Friday, April 30, 2010

Day Six: Central Park - Woohoo!

I've always wanted to visit Central Park. Always. Obviously, we visited a section of it yesterday - and it was beautiful - but today's visit was to some of the more famous sections of the park. It was really exciting :) We walked for a good couple of hours (my feet aren't entirely convinced that it wasn't a good several hours), and had a marvelous time. It was Saturday, so there were a lot of people out at the park, but I really think that just made the whole thing that much better :)

The afternoon started with another trip on the subway. Yep. Still find the subway super exciting :)

So. We went to the section of the park us locals refer to as 'the 70s'. That's because it's in the horizontal strip of the park located around 72nd Street. We entered the park at 72nd street over on the West Side, and walked in a big circle through to the east side, down to 65th street, and back across and up again, so we exiting at the same spot we entered - Strawberry Fields.

Strawberry Fields is across the road from The Dakota - which is a beautiful (and very fancy) apartment building that's famous for a few different reasons - primary among them being that John Lennon was shot and killed as he exited the building. Yoko still lives there apparently :) And of course, Strawberry Fields is the place with the John Lennon 'Imagine' monument on the ground. It's a relatively small tiled plaza spelling 'Imagine', with a TON of people placing a TON of flowers on the monument, and a bunch of buskers playing Beatles songs :) Very iconic.

I should take a moment to give you a very quick side note: TONS of buskers all over this city. And almost all of them are incredibly talented. Opera singers in the subways etc. etc. Always enjoy listening to them.

So from Strawberry Fields we headed up to Cherry Hill - which has lots of Cherry Trees, and is right by the lake. When you see someone in a rowboat on a lake in Central Park (in a movie of course), this is the lake they're filming on. Of course, when there's not a film company paying so that you can be the only rowboat on the lake, you're one of MANY rowboats :) The lake was FULL! But I can still imagine that it's incredibly romantic :) And of course we walked over the bridge (famous as the place where Brecken took the photo of mum and dad looking like refugees from a tiny Eastern European country...). Loved it!

This is also where Justin and Reuben tried to have some fun with the boomerang that I brought for Justin. It was just too crowded for them to actually throw it properly, but luckily Reuben didn't know any better, so he was completely contended with some really sissy little boomerang throws :)

Next on the list was Bethesda Terrace. This is Brecken's favourite part of CP, and I can see why. It was really beautiful and very iconic. It has the boathouse from 27 dresses, the fountain from Enchanted (and a million other NY-centric movies), and the 100 year old reception centre where Brecken took some family photos recently (I think you'll recognize it). Unfortunately, the fountain was been renovated, so it was drained and covered in scaffolding. We did spend some time here taking photos though, and also spent a while watching a small group of hip-hop dancers who were very funny, and who had drawn a huge crowd of people - over a hundred I would say. Brecken says they're there every Saturday, and they perform at the bottom of a very large and wide staircase between the terrace and the upper road. So the crowd was in a ring around the stage area, as well as all the way up on the stairs, and lining the bridge up above. It was a lot of fun to watch them for a while, and they were very funny :) Then we took a bunch of phtos in the terrace:

Next on the list was the Conservatory Waters - which is the big pond where all the kids sale the remote control little sailboats. I recognized it from a movie - but can't remember which movie it was :) Anyone?! This is also where the big Hans Christian Anderson and Alice in Wonderland statues are. They were wonderful, and had kids crawling all over them :)

From there we walked on to The Mall, which is a beautiful big garden walk with the world's largest concentrate of American Elm trees. (Sidenote: I think we should all be a little concerned for the world's American Elm trees, because there was a nice gathering of them there, but it certainly didn't seem substantial enough to be the 'worlds greatest gathering' of them....). The great thing about The Mall was that it was set out to be a giant outdoor cathedral, so the trees are planted where the arches would be, and the floor plan for the park is a giant cross (lowercase t) shape. Very pretty.

We went down past the sheep meadow, and along some more walking paths before finally exiting out at The Dakota again. Such a wonderful afternoon with sunshine and beauty and excellent company :)

We then went to Dallas BBQ for dinner and had a giant feast - effectively putting back on every calorie we lost on our trek through Central Park :)

When we got home, we put the boys to bed, and we watched the latest episode of Bones on Hulu. If there's a better way to finish off a day, I don't know what it is.

REALLY love Central Park :)
xo Tammy

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day Five: Artopolis, Conservatory Garden & the MET

Okay. I realize I'm starting to over-use words like 'perfect' and 'delicious' and 'amazing' and 'gorgeous'... but I find the English language lacking in more fitting descriptive words (I'm sure you could help me out here mother?!). Because today really was another perfect day. The food was delicious, the gardens were gorgeous and the MET was amazing.

We started the morning a little late (my fault again. I stay up so late talking each night that I keep sleeping in (Emily, I know you'll find that hard to believe). And then when I DO get up, for some reason it keeps taking me ages to get ready. Grrrr). So we headed over to Artopolis for lunch. To say that this place is a hidden gem, would be a gross understatement. Brecken, Reuben and I split a chicken crepe and a yummy yummy salad (which was delicious even though it had berries in it!). And then.... (drum roll please).... we ordered dessert.

This place is heaven.

(I thought that sentence should be it's own paragraph).

Brecken and I ordered 3 fancy little desserts to share, but Reuben didn't want a fancy dessert, so we just ordered him a little bit of ice cream (which was technically gelato).

All three of our desserts were DIVINE. So we asked Reuben if we could try a little of his Gelato. The following two photos are not staged:

This is where the words begin to complete fail me. That ice cream was.... well... it was.... like.... the BEST ice cream I've ever had. It was chocolate hazelnut (I didn't bother with the strawberry), and it was.... like.... truly.... well, it was like a slice of frozen heaven. A dream within a dream. Real 'I'll have what she's having' stuff. I could have died after eating that ice cream, and it would have been okay. Everything worth doing, would have been done. Ahh. I'll be dreaming about that ice cream. I don't even LIKE ice cream that much normally... *happy sigh*

I kept stealing extra spoon fulls when Reuben wasn't looking, because I kept thinking 'surely it's not THAT good'. But ever time, I was left just speechlessly shaking my head. I REALLY was, THAT GOOD.

Okay, we finally left Artopolis. Brecken only got me out the door by promising we'd go back there again before I left (And don't worry, I have a backup plan if it someone falls off our list of things to do: It's right across the street from the hospital, so if we had to go THERE for some reason, I could totally sneak in some ice cream.... are you thinking what I'm thinking people?!)

Okay, okay. So we left Artopolis, and caught the bus up and around to the Conservatory Garden, which is in the North East section of Central Park. The Conservatory Gardens are beautifully landscaped and kept English gardens. And, well, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

And then we went on to the MET - The Metropolitan Museum of Art. WHAT a fabulous place! We did a kids tour/class with Reuben first, and it was a lot of fun. They had a medieval musician come and play a bunch of instruments and talk a little about medieval music. She was wonderful - very talented and really interesting for both the parents and the kids (and of course the Australian tag-a-longs). Then we ran through the European Painting, Drawings and Photography, 19th and 20th century Painting, Greek and Roman Art, and the Musical Instruments. We would have loved to spend even longer there as we were only just beginning to cover the tip of the iceberg, but we ran out of time (and the MET really isn't the most interesting place for a 4 year old).

Saw some really, really beautiful pieces of art though. I think the Monets were my favourites - although really, everything from that period (which is one of my favourites), was wonderful.

And then it was homeward bound :) Justin had made Macaroni and Cheese for us for dinner (that sounds like nothing special, but he used a whole bunch of different and yummy cheeses, and it was delicious!). Then I sent Brecken and Justin off on a date so they could spend a little time together. Justin's just handed in his MFA thesis portfolio (the day I arrived, I believe!), so Brecken had barely seen him for weeks before that :) They went to see the movie 'date night', and I think they had a good time. The boys fell asleep qickly and easily, and then I spent a couple of wonderful hours talking on the phone to everyone at home. So great to hear their voices and catch up a little on everything that's been going on.

Okay. That's me for another day! I think I'm going to have to get that 'I love NY' symbol you see on T-shirts tattooed to my forehead....

xo Tammy

PS. Oh, and if you hear that someone broke into Artopolis looking for their chocolate/hazelnut gelato recipe, and that the police have a suspect in custody, would someone please come and bail me out? Thanks!

Day Four: Riverside Park, Farmers Market, St. Johns & Sookks

Reuben has preschool on Mondays and Thursdays, and he loves it. It's a co-op preschool that some of the mothers in the ward (including Brecken) are a part of it. One of the mothers who got her degree in early childhood put together the syllabus and schedule, and then each mother takes care of hosting/running preschool for a week at a time. Reuben loves it every time, and Brecken loves it when it's the OTHER mothers' turn to take it :)

This morning Justin dropped Reuben off at preschool at 9am, and Brecken and I picked him up at 11:30am. They were all down at one of the playgrounds at Riverside Park for the last half hour (playtime), so that's where we went to pick him up. We had a lovely walk down there - I really really love Riverside Park (I think I mention it in my 'day one' post). It was also great to meet a couple of the other mothers who were picking their kids up, and to get a peak at Brecken's real NY lifestyle (as opposed to her playing-tourist-with-Tammy lifestyle). Most days Brecken says she'd stay a couple of hours at the park so Reuben could play, and it seems like lots of the other mothers do things like that too, so there's a really sociable neighbourly feeling to the whole thing - much more so than if you took your kid to the park in the suburbs :)

We got Reuben a SpongeBob icecream from the icecream truck (which looks nothing like SpongeBob), and then we headed off to the Farmers Market.

We forgot to take any photos of the farmers market, but it was really cute. Apparently it springs up there on the footpath outside Columbia University, every Thursday. They sold lots of fruit and vegetables and baked goods and fish. It was a lot of fun just to wander up and down there. Brecken got some apples for a pie she's going to make, and we got some asparagus, as well as a donut each :) I also got a little pumpkin pie from the people that grown the pumpkins and then make pies :) It was yummy!

While we were there, we also wandered onto the Columbia University campus, where Justin is just on the verge of graduating with his MFA in screenwriting. What a beautiful, beautiful campus! Such gorgeous old buildings with wonderful landscaping - and of course it was one of those perfect Spring days I remember so well from my BYU days. The kind of days that bring every student out onto the lawns and steps and paths, creating that laid-back, life-is-perfect mood that lulls every student into a false sense of security since their finals are JUST around the corner :) Incidently, Justin tells me they shot the Spiderman and Ghostbusters movies on Columiba's campus.

From the university, we set off for St. John's cathedral. It's a really, really beautiful cathedral - and very big. I think Brecken said it's the largest Gothic Cathedral in North America - but check the comments on this post in case Brecken needs to correct me :) Take a quick look at this link unless you're particuarly oppossed to Wikipedia (come on Abby & Emily, it's not as if I'm writing an English Assignment lol).

After the cathedral, we took 20-30 minutes to wander over to the Thai restraunt B&J love - Sookk. On the way, we passed a building with a plaque that made me go 'Brecken! Stop! Take a photo! This is where George GERSHWIN lived!' :) Brecken had actually never noticed it before (good thing she has me here to show here the TRUE gems of the city), so we took a photo :)

I realize that we only took a photo of the sign, so you have no idea what kind of building it was, but it was a nice building. Rest assured :) All the buildings are nice here in the upper west side. Really, I LOVE this neighbourhood.

We got to Sookk about 20minutes before Justin was supposed to meet us, so we walked over to a bench and took a seat to wait for him. This little part of the day was probably fairly forgettable for Brecken, but I loved it! Sitting on a bench watching the world go by? If I lived in NY, I reckon I'd do a lot of bench sitting :)

And then of course lunch (which was actually more like dinner at this point) was wonderful. Very yummy food, cute/trendy little restraunt, and lots of fabulous company and conversation. We spent a good couple of hours there, and the waitress took a photo of us on the way out - sorry it's so out of focus, but I thought you'd probably still prefer to see it.

It was starting to rain as we left the restraunt, so our plans to head on over to Central Park were deemed a bad idea. It was about 4 or 4:30pm by then anway, and I think we were all actually silently grateful that we could just go home. Actually, I'm not sure if Reuben was silently grateful not to go to the park... :)

We went home and watched 'You've Got Mail', since we still hadn't seen it since our trapse around the city. Such a great movie - I really do think it's got to be one of the more perfect examples of scripting in the Romantic/Comedy genre. And of course, it was fun to see all the places we'd been to.

Ahhhh. Another perfect day. Gotta say - I'm in love with this city. And I'm just a little chuffed to see that it really is as good as I always knew it would be - lol! I always SAID there was just a little New Yorker in me ;)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day Three: Times Square & BROADWAY!

Since I first heard of Broadway in NY and West End in London, it's been a bucket list dream of mine to see a show on both. I can't do too much about the West End part of that dream at the moment, but today, we did Broadway - twice! SO so so worth being a line on the bucket list :)

I had always thought that Broadway was a street in NY with all the theatres on it. It's not quite like that. Broadway is a really long street that pretty much runs the entire length (north to south, on the West side) of Manhattan. In fact, Brecken & Justin live on a street just off Broadway, but up on the upper west side. Broadway - as in where all the theatres are - seems to be more a standard, than a location, as lots and lots of the theatres are actually not ON Broadway.

But the theatre district is down in/around Times Square, and some of the theatres really are on the street called Broadway.

SO. We went down to Times Square at about 8:30am this morning, to make sure we were the box offices first up. They have a limited number of tickets that they always sell for cheaper on the day of a performance, and we thought that would be the best way to buy the tickets for today's shows. We had decided to see the play 'Lend me a Tenor' at 2pm, and then the musical 'Mary Poppins' at 8pm. We went to the theatres and purchased the tickets, and then we spent some time walking up and down times Square.

I LOVE Times Square! Really, really, really loved it. The energy and the sheer size of the place is really overwhelming. And for someone who loves to watch and read and analyze advertising - I was in heaven :) It got just a tiny bit overcast as we were taking these photos. I was trying to fix my hair before the photo, and I thought the photos Brecken took made a funny sequence :)

I also saw Samuel L Jackson, and had a nice chat with him too, so that was fun. I usually don't post photos of my side profile, but thought I'd better make an exception this time, so you could all have the chance to meet him too....

After a couple of hours there, we headed back to the upper west side to drop Reuben and Simeon at some friends house, so that Justin, Brecken and I could head back to see Lend me a tenor. Check it out quickly on this link if you have a second. This play was absolutely perfectly executed, and one of the funniest things I have ever seen. It was directed by Stanley Tucci, and it had his signature all over it. It was staring Anthony Lapaglia; the guy who plays Monk in 'Monk'; and the guy who was the sidekick in National Treasure (they all have real names and have done other things, but that's how you guys will all know them). The physical humour was really impressive, and the comedic timing was spot on - every single time. LOVED it, loved it, loved it. We laughed out loud for the entire 2 hours. It was a farce, so lots of doors opening and closing and people hid in closets and exited out one door as the person chasing them appeared through another etc. It had mistaken identity with confusion reigning, and an absolutely hilarious crazy angry Italian wife. So if any of you are out here for any reason during the next several months - go and see it!

Then we went back and picked up the boys so Brecken could feed Simeon. Justin took the boys home from there, and Brecken and I headed out for dinner and our evening show. It was so much fun to have some girl time with her, and I think we both really enjoyed it.

We went first to Care Lalo - the cafe from You've Got Mail. When we saw it the other day, I knew I would never be able to leave NY until we'd eaten there at night time :) We went in and took our seats, and spent at least 5 minutes admiring the cuteness of the store and the extensiveness of the deserts on display (we reckon there were at least 20-30 different cakes/pies). Then we opened the menu and looked for what we wanted to eat. We spent about 5-6 minutes looking through the menu, and everything looked 'wonderful', but nothing was actually jumping off the page at us - that's when we both suddenly realized that it was vegetarian restaurant! Nothing on the menu had any meat in it, which is why nothing was jumping out at either of us - haha! We had a good laugh when we realized, and then decided to order a spinach torte with a Mediterranean vegetable salad, and homemade guacamole and corn chips to share. Despite the fact that it was vegetarian place (lol!), we LOVED dinner. Everything was SO yummy and just crammed full of delicious flavours. We actually ran out of time for dessert, but dinner had been so great it wasn't a problem.

That last photo was actually taken by a guy in the building across the street who'd seen us taking photos of each other, and thought we might like a photo together - nice of him, huh?! :)

Then off we went to Mary Poppins - it was really wonderful. We'd picked this one because I wanted to have the chance to see a Broadway musical with the 'magic' of Broadway. Phantom, Cats, West Side Story and lots of other classics are playing, but I've seen them before (never here of course, but still), and thought it would be fun to see something else. Everyone in the show was fabulous, but that real star of the show would have to have been the sets. The house moved and changed and had secret magic tricks I still can't figure out (ie. Mary Poppins pulling everything out of her bag, etc.), and Bert walked upside down on the ceiling, and Mary Poppins flew through the air (ask mum & dad about it - they've seen it too). It was great :) Big grins on faces as we left.

So that was Broadway/Time Square day. I think you'll have to watch this space though, because there's another 'Broadway/Time Square/2 shows in one day' day coming up again next week! hahaha!

I'm addicted. *Happy sigh*

xo Tammy