Thursday, November 28, 2013

My kind of town

Our room at the Grand Hyatt

In mid-October, I got the chance to visit New York City. I hadn't been since hubs and I traveled there back in 2009, so I was excited to see more of the city and catch a few things I missed the first time around.

My flight arrived in the early afternoon, so I caught a quick cab to our hotel - the Grand Hyatt New York City. The hotel couldn't be more conveniently located. It's directly next door to Grand Central Station, in the middle of everything. The lobby is very modern (with some eerie white statues of giant heads), and the rooms are quiet and comfortable. We had a double room, and I was relieved that there was plenty of space for all of our luggage and toiletries.

After settling in a bit, I was off to Rockefeller Center. When I'd come before, the ice skating rink hadn't been opened for the season yet, but this time, skaters were twirling all over the ice. I enjoyed the ambiance for a bit and also ducked into the Lego store to get little man a souvenir.

Rockefeller Center
I poked my head into St. Patrick's Cathedral, but, sadly, a massive restoration effort moves this attraction off my must list for now. Scaffolding is everywhere, both inside and out, making it difficult to appreciate the structure or its history. I was glad I'd been able to enjoy it on my previous visit.

I couldn't linger for too long, anyway, because I had reservations for Top of the Rock at 5 p.m. I'd pre-purchased my ticket online, so I was able to get right in line for the elevator. Along the way, you stop for some educational information (including a fun little film) about Rockefeller Center and its impact on New York City. (I was really surprised to see most visitors barreling past this type of information to get to the top of the building. I thought knowing more about Rockefeller Center and its construction added much to my visit.)

Amazing views from Top of the Rock
When you do get on the elevator that takes you to the 69th/70th floors (where the observation decks are), you can look up to see a lights show whizzing past during your ascent. At the top, views are simply amazing. There are both indoor and outdoor observation decks. and you get wonderful views of Central Park and the Empire State Building (which isn't in any of our observation shots from the last trip, of course, because we were standing atop it at the time).

I so loved this attraction, especially the very top, open-air deck. I watched the sun slip below the skyline and breathed in. Once you're at the top, you can stay as long as you like, so savor it.

After my trip to the top of the world, I stopped by Del Frisco's Grille in Rockefeller Center for dinner. At my waitress' suggestion, I had the chicken schnitzel - a chicken breast pounded thin, breaded, and sauteed, served over a heaping pile of of noodles drenched in a lemon butter sauce. Washed down with a glass of red, it made for an excellent end to my first night in the city.

Beat from traveling and my wanderings, I headed back to the hotel to turn in.

Lemon ricotta pancakes at Sarabeth's!
I rose early the next morning with big breakfast plans. I'd heard wonderful things about Sarabeth's, so I scurried over to their Central Park South location to check it out. Delicious! I chose the lemon and ricotta pancakes with berries. With a big coffee, they made for a perfect breakfast al fresco - fluffy, filling and sweet. I lingered there, sipping from my warmed cup, watching the passersby and the horse-drawn carriages.

After breakfast, I decided to explore Central Park a bit. In my previous trip, I'd strolled through the middle part of the park, but not the south end. I surveyed Grand Army Plaza before walking around the pond, stopping to admire the bust of Thomas More. I photographed the statues of Martin and Marti at the Avenue of the Americas. I sat on the Gapstow Bridge for a bit, enjoying the sunshine on the water. There was a tai chi class on top of Umpire Rock that morning, and games were being played on the ball fields. I couldn't resist taking a few pics of the historic carousel, and I also stuck my head into the Chess and Checkers House. After a quick visit with Balto, I met up with a friend for my next adventure.

The pond at Central Park!
Having skipped breakfast, she was hungry. A quick search on Urbanspoon revealed that the Atlantic Grill was a mere hop and a skip, so off we went. We were in luck! For Sunday brunch, the restaurant offers one free bellini for diners! For my entree, I chose the scrambled eggs popover, a rich, creamy concoction of smoked salmon, boursin cheese and chives. Paired with a free drink and a big glass of water, it made for a wonderful meal.

I loved the historic carousel in Central Park. 
On my previous trip to NYC, I'd missed visiting the Frick Collection, an oversight I intended to rectify on this trip. If you've ever wondered what it might have been like to be a titan of industry at the end of the 1800s, this is the place to find out. Henry Clay Frick was a giant in the coke and steel industries. The Frick Collection is housed in his former home, with all of his gorgeous furniture and personal art on display. You can walk airily through the rooms (which, incidentally, border on Central Park), pretending that you own all you survey, to get an idea of how good life really was for this ruthless businessman.

What I loved about the Frick Collection was that it was completely do-able in an afternoon. The home is large and the collection extensive, but it's nothing like visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art and feeling as though you'd need to spend a week there to even scratch the surface. After walking through all of the gorgeous rooms (except for the Oval Room, which was closed in anticipation of an installation of Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring - we just missed it!!), we sat daintily on a bench in the garden court, the fountains playing and the light filtering in from above.

What a great show!
Afterwards, we walked down towards the TKTS booth in Times Square. It was Columbus Day, and we caught a parade as we went, marching along and enjoying the color and music. When we got to the booth, the line was crazy! We decided to try dinner first, so off to Nizza we went. I'd dined here during my previous trip, and I enjoyed returning to an old favorite. We bellied up to the bar. I had a heaping bowl of linguine with clams, washed down with a glass of wine. Heaven.

After dinner, we tried the TKTS booth again. So close to curtain, there was absolutely no line. We grabbed two cut-rate tickets to Chicago and made it to the theatre just in time! What a fun show! I'd seen Chicago live before, but not on Broadway. Amra-Faye Wright was wonderful as Velma (and I recognized her from her appearance on the Tonys), and Dylis Croman did a fabulous job as Roxie Hart. I thought Jason Patrick Sands had absolutely THE perfect voice to play Billy Flynn, and Mary Sunshine's reveal was hilarious! Roz Ryan played Mama Morton, and her rendition of "Class" with Velma (one of my fave songs in the whole show) was understated but so, so solid. A great production, all around. (Even Ryan Worsing as the jury was a hoot!)
Ah, Junior's. How I love thee . . . 

After the show, we still had a little life left in us. Off we went to Junior's for the customary post-theatre slice of cheesecake. The waiter thought our thick Southern accents were charming, and we thought the cheesecake was revolutionary. We both tried the strawberry cheesecake. I had a big cup of decaf with mine, but I honestly couldn't finish either the cheesecake or the coffee! I did enjoy giving it my best effort, though.

By this time, we were beat. We tumbled into bed, with another big day ahead of us.

More to come . . .

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