Sunday, January 9, 2011

New (Year x Jersey x York)

And so in the blink of an eye L and I found ourselves on New Year's Day on a plane back to New Jersey.

There are always many things to do in that part of the world, and L and I tried to do what we could.

There was feasting, of course:

Filipino food in New Jersey (where else?)

Scarpetta with W in the Meatpacking District (good, but not as good as I expected. The RawYellowtail was the best dish I tasted. L's pomodoro, which was reputedly the best in NYC, was somewhat disappointing)

Los Hermanos in Brooklyn (fantastic hole in the wall Mexican food place populated, oddly enough, with hipsters from Williamsburg and Mexican workers packing tortillas into boxes factory style. Best tacos and enchiladas tasted on this trip!)

Extra Virgin in the West Village (sorry, no pictures, but the food was perfectly satisfactory)

Tanoreen in Brooklyn (my favorite restaurant in New York. It's delicious Middle Eastern/Mediterranean cuisine and very affordable; its a pilgrimage to this place every time I'm in town)

L and I also spent an afternoon in the Met museum. We've been here a number of times before, but there always is something new to see:

We walked around the city enough to get us wistful:

And watched La Traviata at the (other) Met at Lincoln Center:

Bye, New York! See you again soon.

Santo Domingo

We were supposed to spend 6 days in the Dominican Republic - 3 days sitting in the sun on the famed shores of La Romana, Bayahibe, and 3 days in Santo Domingo and Juan Dolio for the wedding festivities. Because of the snow storm in the Eastern part of the US, we had only one full day in the DR, which day also happened to be New Year's Eve.

We started off the day with a leisurely walk on the beach, and spotted some fishermen nearby:

Later, we decided to take a trip to the Zona Colonial of Santo Domingo one of the earliest Spanish settlements in the New World. It is easy to imagine how it was back then - it is remarkably well-preserved.  Aided by our elementary Spanish, and later, an English speaking guide, we made our way around the very old capital.

Parque Colon. With the large statute of Columbus keeping watch over the domino players, pigeons, hawkers and tourists.

Catedral Primada de America. The oldest Cathedral in operation in the Western Hemisphere (from 1514, est.)

Fortaleza Ozama, the oldest colonial military edifice in the New World.

Las Damas, the first paved street in the Americas.

Walking around the Zona Colonial was very pleasant. It was late December but the weather was comfortable (around 22 degrees), the air crisp and there were no tricksters, stray dogs and other elements you would often find in other old (touristy) cities. You could sense some excitement from the warm and friendly faces that walked passed; it was New Year's Eve, and people were looking forward to the evening's festivities, devoted almost entirely to the lovely Merengue.

Our own New Year's Eve was also delightful. JR's parents had a beach house with a fantastic beachfront, and it was merry making until the wee hours of the morning.

Dominican Republic

We were in the Dominican Republic for G and JR's wedding, and the wedding was on the 30th of December, the day we finally arrived!

So it was a dash from the airport to the Metro Club in Juan Dolio. L and I took in a late lunch and walked around a bit when we got there, but there was hardly any time left before we had to dress up for the wedding.

This was our first time to a wedding in the Caribbean, and it was super fun! The venue was JR's brother's house, which was a 5 minute walk from the hotel. There was a short religious ceremony (Catholic, but no Eucharist), and it was thereafter a party from 8:30 pm to 3:30 a.m. The format is different from weddings we usually go to: Merengue music (from an excellent band) started playing from 8:30 p.m. and everyone immediately started dancing. Food was available on the side for those who wished to eat, champagne was the only drink available, and there was no program and no speeches. A DJ would take over when the band took breaks, but there was hardly a time when there were no people on the dance floor.

Quirky similarities to Philippine weddings abound (and indeed, the "Spanish" influence on Philippine culture is in substantial part an influence from Mexico and surrounding former Spanish territories, and not directly from Spain itself). There was the formal dress, the "Guyabera", that looks so much like the Barong Tagalog. There was an exchange of coins as part of the religious ceremony.  Eerily, the centerpiece of the buffet table was also a roasted pig (also called a lechon).

After a day that began in New Jersey waiting in line in the early hours of the morning for not-so-sure seats, three hours of shifting around in very uncomfortable airline seats,  two hours of lunch and preparations, and finally hours of champagne and merengue (aided, not in small part, by the champagne), L and I made our way back to the hotel exhausted, but pretty happy.

The Longest Layover Ever

L and I were traveling to the Dominican Republic on Christmas Day. We had a 23 hour layover in New York, which, because of the snow storm, turned into a 96 hour layover.

Much of our 96 hours were spent trying to get seats on any flight to Santo Domingo, and we had daily trips to Newark airport from B and J's house in River Edge, New Jersey. There was a lot of standing in line, eating Combos and drinking Dr. Peppers, and eavesdropping on other people's complaints.

In between standing in line and constant flight status monitoring on L's laptop, we managed to do a shopping trip to that mecca of shopping, Woodberry Commons. After a few years in Europe and many many years in Asia, I do have to admit that nothing beats shopping in America, especially after Christmas Day!

We also got to meet up with RR. The meeting place was the new Blue Ribbon Sushi and Grill in the Upper West. We used to go to the old one down in Soho and this new one did not disappoint. We had the Sushi Deluxe, Ise Ebi Sashimi, Fried Chicken "Blue Ribbon Style" and Oxtail Fried Rice:

After so much movement and anxiety, it was very comfortable hanging out with B and J and cute nephew LL, all of one month old but already hanging out with the grownups everywhere we went:

Four days and four pounds later, we finally found ourselves on a plane to Santo Domingo.

Happy New 2011!

In 2010 I blogged a total of 13 times, most entries of which were done towards the end of the year.

Well, fear not, my loyal cadre of four readers, I have realized that blogging is an important part of memory preservation. If neither pictures nor words were posted about an event, its as if it never happened. Such is the world we live in today.

So onward with the blogging!