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New York, New York...my kind of town

Old Jun 18th, 2013, 10:19 AM
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New York, New York...my kind of town

A little history
Back in the day, (I say that because I’d rather not think of just how long it’s been) I was going to New York regularly for work. But I always made time for soaking up the vibe and those things that make New York so alive: theater, concerts and the rest. So if I throw in something from an old show, a song or a cliche here and there, I hope it doesn’t come off as being too cutesy. They just seem to fit. Besides I’m not clever enough to describe things without some help.

That was then. I now go to Europe as often as I can. But, for a short change of scenery last year, I fit in a night in New York. Not enough time. I’d forgotten what an exciting, stimulating place it is. This month I was able to manage a few days there with my long time friend John, now living in Baltimore, an underrated city when it's rated at all. I always travel solo. Sorry Barb, but this time it worked.
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...m#last-comment

SUNDAY
From train to the Tonys
It’s an easy trip from Baltimore by train, a couple hours or so and it’s cheap, too. But hotel prices in NYC are not. By being a bit resourceful, not necessarily clever, I was able to get quite a deal. Not far from Penn Station, the hotel is one of the smaller new ones that seem to be popping up everywhere in convenient places, but on fairly dreary streets. Like the others, it was set back from the older buildings to provide a little space in front to sit, drink or eat.

If I were a desk clerk
I’d booked a room with a king bed. That’s the best deal I could get. We got to the hotel about noon, too early for checkin. So now it’s how to get upgrades without even trying. Well, we did try. We really wanted a double, but they’re a lot more, quite a lot more. With John and I actively schmoozing, there was a hint of an upgrade.

We went back a couple hours later when rooms would be ready. Our front desk clerk wasn’t there. Great! Was that going to be good or not? Now we were playing nice with someone else. Without saying, “no way,” he went in back to check with her. He came back with, “no problem, sure.” Not bad! Then jokingly, (I wasn’t joking) I said, “now, guess we need a room with a view. “I’ll put you on the 17th floor.” Is this too good to be true? The Empire State building was within shouting distance. Well done!
http://www.pbase.com/jeff_b/image/150834914

Sunday In the park
While waiting for our room, we had walked up 5th Avenue to the freshly restored library. After checking out the lions, also freshly coiffed, we went to Bryant Park. Yes, I remember when it was a no-go zone. Well that’s all changed. It’s the place to be on a sunny Sunday. Lots of people, lots of green and lot’s of things to do, maybe eat or just sit. Kids were horsing around on a small carousal, only $2 a ride. We didn’t do it, but we were still like kids in a candy store. Our goal was to just do a few well chosen things. Besides, we had three days or so. Reminding ourselves of that, we sat, and in a couple different places. It’s people watching personified. John with his almost trendy skinny jeans, flipped open his new laptop. I really think it was just a guise to check people out without them knowing it.
http://www.pbase.com/jeff_b/image/150806600
http://www.pbase.com/image/150835322
http://www.pbase.com/jeff_b/image/150834916

30 Rock
More than happy with our room, we headed out again. Somehow, I don’t quite feel like I’ve been to New York without at least a quick stop at Rockefeller Center. Lots of people there, too. But the Metropolitan Museum shop was quiet with nice things to buy, although I didn’t. As we were leaving near the GE building, 30 Rock, we saw a queue of people dressed to the nines. (Do they still say that?)
http://www.pbase.com/jeff_b/image/150806603

Sunday night fever
I usually watch the Tonys, but watching TV that night wasn’t the plan. So sure enough, they were about to mingle with the other Broadway celebs at Radio City Music Hall. We had the feeling that we wouldn’t be joining them. But at least we might catch some of the excitement and a glimpse like the hundred so others dressed as casually as we were. At least John was wearing his red skinny jeans. We did see a star or two, but even with a zoom lens they were a bit fuzzy from across the street. Where do all those black limos come from? Not that there weren’t more than a few cops, too.
http://www.pbase.com/jeff_b/image/150834919

From glitz to Grand Central
We’d had enough of the glamour and were getting hungry. I had’t seen Grand Central either since it’d been redone. John had. He’s more worldly than me. We strolled toward Park Avenue and could see Saint Bart’s. At one time, read back in the day, there was a clash between developers and the preservation people. Fortunately the church remains, but still could use a bit of freshening.

How do you get that close the the Waldorf without going in? An art deco treasure that must look better now than the day it was built. I rather doubt that schmoozing (we’re past flirting) with anyone would get us a room we could afford let alone an upgrade. We sat in the beautiful understated elegant lobby off Park like we were meant to be there. After all, John was dressed to his version of the nines. It was so calm and quiet with almost no people. This is the life, but like the Tonys, we would just pretend.
http://www.pbase.com/jeff_b/image/150834917

The way it was
Now to Grand Central to get a bite. Heading south on Park, it’s hard not to imagine what things would look like without the less than mediocre MetLife building as the terminus of the grand avenue. I know. It was the PanAm building originally. Fortunately Jackie Kennedy helped rescue Grand Central. She played a role in saving St. Bart’s, too. Talk about being refreshed. Grand Central is now the gem it was meant to be.

The idea was the Oyster Bar. I’d eaten there before and thought this would be the ticket. Guess again. It’s Sunday night and it was closed and the food court was calling it a night. So we walked south on Park thinking we’d find a place, but without much luck. I was at the point of starving and admittedly getting a bit grouchy. If I’d thought about it, we could have tried Brasserie Les Halles that my niece recommended. We ended up at one of the ubiquitous storefront diner type places on the corner by the hotel. We’d had something there for lunch just to get by. It wasn’t the Oyster Bar, but it worked. The view from our room at night was brilliant to say the least. But it still wasn’t the Waldorf.
http://www.pbase.com/jeff_b/image/150834920
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Old Jun 18th, 2013, 10:44 AM
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Bravo, JEFF_! If you aren't a professional photographer, that last photo behooves you to think about it. Lumix rocks, eh?
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Old Jun 18th, 2013, 11:46 AM
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Sounds great but am I missing something? What was the name of the hotel?
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Old Jun 18th, 2013, 04:06 PM
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Thanks, KatPen. I seemed to miss the same thing.
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Old Jun 18th, 2013, 04:19 PM
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LOL, me too! Inquiring minds [and potential guest] want to know!
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Old Jun 19th, 2013, 09:00 AM
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Great report so far. (and the hotel was...?)
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Old Jun 19th, 2013, 09:24 AM
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Thanks TDudette and 5alive!
Sorry, I selfishly omitted the hotel name. Most big chains have opened similar ones.
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Old Jun 19th, 2013, 09:56 AM
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"Sorry, I selfishly omitted the hotel name"

??

You seriously are trying to say that you don't want anyone else to know what hotel? Are you afraid they will get so busy that you won't be able to get a room there next time? And by your own admission you don't go to NYC often...wow.
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Old Jun 19th, 2013, 10:15 AM
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A key hotel employee is an active Fodorite. Giving out upgrades is not something he'd want broadcasted.
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Old Jun 19th, 2013, 10:51 AM
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Great pictures!
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Old Jun 19th, 2013, 10:57 AM
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We would never have know about the "active Fodorite" if you hadn't mentioned it. And, it's hardly likely that he would be able to give upgrades if hotel was full.

This IS a travel forum--give us a break!
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Old Jun 19th, 2013, 11:45 AM
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So...just how did Fodors get brought up? Did you name drop? He mentioned it?

I was merely interested in what seemed like a nice place to stay. I wasn't seeking to use your upgrade ploy; I know how to get upgrades.
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Old Jun 19th, 2013, 11:46 AM
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Meanwhile I posted a trip report of a wonderful city and the many places there I visited, but as others might go, I deliberately didn't tell the name of the city or any of the places I visited.
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Old Jun 19th, 2013, 12:21 PM
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NP
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Old Jun 19th, 2013, 01:07 PM
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Monday, Monday
The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow


It Never Rains in Southern California. That’s not the case here. So what to do? And what do you do when you’re not that fond of shopping? Shop, of course, throw in people watching and have a nice lunch. We both had the same idea. We needed new wallets. Ours were an embarrassment to take out. They’d never make it at the Tonys. Even the Waldorf would frown. Should that take all day? Well no, but at Macy’s they have tons and it a huge store to explore. We think we have Macy’s here, but the Herald Square store is the real one.

Wallets are a very personal thing. You don’t want one for a present. That is, unless it’s worth a lot and you can take it back and get something you want. We not only did we find the perfect ones, they were on the clearance rack. Okay! We didn’t even have to suck up to anyone. Not only that, my sales clerk insisted I used my Macy’s card to get another 20% off. I haven’t used it in years. Then it was to get a big discount on a living room rug that was on clearance, too. Surprise! But really, was it worth saving a few bucks to make people in line (they weren’t the same ones from the Tonys) wait as the clerk did a dozen things to reactivate my account?

We browsed a lot. I even bought a couple things for the kitchen, on sale of course. John decided he needed another black tee shirt to wear under his fashionable black and white checked shirt. Didn’t he have enough? Guess he thought so, too. The clerk had told him a smart yellow one would make his shirt pop. It did.

Lunch with a view
By then we wanted lunch. I don’t know how many places to eat there are in the store. Several I suppose. But John had eaten at the upscale Italian restaurant on the 6th floor. He’s quite urbane. It may have been the best meal we had on the trip. Stella 34 is the place to go. It was sure better than the burger place. Besides it had a view of our building, still pretty dramatic even with the rain covered windows.
http://www.pbase.com/image/150835292

We’d had our long, leisurely lunch. So good! We poked around some more. By then we’d had it. We finally left the megastore and headed back to the room. It was still raining. Umbrellas everywhere, all sorts, sizes and colors. You might say that applied to the people too. It’s a sight to just watch people maneuver through the the rush hour masses to avoid getting drenched. Some raise their umbrellas, some lower them, others tilt them from side to side. Some people get wet. What a profound observation. Almost as exciting is that some like sitting in the rain. One guy was brushing water off a chair in Herald Square so he could.

Much to do and do nothing
The rain persisted. We both took naps to recover from our day of excess. With the nothing planned for the evening and being in a city with so much to do, what did we do? Chat a lot, laugh a lot and decide what to do. And, then do nothing. Not that it was a complete loss, we did make a list of things for the next day. Again, trying to not do too much knowing that we’d fill in the blanks anyway. We each had similar ideas, but then crossed them off if it seemed too time consuming. I even did a sketchy timeline that we actually stuck to. The view from the room was dark and wet. Even the glowing tower was stuck in the gloom.
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Old Jun 19th, 2013, 02:46 PM
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Sounds like you had much better luck with your travel partner than I did with the Divas. So glad to hear you packed in as much as you did with your few days in NYC and had such a fab time too.
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Old Jun 19th, 2013, 03:56 PM
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We did a lot, but were still careful not to take on too much. This time, not traveling solo worked.
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Old Jun 19th, 2013, 05:58 PM
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Tuesday
Everything was beautiful at the ballet


The sun did come out. This is the day we'd built the trip around. We had to two major things: the ballet that night, and the Morgan Library and Museum during the day. After our somewhat less than serious strategy session Monday night, we felt we could still throw in a couple other things. The museum didn’t open until 10:30. We wanted to hit the shop at MOMA. I wanted to see the newer architecture, too. But neither of us cared to spend the time to actually do the museum. MOMA didn’t open until 10:30 either, but we had the feeling the store would be open earlier. It was. We bought a couple nice little things, modern of course. I got to see a lot of the building from the lobby. Pretty dramatic.
http://www.pbase.com/jeff_b/image/150836305
http://www.pbase.com/jeff_b/image/150864127

Down 5th Avenue, we were off to the Morgan, checking out the buildings-old and new, the people and lots of store windows. Most cities just don’t have these kinds of elaborate, well decorated, sometimes outlandish windows. At least not so many. I had to take a quick peak inside Sak’s to see if it still looked like the Sak’s I remember. Yes, but with just a bit of freshening. Like Macy’s, it’s the real store. On the other hand, it’s very much unlike Macy’s.
http://www.pbase.com/jeff_b/image/150806458
http://www.pbase.com/jeff_b/image/150834979
http://www.pbase.com/jeff_b/image/150863732
http://www.pbase.com/jeff_b/image/150863437

At the Morgan, you enter through the contemporary part of the building that ties the three older buildings together. The original being designed by renown architect Charles McKim. This is the building that houses the beautiful grand library. And, we were the only ones in it right then. This is a museum in itself.
http://www.themorgan.org/home.asp

Tea for two
Before tackling the library and exhibits, we stopped for a pick me up at the café in the glass-enclosed central court. There are several small bistro-type tables all basking in the filtered light of this elegant, understated and peaceful atrium. We decided to share the “Morgan Tea.” We each should have had our own. Like the space, it too was elegant and understated, and absolutely delicious. Yes, a little fussy. Like do real men have fingers sandwiches, tiny scones and fruit compote? We didn’t plan on desert, but the “Homemade Cookie Plate,” served warm, was as good as the rest. Even my iced tea was stunning to look at.
http://www.pbase.com/jeff_b/image/150867885
http://www.pbase.com/jeff_b/image/150867848

We started with “The Drawings of Matthew Barney” exhibition. I have admit I had no idea who he is. As enlightened as John is, he didn’t either. Some of his things were wonderful. Others I didn’t understand or like. Maybe both. We looked at the other collections. Some we spent some time at. Others we barely glanced at. Talk about stunning. The star was the Library. We wondered if Pierpont read all of those books. Or, was a collector and like just liked having them around. The space was filled with carefully arranged books from floor to ceiling, surrounded by elaborate Italian Renaissance splendor. Hardly my local library. Walking back to the hotel, I realized that our petite lunch at the museum wasn’t enough. I got a bite at the hotel. John took a nap. Then he got a bite and I took a nap.

At the ballet
This was the big event: American Ballet Theater’s Romeo and Juliet with David Hallberg as Romeo at the Met. If you don’t know, Hallberg was the first non-Russian dancer to join the Bolshoi. He’s a principal with both companies. And is he good. Even being unusually tall for a dancer with flowing blond hair, he managed to be a Romeo almost half his age.
http://www.abt.org/dancers/detail.asp?Dancer_ID=66
http://www.tonyaplank.com/2009/07/09...h-prostitutes/

I’m no expert, but to me, the performance was flawless. I’ve never seen anything so exquisite, brilliant and moving. Just listening to Prokofiev would have been an event in itself. This was the best of both worlds. So, do real men actually go to the ballet? More to the point, not pointe, do they tear-up experiencing something this breathtaking? And that was before the tragic ending that you knew was coming. We had fantastic seats, tenth row on the aisle looking down one of the center ones. As the audience roared with approval at the end, I of course, had to rush to the orchestra rail to see them up close, but not necessarily personal.

From class to crass
I needed some time to recover and reflect As we wandered from Lincoln Center, I pictured a leisurely glass of wine at a quiet, elegant place, maybe like the Four Seasons or the Oak Room at the Plaza. We quietly walked toward Columbus Circle. Decision time. Do we have the drink at what I thought would be the appropriate place? Or, do we go to Times Square? I lost and we continued down Broadway to the glitz that never stops.

Last year we approached Times Square from the south. Yes, it’s larger than life, bright and colorful. But coming from the north is a whole different thing. It gradually gets more and more intense. The lights, the people, the noise, the excitement, the energy; all in one place. So much for the ballet. Mood change was required or forced upon you. Huge TV-like screens everywhere. Not sure there was a building not covered with something animated, colorful and moving; not to be confused with the moving experience at the ballet.

At the TKTS discount ticket place on Duffy Square, there’s a vivid backlit red plastic-like amphitheater facing south. Opposite the rail at the top were two of those giant screens showing people being silly and having fun. It took a while to figure out was going on. There were cameras pointed at the railing. It was a tad different than the railing at the Met. Probably not the same people either. Back to being kids, we had to do this. So much fun! People laughing and caring on. It’s a bit odd seeing yourself as you’ve never seen yourself before. Strange, but hysterical at the same time.
http://www.archdaily.com/9645/tkts-b...rkins-eastman/

With New York’s more pedestrian friendly environment, there are now places to sit at little tables everywhere. Times Square has it’s share. We sat partially to recover from the walk, but mostly to be a part of it all. John went for hot dogs and Cokes. Again, this wasn't even close to what I pictured and hour or so before. But we’re here now.

We talked a little with a couple from Long Beach. Not much to say until there was loud pop near us. It was a younger, stylishly dressed, attractive woman by herself opening a bottle of champagne. The champagne part would have been expected a little earlier in the evening or on New Year’s Eve for sure. It didn’t take much encouragement to have her join us. We needed five glasses. Off she went and came back with paper cups. As she poured, she told one story after another, one more outrageous than the other. Some a bit hard to believe, but as the night went on, who cares?

She was the firecracker you’d expect on New Year’s. Not a coffee drinker and high on Red Bull plus, she was even more animated than the TV screens. She said she’d been serving appetizers at a fancy happy hour and decided she wanted her own party even if it were by herself. It was hard to imagine her ever being by herself. I’ve known some outgoing people, but she gave new meaning to the term. Btw, the happy hour had been over hours before. I wondered what she’d been doing in the meantime. It was well after midnight and we finally escaped to the hotel. Did this really happen? It was more than over the top. What a trip!
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Old Jun 19th, 2013, 07:19 PM
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I must admit, I hated most of this report, a tad too coy for my tastes.

But I loved the latest entry.

You win.
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Old Jun 20th, 2013, 05:08 AM
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Wonderful TR, JEFF_ and more great shots. What was that rather ethereal skyscraper in http://www.pbase.com/jeff_b/image/150834979? Amazing building.

Fra_Diavolo, we could all have done without the first line and general tone of your post.
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