"Third Time’s A Charm"
Since 2001 is an odd-numbered year, it seemed logical to go back to New York City for the third time (we have previously visited NYC in 1995 and 1999). This time, two of Julie’s cousins (Darlene and Jeanette) accompanied us on our trip. They were staying for seven days; we were staying for eight days.
After a fun-filled round of "Flight Number Roulette"®, courtesy of Air Canada, we arrived at the Red Roof Inn four hours later than anticipated. Given the relative disarray of our last two vacation hotels, I was prepared for the worst. But I was pleasantly surprised by the Red Roof Inn. The lobby was pretty fancy, and the rooms, albeit a little small, were clean. The bathroom was a decent size, with a toilet that had a GE turbine motor, enabling it to swallow anything short of a small poodle. And the room rate was fair ($142 per night for four people), which included a continental breakfast each morning. On the last night of our trip, Julie and I stayed at the Plaza Hotel, where a continental breakfast costs $27 per person. So $35.50 per person per night at the Red Roof Inn was a relative bargain.
The hotel is located about 30 seconds away from the Empire State Building, just south of bustling 34th Street. There are two main subway stops about a block away. As well, it is easy to catch an uptown bus on Madison Avenue. Macy's, Old Navy, and the Manhattan Mall are within two blocks from the hotel. Just around the corner, there's a Starbucks, a Burger King, and a Duane Reade drugstore. The immediate neighbourhood is considered "Little Korea", for there are many Korean shops and restaurants along the street. There is always activity on this block, so it never felt unsafe.
The Rooftop Garden Of The Metropolitan Museum Of Art
Although this was our third trip to New York, there were a number of major landmarks that we hadn't seen yet. This included the Statue of Liberty. We arrived at Battery Park early in the morning. We ambled towards the ferry that transports people from Battery Park to Liberty Island, then to Ellis Island, then back to Battery Park. They slowly allowed people to board the ferry, waving on everyone ahead of us. They then snapped the rope barricade right in front of us, making us wait for the next ferry. I guess the ferry was so full, so teeming with masses, that they couldn't accommodate four more people. Is this how they treated the immigrants? Anyways, when we finally arrived on Liberty Island, there was a two-hour wait to go into the statue. No thanks. After a few photo ops around the outside of the statue, we boarded the ferry and headed to Ellis Island. For those interested in their family tree, this is a must-see.
One of Julie's highlights of this trip was a visit to Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum. What heightened Julie's anticipation was the fact that we skipped Madame Tussaud's on our previous visits to London and Amsterdam. She was determined to see it in Times Square, despite the price ($20!!!!). Actually, the museum was better than I expected, with most of the statues looking eerily realistic. However, there were a couple of statues that looked a bit waxy and decrepit (come to think of it, maybe that was the real Donald Trump).
I wanted to do at least one "guy thing" on this trip, like see a Yankee game. Since the timing wasn't right to see a baseball game, I coerced Julie into taking a tour of Madison Square Garden. The locker rooms for the Rangers and the Knicks are a lot smaller than expected. I think I was the only one excited to see Wayne Gretzky's old locker stall. It remains vacant out of respect for Gretzky.
We did the prerequisite shopping, including an excursion to the Woodbury Common Factory Outlet, an hour's drive to upstate New York State (Note to self: Never sit in a Pontiac Bonneville again!). Darlene and Jeanette's cousin Daniel graciously chauffered us to the 220-store shopping megapolis. Five hours later, I proudly left the factory outlet empty-handed.
One store that I really wanted to visit was H&M, which is considered a cheaper version of Old Navy. And since Old Navy itself is a cheaper version of the Gap….. well, you get the idea. Julie was shopping for a dress to wear to her brother's wedding. We had earlier gone to Bloomingdale's to check out the dresses, with me choking every time I looked at a price tag. So when we saw the dresses at H&M, I constantly prodded Julie to buy a dress there. For $9, you can't lose! I think that was the only time that I encouraged Julie to buy some clothes. However, Julie couldn't find anything to her liking and she ended up buying her dress at Macy's.
|I was tempted to get a pedicure, but I thought that after taking a look at my feet, the manicurist would max out my credit card.|
The food in New York is as varied as the city itself. We tried foods ranging from various Asian foods (Chinese, Korean, Thai) to the old standbys (hot dogs in Central Park, corned beef sandwiches from the Carnegie Deli). But being the strange person that I am, whenever I travel, I must try any fast food that isn't available in Canada. Previous experiences before this trip included Jack-In-The-Box, Roy Rogers, Carl's Jr., and Dunkin Donuts. To this proud list, I can now add White Castle and Krispy Kreme Donuts.
Even though I had just ate dinner two hours earlier, I had to sample some White Castle burgers when we walked past the restaurant. For the uninitiated, White Castle burgers are mini-sized, about 3 inches in diameter. They didn't look all that appetizing, but they sure looked cute! I quickly carried the takeout bag back to the hotel room, eager to sample my bounty. However, after biting into my first White Castle burger, my eagerness turned into abject disappointment. I noticed that the burgers weren't cooked very well. Maybe because the burgers are so tiny, they thought that holding the burgers under the heat lamps was sufficient to cook them.
Fortunately, my second "gourmet" experience was better. We were standing outside of the World Trade Center, waiting for Darlene to visit a bank. Suddenly Jeanette said something like "Hey, a Krispy Kreme!". My head snapped 90-degrees towards the donut shop. Jeanette and I quickly scampered into the Krispy Kreme, leaving Julie in our dust to wonder what we were doing, oblivious to the decadent pleasures of a Krispy Kreme donut. But after Julie took a big bite out of my heaven-sent confection, she quickly became a convert. Damn, I should have bought a whole bag.
The Statue Of Liberty
Tuesday was TV taping day, as we were fortunate enough to get tickets to The View and The Late Show With David Letterman. We had to be at the ABC studio by 10:00 am. The studio was on 66th street, so I thought it would be near Lincoln Center. But after wandering around aimlessly, we decided to ask a friendly neighborhood fireman where the ABC studio was. He took a look at me (not the girls) and said “You’re looking for The View, right? It’s down that street.” Although I was glad that he told us where to go, why did he assume that I was looking for The View? Did I look like a typical fan of The View? Was it because I was carrying the camcorder bag like a purse? I felt emasculated for the entire day. The taping was a neat experience (actually, it's broadcast live) The studio is a lot smaller than it looks on television. And we were fortunate that all five hosts were on the show that day, including Barbara Walters.
Later that afternoon, Julie and I had to get to the Ed Sullivan Theater for the Letterman show (unfortunately, I only got two tickets, so Darlene and Jeanette were out of luck). We first lined up outside the theater, only to get a number and our tickets. We were then told to come back later and line up again, according to our number. Why did we have to line up twice? We received our ticket number in order of the lineup, so couldn’t we just go into the theater in that order? Anyways, we were told to return in half an hour for the second lineup. Since Julie and I were dead tired from all the lining up, we just looked for a place to sit down. We eventually found some park benches in front of a Hooters restaurant, where we subsequently both fell asleep on the bench (not the brightest of ideas, mind you). After half an hour, we returned to the lineup where we were told to “laugh at everything that Dave says”. When we got to our seats (sixth row from the front, right on the aisle), I realized how cold the studio was. I was wearing shorts, so I was freezing. All the crew members were wearing lined jackets, so they must have known something I didn’t know. By the end of the show, I couldn’t feel my toes anymore. But all in all, it was a great experience.
Julie, Jeanette, and Darlene bought half-price tickets to "Les Miserables" at the TKTS booth in the World Trade Center. Instead of the musical, I planned on seeing Jurassic Park III by myself at the AMC Theater just off of Times Square. I got to the theatre 15 minutes before showtime, and the theater was almost completely full. I had to sit in the front row. A few minutes later, a guy walked by and pointed to the empty seat beside me, telling me to save it for him. Not wanting a knife in my back halfway through the movie, I did what I was told (he eventually returned). Also, I'm not sure if this a uniquely American phenomenom, but do Americans always talk to the screen during movies? I don't mean making critical comments about the film. There are people who actually talk to the screen, expecting the actors in the movie to respond. Comments like "Look out for that dinosaur!". Oh, well. The movie spared me from seeing a Broadway musical.
A Taping Of "The View"
THE PLAZA HOTEL
One of my lifelong dreams was to stay a night at the Plaza Hotel. Since Jeanette and Darlene had to leave for home a day before Julie and I left, we decided to check out of the Red Roof Inn at the same time and spend our last night at a different hotel. Thinking that I could never afford it, I called the Plaza reservation line, begging and pleading for their lowest room rate. They quoted me a rate of $229 per night for a Fairmont Room, which was within the realm of possibility, so I took it. A few weeks later, I got wind of a special Websaver rate of $203, so I called the reservation line and they gave me the room at the lower price. I then joined their online Fairmont President's Club, which entitled me to a room upgrade certificate. So when I eventually checked in, for $203 that night, I got an upgraded room that was worth over $400 a night.
When we entered the Plaza hotel lobby, I headed straight to the Fairmont President's Club room, enabling me to bypass the reservation counter lineup. Being too cheap to tip a bellhop, I struggled with all our bags by myself. We were put in a room near the top, on the 16th floor. Unfortunately, we didn't have a view of Central Park. But the room itself made up for the lack of a view. We had a huge king-sized bed, with a chandelier in the middle of the room. We had a sitting area with a couple of armchairs. There were two TVs - one facing the bed and the other in the sitting area.
Sitting in the Plaza Hotel in the hotel bathrobes, eating Carnegie Deli corned beef sandwiches, and watching MTV's "Jackass"….. could life get any better?
Lounging around in the Plaza Hotel
Overall, it was a fun trip. Julie and I managed to see a lot of sights that we didn't have time to see in 1995 and 1999, such as:
- the Statue of Liberty
- Ellis Island
- TV tapings of The View and The Late Show With David Letterman
- the rooftop garden of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
- the Manhattan Mall
- Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum
- a tour of Madison Square Garden
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