Gail arrived from Denver on October 19 and we had a fun, fun visit. The first night we walked up to E. 62nd to Il Vagabondo for dinner. Along the way Gail noticed all the laundries, pet stores, and manicure shops lining almost every block. The restaurant is known for its Italian food, but even more so for the fact that it has a bocce court in the restaurant! We enjoyed veal scallopine, pappardelle carbonare, and manicotti (made in house daily). We eeked out enough room to share a Bocce Ball (tartufo) for dessert: vanilla and chocolate ice cream with sliced nuts and a cherry all wrapped in bittersweet chocolate.
The next day was memorable and a highlight of our stay in New York as we went on a skyscraper tour. Gail had met Dr. Seth Gopin on a voyage on the Queen Victoria earlier this year when he was lecturing on the ship, and they ended up as tablemates for the voyage. He is a retired professor of art history at Rutgers, author of many books, and has been knighted by France for his contributions to increasing French history awareness and interest among Parisians. Plus….he is charming and witty and enthusiastic.
We met Seth and the other members of the tour at the Flatirons Building, another Manhattan icon. He discussed the fascinating history of this very narrow building that fits into a wedge where Broadway meets 23rd Street. It was the #1 tourist destination for many years and visitors sent postcards home of the Flatirons Building to prove they had been in New York City. From here it was a short walk to the Metropolitan Life Tower. Met Life provided the first low-cost insurance policies to immigrants and the picture of this solid and elevating structure was included on all policies to inspire confidence and trust. It is almost a replica of St. Mark’s campanile in Venice.
We then all hopped on the subway to ride to loer Manhattan. We walked to the old New York Times Building across from City Hall. Seth also described the unique featurs of the redstone Potter Building next door….both of which we had seen many times but never really noticed…..or appreciated!
One of his favorite buildings is the Woolworth Building. It was the tallest in the world from 1913-29 due to improvements in fireproofing, plumbing, steel construction, elevators, and interior lighting that allowed skyscrapers to get taller and taller. It symbolized the modern spirit of America at that time.
We made a stop at the Equitable Building which is often overlooked but has made a major impact on NYC regulations. Due to its height and massive size, it was not well-received when erected in 1915 since it blocked sunlight from reaching the street for a fifth of a mile. This led to the 1916 rule, still enforced today, that all buildings must be stepped back to allow sunlight onto the streets.
We ended at the Frank Gehry 2011 highrise known as 8 Spruce Street, the tallest residence in NY. Its skin is composed of stainless steel that appears to be twisted upon itself. From a distance it looks like water is running down the sides. New Yorkers seem to either love it or hate it.
Seth’s partner, Martin, met us at City Hall Park and brought copies of Seth’s book, Skyscrapers of New York. It is now one of our favorite NY treasures and a great memory of this interesting day. Martin is also a retired Rutgers professor of art history and known for his knowledge of Tiffany glass. He is often called on for appraisals. He was as charming and interesting as Seth, if that is possible!
We ended the afternoon by having late lunch/dinner in Chinatown with Seth and Martin. They took us to one of their favorite restaurants, New Green Bo, and ordered many delicious dishes .
Seth has a sister in Manhattan, Evan Michaelson, whose store is featured on the Discovery channel on a show called Oddities. This East Village store is called Obscura Antiques and Oddities. We were hoping to get to it this afternoon but did not make it…..we were just too full and too tired. Den and I have it on our list for another day.
We had a great adventure with Seth today and I am only sorry that I did not take a class from him in September when we first arrived…..but how could I have known? His dynamic presentation has stimulated us both to learn more about architecture and about skyscrapers.
On Monday Gail and I spent the day shopping on the upper west side. We walked around this bustling area of shops and historic apartment buildings (Dakota, Ansonia, Alpthorp, etc). We stepped into Barney’s for a quick perusal but did not buy a thing. Then we bought rugula and coffee at Zabar’s. We had lunch at the upstairs cafe at Fairways Market, a local large grocery that seems to be favored by many New Yorkers and, unfortunately, is not near our home. As we were sitting by the window, we noticed the large crowd gathering outside and the street being blocked. Most spectators were Asian and many had white long scarves as well as bright yellow/orange banners. It turned out that the Dali Lama had been in NYC and was going by on his way out of town so we got to see the motorcade.
In the afternoon Gail was only able to find five pairs of shoes to buy (one was for Addie so only four for herself!) plus a new totebag/handbag……so one would call the day a total success. We came home on the crosstown bus and collapsed. We went to dinner at Jubilee, a charming French restaurant just around the corner from our apartment. We all had mussels which were divine……and we can’t wait to go back there.
The last day was an adventure into midtown, but our first stop was Tiffany’s where Gail needed to pick up an engraved bracelet. We went to customer service on the 6th floor overlooking Central Park and 5th Avenue, and that in itself was an experience. We had our own private booth for the transaction. The woman assisting us felt that the bracelet had not been shined enough (plus a link had to be removed), so she insisted on sending it back to the jeweler to make it perfect. In the meantime, she suggested we browse the fourth floor that displayed china and leather goods. Gail fell in love with a green and espresso leather bag and bought it on the spot…..to Gail from Gail! Once she had her new bracelet we were on our way to our next stop which was not so successful.
Addie loves the music group called One Direction, and we knew there was a store here selling merchandise for that group. From Tiffany’s we took the bus to the Penn Station area but could not find the store. We stopped into a hotel and I asked the concierge for assistance. She told me that she was asked about this store at least 60 times a day by people who cannot find it…….because it does not exist! It was a “pop-up” store that was erected for a month around the time of the One Direction concert in NY and then it was closed. Silly us…..it shows just how little we are in touch with these things. Alas!
We were happy to leave that rather undesirable area and walked to Bryant Park, the park behind the New York Public Library. This is a favorite spot and was an ideal place for an outdoor lunch and lemonade on this beautiful fall day. We then popped into the library for the 2:00 tour.
I had been on the tour the first week we arrived but happily took it again. This is one of the great sights and institutions of NY and I happily took more photos.
On our trip home we stopped in Grand Central for a quick look at the magnificent ceiling and then into the Chrysler Building to catch the subway.
We were all too weary for dining out so we ate some Trader Joe’s frozen food at home. Then Denny and I hopped on the subway for an evening discussion at 92nd Street Y, a well-known NY institution that has a plethora of classes, activities, and presentations daily. We heard a discussion between Jeff Greenfield and Michael Bechschloss about the new book by JG called If Kennedy Lived, a speculation on the remainder of his first term and a full second term. Jeff Greenfield was the editor of The Daily Cardinal when we were at U of Wisconsin, so we have followed him for years. Michael Bechschloss is often on shows with Doris Kerns Goodwin, and they are regarded as two astute American historians. He was totally charming and the evening was so interesting. Den and I had both recently read Killing Kennedy, so we were already thinking about JFK and the upcoming anniversary of his death. We arrived home a bit past 10 and Gail was in her jammies. We stayed up for another hour talking history!
The next morning she was off in a cab for the Port Authority terminal and a trip to New Jersey to meet up with old Fisher friends, Ethyl and Jim Frankenthaler. We told her that although she would have a lot of fun with them, she would probably not buy five more pairs of shoes there! This visit would be a hard act for her to follow.