I'm not a fan of buses, I don't do subways (hate being underground) and the train sits just slightly above both-- its a hassle, no question, but it's a fairly convenient way to get into one of the greatest cities in the world. Longtime readers will note that I didn't call New York THE Greatest any longer-- Tokyo easily takes that for me. New York is a great American city-- but its among a list of favorites including Portland Oregon, San Francisco, Cambridge and New Haven (yes I know New Haven might sound like a surprise pick but more in a minute).
It'd been about six months since we'd been to New York and unlike most other trips this one didn't have a client meeting involved-- it did, but the client lost power and hadn't regained it by Friday so we had to reschedule.
Still one of the easiest walking cities-- easy to figure out how to get to 34th street and Fifth Avenue thanks to the grid system-- it gets a bit more complicated once you get to SoHo but the train lets you off at Grand Central and my walking radius is about 40 blocks total, after that you're getting into some serious hoofing, in fact we clocked in about five miles of walking going in a big circle starting at The Grand Central Area, then through midtown and over to downtown.
We had some great food including Le Pain Quotidien at 44th Street and Madison Avenue-- its seriously good fresh ingredients with simple preparation that emphasizes the quality. The Coffee is amazing and is served in bowls and if you're a desert person you'll be thrilled here (I'm not, but the fresh bread with the cranberry chutney was out of this world). We'd found this place by accident last time we were here across Bryant Park from Kinokuniya Book Store which is a great japanese bookstore at 1073 Sixth Avenue (now called Avenue of the America's but not by me). That location was closed due to the power loss but had a sign in the window to check out the other location just a few blocks away and it was equally as good. The one near Kinokuniya is bigger and has more elbow room so if you like space when you eat that's the place to go.
Book Off at West 45th Street is a great used DVD/Bookstore which is a Japanese chain and this is there only US location-- the ones in Japan are incredible-- this one is a bit americanized for my tastes and a little more crowded but if you want to find great Manga or DVDs cheap this is the place to go.
We walked a few avenues and a dozen or so blocks and hit the Tick Tock Diner which is connected to the Hotel New Yorker on Eighth Avenue and 34th Street. There are a lot of diner's in New York City, and many of them (like the Cosmic in Times Square) are fake touristy type things- but this one is legit. You can get two eggs, toast and french fries (!?) for $6 they also have great coffee.
From there we walked the Garment District down to the Flat Iron Building and found there was no power from around 31st street down. Panhandling was out of control-- not normally that big of an issue I thought we were in Northampton by the amount of people who asked for handouts.
Ed Note: Now before you crack out the violins and start chiming in that I have no sympathy for people who just went through a horrible storm and are merely trying to survive let me explain something to you about when panhandling is appropriate: NEVER. I don't care if you've lost your wallet and your car was stolen and you are desperate to contact home-- get yourself to the nearest police station and they will help you. Too often the panhandler is just feeding an addiction or they are getting money from someone who feels threatened, which is not much different from mugging someone is it? I'm 5'10" 200lbs so I'm far from small but I've saw some pretty aggressive behavior including one that Veronica nearly had to break up when he went too far. NOTHING says your city is dying than letting people sit on the street and beg for money like some kind of Dickens novel.
It was getting dark and it was surprising how hard it was to see, the streets illuminated only by the headlamps of the hundreds of taxis that still whipped past despite the lack of traffic signals. Part Time Police did their best to direct traffic but in many cases they were ignored. I heard people angrily talking about no power, no gasoline and their patience being strained. It was easy to imagine how much worse this could get if things weren't put back to normal soon.
We headed back uptown avoiding Times Square (which happens to be not one of our favorite places-- neither of us like the throngs of tourists constantly stopping to oogle the lights) since I can't see myself going to Olive Garden or Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory and back to Grand Central where we caught the nearly empty 8pm train back to New Haven.
Next Sunday; New Haven-- a great city that is overshadowed by New York, why Yale is better than Harvard and a whole host of other things about one of my favorite places.