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Trip Report NYC Thanksgiving weekend trip report & sunburn!

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The long-awaited Thanksgiving trip to NYC, with the parade as a real motivating factor (at least initially), began on Tuesday, 11/22, with our late-evening arrival from Seattle at Newark. Just like clockwork, I called "Dial 7" from baggage claim and the car and driver were at the curb in minutes. Trip into Manhattan (in pouring rain) went fast, and we soon arrived at the new Hyatt 48 Lex, appropriately named for its location at the corner of Lexington Avenue and East 48th Street.

Check-in was simple and fast and we were off to our room on the 4th floor. Fairly good sized room, with a great king-sized bed, seemed even larger due to floor to ceiling windows leading out onto a terrace overlooking Lexington Avenue. Soundproofing was outstanding --- we heard no street noise.

The morning of Wednesday, 11/23, we headed out to the subway at East 53rd and Lexington to catch the E train to the 14th Street station. From there, we walked a few blocks to Pastis at 9th Avenue and Little 12th Street for breakfast. Paris couldn't come up with a more authentic French bistro than was Pastis! After breakfast, we headed to Chelsea Market to join a pre-arranged walking tour (with cityroverwalks.com) with Max as our guide through the Chelsea Market, the High Line, the Meatpacking District and into and through the West Village. The walking tour was outstanding and I highly recommend adding a walking tour (cityroverwalks.com offers a number of interesting choices in NYC) to your itinerary. You can book and pay for the tours on line --- very convienent. The walking tour ended in Washington Square Park about 3.5 hours after it began.

From Washington Square Park we headed up 5th Avenue on foot to Eataly. Gosh, if only we had a quarter of the choices available there here at home! Stopped at the wine bar for a couple of glasses of Italian white, along with a plate of olives, before making our way back to the Hyatt 48 Lex. Despite a bit of off-and-on rain throughout the day, this was a great day of sightseeing in NYC.

Dinner that night was early, for us, at Tout Va Bien on West 51st Street. I picked this spot due to a recommendation I had seen a few weeks earlier on Fodors and because of the restaurant's proximity to the O'Neill Theatre where we had tickets for that night's 700 p.m. performance of "Book of Mormon." Dinner was actually quite good --- my wife opted for the prix fixe, including soup and coq au vin, whereas I ordered a la carte, choosing the caprese salad and a venison dish as my entree. For dessert, we shared a chocolate mousse, which was only "routine." Soup, salad and entrees were all very good, however, as was the house white wine.

From Tout Va Bien to "Book of Mormon." We settled into our seats for a most entertaining performance. Actually found the show to be quite uplifting (for lack of a better word) and was very pleased that the original cast is still with the show. As I purchased the tickets last April, I was somewhat concerned that cast changes would occur before we were able to see the show. We found nothing in the show to be offensive --- but can see how it might offend others.

Thursday morning dawned early, cold and bright. Parade day! We made our way to 7th Avenue, between 50th and 51st Streets, at about 630 a.m. Found a prime spot just behind some folks who were in their folding chairs and who'd been there since about 400 a.m. Enjoyed watching the crowds arrive and talking with folks gathered on the street for the event. We were very close to a fast food joint of some sort where I was able to obtain coffee and breakfast sandwiches, and where I was also able to partake of what must have been the most filthy restroom facilities I've seen outside of India. By about 925 a.m. we could see the parade turning onto 7th Avenue from Central Park South, lights flashing and then the parade of balloons heading our way from the distance. By the time the parade reached our location, people were about 25 deep along the sidewalks. The excitement really was palpable and everyone around us seemed to be enjoying the experience enormously. Am I glad we saw the parade in person? Yes, definately. Will we do it again? No, once is enough. But, to me, seeing that parade in person was the quintessential Thanksgiving experience and I'll be forever thankful that 2011 provided us with this opportunity. My wife wasn't quite as enamored as I to be seeing the parade, nor to be standing on the streets of Manhattan from 630 a.m. on, but after 30+ years of marriage, we all get the need to sometimes make compromises. And for that I am thankful, also.

Thanksgiving dinner was later that afternoon at a restaurant in Greenwich Village called "North Square." I had found this place by reading reviews of various restaurants open on Thanksgiving, and had seen other reviews of the place. We were not dissatisfied with our choice of "North Square." The prix fixe Thanksgiving menu was varied, and reasonably priced, at $55.00, plus tax and tip. With a nice bottle of French wine, we made it out of there for well under $300.00, including tax and tip. Neither of us ordered traditional Thanksgiving dinner --- my wife opted for the halibut and I chose the venison (again). For starters we both tried the pumpkin ravioli. I would highly recommend "North Square" to anyone visiting NYC and looking for a smart, upscale, relatively reasonable and quality dining experience, especially one in the heart of Greenwich Village. Following dinner, we made our way to the new 9/11 Memorial in lower Manhattan. By the time of our arrival, it was dark (our assigned admission time was 515 p.m.) and I was surprised by the amount of construction and general chaos in the area. Until we entered the memorial itself, that is. What a beautiful and stunning tribute to the victims of that attack. The memorial pools were so much larger than I believed they would be, having previously seen them only on television. The new tower going up sure looks impressive, also, and we are certain that we'll be back on our next trip to NYC in a few years. I couldn't have been prouder, as an American, to see such a wonderful tribute to (and recovery from) one of our nation's darkest days.

Friday, 11/25, was once again beautiful. This morning we worked our way from the hotel to the New York Luncheonette on East 50th, between Lexington and Third, for breakfast. After breakfast, we decided that it was too beautiful of a day to pass on the opportunity to take the 2-hour Circle Line boat trip. On our first visit to NYC, 30 years ago, we took the Circle Line and still talk about it to this day. Anyway, we walked down to 42nd Street and took the bus across town on 42nd Street to the pier, bought our tickets and sat outside in the full sunshine enjoying the show from the boat's upper deck. What a skyline, what a Statute of Liberty, and what a treat to see it all in crystal clear, late November, weather!!

Upon returning to the pier, we jumped in a taxi for the short ride to Macy's. We didn't last long in Macy's as we've never before seen such crowds (not in any city in the world --- not even in the most congested parts of China or Indonesia). I could only wonder what would happen if a fire were to break out while we were in the middle of that store. But the windows were awesome and the store's interior decorations were similarly beautiful and we are thankful we saw it for ourselves. From Macy's we made it uptown to Columbus Circle where we decided we needed a little time in the park. Walked through the park for about two hours, stopping at a hot dog vendor once, and exited the park on Fifth Avenue. Then, down Fifth Avenue we walked, looking into the windows and stores along the way. Although intensely crowded on Friday afternoon, the crowds on Fifth Avenue and in the stores didn't compare with the crowds in Macy's or in the Hearld Square area of Manhattan. By the time we made it to Rockefeller Center it was time for a wine break so we stopped at an outdoor cafe, ordered a bottle of Chardonnay and a plate of assorted cheeses, and watched the ice skaters as the workers disassembled the scaffolding surrounding the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree (which, by the way, appeared to be much smaller than I imagined it would be --- we were surprised by this).

Friday evening, after heading back to the hotel to change clothes, we were at Tony's di Napoli for dinner at 600 p.m. In choosing Tony's I wanted something close to the theatre where "Bonnie and Clyde" was playing (on West 45th Street), and something that didn't fall into the category of "chain" restaurants, yet a place which wouldn't break the bank and which wasn't in any way formal or stuffy. Tony's filled the bill in all categories for us, and we are glad we went. The place was packed to the rafters and I was happy I had made a reservation for 600 p.m. We were seated immediately upon our arrival. The food was plentiful, tasty and reasonably priced. Same is true for the wine.

"Bonnie and Clyde" was, we thought, really a fantastic show. I know it hasn't officially opened yet (not until December 1st, I think it is) so I don't know what the critics will say about it, but I can say that the chemistry between Bonnie and Clyde was incredible, the sets were outstanding, the costumes were perfect for the period, the supporting cast couldn't have been better and the whole show was totally enjoyable. For those looking for a traditional "song and dance" Broadway musical, however, "Bonnie and Clyde" isn't for you. Mostly solos and duets, but the music was consistently beautiful and the clarity of the performers' voices was stunning. Highly recommend "Bonnie and Clyde" to anyone looking for a top-notch Broadway performance (especially since you'll never get tickets to "Book of Mormon" anytime soon!).

Upon leaving the show, we walked back to the hotel through Times Square, where we, just like millions of others, including ourselves each time we've been there, were totally awe-struck by the lights and action. What a place!! We thought that the effort to pedestrianize part of Times Square appears to be working well. But we were somewhat surprised by the number of relatively young, fairly attractive, women who appeared to be working the Times Square area in their high-heels and tight pants. I'm guessing that the Friday after Thanksgiving must be a difficult night for a young woman in NYC to find a date and that explains why so many of them were out alone that night?!?!?! In any event, this is just an observation and one which didn't detract from our desire to find a bar en route back to the Hyatt 48 Lex for a couple of Irish coffees, which we readily found!

The next morning (Saturday, 11/26) found us checking out of the hotel and leaving our bags with the bell desk. We returned to the New York Luncheonette (on East 50th, between Lexington and 3rd Avenue) for breakfast, and then made our way up Lexington to Bloomingdale's. Took a quick look through Bloomingdale's, and at all the windows, and decided we needed to explore a bit more of Central Park. Walked all over the southern 1/3rd of the park, watched musicians, and finally exited the park near Strawberry Fields, near the Dakota on West 72nd and Central Park West. Had a great morning in the park, but needed to return to the hotel to retrieve our bags. So grabbed a taxi back to the hotel, picked up the bags, and walked down to Grand Central Station for a farewell to NYC lunch at the Oyster Bar. I had the best scallops I think I've ever tasted and my wife had a shrimp cocktail. All accompanied, of course, by another bottle of Chardonnay. A great lunch and we finished just in time to walk over to East 41st Street (between Lexington and Park Avenues) to catch the 215 p.m. bus to Newark airport where we arrived in plenty of time for our 500 p.m. departure home.

All-in-all, a fantastic trip. This was our 6th trip to NYC (over a period spanning 30 years) and we never tire of it. I'm a little sorry we didn't make it to any of the museums this time around (but have been to most of them on prior trips) and we would have liked to walk the Brooklyn Bridge. We believe New York to probably be the greatest destination in the world (and we've been all over the world) and one to which we'll return again. I'm also glad to have finally seen the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in person --- it really did live up to my expectations.

I hope this trip report provides some useful tidbits of information to anyone who happens to read it. I know I get an endless stream of valuable advice from reading other people's trip reports, and my goal is to somehow reciprocate with a trip report of my own.

Oh, and on another matter, we returned home with sunburned faces --- who'd have expected temperatures in the mid-60s, and brilliant sunshine, in NYC in November??? That made the trip that much more incredible!!!

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