Our Fabulous New York City Trip !!!

Old Oct 11th, 2010, 05:34 AM
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Our Fabulous New York City Trip !!!

Recently returned from a 12 day trip to the Big Apple and boy have I missed it. We enjoyed it so much and really planned a nice big chunk of our time in New York City proper, read Manhattan.

Rather than give a day by day synopsis of our trip, I will arrange it in a manner that I have seen others do before and for me personally, has always been a great big help to me when planning my own trips, i.e. :

By Categories.

So :

HOTEL : We stayed (for the second time now) at Affinia Dumont on 34th street between Lexington and 3rd Ave. We started out with a regular king suite since it was just the two of us and thoroughly enjoyed it, as we had last time. Bed was super comfortable, very thick and fluffy, pillows bedspreads, etc. were sublime. Full kitchen is always very handy and we ended up having BF in the room plus another meal usually and only one meal out somewhere. After my son joined us for the second part of our trip, we moved to a one-bedroom suite and it was HUGE, like a true apartment. We could seriously have lived there without problem. It had a bedroom with two almost queen-size beds, I think they were double beds but they were certainly big enough for my husband and myself and we are not small people. The other was great for my son who really enjoyed it. The other room was a very large living area with a sofa (which could open to another 2 person bed if needed), two large overstuffed chairs, a desk and work area, TV, etc. The complete and regular-sized kitchen even had a dishwasher (although I would have prefered let's say a washing machine - they have them in the basement at the hotel though if you want). Aside from that the bathroom was oversized as well and even had two mirrors and primping areas. There was also an area where there was a closet but without doors, shelving, ironing board, safe, etc. We were very very pleased with everything about this hotel, and would entertain the thought of staying there a third time if it came up. I finagled a great, and pretty unusual price after many e-mails directly with the hotel. It still came out to a hefty sum, after all we were there for 12 nights. But it was well worth it considering what we got.

TRANSPORTATION :
Arriving at Newark Airport, we took the $15 apiece Liberty Airport Shuttle into the city. Could not have been easier. It was just across the street once you got out of the terminal, they stowed your bags for you, the drive even in morning traffic was not too long, and their last stop (they have three) is Grand Central so just a short walk for us to the hotel from there. Highly recommended.

ENTERTAINMENT :
We saw FIVE Broadway shows and I shall review them in detail.

The one and only show we bought pre-paid full price tickets to, WICKED, we thought was awful. I don't know whether it was a combination of : really really high expectations, bad acting and singing, etc. and what else but there is nothing I can do to "soften my blow" about what we all three thought of it. The only good thing about it were our seats - three seats in a three-seat-only row in the first row of the Loge. Really great, but wasted for us.

BILLY ELLIOT which we got at TKTS and we LOVED LOVED LOVED. It was actually the first show of the five we saw and it was the first time in a LONG time that we really enjoyed a Broadway play totally. Great singing and dancing, the young boy who played the lead was really terrific, and the story was good too. All in all, it was a good beginning.

NEXT TO NORMAL - quite good and quite enjoyable, albeit the story line is not a pleasant one. Singing and acting were good and we had great seats (for all the plays we went to by the way, even getting tickets at TKTS).

WEST SIDE STORY - was only so-so and that was disappointing because we love the movie and the story. Lead singers were pretty bad, acting was pretty amateur and couldn't they have found someone prettier to play Maria??? Was also surprised that more than a little of the dialogue was spoken in Spanish. Not a negative thing, just a surprise.

LA CAGE AUX FOLLES - One of THE best plays, what an enjoyable ride. It was so hysterically funny we had to be peeled off the floor. The lead was played by Kelsey Grammer but the real lead was played by his "partner". The actual actor was replaced this performance with his understudy but he was SOOO great that we could not believe he was not the "true" actor. We did not feel cheated at all and we all really loved loved loved this play.

TALES OF HOFFMAN at the METROPOLITAN OPERA in LINCOLN CENTER - this was true perfection in every single way, according to my husband who is an opera fan and I picked this mostly for him. It was almost FOUR HOURS including two intermissions, we had good seats in the middle first tier and everything about it was marvelous.

NEW YORK CITY BALLET at LINCOLN CENTER - very very good. Two different dances, one to music of Leonard Bernstein which we thought would be the better of the two but it was not. The other was a very modern and new-type ballet which was very interesting and kept us waiting for more. Very enjoyable.

I shall continue later.

Meantime if there are any questions, I will be happy to try and answer them.
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Old Oct 11th, 2010, 08:54 AM
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Enjoying reading your report. You've convinced me I have to see La Cage. I saw the original on B'way and both the French and American movies. I think it's hard to beat Robin Williams and Nathan Lane, but I'm agoing.
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Old Oct 11th, 2010, 10:05 AM
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You know, I believe we saw the play many years ago with Nathan Lane and did not enjoy it half as much as this newer production. Robin Williams IS indeed hard to beat but he was in the movie, not the play. And I loved him in the movie though.
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Old Oct 11th, 2010, 10:26 AM
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Continuing :

FOOD / RESTAURANTS :
Since we had a full large kitchen in our suite, we had breakfast every day in the kitchen and made sure we had tasty tidbits for an evening nosh from the very nice and around-the-corner-from-the-hotel "Dag's" supermarket. As for the restaurants we visited :

1) Risotteria on Bleeker street - I recently went "gluten-free" and so I was anxious to try this place that was written about in many places. I must say that the food was really good. They have THE most amazing breadsticks made without gluten and honestly I would say just for those, I would go back (I actually did go back a second time)!! The no-gluten pizza is really really good BUT, and here is the BUT, it is really really expensive. The most simple pizza there costs about $15 and when you have to add in tax and tip, it really gets expensive. I was there the first time with a friend and we split a salad and a pizza, plus two fresh lemonades (which are also really wonderful) and it came to about $45. The second time I went with my husband and son, we all had pizzas, only mine was gluten-free and 2 drinks, plus one desert ($8 rice pudding) and our bill was close to $80. THAT is really a lot. But it was a good food experience and I am not unhappy we went.

2) Shake Shack - this became our lunch (or dinner depending on when we were going to a play) of choice since we went to so many plays during the time we were there and it was right there, relatively inexpensive, fun and very delicious. We enjoyed it.

3) Bar Luna on the UWS - this was a choice I made without too much "research" and it turned out to be a true winner. We all loved it. I went with my husband and invited a friend too. All three of us had their dinner specials which included a first course, main, and dessert for about $22 or $25 each. The food was delicious, the service great, the place very pleasant. Since I also went "sugar-free" I asked whether there was something I could substitute for the two choices of dessert on their special deal - one was tiramisu and the other a brownie - both no-no's for me. Our beautiful and sweet waitress said she will ask in the kitchen and she said they could bring me fruit. I was pleased as punch but when the dessert actually came, I was amazed by what they had made for me. They took, an apple, an orange and beautiful strawberries and made a gorgeous platter for me. It was both delicious and beautifully presented and I have them 1000 points for being SO accomodating. Our entire meal with tax and tip for 3 came to $100 - this time I thought it was well worth the money spent.

4) Bistango - on 3rd Ave. right near our hotel. Again tried it for their gluten-free items on the menu. A small place, intimate and interesting. Food was good but HIGHLY overpriced. I ordered the gluten-free ravioli and I swear there were 5 pieces on the plate (I counted!!) with a slight cheese and spinach filling I think, with a red sauce and for this I paid about $25?? It was good but terribly overpriced for such a small portion.

5) Friedman's Lunch at Chelsea Market - FABULOUS FABULOUS. I loved this place, went back twice. Our first breakfast right after getting to the hotel and dropping bags was here. They had fabulous gluten-free bread and we had their $10 breakfast which included a stuffed omelette, home fries, bread, I think juice but not sure, and unlimited coffee. Yum Yum Yum.

6) Trader Joe's and Whole Foods - this was my first time in either of these stores and BOY did I go wild. I LOVED LOVED LOVED them. I liked Joe's better not only because they were less expensive than Whole Paycheck but also because their items were tastier to me. I was looking to bring home some delicious sugar-free and gluten-free items and there was a dearth of them. I had trouble deciding. Did MAJOR money damage in these places. Sad, but happy, I don't have them near me at home !!

7) Vezzo Pizza right near our hotel at I think 33rd or 32nd street and Lexington? Very very nice place, VERY inexpensive, great deal for lunch especially, went back twice. I understood the pizza was good, did not taste because not gluten-free but had a very very nice and large salad with unusual items combination which I liked a lot.

8) Notaro's on 3rd Ave. also near hotel. We had been there 4 years ago (twice that time) and enjoyed it very much. I invited a bunch of friends and family and we were nine people for dinner that evening. The place has gone really downhill and I was terribly disappointed. Expensive, small amounts of food, not terribly tasty, service so-so. Bad Experience.

9) Le Pain Quotidien near Lincoln Center - went there for brunch. Was OK, not great, would not recommend. Service also very bad.

10) Shun Lee Chinese near Lincoln Center - read a lot about this place but was terribly underwhelmed. We went to the "cheaper" restaurant next door and got a very small and quiet tasteless meal for again a ridiculous price.
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Old Oct 11th, 2010, 12:03 PM
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Continuation :

SIGHTSEEING / SHOPPING :
1) Top of the Rock - first time we were there and it was wonderful, albeit we left it for the last days and it rained for 2 days so I was afraid we might miss it (and we had prepaid those tickets when we went to MOMA museum because they offered them as a discounted deal together with museum tickets). In the end, on our very last morning we were able to go up and while the view was not as nice as it could be, it was impressive anyway and we really enjoyed it. By getting tickets this way, they somehow were not "timed" tickets as I had been reading all along and so we were just able to go right in.

2) The Apple Store across from Plaza Hotel - my boys really enjoyed this, they spend 2 hours in the store which is very large and impressive indeed and got some really nice gadgets. I, who have little interest in these items, hopped across the street into Crate & Barrel and did some serious damage to my plastic card. Beautiful items and good deals!!

3) Macy's on 34th street - wonderful place to visit, even if you are not shopping. Huge 9 (?) story building with so much to see and explore that you could spend an entire day there alone. Lots to buy in the basement and clothing sections.

4) Sitting ON the street in Times Square - what an experience!! They have made some of Broadway into a pedestrian area (is this for keeps or just temporary? I don't know). And it was really fun to sit and have coffee and people-watch on the chairs and tables they have set out there.

5) MOMA and Metropolitan Museums - I love these two museums and we had a wonderful several hours in each of them. They continue to amaze me even though we have seen the same pictures many many times. My son enjoyed listening to the audio tape provided and while the Met was quiet and peaceful, MOMA was very crowded with many people.

6) High Line Park - a highlight for us. Fairly new and not many New Yorkers know about it. It is on ninth Ave between 14 and 20th streets. It is a lovely lovely place and a unique park. We happened upon a FABULOUS damce troupe made up of very young and very old women doing their dress rehearsal righjt there on the High Line for their upcoming performances. What a treat - for a full half hour. We loved it.

7) Chelsea Market - a really really fun and exhiliarating place, we loved it. Very chic, unique and great to visit, walk around, buy things and have something to eat and / or drink. Great place!!

8) M&M's and Hershey stores at Times Square - very fun and funny to visit these stores, very expensive but you can find some nice items and of course lots of chocolates (I believe they are twice as expensive in these stores as any other place). Three entire huge floors in the M&M's store - definitely worth it for the fun of it.

9) Greenwich Village / Washington Square Park / SoHo - loved all these places. So different and so "in" (still). Had a lovely day just wandering around, visiting shops, parks, etc. Very highly recommended. Just go wherever your nose takes you, no plans, no maps, nothing. "Get lost" so to speak.

10) Tour of the Federal Reserve Bank - since they no longer let you visit the NYSE, this is the closest or next best thing, and we tour the free one hour tour (free but you have to book in advance) and it was informative, fun and exciting. They even give you a funny cute little souvenir at the end and you get to go into the gold vault there.

11) Chinatown and Little Italy - maybe because it was cold and raining on the day we went down there or maybe not but we did not terribly enjoy this part of the city. Nothing really special there to see or experience but again we did not spend much time there because the weather was just not conducive.
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Old Oct 11th, 2010, 12:11 PM
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I want to thank everyone on this board for all your helpful advice, suggestions, ideas, etc. before our trip. They were very valuable and I appreciate all of them.

Thanks very much again to ALL !!!!
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Old Oct 11th, 2010, 01:48 PM
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Thank you for reporting back on a great trip.
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Old Oct 11th, 2010, 02:08 PM
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Energizing just reading your trip report. I love NYC
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Old Oct 11th, 2010, 02:13 PM
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We live two blocks from Bar Luna. Never tried it...now we will.
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Old Oct 11th, 2010, 03:32 PM
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Thanks for the great report! How did you get the great deal on your hotel?
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Old Oct 11th, 2010, 04:37 PM
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I was born and raised on Staten Island and 40+ years ago it was a magical trip to go to Chinatown with my father. Still have a set of dolls he bought me. Returned there last weekend and was disappointed. It was also cold and rainy and seemed full of crappy purses and scarves and vendors whispering to me "do you want a purse lady?". Ah, the enchantment is gone.
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Old Oct 12th, 2010, 01:28 AM
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Interesting to read your report and I agree with your opinion of "La Cage aux Folles". I saw it with the previous actor ( Douglas Hodge ? ) and he was wonderful. Didn't see "Wicked" in NYC but have seen it and don't see what people see in it.
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Old Oct 12th, 2010, 03:24 AM
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Elainee - I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Samsaf - I got a really great deal on my hotel for two reasons : 1) first of all, I booked REALLY early, like back in February (I know this because when I was thinking of adding another room to my reservation only a short while before getting there, the price had really gone up); and 2) they made some sort of mistake in what they wrote to me about pricing and then changed it. When I complained, I guess they wanted to keep me as a customer and reverted back to the original less expensive price. They were very gracious and kind about it.

Peteralan - I believe that Douglas Hodge is the one playing in La Cage now but at our performance he was replaced with his understudy. Whoever it was - was really great !!
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Old Oct 13th, 2010, 12:19 PM
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Flame123, I enjoyed your TR a lot. We stayed at Affinia Gardens this past Spring, and we loved it too.
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Old Oct 13th, 2010, 01:39 PM
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Thanks yk. Where exactly is the Affinia Gardens? I know they have several in their group of hotels.
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Old Oct 13th, 2010, 01:53 PM
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Affinia Gardens in on the UES, at 64th Street and 3rd Ave.
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Old Oct 16th, 2010, 02:29 PM
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Nathan Lane played in La Cage on stage? I was only aware of his being in the movie.

Sounds like a great trip and a good time.
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Old Oct 16th, 2010, 07:08 PM
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LOVE NYC and thanks for sharing. We loved La Cage too, and thought Wicked was only okay. (Kinda feel like the kid in the Emperors' New Clothes...)
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Old Oct 16th, 2010, 07:09 PM
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Flame - enjoyed your TR and enthusiasm!. I loved La Cage as well and thought Wicked was just ok when it opened (I'm in the minority). Just curious - why do you think Nyers aren't familiar with the High Line? It's gotten plenty of press here including during the planning and building stages.
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Old Oct 16th, 2010, 08:20 PM
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Neo - just checked with my husband - my mistake, brain fart. Sorry, Nathan Lane did NOT play in La Cage on Broadway.

Austin - Emperor's New Clothes was EXACTLY the term my 20 year old used for Wicked too !!

Centralparkgirl - There were many people, including the bus driver (!!), and others, whom I asked regarding the High Line Park and they had a quizzical look on their faces. Not until I explained what it was did they begin to somewhat have some look of "ohhhhh, yeah".
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