New York City – Sargent and the Zoo

Nov 29th, 2019, 04:05 PM
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New York City – Sargent and the Zoo

28 November – 2 December 2019


Breakfast at home: Leftover French fried potatoes

Lunch: Frappacino and blueberry Belvita bought at Amtrak

Dinner: Benjamin Prime ( ) B+/A- Dinner. Filet mignon, mashed potatoes, seasonal mushrooms with truffle sauce, tiramisu and free limoncello. Red wine was a Malbec.


Someone (Amy? yestravel?) wrote about a John Singer Sargent pencil exhibit at the Morgan Library-Museum in NYC. Since seeing as many as possible of Sargent’s works is my life’s goal, I started looking for hotels near the Morgan.

The Park Terrace (“PT”) on Bryant Park looked within reasonable walking distance. So, I booked it and Amtrak tickets.

For some reason, I was worried about parking at the train station. Never had a problem before but what can I say? After working out plans A and B should the lot be full, I arrived 2 hours early. Of course, there was sufficient parking.

Luckily, I was able to get an earlier train. Although it will get to 50, there is a brisk, cold wind. There is concern that the Macy’s balloons might not “fly” if gusts exceed certain mph. For the first time, I noticed there were no newspapers or magazines in the Amtrak waiting room.

The trip was uneventful and the good news is that the balloons flew! The bad news is that being 1 hour early meant the usual taxi stand at Penn Station was not there! 7th Avenue still for pedestrians. Only a short walk to the next block and a cab. However, the roads around 40th and Madison are fermé madame. Drop off ended up being 1.5 long blocks to PT rather than at the door.

PT is about half way between 5th and Madison Avenues. Check-in was easy and clerk Larissa (who helped me on the phone pre-trip with a resto recco) was very kind. She also had a bad cold so I gave her a cough drop and she upgraded my room. I told her that next time I’d give her more than one and get a suite. LOL.

The room is very modern. The upgrade includes a sofa. OK view of Bryant Park. (See photos). I couldn’t open what I thought was a closet! Went to get some water (fill your own bottles near the elevator) and happened upon an employee who opened said closet without a problem. Hmmm. There’s a nepresso machine!

Bathroom is spotless and shower icons make switching between overhead and hand held is easy! Could use a bit more shelf space.

Nice bed and small sofa. Mural is wallpaper and spans the room.

Library across the street Bryant Park to the left.

Other side of the room shows the recalcitrant closet to the left and, not shown, a huge mirror to the right of the TV screen.

After setting up the computer, and finishing the Belvitas, I set off to Grand Central to get bus tickets. Weather forecast looks like tomorrow will be the warmer and sunnier of the 3 days available for this trip, so I’ll go to the Bronx Zoo first. The cab from Penn Station actually passed the bus stop for the Zoo express bus that I found when looking at bus and street maps of the area.

Oh, I forgot to write that I booked PT through Expedia and immediately started receiving info and offers for NYC activities. DH and I missed top of the Rock so I booked that for Sunday. Sargent will be Saturday and I’ll shop around the 7th Avenue fabric and notions stores. Mood, the fabric store of Project Runway, will be open Saturday.

DH and I had visited Grand Central (“GC”) but I’d forgotten how confusing it is. I strolled a bit to look at all the restaurants while looking for tickets. DFrostNH can attest that I have no qualms about talking with strangers. But I hate to hold up non-tourist commuters so it took a while to get the right card machine. Finally found a guy who steered me to the correct machines. We shall see tomorrow if it works. Why wouldn’t it you might ask? Please stay tuned.

Grand Central is an easy walk from hotel.

The ceilings in the main room show the zodiac?

With ticket in hand, back to Bryant Park. A big tent, scads of little tents, and an ice rink have been erected for this so-called holiday village. There’s a big Bryant Park Tavern overlooking and it is mobbed. It’s fixed price turkey dinner was about $20 more than Benjamin’s.

One passes the NY library on the left along the walk to Grand Central

Ice skaters behind the umbrella.

Little tents to the left of the big tent.

Ice rink behind this tree.

Back to room to freshen up and walked the same as this a.m.’s 1.5 blocks to Benjamin Prime. It is very nice inside. Tables for 2 are close together. Almost full room still enabled one to listen in on conversations to the left and the right. To the right are 2 young women—one of whom wishes she could express her feelings more. To the left I hear Italian…sigh. I try to translate but it’s not possible. Well, it was never possible but I used to know enough to get train tickets. Service was wonderful and the manager came by twice to ask me how things were….BTW, he did that to everyone.

Back to the room about 8:30 and crashed!

Tomorrow the Zoo!

TDudette is online now  
Nov 29th, 2019, 08:10 PM
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Nice start, TD. This is a great time to be in New York.

You're staying in what, for me, is the heart of New York. Everything in your photos looks so festive. Nice to see the library lions getting into the spirit of the season. They always manage to look dignified, even wearing wreaths.

The Dutch bought Manhattan for a few trinkets. Nowadays a cough drop buys you a room upgrade. I’ll keep that in mind.

Sitting close enough to other diners and eavesdropping is one of my pleasures too. Continue to enjoy.
Coquelicot is online now  
Nov 30th, 2019, 02:15 AM
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What fun! I know who told you about the Sargent exhibit. A neighbor gets to explore NYC frequently and I'm pretty sure she posted the info on Facebook. I hope you get home safely. Are you watching the weather reports?
dfrostnh is offline  
Nov 30th, 2019, 07:14 AM
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Day 2

29 November 2019


Breakfast: 6th floor “Terrazzo”; HB eggs; prosciutto; melon; croissant; coffee; OJ earn a B+ except eggs are overcooked if green around the yolks means that.

Lunch: Maison Keyser (next to hotel on 40th): Salmon with a sweetish sauce w diced pears and matchstick apples; cauliflower puree; curried cauliflower. Gets an A even though this is a chain. Great service. $30

Dinner: At hotel happy hour in Terrazzo: Melted Swiss raclette with fingerling potatoes and rosemary ham, cornichon, miche. Finger Lake cabernet franc $16. $24 B (so much food the cheese hardened before I could finish it).

Sight: Bronx Zoo


Further room exploration reveals a yoga mat, a robe, and the fact that the table in front of the couch looks like it can be adjusted!

Up at 7:30 to a wonderful shower. Icons make it easy to switch between overhead or hand-held shower. Scads of fluffy towels. Could use a bit more counter space as my personal stuff seems to increase in direct proportion to my age.

Breakfast room crowded. One can get a takeaway box for the room. I sit across from Khalid who is a Saudi diplomat. His son comes along but Khalid would not hear of me moving to a now empty table. Instead, he pulled up another chair. We chatted about the hotel. He has visited NYC often for business and Philly for pleasure. I told him he might enjoy Annapolis as well. We exchanged telephone numbers.

The breakfast buffet is below the pretty lights.

This small table will be nicer for a drink later!

As I left, I got another coffee to take to the room. When I turned around Khalid, his son, and 2 daughters are standing behind me waiting for an introduction. There is a wife and a 2-year old somewhere!

Back to room to prepare for the day. It is sunny but briskly cold. To save energy and legs, I taxi to 29th St. and Madison Avenue. I wait for years (10 minutes?) for the Bxm11 express to the Bronx Zoo. It starts at 23rd and Madison but makes only a few pick up stops. Brochure details. A British couple flag down the driver at a non-stop and don’t have a ticket! Driver lets them on anyhow and tells them they can buy metro tickets at the Zoo’s ticket office and the zoo center. He points out the return stop. Its route is down 5th Avenue and has but a few drop off spots.

Leg or breathing problem alert! There is a bit of a walk from the bus drop off to the Bronx River Gate. The pick-up spot is closer and near the Bronx River parking lot. Too bad they aren’t the same! Indeed, you can but a bus ticket at that gate. It has $11 on it so that’s what you pay.

Entrance to zoo!

I decide to stroll. The zoo is vast! I just got a general admission ticket online and am very sorry I didn’t spring for whatever it was to take a jitney around! Although mostly gentle inclines, there are some stairs on the way to the sea lions. They are out and I get a nice shot of one sunning himself.

Madagascar house is next and I see 2 Coquerel’s Sifakas and an amazingly close up crocodile before I succumb to the heat of the building. Suddenly, my leg (injured only slightly in an August fall) hurts almost too much to put my weight on.

Giraffe models upon entry.

Do check for all of the zoo's entry gates and parking. You can get closer to the children's part.

Pretty falls on the Bronx River.

Sample of pretty zoo building.

This seal posed so well, one wondered if it was a statue!

Madagascar entry.

Blurry shot of the Sifaka.

I study the map and it looks like I can still pass the lions and birds and return to the bus stop. I start the gentle slope back down. Unfortunately, it will be uphill to both the lions and birds and I am hurting so go the bus stop and wait another hour (10 minutes!). It is the same driver! “So soon?” he queries?

Another thing, the children’s area and the butterfly house are open only April-October so plan accordingly. I recommend this zoo but get the jitney! And go when the weather is reasonable.

Back to NYC and down 5th Avenue. It is mobbed and traffic is stalled. We pass the Guggenheim (on my ‘to see’ list still) but I know my leg won’t take it. Got off at 42nd St. and hobbled to 40th. Stopped at Kayser and had a nice lunch. Will try to find a readable on-line menu to describe the sauce for the salmon.

View of 5th Ave from the bus. What a mess!


Back to room and it is only 3:00. I’ve spent 3/5th of this day either on a bus or eating. Took a nap and boo-hoo’ed my leg. Hobbled to Terrazzo at 5. The a.m. breakfast buffet has become a nice bar. I got the dinner as a carryout for later.

Hoping rest will help my leg.
TDudette is online now  
Nov 30th, 2019, 07:24 AM
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I forgot to note that the bus has USB plugs. Driver said no cash--just metro cards--DO check. The express bus turned right at 124th St. and on to a bridge whose name I did get. Much industry and many high rise apartments. Fewer fire-escapes than seen on a previous trip bus ride down Broadway from the 130's.
TDudette is online now  
Nov 30th, 2019, 09:49 AM
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Hope maybe ibupropen will help. Today I bought some herbal ointment for "joints" - will see if it works. Hope you will be able to enjoy the rest of your visit. The photos are wonderful! Save strength for the Sargents.

Last edited by dfrostnh; Nov 30th, 2019 at 09:50 AM. Reason: additional comment
dfrostnh is offline  
Nov 30th, 2019, 10:18 AM
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What a wonderful trip report! Love the giraffe photo!
I waited too late and didn't visit the holiday market until the last day, and everyone was packing up. It was kind of fascinating to watch them actually pack up the vendor booths. Only one booth was still open, selling hats and gloves. Maybe next time. The skaters were still skating.

If you are interested in a suggestion for dinner, I really enjoyed Aureole and it is close by. I was strolling by on the way to a show - after leaving Bryant Park - and was surprised they had availability. It was early and I promised them I would not linger because I was on the way to a show. I enjoyed the prix fixe menu (and eavesdropping on the handsome grandson dining with his grandmother). Lovely space and lovely dinner, if you are interested.
I read a recommendation earlier here on Fodors, although I don't remember who made the recommendation.

I stop by the Maison Kayser near the Flatiron for a hot chocolate and dessert, to pretend I'm in Paris.

Looking forward to more of your report!
starrs is offline  
Nov 30th, 2019, 04:43 PM
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Thanks, frosty. No nsaids for this allergic person. I think it was the shoes.

Thanks for the kind words and resto recco, starrs. My plan is Top of the Rock tomorrow but I don't know the time yet. Do you live in NYC? I'd love to try a mini gtg but not sure of times. Oh yes, nice to pretend to be in Paris!
TDudette is online now  
Nov 30th, 2019, 04:56 PM
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Originally Posted by TDudette View Post
Do you live in NYC? I'd love to try a mini gtg but not sure of times. Oh yes, nice to pretend to be in Paris!
Oh, no! Sometimes I wish I did. I visit friends up there fairly often. My niece will be up there next weekend (not the one who lived there). I adore it, but like the quiet country too.

Enjoy your trip!

If you go to the Top of the Rock, I like to take the elevator down to the food court area and get a hot chocolate from Starbucks and sit and watch the skaters at rink level. Inside, where it's warm. That's my TOR tip.
starrs is offline  
Nov 30th, 2019, 05:17 PM
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Thanks, starrs. I'm playing things by ear but coffee ☕ always a good 👍 reason for stopping!
TDudette is online now  
Nov 30th, 2019, 06:32 PM
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And to warm up if you are cold. Nice big bathroom there too, although a bit of a way away. Go past Swarovski store and keep going to you get to a big wall. Bathroom on the left.

Last edited by starrs; Nov 30th, 2019 at 06:35 PM.
starrs is offline  
Nov 30th, 2019, 09:44 PM
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I'm enjoying your trip report. So sorry to hear about your leg, though. The photos of the zoo in fall were lovely.

Curious how you knew that you were allergic to NSAIDs.

5alive is offline  
Dec 1st, 2019, 05:19 AM
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Another nice place close to Maison Kayser is Ole & Steen, for real Danish pastries/buns/layer cakes, light lunches (open sandwiches, sourdough bread etc) and strong coffee. I visited last August. At this time of the year they might have some traditional Christmas cakes eg kransekake.
Odin is offline  
Dec 1st, 2019, 05:41 AM
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So sorry your leg gave you trouble and shortened your zoo visit. You'll just have to go back. E will enjoy your photos of the zoo (of course I did too, but it was a big part of his childhood).

Glad you had a nice encounter with Khalid and his family. The lights in that dining room are fantastic. Hmm, would they work in our home? Don't answer that!
Coquelicot is online now  
Dec 1st, 2019, 07:38 AM
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hope you are still having a good time despite your woes with your leg and I look forward to reading about the Sargent exhibition. I'm glad that I didn't try to go to the zoo on my visit - it's huge! And I had to remind myself which direction the Bronx was in from Manhatten.

looking forward to more pain free adventures in NYC.
annhig is offline  
Dec 1st, 2019, 08:01 AM
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Thanks for the kind words and hints!

Day 3
November 30, 2019


Breakfast same as yesterday but cinnamon swirl bread added
Lunch: Morgan Library Café; Turkey sandwich with guac, bacon, and balsamic onions. Fries with a slightly spicy ketchup. Apple tart tatin. Coffee. This earned an A except there was too much. $39 (ouch)
Dinner: Kayser again but takeaway; another turkey sandwich on a croissant w toms, guac and lettuce. B++ $7? Made coffee with Nepresso in room.
Snack: Terrazzo; Cauliflower hummus with pita, 3 wines!

Sights: Morgan Library/Museum ($14) and Guggenheim ($18 for senior)


As mentioned, same breakfast but added a delish cinnamon swirl bread. Available table (for 4) was occupied by one person. She left, another came along and then a couple so all folks to like symmetry in tables was happy.

Noticed a square in the middle of the table and it lifts to reveal plugs! Room is less crowded today than yesterday. Went back to the room to chart some bus routes. And I am walking well enough to see about using foot mobile (i.e., walking) to Morgan. Am wondering if my sneakers yesterday were a problem so slipped on my clog-type shoes.

Never saw anyone actually setting up a computer -- do you see the square in the table?

Walked from 40 St. to 37th, and crossed 1.5 long blocks to Madison without pain. The Morgan is pretty amazing. The Sargent charcoal portraits will touch you if you like this artist even a little bit. One of the wall labels wrote that Sargent might write to someone and offer to do a sketch. “Do you have an hour?” He then gave the sketch to the person.

I loved this one of Queen Elizabeth.

Didn't get a good enough shot of Bertie, but here's QE's caption--sorry for poor quality:

Gertrude Vanderbuilt!

See for full list of exhibit. I thought this was nice:

I was attracted to the one of Queen Elizabeth before she became so. One of Prince Phillip was too small and I didn’t think to get a better shot of him and the captions. Sorry. I walked and savored this favorite artist.

Went to gift shop and bought the book (had it shipped) then decided about an early lunch. It was sooo good but I could eat only half. Even the tatin! It had the crispiest crust.

This sandwich could feed 2 easily!

Tart was amazingly crispy.

Decided it was stupid not to visit Morgan’s actual library and OMGoodness. Here are some of the better shots. If you are interested in the rich folks of early America, this is worth a look.

These two red rooms are on the right:

of an anteroom with this beautiful ceiling. To the left is

This room featuring another amazing ceiling,

walls of books and a person-sized fireplace.

The Morgan Library is amazing. Took a right on Madison, crossed 37th St. and found the bus stop for the M1. According to the metro, there are 4 “M” busses that go up Madison Ave. The M1 stops, I ask the driver if he stops near 89th St. and am pleased to hear his yes. Madison Ave. not hugely busy and we made good time to 89th. There is a Duane Reade (sp?) right there so I buy an umbrella for tomorrow and Monday.

One block to the left of Madison and there’s the Guggy. Abstract art is not my favorite but this gallery is so cool. Six levels of ramps snail around the building. Art on the outer walls and cut out areas with more exhibits. I didn’t stop at the café so can’t comment.

This round building is composed of ramps with art on the outer walls

A cupola lights from above

View from the 4th level

I rather liked the colors and arrangement of this one

Every so often there are side rooms and small galleries

Crossing 5th Ave. there is another stop for all 4 M busses. Catch the M4 and it is a slow trip down 5th Avenue. Not quite as mobbed as Friday but still busy. If you decide to take a bus, be certain to note that yours picks up at the stop! Subway would be faster but I like seeing the world and the subway stairs can be a problem.

DH and I visited over one Thanksgiving and were impressed by the big red sparkling “bow” around Cartier’s building. It was there again so a happy memory made me smile.

Got off at 41st St. This bus announced the stops and also had a digital sign of them. Much easier than in the past.

Back to Kaiser and picked up another turkey sandwich for dinner. Back to room to rest, look at pix and write about today.

Took a nap then went back to the bar and chatted with the 3 tenders and a cashier (from Baltimore!). One kindly put the 3rd wine on the house. Another said he owned an apartment across from the Morgan. I can't remember what the rent for a studio is but it wasn't horrible ($2,600?). It wasn't busy at all and they said weekdays could get mobbed as many business people were around.

Hobbled happily to crash!
TDudette is online now  
Dec 1st, 2019, 08:53 AM
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5alive, I forgot to write that I started having breathing problems after taking aspirin. It developed into asthma.
TDudette is online now  
Dec 1st, 2019, 10:04 AM
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Also, hotel is between 6th and 5th Avenues. Further examination reveals that the table by the couch can be raised and lowered! There is a hassack also.

Seeing that I wrote Phillip instead of Bertie...was mixing up current queen and her mum. Sorry!

Last edited by TDudette; Dec 1st, 2019 at 10:20 AM.
TDudette is online now  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 12:20 AM
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I am loving your trip report. love a TR with photo's.
I am visiting NYC next year.. my son lives there.. (we are Australian). As this will be my 4th visit I am looking forward to not doing any of the tourist attractions.
So getting great ideas from your report.
millie2112 is online now  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 03:32 AM
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Thank you, millie2112. The Frick is another wonderful place for art.

I just searched for 'new york city less known' and here's one, "Hidden Gems", of quite a few posts that might interest you:
NYC ideas- hidden gems
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