t2.bmp (300054 bytes)  New York City

October 2-8, 2011

 

Freedom Tower

 

 

 

AMNH Brooklyn Central Park Downtown Grand Central Station Metropolitan museum Midtown Night Lights Uptown Wall Street

 

Trip Log
Day 1: Sunday October 2, 2011 We left home at 7:30 am and had breakfast at McDonalds. At the airport, our check-in went fine. Karen tried to buy the new novel by Lee Child called The Affair about the character Jack Reacher, which had finally been published last week. That was what she planned to read on the plane. NO LUCK. At the terminal, the only bookstore was a Borders Bookstore (and all the Borders Bbookstores SHUT DOWN a few months ago). Instead, she had to settle for a People magazine.

Great flight to NY, just 1 hour and 10 minutes. Long walk to baggage claim. No problem getting bags. We went outside to find the limo. The driver was not there. So we called limo dispatcher. Dispatcher called driver. Dispatcher called back to say driver on his way. He finally showed up.

It took one hour to get to our hotel. Driving through NYC is totally crazy. There is a lot of weaving in and out of lanes. We checked into hotel. After settling in, we went out to lunch at Hell’s Kitchen. The restaurant was extremely crowded and loud. Food was good but nothing spectacular. Karen had a salmon burger. After lunch we walked all over Time Square. Found where to pick up our tickets for our bus tours. Around 5 pm we wandered over to Central Park.

We were beat. We decided to take a bicycle ride tour of Central Park in the rain. Lou thinks it was a total ripoff $100 + tip. Lou would not do that again. Good thing the buggy had a canopy because it was really raining rather hard. This meant we got partially wet. We then walked back to hotel in the rain. Buggy driver gave us umbrella.

We had dinner at Caprizza Pizza right around the corner from our hotel. The pizza was totally awesome - real pizza. Big slabs of meat, veg, and cheese with thin but very crispy.

It was about 10PM on a Sunday night, and the streets were crowded with people. There was this one guy screaming at a woman; that was the only moment that was sort of scary during the whole trip. We then walked to the drugstore, Duane Reed, which was a 3 story building. We loaded up on water, soda, etc. and walked back to the hotel and crashed.

Day 2: Monday October 3, 2011 We got up around 7:30 am. Karen made coffee in the room. Hung around for a bit then took showers and went down for complimentary breakfast. Hotel breakfast was actually fairly decent. They had omelets, bagels, bacon, fruit, sausage gravy biscuits, etc.

We finally left the hotel and walked over a couple of blocks. We did like New Yorkers and hailed a taxi. We took the taxi over to Wall Street for our walking tour. Cost us $25 for the ride. Taxi driver wanted a cross street instead of an actual address. Apparently that’s how it is in NYC. It took us awhile to figure out what he needed.

Got to the tour starting point early, so we walked around and went inside Trinity Church. We then had coffee at Milk Street Café. It’s a huge coffee shop and restaurant, really nice with awesome staff. They made fresh sandwiches for the lunch crowd. Coffee was quite good.

We met the tour across from the Museum of Finance at 55 Wall Street. We had a lady tour guide from South Africa. The tour guide asked where everyone was from, and she hooked us up with a woman from South Carolina. (North Carolina, South Carolina, same thing, right?) Her husband was there for a conference so she was on her own. She was quite awfully pretty.

The tour was quite nice. The tour showed us Dow Jones, NYSE, NASDAQ, and gave us the story of how Dow Jones got started. In addition we saw the Rockefeller building, heard about how buildings used to be straight up and are no longer so in order to let in more day light.

We walked through Trinity Church cemetery and saw where Alexander Hamilton was buried. Finally we walked down to ground zero. We saw the new Freedom Tower. We did not see the memorial because you need tickets to get in due to the fact it is a construction zone. The Freedom Tower will be 1776 feet tall.

After the tour we had a fantastic lunch at China Chalet. To get into the restaurant, you had to go up a real long stairway. Karen thought it was going to be a dump because the carpet was rather beaten up. But when we got to the top a man in a suit welcomed us and sat us at a wonderful table. We had awesome Hot and Sour soup. Lou had Shrimp in Garlic sauce with huge jumbo shrimp and crispy vegetables. Karen had Hunan Lamb. Service was wonderful.

After lunch we found an ATM machine on Wall Street. We hailed a cab and went to the American Museum of Natural History. Saw lots of rocks, minerals, meteors, and of course dinosaurs. We saw one meteor that was 34,000 tons. It was so huge it had to be on a platform that was anchored through the foundation of the building into the bed rock.

When we walked into the dinosaur section, Karen said “Oh my God”. They were so big. We saw a presentation on Sorapods who where vegetarians. Their necks were so long they didn’t have too move around much and expend energy. They could just move their necks around from tree to tree. Tried a few gift shops but the shops were really lame.

Left AMNH and walked down Central Park west. We got slightly lost but Lou saved the day. We ended up at a fantastic Cuban restaurant called Guantnamera, like the song, which we googled to get the lyrics. The people, décor, and food were absolutely authentic Cuban. We had maduros, yucca, and started off with croquettas. Karen had Vaca Frita and Lou had Bistec Palomillo with congre. Lou had two double Grey Goose Vodkas with lime juice. They were quite yummy. After dinner Lou just had to order the flan even though he was stuffed. Karen tried it and loved it. The owner came over and talked to us for a while. She was a hot babe. Bill was $108.

We then walked back to the hotel. On the way to the hotel, we stopped off at another Duane Reed drug store for more supplies. (There was practically a Duane Reed on every corner.) Karen was exhausted. Karen loves NYC.

Day 3: Tuesday October 4, 2011 We crawled out of bed around 7:30 am. Neither of us slept well. We think it had to do with too much sun on Monday. We had breakfast in the hotel. It was packed so we ate breakfast standing up against the wall in the hallway outside the breakfast room.

After breakfast we went to Starbucks for coffee and found our way to the bus tour. The bus tour office was in the Museum of Wax. We had to go in there to turn in our vouchers and get our tickets. We chose the Uptown Tour to start with.

Harlem had beautiful churches. We saw the Dakota where John Lennon lived and was shot. We saw lots of churches, buildings, and granite. The island of Manhattan is mostly made up of granite.

We got off the bus and went to the Guggenheim museum. A big part of going there was to be able to walk up the circular ramp and see all the art. Unfortunately the ramp was closed while they installed some new show! Bummer. We didn’t care for the museum because we don’t care for modern art. Especially when the description goes off to say this painting depicts the struggle between technology and politics as well as the energy between East and West Germany… Yikes.

We went outside and grabbed a sausage in flat bread at a truck lunch cart. It was very good.

From there we went to the Metropolitan museum. We spent a lot of time at the Egyptian exhibit, since this was the next best thing after our trip to Egypt fell through last spring. We saw sculptures over 4,000 years old. We saw pink granite from Aswan in Egypt! How many times did we hear about “pink Aswan granite” during our Egypt class? Like a million times. And we finally saw some. Pretty! Pink! Karen got to touch the pink granite and was very excited.

We walked through a tomb. We saw a few sarcophagi and many statues. From there we went to the European art gallery where we saw Rembrandt, Vermeer, and some Russian artists.

We got on the bus and returned to our starting point. After getting off the bus, we walked back to the hotel. We took an hour nap. We then got up, freshened up, and walked over to Starbucks where we hung around upstairs for 40 minutes. We had coffee and items (baked goods). We had to call Pat so she wouldn’t freak out when she found out there was a helicopter tour that crashed in the east river earlier in the day.

From there we walked over to see Spider Man “Turn off the Dark”. Spider Man flew by us at least 6 times. He landed on a platform that was about 3 feet away from us. He was close enough we could have reached out and poked him ;-) The show was SPECTACULAR. The music was wonderful. Broadway shows on Broadway are definitely a notch above Broadway shows elsewhere.

After Spider Man we walked back to Hell’s Kitchen and found an Italian restaurant. Like most stores and restaurants in NYC, they have a narrow exposure to the sidewalk but they go back a very long way. This restaurant was maybe 8 feet wide and 30 feet deep. The food was well, what can I say? In NYC if the food is not A++, you simply can’t make it as a restaurant. There was an Italian babe on the sidewalk encouraging you to come in and enjoy the food.

Lou had the special Lamb Shank with roasted potatoes and garlic broccoli goo. Lou also had the Buffalo Mozzarella salad. Karen had the Caesar followed by Veal Picata. We had sorbet for dessert. The dessert was incredible because they hollowed out the center of a piece of fruit and put the sorbet in the center and then froze the whole thing. One was an orange, and the other was a peach. It was all quite yummy. They brought us dessert wine so Lou had to drink both his and hers. Bummer. The Karaoke machine was on the fritz because it kept coming in and going out.

Day 4: Wednesday October 5, 2011 We are pretty sick of having breakfast in the hotel. Every day, there are more people crowded in!

This morning we went on the Downtown Bus Tour, and we got off pretty quickly at the Empire State Building. It took quite awhile to work our way through the line to be searched/inspected and then buy tickets. The line zigzagged back and forth just like at Disney. There were a lot of foreign tourists in line with us, which made it interesting, listening to different languages. Lots of fashion forward young people to look at!

After we got our tickets, it took three different elevators to get to the tippy top, at the 102nd floor. Most people seemed to go only as high as the 86th floor. The top was pretty cool, but you are completely enclosed in glass. We worked our way around and got a lot of pictures of the amazing 360 degree view.

Then we went down to the 86th floor. Now that was CROWDED! It was crazy. We got to go outside, which was really nice. It was sort of cold. There was a wind. It was actually really hard to get to the glass to see out. You had to stand behind a crowd of people for awhile till they cleared out, then you got to move forward to the glass. Stayed there for awhile, soaking up the views. Then it was time to move to a different spot, wait for different people, and finally move forward. That got old fast. Oh, yeah, there was an audio tour, which was entertaining.

The best view was on the ramp from the lobby down to the deck, but a guard would not let you linger on that ramp.

We had read about the New York Skyride, which is a simulation of flying around the city. We had to find it, which was not easy. We wandered all over. The hallways were marked for people exiting the building, not for people trying to reach the skyride. We had to backtrack more than once, which is not something that Lou enjoys. Finally we found it.

You got strapped into a seat on a platform and then the platform moved as the movie played. Kevin Bacon was our “pilot” who flew us around the city and almost got us killed a couple times. But the movie screen was not actually that big, and the projection was a bit dim. It was fun but not something we’d ever repeat.

Lunchtime. We used Karen’s map app on her phone to find a restaurant. We chose Chicken Ba something, which served Korean fried chicken. We had a mix of various chicken bits, fries, potstickers… it was all good. No vegetables. So maybe I ought to say it was tasty but perhaps not so good for you.

Then we had to get oriented and figure out how to get back to the place where the bus dropped us off, and we waited not too long for another bus. (The whole hop-on hop-off bus thing really worked out great for us.)

We went through Chinatown, Little Italy, and SoHo next on the tour. Our tour guide this time was awesome. She was a beautiful, young, mid-western, African American lady who really know how to hold your attention. We got off at Battery Park so that we could jump on the Brooklyn Tour. We hadn’t planned it that way, but someone explained that this was the most efficient way to do that tour. If we wanted to hold off and do it the next day, we would have had to repeat quite a lot of the downtown tour just to get there.

Our Brooklyn tour guide was AMAZING. He was a senior tour guide, who is also a taxi driver, and he’d been called in that morning to fill in. 100% Brooklyn born and raised, with attitude. We went over the Manhattan Bridge, not the Brooklyn Bridge, because of some height limitation. Our bus was high! We were on the kind of tour bus where the people sit up top, exposed to the elements.

The Brooklyn Museum is supposed to have the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts, outside of the museum in Cairo! Maybe next time we’ll go there. We saw a lot of pretty brownstones, even getting a glimpse of the one where the Cosby show was supposed to be located. We heard a lot about famous people from Brooklyn. We heard a lot about how much Brooklyn pays in taxes to support NYC and how Brooklyn used to be its own city. Lots of Brooklyn pride!

The tour guide also explained about how you need to look for an “A” on the outside of a restaurant, which means they passed their health department inspection with flying colors. A place with a “B” grade, ugh, not as clean as it ought to be, so don’t eat there. Forget about eating at a place with a “C” grade.

We stayed on the bus and pretty much finished the downtown tour. We jumped off at 34th and 1st Ave East, near Macy’s, so Karen could shop. We asked the guy where to eat, and he suggested a hole in the wall burger joint that would be cheap but good. It was! Jackson Hole. Excellent burger for Lou. Excellent salad for Karen. Great service. Strangely tiny bathroom.

Then we headed to Macy’s! Karen had been totally excited about going there. There would be a much bigger assortment of clothes there, and she was hoping to buy a winter coat. Lou sat down on a couch with some other husbands, and Karen took off. She tried on every winter coat, but couldn’t find one that fit well and looked good. Darn!

Meanwhile Lou was having fun talking to a New Yorker waiting for his wife, too.

There are 7 Starbucks in that Macy’s!

We walked home to our hotel. Lots of people of the streets. We stopped for gelato on the way. Lou got chocolate chip cookie dough, and Karen got coffee. We had some really great views of the Empire State Building, all lit up, in the night sky. It was really beautiful. It was about 9:30 when we got back to the hotel. Long day! We crashed.

Day 5: Thursday October 6, 2011 Wow, what a great day. We started at a deli called the Hot and Crusty. We had walked by it every morning and never even saw it. But that map app on the phone helped us find it. We were desperate to have bagels and lox in NYC. What a perfect breakfast! The bagels were unbelievable, crispy outside and chewy inside. The salmon was as good as the premium stuff we get from Costco. Lou said it was the best he had ever had in his entire fitty years! We had exactly the same thing: sesame bagel, toasted, with scallion cream cheese and a mound of smoked salmon. Heaven.

We both checked in on Foursquare. (By the time we left NYC, Karen would become the Mayor of the Hot and Crusty!)

So we backtracked to Starbucks for coffees, and then we got on the bus for the Uptown Tour again. The morning was chilly, so having a hot coffee to hold onto was nice.

Our plan was just to use the bus as transportation up to the Dakota Building, where the fictional Special Agent Pendergast lives. We jumped off right there at the stop for Strawberry fields in Central Park.

We crossed through the park, hoping to go straight across, but we got off track and ended up a lot farther south than we expected. But it was fun. Once we were on Park Avenue, we meandered to the Whitney Museum of American Art, which Karen really wanted to visit. When we finally got there, the museum wasn’t open yet, but the café was. It was called Untitled. Hobbits always enjoy a second breakfast. Karen had apple pie a la mode. Lou had chocolate croissant. Even the coffee was great. (Karen’s was iced.)

Oh dear God, the museum was a disappointment. It took 15 minutes to get the audio tour machine, because the woman in front of us had no official ID card that she would give the museum staff lady in exchange for the audio machine. Finally we handed over our IDs and got our audio machines and headed into the museum. But we lasted like 15 minutes in the museum. All modern art. Bleugh. We didn’t have enough time in NYC to be wasting it on modern art. So we decided to split. When we in our audio machines, and the lady was like, “You’re done already?!” as she gave us back our IDs.

There was actually one installation that was sort of cool. There was a big empty room, and the walls were papered with real dollar bills. The bills formed patterns on the walls.

Anyway, we hot the street and Lou suggested that we go to the Frick instead. It was more in line with what we like. It was not too far, so we walked. Oh, at one point, we passed a coffee shop with a plate glass window, and everyone inside was BEAUTIFUL or HANDSOME like movie stars, and exquisitely dressed, and lounging about in leather chairs. It was almost as though they could not be real.

The Frick was AMAZING. They did not accept our New York Pass, but it was worth $18 each. The collection is fabulous and the house was awesome. Must be nice to be a multi-billionaire and have a mansion and fill it with great works of art! Then to think that after you die, your house becomes a museum that people love.

There was a sort of central atrium courtyard with a reflecting pool and plants and benches, which is where Karen left Lou so she could shop in the gift shop.

We wandered to the Carnegie Deli for lunch. Lou died and went to heaven. Just what he expected: a mountain of pastrami on his sandwich. Half of the meat fell out and had to be eaten with a fork. Karen had an open-faced turkey-dinner type sandwich which was super. Ooh, the cheesecake was amazing. We shared one with blueberries on it. Lou got the bigger half. Even though we were sort of full, we knew we had to get cheesecake. Accidentally Lou got the bigger half.

Lou chatted with the people at the tables around us, of course. There was what seemed to be a double blind date who didn’t really seem to be clicking and who liked talking to us instead of each other, and then there was a big family group who Lou exhorted to order the pastrami.

Our waiter was from Bangladesh, which is NOT part of India. We left him a big tip. They don’t take credit cards, so we paid cash.

From there we went to the Coach store. Since Macy’s had been a bust, we thought maybe Karen could spend some moolah at Coach instead, get something amazing. Nothing really jumped out at me, there was a saleslady showing me a small purple bag, and then this huge green bag jumped out at me like TAKE ME HOME.

It was so beautiful: funky green with a combination of stamping to simulate both ostrich and alligator. It hung well, it looked great… Lou said to get it! So the lady has them go upstairs to get one for me. We are waiting and waiting… then she tells me they are going to bring it down gift wrapped, but I say NO because I need to look it over. Good thing, because it had a flaw. There were folds in the leather, and every fold had stressed the leather so that instead of being green, it was white. Yuck. I examined three bags! Then I gave up. No way would I buy a bag with a flaw like that brand new because what would it look like in a year? I apologized and we just walked away.

At the same time, I started to feel bad, my stomach was bothering me, my back was bothering me. And we were so far from the hotel.

We walked a different route and saw different things. I started to feel better. It was really enjoyable to just walk around Manhattan.

So we got back to the hotel, and I rested and surfed the web. We were resting so that we would be able to go off and really enjoy our last bus tour, the night time tour. We would be up late, and wanted to be fresh and energetic for it. It was a lot of fun, to see the city all lit up. It was a little cold, but we had brought our leather jackets.

Day 6: Friday October 7, 2011 We slept a little later this morning. Before we left the hotel, we stopped to talk to the hotel concierge about getting tickets to How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. At first, we hadn’t wanted to see it because we had seen it years ago in Seattle with Matthew Broderick in the lead. We didn’t feel that we needed to see it again with Daniel Radcliff (Harry Potter). But then we heard that John Larroquette was in it! Oh man! That changed everything!

So the concierge suggested that we head to the theater immediately. The box office would be open, and we would have a much better chance of getting seats from then instead of waiting till the discount ticket kiosk opened at 3PM.

Hot and Crusty again! But they were out of salmon. The guy remembered us from the previous morning. We had egg bagels instead.

When we arrived at the box office, there might have been 15 people in line ahead of us. We inched our way forward. Eventually another line joined the line behind us. She told us that the theater has great prices on the day of the show. And she was right! We paid $30 each, and we would be just 4 and 5 rows from the stage. (The seats were waaaay off to the right, but it was still excellent. There was just one scene where John was doing something funny – and the audience was flipping out -- but we could not see him.)

We couldn’t believe we got seats for just $60, so Karen said, “Now if you can only get us dinner for $60,” and the guy was like, “I am not a miracle worker.”

We headed toward Grand Central Terminal. Karen popped into a chocolate shop, and Lou stayed outside. He started talking to a cop. Karen came out and found them discussing Mediterranean cruises.

We were at Grand Central Terminal to meet Helen-Anne and John, who were coming in on the train for the day to hang with us. So we planned to get there early and do the audio tour. The building was really impressive. The tour was a lot of fun.

The current station was constructed in 1913. It took 10 years to build, and the construction went 90 feet below sea level. A lot of the dirt that they excavated was used as fill on Ellis Island.

W met them near the clock, a four sided round clock on the top of the info desk in the center of the space. It’s a popular meeting place. The clock is an atomic clock, so it always shows the correct time.

The stars on the ceiling were accidentally put on backwards!

Once we found Helen-Anne and John, we went to lunch first. We sort of wandered all over looking for some place to eat. The map app on our phones again came in handy. We chose an Italian place that was really wonderful but pricey. Four stars and three dollar signs. There was a prix fixe lunch menu that we all went with.

The men started with an amazing mozzarella and tomato salad, and the ladies started with a minestrone soup which was not as exciting but equally tasty. Lou had chicken franchese, Karen and John had salmon, and Helen-Anne had pork medallions… Near the end of the lunch, Karen slipped away to the bathroom and grabbed our waiter and arranged to buy lunch. He actually just took my credit card because he wanted to give us the opportunity to get dessert. We did get desserts and coffee too, which were also amazing.

Helen-Anne and John were not that happy that we bought lunch, but PLEASE they took vacation time and a train to come hang out with us! We had to do it!

We had a goal to get chocolates for Karen to bring to work. We found three different chocolate shops, but they were all so incredibly expensive. It was prohibitive! The prices alone could make you lose weight. One place, the price was $73 per pound!

Karen and Helen-Anne walked ahead of the men, who trailed behind us. Helen-Anne is a DARE DEVIL darting into the street right into traffic! There were a couple times Karen was frozen on the curb gasping at her.

At one point, we saw an awning that said Rachel, and Helen-Anne figured it had to be the Rachel Ray show, so she boldly barged in a door and took off down a dark service corridor and went deep into the building. The men stayed outside, which proves how smart they are. Karen trailed doubtfully behind Helen-Anne, wondering how much trouble you could get in for breaking and entering if the door wasn’t locked. “Hello? Can I help you” It was a security guard! He must have seen us on close circuit TV. Helen-Anne peppered him with questions, which he answered, but he refused to let us see the studio. He politely but firmly ushered us back out to the street.

Eventually we gave up on the chocolate hunt. Earlier, in the grocery store inside Grand Central Terminal, Karen saw dark chocolate-covered figs, and so that was what I decided to bring to work. We had been blown away by the grocery store. Next time we come to NYC, we need to get ourselves a picnic lunch from there. A loaf of bread, a chunk of cheese, two Diet Cokes, and thee.

We walked all over and then ended up in an Irish pub for drinks and conversation. It was a lot of fun. Karen drank two pots of tea.

Then it was about time to get them back to their train. We said goodbye and hoped to see them at Christmas, because our plan was to go to FL for Lou’s birthday. Gosh what a great day! We had a blast with Helen-Anne and John!

We bought the figs and some other chocolates – and Karen finally bough the Jack Reacher book for the flight home at a bookstore in the Grand Central Terminal.

Then we hustled back uptown to see the play, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, at 8PM. There was a young woman swooning on the sidewalk outside the theater at the chance to see Daniel Radcliff!

I am so glad we saw this play. JL really mugged it up a lot. DR was impressive too. It was a lot funnier than I remember. The dancing was amazing.

Afterward, we were hungry and went back to the Trattoria Casa di Isacca again. It was a lot busier on a Friday night. So we are sitting there waiting for bread and water, and four cops come in and talk to the owner. They kiss, they hug, they laugh, they talk… huge distraction, we are never going to get to order. They walk to the back and disappear. Then another cop comes in and the owner gives him something small and he leaves. Strange.

Anyway, dinner was super awesome again. Lou drank both glasses of dessert wine again.

We finally got back to the hotel at like 12:30AM and we crashed. Trip over! So much fun!

The next morning we packed and headed home. At the last minute, we looked out our window and realized that we had an excellent view of the new towers being built to replace the World Trade Center Twin Towers, so Lou took a million pictures. It’s so funny, we had been admiring our view all week, but never noticed the towers.

 

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