Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A New York Minute (part two)

Monday, June 29, 2009
  • We awoke at 7 a.m. so we could get to the Empire State Building early to avoid a large crowd. After we took the 1 to our stop, we stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts; I got a coffee and Rachel ordered a breakfast sandwich.
Atop the Empire State Building.
  • We went to the top of the Empire State Building, snapping plenty of pictures and video. No matter how far you looked from the 186th floor, you either saw metropolis or waterways. The $20-per-person view to the south was the business district and where the Twin Towers once stood. To the west was the Hudson River and New Jersey. To the north was Central Park and a view of the Upper West Side where we stayed. To the east was a view of the awesome bridges that crossed into Brooklyn. At the top, we stopped at a gift shop and purchased some postcards.
    A view to the west toward the Hudson and New Jersey.
    A cool building toward the south.
    View south from the Empire State Building.
A view holding the camera down the Empire State Building.
A view to the north of Central Park and the Upper West Side.

I'd hate to have this guy's job at the end of the video.

  • When we made our way back to the ground, I decided that I needed a bag. Upon shopping at the Walgreen’s at the base of the Empire State Building, I got my employee-discounted man purse. I would have to say that anyone who doesn’t have a bag around their shoulder — man or woman — is definitely in the minority in NYC.
  • We next walked toward Koreatown, scouting our next meal. It wasn’t quite lunchtime so we walked around. We ended up eating at Shilla Korean BBQ House. The food was stellar and the lunch prices were reasonable. I had the shrimp tempura box and Rachel had the kimchi chigae. Our meal ended with a delightful sip of a highly sweetened cinnamon tea; it was the perfect dessert.

Shilla in Koreatown.
  • After our visit to Korea via New York City, we decided to hop the waters to China (town, that is). Rachel got a mocha focha (my term) drink from McDonald’s and we looked at the little shops. For the most part, Chinatown stinks — literally and figuratively. We neither one were very impressed, but you definitely have the opportunity to bargain for some cheap deals at the shops. Rachel showed some interest in some sunglasses at one shop. “Seven dollar,” the clerk quoted to us. Seeming not extremely interested, she then offered “six dollar.” Rachel went ahead and bought her cheap-o high-o pink-rimmed glasses from Chinatown.
A subway performer playing "Under the Sea."

A ride on the subway.

In the subway terminal.
  • We returned to our hotel after Chinatown. It’s common to have people playing instruments in the subways, and on this particular ride back, there was a guy perfectly playing “Under the Sea” on his steel drums. Rachel threw a couple of bucks in his case and took his picture.
  • As we relaxed in our room for a little bit, we were trying to determine our next move. Rachel spoke with a lady on the phone from Expedia who was giving us several options for city passes that would give us full access to over 50 attractions in NYC. The only problem, we felt, was that they sell those passes in increments of two, three, or seven-day passes. We felt like we would be rushed and compelled to kill ourselves trying to get to all the places, so we opted to not buy a city pass. We settled for a bus top night city tour from Gray Line. It was a great way to see an overview of the city and the various boroughs and sections. We would both definitely recommend anyone to choose one of these tours just so you can sit back and see the city. If you get a day tour with Gray Line, you have the option of getting off and on as you please, but the night tours don’t offer that; that was fine with us because we figured if there was somewhere we wanted to visit, we’d just figure out how to get there via public transportation later.

On board our Grayline bus tour.

  • After our tour, we walked down Broadway through Times Square again back to the 50th Street station. As we walked along, it seemed as bright as day even though it was night. Down the middle of Broadway, there is a big set of bleachers and lawn chairs that anyone can sit in, relax, and take in the city.
  • On our ride back to our stop at 86th and Broadway, we decided that we were in the mood for burgers and fries before bed. We stopped at Arnie’s Diner just a couple of blocks away. Our waiter told us they were “regular-sized” burgers. I wouldn’t be surprised if our burgers were over half a pound, and there was no way I could even think about consuming that many fries. A nice touch at Arnie’s was the bowl of pickles and other deli snacks we enjoyed while waiting for our food.

World Trade Center memorial site.

A ride on one of the newer subway trains.

Walking through Times Square.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009
  • Today was considered Rachel’s day. When traveling to New York, she couldn't pass up the opportunity to visit her religion’s headquarters. We had to rent a car from a rental agency near our hotel, and Rachel drove us toward upstate New York. After getting out of the city (atrocious traffic), it was absolutely beautiful in upstate New York. Plenty of hills and conservation areas to boot.
Rachel driving her rented VW Beetle.
  • On our drive back to Manhattan, we encountered issues getting back just exactly how we had left that morning. After driving on the New Jersey side and trying to get back on a bridge we had previously crossed, we ended up having to pay an eight-dollar toll to get back to where we were that morning — something we had mapped out to purposely avoid.
  • Our walk back to our hotel wasn’t too pleasant either. Our clothes were absolutely soaked from a steady rain that greeted us upon exiting the car rental agency.
  • After we dried off in our tiny hotel, which wasn’t always easy to maneuver when two people are trying to get into luggage and whatnot at the same time, we scouted around the Upper West Side some more. We had both wanted to find some New York cheesecake and did so successfully at a café/bakery a few blocks from our hotel.
  • Our walk back to the hotel with the cheesecake marks the second celebrity siting on our trip. We were both parched and stopped to get some drinks at a Duane Reade, a pharmacy you find on nearly every street corner in the city. We waited in line with our drinks behind a no-make-up-wearing, grungy, sloppy-looking Caroline Rhea, who had quite a few items in her basket. She was there with a guy whom she kept asking to be her driver the following day and a lady that appeared to be an assistant. The thought occurred to me to take her picture, but I was afraid she might try to break my camera since she looked like such a slob.
My first chance to see NBC News and the Rockefeller Plaza.

More from Rockefeller Plaza.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009
  • After having gotten up early every morning, we finally slept in on Wednesday. After we got up and around, we headed toward The Museum at FIT. We knew that Isabel Toledo’s clothing exhibit was on display and wanted to see it. Unfortunately, it didn’t open until noon, so we decided to go grab a bite and come back later.
  • Rachel had done some research on different places to eat, so we decided to go to an Indian restaurant called Chola. They had a lunch buffet available for $13.95. For all the quality-looking offerings, it seemed like a bargain. The food was excellent. The atmosphere was very busy and really crowded with everyone up and going to the buffet — but, like I said, the food was worth the cramped space.
  • Having stuffed ourselves with excellent Indian food, we decided to stroll over to the southern edge of Central Park. This is where many horse-and-carriage rides were soliciting riders, as well as bike carriages. As we strolled along the southern edge, there was a major police presence. They were doing some sort of emergency drill, according to one of the officers. As we continued, we saw Columbus Circle and beautiful statuary.

On the south side of Central Park.
  • We rode the subway back to the FIT Museum to view the Isabel Toledo collection. Unfortunately no photography was allowed. The first (and most notable) piece we saw, of course, was Michelle Obama’s Inauguration Day dress.
  • We were both thirsty and stopped at Starbuck’s near the museum. Rachel’s mocha drink was too strong for her, so I drank that and she had some H2O. We got back on the subway en route to find the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). As we walked to find it, we found the David Letterman Show theatre. We were unsuccessful in finding the MoMA, but we found some shopping areas. We went to an Urban Outfitters, where Rachel found a steal on a clutch for $5.
In front of the Late Show with David Letterman.
  • After going back to our hotel, we walked across Central Park to the Guggenheim Museum. It was about 4:15 when we arrived there, but it was going to close at 5 p.m. We determined we didn’t want to pay $20 a person for 45 minutes in the Guggenheim. So, we decided to head back toward Broadway to find tickets to a Broadway Show. We first stopped at the TKTS booth, where they sell same-day discounted tickets. They didn’t have any bargains to any shows we wanted to see, so we decided to go directly to the Minskoff Theatre where The Lion King was showing. A lady behind us in the TKTS line told us The Lion King was by far one of the best Broadway shows she had seen. So, we took the plunge and bought two $96.50 tickets to see the show. The cheaper tickets were all sold out for several weeks beyond the show we were going to see that night.
  • With a little bit of time to kill, we decided to eat. Having just forked out $200 for Broadway tickets, cheap was on our minds. We went into the McDonald’s. I got a Big Mac meal with a Coke and Rachel got a meal, but upgraded to a mocha focha drink. I’m not sure I’ve ever spent $16 for two people at McDonald’s, but in Times Square, I guess that’s a cheap meal. While we were eating, a lady, whom we had seen at the TKTS booth, came up to us to see if we had gotten any tickets. She struggled to speak English, so Rachel asked what language she speaks. I got a chance to listen and speak Spanish with her; she was obviously from Spain.

Inside the Minskoff Theatre where we saw The Lion King.
  • It was time for the show, so we headed back to the Minskoff Theatre for The Lion King. As we waited for the doors to open, we were able to take photos and video, but they didn’t permit any photography in the theatre itself — which a lot of people ignored. I couldn’t believe how many ushers had to scream at people for taking pictures. The show was phenomenal; the costumes were so intricate and very uniquely created. My favorite character was young Simba — that kid was so, so talented. I would definitely recommend the show to anyone.


DCD said...

Makes me want to go to NY, Aaron. Thanks for the work to get this post done.

Aaron said...

Just wait for part three. ;)

I'll give my final synopsis of NYC at the end. We do have some mixed reviews. (No pun intended. That'll make sense after the synopsis.)