Friday, July 29, 2011

Riding the steel rails north to Brooklyn began early for the Morgans (7:38 a.m.) but what a nice, relaxing way to travel. We arrived on time and made our way by late afternoon to the Blue Porch B&B in a multi-ethnic neighborhood of Victorian houses in the middle of Brooklyn.

The proprietors welcomed us to their beautiful home and gave us a quick orientation to the area. As hosts, Trudy and Paul are very friendly, helpful, interesting people who make sure your stay is very comfortable and pleasant. We highly recommend the Blue Porch to anyone traveling to NYC.

After relaxing and freshening up long enough to let thunder storms arrive, we headed out on foot to a local restaurant. It is so neat to be in a place where blacks, whites, Jews, Muslims, Afghanis, Asians, etc. all live and work together in a safe, tolerant neighborhood. The diversity makes life so much more interesting. The drops, then rain began to fall and a down pour found us in front of a restaurant full of we figured this must be the place to eat. The food was great at The Farm on Adderly which it turns out is one of our host's favorite restaurants. Tired from the day's travels, we headed back to the B&B and retired for the night.


Today's main event was to head to Broadway to see Memphis. On our way, we walked through the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; a beautiful place that was suffering a bit from the recent drought and heat.

Likewise, we were suffering from the heat and dripping wet from sweat as we walked along the paths seeking shade! Back on the subway, we cooled down and headed for Times Square.

We ate a nondescript lunch, took in the sights and queued up for Memphis in front of the Shubert Theater.

When we were seated, the first thing we noticed was the two lead parts were being sung by understudies. Well, it didn't matter...they were great and the show is fabulous! You laugh, you cry, you sway, and you clap and tap to the Memphis beat. Memphis is also a very serious commentary on race in the U.S. in the twentieth century.

After the show, Gretchen and I took the subway to 14th street where we walked on the High Line Trail for a few blocks. The trail is an abandoned elevated railroad that has been converted into a beautiful landscaped walking path (currently a length of about 17 blocks). With views of the Hudson River, gentle breezes and great people watching, it was a fine place to stroll even on a scorchingly hot day!

Heading home on the subway, we realized it was after 6:00 p.m. So we decided to stop in Brooklyn Heights to eat dinner and then checkout the Promenade at sunset. Jack the Horse Tavern provided a wonderful meal (scallops and red quinoa with and olive carmel sauce plus sea bass with large couscous and a red pepper sauce plus a tasty pale ale) and we arrived on the Promenade at sunset were we watched the day fade and the lights come on in the Manhattan skyline. Quite a sight, not to be missed.


Today was dedicated to going to a Yankee's game at the new stadium in the Bronx. Luckily, we found our seats in the shade. A really good stroke of luck because it was so hot we would have had heat stroke in the sun. Great entertainment, good pitching duel and a 4-2 Yankee victory over the Orioles made for a fun day.

By the time we got back to the B&B and cooled down, it was time for supper. We walked to Courtelyou Street and ate at Mimi's Hummus. Great hummus, whole wheat pita bread to die for and intro to a new dish for us called Shakshuka Eggs (eggs in a Moroccan style tomato stew) was a delightful meal; with tastes not found in our area of the country! I really need to get into making my own hummus!


Exploring the neighborhoods in Brooklyn was the agenda for today; Gretchen and my 41st anniversary! How is that possible? First stop was Coney Island where we strolled on the boardwalk for a few blocks. It was really hot in the sun even at 11:00 a.m.!

Obviously, we didn't visit when all the rides and masses of people were there, but it is clear that Coney Island has seen better days. Oh well, quickly on to Brighton Beach; an easy stroll down the boardwalk if it was not so hot. Brighton Beach is the Russian enclave in NYC which is evident from the cyrillic letters on the storefronts and folks speaking Russian everywhere. We strolled the street under the elevated trains and explored some of the shops. The food stores are really unique with prepared Russian dishes and canned and packaged goods from Russia and former eastern block countries.

Successfully riding the subway to one's intended destination, takes hands on practice and our next two stops today gave us plenty. First, we made our way to Williamsburg where we strolled the yuppie section outlined on the walking tour card we had. We stopped for a nice lunch at a cafe filled with locals (but we both swear there was MSG on the salad...bummer). So we thought that a beer at the Brooklyn Brewery would wash the MSG from our palates. Unfortunately, the brewery was closed! So it was on to Brooklyn Heights via Manhattan where we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Clouds moving in, a nice breeze and great views made for a worthwhile stroll even on a very hot afternoon. After a stop at Jacque Torres Chocolates, we walked through Brooklyn Heights and found the Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims. Unfortunately, it was closed by the time we got there so we could not see the Tiffany windows in this historic church that was a stop on the underground railroad. Dinner back in the neighborhood at The Ox Cart (sword fish burger, homemade blueberry, cherry, peach pie and a good Valpolicello) topped off the day.


Ground Zero was our first stop today. It is a hub of construction activity with the memorial taking shape and one of the skyscrapers rising from the ashes. Good views are available from the World Financial Center and the Winter Garden to the west of the site. On the east side is Saint Paul's Chapel, Manhattan's oldest church (1766), and a shelter for rescue workers following the bombing of the Twin Towers.

A late lunch at Chelsea Market and a pale ale at the Chelsea Brewing Company, passed the time until our afternoon sail on the Adirondack III, a sailing schooner that took us down the Hudson to the Statue of Liberty for wonderful views of NYC's skyline. Good sailing in 10-12 knot winds. I even recognized Steven's Institute of Technology on the NJ side where I had attended many conferences. (BTW, we had walked through the second floor of the Chelsea Market building on the High Line Trail a few days ago and did not know it existed!) Back to Mimi's Hummus for a quick dinner and we retired for the night.


Visiting NYC certainly puts you in a different world than we experience in central Virginia. All of the hustle and bustle, the ethnic neighborhoods, the culture and entertainment makes for a lively visit. The temperature was 90-95 degrees here during our stay and we were amazed at all of the large residential buildings that do not have air conditioning. Although the subway cars are air conditioned, the stations are stifling! Considering the living conditions, the commutes and the pace, we wondered if living and working in the city knocks a few years off of the life span of residents? We were amazed at the quality of the food in the small neighborhood restaurants; absolutely one of the highlights of our trip! I really do need to made my own hummus and maybe whole wheat pita bread! We had a great trip and boarded the train to Lynchburg tired but filled with great memories of the City and it's people! Wonderful anniversary celebration!


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