Sunday, August 10, 2014

NYC in July!

The Swan Lake bathroom.
Now, you know how I love New York City. I've been a few times now, both for work and for fun. When I go, I hit tourist destinations and haunt Broadway. It's my kinda town.

A few weeks ago, Atlee, a friend of mine, was visiting NYC for a few days for medical reasons. She was going to be in the city alone, and she asked if I'd like to tag along. It took me about half a second to agree! She was going up on a Monday, but I hopped up one day early to try and catch some extra shows. (I would have gone up TWO days early, but I had previous commitments that Saturday.)

I made it to the city on time, right around lunch. First off, I checked into my hotel - Bryant Park Hotel. I'd never stayed there before, but I booked it because it was located right on Bryant Park (which I love) and it got great reviews on TripAdvisor. (Plus, it's only a few blocks to the TKTS booth. Priorities, people.)

Breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien!
At check in, the incredibly friendly desk clerk notified me that I'd been upgraded to the board room suite. That meant that I had a gorgeous boardroom all to myself. (You know, for my bidness.) Past the board room (which I didn't use, by the way) was a very spacious bedroom and a HUGE bath. (Huge for NYC, anyway. I've been in hotels where you could barely turn around in the bathroom. I could've staged Swan Lake in mine.)

After check in, my stomach was rumbling. I hopped next door to Le Pain Quotidien and grabbed a quick lunch to go, decamping to a bistro table in the park. I chose a grilled chicken and mozzarella tartine and a summery raspberry lemonade. (Delicious, seasonal, and not too heavy!) As I enjoyed my lunch under the leaves, I chatted with park-goers at neighboring tables.

Probably my fave show of the trip!
After that, I made a beeline to the TKTS booth. I still had time to catch a Sunday matinee! I ended up scoring a center orchestra ticket for Once at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. I'd watched the movie, of course, with the rest of America. I'd also bought the movie soundtrack, so I knew and loved many of the songs. I made my way to the theatre with time to spare, so I stopped for a quick coffee and a piece of chocolate cake in a nearby Italian cafe. Then, it was into the theatre.

I am so, so glad that I saw this show. It's won a boatload of awards, and I totally understand why. The way it was adapted for the stage is brilliant, with a tight ensemble cast serving as chorus, band and a crew of lovable characters. The production does a brilliant job of showing how music crosses all of our boundaries and connects us all. Incredibly romantic and soulfully performed. Out of all the shows I saw while I was in NYC this trip, I think this one was my favorite. Just a beautiful, beautiful experience.

After the show, I had some dinner reservations at Tony's di Napoli, near Times Square. I'd heard it was great for fast, unpretentious Italian on a budget. I wasn't disappointed! I had a big plate of linguine with clams, washed down with a glass of wine and accompanied by big chunks of crusty bread. The place was completely packed! Though some parties were taking their time eating, the waiters were turning tables at an unbelievable pace for those with theatre tickets for later that night. The food was good, and there was plenty of it. I was in and out of there for about $35, including tip.

Mmmmm! Clam linguine at Tony's
After dinner, I didn't really have any plans. So, I ambled back to the TKTS booth to see what was on offer for Sunday night. I was surprised to find that several shows had Sunday night performances, and quite a few good tickets were still available. On a lark, I bought a front center ticket for Motown.

I ended up sitting on the third row with a few big groups of folks out to have a good time. What fun! We chatted before curtain and during intermission, and during the show, we clapped and hooted and sang along. The woman right in front of me, who I had of course befriended, got called up on stage to sing "Reach out and touch somebody's hand" with the show's Diana Ross! Big fun.

Two-tapping tunes
For me, standouts in the cast included Eric Lajuan Summers (who danced like a madman and brought incredible energy to every scene he was in; you just COULD NOT stop watching him), Krystal Joy Brown (who channeled Diana Ross like no one I have ever seen; she had it DOWN), and Charl Brown as Smokey Robinson. All of the songs were great, and some of them made you smile and laugh just hearing them performed live again. Costumes were a hoot, too!

Overall, though, I thought this show was a bit long. It was as though those who put the musical together wanted to include ALL of the big hits from Motown, and there were just too many. Add on a book that could be uneven at times, and it tended to drag. You could probably cut a good thirty minutes out of this show and have something that is paced better.

After Motown, I was beat! It was back to the hotel room and to bed!

The next morning, I awoke early and enjoyed pastry, fruit and coffee from Le Pain Quotidien in the park. Then, it was off to walk the High Line. I'd tried to make it by the High Line during previous trips to NYC, but I hadn't found the time. I figured this cool, cloudy morning alone was the perfect time to seek it out. I walked to the nearest point on the High Line from my hotel, then it was up, up, up for great views of NYC and NO TRAFFIC! I enjoyed the plantings, the public art, the convenient benches and the other visitors. Without having to wait for lights, you can make your way through NYC remarkably quickly on foot.

Public art on the High Line
I walked the High Line all the way to Chelsea Market, another spot I'd never been. I decided to take the stairs down and see what all the fuss was about. Oh. My. Goodness. Chelsea Market is a vast gourmet food mall. It's all inside, all air-conditioned, and practically designed for someone like me. There's even a book store and a kitchen goods store. I was in HEAVEN. I walked the length of it, stopping in the non-food shops to browse handmade goods, purses and books. I was also scoping out what food was on offer, because by this time, it was almost lunch. I was getting hungry, and I can't imagine a better place to get hungry than Chelsea Market.

I started with a beautiful cup of clam chowder at Lobster Place. It was a creamy concoction that I'm sure was half butter. You could practically spoon in on your cracker as a solid. It was divine. Feeling the need for more dairy, I had a fig jam and prairie breeze cheddar grilled cheese sandwich at Lucy's Whey. Crispy and thin and cheesy and sweet. And because I can't leave well enough alone, I finished up with a wonderful cone from L'Arte del Gelato, its cool, sweet smoothness slipping down my throat as I walked the High Line back to my hotel.

Gelato at Chelsea Market
After lunch, I cooled my heels for a bit (It had been a long morning of walking, after all!) before cutting through the park to check out the New York Public Library. Brian and I had come here on our last trip to NYC together (and I was really glad we had, because the Reading Room was closed this time), but I hadn't been back since. This trip, they had a really fun, inventive exhibit on children's literature called The ABC of It. It was a whimsical delight, and I was so glad I made time for a stop! I got to step into the pages of Good Night, Moon, watch Alice's neck stretch out in Wonderland and pretend I was Max from Where the Wild Things Are! And it was completely FREE!

By this time, Atlee had made it into town. A quick text confirmed she was all checked into what would be my second hotel of the trip, the Bentley Hotel, near the East River. I bid goodbye to those who'd become my fast friends at the Bryant Park Hotel. (Honestly, the next time I come to NYC, this is where I'm staying. Quiet, roomy, with a location that cannot be beat. AND it was very reasonably priced. A winner!) A quick cab ride later, I was settling in at the Bentley myself.

Since Monday is a largely dark night for Broadway, I'd prepared a special treat for the two of us. We started with an indulgent dinner at Bar Boulud. (Atlee is a big fan of Daniel Boulud's cooking. After eating at this place, so am I!) We started with a duck and fig pate, and then I moved on to a giant, steaming portion of mussels with a heaping side of fries. We sipped wine, laughed and enjoyed every sensory bite. Food was amazing. Service was polished and timely. Prices were spendy, but you felt so utterly satisfied, so full and happy, that you might as well have been at Disney World.
Atlee and I, enjoying Jazz at Lincoln Center

After dinner, we took a quick cab (Atlee was on crutches, the poor dear.) to Jazz at Lincoln Center to continue our evening. We had reservations to see the Moscow Jazz Orchestra, a rocking 16-piece band (with a singer who can blow the doors off Georgia On My Mind). This particular performance was taking place at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, a very intimate venue that also serves food and drinks. We were seated at a small cafe table, and we ordered a few libations to help the music do its magic.

I really loved this venue. It was small and cozy, with gorgeous views of the NYC skyline. As the musicians played (and boy, could they play! Igor Butman, who leads the troupe, looks like an accountant. But he plays like a black man from the Mississippi Delta.), the sun went down, and the skyline lit up. We sipped our drinks, let the tenor sax wash over us, and thanked God that we were lucky enough to be alive and in New York City. Amazing.

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After the show was over, we lingered a bit so as to let others leave and ease Atlee's navigation out the door with the crutches. We were in luck! The band started showing up at the bar to wet their whistles. I made time to tell Mr. Butman how much I had enjoyed my evening, and he gave me a hug and a sweet kiss on the cheek! Such a fun, fun night!!

More to come . . .

1 comment:

LilKittie said...

Thanks for the detailed story! Do you mind sharing around how much you've spent for your trip? I'm researching prices right now because I want to visit NYC in November, but even the hotel rates are tremendously expensive... I've been looking at I also fear how much would it cost to feed myself, I've heard a lot about the NYC restaurants but nothing about prices. And thanks again, you photos just made me hungry.