After a lot of instructions and prep-work and battening and making of contingency plans for Nani and Babu and ZP and AP, TP and I caught Amtrak's Northeast Regional non-stop (except for the eight stops along the way) to New York. We managed to find two seats together in the Quiet Car where, despite the draconian rules, we used the cell phone and carried on extended conversations. It was so nice not to have to go through ultra unnecessary security, limit the amount of snacks (liquid or otherwise) on board, or have to cram your body and legs into a narrow seat in order to avoid getting brained by a metal cart. Train travel is the way to go.
We arrived at Penn Station and because it was an amazingly pleasant, incredibly sunny but not humid, "are you sure this is July?" day, decided to hoof it to our hotel. I admit, we did the typical gawking tourist thing when we caught sight of the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the famous-named streets. How can you not? We kicked off our culinary trek through the city by grabbing lunch at Nirvana which was pricey (at least to our country bumpkin eyes) but worth it as TP tucked into TWO helpings at the buffet and I devoured the Murg Khaliyan -- Chicken chunks in cilantro and mint flavored yogurt marinade. Despite arriving ten minutes before closing time, we were seated, given fresh and hot food, and did not get any stink eyes from the staff when I ordered from the menu instead of digging through the buffet. Grade: A.
We checked into our hotel, consulted the map, conferred with some friends, and went right back out into the sunshiney day. We stopped at St. Patrick's Cathedral ("hmph, we have a cathedral too!"), Central Park ("hmph, we have a zoological park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted too!"), and the Museum of Modern Art which, as we gleefully discovered, waives its $20 fee on Fridays after 5 p.m. ("hmph, we have free museums too!"). We left the REAL touristy tourists behind and took the metro ... er ... subway to the Meatpacking District in the West Village (capital "V") to meet up with TP's high school friend Dullard. I had my one celebrity sighting ("TP! It's Debbie Downer!") and was pleased. We walked down to Los Dados and after seeing the crowd, decided to order something from the takeout-only taquería, foolishly thinking we'd get faster service. Tacos, sweet corn tamale, and tamarind juice were lazily prepared, fussed over, and finally delivered. Infuriatingly slow service (I can't imagine what the wait time for sit-down service would be) but decent food. Grade: B.
As the sun started setting, we found three empty seats overlooking the Hudson River and ate our dinner on the High Line, a former elevated freight railroad that has been rescued from demolition and redeveloped into a promenade plantée (fancy word for the elevated park). It was lovely to be able to put our feet up for a while and just absorb the view, the breeze, and the quiet. After a leisurely stroll up and down the railroad tracks and amiable conversation, we made plans for the next day, took the subway back, and returned to the hotel. Around 11ish, we were feeling peckish and decided to take advantage of the much touted convenience of being able to dash outside and grabbing something to eat from a local street cart. I washed up, put on my PJs, and got comfortable with the puffy pillows, cozy blankets, and remote control while TP ran out to get some juicy and tasty gyros and piping hot and crisp french fries. Grade: A. For both the food and the delivery man.
So, there's Day One, folks. Pix and the rest of the trip coming soon.