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.
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!
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.
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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A little history