Gifts from across the pond

Gifts from Radek

I was pleasantly surprised to come home from work this evening to find a package from the Czech Republic on my desk. My email pen pal, Radek Janíček sent us a beautiful Christmas card with a photo of snowy courtyard among Prague architecture, as well as a “Traditional Czech Cuisine” cookbook and two DVDs, “S čerty nejsou žerty” and “S tebou mÄ› baví svÄ›t”, which should be, um, interesting. I’m thinking about watching them while we’re in Des Moines with Elise’s family next week (with English subtitles, of course).

Elise and I are very excited that Radek and his wife, Jana, are expecting their first child early next year, so we’re going to make sure to load them up with Texas goodies once the baby is born. With a cowboy hat, 5 lbs. of extra spicy beef jerky and a can of Copenhagen, they’ll be Prague’s new trendsetters!

December in NYC

Last Tuesday I flew out to New York to visit a client. Elise flew in later that night and joined me at the Algonquin Hotel (which has a ton of history).

Wednesday I got up early, had breakfast with Brian at the Red Flame and a good visit with a client. After the meeting, I was pretty much done with my work week. Elise and I took a cab down to our NY office where I introduced her to most everyone that I know and then to lunch at Mercer Kitchen. We then took the subway back up to our hotel and then tried to go see the tree lighting at Rockefeller Plaza. That was a mistake. There were way too many people there for us to even try to get near the tree. We managed to get a couple blocks from the event and could watch some of the performers and festivities on the big screens they had on the adjacent corners. By that time it was getting cold and there were just too many people about, bumping into each other, so we headed back down to our hotel, and then to dinner at Trattoria Dopo Teatro. I then took Elise to Times Square where her jaw dropped (as mine did a year ago when I first was there). We bought a snow globe for one of my coworkers and headed back to the hotel to call it a night.

On Thursday we got up and had breakfast at Red Flame. Elise REALLY wanted a NY bagel, so she got 2 eggs over easy, sausage and toast. Go figure. I had the corned beef hash and a bagel. Then we headed to the subway to take us to the Financial District where we checked into the Gild Hall. Very chic spot. No spittoons. We lugged down to Battery Park and then caught the ferry to Liberty Island (got a NY magnet for the fridge) and got a close up look at the Statue of Liberty. Then caught the next ferry to Ellis Island. Ellis Island was the highlight of the trip for me and I highly, highly recommend it. There’s so much history there and all of the information available in the self-paced tour are beyond engaging. Ellis Island ate up the majority of our second day. By the time we were done, it was time to hit the train and get some food. We walked up and down Pearl Street in the Financial District until we happened upon some locals and asked where we should eat. They quickly suggested Harry’s, a renowned steak establishment. We had planned on having a nice dinner at night at some point, but due to the recommendation, it was going to be this night in particular. Elise had the 10 oz. filet, and I opted for the scallops because I’d had a huge, awesome steak on Tuesday night with Brian. Elise’s and my meals were both fantastic! After dinner, we walked to the local market for some fruit and water too keep in the fridge back at the hotel, then it was time to hit the hay.

On Friday we walked over to Ground Zero. Elise endured that same feeling I got when I first saw Ground Zero. Then we walked over to Ladder Co. 10 and watched one of the fire engines leave the station, and then tourist taking photo ops with the firefighters. Then it was over to Century 21 for shopping. Holy hell. Never again. I don’t know what to compare Century 21 to other than mad moms hunting Cabbage Patch Kids in the early-80’s. We did make out with some hats, which were much needed as the temperature hit the lower-30’s. We then walked over to Grand Central Station, took some photos and video, and then over across from the Chrysler Building to a little joint for pastrami sandwiches and tomato basil soup. Then we walked back to Times Square, and then took a subway to Central Park where we walked around for a bit and then took a horse-drawn carriage ride. After freezing our butts off, we walked over to 5th and stopped into the Apple store, FAO Shwarz and Tiffany & Co. At that point, exhausted, we took the train back downtown and walked a bit around the seaport before settling on Ryan Maguire’s Ale House. Totally reminded me of my second paying cook job at the Tap Room in Bellville – just a pub with great food.

On Saturday, backs and legs hurting, we headed out on a foot tour again. Our first stop was at TKTS to wait an hour to get tickets for Spamalot. Then we walked through Chinatown, got lost, found Little Italy and had a great lunch at Paesano’s, then went up to NYU, Greenwich Village, then back down through SoHo and Tribeca and finally back to the Gild for an hour of feet up relaxing. Then back on our feet to the train to midtown to see Spamalot at Shubert Theatre. Before getting to the theatre, I had to treat Elise to her first NYC street vendor hot dog. The show was a blast, and even better, when we walked out of the theatre, it started to snow!

Took the train back to the Gild and Elise was still hungry, so we walked to the market and hot a sandwich and some chips. We finally got to bed around 2 a.m. and had to wake up at 6 a.m. to catch our flight back to Austin.

We had an absolute blast in New York and are looking forward to going back soon.

Photos can be seen here.