On Monday we hoped on a World Wide Bus from Alewife station at 10am and 4 hours later we were at the old Post Office building on 31st and 8th in New York. Excitedly we entered the bustling world below New York City only to find that the ONE train that would take us directly to the hotel was under construction. After a frustrating marathon through the Subway corridors and trains, we finally made it to the hotel. We stayed the night at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel (WOW!) which was decadent and perfect. A trip back to the 1920's with plaster relief on the ceilings and huge art-deco mirrors and paintings everywhere, topped off with enormous crystal chandeliers dripping with refracted light.
After a quick rest in room 506, we spent Monday night on the town! First we went to Time Square and picked up same day tickets to Newsical the Musical. Then we went to a restaurant called 5 Napkin Burger. AMAZING! I had an Ahi Tuna burger to die for and Bruce had the original 5 Napkin Burger, also spectacular from what he said. We topped it off with a slice of New York Cheese Cake which just might be my new favorite dessert. We were early for the 8:15 show, so we stopped for a drink at the Theater Row Diner and had some laced coffees. It was a COLD night so all the more reason to warm up with caffeine, liquor, and whipped cream. Mmm! The show was good. It was an interesting off-Broadway production. Essentially it was a singing, dancing, SNL skit with 4 actors and a pianist on a tiny stage making fun of the news over the past 12 months. We laughed a lot but I wish I had a couple of more nights to go see more shows. But with only one night in New York it was exquisite.
Tuesday we spent in a slightly different fashion. Tuesday was VISA day. We woke up, checked out, had Starbucks, and made it to the Russian Consulate by 9am. There was already a line. A cold crisp New York day is beautiful so long as you can stand in the sun but as you can imagine in The Land of High-rise Buildings there is only so much free sunlight to stand in. I swear the Russians were checking if we were sturdy enough to handle Russia by making us stand out there in the cold. As you would expect, Bruce and I passed the test and made it inside. Once there, we were scanned and led into a tiny room where we had to wait through several other visa candidates who obviously did not read the "This is how to get a Russian Visa" page on the consulate website (numpties...). After some time, we get up to the window and it felt like we were in 1960's USSR. Thick hazy glass windows and small Charlies Angel's-like speakers and microphones (probably actually from the 1960s) made the whole situation tense but hilarious. We could barely hear the Consul with the speakers cutting out every other word of her already thickly Russian Accented speech.
Things you should know about getting a Russian Visa:
1. Double entry visas are non-standard and will be questioned
2. Telling the nice lady behind the counter that you do not have plane ticket reservations to verify your dates of entry because you will be driving through Russia then Kazakhstan then back into Russia will get you very strange looks.
3. Being able to list all of the cities you plan to travel through in order, correctly pronounced from western Europe to Mongolia will get you different types of looks from the nice lady behind the counter. I think she was legitimately impressed.
(GO BRUCIE and your incredible knowledge of political geography!)
4. None of this matters if: on the Visa Confirmation, the Visa people put "United Kingdom" for citizenship when you are trying to use your American Passport. Ugh...
So after much hassle, we left the consulate unsure if Bruce would actually be able to get his Visa. Mind you it is even more difficult because the Visa confirmation is in Russian and in CYRILLIC!
What to KNOW when you DON'T KNOW if you are going to get your Russian Visa:
1. Street vendor food in NY is delicious.
~Falafle and/or Lamb Gyros are a big hit!
2. Central Park is beautiful in the snow.
~Eating street food in Central Park reduces stress
3. Sending URGENT emails to Visa people actually works
4. The consulate closes at 1pm
So at 12:30 with corrections in hand (well... in blackberry) and Tadzhik sauce all over their faces Bruce and Andrea set off to crisscross New York City. Bruce raced to the subway in order to get his corrections printed out and turned in to the consulate before 1pm and Andrea set off down Park Ave towards the Waldorf to pick up the suitcases and get seats on the return bus to Boston, leaving at 2pm. After subway conundrums, taxis rides, printer confusion, panicked phone messages, and a race down 31st Bruce met Andrea on the bus with only minutes to spare.
So finally the adventure was over... 4 hours listening to Podcasts of NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me lay ahead of them... and then home to Salem, two kitties, and well earned sleep...
It was a spectacular two days in New York! An adventure that can only portent the amazing things to come...