On Tuesday, we woke and rode the subway aaaaalll the way down to South Ferry so we could catch the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island ferry. We had the chance to walk through Battery Park while we were down there, and it's a lovely little public green space. Tickets to the ferry were included in our CityPass and, again, because we were early, we boarded the boat pretty quickly and were on our way! Views of the statue on the approach are beautiful, and you get some great views of Manhattan from the water as well. It was sunny and a bit breezy on the water, very pleasant.
When we arrived at Liberty Island, we strolled around the perimeter, admiring the statue, the views, and the weather. (The statue was actually alot smaller than I thought it would be. And did you know that the metal sheathing that makes up the exterior of the statue is only the width of two coins? Amazing little tidbits of info all over the place up there.) However, we later realized that what we SHOULD have done was get right in line to go inside the museum located in the base of the statue. By the time we decided to do that, the line was heinous. We decided to skip it and head straight for Ellis Island on the next ferry.
Ellis Island turned out to be one of my favorite experiences of the trip. The more I explored it, the more I realized that it was this part of the attraction that gave the statue meaning. We started on the ground floor, where we learned all about immigration to the United States over the past century or so. Then, we moved upstairs to the huge Registry Room, where immigrants were initially "processed" after landing at Ellis Island. The exhibits on the second floor were heart breaking. Gaining access to the United States was not an easy process. After a long, expensive, often arduous ship voyage, immigrants lined up in the Registry Room so they could be assessed. Officials did this to make sure immigrants were healthy, able to work, sound of mind, and otherwise equipped so they would not become a burden on the state.
At the museum, you could pick up phones throughout various parts of the exhibits and hear the voices of immigrants, telling you in their own words about their experiences at Ellis Island. Some of the stories were sad, some of them were hopeful, and all of them really spoke to the indomitable spirit of this country. It made me proud to be an American.
We were getting a bit hungry, so we bought lobster rolls and fries from the cafe at Ellis Island and ate them on one of the stone picnic tables overlooking the water. A lovely lunch!
That evening, we gussied up and headed to Uncle Nick's on 9th Avenue for dinner. We had huge, delicious Greek salads and a huge mixed appetizer plate loaded with Feta cheese, pita bread, tzatziki, taramosalata, grape leaves, olives, grilled octopus, kaftedes and more. The whole purpose was not to fill up too much before hitting the theatre scene that night, but I don't know if we truly succeeded!
At any rate, we finished dinner and then hoofed it to the Gershwin Theatre for a thrilling performance of Wicked. First of all, I really liked the Gershwin. They had little exhibits on the theatre's history throughout, as well as signed photographs of stage and screen legends all over the walls. And once the curtain went up, well, I was good and truly hooked. I've read the book that the stage musical is based on, and while many liberties certainly were taken, they did make for a dazzling live production. It didn't hurt that the two leads were phenomenally talented and that the costumes were a fanciful delight. The show was also very self-aware, a tactic seen often in more modern work. References were frequently made to The Wizard of Oz movie, currently in re-release. Very, very entertaining!!
Wednesday was Met day. We took the subway to 79th Street, then cut through Central Park to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Along the way, we got to explore the Shakespeare Garden, poke around in Belvedere's Castle (Views were great from up there!) and even snap a few photos of Cleopatra's Needle! (I photographed its twin on the banks of the Thames in London a decade ago. It was eerie to be taking pictures of it again in the here and now!)
When we got to the Met, we headed straight for the Egyptian galleries. The Temple of Dendur is completely surreal, and standing in front of the sarcophagi was like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Giving the Egyptian exhibits their due worked up my appetite, so we stopped for lunch at the Petrie Court Cafe and Wine Bar. I had the special - a delicious pork roast with horseradish potatoes and braised cabbage. I topped it off with a yummy apple crisp, and we were ready to tackle more of the museum.
We decided to head towards the Medieval galleries next, which featured some wonderful religious art. Then, we just HAD to slip through the armor galleries. (Those really reminded me of the armory we visited in Spain. But the Met had more pieces on display, including some of the most gorgeous firearms I'd ever seen. I mean, if I had a rifle with an ornately-carved wood grip, capped at the butt end by a finely illustrated Native American in sterling silver, I might just take up hunting, kwim?)
Lastly, we tripped through the European sculpture and decorative arts galleries, which smacked of the Louvre. Whole rooms from French palaces and English country estates, re-created on this side of the Atlantic. Mind-boggling.
All in all, we covered the better part of the first floor (including the two sculpture gardens, which were soooo beautiful). We also went up to the roof to see the modern installation there. I was absolutely sick when we had to leave, but we had dinner reservations and show tickets for that evening. At such time as I return to NYC, the Met will be one of the first places I go.
Incidentally, going to the Met made me very proud. I've been to several of the "big" European museums, and none of them could touch the Met for holdings, layout (it was easy to find everything, the art was beautifully displayed, and even though there were tons of people there, I never felt crowded or rushed), and guest services. (Bathrooms, shops, restaurants - everything was everywhere. Mighty convenient.) People of all nationalities were there, admiring one of the greatest museums in the United States. Nice.
After resting a bit at the apartment, we headed out to Marseilles (again, on 9th Avenue! Noticing a pattern here?) for a delicious dinner. I was glad we had reservations, because the place was absolutely packed with the pre-theatre crowd. This charming restaurant is set up like a French bistro, and I had the mussels with fries and a glass of red. Hubs had a DELICIOUS steak, smothered in melted herb butter, and I nearly stole it off his plate! Service was prompt, friendly, and attentive. This place was a bit spendy, but completely worth it. I loved it, and I'll return when I'm back in the city.
Fully sated, we walked a few blocks to the Minskoff Theatre to see The Lion King. This show has one of the most moving intro numbers I've ever seen. And though the story and music was familiar, the way the production suggested the environment of the African savanna was remarkable. I loved, loved, loved the costumes, and they accentuated the beauty of the performers while also creating the world of the production. Brilliant. Also, the use of symbolism in this show was very nearly cathartic.
After the show, we stopped by Junior's for some authentic New York cheesecake. We tried both the plain and the raspberry swirl variety. I may be having some of this stuff shipped to me over the holidays! Then, we legged it back through the theatre district to our apartment. On the way, we bumped into Daniel Craig, James Gandolfini, and Bill Pullman. I am sooo not kidding. They are all in shows on Broadway, so by the time we left Junior's, they were out in front of their theatres greeting fans. We didn't stop, but dude, they were right there. (Gandolfini looked buzzed.)
More to come . . .