Yes, it’s true, we went to the b-i-i-i-g city. We have the photos to prove it. And you are going to see some of them.
After hemming and hawing over whether to take a so-so cruise for Janet’s spring break, we decided instead to visit New York. Janet had been listening to the Jersey Boys CD for a couple of months and was really itching to see the show, and she hadn’t seen Ellis Island. Apparently she missed that marching band trip, the one where the band director got on the wrong ferry leaving Ellis and left 3 busloads of high school kids and chaperons sitting in New Jersey for an hour wondering where he was. Battery Park, it turned out . . .
I was going to book a hotel in Midtown near the theater, but one of Janet’s friends suggested a small chain called Affinia. I found the Affinia Dumont on 34th Street in Murray Hill, and it was great. 35 stories but only about 7 rooms to a floor.
We had a junior suite on the 28th floor with a full kitchen and an executive desk setup, not to mention a corner view with the Chrysler Building out one window and the East River out the other. I felt like a big shot sitting there in my corner office. We admired a building across the street with nice gardens on some of the upper floors. At first we thought it was an exclusive condo, but it turned out to be the US headquarters and conference facility for Opus Dei (remember The DaVinci Code?).
The Barking Dog Bar & Grill – and yes, I did the usual and asked the clerk if he said “Barfing Dog” – was next door and served as the hotel’s restaurant. They have a small plaza where they welcome dogs to enjoy a meal with their owners (in decent weather). Their motto is Sit! Stay! Great place – we had breakfast there every day, and a couple of dinners too.
One evening we ran into Sandy Davidson, the owner of Annandale’s AnnSandra – one of Janet’s favorite shops – where Vicky has worked on and off for a couple of years. Sandy was also staying at the Dumont and was having Seder with her family and friends.
Weatherwise, New York did not exactly welcome us. We arrived late on a pleasant Sunday afternoon and toted our little suitcases six blocks or so up 34th St from Penn Station (we parked in New Jersey and rode the train in – yokels that we are, we first jumped on an Amtrak with our NJTransit tickets, and they booted us off at the airport to await the correct train). That was the last decent weather we had until we left on Thursday. Monday it poured most of the day, Tuesday was showers on and off, cold and windy, and Wednesday was more of the same with snow flurries. Spring, isn’t it lovely?
On Monday, Janet went to the ten-floors-of-shopping Macy’s at Herald Square, while I got in some exercise at the hotel gym (very nice, by the way). Janet had the forethought to be carrying the camera and took some pictures of Macy’s annual Flower Show, in between marveling at a whole floor dedicated to Petites and buying at least two pairs of shoes.
Monday evening we took Brendan’s advice and checked out Otto Enoteca, Mario Batali’s wine bar/pizza joint at 1 Fifth Avenue. Actually, the entrance is on 8th Street, but that’s waaaay too mundane an address for a celebrity chef joint. As is our practice, we went out on a limb with our dinner orders . . . she had the margherita pizza, but I was even more daring – pepperoni! With a glass of white zin! It was great pizza, and it was not done in an oven, but on a griddle.
After dinner, we went to find the Dessert Truck. Brendan told us it would be around St. Mark’s Place, just up 8th St from Otto. We searched the area twice, went around two blocks or so before giving up. We headed back to the hotel where we found the following note on the web site:
MONDAY, APRIL 6, 2009
we will not be open tonight because of the weather. please watch the NCAA men’s championship game instead. thank you.
No, thank you! We saved room for dessert, but in the end we were thankful to have avoided the calories and had a nice walk. Then Janet went for a massage while I watched the Big Game. I had already lost my shirt and pants in the Big Johnson contest, so it was all fun.
Tuesday we decided to check out some of the NY cultural scene and visited the Guggenheim Museum. Although I enjoy a variety of abstract and contemporary art – for instance, I liked the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Tate Modern in London – I didn’t enjoy the art in the Guggenheim. In hindsight, I think we would have enjoyed MoMA instead, but Janet was completely put off by the thought of another modern art museum, so we went down Fifth Avenue to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Now this is one huge museum. So big, in fact, it’s almost overwhelming. We stayed only an hour or so – despite the $20 admission – but we enjoyed the incredible display of European royal porcelains.
It was so cold, though, we wound up heading back to the hotel for a nap – but not before we stopped by Macy’s so I could check out the ten-floors-of-shopping and get a photo of the Empire State Building (being rebuilt, BTW).
That evening we had dinner at a nice place in the theater district, Rino Trattoria, before going to the show. The owner said that it’s been a tough few weeks – the economy has been keeping both the locals and the visitors away. He was out in the street offering to pay for your meal if you didn’t like it! We enjoyed the meal so we didn’t take him up on the offer.
Finally, we saw the show that was the purpose of our visit – Jersey Boys, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Terrific show. Of course, the original cast has been gone since 2007, but the current cast is certainly excellent, and they are still packing in the crowd. We would see it again – I suppose that’s the ultimate compliment. And I understand it’s going to be in DC this coming October, so we probably will be seeing it again!
Last but not least, on Wednesday we braved the snow, wind and cold in New York Harbor to pay our respects to Lady Liberty and visit Ellis Island. Fortunately, I had booked reserve ferry tickets – otherwise we would have been standing in the cold, wind and snow for well over an hour just to get on the ferry. It was an impressive sight, especially when the sun came out in between the flurries as we were passing the statue.
We chose not to get off the ferry at the monument – we could not get tickets to go up in the statue, and it was too cold to just walk around outside – so we went on to Ellis Island.
Ellis Island was the point through which about 12 million immigrants, chiefly European, passed between 1892 and 1924, probably the greatest period for immigration in US history. (Restrictive quotas limited immigration after that time, and the processing moved to embassies and consulates overseas.) These were the third-class and steerage passengers on the steamships – the “rich” first- and second-class passengers were cleared to enter by the time the ships docked in New York, while the hordes of poorer folk were ferried to Ellis Island to undergo a number of screening tests to ensure they would not be “likely to become a public charge.” I know my grandparents were admitted from Denmark in 1909, but I could not find them in the Ellis Island records – it’s possible they had money enough to avoid it, but I wouldn’t have guessed that. About 100 million Americans can now trace their ancestry to Ellis Island. In the current immigration-unfriendly atmosphere, that’s amazing.
Afterward, we had a nice (but cold) stroll up the East River to the South Street Seaport. We’d been there before when Vicky’s TJ Marching Colonials played their Harry Potter show on a rainy October afternoon in 2002, but it was a lot more crowded this time. We ate a late lunch at Harbour Lights and watched people crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. Did I mention it was cold (and windy)? I guess they didn’t notice.
Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
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