Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New York, NY - 10th-13th July

Sunday, 10th July
I arrived into New York early in the evening on Sunday and made my way to the Moynihan household where I was to be staying for the next three nights. It had turned out, by a stroke of coincidence, that fellow Pathfinder Mike Webb had arranged to stay there at the same time, too. Whilst Matt Fraser was greeted by his host in New York with a gin and tonic, Mike and I were greeted with a vintage 1969 Vega-Sicilia and a delicious home-cooked meal by Jon's wife Patricia using fresh produce they bought in the country over the weekend whilst at their house in New Jersey. Exhausted from my day of travelling and reeling from the vintage of 1969 I retired to my chambers for the night.

Monday, 11th July
Monday morning, and after taking breakfast with Mike and Patricia and a leisurely read of the morning news I headed uptown to the Museum of Modern Art. After a good three hours or so there I left to grab some lunch from a food market Ellen Cross had recommended which I took to central park where I lounged for a good chunk of the afternoon reading and exploring.

Central Park, New York, NY

I strolled around and about, at one point blending seamlessly into the topless models masquerading outside Hollister and A&F. Later that night John and Patricia took Mike and I, along with another friend of theirs, Tim Coats, who had arrived for a visit to NY that day, out for supper to a lovely Italian restaurant a few blocks up from their house on 10th Avenue. A gastronomy refining evening of 'square' spaghetti bolognese, filet mignon (blue-rare), both washed down with a very decent-tasting Brunello Montalcino Visconti (2004), followed by a bittersweet chocolate pudding with some green tea put a perfect end to my first full day in New York.

Tuesday, 12th July
Today I headed into town in the morning to see the Met. After an hour or so of browsing around I queued for the Alexander McQueen Exhibition, Savage Beauty for 1hr 40minutes. Luckily I had Dickens to get me through the long stand, but it was well worth the wait - all the pieces were quite exquisite and I'd certainly recommend it to anyone who gets the chance to see it. My favourite part had to be when a Japanese teenager looked from a dress made of leather belts, chains, set off nicely by a gimp mask looked to the attendant and asked: "is this what Kate Middleton wore?"

After perusing McQueen's exhibition I went to see Richard Serra's A Restrospective which chronicles four decades of his drawing and painting. A fantastic little exhibition, and much quieter and cooler than McQueens.

Met: the 1891 5th Avenue Facade was designed by architect (and Met board member) Morris Hunt, with the 1910 wings being designed by McKim (see Marble Palace, below)

After a spot of lunch in Central Park I met up with Mike and we went exploring the Frick Collection, the public museum of art just off 5th Avenue on East 70th St. that was previously the private residence of Henry Clay Frick. Wandering around the building, viewing the collection, it was difficult to remember that it all once lay enclosed in the private residence.

Frickin' done, we headed to Patricia's studio and hat-making factory where we had been invited to have a look around and see the evening sun reflecting off the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. The Studio was quite brilliant - a long rectangular space suspended 25 floors up, filled to the brim with hundreds of hats and other hat-related paraphernalia. For all you fashionistas out there, I'll include some of the photographs I took up in the Studio other than the views out the windows.

Patricia Underwood Studios, Fashion Avenue, NY

Hat Avenue: moulds on the left, hats in suspension on the right

Whilst there we met one of Patricia's newest designers and hat-makers, Victoria, who suggested to Mike and I all kinds of fun after-dark activities we might get up to during our stay in Manhattan whilst she steamed a felt hat into shape.

Victoria steaming a felt hat into shape

Bobbins on shelves

As Patricia promised, the view of the Empire State Building was far better than any view we might have got from the top of the Rockefeller Building, and it was cheaper than the $20-odd they charge for the privilege. The Empire State Building stood proudly directly opposite the studio's wall of windows, glistening in the afternoon sun.

View from Underwood: Empire State Building

Hat of the Chrysler Building, centre-background

The Chrysler Building, too, peeked out of the skyline with the late-afternoon light reflecting off its staggered metal point.

After saying good bye to Patricia and Victoria Mike and I headed to Times Square for a light bite to eat. You can imagine my horror when I was charged $4 for a hotdog by a street vendor when I'd seen them for as little as $1.50 over on Madison Av. earlier in the day. However, karma must have been on my side, as the chap handed me back $6 for change of $5 - there's probably a new age parable in there somewhere, I should think.

We headed back to the house and spent some time relaxing before going to supper at a nearby Japanese restaurant with Jon and Tim. Starting on some "medium-bodied" sake, edamame, leaf and seaweed salad, and some fantastic miso soup rivalling Edamame's in Oxford, before our main arrived we darted out the restaurant at 8.15pm to head up to the Highline Park to view what is colloquially known as Manhattanhenge. This semi-annual phenomenon occurs when the setting sun aligns with the east-west streets of Manhattan providing a spectacular sunset display. Unfortunately, it seemed we rather mistimed the whole event, and despite walking briskly up to the Highline we must have just missed it - the sunset had been and gone.

Failed Manhattanhenge - sunset over West 24th, at 10th

We returned to the restaurant dispirited, thought not defeated, as there was always the prospect of witnessing the same spectacle tomorrow. We further lightened our spirits with more sake, and for food I feasted on salmon, tuna and eel sashimi with some spicy tuna rolls, and a whole pan-seared squid. Our moods suitably lightened, and our stomachs suitably weighted we returned home and soon after retired to our respective beds.

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