Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

Last Day and Greenwich Village -- June 2

It started out rainy, with the fog still visible from the night before, though, in a way, since we were up past midnight the day really 'began' while we were still coming home from Phantom...

Changes ColorChanging ColorsChanging Colors
The top tower of the Empire State Building gets lit different colors depending on the day. It was Caribbean Week, so they lit it purple, blue, green, orange, red, and magenta. *laughs* I couldn't have told you which color was what.

Misty Morning
The rain and the mists were still around the next morning. Luckily, nothing had gone off during the night, and we were all kind of bleary at breakfast, which was at 7 am. I don't know how Dick does it, running at that pace all the time, but we were all pretty dead tired, and I knew that I was sad and glad knowing it was our last day. Glad to get home to my own bed and familiar routine, but sad, as it is an amazing city.

I deliberately didn't bother with trying to post anything that morning, because we all had to pack our stuff. We were taking all our luggage with us on the bus to take to the airport after lunch. Our flight wasn't until 3, so there was a plan for the day, which was to go to Greenwich Village and wander through Bleecker Street and all the food there to find our lunch and get a few specialties of the city.

Washington Square Park North
But Mr. NYC started the ride into the city with the question, "What was your favorite part of the trip?"

And most of the kids answered "Phantom of the Opera", and some of the adults as well. Jet answered the Eiffel Tower, which was confusing until he realized he meant the Empire State Building and not, as I'd expected, the Statue of Liberty, which Eiffel had built the scaffolding to build. Some answered "American in Paris". Some said the 911 Memorial. I said the ferry ride to Manhattan from the Statue of Liberty, and Mr. Swarn said that that was a first for him. I liked the view of the city from the water, and it was unlike any other view we'd had.

It was oddly bittersweet to go through the tunnels one last time, and then we were where we were going, Washington Square Park. This marble arch was erected in 1889 to honor the centennial of George Washington's inauguration, and later on two more statues of our first president were added to this side, the north side, of the arch.

Washington Square
The fountain and plaza are beautiful, and an open place to play. It's surrounded by the New York University, which has the dubious distinction of being the most expensive college in the United States. The library is right there, along with many of its buildings. I cannot imagine the cost of a dorm in the middle of Greenwich Village, New York City.

It was mostly deserted due to the weather, sadly. But I liked the trees. I was only to learn later that this park used to be a marsh, and when the city annexed this area, it did so to use this as an execution grounds. And there are legends of a hanging elm in this park, but they're unsubstantiated.

Washington Square
This park is known for the entire bank of chess boards and all the people who use them. Dick talked about a couple of homeless guys that play here all the time and are really good. No one that sat down with them could beat them, from Dick's other tour groups. One tour group had an autistic boy who didn't really interact with anyone. They brought him here, and sat him down and he played against both those homeless guys at the same time and beat them both.

It wasn't that he interacted with them anymore than anyone else, he'd just stare off into space between moves, and you couldn't really tell if he liked doing it or not; but he played well.

The Blue Note?
In central Greenwich Village there were all these signs about the beat generation and the musicians of the 50's and 60's. The rock and the jazz, and the blues, and there were performance boards with a long history of artists that had come, gone, and were still playing.

There were brass plaques showing the poets, writers, and artists of the beat generation that had drank coffee in that cafe, or had drunk and worked at the bars. It was interesting to see it documented right out on the street, not only in brass, but also in paint.

Food All the Way
And here's the reason why all those starving artists, writers, and the like made their way here.

Food. Amazing food for amazing prices. It was relatively cheap and the best of its kind in the city. Dick himself said that the best food deals were to be found in Greenwich Village. And he walked the street with us, announcing each place that was there, and what they were good at and what you could expect there. Places like a restaurant that only did various types of risotto, another that did nothing but stuffed bagel balls, and the like.

There was the Artichoke Pizza joint that was supposed to be one of the best slices in the city, but there were two more places right in the area, Dick said. One that did only full pies, but one that actually did The Best Slice in the city.

Our Guide's Coffee House
This is where he bought all his coffee, and it smelled wonderful. Looked like they did their own importing of the beans, roasting, and all the prep to serve it as well. It was lunch time, sadly, and I didn't want to have another cup of coffee, and I'm a little too spoiled by roasting my own. The only coffee roaster I like in the Front Range is the Unseen Bean, and they do a great job, but it's just a bit expensive for me when I can take the time to roast it for myself for nearly half the price.

Still, just looking at the shop, I was tempted. *laughs* If I lived here and didn't have a good place to roast and vent all the smoke, I would probably be buying from a place like this.

Father Demo Square
Our meeting place. Dick told everyone that this was our meeting place, halfway through his tour of all the shops, and about half the group split off at this point and missed some of the Best Stuff. *laughs*

We kept going from there, looking and listening as Dick explained what was where, some of which we went back to eat at, and I'll have more pictures there and then, but at the end of the street, Bleecker Street, we hit 7th Avenue, South. To the north was the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, and only one block further was Stonewall Inn. That... made me pause a bit, knowing the history of the place. He really recommended Big Gay Ice Cream for anyone that liked ice cream, but Dick was also willing to show us a few places right there that weren't food, but were connected to other things.

The Narrowest House
One of those place was the Narrowest House in the City. It's only 9 and a half feet wide. And Edna St. Vincent Millay lived there in the early 1920's when she wrote her Pulitzer Prize winning "Ballad of the Harp-Weaver." I'd never heard of her or of the poems, and got mildly intrigued by something titled "my candle burns at both ends." *laughs*

The house was amazing to actually look at and compare against my wingspan of nearly six feet. It's wedged in between the other houses, and has the big windows up front. But the nice thing is that it goes the usual 25 feet back... talk about shotgun houses. It's still a few million dollars to buy, now. A few blocks away, Dick showed us the apartment building that was used as the apartments for "Friends." It was a nice enough building, but I never followed the series so had no idea, really.

It was fun, though, seeing all the brick and brownstone, the trees and the lower buildings, it wasn't the center of the city, but close enough to make it easy to Be There if needed. It's all tied into the subway systems and the lifelines of the city, and right between the Financial District and mid-town, where we'd started our tour. The west side of Greenwich is known to be as gay as anything, but the central part, where we were is just little shops and family businesses.

Only PiesBleecker Street Pizza
The two pizza places that Dick actually recommended were these two; but there was a very clear division between them. John's of Bleecker only served full pies. They don't do slices.

Bleecker Street Pizza, however, is known for its slices, and half their menu is nothing but slices.

When we walked by, at first, before going to see the houses, they weren't open, yet, but the owner was coming in, and he recognized Dick, and they had a quick chat before Dick waved "the man" into his place. When we'd finished with everything else, the door was open, but the pies weren't cooked, yet, and they wouldn't let us order anything until it was actually done, which was cool.

Inside Bleecker Street
Especially since the space inside is not that big. It was good and tight, and we occupied most of the tables in the place, those of us that had stuck with the tour pretty much all ended up here. Dick Swarn was pretty persuasive as to the goodness of this place, and the memorabilia within was good testament as well. The scents wafting through the air of the cooking pies wasn't bad advertising either. The one other customer in there was a policeman, in full uniform, on his lunch break. They know where to eat.

And it was well worth the wait, as ever. *laughs*

Fresh MozPepperoniMushroom
The fresh mozzarella slice had real basil by the creamy cheese, and tomatoes. Jet got a Grandma which I didn't get a picture of, and it had roasted garlic along along with the marinara, moz, parm, and other good things. The pepperoni was good sausage on the "basic" pizza, which had the thin, Tuscan style crust (which I think of as the New York style crust, really).

I got the mushroom slice, and they toasted it extra by the time John ordered it, as it was colder then they liked. I was amazed by that, and the extra toasting cooked the mushrooms just a bit more, to the point where I loved my slice. I like my mushrooms cooked just a bit more than an average slice of pizza takes to cook even in a pizza oven. And I folded it and ate it with relish. It and the bite of John's fresh moz slice were the best slices of pizza I've ever had. And, like everyone else, I've eaten a good deal of pizza.

After our lunch, we decided to head up to Big Gay Ice Cream to see if we could have our first dessert there; but it was closed, still, not opening for a few more hours. Instead, we headed back to the Italian Bakery where Dick said they had great canolli.

Rocco's Bakery
Rocco's is known for its cannoli, with crisp shells, rich cream, and a few add-ons as well. We went in, and the three of us wanted to just share one. And then I saw the huge platter of pignoli.

So. Pignoli. I have this adoration for the things. They're an almond-based cookie studded with pine nuts. They're traditional Italian cookies, and there was a bakery that used to come to the Boulder Farmer's Market that made the best ones I've ever had. They were crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, and the pine nuts were toasted until they were fragrant and added to the crunch of the whole thing. In New Haven, at the Italian bakery next door to Pepe's, I bought a pound of the things to take home with me.

Here, I did the same thing. I asked for them in such a reverent tone, the big lady with the black hair and hair net actually pressed on every cookie to make sure that it was whole and would stay that way before she put them into the box. She tied it with red string, and handed it to me. I took it with both hands and cradled it carefully all the way home.

She also filled our cannoli for us, and asked me if I wanted chocolate chips or sprinkles. I opted for the chocolate, and the plain shell instead of the chocolate-dipped ones. It was a good choice. John tried to take a picture of her filling it, but she moved so quickly, with such smooth precision that he couldn't get one of her still enough to not blur. And it was amazingly good. The cream was thick and redolant of vanilla, the shell was shatteringly crisp, and the nuggets of chocolate were a perfect contrast. We took turns devouring it.

Insomnia Cookies
Dick swore by Insomnia Cookies, so Jet wanted to check them out, see the menu, and maybe get a few cookies. John and I weren't as interested, but we were happy to go with him. They're fresh-baked cookies, and like all these food places, they all deliver. These guys deliver until 3 am, though, which is a pretty cool idea in these tiny apartments with very little cooking equipment. The fact that we can make cookies any time we want to is a luxury of having a big house with all the cooking equipment we'd ever want.

Jet came out disappointed. He couldn't quite figure out how the menu worked, which were the 'primary' cookies and which were 'secondary' and what the price was on anything. They all seemed pretty high to him, so he decided not to even try to figure it all out. Plus, he figured that most of the cookies on the primary list, chocolate chip, snickerdoodle, peanut butter, sugar, and the like, were ones we could easily make when we got home. He's probably right.

Slippery when Wet
Since we didn't get ice cream, I wanted to get gelato from a shop we'd seen near the park. Sadly, I'd just said, the park, rather than which park, as there'd been two, so John took us back to Washington Square, when I'd really meant the Father Demo Square. Oops.

But on the good side, we passed by a lot of shops which were on the verge of opening, with these doors open to the street! I'd seen the door mats placed in front of these, before, but they were all open to the street because they were taking deliveries of supplies for the business. I was amazed at how much room they had down there, but it was the access to the basement of all of these places, and where most of the businesses had all their storage. We saw dozens of these open, not all of them with the helpful warning signs. *laughs*

When I actually mentioned that I wanted gelato to John, he took us to the right place immediately. It was Grom - Il Gelato Come Una Volta, which is a lovely Italian mouthful for an amazing gelato shop.

It's actually Italian in origin, with only a few shops, worldwide, and we happened on the one that was right next to the Father Demo park. I got the hazelnut gelato with a single shot of espresso over it. It was perfect. The gelato was creamy cold, with the essence of hazelnuts throughout the texture, scent, and flavor of it, and the richness of the espresso, a perfect shot that was creamy itself, the soul of coffee without a hint of bitterness, complimented the sweet nuttiness exactly.

Jet got a grapefruit gelato that had all the sweet, tart, bitter elements balanced on a creamy core that astonished me. I'd have never thought of that for citrus, but I guess it's kind of what a creamsicle aspires to be. John's coffee one was amazing, too, and we concentrated so much on eating our treasures that I didn't even bother taking pictures. I mildly regret that, but a picture of this stuff could be like dancing about architecture. *laughs*

I'll have to do that again, in my life time, and it doesn't have to be in New York, as the company, Grom, is all over Italy.

And, yes, if Dick had asked, after that, what my favorite part of the trip was, it would have been all of this last day.

The Beginning...
Our bus driver, Luke, had gone off with the Canadians. They'd decided to go to Times Square and spend their whole morning there, shopping. Our luggage went on to another bus, driven by another bus driver, a native, who was good and aggressive in just the right spots. Dick was pretty happy with his driving. *laughs*

But on the way to the airport, we drove by Bryant Park, where all our adventures began. It was raining, again, and it was funny to see this afterward, with the blurred people, as we drove past. John also managed to get a shot of the street that his mother had lived on when she lived in New York, before her train ride to Seattle. That was pretty good, too.

It was interesting to see the beginning at the end, and it made me think about the past several days, which were filled with so many new experiences. Not really things, but just being where all the stories were made, and seeing why.

Every city is different. They all have personalities and quirks, tendencies and a pattern to their traffic, their people, and the way life flows through them. New York City, however, is probably the most vibrant, crowded, and honed of them all. With all the people who try to live here, so few can actually make it, and it shows, not just in what they do, themselves, as they work, but also in what they choose to support with their money, their time, and their play. The restaurants, live entertainments, and niches of business all show the kind of discernment that the City dwellers who make it have.

Our last look at the skyline, under clouds and rain. It was fitting to my mood, and I wasn't exactly happy. Sure, going back to routine and the familiar is good, but there were also issues that I had been able to put aside for a while when I was on vacation.

There were just so many more things I'd wanted to explore in more depth, but it would have to wait for another time and opportunity. I was also really not wanting to have to say good-bye to everyone.

So I was pretty irritable with the whole group dynamics, which was unfortunate. I also tucked the cookies into my backpack, and was a little worried about how well they'd hold up. Sadly, I was kind of a lump, and when people tripped over their luggage to hug Mr. NYC good-bye, John didn't move, and so I didn't really get going over there, either, and I regretted that, after. I really don't know if I'll see him again, but maybe now I'll make the chance if it comes again.

We all made it through security with plenty of time. The plane home was late, very late to start. The couple that sat down next to me asked me if I couldn't let them out when we got to Denver, as they had a flight to catch. I asked them if they wanted people to just step aside while they got off the plane, and the lady next to me said, emphatically, that they wouldn't do that...

And then something went weird with the maintenance, and on hearing the tone, I went to sleep, checked out right then and there; and I was tired enough to just fall right to sleep. We waited there at the gate for more than half an hour, and I had a good nap in before we even took off.

One the Plane...
I actually felt better for the sleep, which shouldn't have been all that unexpected given how little sleep we'd had for the last two nights. One because of the fire alarms, the other because we were out past midnight and up by 7 to get everything packed.

I found the poor, dried, tangled mass of leaves that was what was left after I'd pressed the leaves in my notebook; but they still had their shape, on the most part, and I started sketching them on the plane. It brought back all the memories of walking through Central Park on so many of the days we'd been there, and it was soothing. I also knew that I could use it for the challenge, because sketches count if they're working toward a painting, and I really wanted to paint these oak leaves.

This is the last of five sketches. They really aren't the leaves, but more the memory or thought of the leaves. Live leave don't really droop that much, but it was fun to show the shape of them, but paintings can show what I want them to show, I guess. I also liked the layout of this one.

The lady, during that, commented a little on it, and then on how she didn't think they'd be able to get home that day. She had originally been flying to Orange County and she didn't think there was another flight there that day. I asked her if she couldn't go into LA, and she started by saying she couldn't, their car was at the Orange County Airport. I asked her if there was anyone that could give her a ride. She immediately said there wasn't, but then later on said that her son lived in LA, and might... I kept sketching.

We arrived at Denver late, between the maintenance and the original delay, and the crew asked the people who were going to be going home in Denver to just stay on the plane and let out all the people with connections. The couple next to me were very surprised, but pleased by that; but, of course, it being Denver, more than half the plane was actually trying to make connections.

I wished them luck, and the husband thanked me for all my help, and off they went. I hope they did catch their flight, and that it was delayed for some other reason. *laughs*

There was a little bit of a gathering at the baggage claim, but we didn't see Mrs. Clanin one last time. The Lees were wonderful and Jet said his good-byes and knew that he'd see the eldest son of that family in high school, so that was great, and the other mothers and kids all said good-byes. We made our way out to our car, and got home before the sun had completely set. We ate the traditional Noodles and Company dinner, and threw all our clothes into the laundry. I posted my picture, I carefully bundled half of my pignoli into the freezer, and we were finally able to sleep in our own beds.

June 4
It's now a month since we made the trip. I'm still catching up on my sleep... *laughs* But that's partially the fault of a lot of other things going on. I still think about Broadway, about Greenwich Village, and on that last day, we asked Dick a lot of questions about where we should go if we came back. He had included a couple of hotels in the city where the rates weren't that bad, and they were close to access to everything. I'm pretty sure we're going to go back, on our terms. And it would be fun to do it after Thanksgiving and actually see the Rockettes do their kicks, the ice rinks in their full glory, and delve into both MOMA and the Met for hours or even days instead of minutes.

I painted Mr. NYC a card with the Central Park Oak Leaves on it, and he sent me back a postcard saying that he'd hung it in a frame on his office wall. He also gave me his personal gmail account. So we'll keep in touch.

I'm glad I wrote all of this for me to remember. I used to do that all the time, and it's good for me so that when I want to see what it was we'd done, I can just go back and look. I also gave this address to a number of people on the tour itself, and I can hope they find it interesting, too. *laughs* We'll see.
Tags: food, travel

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