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Plan B. New York City with a little Philly on the side

Plan B. New York City with a little Philly on the side

Old May 2nd, 2010, 08:42 AM
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Plan B. New York City with a little Philly on the side

The first time I planned a big trip to Paris it was cancelled due to events surrounding 9/11. The second time, Eyjafjallajokull left us in a cloud of ash. And while we did make it for a long weekend in the summer of 2003 the trip is a blur. We are planning to reschedule for November this year--consider yourself warned and plan accordingly. ;-)

I’ve had some experience trip planning on the fly. When DH was stationed tdy two summers Lakenheath, England everything was last minute. Our shift from Paris to NYC was a little dizzying but thanks to the wonderful trip reports on this forum I was able to put together a successful trip very last minute. In particular I’d like to thank LowCountryIslander, Starrs, and bk123. This trip would not have been the success it was without your forum input--thank you!

Getting There:

We took Amtrak’s NE Regional train from BWI to Penn Station. Travel time approximately 2.5 hours. Purchased multi-city tickets on the Amtrak website, picked up the tickets at the BWI station kiosk. Tickets for two from BWI to NYP were $171; from NYP to Philadelphia, $84; from Philadelphia to BWI, 73.80 for a grand total of $329.40.

Hotel:

On Fodor’s, I read about so many wonderful hotels in the Theatre District and near the lower east/west side where I hoped to stay but ultimately had to choose from what was available. Booked the Sheraton Towers for six nights at $296 plus tax per night. Upon check-in we were upgraded to a club-level room, on the 50th floor, which included free breakfast and afternoon snacks. The rooms look just as they appear on the Sheraton / Trip Advisor website. No surprises. Being on the 50th floor we heard little, if any, street noise. The bathrooms are small but functional, nothing fancy. For what we wanted to do the location was great and while I would consider staying here again would prefer something a more intimate.
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 08:45 AM
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More to come...
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 09:06 AM
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Got me a nice cup of coffee and settling in to read AnnMarie's report!
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 09:16 AM
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Shows:

Pre-purchased tickets at a discount using Boxoffice.com.

The main reason I chose Promises, Promises was to see Sean Hayes who I just adore, and he did not disappoint. Kristin Chenoweth blew us away with her singing. Her rendition of Burt Bacharach's A House is not a Home has to be my favorite. Great performances, we really enjoyed this show.

Lend Me a Tenor is the funniest show we've seen ever. What fun. At one point, Justin Bartha and Tony Shalhoub couldn't hold it together during a scene and came down with a serious case of the giggles. The audience responded with laughter and applause--it was one of those fun, unique live theatre moments. Highly recommend.
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 09:20 AM
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Aw, thanks Deb!
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 10:05 AM
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Activities:

Because this trip was so last minute I was able to plan activities, with some degree of accuracy, around the weather. This was dh’s first trip to NYC so when we first arrived we took time to just walk around and visit some of the popular tourist sights such as Times Square, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Tiffany’s (at his suggestion!), Trump Tower, etc.. From the next day on, however, each day was planned with specific activities beginning with…

Central Park. This is my first time taking time to get to know the Park and explore all it has to offer. It was a beautiful day, flowers and trees in bloom, and because it’s a work day there are very few people milling about. As recommended by one of my guide books we make our first stop the Visitors Center where we’re given a detailed map of the park and an overview and history by one of the staff there. We spend the better part of the day here exploring, and later in the week we will enjoy making our way through the Park from the museums back to our hotel. Even in the rain, the Park is inviting and the intense color of the flowers really punch without the sun shining down on them.

Frick Collection. As with the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston I am amazed at the personal collection of art and antiques, as well as the manor in which Henry Clay Frick lived. He was in the house only five years with the intent of turning it into a museum following his death--he planned well. This is an incredible collection of mostly European art housed in a gorgeous mansion on Fifth Avenue at 70th.

Ellis Island. My best advice for this excursion is to pre-book tickets on-line for the Statue Cruise with Statue Cruises. Using the e-ticket option I was able to print our tickets before leaving home. Upon arrival at Battery Park, @ 10A on a Friday, there is quite a crowd and what appears to be a very long line going nowhere. After asking around we learn that because we have a reservation we simply need to return to a designated spot to get in a line for an airline type of security check for our 11A departure.

We paid $12 each for the ride to the Statue of Liberty Island and Ellis Island. The boat’s first stop is Liberty Island but we opt to visit Ellis Island only, spending the entire day going through the extensive museum there. In one of the computer's inside the main building, and on the wall outside, we locate my step-father’s father, John Papagni from Bari, Italy. Upon arrival at Ellis Island his first name was changed from Giovanni to John. He settled in Brooklyn and was trained in the art of plaster, working on the now defunct Roxy Theatre and Radio City Music Hall.

Once we return to Battery Park we explore Castle Clinton, aka Castle Garden, where my mother’s parents came through from Poland.
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 10:43 AM
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 10:56 AM
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Tenement Museum. This was the perfect follow on to our previous day spent at Ellis Island. Because I read that tours for this museum quickly sell out I pre-booked tickets on-line for “Getting By”. My goodness, to have the opportunity to see and explore the lives and homes of immigrants, our ancestors, really struck a cord with me. To see pictures is one thing but to actually go inside someone’s home opened my mind further to their cares and struggles. Compared with all we have now, and in such a relatively short period of time, it saddens me to know people today live like that still. Very moving experience. We had an outstanding guide, very knowledgeable and insightful, someone who took the time before the tour began to learn who his audience was and where they (we) came from.

Metropolitan Museum of Art. I’m sorry that we did not devote the week necessary to see the entire contents of this magnificent museum. One day is simply not enough, I feel we barely scratched the surface. Just incredible. We started off with the Egyptian collection and simply became lost in all it has to offer. They had items I never knew existed. Just astounded by what we saw there as well as in the European art galleries. An exceptional day.

American Museum of Natural History. While, again, amazed and delighted by the collection of this museum we found this museum more of a challenge to navigate, frequently getting lost and turned around which led to a series of fits and starts. For this reason we didn’t connect well here but by now we’re at the end of a full week in NYC and I’m coming down with a cold so there were a lot of factors at play here. A good day, overall. To avoid long lines I would highly recommend pre-booking tickets. We didn't do this and while waiting noticed kiosks where pre-purchased tickets could be picked up. There were no lines for the kiosks.

Other doings. As we milled about we often veered off path to explore the areas where we found ourselves. Grand Central, Trinity Church, the financial district, Bryant Park, Union Square, Chinatown, the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Bowling Green, City Hall Park. Walking into St. Paul’s Chapel I am overcome with emotion at the sight of mementos, photos, patches, ribbons and effects from those affected by 9/11. What reduces me quickly to tears is the lone fireman’s suit, slumped in a pew at the back of the chapel. It’s owner’s hat placed atop the suit where the neck would be; the boots, bearing the imprint left behind by the feet that once occupied them, on the floor. The body is gone but the spirit remains. A tear worthy moment for all that was so sadly lost on that day. It is difficult for me to see the photos of all the beautiful faces without crying. A cancelled trip to Paris seems so insignificant.
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 11:02 AM
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As a native NYer, it is wonderful to see the city from a visitor's point of view and when it's from someone you know, it is even more special. AnnMarie, thank you for sharing your visit and wonderful insights!

When we return to NY this summer [it has been 5 years since we were home], we will use this report to do some of the things we haven't done or haven't done in a long time.

Waiting on the Philly part as we will head their after NYC!
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 11:42 AM
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Restaurants:

With the exception of Junior’s, I made advance reservations using opentable.com, a tip picked up from LowCountryIslander. Despite waiting diners we were seated almost immediately upon arrival at each place.

5 Napkin Burger--the burgers here were very good and I would try this place again, with ear plugs. ;-) I had the ahi burger that was cooked to perfection; dh the classic bacon-cheeseburger. Really enjoyed the energetic vibe here.

Maria Pia--I ordered from the specials list starting with the white turnip soup followed by home-made black fettuccine with lobster, muscles and shrimp in a spicy tomato sauce to die for. DH had the calamari friti, forever in search of the best which, to this day, remains in Bermuda until proven otherwise! He had a fish off the regular menu but I don’t recall the particulars, I was too in to my dinner to notice.

La Mangeoire--fabulous experience and exactly as LCI describes in her trip report, “…felt like we had stepped into a cute Provencal country cottage…”. Everything was perfection including the best escargot I’ve tasted ever, gently cooked in a tomato and garlic base. There was one less dish in need of cleaning that night. Perfectly prepared sea bass, lovely dessert. We seemed to hit it off with the owners--they treated us to complimentary after dinner drinks and asked us to return, twice a week.

Thalia--just when I think the food couldn’t possibly get any better we have dinner at Thalia. DH started with a plate of Italian meats and gorgeous fresh bread. For me, a fabulous Hamachi Tartare with ginger, cilantro, sesame oil, rice purls, micro cilantro, wasabi roe and citrus ponzu sauce (yes, I had to write that one down!). For dinner I had one of the specials, a beautifully prepared grouper with risotto and spinach in lobster sauce. DH ordered a pork chop the size of Rhode Island with gorgonzola--he said it was wonderful.

Junior’s--inside Grand Central Station we decided to try this locally grown restaurant for lunch and was pleasantly surprised by the Rubens we ordered. Complimentary pickles and pickled beets are served prior to the meal. We are told by our waiter the menus at Junior's vary by location. Junior's got its start making cheesecake and is slowly expanding.

The two nights we went to the theatre we went to dinner after that were just okay, I wouldn’t go out of my way to try them, nor would I recommend them, but the restaurants above I would go back to in a heart beat. We also took advantage of the restaurants and café’s inside museums--all were surprisingly good, particularly the café at The Met.

Two recommendations I was given later, by a woman who said she lives in NYC, are Saigon 48 at 48th and 8 and Barbetta at 46th between 8th&9th. Will have to google myself before investigating further.
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 11:43 AM
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I appreciate that Deb, thank you! Next up, Philly!
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 01:36 PM
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Nice report! Those restaurants sound great.
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 02:50 PM
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Looking forward to the philly section, too. I'll be there at the end of this month!
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 03:29 PM
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AM~ Hope you are feeling better...anxiously looking forward to the remainder of your NYC trip report.
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 06:28 PM
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AnnMarie...great report...I feel like I'm there with you!

When I was at Thalia in March a diner a couple tables over ordered the pork chop and we could see the mountain of meat from 2 tables away! I made a mental note to have that on another visit. Sounds like your DH made a great choice!
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 06:32 PM
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Great report; I can't wait for the Philadelphia part! This part makes me want to go to NY again really really soon.
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 08:00 PM
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Awesome report, Ann_Marie. Looking foward to the Philly part!
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Old May 3rd, 2010, 04:28 AM
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Thank you, all!
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Old May 3rd, 2010, 04:36 AM
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Philadelphia. As many times as I’ve passed through here by train I’ve never actually been inside the station--what a beauty and I’m thrilled, yes thrilled, to see they still use the split-flap display. It’s something to see and listen to. Unfortunately, I’m on my way to sick but we’re here for two nights only and Philadelphia is one of my favorite cities so…

Hotel:

After reading glowing reviews of the Rittenhouse I hope to find a room but as with NY book what I can get. We happily end up at the Sofitel, very near the Westin where we stayed last time. For what we want to do in the short time we're here it's the perfect location, and what an elegant hotel. A smile crosses my face every time we’re greeted in French, coming and going, by the staff. We love this hotel and will stay here, again.

Our room is spacious as is the French-door bathroom. I am grateful for the more-comfortable-than-at-home bed and the Rite Aid on the corner. Thanks to that bed and a tall bottle of Nyquil I am able to rest/sleep.
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Old May 3rd, 2010, 06:13 AM
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Activities:

When we were here a few years ago (there is a trip report somewhere on Fodor’s) we devoted more time to the historical sites in the city. This time we're here for the art… and cheesesteaks.

Franklin Institute. An old friend, we go here mostly for sentimental reasons. Mine. This is a museum I went to as a kid and want to share with DH, have him walk through the heart. It’s curious how the valves have narrowed over the years. ;-) We arrived 3 hours before closing which was the perfect amount of time for us to devote to this museum and catch a 30 minute show on black holes at the planetarium. I think this museum is geared more toward a younger crowd but there were displays that captivated and entertained us and the planetarium show was excellent.

Rodin Museum. This museum houses the largest collection of Rodin’s work outside France. Admission is free but a $5 donation, per guest, is requested. At the museum grounds (street) entrance we are greeted by a cast of The Thinker. At the museum door entrance, The Gates of Hell, based on Dante’s Inferno. It is fabulous. Pain and suffering exude from this piece, it is very powerful. To be in a museum which houses only the work of Rodin is powerful. I’m use to seeing his work peppered throughout a large space, intermingled with other work. There is a lot of life and emotion depicted in his work, something I didn’t quite feel until now. Highly recommend.

Philadelphia Museum of Art. We were here about three weeks ago with my parents to see the special exhibit Picasso and the Avant-Garde, which is excellent, but that was all we saw of the museum at this time.(Afterward, we went to the Reading Terminal Market for food and fun. FYI, Termini Brothers has the best cannoli if you feel so inclined!)

Again, this is another museum I grew up going to for the art but I’m certain my parents never took us to the second floor because I would have remembered seeing a full scale Japanese teahouse, a full scale French cloister, Indian temple, Japanese Buddhist temple, English drawing room and other period rooms including one from a Paris apartment. This museum is simply incredible and we spend the better part of a day here. There is a new addition to the museum, the Perelman Building, that we did not get to. My words cannot do justice to this museum. A must see, imo.

Academy of Natural Science. We did not make it here but I have it on good authority from a friend that this is a great place to visit, very near the Franklin Institute.

Barnes Foundation. I was happy to read signage along the Ben Franklin Parkway that the Barnes Foundation is moving to a more central location, along the Parkway between the Museum of Fine Art and Franklin Institute.
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