Thursday, July 16, 2015

NYC Part 2: Chelsea Market, High Line Park, MOMA Sculpture Garden, Birdland, The Strand Bookstore, Jazz Standard

The first Sunday we were in New York we went to Chelsea Market. It used to be a Nabisco Factory (where they make Oreo cookies) but the first floor has been re-purposed into a market, and the top floors are offices and businesses. 

There are still some signs of its past life as a Nabisco Factory, like this gushing pipe that has been turned into a water feature. It changes colors. And this mural painted on the brick wall. 

The market itself is really cool. It reminded me a bit of Pike Place Market in Seattle. There are tons of restaurants, and a few stores. We saw a really cute independent bookstore, and there were so many options for food - sushi, soup, grilled cheese,  "Thai-inspired Mexican."

After seeing everything we decided to try the famous Lobster Place. This place was a huge seafood market and restaurant. We saw people eating whole lobsters for lunch. There was a counter full of different types of chowder in pots and one guy's entire job was to man and maintain the chowder counter. Stephen got a lobster roll sandwich and I got a crab cake sandwich. Both were delicious.

We went to another place in Chelsea Market, the Doughnuttery. They had a chalkboard signing urging patrons to "Treat Yo'Self!" which we did. We had never seen mini donuts like this before. At home our mini-donuts are powdered with cinnamon sugar. These ones were glazed and had rainbow sprinkles. We ordered a dozen but the guy working there put them in two separate bags (one each) and gave us extra so we could try the glazed and the sprinkled. Super nice guy! and the donuts were delicious, by the way.  

After lunch we went up to High Line Park, which is right near the Chelsea Market. It used to be an elevated railway but it was abandoned and weeds and native plants started growing there. People would climb up and hang out there. When the city made plans to dismantle it a group of people banded together to save the space and turned it into a beautiful public park with street access. When we got up, we walked to the one end we were closest to, then turned around and walked the entire length to the other end. It is a really beautiful and neat place. There were lots of people relaxing, reading, and sunbathing up there since it was Sunday.

We saw these pink coneflowers in lots of parks in New York City. They are native to New York and the bees love them. 

We saw a lot of beautiful sculptures in the park, and some really cool murals. 

At the very end of our walk on the High Line we came across this collaborative art piece where people are encouraged to build something out of white Lego and contribute to the sculpture. 

I made a peace sign because I saw a lot of hearts but no peace signs. It was hard to make it round but I think it turned out okay. It's a good message. 

Stephen said, "I wanted to create something natural out of something mechanical, like High Line Park." He made a beautiful Lego bonzai tree. 

After the park we wanted to see the famous Chelsea Hotel but it was under construction. We saw the plaques on the outside dedicated to famous people who lived there like Dylan Thomas and Arthur Miller, and famous people who wrote there like Virgil Thomson and Arthur C. Clarke, and famous people who wrote about the place like Leonard Cohen. 

That night we went to the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) to see a free concert. Every Sunday night in July they have a free concert in partnership with Juilliard, called Summergarden because it is in the beautiful sculpture garden at the MOMA. 

The sculpture garden was beautiful and peaceful. I especially loved the sculptures above. 

The concert was the Juilliard New Music Ensemble performing contemporary music. One of the composers was in attendance at the concert. I am generally not a fan of new music, I prefer jazz or classical but it was a nice way to start the evening. 

We went to a second concert that night at Birdland. Birdland was a popular jazz club in the 50s and 60s where all the greats played. It is named for Charlie Parker, whose nickname was Bird. The club closed in 1965 due to rent increases. The new location opened in the 80s and is not far from the original. My husband and I actually met and became friends playing in a jazz band together in high school. We are both jazz lovers so it was cool to be in such an iconic place seeing live music performed. 

The group we saw was the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. They were amazing. We had a front row table. They played some classic Latin songs, they played some famous jazz songs like Amandla, which I know from Miles Davis, they did a fun piece called Wild Jungle which was a battle between the tenor saxes. The solos were great and the band was really tight. We got to talk to the director/alto sax player after the set. He was cool. It was a great show and a really amazing experience. 

The next day we took it easy a bit. We actually ended up getting a little lost in Brooklyn because Brooklyn is huge, and not easy to navigate like Manhattan and we were caught in a neighborhood with no subway stations nearby. So that was frustrating. But when we made it back to Manhattan we went to The Strand Bookstore. The first time I heard about the The Strand I knew I had to go. The store boasts "over 18 miles of new, used, and rare books" and the logo is "Where books are loved." Sounds like my kind of place. 

The store is four stories with every genre of book, essay, short story, poem etc. you could want. They also have records in the basement so Stephen was happy browsing while I explored the rest of the store. I ended up getting a few books and a beautiful floral tote bag with the store's logo on it, and of course a postcard for my collection. 

I got Tarantula by Bob Dylan (New York writer), Great House by Nicole Krauss (NY writer I love), and 20 Under 40: Stories from the New Yorker, a compilation of stories from New Yorker magazine by 20 authors under the age of 40 from around the world. 

That night we went to another jazz show at Jazz Standard. We saw the Mingus Big Band (tribute band to Charles Mingus). They were great. We love big bands and the vibe of the show was entirely different from the Latin band the night before. It was sloppier and looser. The solos were great and they played some really great tunes. They were remembering the loss of one of their band members who had passed away 10 years earlier. The concert was just after the anniversary so they were telling stories about this guy and playing some of his arrangements. It was a nice personal touch and made the show we saw unique. 

We were lucky enough to get front row seats again and it was a great show. 

Check out my packing tutorial for advice about packing for New York in the summer, and some general tips.

Check out the rest of our NYC trip:
Part 1
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

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