Travel – The Big Apple: Day 1

I have no clue what building this is, but it caught my eye. This photo was taken from the Bryant Park ice skating rink.

We’d rather be lucky than good. When it comes to weather, one must always rely on luck for a trip that is planned months in advance. We were luck on this trip. Five full days in NYC; temps in the 40s all week and only one day of precipitation. We walked in rain most of the day on Wednesday. Not too bad.

Our flight landed 3 hours late in NYC, but we did get checked into the Times Square Hilton Garden shortly after midnight, before the 3:00 am cutoff. So…we slept in on Monday morning then headed over on foot toward the Empire State Building. Roughly a 30 minute walk interrupted by one stop for coffee and one stop for a bagel with cream cheese and scallion spread along the way.

Street level view of the Empire State Building.

One observation to be aware of for NYC iconic sights and destinations. Security is TSA level at most places. The Empire State building is one of them. Other sights we visited that required TSA level security checks were the World Trade Center Museum, the Statue of Liberty Ferry at Battery Park, the Statue of liberty, Ellis Island, and Saint Paul’s Church.

There are two observation floors on the Empire State Building, floors 86 and 102. A ticket that gets you to the 86th floor is currently $44, while the ticket that gives you access to both the 86th and 102nd floor is currently a $77 investment.

We bought the $77 option to visit both floors and headed up the elevator. Interestingly, the 86th floor is open to the outside and inside for viewing and/or photos. The 102nd floor, however, is fully enclosed. Fully enclosed was great for protection against the cold December windy air at 1250 feet above street level, but not as good for taking photos of the city below. The windows were a little dirty (on the inside from nose and forehead prints) and there was glare plus a mirror effect that does not make for ideal photo quality.

A view of the World Trade Center from the Empire State Building
A view of the Chrysler Building from the Empire State Building
A view of the Hudson River from the Empire State Building

Next on the agenda was the Upper West side to visit with Beth’s cousin Denny at his place overlooking the Hudson River. Cousin is a bit of a stretch, Denny is Beth’s mom’s 2nd cousin whom she was a good friend of in Sheboygan where they both grew up.

Our appointment with Denny was at 1:30 pm. After charting the walk on our iMaps application we knew that walking would be both tiring and would take too long to make our date on time. Denny suggested taking the subway, but we didn’t feel safe doing so and chose Lyft instead.

The Lyft driver dropped us off in front of Denny’s place at a little after 1:00. The bagel we ate while walking from our hotel to the Empire State Building had wore off, and we had plenty of time so we found a quick bite to eat. Fortunately, we could see and smell a busy little pizza by the slice place just a block away. We made a bee line for it.

Pizza by the slice. Two distinct sizes of slices were offered. The small one was huge, the large one was inconceivably large. We chose to share a small (but large) slice of sausage and pepperoni. The flavor of the sauce was subtle, but good. We are used to sweet red sauce in the Midwest, this sauce let the flavors of the cheese, meats and crust come through. We liked it.
The menu. Unless your are REALLY hungry, the regular slice is plenty. In fact it was plenty for two to share. The term “jumbo” slice does not truly convey the size of the slice. It is massive. Well worth the $7.50 to $10/slice price.

Next stop, cousin Denny. We love chatting with the generation above us. They have much to share about our heritage and what that generation was like in their youth. Denny is Helen’s (Beth’s mom) second cousin, so that makes Denny her 2nd cousin once removed. Denny and Helen are not shy about letting you know that they were each the other’s favorite cousins growing up in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Pretty cool.

The view of the Hudson River from cousin Denny’s 5th floor Upper West Side Coop. Nice! This is the area of the Hudson where Sully landed his plane.

The moment that Denny opened the door, his first question was; “So, I suppose you know all about the blue hair incident?” The answer was; “Of course!” Which was mostly true. The blue hair incident we knew of as the blue “dress” incident.

Denny and Beth’s mom and their siblings as youth were playing together at a family reunion when a bottle of blue ink was spilled. The story we knew resulted in Helen’s dress being stained blue. What we didn’t know was Denny’s hair being stained blue!

There was plenty of reminiscing about life in Sheboygan during the 1940s and 1950s. It was great looking at all of Denny’s family photos that featured him with Helen and the other cousins. It was clear that his memories of home and his cousins were fond ones. He treated us with a great bottle of champagne and sweet snacks, but the best part of our 2 hour or so stay was Denny’s wonderful collection of art and antiques.

The entire visit was an unexpected delight. Denny is an absolute sweetheart. We are better for knowing him. Even though the stay was so brief we feel like we have a better knowledge of Helen’s fascinating cousin and his journey from Sheboygan, WI to the University of Wisconsin to Alaska with the US Army to his career in advertising in NYC working with, among others; Pepsi and Coca Cola before, during and after the Cola Wars of the 90s.

Denny encouraged us to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and was quite instructive in suggesting which wings of the Met would be of most interest. Including a once in a lifetime opportunity to see an art piece called the Flaming June. The Flaming June is on loan from Museo de Arte de Ponce, an art museum located on Avenida Las Américas in Ponce, Puerto Rico while they remodel.

The Flaming June is a piece from artist Frederic, Lord Leighton who painted it in 1895. According to Leighton, the composition was inspired by the posture of a tired model. He elaborated her sinuous pose and then added sheer orange draperies. Her skin flushed by the sun, she is transformed into a personification of summer heat. The image reflects Leighton’s allegiance to artistic ideals that emphasized harmonious color and form over narrative. This and Lachrymae (hanging nearby) were the last great pair of paintings he exhibited at the Royal Academy in London, in 1895. Critics raved, but tastes soon changed; Flaming June did not regain its fame until the Museo de Arte de Ponce acquired it in the 1960s. The frame is a reconstruction of the lost original designed by the artist.

Flaming June on loan at the Met from the Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico. More on The Met in our Day 5 post.

We have had correspondence with Denny twice since returning from our trip. The first time on our drive home from the Milwaukee airport on Saturday evening. He was making sure we got home OK and asked how we enjoyed NYC. The second just this week, the week before Christmas, to wish us a Merry Christmas and to exchange email addresses. He is encouraging us to stay with him at his Long Island condo the next time we visit the city. How great is that?!

Monday evening was dinner at Times Square Italian restaurant Tony’s Di Napoli, followed by a walk over to the Radio City Music Hall to see their Christmas Spectacular featuring the Radio City Rockettes.

Tony’s featured family style Italian food, large portions intended to be shared. Our travel party of 4 shared two appetizers and two entrees. R Dub washed his down with a nice glass of Chianti. Our table was reserved and we had no trouble being seated the moment we arrived. The service was fabulous plus the food was tasty and filling. A great first sit down meal in NYC.

The Radio City Music Hall for a Monday evening showing of their annual Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes and an impressive special effects show.

The Radio City Rockettes and the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. We know, this event is very touristy. But hey, we were tourists and this was a great way to start our entertainment adventure in NYC. Plus, Monday’s are dark nights for Broadway shows. The Rockettes were pretty much the only show in town on Monday…plus we enjoyed the show very much.

Not surprisingly, the Rockettes were choreographed well and their synchronization was up to the standard that they are reputed to have. Surprisingly, the spectacular features an excellent special effects visual show (with the assistance of 3D glasses) that we did not expect. This venue with 6,000 seats was by far the largest venue we would visit for a show during the week.

The Rockettes (and Santa on the far left) in their opening dance routine.

New York is known as The City That Does Not Sleep, so post Rockettes we needed to see more. First up was Bryant Park to visit the vendors and check out the ice skating rink. The Bryant Park skating rink is one of three rinks in Manhattan that we visited during the week.

Beth and R Dub posing alongside the Bryant Park ice skating rink. Rink time is sold by the hour.

Final stop before turning in for the evening on day one? The Stardust Diner for dessert and potent potables…and entertainment by the singing wait staff! Many former and some current Stardust employees have performed in Broadway shows. The voices were, of course, spectacular. The Stardust is located next door to the Winter Garden Theatre which is currently the home of The Music Man starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster (Our Thursday evening entertainment).

Two of the many singing wait staff members at the Stardust. This wait staff has included many past and some current Broadway performers. A great way to end our first full day in NYC.

So ends day one. As diverse as the city itself; we enjoyed a tall attraction, street food, sit down food, walked the streets of Manhattan, hailed transportation, saw a professional show featuring the Rockettes, dancing, singing, an unexpected special effects show, ice skating, street vendors and R Dub ordered a Manhattan drink in the heart of Manhattan. Pretty cool, and it was only the beginning. Stay tuned!

Published by R Dub's Rub

Conversational BLOG writer and contributing writer for LocaLeben magazine. My BLOG entries represent observations that intrigue, amuse, inspire or stimulate my appetite.

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