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Unread 8 Nov 13, 11:50 PM  
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Big Apple Boot Camp May 2013 - Day 5: High Line, American Girl, Roosevelt Island

Day 5 - Wednesday 29th May 2013

Usual start to the day today: up at 6 but today we didn't make it out until 8. We decided on breakfast at Pax again after enjoying it so much the day before. Seren had rice krispies, Freya had Frosties, Mat had a peanut butter bagel and I had a fruit cup which it says in my notes was sickly. I can't remember why I've written that but 'sickly' sounds a bit of a bizarre adjective for fruit

We didn't get on the Subway this morning and instead walked down to the start of the High Line, the elevated park on the old train tracks in Chelsea, at 30th Street, passing the General Post Office and taking some photos



There was a lot of building work going on around the entrance to the High Line





They are restoring the train yards in the area to transform them into the last part of the park and are currently waiting for funding to finish the project. Mat is a big fan of the High Line and has joined 'Friends of the High Line' so he tells me all about it

We loved the High Line last year but it was so cold we only lasted a few minutes up there. Today it was warm enough to enjoy it, although the sun so far was not making an appearance. I walked along pretty slowly snapping everything (hence why there are two thousand photos in this post) while the girls ran along and played some kind of role-play game. Mat was taking it all in while keeping an eye on the girls. It was great because we were away from the traffic and the girls were never out of our eye line so we were able to relax while they played

































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Unread 8 Nov 13, 11:56 PM  
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...continued







This one is my favourite photo from the whole trip:













We found the only bathroom around and all needed to use the facilities. The ladies was locked and I assumed there was only one toilet which must have currently been in use. I waited for a minute or so and Mat took the girls into the mens' room. A minute or so later I was still standing there. A male janitor came along and told me it was locked as there had been a flood in there. He told me to go in and use the mens' room if there was no one in there. As I was related to everyone currently occupying the mens' room, I went in and the four of us had the unusual experience of all being in a public toilet together. A man came in and seeing us, walked straight back out again, bless him. He politely waited outside until we had all finished faffing and left

We stopped for a coffee at the little coffee place under the arches, I think it is the only cafe on the High Line. Mat says it's called Blue Bottle Coffee. It's drip coffee, each drop of coffee is filtered individually which takes ages. The lady behind the counter said people who drink their coffee are prepared to wait for it. Unfortunately I thought it was disgusting and couldn't drink it, but Mat enjoyed it. Two horrible coffees in 24 hours. I think maybe New York coffee is just generally too strong for me

After our coffee we bought some lovely magnets and a print from a little stall by the coffee kiosk. Having walked as far as we had come the other way the previous year, we decided to head down into Chelsea Market again as we were feeling a bit peckish

We saw this photo on the wall inside the market of the High Line when it was actually a working railroad which was really interesting:



We also came across these funny food pictures that you could have your photo taken with, which the girls loved:





And the indoor well which is still fully functioning. It changes colour and we think it's very cool:



Amy's Bread was on 'the list' for cakes so we went in. Mat's not really a cake-y person so he passed. Seren and Freya both had cookies and I had a chocolate brownie



Oh my word, it was the nicest 'baked treat' I have ever had. Gooey in the middle, crunchy on the outside and so yummy. I bought a nice Amy's Bread shopping bag to remind me of the brownie every time I use it

Back outside, we came across some genuine New York City steam:



We walked to the Subway with the intention of heading to the Lower East Side. The places on our list to visit there were an ice cream shop and a sweet shop, neither of which we were up for after our visit to Amy's Bread. We would also be cutting it fine for our lunch reservation, so we decided to head for Midtown. We took the F train to Port Authority and walked around Times Square and Fifth Avenue looking for the flagship Disney Store. We couldn't find it so asked a police lady who was helping pedestrians cross the road but even she didn't know where it was. We gave up, having seen more of Times Square than we would have liked, and went back to the Bryant Park Hotel to pick up Lily and Jessica for our lunch reservation. (Lily and Jessica are Seren and Freya's American Girl dolls that we bought last year in New York. We were taking them back to American Girl for lunch at the cafe.)

Another beautiful photo we snapped just by Bryant Park:



Lily and Jessica outside the New York Public Library on the way to American Girl:



We had a bit of time before the 12.30 lunch sitting that we were booked onto, so the girls took the opportunity to spend the rest of their holiday spends / birthday money on clothes for Lily and Jessica in the downstairs shop. The clothes are expensive, as is everything in American Girl, but it's all lovely quality. They were each able to get a couple of outfits for their dolls and Seren even got a pet Westie for Jessica who is named Coconut, complete with a Statue of Liberty crown. It's very cute

The girls purses completely drained, and a little extra missing from Daddy's wallet (I reasoned we can only spend at American Girl when we're in New York so we may as well go a bit mad) we checked in upstairs for our lunch about ten minutes before the 12.30 sitting. Eventually they opened the doors and showed us to our pre-assigned tables. Now Mat and I were not particularly excited about having lunch at American Girl but we had only been seated about five minutes when he turned to me and said 'I'm really enjoying this actually.' I had to agree. The 'American Girl Cafe' was beautifully decorated with black and white striped wallpaper. Everything was black, white or pink and it all looked lovely. Our table had been set up with special seats at either end for Lily and Jessica (we knew about this before we had booked) and pretty quickly, a guy came out to bring tea cups and saucers out for all the dolls. There were even dolls that you could borrow if you didn't have one with you





The napkins were tied with little black and pink hairbands that the server told us we could keep, and also on the table were these little boxes of questions that you could ask each other like 'what would be your dream job?' which Seren loved reading out, and we all had fun asking and answering the questions. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take these with us, but they were a brilliant idea and I think you could purchase them in the store. Food wise, I have to compare American Girl Cafe to Cinderella's Royal Table. The menu is very basic and you don't get to choose starters or desserts, they just whisk them out at high speed to get everyone out in time for the end of the sitting. We were pleasantly surprised by the drinks menu as there were a couple of cocktails on there. I had sangria punch...



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Unread 9 Nov 13, 12:02 AM  
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...continued

.which was delicious and Mat had a Shirley Temple (which I think was actually non-alcoholic.) When the server delivered it to the table, she said 'Shirley Temple?' and he said 'That's me!' before adding 'Well, not me but that's what I'm drinking.' The server and I both found this funny

For starters we had a platter of pretzel balls, some kind of mustard dipping sauce, crudits and grapes, and I think there was some chicken but as vegetarians we obviously didn't eat that. The pretzel balls were yummy and we all enjoyed having some fruit and vegetables. As there were only about six entree choices in all, we were very limited in what we could have being veggies (and the girls being fussy.) But as with Cinderella's, you don't come here for the food so we weren't that bothered if we didn't leave here full up, especially as we had a yummy dinner booked at Tony's later on. The girls had pizza which they didn't eat much of, and Mat and I had a grilled vegetable sandwich which came with a little bowl of tomato soup. The sandwich was made from what seemed like shop bought white bread and the soup seemed to have come from a can. Mat and I ate it all up though, it was fine

For pudding we were all given the same: a little plate with a heart shaped pink-iced cake, some pineapple and a little pot of chocolate mousse-y stuff that had a fabric and plastic daisy in it which you could take home. The girls and my husband only ate the fruit but I had a little nibble at the treats too





We really enjoyed our experience at American Girl Cafe it has to be said, and I am planning to book us in again for our return trip next year. They also do breakfast and dinner so I'm going to assess the very limited menus to see which would suit us and our schedule best. We made a quick toilet stop at American Girl and then struggled to leave the shop because the lift was misbehaving and wanted to take us up and down to every floor except the ground floor (and exit.) Mat thought it was a sales tactic / conspiracy



We dropped Lily and Jessica back at the hotel, I got roped into changing them into some of their new outfits



and Seren and Freya had a quick chat with Sarah in the lobby as we hadn't seen her since our arrival day. We hopped on the Subway and took an F train to Lexington Avenue / 60th Street

By now it was pretty hot, the warmest it had been during our trip and we ducked into Dylan's Candy Bar which was on our list, appreciating the air conditioning





We had a nose around and bought some Pez dispensers for my niece and nephew before I spent a ridiculous amount on a big bag of Jelly Belly



In my defence, they are so expensive at home that they were worth buying here as pound for pound, they were much cheaper. And we only eat a few a week so nearly five months on, the pot still looks like this



Yes, I know I didn't need to also buy the cupcake-shaped container as well, but I love it. We hadn't told the girls, but our plan was to stop at Serendipity III for an ice-cream. Anyone who has read my 2012 trip report may remember that we have a bit of an affinity with Serendipity as it's Mat's favourite film and part of the reason why Seren is named Seren. Last year we had visited for lunch and loved the place, although the service was poor and the food average but expensive. So this year we decided to return just for ice-creams

We were seated upstairs this time which was good, as last year we'd sat downstairs and only Mat and Seren had ventured upstairs. The table that John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale sit at is upstairs so I was happy to see it, but now I'm not sure the one I photographed is actually the right table





It was warm up there and we were lucky enough to be sat by a window, thank goodness, as unfortunately the service was perhaps even slower than last year. There was some entertainment though as a bird flew in and hid under our table. The server expertly and very gently scooped him up with a napkin and escorted him back out of the window. I don't think the kitchen can really cope with the number of tables they have, but they're very relaxed about it all and not in any sort of hurry and certainly don't apologise for the length of time it takes them to make an ice cream sundae. We all had tap water to drink, and the menu said there was an $8.50 per head minimum spend. Unfortunately all our ice creams were above this minimum but we were a bit perturbed that the table next to us were splitting ice creams and one person only had a Coke. So the minimum is perhaps not strongly enforced. When our ice creams arrived, they were all a bit melted and dripping down the sides. We couldn't work out whether they were supposed to look like this as a kind of 'shabby chic' statement, or whether the server had just taken ages to collect them from the kitchen :/

Mat had a Serendip which was coffee, ice cream, cream and nutmeg shavings and he enjoyed it. I had an Apricot Smush at the recommendation of the server...



...and it was alright but just reminded me of the Starbucks orange coloured frozen drink with a lot of cream on the top. Seren wanted a sundae and I asked her more than once if she was sure as it would come with sauce and cream, and she's more of a plain ice cream kind of girl. When it arrived, her eyes lit up...



...and for a moment I thought maybe she would do it justice, but within a few seconds she was complaining that she didn't like the sauce. I was, of course, thrilled :angry:

Freya is also a plain ice cream kind of girl, so we ordered her some vanilla ice cream. For some reason this was served with a load of chocolate sauce too, even though it hadn't mentioned sauce on the menu. When it arrived, Freya said she would eat it



Having already been sat there about thirty minutes by this point, I wasn't keen on having to send anything back. Did she eat it? Of course not

When we left we vowed that we would only return to Serendipity III to have a look at the merchandise at the front of the restaurant (specifically when Seren grows out of the Serendipity t-shirt we bought her last year.) It's a shame, as it's a lovely little restaurant but with average food, high prices and very slow service, I guess it's mainly first time tourists that are keeping the place so busy



We walked past a dog daycare place and Freya loved looking at the gorgeous little puppies. It being a hot day we couldn't help wondering if the pen they were in by the window was air conditioned. It made us feel a bit uneasy actually



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Unread 9 Nov 13, 12:06 AM  
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...continued

Beautiful buildings:



Next stop was a little shop on East 62nd Street, just a block or so along from Serendipity called 'Tender Buttons.' The shop had walls filled with pretty buttons including little coloured kittens, roller skates, a picture of the Empire State building and a Mickey Mouse head. These are the ones I remember as these are the ones we bought. We spent $12 on five pretty little buttons as souvenirs and had enjoyed ten minutes or so perusing all the display cases. I managed to snap a photo of the shop as we left





We walked to the Subway station at 1st Avenue / 60th Street to get on the Roosevelt Island tram. On the way we had what we call a 'New York moment': interesting or funny little incidents that we think could only happen in New York. We had to wait at a pedestrian crossing to cross a road. A yellow cab was pulled up at the red light, and he was stopped next to a fruit stall at the edge of the road. While he waited, he must have called to the vendor that he wanted to buy some bananas, as the guy took some cash from him and then pretty much tossed a bunch of bananas through his cab window as he was getting ready to pull away. At the crossing behind us, a young lady commented to the man she was with, 'That guy is literally going bananas'

We loved the tram ride over to Roosevelt Island and it's just the price of a Subway ride (included on our Metro Card.) There was a fantastic view of the city from up there and I snapped away the whole time we were going over the bridge















Mat was a bit freaked out by the height I think but we would definitely do it again. There were lots of locals on the tram just making their everyday commute to work with their heads buried in their phones or newspapers. I don't know how you could ever get bored of that view and stop looking out of the window. Mat and I often talk about how we would jump at the chance to move to New York if it ever came up through work but I think we'd always walk around like excited tourists, totally in awe. Despite trying to act like a native in NYC, I always seem to walk the streets either with a dropped jaw or a massive smile on my face, so don't exactly blend in as a local

Once we exited the tram on Roosevelt Island, we tried to get our bearings as the Rough Guide had given us a vague idea of a touring strategy for the island. We got confused straight away, heading in the wrong direction towards the park area rather than the landmarks



It was very hot and sunny now, so we stopped to apply suncream and then headed from the bottom of Roosevelt Island where we were in the direction of the north of the island. Roosevelt Island used to be where smallpox sufferers, lunatics and criminals were sent as a sort of 'quarantine' in the many hospitals and asylums. By the 1920s, it was officially known as Welfare Island. By the 1950s much of the island was deserted and unloved. The NYC mayor commissioned a couple of architects to demolish the old buildings and create new residential living areas. The first inhabitants arrived in 1975. Yes, I may have swallowed my Rough Guide to NYC, but I find that kind of stuff fascinating

Roosevelt Island has a population of 13,000 and only two miles long and 800 ft wide. It's a small, insular community and has a very different feel to Manhattan, it was very quiet and more small-community, but a little soulless as it's mostly apartment tower blocks. Apparently the residents are quite protective of their island, and there is a two year waiting list to snag an apartment there as they are cheap. It definitely didn't feel like we were just across the river from Manhattan Island, but my favourite thing about our visit to Roosevelt was that we walked the length of the island along the promenade so were looking at our favourite city across the river the entire time we walked





The first landmark we saw was this old white clapboard house, called Blackwell House. The exterior has been restored but you can't go inside. It was very pretty but there were two teenage girls having a bit of a photo session on the porch so we didn't get any closer than this



We carried on along the promenade on the west of the island, heading for the lighthouse that was at the north end. We must have walked up the edge of the island for about 15 minutes and kept thinking we would reach the top when we came around the next bend but it never happened. We did see this political artwork in the water



but all we could see of Roosevelt from the edge of the island were apartment buildings. As beautiful as Manhattan is, it was becoming a bit disconcerting that we were walking so far north and could see the Empire State Building in Midtown (and therefore our hotel) getting further and further away across the water. It was very hot, and Mat and the girls were all moaning about the heat and the time it was taking to get to the top of the island. We had a dinner reservation near our hotel, so we decided to cut our losses and head back along the promenade to the Roosevelt Island subway station

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Unread 9 Nov 13, 12:10 AM  
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I would recommend a trip over to Roosevelt Island if you're in New York City as the tram ride is great, and the views of Manhattan are impressive but as we didn't make it to most of the landmarks (such as the lighthouse, the remains of a smallpox hospital, the parks, and the Octagon Tower), I can't really comment on whether the sights are worth the time

The station was busy as it was now rush hour, and as we were heading down the last set of stairs onto the platform, we could see an F train was about to go. Mat, walking in front with Seren, hurried down the steps quicker to get on (like he always does as a London commuter. When he's with us, he forgets and carries on at weekday speed.) Freya's little legs can't get down stairs at that speed, and despite me calling my husband to tell him to wait, he had my MetroCard, so I dragged Freya down the last ten or so steps so fast she was practically flying, hurting my already weak shoulder in the process. We all got on the train but Mat wasn't in my good books for a while :angry:

We got off the train at Bryant Park and went into the hotel. The girls had a chat with Sarah and then we got changed for dinner. We walked the couple of blocks to Tony's di Napoli Midtown, our favourite restaurant in the city. We didn't have to wait for our table which was a bonus as last year we'd had to wait about fifteen minutes. Mat and I had told ourselves we would have something different today as we'd had the same dish on our last three visits (two here last year, one earlier in the week at the uptown branch.) In the end we just couldn't bring ourselves to deviate from the delicious linguine primavera, so we had it for the fourth time. The girls had their usual marinara sauce, this time with penne



None of us had desserts having not been able to make much of a dent in them at the other Tony's earlier in the week. We were all done and dusted pretty quickly, and Seren was complaining of a stomach ache so I headed back to the hotel with her while Mat settled the bill with Freya (he didn't pay her, she was just there with him)

Tonight was to be a 'Manhattanhenge' night which is where the sun sets in a particularly beautiful way between the buildings on the east of the island. We had seen it in a magazine in the hotel, and it apparently happens only four days per year so we were keen to view it tonight. Unfortunately Seren's tummy ache (which disappeared once we got back to the suite and she got into bed) put paid to that for us, but Mat and Freya were going to pop to Madison Marche for beverages and see if they could catch the sunset





There were a lot of people in the park as we walked back to the hotel and they were all facing the direction of the sunset so we assumed they were there to watch too. I'm not sure Bryant Park is the best spot to watch it from, the magazine listed a couple of other East cross streets where the sun can be seen between the buildings almost at street level. East 41st doesn't really benefit from that, but as Bryant Park is so lovely, Mat and Freya watched it from there along with everyone else. They loved it, and I was a bit disappointed that I had to make do with a (not great) photo of it



They stopped to say goodbye to Sarah on the way back into the hotel, I packed while the girls went to sleep and we weren't too late to bed. We wanted to be up bright and early for our last day in New York
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Unread 9 Nov 13, 12:28 AM  
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so glad to see another report thanks for posting.

Loved all the photos
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Unread 9 Nov 13, 11:40 AM  
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Another great day! Love reading this knowing I will be there soon! Serendipity looks lovely. Shame about the slow service, love that film! Tonys looks good too. Its on our list
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Unread 9 Nov 13, 12:23 PM  
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Originally Posted by disney owl View Post
so glad to see another report thanks for posting.

Loved all the photos
Aaw, thank you Sue. Glad you're enjoying my report. I'm already working on day 6 (our last day) so there shouldn't be so much of a wait

Originally Posted by abiknox View Post
Another great day! Love reading this knowing I will be there soon! Serendipity looks lovely. Shame about the slow service, love that film! Tonys looks good too. Its on our list
Thanks Abi. I'm so jealous that you're going to be in NYC in a couple of weeks. I'd love to go at this time of year and see the Christmas decorations

I would recommend booking Tony's on Open Table as it gets pretty busy at dinner time, especially at the weekends. We've always booked in advance. Hope you enjoy it there as much as we do
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