New York City was fun (but I wouldn't want to live there!) I did the chronological last week, so instead I will pick some topics which I find interesting (or from which I have interesting photos. We took about 300 pictures, and printed about 185. Consider yourself lucky you only are seeing this small sampling). Again, I apologize if you don't care, but at this point my hit-o-meter has regestered your visit, and I thank you.
The Gray Line Bus Tours - If you ever go to NYC as a tourist, this tour is a must. As the website says, for $45 you get a 48 hour ticket on four different routes, all are hop-on-hop-off (except the Night Loop). Busses run about 10 minutes apart, and we took advantage of this to use it as our personal taxi.
There is a catch, however. The routes aren't precise. Five minutes into our first bus, the tour guide said that the maps aren't detailed well, so if you get off at a stop, it would be wise to go back to that stop to get back on the bus. The brochure says where the stops are (for example, "Battery Park", or the "South Street Seaport"). But unless you actually see the Gray Line Bus Stop sign, you have absolutely no clue of how to find a bus.
How do I know this?
My-Sugar-Na and I got off the bus at the World Trade Center site (more on that later). After that we went to the McDonalds on Broadway (more on that later), then walked down to Wall Street and to the New York Stock Exchange (more on that later). When we looked at where we were, we were a lot closer to Battery Park than where the bus dropped us off, so we decided to walk to Battery Park. We got to where it looked like the bus route went, but we couldn't find a stop. We took a brief rest to look at the map, and one of the busses drove right past us. I said "follow that bus", and we walked all the way to the Seaport before we finally found a stop. Thankfully there was a practically empty bus waiting there. If you take the tour, GO BACK TO THE STOP WHERE YOU GOT OFF OF THE BUS. You'll thank me later.
We took that bus back to the beginning (near Times Square) and they announced that the Night Tour bus (more on that later) was waiting there. We figured that if nothing else, we would use it as two hours to catch our breath and relax after what seemed like a four mile walk.
Now for the highlights of the various Tour stops...
Lombardi's Pizza - This place prides itself on being the first pizza restaurant in the USA. I found out about this place while watching a Travel Channel show on the best pizzas in America. I'll let you learn the history, but they're famous for their pizzas being made in a coal-fired oven that wouldn't be allowed now, but Lombardi's is grandfathered. A personal review... I was disappointed at the lack of toppings. Their standard pizza is cheese and sauce, and for $5 we added sweet sausage and onions. It tasted good, but it wasn't a deep flavor, and it certainly wasn't "cheesy". Best tasting was the crust. Can't describe it, but it had a bitter something about it that was addictive.
When I told the waitress that I saw about Lombardi's on TV and wanted to take a picture of the oven, she actually walked me into the kitchen and took the picture. The whole experience was great, and considering it was about four hours after landing at LaGuardia, it was a great way to kick off the trip.
World Trade Center site - The bus let us off about two blocks from the site. Dummy me, however, My-Sugar-Na and I took off walking without actually figuring out where the viewing platform was. We basically walked around the area, which wouldn't have been too bad, except for the chain link fence covered in canvas. They are working on the memorial and were doing blasting, so the street view isn't much. By the time we walked back around and figured out where the viewing platform was (suggested donation, $10) we decided that we had spent enough time there and it was onto the next adventure.
Manhattan McDonalds - Actually, I get my best dining ideas from TV. I can't remember what show it was on which station, but it was about the Top 10 Fast Food locations in the world. This McDonalds was shown to be a "luxury" location, with a doorman, a piano player, the "Orchid Room", etc. It showed a yuppie-ish couple on a date, eating like it was the Ritz. When we got there at 5:00 PM, there was no doorman and no piano player (but the grand piano was there). We went upstairs, and were horrified that every table was dirty and there was litter on the floor. There was nobody around to clean anything. We went back downstairs, bought some drinks and found a table by the door. Actually, we shared the table with a rude lady who (when somebody came to empty the garbage cans) started screeching about how he should wait until she left because it smelled (she was right, but she acted like a New Yorker). We got out of there, pronto-ly. (It took a lot of work - both at the McDonalds and with a photo-editor - to find to decent pics. Trust me. I actually cleaned off that table with the flower on it.)
NYSE/Wall Street - Sometimes you just don't know your mate. In six months planning this trip, I didn't realize how interested My-Sugar-Na was in seeing the financial district until we were about three blocks away. Other than walking past buildings and snapping photos, there wasn't much to report, except...
We walked past two policemen in full riot gear right outside the New York Stock Exchange. We didn't ask what they were doing, but at 5:30 on a Thursday night, there was nothing going on besides businesspeople bustling about. I do know that the Fat Al Sharpton had been arrested at a rally the prior day, but there were no rallies in sight, and if there were, these two policemen weren't enough manpower to do anything anyhow.
The Gray Line Night Tour - I think this tour was the best. The sights were breathtaking...
We did other things while in New York.
Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island - I had mentioned as a comment to my blog post from before I left that the Friday we were there, the weather was cold, damp, raw, and not meant for fish nor bird... or especially tourists. The noreaster (and I don't know if it was an official noreaster, but all that was missing was three degrees and Christmas decorations and it would have been the latest Snowstorm of Doom.) had it pouring all day, and it was so cold that it chilled us to the bone. Unfortunatley, in all of the photos we took, I couldn't find one that showed just how horrible the weather was. The photo to the right of the statue is of Manhattan from the statue observation deck. My sorta-sister, Jendy Wo, said "watch it going around the corner, it is like being on a freeway". She was right. The wind was hitting me so hard that My-Sugar-Na braced me as I leaned on a piller just to steady myself enough to take a picture.
As for Ellis Island, my parents and the rest of the group had planned to go, but the original plan was for My-Sugar-Na and I to continue on our 48-hour bus tour. By the time we got done with the statue tour, we audibled to Ellis Island because it was indoors. I found that to be the more interesting of the two, because they did a great job of walking you from room to room, driving home just what the immigrants went through. The hall in the photo below is empty now, but there were numerous photos there that showed how hundreds and hundreds of people - speaking all sorts of languages - were herded through gates and paths every day.
The ferry to and from the islands - This may mean nothing to nobody, but it was zany to me and my wife. We didn't notice it at first, but when we got off the ferry, we turned around and saw it was the John James Audubon. Why is that important? Three years earlier when the USBC Tournament was in Baton Rouge, LA, we drove to New Orleans (pre-Katrina) and took a Mississippi River lunch cruise on - you guessed it - the John James Audubon. I tried to "Google" the boat to find out how and why it got to New York, but I couldn't find anything. I can only guess that post-Katrina, tourism is down and the riverboat was sold. (To you cynics out there in Internetland, it is possible that there could be two riverboats of the same name, but this one still had placards on the sides to help identify Gulf of Mexico crustaceons.)
Gray's Papaya - What? No photos? Sorry. But what a story. Thursday on the walk from the end of the Night Tour to Penn Station for the trip on the Long Island Railroad back to Central Islip, we accidentally walked past this hot dog place. I had seen this featured on - you guessed it again - TV, on PBS's The Hot Dog Program. One bite of the Recession Special (two dogs and a 12 oz. papaya juice for $3.50) and I was hooked. How hooked? Friday after the disaster that was, we get back to Penn Station for the ride back to Long Island and we have about 25 minutes to wait. I convince my dad, my sorta-sister Jendy Wo and my sorta-brother Revvy Al to try one. So here I am in rush hour in Manhattan. In the rain, running to get six hot dogs and three juices, dodging commuters, taxis, busses and umbrellas. They're that good. I want to open a franchise here. For as much as I enjoy Sammy's Red Hots, I think there is room in town for a New York dog.
That silly wedding - Actually the reason the entire family (well, almost the entire family) went to New York. The weather on Saturday was beautiful, and it was held on a party boat for four hours. It was a great time, and Mr. Uncie and his new bride, Knobbleknees almost looked as good as I did when Knobbleknees and I cut up the rug when Staying Alive was played.
The Long Island Railroad - I only include this as an excuse to tell the story of Colonel Pumpkin. The LIRR is commuter rail for an area large enough to support rail (and sorry lefties, Milwaukee isn't one of those areas). It is an 80-minute train ride from Penn Station from Central Islip, and we took that ride every day of our trip. On Friday on the way to the statue tour, my sorta-sister Jendy Wo caught the eye of the conductor. Well, maybe he didn't notice. Come to think of it, I think I heard him bartering with a different conductor to trade train cars. No matter, Jendy Wo is in love and started talking about Pumpkin. By the time we actually got to Penn Station, he had been assigned the titles of Conductor Pumpkin, Colonel Pumpkin, Captian Pumpkin, and my favorite Commander Pumpkin.
The Soprano Sites tour - A very good $44 spent for both my wife and I. It was a 4-1/2 hour bus tour of many sites in New Jersey where the Sopranos was filmed. We saw everything from the place under the bridge where Christphuh buried - then dug up - Emile in Season One, to where Tony kicked the crap out of Ralph Cifretto (when Ralphie killed one of the dancers at the Bada Bing). We got to see where Satriale's used to be (it has since been torn down and will become the Soprano Condominums), and we got to try the onion rings at Holsten's. Before the tour actually started, Joe Gannascoli (the actor that played Vito Spatafore) was signing autographs, taking pictures and selling bric-a-brac from the back of his SUV. Although it was cool to get my photo taken with him, I was less impressed that he didn't ask me for $20 until AFTER he autographed a picture for me. Note that in the photos, My-Sugar-Na and I are sitting in the actual booth that Tony and his family sat in during the last scene of the series finale, and in the darker photo I am actually sitting in Tony's seat at the Bada-Bing (which in real life is called Satin Dolls).
Carnegie Deli - When my aunt died in March, a relative told us that if we did nothing else in New York, we should go to ____ Deli. The problem is that nobody remembered which deli. All that we could recall was the hard-C sound. Although we later agreed that it was Katz's Deli, while in planning we figured it was the Carnegie Deli. On Sunday night, our group was scattered all around Manhattan. My parents and my sister went to see Mamma Mia! on Broadway, My-Sugar-Na and I went to the top of the Empire State Building, Mr. Uncie and Knobbleknees went shopping, etc. But we were all within shouting distance of the Carnegie Deli, so we all agreed to meet there for dinner Sunday evening. Have you ever heard of the portions there? OMG! My Reuben sandwich a full one pound of meat - piled very high with *** and cheese - was $22. My new sister-in-law ordered a turkey burger, I think they just chopped off its head, plucked the feathers, cooked it and put it on a bun. What a great time!
If you managed to read the entire thing and notice that I didn't mention my side trip to Des Moines (and if you care), let me know and I'll fill you in.