This past weekend we went to New York City with my parents to see my brother Matt run in the New York Marathon. This was his first marathon, and I am sure it will not be his last.
Having never been a long distance runner, or ever running before the last three years, he did an awesome job, finishing the marathon 2,919 out of the nearly 40,000 who started. He ran a 7:39 mile average over 26.2 miles. I can't even begin to imagine how tough something like that is. Again, congrats to him and everyone else who ran in the marathon.
Besides the marathon we also got to do, see, and eat some other really great things.
We arrived into Manhattan around 7 P.M. on Halloween just in time for our 9:30 P.M. reservations at Brasserie Les Halles.
This is a french restaurant that became famous because chef Anthony Bourdain worked there for a number or years and wrote the book Kitchen Confidential while working there. Tony B. is no longer the executive chef, but I believe many of the dishes served there are his creations. It was an awesome meal! And of course the ambience was great- especially with every employeed dressed up for Halloween.
We started off with an appetizer of grilled octopus with black squid ink sauce. It was delicious!
For the main course I had the grilled pork chop with mustard sauce and Brian had what we called the "meat parade" (officially known as the "Planche de Grillades"). Mine was excellent, but Brian's was even better. He basically got a sample of every meat that they cook (pork sausage, lamb chop, lamb sausage, hanger steak, and 1/4" thick bacon) served up on a wooden platter with a side of frites (french fries).
We drank a bottle of Fronsac, "Selection Les Halles" Chateau Faure Beausejour (red wine) which complemented the meal nicely. If I lived in New York I would probably have to come back to this place.
On Saturday Brian and I went to the American Museum of Natural History (or the "crazy evolution museum" as it was called it in a recent SNL skit making fun of Sarah Palin). We figured that it would be less crowded than the Met or MoMA (both of which we still need to go to!) and we wanted to see some dinosaurs and the special exhibit on climate change.
The dinosaurs were very, very cool. And very, very big. I don't think I have ever seen dinosaur bones, so this was a great experience. Brian was like a kid in a candy store.
Brian says he could have spent hours solely in the human evolution section of the museum. On a more disappointing note, the climate change exhibit was not very impressive. I think it was aimed more for young people or people completely ignorant of climate change. There was no new information or interesting displays, so we went through it pretty fast.
We didn't go through the whole museum because there just wasn't enough time, but we got to see everything we wanted so we are satisfied. Next time we are in the city we'll be visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
We then met my brother and my parents for lunch at Cafe Frida. We wanted to go to Shake Shack which has been in the NY paper a lot, but there was a line around the block so we went next door to Frida's. We couldn't believe the wait for burgers and fries, but I guess going to the "in" place is what you do in NYC. Cafe Frida is an upscale Mexican joint with really good, fresh burritos and guacamole.
After lunch Brian and I walked to the Hudson river which is on the west side of Manhattan island. It was very peaceful over there, and had more of a neighborhood/park type feel.
You can see New Jersey across the river, so that was fun.
What was not cool was the 3.5 mile walk back to Matt's apartment to meet up for an early pasta dinner. I guess we couldn't complain too much when Matt was going to be running 26 miles the next day.
We ate dinner at a family style Italian restaurant near my brother's apartment named Tony's. It was pretty good, but we've now eaten there twice, and I don't think you are supposed to eat at a restaurant in NY city more than once, so we probably won't be back. My aunt, uncle and cousin from Maine were able to meet up with us to eat since they were going to be in New Jersey staying with my cousin for the night and then coming to watch the race on Sunday.
After dinner everyone went back to Matt'a apartment to hang out for a little bit before he had to go to bed at 10:30 P.M. After everyone left, Brian and I went back out and had a drink at a random bar, Swig, and then got Pinkberry for dessert.
On Sunday my brother left for the race at 6 A.M. He had picked out a spot for us to stand so that he would know where to look for us as he ran by. My parents stood at 63rd and 1st and we stood at 68th and 1st (farther down from my parents) so they could call us as he ran by and we would be ready for pics. At this point in the race the runners are just coming into Manhattan from Brooklyn and Queens, so there us a huge crowd that really gets the runners pumped up. I think this is around mile 16 of the race. When my brother ran by he didn't even look tired!! He was smiling and hi-fiving people as he ran by.
I think some of the runners have a little more fun with the marathon because we saw people run by taking pictures, stopping and doing little dances in front of fans, and even running with small video cameras. It was actually pretty wild to see. Since there was nearly 40,000 runners, there was a constant stream going by and it was fun to see all the different types of people running.
Once my brother ran by we quickly walked to a spot near the finish line. You can't actually see them cross the finish line unless you have made reservations and pay big bucks. We actually only saw a few marathoners walking at the finish (maybe 2 or 3) of the race. I thought there would be more people near death after running for 3 or more hours. We saw my brother finish- he looked a lot more worn out this time, and then we walked up to where our final meeting spot was set. After the race the runnners have to keep walking for 10-20 minutes and are given a foil "wrap" to keep their muscles warm or they will quickly cramp up.
After the race my parents took my brother back to their hotel so he could shower up and relax. He wasn't going to be able to get back to his apartment right away because they had 1st Avenue blocked off for the race and he was on the other side of it. Brian and I had been wanting a gorilla pod for our camera and there was a giant photo and video store in mid-town Manhattan called B&H Photo so we decided to go there.
This store was amazing! It was largest, most specialized store I have ever been too. It reminded me a lot of Nebraska Furniture Mart, but it was all photo and video equipment. They literally had hundreds of camera tripods on display, as well as many, many other products.
We really wish we would have spent more time in there, because there is no other store that even comes close to their selection anywhere near us. Oh, another interesting thing about this place is that is full of hasidic jewish men. I bet 95% of the people working there were jewish (you can read why here).
The store also uses a track system to move products from the warehouse to the floor and when a customer wants a specific item to purchase, the employee inputs the request into the computer and the warehouse retrieves the product, places it in a green bucket, puts it on a conveyer belt and sends it to the department that is requesting it. Then, after confirming the product, it is put back onto the conveyer belt and sent to the checkout counter where you will pick it up after you pay for it. It is amazing to watch, and as far as we could tell, it works great and is very efficient.
We will be visiting this place again when we go back. Any video or photo jumkies out there should visit this place.
After B&H we grabbed a couple of slices of NY pizza on our way to meet the family at a bar near my brother's apartment for celebration drinks. It was a pretty small bar, but it had good atmosphere and was filled with my brother's friends (some of whom also ran in the marathon). We didn't stay too long since my brother was pretty beat and we went back to his place and ordered a shit-ton of sushi with his roommate Lisa and her brother Eugene.
It was a great ending to a great day and and great trip overall.
My brother crashed early, Brian went up to the roof to take some time-lapse photos with the new Gorilla Pod and I fell asleep on the couch.
We woke up early Monday morning, flagged a cab, drove in bumper-to-bumper traffic, waited forever behind really slow people at the Midwest counter, waited again behind really dumb people in the security line, and then waited again in a long line of airplanes to take off and finally get home.
It was a great trip overall, and again, we can't wait to go back. You can't run out of things to do and see and eat in New York City.
Go here for all the pics of our trip!