Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Our Summer Trip to Italy - Day 1.5, Aug. 27/28, 2014

(This is uploaded 3 months after the trip was taken, but written throughout the trip. This first entry is day 1.5 of our 11-ish day trip to Italy. During this trip you will read about and see our adventures to NYC, Milan, Lake Como, all 5 (6) towns of Cinque Terre and finally Florence. The trip began on the evening of Wednesday, August 27. Enjoy!) 

The trip started for me when I walked into the house with arms raised in triumph because I actually left work on time. Tristan (brother) was called ahead of time to ensure a ride through Lyft/Uber would be available for us, and of course it was. Nothing exciting about our flights to Chicago and then on to Newark, but it is always shocking to me how long it takes to get anywhere n NYC when you start from Newark (took about 1.5 hrs to arrive at the destination).

We stayed at our friend (ex-OKCer) Johnny Mac's apartment, which was the first stop across the East River in Brooklyn. Our flight landed around 8:30pm so we headed straight to his apartment where he met us outside with hellos and hugs. We put our bags down (just brought back packs and one shared small bag for mainly chargers, toiletries and the camera). We headed out into his neighborhood and walked around the corner and found a crowded/noisy bar and immediately knew we wanted a quieter place. 100 yards away was another small bar that had an amazing vintage atmosphere with custom curved bar. They specialized in mixed drinks so Marek and JMac both got something I can't pronounce and I stuck with a random local IPA. After one drink and some great conversation and catching up, we headed back to the apartment for some much needed rest.

We woke up/got up pretty late (around 10am) and headed to a breakfast place JMac recommended. It was a small hipster/organic place about 15 min walk south from his apartment called "5 Leaves." The food was tremendous, but I stuck with the basics only ordering 3 different sides: thick bacon, over-medium (cage free) eggs and some hash brown bricks. Marek got some sort of egg-scrambled sandwich with sage...I think she was jealous of my bacon. That's one of those "we were meant for each other" things as her favorite part about bacon is the fat (mine is the meat so we split it) and she doesn't like the yolk in eggs and that's my favorite part. Anyway.

After breakfast, we took the subway to downtown Manhattan to go see the Freedom Tower and 9/11 Memorial. The last time we were here, the tower was still being built. The museum had a really long wait, and the $25 entry fee to the museum was the turning point into us saying, "We'll do it some other time." No sense in going over our budget on the first day.

We left downtown and headed up to Central Park East to see the Guggenheim (which I had never seen) - FYI, the museum is closed every Thursday. Today is Thursday. Well, the building looks pretty.

Crossing over a couple blocks to Central Park and beginning at the lake. It's always incredible thinking about how much space and real estate on Manhattan was dedicated for this park. We began our walk around the track clockwise. No reason - probably looked to have the most shade. Turns out that we were heading in the wrong direction as one disgruntled senior citizen out for her afternoon stroll strongly pointed out to us. At this point it was kind of too late. We were already halfway around to our destination (West side) and there really wasn't a place to exit the track as it is elevated about 20 feet with a steep ropes off hill down to another track. Sorry 'bout you old lady. We're going to finish our walk.

Arriving to the other side we begin looking for a place to grab a beer (our theme throughout the trip) as well as looking for a spot to eat lunch - first stop however, find a place to buy band-aids. Marek's new shoes worn without socks were not made for walking.

Band-aids found. Using Yelp we see a place with a high rating in our price range (we try to stick in the $10-15 per meal range, but if you're in NYC/Europe and you're not eating out of a food cart it can be difficult. Turns out the place is incredible, "Jacob's Pickles." I ordered the Fried Chicken and Bacon Pancakes. They were as delicious as it sounds. Two enormous pancakes with bacon chunks cooked in and a piece of boneless fried chicken atop each pancake. I only managed to eat half a pancake but took down both pieces of chicken. Marek had Biscuits and Fixings, which consisted of homemade biscuits with multiple amazing jams/butters. These two entrees along with our two beers meant this restaurant was well deserving of the 4.5 stats it had on Yelp.

We decide to go ahead and make plans with JMac to see if he will have time to eat dinner with us before we head to the airport later on. We decide on a pizza place near his house named Paulie Gee's (inside view). Of course we're good for pizza. But we aren't finished with Manhattan yet. Considering we were pretty close to the Hudson River at this point (71st and Amsterdam area), Marek wanted to go check out Riverside Drive. We headed over there and quickly realize that we are already sort of tired from walking/standing (about 4 hours on our feet so far) and with a ten-day walking day ahead of us we decide not to push it too much more.

After we found Riverside Drive and took a 15min break by sitting on an enormous boulder in the park that seemed seldom used by anyone other than homeless people and those looking to break beer bottles, we started to head back.

We stopped after a 15min walk and stumbled into an Irish Pub on Broadway for a beer and then headed on the subway back to JMacs. I took a very needed shower/changed and we took a small nap.

We headed out around 6:00 to meet JMac knowing we were going to be a few minutes early (he estimated he would be in around 6:30). We needed to be on a bus to the airport around 7:30-7:35 to begin the 45min journey to JFK to be there plenty of time before our 10:20pm flight to Milan. JMac texted me and told me that because it was a holiday weekend (Labor Day) that it may take up to an hour to get there, so we adjusted our departure from Paulie Gee's up to 7:15, which meant ordering the pizza before JMac got there - just to be safe. Turns out it took him awhile longer to reach us due to traffic (he got his first NYC car today from his client- Mercedes. He's such a baller). Anyway, JMac didn't get to Paulie Gee's until 7:05, which meant we had 10 min to chat and head out. The pizza was incredible, and since JMac is a vegetarian, we ordered his pizza'a Soppresata (spicy salami) on the side and put it on our pizza - we win!

Got to the airport and boarded our flight with airliner Emirates. Let me tell you, this airline knows what it's doing. This was my 8th overseas flight and none was more pleasant than this. I did start out 0-2 on choosing movies to watch our personal touch TV screens (this is after the stewardess handed out warm moist hand towels and offered free alcoholic drinks to the passengers - along with dinner...which I didn't eat because I wasn't hungry but it looked good). The two movies I started out with were Transcendence with Johnny Depp. It was terrible. I turned it off after 20 min. Then I put on Captain America. It was nearly worse and I turned it off after 15 min. My third movie was a winner - The Dallas Buyer's Club. The acting by Matthew McConaughey and Jarred Leto was absolutely incredible. I watched the whole thing then passed out for the remainder of the flight (about 3 hours). That's pretty rare. Marek did not sleep much and we were both pretty cranky when we landed (noon), while trying to be excited.

We eventually found the airport train we needed to get us into Milan central. We arrived and went straight to meet our AirBNB hosts. They were an extremely nice couple - trying their very best to use the English they knew to carry on a conversation. I don't think they realized how tired we were. I didn't really have energy to carry on polite conversation for very long. I needed sleep, pronto. They left, we slept. Grazie.

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