Sunday, July 24, 2016

Times Square, Broadway Play, and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel

It would be hard to find a more exciting place than Times Square in New York City. There, the bright lights of Broadway have always been a beacon to travelers in the city, drawing them to its entertainment areas. Over 330,000 people pass through Times Square daily, many of them tourists. This area is known as the "Crossroads of the World" and has become the New Years Eve capital of the USA since 1907, as millions gather to watch  the ball drop down the pole high above on the top of One Times Square building seen in the middle of the photo above.

(All photos in this post will enlarge if clicked on)

I wrote once before--click here-- about the pedestrian area that was developed in 2009 in Times Square on Broadway, from 42nd Street to 47th Street, that is closed to traffic. There were still some table and chair areas but quite a bit less than you'll see in that blog post. There is also quite a bit more security, as most of Times Square is monitored by the police by video cameras, which is comforting to know.  It is in this area, at 1564 Broadway, where the famous flagship TKTS Discount Booths are located. This is where you can buy same day tickets to see a Broadway or Off Broadway musical, play or dance production which are up to half price off!  Don't be discouraged by the long lines--they move quickly, but it does pay to get there early for the best seat selection.

My husband and I decided we wanted to see a play on this visit to our old hometown, as we often took advantage of the half price tickets opportunity when we lived in New York.  There was a wonderful selection of both musicals and plays, but since we recently saw a musical production of the Lion King with our grandchildren, we decided to try a play this time around.

We chose a matinee production of the 5 Tony Award winning play 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," which is based on the 2003 mystery novel with the same title by the British writer, Mark Haddon.  As you can see in the photo collage above, the staging and lighting for this play was very unusual. Props and characters were creatively presented throughout the play, through doors and openings in the grid. It really made the audience feel as if they were experiencing the sights, sounds and feelings of the 15 year old main character, who was a mathematical genius on the autism spectrum, as he tried to solve a mystery. The story gets quite dramatic and was very enthralling. We really enjoyed seeing this production and had wonderful half price seats, as you can see in the photo above!  

Since we were also celebrating my birthday, my husband surprised me with reservations at a special hotel for that evening--the Waldorf Astoria Hotel!

Earlier that day, as we approached 5th Ave on our way to check into the Waldorf Astoria, we had to stop for awhile, as the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade was in progress. New York City hosts many parades down 5th Avenue and the Puerto Rican Day parade is among one of the longest, and attracts 2 million spectators! It has been held in Manhattan since 1958.

It was really an exciting parade with many floats, bands, music and marchers. There were fireman, police officers, teachers, etc of Puerto Rican heritage marching with their respective groups. We also saw the New York Knicks Basketball player Carmelo Anthony pass by in a red car.  After about 15 minutes the parade was stopped to allow pedestrians to cross 5th Avenue, and we were on our way to the hotel again, after we had dropped off our rental car.

The Waldorf Astoria Hotel, located at 310 Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan, is an iconic New York City landmark with over 100 years of illustrious history.

The hotel combines art deco elegance with luxury..

...and convenient location in the heart of Manhattan, as you can see by the two cross streets in the photo above. 

A view of the beautiful art deco Park Avenue entrance....

...and the magnificent "Wheel of Life" mosaic floor, designed by French artist Louis Rigal.

It is composed of 148,000 hand cut marble tiles!  You can read more about this artwork and see a short video about it on this link.

The nine foot high "World's Fair Clock" in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria was created in 1893 for the Chicago World's Fair and designed to commemorate Columbus' discovery of America.  It was acquired by the hotel in 1931. You can read about the bronze bas-reliefs that ring its pedestal on the plaque at its base, as seen in the photo collage above.

When we checked into the hotel we were greeted by the divine aroma of the Waldorf's Peacock Alley Sunday Brunch. If you want to see a video describing the brunch click here.  Did you know that Eggs Benedict, Red Velvet Cake and the Waldorf salad were all invented by the hotel? I snapped a few photos with my cell phone as I walked by.

Our room was quiet and comfortable and I was surprised by its two enormous walk in closets!  I was happy to have had the opportunity to stay overnight at the Waldorf Astoria especially since there are plans by the hotel's new owner to close down the hotel in the spring of 2017 for three years to renovate the hotel for over one billion dollars to convert as many as three quarters of its 1400 rooms into private condominium apartments, while upgrading the 300 to 500 hotel rooms to extreme luxury standards. You can read more about the temporary closing and renovation of the Waldorf Astoria on this Wall Street Journal link.

We had dinner that evening at one of our favorite Italian restaurants in Manhattan--I Trulli Enoteca e Ristorante located at 122 East 27th Street in Manhattan.  Their Puglian style home made pastas and entrees and extensive Italian wine list has never disappointed us.  It was truly a happy birthday celebration for me with a wonderful hotel stay, play and dinner! 

It was such a beautiful June evening that we decided to walk back to the Waldorf Astoria Hotel after dinner. As we walked on Park Avenue we saw the Empire State Building on East 34th Street.  An impressive sight in itself but do you notice the golden glow in the lower right corner?

A few more steps and we saw that the glow came from the bright setting sun going down in the west, and high above the moon shining in the sky.  It stopped us in our tracks and we took this cell phone photo. It was the end of the perfect New York City day!

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Statue of Liberty from a ride on the Staten Island Ferry

On our trip to New York City in June my husband and I were going to meet friends in Battery Park in Manhattan for dinner in one of our favorite restaurants.  Since we were in the area a few hours early, we decided to take a walk and when we saw the sign for the Staten Island Ferry we decided to hop on and take a little cruise of New York Harbor!  It is a nice way to cool off on a hot day, and the view of Lower Manhattan is one of the best, plus it passes by the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which are always inspirational sights to see!  The very best part of a ride on the Staten Island Ferry is that it is free! Yes, a round trip to and from Staten Island--one of the five boroughs of New York City--is free!

(all photos in this post will enlarge if clicked on)

We boarded the ferry and left the Whitehall Terminal, on its 5.2 mile run to the St. George Terminal in Staten Island.  Some interesting facts about the Staten Island Ferry: It has been operated by New York City since 1905. It carries over 22 million passengers annually, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It has an on time performance of 96 percent, making it one of the most reliable forms of mass transit. On a typical weekday, five boats make 109 trips, carrying approximately 70,000 passengers. During rush hours, the ferry runs on a four boat schedule, with 15 minutes between departures.

New York Harbor is a busy shipping, commercial and private pleasure boat location. 

This is the view of the Statue of Liberty that is visible at first.  She is a National Monument sitting on a pedestal on Liberty Island.  Her full name is Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, and she was a gift to the United States of America from the people of France in 1886.  You can read more about the people influential in history on this link.

Getting closer!

We can now also see this view of Jersey City, New Jersey, from the harbor.

As we approach the Statue of Liberty we get a good view (click on photo to enlarge it) of her golden lamp and of all the people standing on the pedestal and on line waiting to board one of the Statue Cruise boats that brings one to the island.

Emma Lazarus wrote the sonnet entitled "The New Colossus," in 1883 for an auction to raise funds for the pedestal it stands on.  Her sonnet was a tribute to the symbolism of Lady Liberty.  The poem can be read in full on a plaque inside the pedestal in the museum at the base. This is what it says:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame 

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

 - Emma Lazarus

For the 12 million immigrants who entered through New York and the Ellis Island federal immigrant processing station, between 1892 until it closed in 1954, they certainly saw the Statue of Liberty as a welcoming sight.  The chance for a new life, new opportunities, new dreams. One of the immigrants that gazed upon her was my own grandmother and I found her name and ship she immigrated on as a young woman in the early 1900's on the Ellis Island Archive that contains passenger lists of more than 51 million immigrants, passengers, and crew members who came through Ellis Island and the Port of New York from 1892 to 1957, at this link.  Perhaps you can also find your own immigrant ancestor on this link?

When the Staten Island Ferry arrives at the St. George Terminal in Staten Island all must disembark. You can then just go through the turnstiles again in the terminal to get on the next ferry returning to Lower Manhattan. You can see Jersey City, the Statue of Liberty and then Lower Manhattan in the distance in the photo above.

A closer view of all three.

As we began our voyage back to Manhattan, I could see another ferry on its way to Staten Island.

We cruised by the beautiful Statue of Liberty again....

...and cruised closer to Manhattan.

One last look...

...and a good view of Ellis Island. It is now open as a Museum of Immigration and very worth seeing. 

I loved this view of another Staten island Ferry passing the Statue of Liberty. I can't imagine that the pilots of the ferry, or the daily passengers, ever get tired of that view.

We are now headed back to Lower Manhattan as dusk approaches, and we were anticipating our dinner that evening with friends. 

New York Harbor and the East River and Hudson River are always busy with sightseeing boats, water taxis and ferries. It's a great way to sightsee and get a different perspective of New York City from the water. If you are a really adventurous tourist, you can also take a helicopter sightseeing ride

We were pleased we had time to take our little free cruise and enjoy once again some of the iconic sights of New York City, especially the Statue of Liberty.

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