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Trip Report Not a Typical Trip Report

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This is not a typical tourist trip report because I’ve been to NYC countless times and have already done all the museums and attractions that interest me. (FYI, I love the Met, Ellis Island, the Tenement Museum, …) I had 3-1/2 days to fill (11/6 – 11/10), in between working in Los Angeles and needing to arrive in Philadelphia for a weekend of family affairs. I had two meetings in NYC. Otherwise, it would be vacation.

I recently moved from Nashville to Kauai. So, it was fun to be in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city, after months of sitting on my lanai, looking at and listening to the ocean, and enjoying the warm breezes.

The flight from LAX to JFK was with American and it was delayed an hour. I had asked on this forum about the best way to get from JFK to midtown Manhattan. I went with Carmel and it was a good choice. We were picked up within five minutes of calling them after our luggage arrived. The cost for two of us was $62 including tolls and a nice tip. That included a $4.00 discount at their website. Because our 6 PM scheduled arrival became 7 PM we beat the traffic and the trip to our midtown hotel was less than 40 minutes. We were happy campers. (Thank you, Doug, for suggesting Carmel.)

We booked our hotel through Hotwire. I was almost certain which hotel I would get thanks to www.betterbidding.com. We chose the Doubletree by Hilton at 350 W. 40th Street (between 8th & 9th—closer to 9th). The total cost (including tax & fees was $200/night, which seemed like a great deal for NYC. The hotel was fine for us; not luxurious, and certainly not spacious, but well-located for access to theaters. It was clean, the lobby was nice, and the staff was terrific. The room was basic, but the bed and the bathroom were good. I also liked having a mini-fridge and free Wi-Fi. But the best thing is that our room on the 29th floor was completely quiet. We never heard a siren or any other sound, which was a first.

Food:

We are not “foodies,” and prefer inexpensive, authentic ethnic foods to fine dining. We hit the jackpot our first evening, when we dined at Kung Fu Kitchen on 9th near 40th. They specialize in handmade Shanghai-style dumplings. OMG, the meal was amazing. We shared two plates of delicious steamed dumplings, a beef & scallion “pancake” (that was delicious, but was fried, and was nothing like a pancake); and the star of the show: sautéed garlic bok choy that was ridiculously good. It was a lot of food for two people, and the cost was $53 (total). I’ll add that when I peeked inside the pot of Chrysanthemum tea I found it was crammed full of flowers. (I had been expecting a tea bag!) We loved this place.

Our other favorite meal was at Turcos, a little hole-in-the-wall on 9th near 43rd. What drew us in was looking in the window and watching them make the bread. It tasted as incredible as it looked! We shared a very good white bean salad and each had a huge shish kebab plate that was served with some interesting side salads. The presentation was beautiful (especially considering that the restaurant looks like a take-away stand) and the service was good. But the food was excellent and the portions were too big for us.

There were countless ethnic food booths at the Bryant Park holiday market—and they all looked AMAZING. We went with the Turkish Gozlemes. We love Gozlemes and had only seen them in Australia. It was a terrible choice. I don’t know how anything that looked so good could be so utterly devoid of flavor, not to mention that it was cold in the center. Blechh.

I had looked up “Best Bagels” in midtown and found the Times Square Deli (44th near B’way) got very high ratings. WOW! (We ate there three times--twice for breakfast; once for lunch.) The toasted “everything” bagel piled with Nova salmon, cream cheese, and more was as good as it gets—for $8.50.

We had dinner at a Thai restaurant on 9th called “Nine.” The atmosphere looked very “New York” and drew us in. The soup was fantastic, the Pad Thai was “good” (not great) and the other dish (Nine Rama) was greasy, and somewhere between lousy and fair. The presentation and service were much better than the food.

We had a breakfast meeting at the café at the Fairway market at 74th and Broadway. My bagel and lox ($13.50) was fine, but not as good as what I had grown accustomed to at the Times Deli. The market itself was like a tourist attraction. We loved browsing the aisles. The place is enormous and felt as about authentic NYC as you can get. A tour group of Asians were taking photos.

We went to Zabar’s which was similar to the Fairway. The small area where you can eat was mobbed and unappealing. We took our knishes and our corned beef/pastrami/swiss w/Russian dressing and cole slaw on rye ($13.95) outside to bench. Delicious. (We split the sandwich and were stuffed.)

I think that covers the food!

Theater:

I would typically see musicals, but the only ones I was interested in were the hottest tickets, (“Hamilton,” “Come From Away,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” and Bette Midler in “Dolly”) and were impossible to get without mortgaging my home. We went to the TKTS booth and wound up with three plays:

“Time and the Conways” (starring Elizabeth McGovern, who I loved on Downton Abbey, and an ensemble cast that included Anna Baryshnikov, who bore a striking resemblance to her famous Dad). Everyone around us agreed that the first act was not good. The acting and the British accents felt forced, and some of the dialogue was difficult to understand. The story did not fare any better. Ahh .. but the second act was FANTASTIC and by the end of the third act, I was almost sobbing. It was SOOOO powerful and I am SO glad we saw it.

“M. Butterfly”—we both liked it, but didn’t “love” it. Coincidentally, John Lithgow, who created the role, was on our flight from L.A. to NYC. Clive Owens didn’t quite do it for us. However, the Asian actor who played Song was wonderful. I’m glad we saw it, but I didn’t feel moved.

“A Clockwork Orange” (off-Broadway) – Really a remarkable piece of theater. The star of the show was incredible. It is not a typical play. It combines dance with aspects of performance art, and it places tremendous physical and vocal demands on the performers. The set is minimal. The use of music was exceptional. Having a front row seat added to the experience! As a kid, this was one of my favorite books and movies. As an adult, I was let down by the ending. I was completely engaged while I was watching, but for some reason, the experience quickly faded after leaving the theater.

Only “Time and the Conways” left a powerful, lasting impression.

Bryant Park & the NY Public Library

We enjoyed browsing the holiday market at Bryant Park and watching the ice skaters. But many of the items for sale seemed very expensive. i.e., there were some “pop-up” Christmas cards I loved, but they were $13.50 each! Being used to Hawaii weather, I was FREEZING and it started to rain. We went into the NY Public Library. Wow. What a building. The guided tour was full, but a docent pointed out the highlights on a map, and we thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful architecture and art work.

Central Park:

We walked more than 140 blocks to—and through—Central Park! They are short blocks, but still… We had been to the park many times, but had never explored the North section. It was SO pretty—and the trees were showing off their fall colors. The area near “the Pond” was especially beautiful, with waterfalls, a stream, lovely bridges, and lots of photo ops. I enjoyed listening to a cellist in the courtyard of Belvedere Castle.

So … that’s the synopsis of my untypical three days in NYC. I hope I’ve provided some suggestions for others. I always love NYC—the excitement, the intensity, the foods, and the sounds … but after a small dose, I’m ready to go back to Hawaii!

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