When I came back from my NYC trip over the Christmas long weekend, I booked my flight back for the Easter long weekend. This is so that I could watch the Spring Spectacular show. This time my flights were with Porter Airlines for $284.16 CAD.
What I have finally learnt after 12 years of traveling is that I really should check my flight status before heading to the airport. Porter had delayed all of their flights due to the rain. I had checked my flight status last night (about 12 hours before departure) and it said that it was on time however I was in a rush this morning so I didn’t check, nor did my phone notify me of Porter’s delayed flight email. Granted the email was sent after I was on the TTC. It’s much easier to get to Porter than Pearson since you can easily take the TTC. I just went to Union station and took the 509 streetcar, got off at Bathurst St. and walked towards the airport ferry terminal where I waited to board the ferry. The ferry is mainly standing room with some benches along the side. It’s a really short ferry ride. After disembarking, you walk for a bit before reaching the check in counters and kiosks. Security is a breeze since you just have to go through the bag scanning and then you go down the escalators to the lounge. The complementary cafe with Starbucks Pike Roast coffee, Tazo teas, bottled water, soft drinks, salted almonds and chocolate cookies is hidden in the corner near the escalators and after the Billy Bishop cafe. There is free internet at the airport so the flight delay wasn’t tediously boring. On the flight itself, I got a bag of Terra vegetable chips and a glass of red wine (Porter offers cookies, almonds, Steamwhistle, white wine, juice, bottled water and soft drinks as well). It was nice of Porter to give you the US Customs form to fill out first before providing refreshments. After disembarking, I thought it was a breeze going through US Customs in which the only annoying part was the slow moving line up. Granted it may have been a breeze because my information is already in their system so I don’t need to have my fingerprints or retina scanned unlike many travellers before me. It wasn’t too hard to find the Sky Train and there was a kiosk located before the escalators to the sky train platform selling NJ Transit tickets and two employees to help you use the kiosk. I bought an adult one way ticket from Newark International Airport to NY Penn station ($12.50 USD). At the sky train platform, you want to take the train heading towards Terminal C in order to get to the NJ train station. After reaching the NJ train station, you have to walk for abit and then scan your ticket in order to go onto the train platform and you should ensure that you’re on the right platform and boarding the correct train. On the train, the conductor will come and take your ticket. Do ensure that you get off at your correct stop since the stop announcements can be very faint and at times it may be near impossible to double back. After reaching NY Penn station which is located near Madison Square Garden, I went to the metro station and used the kiosk to buy a 7 day unlimited pass (choose add time option in order to see the unlimited pass options) for $31 USD. I took the metro to Queen’s to drop off my bags before taking the metro to Radio City Music Hall.
I had bought a front row first mezzanine ticket ($199.17 CAD) for the Spring Spectacular which allows me to use the VIP entrance which is on 50th Ave off 6th Ave and it’s basically the gold doors. I had arrived abit early and so there wasn’t any line up at the VIP doors. I got my ticket scanned and bag checked before being given a Chase Interactive bracelet and I was told to wear it during the show. I was again given a pair of 3D glasses and the program before entering the theatre. I had chosen seat A408 and it is basically center stage and in the middle of the width of the entire theatre. The only bad thing about it is that there’s a video camera mounted in front of me so there’s a tiny bit of stage obstruction. The dress code for the show is casual, similar to the Christmas Spectacular.
The Spring Spectacular is a Rockettes show about NYC and it features Whoopi Goldberg, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, among others. The show opens with the orchestra making an appearance along with the Easter bunny and a minion from Despicable Me! It then cuts to a scene that’s very reminiscent of the opening scene of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. The voice of God and the Statue of Liberty is Whoopi Goldberg while Derek Hough is the guardian angel. We’re then introduced to the other important main and supporting characters (Bernie the tour guide, Jenna the billionaire and her assistant Marshall). The Chase interactive bracelet comes into play with Derek Hough. He would snap his fingers and the bracelets would light up and change colours. It’s abit reminiscent of a music concert. The 3D glasses are used for a semi-guided tour of NYC before the scene cuts to the MET followed by the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park. My favourite number of the entire show is the Singing in the Rain tap dance number. It features the Rockettes in yellow raincoats and high heel rainboots with umbrellas tap dancing with the water sprinklers creating an indoor rain effect above them. Singing in the rain is being sung by Derek Hough which suits it perfectly with the indoor rain and dancing happening on stage and Jared Grimes is an amazing tap dancer. It then cuts into a movie montage of films filmed in NYC including when Harry Met Sally, Home Alone 2, Annie feat Cameron Diaz, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, etc. which leads into the Broadway segment followed by the New York fashion show segment which is a close second in terms of my favourite moments in the show. The New York fashion show features the Rockettes strutting their stuff on the runway to the tunes of Beyonce, Jessie J and Demi Lovato to name afew artists. It’s followed up with an engaging sports montage to hockey, basketball, football and baseball. We’re then whisked to the New York library on 5th Ave for a quiz show before heading to the Empire State Building where a couple dances while being suspended in the air. There is a video montage of Americans and immigrants in a nod to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty before the show wraps up with the Rockettes dancing on stage. The show is 1.5 hours long. For the Christmas spectacular, there were live animals in the show (sheep for the birth of Christ scene) and it is similar for the Spring Spectacular, there were a variety of dogs being walked across the stage or let loose to run across the stage. Overall, I recommend watching the Spring Spectacular when you’re in New York and the Radio City Music Hall is performing it.
After the show, I took the metro to have a late dinner at Max Brenner. Afterwards I headed back to Queen’s to sleep.
Here’s the link to my pictures for my trip
Due to the construction going on on the yellow NQR line I made a stop at Grand Central Station to see the constellations in the main concourse. The Sky Ceiling is worth the hype since it’s the depiction of the constellations above NYC in the wintertime and the constellations are lit by fiber optic light emitting cables with 59 stars surrounded by 24 karat gold. The brightness of the stars themselves reflect the star’s intensity in reality if you could see the stars in the night sky. The main concourse itself is also quite spectacular in its own way with gold and nickel plated chandeliers, Tennessee marble flooring, high windows allowing the natural sunlight to filter in and the brass clock at the central kiosk in the middle of the concourse. Grand Central Station is in the middle of Park Ave. After I finished admiring the Sky Ceiling I continue onwards on the metro to Wall Street. Once I was at Wall Street, I first went to visit Trinity Church. Trinity Church is built in the neo-Gothic style and is from 1846. The front doors feature biblical scenes. After my tour of Trinity Church, I went in search of the Wall St. bull. I had forgotten to visit the Wall St bull the last time I was here. Contrary to what you may think, the Wall St bull isn’t located at Wall St but it’s very close to Battery Park and the National Museum of the American Indian. It’s crowded with people so you’re unlikely to get a shot of the bull without other people in it. I then went to the National Museum of the American Indian. It’s free admission and you go through a security check at the entrance. The architecture is in the Beaux Arts style and it used to the US Customs House. The museum is also part of the Smithsonian Institution. There were 2 exhibition halls when I was there and they don’t allow photography inside the exhibition halls. The first exhibit was of the jewelry making of the Navajo tribe’s Yazzie family. The other is about the artifacts of Native Americans. The rotunda reminds me of being on a ship due to its elliptical shape and it’s aptly filled with naval artwork. I then went to have lunch at Shake Shack.
After lunch I went to City Hall Park. The park is surrounded by a variety of famous buildings in a variety of architectural styles. City Hall Park contains city hall which is surrounded by fences and high trees so you can’t get a clear shot of the building if you want a picture without tree branches. The City Hall building is in the style of French Renaissance and is from 1812. It took 9 years to build and Abraham Lincoln was laid in state there. Woolworth Building is one of the buildings surrounding the park. It’s built for a nickel and dime empire in 1913 and the architectural style is neo-Gothic and is one of the early skyscrapers of NYC. An interesting tidbit is that F.W. Woolworth paid cash for the building. The Municipal Building is just north of the park on the way to Foley Square. The Municipal Building is colossal in size with a variety of architectural influences including Classical and Italian Renaissance and the building is from 1915. What I found most interesting about it is the arches in the building that allow traffic to go through the building. I then went to Foley Square. Foley Square used to be a swamp and back in the 19th century it was a notorious slum known as Five Points. it is now a roundabout with artwork in the middle. The buildings that surround Foley Square include the NY State Supreme Court Building from 1913 and the Thurgood Marshall US Courthouse from 1932. The Supreme Court has a prettier facade of the two. I then went to St Paul’s Chapel. The furnishings inside are very simple and reminiscent of the olden times. The colour scheme is white, blue and pink. George Washington used to attend mass at St Paul’s Chapel.
I then took the metro to Union Square and explored a part of the Greenmarket. It’s the city’s largest farmer’s market and it sells a variety of things. I then went to President Theodore Roosevelt’s birthplace and childhood home at 28 East 20th Street and wandered around the museum and signed up for the tour (the 3pm one was fully booked so I had to go to the 4pm one). I then walked to Madison Square Park to take pictures of the Flatiron building. The Flatiron building is one of the more interesting buildings in NYC. It’s triangular in shape like a slice of pie at the intersection of Broadway and 5th Ave. It’s from 1902 and built with limestone and terra cotta rather than iron like the name would suggest and the name flatiron is actually the name of a laundry appliance which the building somehow resembles. It’s a 21 story building that’s one of the early skyscrapers which is only 6 feet across at the building’s tip. Other buildings around Madison Square Park that caught my eye include the MetLife Building and the New York Life Building.
I then went back to the Theodore Roosevelt home for the 4pm tour. It’s interesting to note that the main entrance to the home and museum is actually the servant entrance and the basement is the servants’ domain to do chores and where the kitchen was located. The second floor is where the dining room, reading room and parlour was located, along with the guests and family’s entrance. By the front entrance is a mirror stand where a calling card bucket was located to leave mail and messages since they didn’t even have telephones back then. The rooms were all period rooms with the original wallpapers, carpeting and furnishings. The reading room was quite dark and sombre. The dining room is the entire width of the house and there is a semi-discreet door at the side that contains the pulley elevator that is used to bring food and dishes up and down between the kitchen and dining room. We were then lead up another flight of stairs to the bedrooms. The bedrooms on the 3rd floor is the governess’ room which also features the crib where the babies would have initially slept in and the master bedroom. The wallpaper of the governess’ room actually had to be hand-painted every single time before it was printed or stamped onto the paper. The master bedroom features a matching bedroom set that costs $42,000 in present value to buy back in the mid 1800s. The 4th floor would be the children’s bedrooms but is now offices. The original house was destroyed and then reconstructed. It was initially destroyed because nobody wanted to buy it. Then Theodore Roosevelt passed away and it was bought back to be converted to a memorial house. Roosevelt’s family provided many of the original furnishings in the house.
After the tour, I went back to Union Square and explored the rest of the Greenmarket before taking the metro to have dinner at Takashi. While I waited, I walked around Greenwich Village to admire it’s architecture. Greenwich Village is famed for being the home to a variety of writers, painters and entertainers. 48 Commerce St used to be the home of dry goods merchant Alexander Stewart. There is a working gas lamp in front of it. Very close to it is Cherry Lane Theatre. It started out as a box factory back in 1817 before being converted into a playhouse in 1924 by Edna St. Vincent Millay who was a writer and poet. Cherry Lane Theatre is also famous for Lee Strasberg directing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, of Great Gatsby fame, only published play titled The Vegetable in 1929. Across the street is 39-41 Commerce St. which are a pair of 3-story houses that mirror one another and are an example of early 19th century architecture in the neighbourhood from 1832. I then meandered my way to St. Luke in the Fields church. It used to be part of the Trinity Church Parish and the church itself is a reconstruction of the original which got burnt in 1981. An interesting fact to note is that one of the founders of the church was Clement Clarke Moore who is the author of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. I went and explored part of the church’s garden and it has an ok view. I then went to Grove Court which used to be a slum since it was built for blue-collared families in 1853 when the area was known as “Mixed Ale Alley”. It is a gated mews with a large open courtyard that’s set back from the street. The architectural style of the mews is Greek Revival. I then went to Twin Peaks which is a 1830 house in the Tudor style compared to the surrounding 19th century architectural buildings. 107-115 Bedford St. is just down the road from Twin Peaks and they’re mid-1800s Greek Revival townhouses. 107 Bedford features very nice crescent moon window shutters. I then went past 17 Grove St which is an 1822 wood-framed house and it’s one of the last ones in the neighbourhood. I then strolled along the West Bleecker Street shopping district which has varied boutique shops and it also has a Burberry storefront. I then went back to Takashi for dinner. After dinner, I took the metro to Times Square to wander around the Toys R Us store because I had read that it would be closing down soon and I wanted to see the indoor ferris wheel, Jurassic Park dinosaur, lego minitures of famous NYC landmarks, superheros suspended from the ceiling and the Star Wars characters. It was a pleasant surprise to see a life-sized minion there as well. Afterwards I went to Rockefeller Center but Nintendo World which has a Pokemon section was already closed. Ice skating was still ongoing at the Rockefeller Rink which I found interesting since I had initially expected it to be over. The “entrance way” during Christmas and New Year’s to the Rink had changed it’s theme to Easter/Spring and it was a very whimsical floral display featuring an Easter bunny that reminded me of a circus seal or performing seal balancing a ball on its nose and mermen statues. I then headed to Queen’s to sleep.
I took the metro and walked to St. John the Divine Cathedral for Easter Mass which was presided by the Bishop of New York. The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is the world’s largest Gothic style cathedral. Similar to the Sagrada Família Basilica in Barcelona, Spain, it will take a long time to be completed. In 1887 the land was purchased with the cornerstone laid in 1892. Construction stopped when World War II started and continued in 1979. It is currently still unfinished and there is a debate about whether it would be fully completed. The cathedral is home to numerous artistic treasures including the Barberini Tapestries which depict scenes from the life of Christ and the gold triptych by Keith Haring. The rose window is the largest in the US while it’s the fifth largest in the world. The rose window is comprised of 10,000 pieces of coloured glass which is above the two bronze doors that are only open twice a year (Easter and Feast of St. Francis). The 3-ton bronze doors depict scenes from the Old Testament on the left and the New Testament on the right. There is a stone statue parapet that features a famous figure representing that particular century due to their historical contributions. The statues include St. Paul, William Shakespeare, Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony, Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Einstein. The cathedral has thematic chapels which are dedicated to poetry, medicine, law, sports and firefighting to name a few. The stain glass windows of the cathedral are both traditional and untraditional. It’s traditional in the fact that it depicts Biblical scenes however it’s untraditional in the fact that it includes modern imagery. The Peace Fountain outside depicts Michael the archangel embracing one of the nine giraffes after his defeat of Satan as featured by his decapitated head and standing on a crab. The spiral base represents the double helix of DNA. There is also an image of a lion lying on a lamb which is below the depiction of the sun and on the opposite side is the moon. The fountain is surrounded by bronze-casted animal sculptures drawn by children.
After mass and my tour of the cathedral I took the metro to Columbus Square and walked the width of Central Park to the Plaza Hotel for brunch at Lady M. Afterwards I debated between going to Library Way or heading towards the airport and decided that I rather be early than miss my flight so I took the metro to Penn Station before finding the NJ Transit kiosks (after the Amtrak kiosks) to purchase my one way adult NY Penn to Newark International Airport ticket for $12.50 USD. I had just missed the train so I sat in the waiting area. The train is on track 8 which is just down the escalator which is right across the NJ Transit kiosks. I sat on the top floor of the double decker train and the view is quite industrial and dreary and polluted looking. I was lucky to have the foresight to arrive earlier at the airport because the skytrain decided to confuse everybody with it’s zigzag way of operating. You’d think that a train would stop sequentially rather than you needing to cross the platform to the other train to continue your journey since your original train will be doubling back to the previous station. When I arrived at Terminal B I asked the Porter check in counters if it was possible to be put on an earlier flight since it’s free of charge to do so at Newark and I was told that they were all fully booked and I should have came earlier for the slight off chance that it wasn’t fully booked. After going through the security check which now involves scanning your bags, coats and shoes as well as scanning yourself either in socks or barefoot, I went in search of the Porter lounge for the wifi and Tazo teas. On board the flight I got the Canadian Customs form to fill out and I got the Terra vegetable chips again and this time I got a can of Steamwhistle beer. Once I disembarked, I had to go through customs which wasn’t too bad aside from the line up for Canadians. Then I took the ferry before taking the shuttle bus which drops you off at the Starbucks near Fairmont Royal York and Union station on Front Street.
Posts Tagged With: New York CIty
When I came back from my NYC trip over the Christmas long weekend, I booked my flight back for the Easter long weekend. This is so that I could watch the Spring Spectacular show. This time my flights were with Porter Airlines for $284.16 CAD.
The last time I came to NYC, I didn’t have the time or patience to wait at least 2 hours for dinner so I was hoping that this time around I could try Takashi. My Montreal foodie friend had recommended this restaurant to me. I didn’t make reservations at this restaurant because they don’t allow reservations under 4 people. I arrived at the restaurant after 5:30pm (their opening time is 5:30pm) and was told that the wait is about 1.5 hours. I put my name down on the list and did a brief tour of Greenwich Village while I waited. I’m guessing that I should arrive between 5-5:20pm in order to be able to be potentially seated at 5:30pm if I come again without reservations. The servers here are very nice and knowledgeable. The decor itself is very rustic and modern simultaneously with splashes of Japanese artwork. The lighting is abit dark.
I was seated at the bar which seats 3 couples as denoted by a grill and a bench for two. Takashi can be an adventure on the wilder side of food. I decided to try some of their limited availability items and some of their more adventurous offerings. I got the Namagimo ($16 USD + tax), Testicargot ($12 USD + tax), grilled hatsu/heart ($14 USD + tax) and miso-marinated sweetbread on squid ink rice ($20 USD + tax). Takashi serves 3 complimentary side dishes which are kimchi, beansprouts dusted with sesame seeds and cabbage which provide the vegetables for an otherwise meat focused menu. The complimentary sides were good and well-seasoned.
Namagimo is a limited availability item and I was lucky to be able to get it. This dish is a cold appetizer. It is raw liver topped with green onions and scallions on sesame oil and garnished with a lemon wedge and a shiso leaf. It comes with roasted rock salt on the side. I was advised to liberally squirt the lemon juice all over the dish. I found it abit hard to pick up the liver with the toppings on top so I used my chopsticks to sprinkle the salt on top of the meat before eating it. Although the liver is abit tough, it was a delicious combination.
Testicargot is cow balls done in an escargot style with garlic shiso butter and garnished with a lemon wedge. Once again I was advised to liberally apply lemon juice to the dish. The garlic shiso butter reminded me strongly of pesto and tasted like pesto. The escargot style cow balls are reminded me of takoyaki but without the batter. If you’re adventurous, I recommend trying this dish.
Grilled hatsu/heart meat is a limited availability item. The hatsu/heart meat are served raw and sliced with a side of Takashi’s sesame sauce and green onions. You grill the meat in front of you. It was tasty.
The miso marinated sweetbreads on squid ink rice with spicy yuzu saffron aioli and shredded seaweed that’s served on a magnolia leaf is interesting. The entire concoction is grilled in front of you until it bubbles for a bit before being expertly pulled back on to the wooden serving board. The spicy yuzu aioli wasn’t spicy. The squid ink rice was tasty albeit I was expecting a larger portion of it. Originally I thought that the sweetbread would be a kind of sweet bread. Sweetbread is actually the throat or pancreas of a cow or calf. Since the offal is suppose to be marinated in miso, I thought it would be salty, it was however quite sweet. I tried a tiny piece of the magnolia leaf for curiosity’s sake and it was chewy and slightly tasteless since it borrows the taste from the squid ink rice and aioli.
The next time I come I want to try Calf’s Brain Cream in a tube with Blinis & Caviar, grilled stomachs, grilled tongue experience, niku-uni, amongst other dishes.
I had watched the Food Network Valentine special called Outrageous Chocolate. It featured Max Brenner and I was interested in trying their chocolate pasta and chocolate pizza.
I went to Max Brenner for dinner after watching the Spring Spectacular. It’s easier to sit at the bar rather than getting a table.
Unfortunately when I sat down at the bar and looked at the menu, I realized that the chocolate pasta was no more since it was a winter special and they started their spring special. It seems like chocolate pasta and I aren’t fated since I went to MoRoCo Chocolat to try their chocolate pasta on their Summerlicious 2014 menu and that was also a bust. In the end, I ordered the works half-sized chocolate chunks pizza ($9.95 USD + tax) and the halva milkshake ($7.95 USD + tax).
The halva milkshake came first. The halva milkshake is a creamy sesame seed tahini paste that’s blended with honey, vanilla ice cream, toffee and milk chocolate ganache and topped with whipped cream and shaved coconut. It was definitely a creamy sesame tahini taste. The coconut compliments it. It’s served in an Alice in Wonderland cup and it’s a sweet, whimsical concoction.
The works half-sized chocolate chunk pizza didn’t live up to my expectations. It’s comprised of melted milk and white chocolate chunks with marshmallows, bananas, melted peanut butter and hazelnut bits. The marshmallows could have been toasted and roasted and at the very least, have some that are melted on the pizza to create a melted mozzarella cheese effect. Instead it looked and tasted like marshmallows were liberally sprinkled on top of the pizza before it was served. I didn’t taste any of the hazelnut bits. The chocolate chunks themselves were just drizzles. There weren’t any chunks of chocolate on the pizza. The pizza crust itself was like a deep dish pizza crust and it was extremely doughy. I would have preferred a thin crust pizza. Overall, I don’t recommend getting a chocolate pizza here.
Here is the link to my photos at Top of the Rock
My friend and I woke up early today so we could walk to Rockefeller Center before 8:30am. The Top of the Rock observation deck opens at 8am and I had initially wanted to arrive by 8am but as the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. There was already a line up at the door when we got there, even for the fast track aspect of the NYC Day Pass. We had to line up outside first and then when we got inside, we could go to the fast track lane which did save us some time. At the counter, we got tickets both for Top of the Rock and the Rockefeller Center tour. The first time slot for the tour was at 11:30am and it wasn’t even 9am yet! We then lined up for the elevators to the observation deck as well as going through the security screening. The elevator’s ceiling gives an illusion of the elevator passing by the floors which is nice because you’ll be looking up at it and it helps with the ear pressure of rising up or going down quickly. The views from the observation deck were phenomenal however the crowds of people weren’t. I had initially thought that more people would be shopping on Boxing Day because of the deals rather than going to attractions so The Top of the Rock would be less crowded. I was sorely mistaken! The Top of the Rock observation deck gives you an unobstructed view of Central Park, Upper East and West Side, the Empire State Building, downtown and many bridges.
Here is the link to my photos of the Radio City Music Hall tour
After we had content ourselves with the views, we went to Radio City Music Hall and were able to get the 10am tour tickets. This worked out perfectly since the Radio City Music Hall tour was an hour long so we would be able to have some time to figure out where the Rockefeller tour meeting place would be. I recommend the Radio City Music Hall tour if you’re watching a Rockettes show because it gives you alot of background and historical information and I felt that it added to my experience of watching the show later since it made me appreciate it more. Michael was our tour guide and it was an excellent and informative tour. The elevator has an unstained wooden interior with three panels depicting the arts, wine and women. In the lobby of the theatre when you first enter the theatre to watch the show, there are 2 chandeliers. The 2 chandeliers have 60 lightbulbs each and can be lowered down so it can be easily cleaned so it can maintain that glamorous shine. The Swarovski crystal Christmas tree is only for the Christmas Spectacular show. The track around the ceiling enables a swing to hang and move so that somebody can clean the walls. The mural along the staircase from the ground floor to the mezzanine level depicts a man seeking the fountain of youth. The carpet is an abstract painting of 6 instruments: guitar, banjo, sax, harp, accordion and clarinet. I’m abit surprised that it doesn’t have the piano. The tour also gives you a glimpse of the show (we got to see a sneak peak of the Christmas Spectacular because of it’s 3+ daily show schedule, you’d have to time it properly for a sneak peak of the Spring Spectacular I would presume). For the Christmas Spectacular, it has a 36 person orchestra. The theatre itself is designed to have a cruise ship or ocean liner feel and shape. There is only perfect seating since there are no obstructions (pillars, etc). The acoustics are amazing since there’s no microphone on stage and you can still hear in the nosebleed section. The stage turntable has 4 moving parts which made me appreciate the ingenuity of it when I was watching the show in the evening. Back in the 1930s the shows were less than $0.50 and you got to view a movie and a Rockettes performance. The show tickets remained extremely affordable until the 1960s. We were led into a cinema room with seats from the 1930s for a short film on the Rockette’s history. If you want to be a Rockette you need to be 5’6 – 5’10 and know how to do ballet, tap and jazz. To give the illusion of the Rockettes all being the same height, the tallest stand in the middle with the shortest at the ends with the skirts cut the same length. We were then taken to the Roxy suite which has furniture from the 1930s and are all the originals and there is a circular room with no artwork or decor because the conversation is the artwork. It has a domed ceiling so one can whisper and the people across the round table can still hear you. We then went to the costume room which has the original costumes ever worn by a Rockette. It costs between $3,000-$10,000 to make a costume so a new show has alot of upfront costs.
Here is the link to my photos during the Rockefeller Center tour
After the tour, we meander our way to Rockefeller Center and found the guided tour meeting place. It’s inside the Rockefeller Center off of the inside entrance to the lobby of Top of the Rock. The guided tour provides a listening machine since you’ll need it because the tour is mainly the artworks and building structures of the Rockefeller complex. It’s a 75 min. tour and I felt that the tour should be renamed as the artwork at Rockefeller tour. John D. Rockefeller Jr financed the construction during the Great Depression. The first tenant is Radio City A (RCA) then NBC in the building now known as Radio City Music Hall. 21 buildings covering 22 hectares make up Rockefeller Center. The art work is mainly art deco inspired by the Egyptians and Aztecs. Abby, John’s wife, was in charge of hiring the artists for the multitude of artworks decorating the center. She had wanted Picasso to contribute but he charged too much so she had to look for other similar artists instead. An interesting fact I learnt was that Abby hired a number of Communist artists. There are many depictions of light and sound to represent broadcasting scattered around the complex in a variety of styles. At the skating rink, there is Prometheus with a maiden and a youth who represents Adam and Eve. Atlas supporting the world is in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. There is a mural depicting the history of flight. There’s another mural of action reaching towards thought that features Abraham Lincoln. The artist who painted that particular painting got revenge on Rockefeller with a similar painting featuring Lenin and Rockefeller gambling with diseases hanging over his head. On the ceiling of a building is past, present and future which all face you even if you look at it from three different angles. There are also 5 panels presenting people facing history and tribulation such as slavery, medicine, machinery/industrialization. The last of the 5 panels represents hope and the future. There are a number of artworks both inside and outside the buildings. There is a law that requires building set backs for lighting and air/wind so this is why buildings in NYC have that distinct look compared to other buildings in other cities. The Christmas tree has 5 miles of lights which means 40,000 lightbulbs and it’s 50% solar powered by the nearby buildings with solar panels on top. The famous skating rink was an accident. It was initially a roller blading rink that attracted gangs. There also used to be a speakeasy and the Rockefellers couldn’t reject them from the property.
After the Rockefeller tour, we initially wanted to eat lunch at Ellen’s Stardust Diner however there was a very long line up outside of the diner so we had lunch at TGI Friday’s instead. After lunch, we went back to Radio City Music Hall to get our Christmas Spectacular tickets since we didn’t buy it online so we had to redeem our voucher for the actual show tickets. To redeem the voucher, you need to show ID (my Canadian driver’s licensed sufficed) and the purchase receipt. I also got asked alot of questions before I was given the show tickets. After getting our show tickets, we took the metro to the Museum of Natural History.
Here is the link to my photos at the Museum of Natural History
The Museum of Natural History is really really big. You can’t fully see all the exhibits in a day. I was mislead because I was told that I could see the entire museum in 4 hours. You can probably see the museum’s highlights in 4 hours. The museum has 5 floors packed with exhibits. The top floor is the Koch Dinosaur Wing which contains the largest collection of dinosaur fossils. It has the skeleton of a T-Rex amongst other dinosaurs and the first Velociraptor skull to be found. I liked the tree diagram of how the museum classified the dinosaurs. We were able to see Lonesome George in the Astor Turret however it is now not exhibited at the museum. The second highest floor had the Easter Island head and a decent-sized collection of the artwork and culture of the Pacific and Aboriginal peoples. There was also primates, African mammals and North American birds taxidermy. On the second floor, there were displays about the art and culture of the people of Africa, Asia and Central and South Americas. There were birds and African and Asian mammal taxidermy on the second floor as well. The first floor has a variety of exhibits but the ones that stood out the most is the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, the Hall of Biodiversity, geology and Northwest Coast Indians. The North American mammals exhibit reminds me of the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa. The Milstein Hall of Ocean features dioramas of different oceanic habitats and there’s a blue whale hanging overhead from the ceiling. For geology, there’s the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems which features the Star of India which is the biggest sapphire in the world at 563 carat, Chrysoberyl Cat’s Eye at 85 carats, De Long Star Ruby at 100 carats and the Midnight Star at 116.75 carats. There is also a 34 ton meteorite rumoured to be a fragment of a massive meteorite in the Ross Hall of Meteorites which is on the way to the Morgan Memorial Hall of Gems. My friend and I had watched or rewatched in my case the movie Night at the Museum and the movie set and the actual museum layout were completely different which shocked me slightly since I was expecting it to be the same. I also couldn’t find the Aztec, Roman and Western civilization dioramas so I was abit disappointed. We stayed until the museum announced that they were closing and capped off our visit at the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall (we entered from another entrance) and took photos of the Barosaurus fossil protecting his/her child from a predator. A statue of Theodore Roosevelt is outside of the main entrance way.
After our museum exploration, we went back to Row NYC so my friend could charge her phone. We then did some shopping at Fifth Ave before going to Radio City Music Hall to watch the Christmas Spectacular. We had Orchestra seats. They were ok-not the perfect seating that was advocated to me during the tour earlier in the day since although there aren’t any obstructions caused by the building there were obstructions caused by other people. The only bad part about orchestra is if you have the dismal luck of sitting behind taller people or people with really frizzy hair or if the theatre allows photography/filming, the multitude of screens and arms and hands in the air are extremely annoying. I had that dismal luck so my lesson in this is to just splurge for front row Mezzanine seats to avoid this kind of problem again. The Christmas Spectacular is comprised of 18 numbers including the 3D Santa sleigh ride segment, the famous toy soldier cannon segment, the multiple Santa Clauses segment, the nutcrackers featuring bears segment, the bus segment, the skaters segment, the two brothers trying to find a gift for their sister segment, the Merry Christmas and Happy New Year blocks dance routine, Jesus Christ’s birth with live animals, to name afew. Although the audience in front of me partially blocked my view of the stage, it was still a spectacular show. If you’re in New York around Christmas time I recommend seeing this show at least once in your lifetime.
Here is the link to my photos at Empire State
After the show, we went to have dinner at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. It was still busy when we arrived but we didn’t have to wait long for a table. After dinner, we went back to Row NYC to pick up our phones and cameras before heading to the Empire State Building. There wasn’t a line up to get our tickets or go up the elevator or going through security this late at night. The night view of New York City is certainly another experience from the morning view of New York City. I could easily find Madison Square Garden, Chrysler building, downtown NYC and Times Square. It would probably be interesting to do the same observation deck twice in a single day – once in the morning and once late at night just to see that difference between day and night. After enjoying the night views, we took the metro back to Row NYC.
My friend and I decided to go to New York City for Christmas long weekend. It was 3 months worth of planning because there’s tons to do in New York City so we needed to focus and conquer. We were lucky to get cheap plane tickets with Air Canada for $258.36 CAD round trip between Pearson and LaGuardia Airports. We decided to stay at Row NYC which is located on 700 8th Ave and really close to Times Square, Rockefeller Center and the Theatre District. There is a Shake Shack at 44th St W and 8th Ave that my friend and I took advantage of getting take out and eating it in our room because of the proximity and not having to wait for a table to open up. We stayed on the 22nd floor and the elevator itself is a good security measure. You have to insert your card into the card reader and press your floor and it’ll tell you which elevator to take and inside the elevators there aren’t any floor buttons. Since it’s New York City I wouldn’t have been surprised if the hotel room is as small as some of the hotel rooms in Hong Kong. Our room, while small, was laid out well-enough for the two of us to move around. The beds were soft and clean. There were ample plugs spread out around the room and enough room to put our bags and suitcases without having to pile everything on top of each other. There are blackout blinds which is nice since New York is the City of Lights. We were high up enough that I couldn’t hear any noise from the street although this may be because our window had no view which meant that it would be quiet. The hotel provides towels, shampoo/conditioner, soap and cups but no kettle so you can’t boil any water. For Christmas long weekend, the room was $976.04 CAD for three nights which is fairly reasonable considering the location albeit staying in a room with the bare essentials. We had requested to be on a higher floor, early check in and late check out and all three were fulfilled so I was quite satisfied with my stay at Row NYC, all things considered.
In terms of what my friend and I wanted to see and do in New York City, I wanted Broadway Shows and Christmas stuff while my friend wanted to go to museums. My friend was willing to go see Jersey Boys and the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular with me. Front row Mezzanine seats for Jersey Boys on Christmas Day was $229.49 CAD while Orchestra seats for Christmas Spectacular on Boxing Day was $125 CAD. We also got the New York City Day Pass for 3 days for $184.44 CAD. The New York City Day Pass gives you free admission to all the museums in New York City along with tours and other popular tourist attractions such as the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Another neat feature is the Fast Track option at several popular tourist attractions such as Top of the Rock, Guggenheim Museum, Museum of Natural History, MET, Madame Tussaud’s and Discovery Times Square to name afew. The Fast Track option allows you to bypass the regular line up for faster wait times. This helped us with saving time waiting in line when visiting museums and observation decks. I recommend getting the New York City Day Pass if you are interested in visiting museums, partaking in tours and generally doing fairly touristy things. My friend and I were able to get more than our money’s worth in terms of the admission price we saved on the museums, attractions and tours we saw and did. New York City is a place where you have to focus on a certain aspect of it that you want to see if you’re only visiting. I was abit ambitious in wanting to watch afew shows, eat at really good restaurants, do afew tours and see the famous sights. I sacrificed eating at spectacular restaurants for seeing the famous sights. You really can’t have a cake and eat it too in NYC in a short period of time. I also found that planning, at least when it’s your first time there, to be quite crucial. The New York subway line at first glance is the most confusing thing I’ve ever ridden in terms of public transportation. Hong Kong, London, Singapore, Taipei and Bangkok aren’t nearly as complicated and Toronto, Waterloo and Montreal are simple things to navigate compared to the maze that is the NYC metro, at least in Manhattan. After riding the NYC metro, it actually isn’t that bad but for a newcomer it definitely takes some getting used to.
Click here for the link to more photos of my Christmas in NYC
My friend and I had a morning flight on Christmas Day and I was slightly surprised to find that there was no customs to go through at LaGuardia Airport when you exit the plane. You just exit the plane, pick up any checked luggage and catch a taxi. We took a taxi to Row NYC and were able to get early check in to our room as specified when we booked which was really nice. Once we put down our luggage and freshen up, we went to window shop Fifth Ave. The stores had their Christmas displays which I enjoyed looking at. We wandered inside Trump Tower and it was festive inside with nutcrackers posing as musicians and Christmas wreaths. The outside of St. Regis Hotel was very festive with nutcrackers and tiny Christmas trees outside their main entrance. We went inside St Patrick’s Cathedral and saw the end of mass. After window shopping and taking pictures of high end stores and their festive displays, we took the subway to Chinatown. We bought the 7 day unlimited Metropass for $31 USD. I had calculated that it would take a minimum of 11 trips to breakeven.
At Chinatown we wandered around and went inside Ten Ren’s to look at their interesting tea pot collection. We then went inside Yunhong Chopsticks Shop to look at their very decorative chopsticks and accessories. We were feeling abit peckish so we went to eat at a Hong Kong Cafe restaurant. My friend and I split the spring rolls and assorted curry fish and beef balls. I had also gotten the Hong Kong style milk tea. The food was ok, the decor evokes the feel of being in Hong Kong and the service was reminiscent of some Hong Kong Cafes in Hong Kong. After we were fully rested, my friend and I continued wandering around. We went to Columbus Park which is now across a funeral home. The location of Columbus Park is where Mulberry Bend used to be and it was the worst slum in the city. The buildings were torn down in the early 1900s aside from the Chinatown section. We then went to Chatham Square to see the Kimlau War Memorial and the Lin Ze Xu statue. The memorial is to honour Chinese American soldiers who died in World War II. Lin XeZu is a 19th century anti-opium government official and hero. The first ever story I heard about him was about Lin Xe Zu destroying opium in an attempt to rid the Chinese of their drug addiction and to curb the negative effects of opium on Chinese society. The destruction of opium lead to the Opium Wars which would lead to China ceding Hong Kong to Britain. My friend and I then walked along Doyers St which is a narrow crooked alleyway with an elbow or a sharp bend in it which makes it impossible to see who is around the corner. It used to be a site for gangs to meet up to fight it out. There is currently a famous tea shop located at the elbow since there was a crowd of people loitering around the door, waiting to be seated. We passed by the Edward Mooney House which is a red Georgian brick building and it’s the oldest row house in New York City dating back to George Washington.
The closest we were to a bridge in NYC was Manhattan bridge. It is a suspension bridge from 1905 with a Beaux Arts colonnade and arch which makes me think I’m back in Europe. We then went to explore Little Italy and while there were light signs spelling out Little Italy in the street there were Chinese stores around those signs which didn’t give me that complete Italian vibe and feel. When I visit Chinatown, Little India, Little Italy, or any ethnic enclave I have this expectation that the stores would only be selling Chinese or Indian or Italian goods and food rather than have a mish mash of cultures because it is an ethnic enclave. Little Italy itself looked very festive with lights in the shape of Christmas wreaths and we went into a store called Christmas in New York wherein it was filled with a myriad of Christmas decorations. It had a huge variety of Christmas tree ornaments, a funny selection of Christmas stockings and other paraphernalia. After window shopping at Christmas in New York, we hurried to the metro in order to make it in time for our Broadway show. We had some spare time so we went to Times Square to take pictures and made our way to August Wilson Theatre.
What I like about August Wilson Theatre is that it didn’t allow filming or photos during the show so you could fully experience and enjoy the show in the present and not be distracted by other people’s cell phone screens or cameras in the air. The front row mezzanine seats were worth splurging for because I had nobody in front of me to obstruct my view and I could fully enjoy the show. Jersey Boys is worth watching on Broadway albeit I haven’t seen the movie yet. I feel that Jersey Boys is the perfect mix of a musical and a show. There was a good mix of talking and singing so anybody who isn’t into being serenaded for 2.5 hours could still potentially enjoy watching it. I have a friend who went with me to see Les Mis when it came out in the cinemas and she wasn’t into musicals while I thought the movie would be based on the book rather than the show. If it was Jersey Boys, she may have enjoyed it more perhaps. I didn’t grow up listening to The Four Seasons or most of the 60s bands so while I heard of Big Girls Don’t Cry and afew other songs it was nice to be introduced to the band’s discography and history. For my first ever Broadway experience, it was very enjoyable and it made me want to see another Broadway show soon.
After the show my friend and I headed towards Lincoln Center because I heard that there were suppose to be spectacular Christmas decorations there. Along the way we got some food at the ubiquitous metal hotdog stands. My friend got a hot dog ($5 USD) while I got a really big pretzel ($4 USD). The pretzel was really salty so we stopped at Duane Reade Pharmacy to buy water ($1.13 USD for 1.5L sparkling water). When we arrived at Lincoln Center I was disappointed to find absolutely no Christmas decorations although it had a romantic atmosphere with the water fountain and the lights pointing at the Lincoln Center theatres reminded me of Paris. We then went to Rockefeller Plaza to see the Christmas decorations and skating rink. Normally there are three entrances to the famous skating rink and Christmas tree however they cordoned off two of the entrances so that they were only exits and there was a nice entryway wherein you walked on either sides of these trumpet playing angels and get closer to the skating rink and Christmas tree. There were nutcrackers on the side posing as musicians and all the trees had Christmas lights in the branches so it was very festive. It’s difficult to get a good shot of the rink and tree with and without yourself in the picture because of the dense crowds of people there. When the rink closes at midnight the lights on the Christmas tree turn off so while it still has a festive feel it’s not as festive looking as when the lights are on. We then headed back to Row NYC after taking more pictures of Christmas decorations on our walk back.