July 7, 2014

Random Acts… Sisters sample Big Apple in quick getaway

Posted in Dining, Entertainment, Travel, Women at 5:47 pm by dinaheng

If you only have two and a half days to sample the Big Apple, what do you do?

My sister Linda and I decided to get a small taste of our favorite things, and alternated cheap with luxurious along the way.

First off, we arrived the cheap way, taking a Newark Airport Express Bus ($16 fare) from the airport to the Port Authority Bus Terminal at Times Square, then grabbed a cab for a quick ride to the nearby Michaelangelo hotel on 51st and 7th Avenue.Dinah Eng

When it comes to luxury in the city that never sleeps, there’s nothing more luxurious than a truly quiet hotel room. The Michaelangelo, a midtown boutique with an Italian theme, offers wonderfully quiet and spacious rooms in a prime location. The elegant chandeliers, tufted sofas, and marble floors in its lobby are echoed in the plush carpeted rooms with marble bathrooms and gilded mirrors.

Complimentary coffee and pastries are available for breakfast in the lounge, as well as a 24-hour fitness center. This is not a hotel for business travelers, as there is no business center, but there is a multilingual concierge and a friendly — albeit understaffed — front desk that makes up for having to wait in line at various times. Summertime rates can run from $294 to $608 a night.

After walking through Times Square, looking for souvenirs for our nieces and nephews, we settled on t-shirts for the New York Yankees fan and some generic Big Apple symbols for the others. In search of a movie theater, we then wandered into the AMC Empire 25 on W. 42nd Street.

When three ticket machines didn’t work, we got in line and bought tickets for “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” The ticket seller forgot to give a receipt for the tickets, so I ended up in another line at guest services for that. Standing in line is something you get used to in this town. After the show, we grabbed a late take-out dinner of a burger for Linda and an omelette for me at one of the city’s ubiquitous, and totally forgettable, all-night diners.

The next day, we made up for the diner disappointment by checking out the $15 lunch special at Pazza Notte (1375 Sixth Avenue near 56th Street), an open-front restaurant with a lively bar crowd, even at the noon hour. This sweet little Italian eatery offers generous portions, so Linda and I shared some delicious Calamari Fritti and tried a couple of pasta entrees. Lunch was carbolicious, reasonably priced, and totally yummy.

To waddle off some calories, we took the subway (still a bargain at $2.50 for a single ride) in search of shopping. A friend gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of the Vince Camuto handbag showroom, then took us to the Vince Camuto store on 34th Street, where we browsed through shoes, handbags and jewelry by the designer who launched the Nine West brand, and picked out a few goodies.

Camuto, who now has his own brand, is also the design talent behind other brands like Jessica Simpson and BCBG. If you’re like me, and love flats, I can’t rave enough about his Louise de Cie shoes, made with soft, supple leather that makes you feel like you’re walking on a cloud.

As the afternoon drew to a close, Linda and I joined rush hour commuters on a subway down to the Financial District where we took in the new 9/11 Memorial Museum. The National September 11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center honors the nearly 3,000 victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and those who risked their lives to save others. Walking toward the entrance, I thought about that terrible morning, and the event that shocked the world. I was in Washington, D.C., attending a meeting, and turned on the television in time to see the second plane strike the Twin Towers.

We all fear dying on some level, but I think it’s the fear of losing loved ones, more than the fear of leaving this Earth, that grips our heartstrings. The tragedy of that day brought us together as a nation, and while nothing can take away the pain that resulted from those terrorist acts, I wish that unity would return and wipe out the partisanship nature of today’s political landscape.

9-11 Memorial Museum

9-11 Memorial Museum

Entering the museum at ground level, Linda and I walked down the ramp of an introductory exhibit that leads to the original foundation level of the Twin Towers. The atmosphere is dark and somber, appropriate for the space, yet overwhelming with all that is on display. Boxes of Kleenex are placed in various corners, and clearly used.

Tickets, which can be purchased three months in advance, are timed for entrance each day, and run from $15 for Youth (ages 7 to 17) to $24 for adults. If you can plan ahead, admission is free on Tuesday evenings from 5 p.m. to close. Same day tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the ticket window starting at 4:30 p.m., and a limited number of free tickets can be reserved online two weeks in advance. Be sure to get online promptly at 9 a.m. Eastern for those.

After trudging back to the hotel in the rain, we decided to try Rosie O’Grady’s, an old-fashioned steak and seafood place in the Broadway Theatre District (800 7th Avenue at 52nd). There, we had a wonderful dinner, sharing the Braised Spring Lamb Shank with Mashed Yukon Potato ($25.95) and Traditional Fish & Chips with French Fried Potatoes ($20.95).

On our last day, we headed to Lord & Taylor for a touch of old New York department store shopping, then walked around Times Square again before grabbing dinner and catching a show on Broadway.

There’s nothing I love more than musicals, and we were lucky enough to see “Newsies The Musical,” a Disney Theatrical Productions creation inspired by the real-life Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York, which forced Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers to increase pay for the child labor force that delivered their papers. The line into the theater wound around the block, but amazingly, everyone got in before curtain.

In the musical, newsboy Jack Kelly (Corey Cott) joins forces with reporter Katharine Plumber (Liana Hunt) to fight the greed of newspaper baron Joseph Pulitzer (John Dossett). The two, of course, fall in love in the process. Winner of the 2012 Tony Awards for Best Score and Best Choreography, the show closes on Broadway August 24, and starts a North American tour in October. (For more info, check out http://www.newsiesthemusical.com/.)

The next morning, we left the city under rainy skies, and took an unexpected $110 cab ride back to Newark International Airport. Traffic was slow, with part of the cost being a $20 surcharge since the Yellow Cab driver wasn’t allowed to pick up passengers at Newark on his way back to the city. A car service might have been a better deal, but at least we didn’t have to have to wait in line in the rain.