Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Life is a Highway/Let's Go Shopping!

Thanks to Deb's corporate discounts, Avis had the best deal for us, it's clearly culture shock when the lady behind the counter makes sure that you want a "compact" for four people. I guess if we were American sized, we would have conceded. Their idea of compact was a Mazda 3 Skyactiv sedan, which back home is a perfectly adequate means of transportation for four average to below sized adults.


Within the city, it's as good as everyone makes it out to be, nippy, nimble, compact even, but as it reached the highways, it was out of it's element. This is most likely down to it's Skyactiv namesake. Being engineered with fuel efficiency as paramount, doughy throttle response, and reluctant kickdown are par for course. The moment you want to overtake, or go up a hill and keep that car you just overtook from catching up embarrassingly, you need an excessive amount of throttle travel before the electronics give in and finally give you forward thrust. Because of that, you labour the engine, and end up consuming more fuel. Really it's a case of square peg round hole.

Anyway, my small car review over, back to the road trip. We started the trip mid morning, about 9:30 after all the paperwork was signed, so the voyage out of New York was relatively uneventful. Relaxing even. We wound along the landscape and were greeted by beautiful vistas of small cottages covered in snow, quaint suburban towns that you only see on TV as an Australian. Pedalling our way up a slight hillside, I finally experienced pea soup, a term I've only ever come across in literal terms.

I... can't... see!

It was only a brief point where visibility dropped to this level, maybe less than a kilometre, half a mile or so. It was funny as there was no sign that we would have this heading out of an otherwise clear New York.

Where am I???

After that brief spot there was no need for any more trepidation. It was very clear (cold) sailing ahead. Hovering around 40 degres fahrenheit the whole way (that's about freezing, sydneysiders). We reached Woodbery Commons shortly after they had opened, so it was still relatively quiet. It was a very oddly arranged complex, if you're used to shopping centres in Sydney anyway. More akin to a small scale village, where each shop is a house, large numbers of shops were arranged into "towns" with the Information stand and Food Courts being the quasi town centres.

Today we visit the state of Shopping, New Jersey

Because of this, the place has it's own map that they hand out at the information centre, shopping here requires military co-ordination, so see below the destinations I wanted to visit circled in black (see if you can spot 8). The shops circled in red are the ones Deb wanted to see/we ended up wandering into (find 16 + 1 for lunch).

They're all there, just take my word for it...

After a brief morning of shopping, it was time to stop in for lunch. I saw Philly Cheese Steak and my mouth started watering. Deb would never say no to something like that, especially because we hadn't been eating that badly up until that point.

Yes, that is my normal sized hand in the background... why do you ask?

It wasn't actually that big, blame perspective. They were roughly smaller than a Subway Foot long / 6 inch respectively. The "regular" drink is considered "large" in Australia though. What was beneath the wrapping however was a revelation, Philly Cheese Steak is actually more akin to our kebab meat back home, how this came to be described as such I don't know. I guess "Philly Shredded Beef" doesn't sound that appetising... not to say that it wasn't, it's just a misnomer, so adjust your expectations accordingly.

With our calorie reserve sufficiently brimmed, we continued to conquer the shopping outlet. As Deb would often put it she was "in a happy place".

$7.50 Jeans? How can I lose!

Conquer we did for the rest of the day, we eventually left at about 6pm as daylight was slowly leaving us. What started out as a relatively empty parking lot as customers slowly filtered in, ended up full of cars sleepily waiting until their owners had their fill of shopping.

Warning: Children left in car may be middle aged when you lose you them

The drive back home was relatively peaceful, so much so that Deb would occassionally nod off into a light sleep. And as soon as I was getting anxious about upcoming road directions, surely enough the GPS would chime in as it was needed.

What we came back to however was quite a spectacle. 6:30, everyone squashing into Manhattan.

Everyone in this photo is in the way

Next stop, the mines of Moria... I mean Manhattan

Gas, brake, honk. Gas, brake, honk. Honk, honk, punch. Gas, gas gas!

Needless to say it was very slow going from then on. I think it took us about half an hour of the one and a half hour trip to cover the last few miles. We had wanted to keep the car for the night for dinner, but quickly resolved that going anywhere in this mess would take us far longer than what was sensible. Who knows if this had cleared itself by the time we finished dinner too. So we dropped the car off early, as it didn't matter being daily rental. It had done it's duty for us, and we were thankful.

As we hadn't shopped that crazily, we caught the train back up to the apartment before heading back to dinner. Below are the spoils from our voyage that day. I don't think we spent much more than $150 on all this either, disregarding the set of boots that were ordered for home delivery as they weren't in stock at the outlet.
Final count,
1 Corningware,
2 sets of boots,
1 pair of jeans, 1 hat,
1 fancy yet sensible dress,
1 jacket,
1 pair of khakis.

Taking up too many seats on the subway

Everyone was starving from the walking around in the cold, so we quickly decided on a place to eat. Never mind the fact that it was back where we had rented the car, just an avenue over. Since we had dropped it back so early it was just past normal dinner time when we sat down.

We settled on a place called Citrus, a funky little place full of cuisine described as Asian/Latin fusion. Interesting I know, but it worked. The clientele was an interesting mix of young and old, so it was hard to peg the demographic. But generally the food took on an asian shape, with sushi, and seafood. The Latin part was usually the sauce or other such trimming giving it a spicy kick. We all thoroughly enjoyed our food, of particular note was Deb's Sushi combo, with 4 different variations. Two were the normal sushi and sashimi staple of kingfish, salmon, tuna and exceptionally tasty scallops, another was a seaweed roll that somehow unified spicy tuna and a slice of mango, another was a very french spicy tuna tartare with a layer of refreshing guacamole with added cucumber to combat the spice.

An Asian and a Latino enter a bar...

A special mention for the dessert I had, which was an evolution of the humble Apple Pie/Crumble. Inside along with the baked apple, instead of the sugary syrup was a cinnamon cream/mousse like filling (in texture anyway), this added a soft, sweet and creamy complement to the toasty apples. The cinnamon vanilla ice cream on the side was one of those flavours you could happily nurse a tub of on a wintery night, while curled up in a blanket on the couch.

I won't refuse a slice of this humble pie. (Yes that is a vial standing in for a teapot)

So all in all, that day was the closest thing we've had to a real holiday this trip, with shopping, a brief culture clash, a road trip, family and delicious food all in one. So that's it for us from this decidedly mass market post. Next week you see what our largely finished apartment looks like, and we visit Le Cirque for Dinner and French Jazz!

Yay, No blink!

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