It was a while back... One Friday in March...
This was the package we'd been waiting for that week. The bialys at Russ & Daughters had gotten stuck in our heads for a while. After a little bit of Googling, I ordered some bialys and bagels from H&H Midtown Bagels East, which is knows as one of the best bagel places in NYC. I actually thought ordering from Russ & Daughters, but I couldn't justify its shipping cost this time. We've missed being in the city, so we ordered a little piece of NYC.
A great thing about H&H is that they let you to pick multiple kinds of bagels to make a unit of dosen. You don't need to stuck with just one kind of a half dozen or a dozen, whatever the order unit. You can choose from 19 of them. How sweet is that?
This time, we ordered 6 bialys, 2 eggs, 2 everythings, 2 super bagels, and plain and scallion flavored cream cheeses. FYI, the cream cheeses were shipped in an insulated bubble bag with a cold pack... just in case you wonder.
Saturday morning, the assembly station was ready. The plain cream cheese, dill, a red onion, smoked salmon, capers and sliced tomatoes were lined up on the kitchen counter. The bialys were sliced and warmed up.
Mmmmm yum~~~! My heart was already in NYC, one of my favorite places to be...
Chad and I took Amtrak to New York in late February. He got me the Billy Joel concert tickets at the Madison Square Garden for last Christmas.
There are four options to get to New York from Boston. You can fly, drive, take a bus, or a train.
Flights get affected by weather a lot. The airports are not in convenient locations to get to, plus it is always fun to get through the security (although I appreciate their efforts to keep everybody safe) along with a lot of wasted time before boarding time, and it costs the most. This is totally out of the options.
Considering traveling in winter from New England, we crossed off driving and taking a bus since they are risky options involve weathers, traffic and accidents. A bad weather can cause accidents. Even though you don't get an accident, you could be stuck in traffic caused by an accident happens ahead of you.
We took Amtrak from Boston right to the heart of Manhattan. It was a sweet smooth 4 hour ride. There was no drink and snack service, but you could bring anything you want with you. Plus, it has a cafe cart. It was not so busy, well, it got busier as it got closer to the city, but it was in a comfortable level. It was nice and quiet. The thing made me happy with this option was the train was on time.
We were at Penn Station a little bit before 2:00 pm. It was early to check in to the hotel. This was intentional. We wanted to optimize the given time as much as possible in our short stay. We thought we could use the 1 hour for lunch. We headed to Xi'an Famous Foods. It was a surprisingly warm day in February. We expected it would be freezing and windy. This was certainly a nice surprise. We enjoyed a little walk on the 34th Street.
Lunch at Xi'an Famous Foods
It's just a perfect place for quick bites. It's not ordinary fast food like burgers or sandwiches. Just looking at the menu to decide what to eat was already exciting. It was tricky to me to pick something not hot. My stomach doesn't take spicy hot food so well. No cute red hot chili pepper for me.
I had Pork "Zha Jiang" Hand-ripped Noodles. Chad got Spicy Cumin Lamb Hand-ripped Noodles in Soup. The soup looks super hot, not for me. Both dishes had hand stretch noodle. You can see they are making the noodle in the open kitchen.
I also got a Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger. Silly me, I blinded by "lamb burger." How could I miss such an obvious red flag, "spicy"? I thought "Mmmm, lamb burger sounds good." WRONG! It was too hot to me to eat.
The eat-in area was pretty tight, but that just adds more fun. It was maintained clean. People were pretty good at cleaning up after themselves. We enjoyed the food a lot.
Afternoon Walk on the 5th Avenue
The concert would start at 8:00. We had a plenty of time. We went up the 5th Avenue toward the Central Park after checking in to the hotel. I love walking in the city. The streets always have a lot to see.
It was a long walk from the 34th Street to the Central Park, but hey, you'd better take advantage of the great weather. Walking is the best way to enjoy the city. You'd have so many discoveries.
A Little Bit of Nostalgia
I spotted Muji, a Japanese store. I used to shop their store in my hometown in high school. I was aware of some shops in the UK years ago. Now, I could get their products here in the US, too, if I wish. Good to know.
Architecture is one of the things I enjoy a lot at walk in the city. Buildings from different eras just live together there beautifully.
We walked by the public library.
The Chrysler Building, a typical Art Deco building with beautiful bold symmetry. Although it's off from the 5th Avenue, the building doesn't fail to catch your attention.
Even its gargoyle has a modern look... representing the Empire feel.
I am not a big fan of modern style, but still cannot help admiring this beauty.
Water features in an urban setting easily attract people. Their sounds are so soothing in the city noise. They hydrate everybody's heart. There were a lot of people sitting along the fountain that day. This fountain creates an illusion of cascading water.
Stepping out from the street to Rockefeller Building. They were cleaning the rink. Not so often to see its empty rink like this, is it?
Spotting something outstanding from far distance is exciting imagining how it looks in details as I get closer. Here, St. Patrick Cathedral. The white beauty in the middle of brown naturally grabs your eyes from distance.
We were across the street, but my camera couldn't capture the whole building in it.
Its details are magnificent. James Renwick Jr. put a lot of cares into this church. I only show the main entrance here. This level of details are every part of the cathedral. I would probably find something new, details I miss at the last visit, whenever I come here.
Buildings, especially theaters and churches, built before 1950's tend to have exquisite details. I should extend this statement to furniture and other things. It's not just for a show, but both creators and users had much more respect and appreciation to things than we do today.
And, something even more detailed and delicate inside.
The street continued toward the Central Park. We continued to follow it.
My Blue Box
Let's ignore the ugly building next door. I was not aware that was next to Tiffany last time I was here. Maybe, I was on 57th Street.
Sure, I can shop at Tiffany in Boston, but... Sometimes, shopping is not just about buying things. It's an experience with all senses and conditions.
We explored the store from the floor to the floor. They are such good healers for the eyes, aren't they? To me, this place is like a museum, not just a jewelry store. You've got to see beautiful works by artists in many styles. And more importantly(*cough*), I got my own little blue box.
We left Tiffany and made a couple more steps toward north. At the entrance of the Central Park, carriages were lined up for tourists. Poor horses... the paved road must be tough on their hooves.
At the park, both adults and kids were enjoying the last bit of the daylight. Everybody was taking a break from the bitter cold winter weather.
The views on the Gapstow Bridge over the Pond at the park, the 180 degree turn shows you different worlds.
Walking by the skate rink, we found the cute building looks like a house in a fairy tail. The sign seid "The Dairy Visitor Center." Of course, it had closed at 5 o'clock. It's too bad that we couldn't check it out. Now, I'm very curious how it looks inside.
The sun was going down. We kept walking to the west. I spotted two unique looking buildings on the west side.
I have no idea what they are. Another creations from the Art Deco era? In the right picture, the two buildings on the right seems to be much newer construction, but the one behind it seems to be from somewhere between 20s and 40s.
We shifted our direction from west to south. Of course, I found something.
I was not sure what it was first, but this told me everything.
Look! Every horse is different. This kind of details makes me super excited! It's simply lovely. How would this fail to make you smile? Well, I have to admit one exception... You cannot ride the carousel when you see this. That wouldn't make you smile. I'd agree on that.
... And, speaking of the details, I was overjoyed! I want... no, I NEED these fence and pole to my house.
Whenever I come to the Central Park, I recognize this sign. I believe I've seen it on TV, movies or other media as well. Naturally I come to this question: What is the Essex House?
Once getting out of the park, I saw the JW Marriott Essex House sign in front of the hotel. But, I expected it has more stories. Yup, Google time! What makes this hotel so iconic to the city? Nothing's given me satisfactory answers yet. The hotel has a kind of sad history of its ownership. Besides that, I haven't been able to find much. This is disappointing.
Lost Track of Time
We were going to have dinner before the concert. It was already past 6 o'clock. We had lost the track of time at the park. We were walking down the 6th Avenue. "Let's hop on 7th. We can keep going down toward Madison Square Garden, and get in somewhere looks good to eat. We can take a subway to the Garden if we need to."
We were supposed to be at the Garden before 8:00. The time was tight. Somebody I know in the city recommended us an Italian restaurant at Times Square. Urg, I forgot to take its address with us, and I didn't remember the name of it to search. We didn't have enough time to sit and enjoy a meal either. We had a quick bite, then headed to the Madison Square Garden.
New York Minutes
We joined the crowd around 7:30. The big screen entertained us while waiting with teasers for future events and, getting us more excited with the one for tonight's big show, which was a real teaser to us. "Show us Billy Joel now!"
The doors were still close. Any concerts at venues of this size I had been in the past, their doors opened at least half an hour prior to the performances planned to start.
The crowd was getting bigger and bigger. There were much more people behind us toward the street. I was getting nervous. "Do we all get in and seated by 8:00?"
Nobody seemed to be worried about it. I guess this is normal here. It made me feel my life is definitely not in a urban mode like this big city one's.
Finally, the doors opened at 7:45. The people started moving forward. I used to collect programs. They didn't seem to offer one. So, I got a T-shirt instead. The color didn't come out as its actual one in the picture. It's more shaded grayish blue, much better color than this.
Nevertheless my concern, the show started on time. All were well managed in a New York minute.
From the balcony seats, we were excited to see him facing toward us. Then, something even more exciting happened. His piano with him turned! So, everybody, not just from our side, could see his face. I found this is very thoughtful. Nobody would go home disappointed staring at his back in the whole show.
To tell the truth, I am not a Billy Joel fan though I know some of his songs and I like some of them. My friends would be very surprised by my coming to his concert. This is unlike me since his music is not a kind I usually listen. When I saw him on night shows, I thought he is quite entertaining and his concert could be fun to go. And, here we were!
He sprinkled interactions with the audience through the show. I like how he is frank and humble about his music. He told the audience that one of his songs played that night was not popular even he personally loved it, so they could use facility while his playing that. It's hard to admit people don't like something you had created putting your heart into. I guess this is one of the lessons he learned in his show business career.
During the concert, somebody in the audience proposed his girlfriend. They were close to the stage. It must be a special song for them. Their friends raised the sign "Would you marry me?" behind her, so she wouldn't know what was coming. Then, they were on screen hanging on the ceiling. He popped the question. She looked a bit confused, but I could tell she said "yes."
Billy was aware of the activity from the stage though his staff might told him. He asked the boyfriend if she had said yes, then wished them the best luck. I guess he's seen something like this so many times in his concerts. He could just keep going with his songs even he was aware of what was happening. After all, it was his show, not theirs. Instead, he made the moment for the couple very special. They would revisit that moment over and over through the rest of their life together with a sweet feeling.
It is alway fun to find out which songs and what parts they sing along at a concert per an artist. I think this was when he played Piano Man. It looked like a night sky, which is hardly find stars in this city. Every single tiny light was telling they were here with Billy Joel that night.
The evening at the Madison Square Garden flew in a New York minute. The concert went over 2 hours.
To be continue to the Day 2, which is coming soon.