compared to the past 2 days, today would be an easy day. go to the museum, wander the park, get back to the hotel at a reasonable hour. the met opens at 10am so we wanted to be there right when they open. i budgeted about 4 hours of museum browsing. certainly not enough to see enough, but hopefully enough to see a few interesting exhibits. the last two times i visited the metropolitan museum of art was more than a decade ago: february 2003 (2 days) and january 2004. they all seemed to be during the winter for some reason. my very first visit to the met was probably with manny, back in the mid-90's, which predates this blog.
we went downstairs for breakfast sometime after 8:30am. despite being up earlier than yesterday, there was hardly any rice porridge left in the pot and i had to scrape the barrel to get enough for 2 bowls. we went back upstairs to gather our things then left the hotel by 9:30am. there was a report of possible morning rain, i brought an umbrella just in case. it took us about an hour to get the museum, switching to an uptown 6 train at grand central station, then walking across 3 avenues.
it was 10:30am and a line of people were waiting outside; this must've been a crowd control measure, since the museum was already opened. after a few minutes of waiting, the line started to move and we were ushered into the building, our bags checked for security purposes. wangyang used the city pass ticket (given to her by the chinese girl she met in washington dc) to pay for her admission; the girl behind the desk was confused since you can get into the museum for free, and a city pass can be used for something else (like a ferry ride or the empire state building observation deck), but finally she accepted it. i didn't want to be a complete freeloader so i paid $5 for my admission ticket.
we ended up spending exactly 4 hours at the museum. at first we didn't know what to see, just wandering aimlessly through the byzantium and medieval exhibits to get our bearings, walking through the hall of armors (one of my personal favorites).
we spent about an hour in the egyptian exhibit alone, since wangyang had never seen egyptian artifacts in any of the european museums she visited. i found the egyptian collection at the met a little underwhelming. we have egyptian stuff at the boston museum of fine art; maybe not as much, but i feel like it's more quality than quantity. the centerpiece of the egyptian wing was the temple of dendur, but it was closed for a private function, so we could only gawk from behind the barricades. wangyang enjoys touching antique artifacts, and would cop a feel whenever nobody was looking, although she was reprimanded on a few occasions, but that didn't seem to stop her.
we also went to go see the special qin & han dynasties exhibit, who was advertised all over new york. it took us a while to find it, having to traverse the halls of european and american paintings to find the exhibition room. thank god wangyang has a good head for logistics as she deciphered the museum map and got us to our destination. it turned out to be nothing special for someone like me who's been lucky enough to have visited some of the best museums in china. i was pretty unimpressed, but for someone who's never seen these chinese artifacts, it might've been a bigger thrill.
wangyang let me pick our next exhibit to visit. i wanted to see the asian arts. you'd think they put it next to the special qin & han exhibit, but once again, it was at the other end of museum so we had to navigate our way there.
i love the indian statues for their voluptuous depiction of the female form. i also love anything tibetan (and their close nepalese cousin). i never noticed them before in my previous visits, but i have renewed appreciation after having visited the tibetan region of western sichuan multiple times.
we finally left the museum by 2:40pm. we were a bit museumed out after 4 hours, but we were also pretty hungry. unlike last night, i'd already did some research and found us a place to eat, a nearby greek gyro restaurant with good reviews called mamagyro on 78th and lexington in the upper east side.
it took us 10 minutes to walk to mamaygro, by the time we arrived it was already 3pm. what i thought was a sit-down restaurant was more of a takeout place with a countertop with 4 barstools. fortunately it was the middle of the day so the limited seats were empty so we decided to give the place a try. wangyang wanted to try a greek salad (which is just a plain salad with feta cheese and some sort of greek vinaigrette dressing). i ordered 2 lamb gyros with tzatziki sauce, and an order of sweet potato fries. later we got 2 greek drinks (like a greek version of carbonated orangina without the pulp). the food was pretty good, probably more high end that the typical gyro you'd find in a sub shop. the gyros came rolled up in a cone stuffed with regular fries and seemed small at first, but it was pretty filling and i don't think i could've eaten anymore. the sweet potato fries were really good too, like they were made to order and not just sitting around under a heat lamp.
we then returned to central park to take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the nice spring day. we ended up going from 79th street all the way down to 59th street. i carried the box of unfinished potato fries and ate while we walked. i was hoping to impress wangyang with some unique indigenous birds (like cardinals or bluejays) but the only birds we saw were robins, grackles, and sparrows. here and there cherry blossoms were in bloom.
when we finally left central park, i decided to show wangyang apple's flagship store on 5th avenue. however when we got there, the area was all boarded up. they closed? i thought to myself. as if reading my mind, 3 young folks dressed in apple t-shirt standing outside the former apple store told us that they were still open, the entrance moved around the corner. we followed their directions which led not to the flagship store but to a temporary store behind it. despite the move, the store was still crazy busy on a wednesday after 5pm. going into the store, i saw a familiar face walking past us. i couldn't quite place the face, but i recognized her as somebody famous. "i think that's an actress," i told wangyang. it was only much later did i realize it was michele hicks coming out of the apple store.
wangyang was at the apple store to buy an ipad for her son. she was thinking about the apple mini, but i pushed her to get the newly released 2017 ipad, which is a better deal in terms of what you get for the price ($329). they were so busy, we couldn't find anyone to help us, until a worker there told us to go talk to one of the greeters by the entrance, who took wangyang's name and asked us to wait briefly so they could get a store employee to come help us. moments later a friendly young man came by and brought us to the ipad display table. he asked us what model she were interested in, how large the memory, and what color (grey, gold, silver - wangyang picked silver). then he left to go get the order. when he came back, he made sure this was the model she wanted, then took out a portable credit card scanner so wangyang could pay.
wangyang wanted to find a bathroom. she asked the apple employee if they had on, he said it wasn't available for the public, but we could go to the department store nearby. that was my plan but wangyang said it wasn't an emergency, so i told her we could take the subway to macy's, where i knew they had bathrooms, and we could also do some shopping there. consulting with google map, it advised us to catch the train from 53rd and 5th, instead of (in retrospect) the closer 5th avenue yellow train. so we followed google's direction, passing by the trump tower, where a horde of tourists were outside snapping photos. the armed police didn't seem to mind, so i whipped out my camera and took a few quick snapshots as well. we continued until we passed by the coach store that was closed yesterday. we went in to take a look, the selection was minimal, the price was exorbitant. upstairs was a handbag repair shop. we left soon afterwards, finally catching the subway.
when we arrived at herald square, the subway station opened out onto a jc penney's, so we went in looking for a bathroom. after a fruitless search, we found our way outside. we then looked for souvenir shops. the prices at the first place we visited weren't very good, so i suggested we look elsewhere. we finally went to macy's, and went into the basement level where the bathrooms were. they'd done some renovations since the last time i was here, and we searched everywhere and couldn't find a bathroom, until we finally asked somebody. even then, it was only the women's bathroom. we split up as i continued looking for the men's bathroom until i finally found it.
we browsed a bit in macy's, but wangyang didn't buy anything, although a few dressed piqued her interest. they also had handbags, but the selection wasn't great and the price wasn't anything special either. we left then went to a souvenir shop i remembered that was next to the pennsylvania hotel across from penn station. i'd bought souvenirs from there once before last year. we had better luck at this place, and i managed to buy a little statue of liberty statue for xiaoshen for wangyang to take back to the shanghai office for me. wangyang herself bought a few things as well, including a laser-etched 3-D display. she knew the irony of buying any of these things, which were nearly 100% made in china. but of course you could never find any of this in china, and the simple fact that it was a souvenir purchased in new york city was special enough.
we finally decided to head back to flushing at 7:50pm from penn station, get some dinner around that chinatown, call it an early day since for the first time we wouldn't be returning to our hotel the next day. wangyang stopped at a dunkin' donuts inside the station and bought a latte. by that point i was a little out of it, since i was hoping we could visit a few more places (like the soho district for more shopping), but to be honest, i was pretty tired, and my feet were killing me from all the walking we've done over the past few days. wangyang had also tossed out the idea of going to a steakhouse and visiting a genuine american bar, neither of which we'd be able to do at this point. wangyang liked the latte much better than the regular coffee. we managed to catch an express train back to flushing, but it didn't seem like it was any faster, as the ride still took 44 minutes. we made it back to the hotel by 8:30pm. that's when i finally dug out the harvard t-shirt i had in my backpack but forgot to give her. she wore it when we left the hotel at 9pm to look for dinner.
there was little doubt we'd be returning to new york food court for dinner. it was a little selfishness on my part because i wanted to eat some taiwanese food one last time before i left new york. taking a chinese person to go eat chinese food while she's visiting the US for the first time seems like a waste of a perfectly good food eating opportunity. next time i take somebody on a tour, i should put as much emphasis on the food venue as well as the general sightseeing, especially since i'm such a big food guy myself. but for me, new york food court was dining heaven. wangyang got an order of dapanji (大盘鸡) and went in search of bubble ice tea. i got the taiwanese stinky tofu (炸臭豆腐 $6) and a plate of fried squids (鹽酥花枝 $6.25). i ate quickly after discovering the place closes at 9:30pm (actually more like 10pm, since there were still plenty of people eating after that time). i ate so much, i could finish the last bite of tofu or fried squid. we finally left there by 9:50pm.
since we weren't able to go to a bar, i suggested the next best thing: get some drinks from a liquor store and go back to the hotel. i saw one earlier and paid the place a visit, but they sold mostly hard liquor (as is the chinese style) and i was searching for hard apple cider, something that wangyang never had before. 20 minutes later of searching (it was also a bit windy and cold this evening, and we were both only wearing t-shirts) we were back at the hotel. i asked the desk man where we could find alcohol. he said the super market a few blocks down had "western alcohol." we went back upstairs to put on our jackets before one final round of new york adventure.
the super market turned out to be the new world mall. it was a bit past 10pm but i was surprised they were still opened (if not, i knew at least one other liquor store nearby, although not sure if they'd be open), with a few people casually shopping inside. i'd never seen the place so empty, since normally when i come the place is packed. they had some hard cider but they came in packs. the only single serving was a large can of redd's whicked apple ale. i bought that and some fishsnacks and we returned to the hotel.
i never tried redd's wicked apple ale before. it's perhaps one of the sweetest hard cider i've ever tasted. it's definitely more like carbonated apple cider than hard cider, which makes it deceptively easy to get drunk on with its 8% alcohol content. wangyang and i chatted. i decided to tell her about my blog. the only other person from my time spent in changshou who knows about my blog is wuweiyu, and with her low attention span, i don't think she's ever revisited again after i told her about it initially. i didn't even tell sunmeng because she didn't seem all that interested about online journaling. i also got wangyang to give me a writing sample, as my father told me she has excellent penmanship from a postcard she sent me one time from sweden.
- metropolitan museum of art
- mamagyro (upper east side)
- central park
- herald square (buying souvenirs)
- new york food court
- hard cider from new world mall supermarket (jmart)