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New York City and The Gates: Maggi's Trip

Old Feb 24th, 2005, 04:58 AM
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New York City and The Gates: Maggi's Trip

I had planned a special weekend for my niece's 16th birthday. Our trip last weekend was nearly perfect - thanks to everyone for their excellent advice.

Day 1: Our Essex House room on the 10th floor overlooking Central Park couldn't have been better. We could have made big bucks selling tickets for our view of The Gates. The rooftop garden at the Met had nothing on us. In addition, we arrived at 10am and were whisked right up. I lucked out with a great price for a parkview room when I booked way back in September.

We wasted no time getting over to the park. The sun was shining and the atmosphere was festive. My niece rode the carousel and I took the first of many photographs I would shoot of The Gates.

We went back across the street for lunch at Cafe Botanica. The prix fixe price was $25 for three courses - all excellent. Since we had gotten up at 3:15 that morning I was more interested in the coffee. Best coffee I had all weekend. The service was great and decor splendid.

Thank you to everyone who suggested H&M for shopping. My niece went gaga and ended up with two pair of jeans and tops. We did a ton of great stuff, but she talked about this store more than anything else! What did I expect from a 16 year old? From H&M we checked out St. Patrick's Cathedral across the street and walked to Times Square. She loved seeing the MTV building and we couldn't believe our eyes when we saw the "Naked Cowboy" in his jockey shorts, cowboy boots and guitar in the middle of Broadway in 30 degree weather. Only in New York! We had a quick sandwich at the Stage Deli. It was OK, but the bathroom was so filthy we'd never go back.

Later it was on to the Virginia Theater and "Little Women". I knew someone in the cast so we got there early to say hi. We had about an hour to kill before the show so we ran across the street to The Russian Samovar. We had no idea what to expect but ended up having a blast. It was wall to wall people, most speaking Russian or with an accent.

The play was delightful, a great choice for kids and families with strong acting and singing. It was funny, sad and entertaining. We both agreed that Maureen McGovern was the best. Afterward we headed backstage to meet up with my friend again. Later we exited the stage door and a crowd waiting for autographs applauded when they saw us

We had reservations at Chez Josephine and walked there from the theater, a mistake on my part. I thought it was only 10 blocks, from 52nd to 42nd, but then it was a long way on 42nd and we arrived literally frozen. Jean Claude wan't there but we got great service, mainly because our young French waiter was smitten with my niece. He even followed her when she went up to the bathfoom. The food was good but not memorable. She ordered the fried chicken and sweet potato fries, which sounded better than they were. My crab cakes were really on the small side for the price. The singer/pianist was fantastic and set the tone of the room.

We collapsed into bed at 2:15am - 23 hours since we awoke the morning before.
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Old Feb 24th, 2005, 05:21 AM
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Day 2: Since it was convenient and around the corner from our hotel, we decided to have breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien. We really lucked out with this place. Apparently we weren't the only ones to have discovered it, since the line went out the door. But the wait was worth it. All their ingredients are organic and the food and especially the bread was incredible. This would become a regular stop for me if it were near my home.

Our first subway ride was hilarious. We were headed to the Staten Island Ferry and needed the Whitehall Station stop. When the train first took off it jerked my niece right off her feet and into the lap of the guy next to her. We giggled alot about that later. I kept watching for the Whitehall Station and knew something was up when we came above ground and saw that we were crossing the water. Oops. It just went on forever and we ended up in Brooklyn somewhere. Luckily we ended up on the right train coming back and found our stop.

The ride to and from Staten Island was OK, but I was disappointed we didn't get closer to the Statue of Liberty. I think next time I will go directly there. The views of Manhattan from the water were worth it however. When we landed we walked to Ground Zero. I had not done this on previous trips to NY but am glad I finally did. We were moved just to be standing there. Two steel beams in the perfect shape of a cross had been founded in the wreckage and mounted upright in cement. Someone had inserted a bouquet of roses in the chainlink fence just in front of it. It was a simple and eloquent tribute.

It was a long walk all the way back up to Upper East Side. Our plans were to have dinner at Serendipity. I had heard about the long lines and was so pleased when there was no line out in front. Dream on...there was a line inside and we were told at the desk to come back in THREE HOURS. We put our names on the list and went in search of something to do in the meantime. Not too far away we spotted an awning with the name Cabana Nuevo Latino. It looked like fun so we waited by the bar for about an hour for a table. The waiting was not too bad, probably because it was a fun atmosphere, Latin music and my mojito. The food was phenominal. My niece had Ropa Vieja ("shredded clothes") actually shredded beef with black bean puree and rice. I had paella, my favorite. Another place I would return to again and again if it were in my neighborhood.

We made it back to Serendipity and our wait was only 1/2 hour by this time. Our table was upstairs and my niece admired the eclectic decor. We ordered dessert and could only finish a fraction of what they brought us.

Back at the hotel, we caught the first part of Saturday Night Live and conked out.
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Old Feb 24th, 2005, 05:45 AM
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Nice report. Glad to hear
all went well for you & your niece.

May I borrow her so, I, too can get
the great service you received?
LOL.
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Old Feb 24th, 2005, 06:03 AM
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If Day 3 is a double post I apologize, it didn't post the first three times I tried.

Day 3: I had an early morning walk through the park and took advantage of the perfect light to take my last set of photographs. The sun illuminated the "saffron" color of the fabric beautifully. We checked out of the room, leaving our bags with the hotel. Today's show was "Slava's Snowshow" at the Union Square Theater. We took a cab down to the area and stopped in for a quick fondue lunch at Le Artisenal. We were lucky to get a table and had the simple cheese fondue, with bread and crudites. Since we were short on time I don't think we were able to do the restaurant justice and I would like to try it again to decide if I love it.

The show was definitely different and not for everyone. However, the theater was packed with families, and it was obvious that for many it was a repeat visit. There is no dialogue and basically no "story". Slava is a Russian clown and his troupe assist in various vignettes, some funny, some sad. There is a lot of audience interaction. The ending is mind-blowing and probably the reason people come again and again. I won't detail it here soas not to spoil the surprise.

We hired a cab to take us back to the hotel to pick up our bags and then on to the airport. Our driver, Sandor, talked nonstop. He was so entertaining we didn't mind. He was a 60 year old Hungarian actor who had his photos and references on the front seat. He told us he had been in a film called "Fever" and was on "Law and Order". I checked when I got home and, sure enough, he was telling the truth.

At this point the story gets ugly. Our flight was delayed because our home airport was snowed in. Our 7:30 flight was eventually totally cancelled. We were told there were no seats on any flights departing LGA the following day, so we would basically be stuck until Tuesday. We hooked up with another couple and split a taxi to Newark. The storm had caught up with New York by that time and we saw four accidents trying to get to New Jersey in a blizzard. We didn't get out of Newark until 10:30 the following morning.

If anyone is interested, I have photos posted of The Gates at Webshots:

http://community.webshots.com/user/maggiwun

As if this isn't long enough, my blog has more pictures and information about the trip:
www.maggiwun.blogspot.com

Cheers to all! Maggi
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Old Feb 24th, 2005, 06:31 AM
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Maggi, thanks so much for sharing your trip with us! Your pictures and neice are beautiful. Winter travel can sometimes can create some unexpected challenging but it can also create some interesting memories and friendships! Thanks again
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Old Feb 24th, 2005, 07:00 AM
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Thanks Maggi. What a special trip for you and your niece.
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Old Feb 24th, 2005, 08:05 AM
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Rhea, it's amazing what a young pretty face and a cute build will do. Oh, for those days again...Maybe I'll just travel with her from now on. Luckily, she loves to be with me, at least, right now. I better take advantage of it while I can.

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Old Feb 24th, 2005, 08:12 AM
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Very nice report. What a wonderful aunt you are. I wish I had you when I was a child. Should you come to Boston with her, we have a H&M.
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Old Feb 24th, 2005, 10:28 AM
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I followed your posts when you were planning and I am SO glad to hear you and your niece had such a great trip! Your photos are fabulous, thank you for sharing them. I wished I could have seen The Gates in person . . . .

What was your experience with the noise level at Artisenal? I have been wanting to go here for fondue for a long time, and I am thinking about it for our April trip, but I have heard that it is incredibly loud. There will be 4 of us going and I don't want to end up either screaming at each other to be heard, or sitting there in silence because trying to have a conversation is useless. Also, someone told me the "bar" area isn't as loud? I don't know how the restaurant is configured, maybe this would be an option?


So, where are you and your niece going next?
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Old Feb 24th, 2005, 03:47 PM
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Cigalechanta, I've never been to Boston, but it's on my list. Margie, I honestly was not aware of a noise problem at Artisenal. We sat on the opposite side of the room from the bar. Maybe by that time we had learned to isolate ourselves in a crowd. Every place we went that weekend was wall to wall people. Is it always like that in New York? I loved the energy, but I don't know that I would want to live it day to day.
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Old Feb 24th, 2005, 05:55 PM
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bamakelly
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What a fabulous trip report! Your pictures are fantastic too. Thanks for sharing!
 
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