Thursday, July 11, 2013

Down town

Wednesday in NYC - a few showers and warm. We started with a subway trip downtown to the South Street Seaport, a historic part of south Manhattan east of the financial district. It had been redeveloping as a renovated tourist trap, with large old buildings being converted to new uses when Hurricane Sandy intervened and smashed three metres of seawater over the whole lot.

Some months later, the major brands have moved back in, but there's still damage to the piers under repair and a lot of the small businesses are either struggling to re-establish themselves or have given up and moved uptown.


The main seaport attraction is a three-story shopping mall with a food hall, and some museum buildings towards Pearl Street. There are stalls and some amusing food offerings.


There's also a monument to the Titanic.

Walking up Fulton Street, I visited the inaccurately-named Midtown Comics store and managed to get the Adventure Time compilation for my son. There were three Real Live Girls on the checkout desk, and the patrons there for the new week's comics were delightfully served.

We walked to Broadway to take a look at the Woolworth Building - once the tallest in the world and an ornate monument to retailing, now apparently underused and under heavy repair. With so many skyscrapers around, it's a bit lost in a concrete canyon.

There are some attractive old buildings around there.

I was fascinated to see the decline of J&R Computer World - their downtown store looked quite third world. Last time I was in town it was as shiny and upscale as an Apple store, selling computer games and accessories over several floors. Looks like retail stores are feeling the pinch as the Internet takes their customers and products.

We stopped at a park to shelter from the rain, intending to walk up Park Row, but as the rain persisted we instead caught the subway uptown to 8th Street and to This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef for a recommended roast beef sandwich. It's just around the corner from St Mark's Place.

The bar is pretty grotty, but has some charming features like a snaking collection of dollar bills with messages scrawled on them. The beef was tender but sloppy in gravy and the cheese was not to my taste.

Curious fries - very large wedges, providing way too much potato. We've found fries presented as everything from tiny potato straws to these monsters.

Every second food outlet is Japanese, or fusion. One in St Mark's Place stood out -

We walked back along 10th Street, which opened up a few blocks of really nice terrace houses as we got closer to home.

There were some interesting terraces on Gay Street.

Walking makes one thirsty, so we stopped at the Stonewall Inn in Christopher Street, where the Stonewall Riots in 1969 started the campaign for gay rights in New York and beyond. The bar is partly a shrine, and smaller than in the past (half the area is now a nail salon, go figure) and seems to rely on the tourist trade, nostalgia and theme nights. Not surprisingly, being a gay bar isn't a big deal any more.

I bought a Fin electronic cigarette for my still-smoking son. These are quite amazing - equivalent to two packs of cigarettes but not refillable. They draw, and glow, and puff steam. I understand they're not officially available in Australia while the public health nabobs decide whether they hate cigarettes, nicotine or just people enjoying themselves. The website offers the refillable and renewable ones.

We walked down Bleecker Street and popped into a few boutiques and stores. The queue was too long at Magnolia Bakery again, so we still haven't tried the cupcakes that were the objects of forbidden desire on Sex and the City.

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