Kaylen was a dream as we hammered the pavements of NYC together for more than 6 hours each day - from lower east side, Soho, to the iconic Times Square and enjoying an ice-cream at Madison Square Gardens. Our revived Peg Perego Pliko P3 was also extremely handy as K happily sits and sleeps in it at all times of the day. We were happy to even grab on to the railings of the doggie run in the Gardens as the dogs roam free and smell each other out. At nearly 3 years of age, travelling with her didn't require a luggage full of diapers, snacks and milk powder. What we needed, we bought from Walgreens and the likes.

Here are some pictures of the lovely city! First off, with K with her handy backpack (from a lovely Aunt Marian), containing snacks and water bottle.

 Off to the apartment in Gramercy Park. A classic stairs on the facade, with potted plants, butterflies and birds chirping from the nearby entry-by-key-only Gramercy Park.
 Once we had met the host and finished all the arrangements with checking in and out & directions to the nearest grocer's and laundromat, we got ready to walk out the city.
How to resist taking this huge poster of Carrie Bradshaw? Paul couldn't and didn't as he knew that I really liked her. And I bet he did too. Her shades were a tad too MIB for my taste but who else can pull that off? ;)
 Leave it to K to spot a window display of little duckies in a beautiful concoction in the sea of pingpong balls.
 We strolled by Madison Central Park to check out the resident squirrels. Did u know squirrels are considered pests to young shrubs and trees as they gnaw on them for food esp in the early spring when their acorns have sprouted and new food sources are still not available? As a last resort, they will even eat birds' eggs. Interesting snippet as I can no longer look at them as the impersonators to Alvin & the Chipmunks! ;p
Then we chanced upon a quirky Gershwin hotel a street away from the throbbing pulse of the Theatre district.
And finally I see a milliner!

Music in the city. Seemed like they had plonked a colorful piano within every couple hundred of meters.
Such randomness. Seats plonked between 2 busy streets just outside Macy's.

We stopped to sample every single cupcake shop wherever we went. I remembered it to be mildly exorbitant with prices ranging from USD5 -9 for a single one, but we are on holiday and they were heavenly.A great pick-me-up for all the walking we were doing.

Dinner at a family restaurant a few streets from our apartment - Friend of a Farmer' - the place had a great vibe, lovely candlelit audience plus it was starting to drizzle so we weren't too particular. It had great reviews but perhaps we didn't order quite the right thing (oh yes, my iphone went flat before I could source for food recommendations) but a hearty meal nonetheless. A gin tonic for me to end the dinner. It was heaven enough for me.
Back to the apartment where we got once again, impressed by how homely it felt, complete with a fresh vase of my favourite hydrangeas. More pictures once I have finished sorting out the huge album from the trip.
A fantastic place to wind down after the long road travelled thus far.
An after-dinner snack from yet another cupcake bakery. ;)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Philly walkabout

After a well-rested night and a very lazy morning, we got ready for brunch at the famed 9th street Italian Market.

First stop was Sabrina's, a well reviewed establishment located on 910 Christian Street... it was madness.. it was about 10am when we arrived and there was a huge crowd of at least 20+ people in line! Just the thing for foodies so we decided that it could be well worth the wait. Of course, we had a good look at the food being served and oh my, they were very hearty and indeed delectable!! We left our names at the registry and got a card. The wait should be about an hour or so they say. So we decided to explore a little to while away the time.

At the start of 9th street, we saw this sign. The whole street was flanked by streets of definite Italian spellings and really, indefinite meanings.

Di Bruno Brothers was really packed but I had to go in for a peek. It was an eye-opener indeed.. with loads of handmade pasta in shapes and sizes that I had never seen before.  (ok so I had seen some in Culina's back in Singapore)...
The below, I believe, was huge slabs of cheese.
Jars and jars of capers and pickles and peppers.
And then we decided to take a morning coffee break and chanced upon this little nondescript cafe. Which had the most amazing chocolate croissant. Thin crusts of crumbling pastry that is crisp yet suitably moistened with choc filling that wasn't too overtly caramelized. It was heavenly. Literally 'eyes-lit-up-after-first-bite' kinda reaction from the both of us.

Never to spoil an excellent first impression, we were disciplined not to order extras...

Sharing gelato.


Finally! Found a pic of that marvelous cafe...

And so, the young one was captivated by the flurry of waitstaff fussing around a leaking aircon unit that was right above the doorway. It was as fascinating watching her so enthralled with something so simple and mundane. The daddy just looked bored and of course, I bet he was thinking why a simple task required more than 1 person to execute - as always lovingly in character.

And so we headed back to Sabrina's. I'm obviously not a good photographer but like all things nicely vintage-d.

Best-tasting salad I'd tried since coming to the USA!
We cabbed it to the Museum of Art - here we were admiring the view from the top of the hill where it housed the Phladephia Museum of Art. K checked out a wedding reception at one of the foot hills.

And we moved on to the Philadelphia Museum of the Art, there was a Renoir exhibition which we were tempted. However entrance fees were madness, I would prefer seeing a collection of Impressionists paintings versus a particular artist and the day was beautiful so we skipped it, choosing instead to gallivant on the steps of the museum, ala Rocky Plus, I haven't done much reading on Renoir so the visit may not stick in my head.

Here, lil K attempted to climb up the infamous Rocky steps.

Spent but satisfied.

Little children soaked wet from jumping into the fountains across the road - running rampant up the rocky steps screaming and laughing.
Here we took a picture together with the sculpture of Sylvester Stallone in his portrayal of Rocky. But Kaylen at 2 months 8 months got really scared and started clinging to me like clingwrap.

Just Paul taking a break....And then lil K joins the daddy on the steps. See her cheeky expression!
We moved on to a notable restaurant in Chinatown since Philalphia's was supposed to be pretty decent. Well, more decent that what we had tried in Dallas really.

Accolades adorned the entrance. Oh well, to their credit, most of them were recent ones from the '00s.
Lil K still munching on her fortune cookie after dinner. Dinner was alright - dingy interior, cheesy fittings like red lanterns, dynastic paintings and old wooden carved partitions. The crowd is a mixture of cushy folks of various races. Food and price-wise I would say, equivalent to Singapore's Crystal Jade fare at double the price? ;)
I am glad that in many ways while Paul and I are so different, we do share the same beliefs on how our holidays should be like - i.e. free and easy, taking our time in taking in the sights, ensuring a good mix of good restaurant and street fare alike, skipping touristy attractions that just take too much time away from enjoying the vibe of the places we visit. Oh yes, we do believe in reading up a little about the history of the place as well just so we can impress each other with little useless snippets of information now and then!