Friday, July 26th. – We left the unexpectedly wonderful Motel 6 near Rutgers and headed toward NYC, first stopping at the Dunkin’ Donuts on the corner. I had to see what the fuss is all about because apparently Dunkin’ Donuts is to the East Coast as Starbucks is to the West Coast. Which, I don’t think is really true because there are way more Starbucks here than there are Dunkin’ Donuts. Anyway…
After this experience, I say Starbucks wins, on atmosphere primarily. First off, it is not a coffee store, it is a fast-food donut store where many people buy coffee and few people buy donuts, and there’s nowhere to sit and relax/use wifi/read/etc. I thought the coffee was not as bitter as Starbucks’, but I ordered a latte so the milk would have taken away any bitterness. I guess that means I can’t really comment on the quality of espresso. I tried to order espresso, either an Americano or shots straight up but was told that was impossible. Their menu consists of various mixed drinks – latte, mocha, and a dozen of various flavored coffees. I just wanted to taste their espresso, but then they don’t use nice coffee machines like Starbucks – it looked like a fast food counter, so maybe it can’t actually pull shots. Maybe it’s like a coffee vending machine? I don’t know.
The cashier and barista both asked me multiple times if I wanted sugar and flavor in my coffee, and I received multiple strange looks when I said that I didn’t…I wanted to taste the coffee. Apparently in this part of the country, people drink coffee for the caffeine (and need to disguise the taste with sugar), not because they like coffee. That’s my guess. In fact, I saw a T-shirt today in a souvenir shop. It had to do with “things you must do in NYC.” One of them was to order coffee with extra cream, flavor, and several packets of sugar. That makes me want to throw up thinking about it.
AND… Dunkin’ Donuts is more expensive than Starbucks. But McDonald’s coffee is, too, so that’s moot. I’ll stick with Starbucks. The hands down winner in my face-off.
But Caribous Coffee wins in my Caribou/Starbucks battle.
It is expensive to get to NYC. From, Trenton NJ to New York – about 45 minutes – is a toll of $7.20. Then, when you leave the toll road, you pay $13 to drive into Manhattan. That’s the George Washington Bridge, or for those of you who know the musical “In the Heights,” it’s the GWB. I assume the routes into downtown Manhattan cost even more. We’re staying in a private studio apartment we found on AirBnb. It’s in Harlem, just north of Central Park. It has access to multiple bus lines, and five subway routes are accessible within two blocks. It looks good and it’s a steal of a deal for NYC prices.
So, we had the late afternoon and evening in NYC and we chose to go into the city. We took the bus south down 5th Avenue and started our trip at the Met. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
It is a huge building; if you actually looked at each piece it would take at least a week. Their collection is so large that they don’t have any kind of App or guide because there’s no way to organize the content. (There are audio tours – but it’s the type where you can get info on certain pieces – it doesn’t actually guide you through the building). They don’t even have a printed guide, other than the map that shows where general sections are. In effect, the Met is actually several full museums in one: Asian Art, Art of Oceania and the Americas, Armor, 18-19th Century Europe, Modern, Egyptian… Each of these collections is enough to stock a full museum. In the Egyptian section, they even have a full temple, complete with hieroglyphics.
The biggest pro with this museum is that their suggested donation is just that, a suggestion. I paid $10, not the full $25. In the end, I was a lot less satisfied with it than I was with the Art Institute of Chicago, so I think what I paid was fair. Really, I though the Art Institute was huge but this collection (and building) is astronomical. So much so, that navigating it was extremely disorganized. There is no “top things to see,” no “In this section, you can find famous pieces like X, Y, and Z,” and no way to tell ahead of time where your particular favorite artist might be besides going into the appropriate section and walking through all 20+ rooms of that section. The Art Institute of Chicago wins this face-off. I think $23 is a steal for that experience.
Side note: There is a beautiful rooftop deck at the Met, but I didn’t see it. There was a line for the single elevator in the entire building that goes up to the fifth floor. I got out of line to look for the stairway. Why not walk four flights of steps rather than waiting a half hour in line? The elevator attendant pointing me to the stairs, and when I got to it, a guard standing there told me it was locked. No way that’s legal! I tried to say that I am scared of elevators to see if that would convince him to unlock the door. His suggestion was to take the elevator up to the 4th floor and walk the final floor. Nice try with logic, buddy!
A big pro for the Met, though, is that tripods are allowed if you register for a permit at the information desk. I was surprised that I was the only one with a tripod the whole time I was there.
Before the museum, we walked over to Starbucks and a fast food gyro restaurant, which was a great choice. Then after the museum, we took the 6 train down to an Italian place that Steven’s friends had recommended. It’s called Lil’ Frankie’s. Being Friday night, people were out on the town, but we were able to get a table pretty quickly. Restaurants are certainly more expensive here than probably anywhere else in the US. It wasn’t exorbitant, just higher. I got a Caprese Sandwich which looked like it was a whole Caprese pizza folded in two, then cut into pieces. It tasted great – this place has great reviews.
Afterward, we went over to Times Square and walked up Broadway for a while, popping into some shops, enjoying the lights, just general sightseeing. And we walked by the theater where the musical Chicago is performed just as the cast was coming out. So that was cool, even though the only cast member I know is a woman I can not stand. And then, I don’t like the story of Chicago, but I guess it’s generally exciting when “stars” are around you. I’m still on the fence about whether or not to see a Broadway performance in the next couple days. They’re so expensive, and I would enjoy it off Broadway just as much. But I do have two or three I’d prefer to see, if I do go to one.
I think that’s all for the first half-day in NYC. More to come in my next post.