Sue and Jake had come in on the red eye from Vancouver at 9am that morning, and it was just past noon when we arrived, so we headed out for lunch at the Stage Door deli, a block away. Good food, and a plate heaped with 8 pickles (though a couple weren't picked through, more cucumber like), sorted us out for the afternoon. Ted, Jake's brother, called to say that he and Alexis were close (they'd also flown in to Newark), and they were able to get the key left for them at the desk and into the room before we got back. We'd walked around Madison Sq garden, past the Empire State building, and up to the NY public library's lion statues, before heading back to the hotel. The crowds were insane and I was starting to worry for my sanity over the weekend.
Back to the hotel and we chatted with Ted and Alexis for a while, then headed out to the subway to wander around Greenwich Village. We went past Tea and Sympathy, and I popped in to get some tea, and we ran into the owner. The others were treated to a bit of a rant from her while I browsed the tea selection, and the clerk put a free chocolate bar into my bag as I checked out. We popped into Flight 001 and I picked up a tiny mp3 player speaker. We also stopped for coffee at one point, as everyone was flagging due to a long day. My knee had started hurting a lot, so I bailed and took the subway back to the hotel and let them wander onwards.
Dinner was a bit of a debate, mostly because we had too many options, but we finally settled on one and headed out again via subway. But the plan didn't survive the first encounter with a likely looking Thai place (we were all hungry and tired), and we were able to get a table for 6 with no problems. I think we got there around 7pm, by 8pm it was pretty crowded. The food was good, and the thai iced tea that I had was just enough of a kick to keep me going but not keep me up too late. We stopped in at Jack's Bar and Restaurant (I think), grabbing a table at the front and settling in for drinks. They went with beers and I tried a (very sour) mojito first (had to add a packet of sugar, I'd asked the bartender if I could get another shot of simple syrup in it, and he said he didn't have any - I guess that was why it was so sour...), and then a chocolate martini as we'd been talking about a restaurant that Sue and Jake took me out to where I had a chocolate martini with hollow chocolate balls in them (Earl's). The martini was a winner, very good. Back to the hotel, and I grabbed my shower that night to ease up the burden in the morning. We pulled out the sofa bed and collected pillows from closets and settled in, for a chilly night as it turned out, as it took us a day to figure out how to get the steam heat on and staying on.
Our plan to grab a table at around noon at Alice's Teacup was foiled by the 1.5 hour wait, so we called up Christina and agreed to meet at Fig and Olive for lunch instead. Oh, so good. We started with a cheese plate appetiser, six cheeses for a stupid amount of money, but they were delicious, and we had almost enough toasted bread to spread it all on. :) I had a salmon tartine (which is an open faced sandwich, not a small tart) that was delicious, though my accompanying salad was a bit too drenched in (good) olive oil. Christina split to do errands and then meet up with us again for dinner, and Jake took off to the Neue Galerie to see the Van Gogh exhibit, while Sue went with Cris and me to the MET to see the Venice and the Muslim world exhibit. We ended up splitting again to each run through at our own pace (I *just* managed to make it to the one of a kind craft display, it was really neat), and met up at Maison du Chocolate, grabbing uber delicious (and expensive) hot chocolate to go when we found the cafe closed. We took the bus back from Central Park to Penn Station and walked back to the hotel from there.
Everyone was back, but an iron malfunction burned Jake's shirt and we were delayed getting out of the hotel. Cris and I started to go ahead, but spotted them coming down into the subway and waited for the next train to take it with them. We made it to Queen of Sheba after Christina but not too late for our 5:30pm reservation - there was a tiny mixup about the number, but they found us a table for 7 and then the crowds filled in around us. It was delicious (though the spinach dish wasn't as good as Addis Red Sea's), we ordered two veggie platters, I think two Taste of Sheba platters, and Cris had some extras added on. No shortage of injera and everyone was happy to eat with their hands. I had a glass of honey wine that was quite sweet but I liked it, Sue had a glass of white, the others shared a bottle of red.
We finished up and the theatre goers set off to see Spamalot, while Cris, Cristina and I went to the Film Forum to watch Into Great Silence, about the monks at the abbey of the Grande Chartreuse. It reminded me a *lot* of the film I saw at the Banff festival about the two brothers still tending sheep in a mountain house, Charles, Edouard ou le temps suspendu. Very slow, quiet and contemplative. I'll admit to my eyes drifting shut a few times, it was a long movie after a long day of walking around. Back to the hotel just after the others, they'd stopped for a drink after the show. Settled in for bed, drinking a bottle of water, and started to feel queasy. Fought it off for a while, but then eventually threw up and was fine - I suspect that there was something on the lip of the water bottle, I got it out of the cooler at the front of the store, as I'd been perfectly fine after dinner and my herbal tea at the Film Forum.
Ted and Alexis headed to Central Park, Sue and Jake went south to check out Staten Island if possible, and Cris and I went way north, finally able to get to the Cloisters. Luckily, I'd had directions still in my palm pilot from when I went for the picnic there during C7, so we were able to find it okay (love the huge elevator from underground to the street level). A bit windy on the walk from the subway, but the view from the heights was nice, and Cris pointed out where he'd gone bike riding down below. The Cloisters are part of the Met, but not nearly so big, but big enough that we were well occupied. The first part of our visit was quiet, and then the tourists started arriving in droves. It was neat to see the Unicorn in Captivity tapestry up close and personal, as well as lots of religious art. Loved seeing the carved figures with notes on the carving techniques, and bemoaned the lack of modern work I've seen in carved wood. It was cool to see things from so many areas, but overall I preferred the experience of seeing religious art in situ when I was Italy.
We were getting hungry and my feet were killing me, so we (eventually) found the bus stop and took it back to the A line (rather than taking it to Penn Station, it was slow yesterday), and stopped again at Columbus Circle for lunch at the Bouchon Bakery (run by the French Laundry people). Killed the 20 min wait in Borders, and were seated when we came back. Good thing that we ordered an appetiser, as it took a while for the entrees to come. The mix of fresh and smoked salmon on crusty bread was awesome, but they failed in the silverware management department - no knives were given for the app, and our coated ones weren't replaced when we got the bread + butter. Plus our water didn't arrive without prompting, and the tea and coffee took a while as they waited on a fresh pot of the latter. Once the food arrived, it was lovely, I had a chicken soup with the tenderest chicken I've had in ages.
Then we headed over to the Museum of Natural History, as Cris had wanted to visit it for a while. It's also massive, it has it's own subway stop. And it was filled with families with running and screaming children. I wasn't have a lot of fun in the crowded galleries, but we found some quiet spots here and there. The hall of marine life had a full sized blue whale on the ceiling, and a diorama tucked away in the back of a giant squid battling a sperm whale. The dioramas themselves were all quite impressive (my favourite was the one with a lynx and a hare, we had to follow the footprints to spot the hare hiding under a bush), and I found I preferred seeing taxidermies of animals rather than live ones caged in a zoo, but I prefer aquariums over the static displays of undersea life (though they did have lots of videos going at the same time). I was overwhelmed by the time we got to the meteorites and precious minerals section, and didn't get to really take it in. I got a message from Sue that she'd messed up her foot and was heading back to the hotel room early. I'd totally forgotten that we were supposed to meet at 5, not 6, as we hadn't agreed on a dinner location, and we got back at 5:30. Ted and Alexis had picked up rush tickets to see Les Miz and were going to join us later for drinks.
We rested for a bit, and then decided to try and go to Zen Palate in Union Square. It's much larger than the Bway one I'd been to before and we had no trouble getting a table for four. We ordered way too much food, but it was all so yummy and we almost finished it all in the end. :) We started with sweet yam fries and edamame, the tropical fruit salad with lime juice was amazing (no bananas! :) ), the sauteed veggies + noodles was good, we got some free "shark" fin soup for saying that we would eat family style. And then the entrees came. :) We shared them around, I think Cris's mushroom thing was the best, but the sauce on mine (Crêpe De Fleur) was awesome. Ted and Alexis showed up as we were about to get our entrees and they grabbed apps downstairs in the cafe section. The decor was wonderful as well, warm and inviting. We all walked over to Hop Devil on St. Mark's St. for drinks afterward. I had a fizzy blueberry mead that was just okay (Sara's is better!), the others tried a few of the different beers on tap. The noise level went up and we decamped back to the hotel. Cris and I packed up, and I stole a bath with a Lush bath bomb while the others got ready for sleep, and felt fine, dropping off to sleep after reading for a bit. The fold out couch was the most comfortable one that I've ever slept on, but it did have a bit of a saggy middle. The heat situation was sorted, we were fine after the first night, if dried out from the radiators sucking all the moisture from the room.
Overall a great, stress free trip. Every group dinner bill came out with extra money collected more often than not, and never short. We were able to split up and follow our own agendas, then reconvene for food and drinks. It was nice to get to know Ted and Alexis, Sue and Jake's wedding was a bit hectic for getting to know the new family. But, I'm done with NYC for a while, two visits in a short span of time has tapped me out. I'm longing for a cabin in the woods right now. :)