Saturday, November 30, 2013

My kind of town, cont.

The 9/11 Memorial
The next morning, we were up and at 'em. We had timed tickets for entrance into the 9/11 Memorial, and we were going to sample breakfast at Kitchenette first. We hopped the subway to the financial district and made our way to the restaurant.

Kitchenette is the cutest little place! The cafe is decorated in pastel, weathered tones, with old doors and polka dots galore. We were immediately seated, and I ordered a hot cup of tea to start. Before long, we were tucking into big plates piled high with breakfast deliciousness - eggs, french toast, sausage, biscuits and more. The meal was incredibly filling, and service was fast and friendly. We were in and out of there in plenty of time to make our timed entry into the 9/11 Memorial, which was only a few blocks away.

If you choose to visit the 9/11 Memorial while you're in New York City, keep a couple of things in mind to optimize your experience. First of all, realize that the memorial is still very much a work in progress. We reserved timed (free) tickets online, stood in several lines, and went through security to visit what will some day be an open-air plaza. The accompanying museum is still being constructed, and the completed Visitors Center is really just a small shop selling books, films and other related merchandise. Secondly, arrive slightly before your ticketed time. There are a few lines you'll have to get through before you can access the plaza, and that will take some time.

St. Paul's Chapel
That said, it was powerful to observe the tower stretching heavenward and touch the engraved names surrounding the two great fountains of absence in the plaza. It's a beautiful, solemn place, and there's something wonderful about going there to remember.

To further enhance your visit, I also recommend stopping by some of the other nearby landmarks that have 9/11 significance. We spent nearly an hour at St. Paul's Chapel, which is directly across the street from the memorial site. The church survived the 9/11 blasts and quickly became a relief center for emergency responders. The structure itself is historic (It was built in 1776.), but the exhibits inside about how the church served the recovery effort will make you weep. Photos, quotes, uniforms from the first responders, it's an amazing display of the humanity evoked by the 9/11 tragedy. Not to be missed. I loved this place. It gave so much meaning to my visit.

Grand Central Station
We stopped for a quick lunch in the dining concourse of Grand Central Station. (Tri Tip Grill. Yummmm!!) Then, we decided to do some shopping! It was off to the original Macy's in Herald Square. What fun! We rode up and down the old wooden escalators and shopped for shoes and bags. The place was packed, but we found a few treasures to take home! Beat, we walked back to our hotel slowly, taking time to relax in Bryant Park for a while. I loved the fountain and the old carousel there! So charming! (And the bathroom is seriously one of the nicest public bathrooms you will ever see. Ever. There are fresh flowers in there. No lie.)

After a break at the hotel, we began nosing around for dinner. We opted for a quick meal of convenience at The Perfect Pint, a nearby Irish bar. Forgettable, but serviceable.

We spent the next morning and the early afternoon at a conference (with a working lunch a Pershing Square - mussels in a flavorful broth - mmmmmm). After lunch, though, I'd booked us a 2:30 p.m. tour of Radio City Music Hall. On my previous trip, I'd only admired the famous theatre from the outside. On this visit, I was determined to get an insider's look at the historic performance space.

This was a really fun tour, and because we visited in October, we got to see the crews preparing the theatre for Radio City's annual Christmas Spectacular! Our guide was very knowledgeable and friendly, and I loved the art deco details and behind-the-scenes secrets he shared with us. We got to peek into all of the nooks and crannies (including Roxy's private apartment and the Rockettes' costume shop!), and we finished up by visiting with a costumed Rockette. Such fun!

After our tour, we headed for Uncle Nick's on 9th Avenue. What can I say? I loved this place last time, and I loved it again this time. Affordable, with great food, and friendly, speedy service, it's a great option for
The gorgeous, gorgeous stage at Radio City Music Hall
pre-theatre dining. I didn't have anything fancy, just a big Greek salad with hummus and pita, washed down with a nice Greek red wine. It completely hit the spot, though, and I had a curtain time to make.

I had paid full-price in advance to go see Kinky Boots at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. What a show! I'd seen the film years before and loved it. And then, after it danced off with a boatload of Tonys, it rose to the top of my must list.

No wonder everyone loves it. It's funny, it's got heart, and the cast is amazing. Plus, who can match the visual spectacle of 8 be-ribboned, be-sequined, 6-foot-tall drag queens, singing and dancing and playing their roles for all they are worth?! I decided as I watched that a Broadway stage truly is the natural habitat of a drag queen. Just magnificent. Performances were unbelievable.

The Rockettes' costume shop! What fun!
Feeling a bit parched after the show, we headed for the Campbell Apartment. (I'm linking to another blog post, not the official site for the Campbell Apartment, because the official site isn't very good. And this blog post is soooo much better and gives you an idea of the history of the space.) Aside from being incredibly convenient for us (as it's located right next to the Grand Hyatt, where we were staying), it was such an atmospheric spot. It was packed and felt like the center of New York City that night. We ordered two gorgeous (and expensive) cocktails, sipped, and reveled in the evening. Highly recommended.

We spent all of the next day in conference and working. By the time we took a break, it was past dinner, but nearing curtain time. What to do? We decided to ignore our hunger and see what we could find on Broadway. We lucked out with two mezzanine tickets for Pippin at the Music Box Theatre. I was so glad the theatre gods had smiled on us! First of all, Patina Miller deserved her Tony. Not only was she a brilliant singer and actress as the Lead Player, every move she made during the dance numbers was so controlled, so precise. Not a movement was wasted. Inspiring to watch.

Beautiful cocktails at the Campbell Apartment
Matthew James Thomas was excellent as Pippin, and Rachel Bay Jones broke hearts in the role of Catherine. Terrence Mann as Charles delivered plenty of laughs, and Tovah Feldshuh as Berthe had the whole audience in her palm during "No Time at All."

Well-pleased with the evening's entertainments, we decided to hunt up a late dinner. An ad in the Playbill pointed our feet towards Pigalle, a nearby brasserie. I had the grilled lamb with mashed potatoes and wilted spinach with a nice glass of red. At that hour, the restaurant wasn't crowded, so we took our time and lingered, opting for the profiteroles for dessert. What a golden, delicious evening.

It was our last night in New York City, so we ambled slowly back to the hotel, walking through the theatre district and Times Square one last time, enjoying the lights and the bustle of people and the whole human parade of the place.

The next morning, it was pack-breakfast-taxi-airport-home. Can't wait for my next trip to New York!

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