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Long weekend for Girls - Trip report -

NI
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Long weekend for Girls - Trip report -

In preparation for my fourth trip to NY with my sister-in-law, I once again stalked this forum and got so many helpful hints and ideas. It seems only fair, then, to write a trip report in case any of the information is useful to other travellers.

I will post each day as a reply as sometimes I get a little longwinded!

Background - we are two forty-somethings who enjoy theatre, good food, cocktails and shopping. We try not to repeat too much from past visits and so get to know NY a bit better each time we visit.

DAY 1 - Thurs 4th July

Our day started early with a flight at 8.30 am from London. We arrived at JFK and were quickly through immigration. I had booked a car with Dial 7 (excellent service both ways - prompt, efficient & clean car) so we were quickly underway and within just 1 hour of landing, we arrived at our hotel - 70 Park Avenue. We picked this hotel for the location and because i am a Kimpton in-touch member. The hotel was perfect for us - 2 double beds, free wi-fi (if you're an in-touch member) and very clean. It is not the most up-to-date in terms of furnishings etc but it was clean and convenient and the staff were excellent. The hotel issued us with complimentary vouchers for breakfast each day, which was a great perk, and a $30 voucher for the mini-bar (which bought us a half bottle of white wine!!) There is also a complimentary wine reception each evening from 5-6 but we only made that once. We were only 3 blocks from grand central so that was where we caught the subway from each day.

When we arrived, our room was ready (hurray!). We got unpacked and rested for an hour and then set out to explore. we quickly discovered that the heat was brutal (and would be for our entire stay), so we had to keep popping into shops to cool down. We wandered over to Hell's Kitchen, to a restaurant that we have visited before El Centro. It is a really fun, popular Mexican restaurant that has the best margheritas ever! After two of those each and plenty of food, we were fully restored and ready to carry on. We made our way back to the hotel to drop off packages and from there over to the Empire State building as we had tickets to watch the fireworks. We had never actually been up the Empire State building before so were looking forward to that. There were only 300 tickets issued for the fireworks viewing so it wasn't too busy but the queuing was dreadful. I think we queued 4 or 5 times at various points and the last queue - to get to the observation deck- didn't move for at least 25 minutes and with no information as to why ( I still don't know!) Everyone was getting a little frustrated with this but eventually, around 9pm, we started moving. We had a good vantage point to see the barges on the river and it was really interesting to see all the cruise boats lined up as near as they could get to the barges. It was amazing to be able to see all four barges and the lower fireworks as well as the higher ones and to hear the accompanying soundtrack. It was, however, strange not hearing the noise of the fireworks and to be above them but, all in all, we enjoyed the experience. After the fireworks were over, we had a quick walk round the rest of the observation deck but 23 hours on the go was taking its toll and so we walked the few blocks back to the hotel and fell into bed.

Day 2 to follow.........

Top of the Rock Observation Deck
Observation Decks & Towers, Lookouts
Empire State Building
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One World Observatory - World Trade Center
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1. Re: Long weekend for Girls - Trip report -

Interesting place to watch! I think you're the first who's ever reported from ESB for the fireworks.;)

NI
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2. Re: Long weekend for Girls - Trip report -

DAY 2 - Friday 5th July

On today's agenda was a tour of Grand Central and the Highline.

After our complimentary breakfast in the hotel, we walked down to Grand Central Terminal and bought tickets for the 12.30 tour of the station. To fill in the time until then, we walked over to the NY library. What a lovely building! We went to the free exhibition 'Why Children's books matter'. One of the exhibits was, of course, the original Pooh bear along with tigger, piglet, eyeore and kanger? roo? It was really sweet to see them - I hadn't realised that all of the characters in the story were based on the toys of the author's son. They certainly looked well loved! Looking at some of the books took me back to long-forgotten books of my childhood. We then wandered up to the reading rooms upstairs and both agreed that it would be an inspiring place to study in.THe rooms were massive and airy and quiet and academic looking. Before heading back to GCT, we had a nosy in the gift shop which had some wonderful, interesting books. I was so engrossed in some of the books, I began to read a passage to my SIL. Except that it wasn't her who was standing next to me. The lady who had taken her place seemed to enjoy what I was reading out though :-)

We arrived at GCT for the tour, sponsored by the Arts Society. The tour lasted about 1 1/2 hours and was fascinating. We were inside the building, outside it, upstairs and downstairs. We heard about the history of the railroad industry and its importance to the economy and we heard about the important figures in the history of Manhattan. We learnt about the golden age of railroad travel, with actual red carpet treatments and the involvement of Jackie Kennedy Onassis in the restoration project of the terminal building and we learnt about vision of the architects that designed the building. Our docent was very easy to listen to and very informative. One thing did confuse me however; only two parties in the group tipped him at the end of the tour (one was us). Is it not usual to tip docents? I would highly recommend this tour to everyone, regardless of your interests - it was fascinating to get a different insight into an iconic NY building.

After the tour we took the subway to the meatpacking district to get lunch and walk the highline. We had tickets for a free guided tour of the last undeveloped part of the high line, at 3.30pm. We went into Chelsea market for lunch, partly to escape the brutal heat ( a running theme of the trip!) We ate in Friedman's in the market and had a lovely fresh asian salad and a restorative glass of wine. Our plan was to walk from the bottom end of the highline up to 34th st to meet the tour. We quickly discovered that the heat really was unbearable so it was a quick dash through the unshaded parts and a slow stroll (or stop!) when it was shaded. By the time we got to the other end of the high line, we were dying! We realised that the tour would be completely exposed and decided, regretfully, that we would have to give the tour a miss or be in danger of heat exhaustion! So, we walked back the way we came, taking time to admire the planting and to rest awhile on the shaded grass. We have walked the highline a few times before and enjoyed seeing how much the beds have matured. It really is a beautiful place - whoever thought to develop it was inspired!

After resting back at the hotel , we headed out for dinner, to Little Owl, in the West Village. This is a tiny restaurant serving excellent food, in the bottom of the 'Friends' building. THe food really was exceptional and the staff friendly and knowledgeable. By the time we arrived, 15 minutes late, we were hot and bothered as we had got lost from the subway station (only a 5 minute walk away!) The streets around there are really confusing and our map, it turned out, was rubbish! After a leisurely dinner we walked over to the Duplex Piano bar, right by the subway station and had a wonderful night there. There is a resident piano player and the staff take turns singing. You can nominate yourself to get up and sing also (we didn't - and the whole of NY should thank their lucky stars for that!). There were some really amazing singers who got up. The bar is rowdy and sometimes bawdy and a really, really great place to visit, provided that you are tolerant of the life choices of others (one patron was not, which was a little unpleasant for a moment, before he left). We ended up staying there longer than we intended so decided to catch a cab back to the hotel and our blissful beds.

Day 3 to follow.....

Edited: 10 July 2013, 17:17
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3. Re: Long weekend for Girls - Trip report -

Thanks for the TR, good read so far!

The owner of Friedman's was on an episode of Chopped last night and the guy was such a jerk (and a whiner to boot) that I may never eat there again.

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4. Re: Long weekend for Girls - Trip report -

Sounds like you've been having a lot of fun!

NI
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5. Re: Long weekend for Girls - Trip report -

Day 3 - Saturday 6 July

On the agenda today; 9/11 memorial and Sleep No More

We had booked tickets to visit the 9/11 memorial at 10.30am so headed down on the subway. Even those it was earlyish, the heat was brutal (again!). There was a bit of a walk to the site and a bit of a queue but everything moved quickly and the queue and the security was well managed. I first visited NY in the mid 80's, as an 18 year old student and remember going up to the top of one of the WTC buildings (just to say I had done it). Seeing the vastness of the footprint of the buildings brought the memory of that visit, and the enormity of the tragedy of 9/11 back so vividly. If the intention of the designer(s) was to demonstrate the scale of the loss (and I expect that in some respects at least, it was), then they succeeded. The simplicity of the design, placing the people who were lost at the heart of the design is both respectful and appropriate and must bring some comfort to those who loved them. Even though I did not know any of the people behind the engraved names, I found it very moving and (like someone who also posted a TR recently) found the sight of the names of women who died 'with her unborn child' heartbreaking. We lingered and reflected for quite a while before succumbing to the need to get out of the sun.

We found ourselves at Century 21. The coffee shop there was a cool oasis (and deserted). An iced coffee and a 30 minute rest, revived us somewhat and so we shopped....

Some while (maybe 2 hours) later, shopping done and a few bargains found, we headed back to the hotel to rest and change before an early dinner.

We ate in NoMad on Broadway and had another fabulous meal, in beautiful surroundings. We ate very early (5.30pm) as we had tickets for 'Sleep No More' and were surprised at how busy the restaurant was. After a leisurely dinner, we caught a cab to 'The McKittrick Hotel' to experience the immersive play. Two words describe the experience: 'Bizarre' and 'Frustrating'. The scene was set as we walked in and, until we left, the actors / players never once stepped out of character. The lighting, 'set' design and ambience were amazing. The premise of the show is that you follow any character around, from room to room and watch them interact with other characters , sometimes through dance, sometimes through scenes. Throughout the show, the audience were required to wear masks and no-one spoke - neither actors or audience members. The play is based on Macbeth, which I know quite well, and I think I spent too much time trying to put what I saw into the story of Macbeth. When I met up with my sister-in-law at the end, we swapped stories. It seems that we both saw very different scenes and that neither of us could really put the story together. In summary, I would say that it was a very enjoyable and interesting experience but was frustrating in that we weren't able to piece the story together and we missed so many bits. I guess that is to make you go back again! Originally, we had planned to see 'Speakeasy Dollhouse' but the performance was cancelled because of the holiday weekend. Running around after all the different characters and running up and down the stairs was quite tiring so we gave a visit to the rooftop bar a miss and headed back to the hotel and our blissful beds....

If you have got this far, well done!

Day 4 to follow.....

NI
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6. Re: Long weekend for Girls - Trip report -

Day 4 - Sunday 7 July

On the agenda today; Brooklyn and the Gramercy Tavern

Today was an up early day. We planned to go to the 9am service at the Brooklyn Tabernacle so wanted to leave the hotel by 8am. The subway to Brooklyn was easy and quick and we arrived at the Tabernacle around 8.50am. We were warmly greeted and shown to some empty seats by the helpful ushers. We had primarily come to hear the Tabernacle choir but thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the 2 hour service; from the singing, to being introduced to those around us, to the sermon by the pastor that, i think, had a message for everyone. I could not recommend going to the tabernacle highly enough - regardless of your religious views, it is a calming, friendly place with fabulous singing and the warmth from the members of the congregation was a treat and a reminder to take time to be nice :-)

After the service, we visited the shop around the corner so that I could buy the new CD for some friends at home and then we wandered over to Brooklyn Heights and down to the promenade. The views of Manhattan were wonderful but the promenade was exposed and (yet again) the heat was brutal so we headed back up to the heights and from there we caught a subway over to Park Slopes. We walked around here for a while but, despite the interesting little shops, we were getting too hot and we were hungry so we stopped in a tiny Thai restaurant on 5th Ave - Mee -what a find! We were both craving some spice and the penang curry that I had delivered! The restaurant was quiet but we spent a happy hour or so there, enjoying the curry, the restorative effects of the (surprisingly good) chardonnay and, treat of treats, we got to watch the rerun of the final set of the Wimbledon Men's final!! Even though we knew the result, it was still nail biting. As a really big tennis fan, I was delighted to get to see this - a lovely bonus to a lovely meal.

After lunch, we walked back over to the subway, getting very hot very quickly. When we arrived back at GCT, we had a look around the shops and a walk through the food market which is spectacular and well worth a look . By now we needed a rest so back to the hotel for a nap and a shower. We had a reservation at the Gramercy Tavern which we had been looking forward to but I received an email to say that the reservation had been cancelled (even though I had reconfirmed on Friday) I rang the restaurant in a panic to find that they had noted that I had reconfirmed but had not pressed the appropriate button on the computer! Reservation restored, we got ready and then caught the subway over to Union Square. we decided to go for a cocktail first at Flute, next door to the GT. Hhmm We were the only guests so the ambience wasn't all that and the cocktail was decidedly meh. A different story in the Gramercy Tavern however.... everything about the meal was wonderful, from the fabulous basil & vodka cocktail to the food itself, to the friendly and humorous waitstaff. We both agreed that we would definitely return but it seems that not everyone thought the same as us. A couple arrived shortly after us but left about 5 minutes later! I think they must not have liked the menu which is quite restricted and is a fixed price menu. I think you have to be prepared to be a little adventurous and be pleasantly surprised which was exactly what we were.

Pleasantly full, we walked the 20 or so blocks back to the hotel and into our blissful beds.

Day 5 to follow......

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7. Re: Long weekend for Girls - Trip report -

This is a really wonderful read! Your itinerary is great but so is the writing. ;)

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8. Re: Long weekend for Girls - Trip report -

Great report! So enjoyable.

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9. Re: Long weekend for Girls - Trip report -

I loved reading your TR!! Thanks for sharing this with us :)

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10. Re: Long weekend for Girls - Trip report -

One of my most memorable meals ever was at Gramercy Tavern--can you tell us a little more about your meal?

Greatly enjoying your report!