New York: Day Nine

Our last day in New York started with breakfast at Café Henri, the posh diner down the road. After poached eggs on muffins and an amazing Grand Marnier hot chocolate for Ben, we popped into the pet shop around the corner to pick up a treat for Alfie, who had been missing us.
We popped over to Dick Blick in Manhattan to pick up some art supplies, before stopping by the Flatiron Building, then heading over to the UN gift shop. We’d hoped to visit the UN during the week so our translator friend could give us a tour of the building, but sadly the trip was rained off, literally.
The UN have a lot of signs up. The security procedures feel positively airportesque. However, no liquids. Not even a mini bottle of shampoo is allowed to pass into the building. Thank God we weren’t staying there for a week!
There was actually not one but two gift shops in the basement of the UN, as well as a Post Office. On the ground floor, there is a place where you can have stamps printed with your own face. All of these places are staffed by crazy people. We managed to pick up a selection of tacky souvenirs for people, with the most exciting being a postcard of Kofi Annan for my mum (posted with a special UN stamp).
Obviously I wasn’t going to be happy leaving that place until I’d got a stamp with my face on it. I’d assumed it would be quite a professional arrangement, but instead it was an eccentric lady shouting and taking photos with a point and shoot digital camera. The whole process was punctuated by various members of a Chinese tour group just wandering in and trying to go behind the mysterious curtain where she kept the printer. She told them there was a monster back there, but I don’t think they understood.
As we stood admiring our stamps (the quality of the above picture does them justice perfectly), a Chinese man came over and had a close look with us. Presumably he wanted to see the monster.

New York: Day Eight

An hours metro ride to go and see some Russians? That sounds reasonable. Unfortunately I was a little sick so the hours metro ride was followed by an hour of walking round, and then an hour of metro ride home. Both journeys punctuated by coughing fits.
It was worth it though. I love being by the seaside, and this was just wonderful. We had hotdogs from Nathan’s while watching a film being made, then we walked along the front to Brighton Beach.
This place combined my two great loves – Russia and Brighton. Sort of. The Russians were there in force, and there was beach, but where were the pebbles? Where were the hippies? Still, it was a great experience, walking round an all American looking place while hearing snatches of Russian phone conversations, watching elderly folk sitting around shooting the breeze in their swimsuits.


New York: Day Seven

After a busy week it was a real treat to take it easy today, staying in the flat and chatting with my friend while she went about her work (she’s an artist). For lunch, we got Philly cheese steak wraps from the local posh supermarket, because we’re fancy like that. 

In the evening we had a couple of drinks in the coffee shop/cocktail bar on the ground floor of their building before heading to Skinny’s for some mexican food. Both lovely. 
Ben finally found the time to arrange his camera equipment in such a way as to take this amazing night shot of the Manhattan skyline, seen from the balcony. 

New York: Day Six

The weather did not look promising this morning, so we decided to head over to MoMA for some arty tourism. We got a little lost on the way there, because apparently I am incapable of understanding the seemingly simple road layout of Manhattan. I had great difficulty in remembering which streets and avenues I was meant to be heading for – strange how it became such an issue when numbers were involved. Anyway, with the help of a businessman, we found the museum. Did I mention how friendly New Yorkers seem when you’re used to Brussels and South East England?
The museum itself was pretty interesting, and the trip passed very quickly, but by the time we got into the most modern sections I was a bit sick of it all. One room contained a piece of steel you could walk on (also known as a floor?), and another contained something which looked liked the innards of my hoover.
I was left feeling a bit confused and scared, and also a bit sad that these things were so successful, when talented artists who are actually making interesting things, which require some skill, are not recognised. But, well, each to their own. It probably took a lot of work to hoover up that amount of yuck.
I sound like my mum (actually worse, she quite likes modern art).
There was an exhibition on called A Trip from Here to There, which featured various pieces of work based on travel, including some inked in maps which I was quite taken with. The photography exhibition was also good, although I can’t for the life of me remember who the photographer was (English, portraits, some celebrity, some normal people, some nudes). Bad blogger didn’t take notes.
As we left the museum it started spitting. About five minutes along our walk to the secret Japanese restaurant where we were going for lunch, the heavens truly opened and we were left huddled under a small umbrella between us. Deciding that it would probably be quicker to continue walking than to find a subway station, we powered on, getting more and more wet with each passing second.
Eventually, soaked to the skin, we reached Sakagura. To enter, you go through what I think is an office building, past a doorman and down some stairs into a little slice of Japan. There are buddhist prayer flags lining the archways, and old sake bottles along the walls. The waitresses are friendly and the service is quick. We thawed out with a cup of green tea while perusing the menu. Ben and I both went for the Kamo Namban, a soba noodle soup with slices of roast duck and shiitake mushrooms. It was an excellent choice, and just spicy enough to ward off the chill.

New York: Day Five

We had waited long enough. The time had come to head down to Brooklyn and behave like the vintage shopping, retro camera toting hipsters we were born to be. 
We hopped off the subway in Williamsburg and walked down toward the Brooklyn Brewery to Beacon’s Closet. A very nicely arranged, if somewhat hectic vintage store. After browsing for a while, I came out with a breton striped gap dress, which is going to look super chic with some ballet pumps and a little blazer. 
After wandering round a little more, Ben picked up a few tops in American Apparel, where he was, of course, complimented on his camera – people are very vocal about complimenting you, which is a lovely change. 
We met friends for lunch in Shake Shack, hopped over to the Gap outlet, and then made our way through Brooklyn Heights to the ferry terminal in Dumbo, where we paused for ice cream. 
Next on the list: an exhilarating ferry ride back to Long Island City.