It’s no secret amongst our family and friends that Sandi and I love to visit New York City every couple of years. We first visited together in 1991 or 1992 when we tagged along with a group from our local college, Appalachian State. It was some kind of advanced English class going up to tour the city and there were several seats left on the bus they had leased. I think it cost us $40 bucks a piece for both ways. We stayed in a loft owned by the university on the lower west side and slept in bunk beds in a dorm room setting. The rest of the group stayed someplace else, so it was really kind of private, in a low-rent sort of way. We don’t remember what we did with our children, but we do remember that we had a great time.
I had lived in the city in the late sixties and was familiar with the basic north/south, east/west street layout and so brought a confidence to my wife about our wandering around one of the greatest and most overwhelming cities in the world.
We have since been back five times with last week our most recent trek into the world of Manhattan.
Our plan is simple: go for about 4 days and make it a point to have one or two things we really want to do. That way our trips are always a success and fulfilling. We always make plans to see a Broadway show and visit at least one of the major art museums. We hit TKTS, a discount ticket operation, as soon as we get into the city and normally our first night is spent heading towards the theater district (TImes Square) and taking in a show. This year, we saw Mama Mia, a play that has been around for at least a couple of years. It is a musical set to the songs of ABBA, a pop group from the mid-seventies. And this is where I say there is a good reason why it has been on Broadway for so long—it is simply a fantastic show—a full 2 1/2 hours of energy that leaves you feeling like a million bucks. The tickets are not cheap—even at half price—but are well worth it.
This year, in addition to Mama Mia, we visited MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) and viewed a special exhibit of Matisse paintings from the early 1900’s. We took the Circle Line boat tour of lower Manhattan (a real tourist type of thing) and saw the city, and the Statue of Liberty in a whole different way. We ate at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant, had lunch in Little Italy, did the Canal Street shopping thing and walked nearly 10 miles a day.
One of our destinations is Sandi’s favorite—a trip to Lilac Chocolates on 8th Avenue. Their dark chocolate is some the the best in the world—very addictive. One of my favorites is to wander around the Strand Bookstore on Broadway Avenue. This year I bought four books of poetry that hadn’t even made it to the shelves—they were stuffed and stacked on a rolling book-shelf type of thing which is probably used to store the books until there is space on the main shelves. I only wish it wasn’t so far away.
Did I say we walked nearly 10 miles a day! In the process of our time in the city, we spent time in Central Park, which is another world on Sunday. It seems most of the roads are closed to car traffic and the streets throughout the park are filled with thousands of joggers, bikers, roller-bladders, walkers—locals and tourists alike—all enjoying the fantastic fall weather that each day presented to us.
When we needed a break, we took in a few films that will never find their way to Boone, North Carolina. The Lincoln Plaza Theater only shows films that have won awards—we saw Heartbreaker, Cairo Time and Get Low during three of those we-need-a-real-rest times. All I can say is that each film was great and if you get a chance, check them out.
The past two times we have visited New York, we have stayed in a hotel in Newark, NJ which is only a half a mile walk from the PATH train into the World Trade Center site in downtown Manhattan. The twenty minute ride into NY is a small price to pay for the significant savings of staying in Newark. Maybe when we are rich, we can stay in Mid-Town and have a place to retreat to when we are tired in the afternoon—although the Lincoln Plaza seems to welcome us with open arms.
At the pace we go, 4 1/2 days is just about enough. With our internal computers re-booted, we returned to our country mansion, where you can actually hear yourself think and the katydids are friendly all evening. Hopefully we will still be healthy enough in the future to visit the city again—until that time adieu!