10 November 2013

2013 NYC by Train 11 - Shop and Dine

After exiting Central Park, we saw this elegant gray building with twin facade "peaks." Upon closer inspection we realized that this entire side of the building was actually a canvas "blanket" that covered some renovation work from public view. Look for scaffolding on the street level. It had really tricked our eyes and I guess that was the point. Pretty cool.

We began our journey south from 59th to 45th and then east back to Beer Culture for lunch. Fifth Avenue must be one of the world's premier shopping areas. We are not too much into shopping mode these days, but really into window shopping. We were oohing and aahing all along the way as we headed south.

We saw many flagship stores such as Apple, Harry Winston, Ferragamo, Lord & Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman, several Georgio Armanis, Cartier, Gucci, the original Saks Fifth Avenue, Versace, Rolex, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, DeBeers, Prada, and many, many more. The Louis Vuitton store had quite an impressive display of golden dinosaurs in their front windows. We also saw Trump Tower with its huge old-fashioned 4-sided jewel-like clock out front.

Next we came across the Bulgari store. YES! If you have read the Janet Evanovich books about female bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, you know the cool, collected character, Ranger. He is a mystery man with lots of money who often comes out of nowhere to rescue Stephanie. This is not as racy as it sounds, but Steph sometimes showers at his place and loves his Bulgari Black Noir soap. Well, for years Mike has wanted some Bulgari Black Noir since first reading about it in the Plum series. And I have been secretly trying to get some, albeit unsuccessfully. Well, here was our chance.

Although we looked a bit raggedy as we had been tromping around all day, the doorman let us in. I guess we didn't look too intimidating and there were no celebrities on the premises at the moment. He directed us up the glamorous lighted glass stairway to cosmetics. A sales lady met us at the top and lead us to the counter. We stated what we were looking for, but she profusely apologized and said Bulgari no longer makes the Black Noir soap (boohoo for us).

What she did have was the Blanc (in her words, "It reflects the precious nature of white tea") and the Vert (lightly scented with green tea, bergamot and pepper). We were quite disappointed but opted to take the "green." She then casually had us sniff the "white" and we ended up getting one of those also. A mere $35 each. Yes, $35 EACH plus tax of 12.875%. Yikes! We didn't feel too bad though as we had only bought one t-shirt so far and had long been lusting after the Black soap. This was our best substitute and a good one under the circumstances. But the Bulgari experience was not over.

Our sales lady took her time in packaging our products in a fancy card board box, in tissue paper, in another gift box, and finally in a little Bulgari shopping bag. She added her business card and got our e-mail for "soap" updates.

As she was carefully wrapping, we chatted about this and that. Mike asked if I liked the little studded clutch in a glass display on the counter. I said it was beautiful and the sales lady said it was a mere (she didn't really say "mere") $5,000. Not today, thanks. We mentioned we were from San Francisco and she had family there and then we got into our travels. All very personal, but comfortably so.

After packaging, she asked if we were thirsty and, now that she mentioned it, we were." Did we want still or sparkling water?" She lead us downstairs where we waited a few minutes. The jewelry cases were filled with diamond and gold everything, leather goods, watches, and other luxury accessories. There were bouquets of lovely live and exotic floral arrangements adorning the counters.

We felt a bit out of place and out of our element at that point. Soon she brought our sparking crystal glasses of sparkling crystal clear water on a silver tray. We chug-a-lugged and were on our merry way. This little experience was pretty cool (we felt rich for 20 minutes), but very surreal.

Continuing down Fifth Avenue, we passed historic St. Patrick's Cathedral. It was built during 1858-1879 and a very impressive building it was. I'm sure it is beautiful, but at this moment in time, it was being renovated and is covered in scaffolding. Robert F. Kennedy's funeral mass was conducted here among other notable (and religious) things. Learn more about it at: www.saintpatrickscathedral.org/about_history.php

The next interesting place we encountered was the famous Rockefeller Center and Plaza. This is actually a complex of 19 commercial buildings between 48th and 51st Streets and between 5th and 6th Avenues. The TV show 30 Rock took place here in the GE Building, where the NBC Studios are located. Among other TV stations and related businesses is also Radio City Music Hall, home of the women's precision dance team The Rockettes. In the lower plaza during summer there is a Green Market, an open air farmer's market, operating three days a week. In winter an ice skating rink and New York's huge Christmas tree are located here.

The centerpiece of the plaza is Paul Manship's huge, bronze-gilded statue of Prometheus "bringing fire to mankind," from Greek mythology. Surrounding the plaza are some 200 flags belonging to members of the United Nations, US states and territories, and decorative or holiday motifs. This area is filled with art deco building decor, statuary, wall engravings, lots of bronze, and more. Everywhere you turn is something artistic, creative, beautiful. I mean you ever seen a more beautiful tree grate in your life!!

Once we got to 45th Street we diverted east toward Beer Culture (where we had visited yesterday). It was so much fun that we decided to return today for lunch. I was yearning for their hot Caprese sandwich (tomato, fresh mozzarella, arugula) and Mike wanted the Panino Italiano (Italian meats and cheeses). Our feet were aching, but we were glad we plodded a few extra steps out of our way to get back here. We were not let down. Good beer and good food. This place gets a double recommendation from us.

While winding our way back to our hotel, we looked for a new route with new sights. We noticed the Diamond District with its huge diamond-shaped street lights. As we had earlier blown our money wad on soap (!!!) and were not really in the market today for jewelry, we continued to our hotel without even window shopping. Our feet were raw from walking, but heads happy with the thrill of the sights, smells, sounds, and food of NYC. We gave our feet and heads a rest and took a little siesta.

Sunset in NYC today was 7:58pm. As we headed out to dinner it was just about that time. We were well rested and not starved and did not mind a little wait. We decided to try John's Pizzeria again. As we headed east down 44th Street we saw a sunset straight ahead between the skyscrapers, with colors reflecting in every direction from their mirrored windows. It was stunning! When we reached John's we almost hated to go in and miss even a minute of nature's light show.

But then...we wanted to get on the waiting list, if there was one. And there was. It gave us a little time to look around before being seated. This was John's third location and it was spectacular. The building was originally the Gospel Tabernacle Church, built in 1888. It was now converted to the largest pizzeria in the country. We've even seen it on Food Network.

In the lobby was a cool Peter Max painting (one of our favorite artists). In the back was a beautiful stained glass ceiling canopy and an upper level where we imagined the choir used to sing. (My photo of this did not turn out well, but you can see one at:  www.johnspizzerianyc.com/More-Info/Our-History). There was also a LARGE (compare with man at bottom right) wall mural of Manhattan Island in the "old" days.

NYC is known for pizza by the slice, but not here. That was quite alright with us as we were hungry by this time. We ordered a Margarita (mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and basil) with mushrooms added. As you can see it was quite big, but we polished it off. It was soooooo good. Oh, fold before you eat!

After that we waddled back to our hotel and, with full bellies, collapsed into bed for a good night's sleep.

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If you have visited any of these places, we would love to hear your comments. Or send us recommendations of places we should not miss.