alycewilson (alycewilson) wrote,

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A Taste of Chinatown

Sunday morning we went into Chinatown for dim sum, which is where the wait staff brings you little plates of things to try until you tell them you're done.

Chinatown Street (Click to enlarge)

Mott Street at the intersection with Pell Street
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The World Traveler had invited the other party guests the previous night, but none of them joined us, presumably too tired to make their way to Chinatown by 11 a.m. That's a good time to go, though, we discovered, because it's early enough to avoid lines and to have the largest selection of foods.

We went to a place the World Traveler knew of, Oriental Garden on Elizabeth Street. She said it had been recommended by a friend. They sat us at a table in the back where a group of four was already seated. As people arrive, the host fills up the large tables, rather than trying to seat parties at separate tables. I guess it's more time efficient that way.

Right behind us was a red wall with an intricate golden peacock and a dragon.

Peacock and Dragon Wall Decor (Click to enlarge)

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The waiters brought around bamboo baskets and plates containing food. They would announce what they were serving, and we told them if we wanted one. I wasn't sure what some of the dishes were, but if the others wanted to try them, we did. I liked most of them. There were only a few that weren't as good, but nothing I really disliked. Some dishes were spectacular. I would definitely do this again.

Afterwards, we did shopping and sight-seeing in Chinatown. We also got ice cream at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, where we shared two flavors: black sesame and durian (which is a popular fruit in Southeast Asia). The ice cream was creamy and the flavors unique. No wonder it was a popular place.

We checked out a few small stores to see if there was anything we might want. I was most interested in the stores that contained dried snacks (fruit and fish) and candies, because you could sample different things. I bought some dried strawberries and dried mangos in Candy Shop USA. I also bought some spicy macadamias in Aji Ichiban. Those purchases made my bag heavier, but it's nice to have a taste of New York in my cupboard, now that we've returned.

In particular, I love the dried strawberries, which reminded me of the homemade fruit rolls we used to get from the farmer's market when I was young. Does anyone still make those?

Then, at The World Traveler's suggestion, we walked to Columbus Park, where groups of musicians perform every day. As we entered, we came across a group that called themselves the Street Musical Club. A vocalist was accompanied by traditional instruments, including some huqins, or two-stringed violins; a yangqin, or hammered dulcimer; bamboo flutes; and percussion on wooden blocks.

I took some still photos, as well as some video, so that you can hear the music.

Musicians and Crowd in Columbus Park (Click to enlarge)

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Musicians in Columbus Park (Click to enlarge)

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Vocalist with Musicians in Columbus Park (Click to enlarge)

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As we walked further into the park, we saw men gathered around picnic tables to watch some traditional Chinese board games. I asked The Gryphon if he recognized them, since he knows a lot about board games, but he didn't. I believe it was Xiangqi, or Chinese chess.

At the far end were some people practicing a martial art form. I believe it was Aikido, although they weren't doing any falls (probably because there were no mats, and it appeared to be a group of beginners).

There were also people playing tennis at nearby courts, and a group of amateur soccer players learning how to kick goals. I tried for an action shot and got one I really liked, where a player has his foot up, ready to kick the ball.

Soccer Practice in Columbus Park (Click to enlarge)

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The park had a fence on which were affixed some panels in red and gold, some containing portraits and some words in either Chinese or English. An Internet search revealed the panels were created by two artists, Avani Patel and Nathalie Thuy-Anh Pham. The installation is called America's Chinatown Voices, and the panels contain poems and vignettes, memories, and political statements, along with black-and-gold portraits drawn from local scenes, family photographs and history books. Here's one of the portraits, which looks like a portrait of someone's male ancestor, sporting traditional clothing and hairstyle.

America's Chinatown Voices (Click to enlarge)

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When we left the park, we went looking for a small fan, because I thought it would be nice to keep one in my purse for a hot day. We managed to find one in a little shop that sold all sorts of trinkets. They were $1 each, so I bought two.

After that, we headed back to the subway, getting a glimpse of Little Italy as we did. The streets are lined with sidewalk cafes, and the hosts try to interest you with menus and specials as you walk by. Red, white, and green decorations span the street, so that it perpetually looks like a street fair.

Street in Little Italy (Click to enlarge)

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Some of the outdoor cafes were fancier than others. I particularly liked the embellishments on these orange table umbrellas.

Orange Umbrella (Click to enlarge)

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I was amazed to discover a tobacco shop that had two wooden Indians out front. I thought that, in modern times, no one displayed such artifacts anymore. Still, the handiwork on them was fabulous.

Cigar Store Indians (Click to enlarge)

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Near the end of our trek through Little Italy, we saw some men gathered in front of a shrine to St. Anthony, chatting easily, all of them wearing sunglasses.

St. Anthony Shrine (Click to enlarge)

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In the Spring Garden station, as we were waiting for our train, I had The Gryphon take a picture of me leaning against a support, in front of some graffiti. He took several, but the best was the last one, because he happened to catch a train coming in on the opposite tracks.

Alyce in Spring Street Subway (Click to enlarge)

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Back at the apartment, we rested for a little while and then gathered our belongings. We thanked The World Traveler for her hospitality, and she walked us to the corner to catch a cab to Penn Station.

The trip home went smoothly, though the train was full of travelers. As we transferred trains in Trenton, I got a photo of a mural on some of the plywood that's up as part of the renovation. It features a green, angry-looking face that looks sort of like a swamp monster.

Trenton Mural (Click to enlarge)

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Home in Philly, we wanted to eat at a restaurant where we could keep it light. We put our luggage in my car at 30th Street Station's long-term parking, then walked into the student district, several blocks away. After browsing the restaurants, we ate at one of our favorites, Mad Mex [SITE HAS SOUND], where The Gryphon got fajitas (with lots of veggies) and I had the Mahi Mahi Salad Salad, with blue corn bread.

Our last stop, of course, was to pick up our doggie, Una, who was at the pet sitters'. She had been good, they told us, but had missed us. I wonder what she would have thought of all the things we'd done while we were away.

When the waiters keep bringing plates, it's hard to stop eating.

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Tags: art, food, friends, gryphon, music, new york city, photos, sight-seeing, una, world traveler

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