I am officially jet lagged
After years of unshamedly boasting about my lack of jet lag related problems, age (sadly, this must be it, right?) has finally caught up with me. No longer as flexible or resilient as it once was, my sleep cycle is officially messed up. It is 5.20 am and I am wide awake - AND I slept at 2.30am after an extremely late night session of the L Word.
Well, the good news is that, instead of indulging in more secret sleepless behaviour (namely watching one too many DVDs), I've decided to use the time to finish blogging on the recent New York trip. Which is a positive thing, otherwise, I doubt any of this blog's readers would see any trip details until after the wedding! For the 1st half of the trip, please see the previous entry.
Day 6 - Wednesday 1 February
11.00 am: Days are spent sleeping in - I've fallen into an official holiday schedule: wake up at 11am, wash up and meet Kisu for lunch close by his office, which is walking distance from the hotel. Today is no different, but I do manage to get a shot of the NYSE bull!
1.00 pm: I decide to spend the day exploring the NY Fashion District - more affectionately known as the Garment District.
It lies in the area that is 7th & 8th Avenues, from 37th to 40th Street. I take the subway and drop close by Macy's on 35th and walk up. The area definitely looks a bit grungier than what I've been used to seeing. I am reminded of Hong Kong's Sham Shui Po, which I visited around June last year. Both have shops and shops of fashion wholesalers, fabric and notions (trims, ribbons, buttons). There are shops specialising in particular fabrics like LaceStar & even Spandex House (shudder). The garment district is a little more compact than HK's SSP though - which is sprawled across several major streets and is actually part of an even larger wholesale area. I realised that fabric wholesale tends to be grouped together with fashion wholesalers - although my first thought is - when I looked at the shop displays of the fashion wholesalers - who on earth would actually carry this stuff?! Much of it looked like stuff straight out of an 80s prom. The other thing I notice? Lots of Indians running fabric stores here - guess things aren't that different in NY and Singapore...
Button & Needle Infobooth
I did my fair share of research on this area before coming on this trip of course - I knew the Garment District would be one of my primary stops, and YJ's friend Erica also supplied some recommendations:
My 1st stop: MOOD Fabric Store
225 West 37th St - 3rd Flr (somewhere b/w 7th & 8th ave)
I'm told that this is the store that the Project Runway contestants shop at - it's also featured in Zagat (quintessential city guide) - particularly famed for its "helpful" employees which I am soon to experience 1st hand. I'm a little thrown off when I finally arrive at the stated address - from the street you can't even tell that there's a store in the building - it looks like an office building (quite a nice one) without any window displays at all. Actually it's something like the building that the Vera Wang boutique was housed in. There's actually a name to the building, but I forget. Anyways I walk into the lobby and see these 2 old fashioned looking elevators - the kind which have the semicircular display with a hand showing which floor the elevator is on. The elevator finally arrives and the few of us waiting walk in. An Asian lady asks the guy manning the elevator if this is where Mood Fabric Store is, and he replies in the affirmative - I figure I'm on the right track. The door opens onto the 3rd floor - I look out - and decide that I have arrived in fabric HEAVEN.
First of all - this store occupies THREE floors. Let me explain - in Singapore, you'd be hard pressed to find a store that had even 3 AISLEs of fabric (Spotlight notwithstanding, but it's expensive there). Three expansive floors of fabric was just incredible - the store is filled with lots of student types - funkily dressed, and discussing fabric choices with their friends. They're asking for swatches (small pieces of fabric) which the staff are helping them cut out. I later discover that Moods is known for relatively cheap fabric, I guess that's why it attracts a large student crowd. I start looking at the fabric - it's rather difficult because the rolls of fabric are stacked horizontally such that the main thing you see are the cardboard rolls holding the fabric together. And the fabric is stacked ceiling high. I start off with the prints - there are some good choices for less than $20 per yard. That's about the cheapest range they have there. Over at the satins section, I see stuff that goes into $30s to $40s a yard. Too expensive. I finally decide on a fabric that I like and ask one of the staff for help.
Me: "Can you help me?"
Staff (walking off): "No I can't - I'm going for lunch" I am so appalled that I take some time just to digest this message.
Me (recovering): "Well, is there someone who CAN help me?"
Staff (pointing to another guy who looks absolutely clueless): "He can" and proceeds to make a hasty exit
So I get chucked at this other guy who looks real perplexed - I point out the fabric that I want and he prepares to snip off a piece. I tell him, No I don't want a swatch - I want to BUY it. He looks lost - apparently there's some kind of cutting hierachy in this place and this guy is not authorised to cut actual fabric. He's restricted to swatch snipping only. I wonder if he's like one of those trainee sushi chefs who have to cook rice for years before they get to even touch the fish.
So I get directed to a 3rd guy - who thankfully (finally) brings the roll of fabric to a large cutting table (I suppose much like the one from which Wendy "stole" Kara Saun's orange fabric in PR - the Nancy O Dell episode) I walk out of Mood heavily laden - that's 16 yards of fabric for you!
3rd Stop: NY Elegant Fabrics
222 West 40th St
This catches my eye because it is such a large store - it spans about 2 or 3 shopfronts. Sections are clearly labelled - "Cottons" "Stripes" "Stretch cotton" "Satins" etc. But prints are not as nice as those at Mood.3rd Stop: M&J Trimmings
1008 6th Avenue (37th & 38th St)
This place is always highly and frequently recommended and no wonder - it's a beautiful store, you look in through the large glass windows and see rolls and rools of colourful ribbon, cords, lace & trims on display. Alas, too expensive! 1 yard of thin ribbon going for US$1.79 (gasp!)
I try looking for B&J fabrics but unfortunately the address that I have on me is incorrect and I'm struggling with the bag of fabric, so I decide, forget it. It's actually at 525 Seventh Avenue, between 37th and 38th Streets, 2nd floor.
I walk all the way down to somewhere near Macy's again and take a train downtown back to the hotel. I manage to get on the WRONG train - I think it's an express - I plan to stop at Union Sq and transfer. The last stop I recognise is Canal Street (this should already start alarm bells in my head because this stop is past Union Sq) but I somehow think that I'm on the right track and do not check my subway map. Well well well, the next thing I know is that the train keeps going without stopping for a long, long time. And then, I see open air.
OK at this point, the alarm bells start - I'm in the open, on a bridge - I'm on my way out of Manhatten!!!! It doesn't help that this train is much grungier than usual (I didn't notice before when I so enthusiastically jumped in, thinking it would take me to my stop). I recall hearing one guy ask another as he got in (same stop as me) - Does this train go to Brooklyn?
With a Shocking realisation, I find myself bound for Brooklyn!!! I figure that all I need to do is to get out at the next stop and take a train in the opposite direction, but being suddenly thrown off-guard I feel the beginnings of a panic attack (so uncool, I know). Luckily there is a Chinese family just in front of me on the train, so I enquire (in my pathetic Cantonese, one of the girls gives me a blank look when I speak to her in English) about turning round, and am told to go to the platform upstairs which will take me back the way I came.
I end up on a Pacific Avenue (something like that - I assume I'm deep in the bowels of Brooklyn but I don't wait around to find out) I rush out, go upstairs and look for a familar train line - I find it and get in. I grab my map and take it out, to check if the next stop I hit is the right one. Thankfully I'm on the right track - I heave a great sigh of relief when I reach Fulton.
8.30pm: I meet Kisu back at the hotel and we take a train to Canal St - we're going to have xiao long baos with YJ and her sister Sae Eun. It's this place that Kisu visited before he ever came out to Asia - Joe Shanghai's. It's packed (lots of ang moh folk) and full of unfriendly wait staff - a typical Chinese restaurant. We order giant xiao long baos galore - 2 "long"s full - one with crab and the other without. It's actually more similar to the one I tried in Shanghai - thick, oily soup - rather then the ones back in Singapore which have a thinner, lighter soup. We also get the Shanghainese rice cake which is very similar to Korean "duk". It comes pan fried with a thick-ish gravy. After dinner we hit Ferrara's (again, 'cos it's Kisu's fav dessert place) - we're so full all 4 of us share a tiramisu! We take a picture outside this time because we didn't the 1st time round.
Day 7 - Thursday 2 February
Today is not a good day for me - I'm sick - caught a chill from the cold which I'm not used to. It's the first of several sick days on this trip. I stay in, sleep and watch some TV. I actually quite enjoy this - lazy bum that I am - i don't need to actively walk around in the cold bundled up in thick woolly sweaters and heavy jackets. It's nice for a change - and I figure I'm here for a pretty long time so there's always time to explore!
YJ convinces me to go over to her place for a home cooked meal - the thought of this gets me up. We arrange to meet up at Union Square's DSW (Discount Shoe Warehouse). Since my arrival, YJ has taken it upon herself to be my official NY shoe shopping ambassador. DSW occupies 1 large floor, and it's so much neater and easier to navigate than Century 21! I manage to find something I like - black strappys for $109.90. Plus it's tax free week and I just make the $110 cutoff price!
YJ, Sae Eun and I hop down to WholeFoods to pick up salad greens and bread before heading back to their apartment for dinner. Mrs Ahn - lovely lady who totally does not look her age (I want to look like that when I have 2 grown up daughters) - has prepared a HUGE spread of home cooked korean yummy dishes!!! There are these little omelette thinggies, a beef dish, fish, 2 different types of kimchi and a variety of side dishes. My tastebuds, which have been shot ever since I arrived in NY (a sorethroat doesn't help either) experience a revival of sorts. I am just SO, SO glad to get homecooked food - I actually have an extra helping of rice and soup (definitely not a frequent occurance with me).
After dinner, we have strawberries for dessert. The 3 Ahn ladies are excited because their favourite show, Lost is going to start any minute - unfortunately, it's a re-run, so we end up watching Beauty and the Geek instead. For anyone who wants to know what this is about, catch it on Channel 5, which is showing it now.
9.40pm: YJ and I go meet Pat at Cafe Lalo for supper (dinner for Pat who's just gets off work). This is where You've Got Mail with Meg Ryan was filmed. There are lots of articles and references in the cafe so you can't miss this little factoid. I get a pear tart to share with YJ - both of us are too full. Not bad - I really like the decor and artwork that they use for the place - I take home a box of their matches too (which has a nice picture on it)!
see the nice pictures behind?
The "must-have" cafe Lalo shot
Day 8 - Friday 3 February
Still sick and stay in - but for dinner, Kisu & I meet Amol and Pranay for drinks at a pub called the Red Lion - it's *sort* of near Chinatown - Amol and Pranay come in from another bar where they were having $2 beers. I'm so hungry, but must do the drinks thing first before going for dinner, so as a compromise we order some finger food - I like the buffalo wings here - they're fresh, crisp and large! The 2 guys are our ex-colleagues and we know them from when they were back at the Mumbai office. Pranay - he is totally in love with NY - he sings me high praises of this place - and earnestly tells me "Whatever you want, you can get, right here" (i.e. why on earth would anyone want to be anywhere else?!) Errrr...OK.For dinner, we go to Yama Sushi - ah, Yama - home of big sushi!!!
Very yummy - I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...
Look, big sushi!
Day 9 - Saturday 4 February
Today is Woodbury Day - Woodbury is the premium outlet 1 hour away from Manhatten. We catch the 8.15 bus from Port Authority (42nd St) - Kisu's determined to make a head start.
There are all kinds of fabulous brands here like Armani, Ferragamo, Gucci, Fendi, Coach, BCBG, Cole Haan, TODs, etc etc. I've been to several outlets in the US and I think this is the best one I've been to - mainly because they carry many quality brands. It's really all open air, not mall-like at all - little single storey clusters of shops that are grouped in various colour zones. It is drizzling slightly when we arrive and it's also colder than in Manhatten - I feel the chill seeping through my jeans.The last time we were here (a couple years ago) - I left with one teeny coach bag. Kisu on the other hand, probably wiped out the entire Polo Ralph store and even had to buy a Samsonite luggage to fit all his new purchases. I am determined that this time will be different. Sadly - today, my total purchases run up to less than $30.
Kisu, once again, manages to clear out just about all the polo T-shirts in stock plus 3 pairs of Ferragamo shoes amongst a whole host of other items. Sigh. Looks like it's a zero sum game between the both of us when it comes to shopping karma. We leave on the 6pm bus.
After dumping our (I mean his) purchases at the hotel, we scrounge around for food - the Financial district is all but dead in the evenings, but we do manage to find food around South Street Sea Port - we end up in a restaurant called Red. And guess what, it serves Mexican food - NOT my most favourite food in the world. I have wings - very salty. They pale in comparison to the ones I had at the Red Lion. All in all, not a very fruitful day for me......