UA Flight 74
Scheduled departure: 07:00
Super Shuttle picked us up as advertised promptly at 04:50. After a quick stop to pick up one more passenger, it was off to the airport. Being it was early, there was zero traffic and we arrived at the United terminal at 05:40. This was our first trip F-class, and we took advantage of the F-class check in line (or lack of it). After a few minutes, with boarding passes in hand, it was off to Starbucks and then to gate 75. Upon arriving at the gate, I noticed there was a distinct lack of aircraft. Having had some problems with UA recently, I could only hope things were going to go better this time around. About 06:40, an A320 was towed to the gate and shortly after boarding began. This flight was scheduled to be an A319, not sure what happened, but as I mentioned it was an A320. We found our seats, 2 A&B and settled in. The plane left the gate right at 07:00 and quickly taxied out to 1R. There was no one ahead of us, so it was off into the wild blue yonder. This was my first flight on an A320, and although I found it comfortable, I noticed it was much louder than a 737 or 757. Even my wife, who’s not an aircraft buff wondered aloud “is it going to be this noisy the whole flight?” ATC on channel 9 was not available. The flight was smooth and breakfast was offered. Unfortunately, I can’t find the menu, but I had eggs and spinach wrapped, my wife had french toast. Both were great. About 2 hours prior to arrival, we were offered a snack of minestrone soup served in hollowed out soughdough bread and 2 Godiva truffles prior to landing.
The movie was Field of Dreams. Not a bad movie, but it’s got to be like 15 years old. Oh well, I’m not there for the movie, I’m there to get to the EWR.
We touched down about 15:40 and headed for the gate. After a quick deplaning and equally quick retrieval of bags from baggage claim, it was over to the transportation desk to get a shuttle into Manhattan. I asked for Super Shuttle but was told the wait was 40 minutes. Gray Line has a similar door to door shuttle and they were leaving in 20 minutes. Sold. The actual wait time was more like 5 minutes. We boarded the van along with 2 other people and headed to the other terminal to pick up a few more. Airport traffic was horrible. It took a good 30 minutes just to get to the other terminal. We picked up 4 more people and, after being squished together like sardines, it was off to NYC. So now it’s Friday at 16:30. Needless to say, traffic was a nightmare. It took us a good hour to get to the Lincoln tunnel and another 30 minutes of midtown traffic to make it to the hotel. I really didn’t care, as it was vacation and I was trying to take in the sights and sounds of the Big Apple.
We arrived at the Ameritania, and approached the check in counter. Check in couldn’t have been easier and we were on the way to Room 507. So, the rooms are small and the bathrooms smaller. Having said that, the rooms were very adequate and the location, 54th and Broadway, couldn’t have been better. I’d stay at the hotel again, and would certainly recommend it with the understanding the rooms aren’t that big. There’s a great bar downstairs that offers some of the most “loaded” drinks I’ve ever had. Wow, do they know how to make a drink. I’m not a big drinker, but it was vacation. So, after checking in, I decided on their famous Martini. Actually, it’s a chocolate martini, comprised of vodka and godiva liquor. Taste’s like chocolate syrup. Oh, by the way, if you plan to enjoy more than one, good luck walking!
If you’re in Midtown, stop by the hotel bar, you won’t regret it. Pam, the head bartender is particularly funny. Great conversation with a native of Queens! If you don’t drink, go in for a coke or whatever.
The hotel must advertise in Europe, as a good 8 out of 10 patrons were English, Spanish or Italian. The hotel reminded me very much of my hotel in Venice. By design? I’m not sure.
Saturday it was up early and in a cab to Museum Mile and a look at the Guggenheim and the Met. Unfortunately, the Guggenheim was installing an Armani exhibit, so only 3 floors were open. Still, there were quite a number of nice works of art to be found. Then, it was on to the Met. I’m sure you could spend months in this place. We spent a number of hours, and then gave up. What a museum. Now, over to the Frick museum.
After the Frick, we walked backed to midtown took at look at Trump Plaza, St. Patrick’s and bought tickets for the NBC studio tour. I highly recommend you take this tour. We were able to see the Dateline studio, the Conan O’Brien set and then the SNL set. SNL was rehearsing for that night’s show, which was the first one of the season. As we approached the stage and looked in, we good see Rob Lowe rehearsing. He stopped and waved at our group, which several ladies particularly appreciated.
Where did the time go? It was back to the hotel and then in a cab to Indochine in the East Village. Great place to eat, highly recommend it! After diner, it was a few doors down to the off Broadway play Blue Man Group. What is it about? Well, I just can’t explain it. I can tell you if you are looking for a good laugh and something different, this is the ticket.
Sunday, a friend we’ve known for years met us at the hotel and we were off to the half price ticket booth in the middle of Times Square. After a 20-minute wait in line, we were able to secure 3 tickets to Les Miz at half price. And good seats! We had about an hour before the show, so we headed for the Stage Deli. The sandwiches are outrageous and the pickles oh-so tasty! I enjoyed the potato pancakes as well as a cheese blintz. After a good meal, it was time for the show. And, what a show it was. Really fantastic. We had reservations for an Italian restaurant on Mulberry in Little Italy, so it was in a cab and away we went. I can’t remember what restaurant we ate at, but it was good. Not special, but good. The wife went across the street and bought a few “Prada” purses. What a deal, Prada for only $10.00! Hah, they look identical to the real thing, so why not?
Monday, the weather turned quite chilly. The highs were in the low 40’s and it was quite windy. We walked down the street and hopped a big Apple tour bus for the uptown tour. Tickets for the tour are $40.00 each, and the ticket is good for 2 days. The plan was to go uptown today and downtown and over to Brooklyn tomorrow. The uptown tour takes about 90 minutes. Highlights include Upper West Side, Harlem, Upper East Side and downtown. The tour guide pointed out several apartment buildings in both the upper west and east sides that celebrities either currently live in or have lived in. Harlem was very interesting, baring Spanish Harlem; the area is quite safe. The Apollo theater sure doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the history there is quite amazing. After the tour, it was time to head to the Ed Sullivan Theater for the Letterman show. I was most excited about this event, as I’m a big fan of Dave. To get the tickets, I submitted a postcard many months ago. They responded with a postcard requiring that I call the ticket office and request a date. They give you a confirmation number and require you to go to the theater at 3:15 the day of the show to redeem the postcard for tickets. We showed up about 3:00 PM, and there was already a line. About 3:15, the line began to move and we were admitted to the theater. Once inside, you show your ID and get your tickets as well as a speech from the pages. Basically, they tell you to be energetic and laugh. Then they mark your ticket with a number, tell you which color rope to stand behind and you are sent away until 4:15. About 4:00, everyone begins to line up outside the theater. Being that the tickets are numbered, you get in line in numerical order. 4:20, the pages start letting people in be color of rope they are standing behind and numerical order within that line. So, now you figure you’re on your way into the theater. Well, let me tell you, you have to stand in the hallway to the theater for a good 45 minutes before you are actually seated. Oh, and if you are planning to go, the restrooms are closed. During this time, show staff give you another “pep talk”. About 5:10, you are shown to your seats. Our seats were on the main floor, 5 rows back, right in front of Dave’s desk. A warm up comedian comes out and tells a joke or two and then continues the pep talk. A video of past moments from the show is shown and then each member of the band introduced. On this day, Paul was out ill so Warren Zevon substituted for him. The band plays 2 songs; a Greenday song and then “Brown Sugar” from the Stones. This is to pump the audience up and get everyone clapping. During the second song, Biff Henderson is introduced. About 5:27, Dave comes running out from backstage sans suit jacket. He talks with the audience very briefly, stating “tonight’s show really isn’t that good, but what do you care, it’s Columbus Day and you’re all drunk anyway”. 5:29:50, Dave days “Thanks for coming, I’ll be right back”. As he’s turning around to walk backstage, the show opens. Dave comes back out, this time with jacket on, and does his opening monologue. Tonight’s guests were Ben Stiller and Merle Haggard. The show tapes in real time, and the band plays straight through the commercials and clips from past shows are shown to the audience. As soon as he goes to commercial, Dave yanks the jacket off and his assistant and producer huddle around his desk in front of him. As soon as he bids the TV audience good night, he is handed a microphone and thanks everyone for coming. He turns to walk away, and you are immediately escorted out of the theater. All this while the folks at home are still getting the outro theme of the show. 6:30, it was off to dinner and then a drink at the hotel.
On Tuesday, we decided to take the downtown portions of the tour and transferred and Battery Park for the Brooklyn portion. The Brooklyn tour wasn’t very popular; there were only 4 of us on the entire bus. Brooklyn was interesting, although I wouldn’t say it’s a must do. The tours took most of the day, and so it was back to the hotel to change and then in a cab to Tavern on the Green. WARNING: DO NOT GO TO TAVERN ON THE GREEN IF YOU EXPECT A GOOD MEAL! Literally the worst meals I’ve had. And expensive to. We both left mad and decided to just forget the whole thing and move on. Back in a cab and over to the Shubert Theater for Chicago. Jasmine Guy is the current lead. The show is enjoyable, although my wife liked it more than I did.
Wednesday, it was off to Ellis Island. Down to Battery Park we went via the subway and then over to the ferry landing. The ferry from New York first stops at the Statue of Liberty then Ellis Island. The tour was really great. They have a computer set up in which you can enter your last name and it will return anyone that’s emigrated through with that last name. I have kind of a unique last name; however, the computer did return one person that came over from Russia. I’ve been told that my ancestors on my Dad’s side came from Russia, but the name didn’t look familiar. After the tour, we hopped a cab to the East Side and took in the Lower East Side tenement museum. Again, it’s a tour I highly recommend. After the tour, we walked over to Bowery St. and had some great Chinese food. Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten the name, but I believe it was at 44 Bowery St. After dinner, we hopped the subway over to 42nd St., and took in a movie, “Best in Show”.
Thursday, we got up late and went for breakfast. As I turned the corner of the hotel, there was a page standing with a clipboard outside the Ed Sullivan Theater. I approached inquiring about tickets. If I could answer a trivia question about the show, I’d be granted 2 tickets for the 4:30 taping. (Dave tapes 2 shows Thursday, one for that night and one for Friday). The question was easy “who is Biff Henderson”? I answered correctly, and was given a blue piece of paper to redeem for tickets at 3:15 that afternoon. We jumped aboard the “B” line on the subway headed for the upper West Side and the Hayden Planetarium. Big place lots to see. Really, you just have to give up at some point. After a walk through a bit of Central Park, it was time to go see Dave again. The same process and Monday occurred with the tickets, the various pep talks and flow of the show. The guests on this show were Martha Stewart and Spike Lee.
Friday we decided to have a walk through Central Park. So, we hopped the “1” subway line up to the upper West Side. I decided on the “1” and not the “B” because I wanted to stop off and enjoy a few Krispy Kreeme donuts. See, I’d never had one. So, after downing 6 of those suckers, it was time to take my sugar buzz for a walk. The weather was very nice, high 70’s with a little breeze. We must have spent 4 hours walking that park from one end to the next. About 2 PM, we went back to the subway and headed to Greenwich Village. Again, we walked the Village, east village and a bit of Soho. Over in the east village, we went by McSorley’s pub, which is the second oldest pub on the Island. They have 2 choices of beer, light or dark, and you get 2 mugs at a time. After a few beers and some cheese and crackers, we decided to head back “home”. The subway brought us quickly to the Times Square area, and I headed for Original Ray’s Pizza to have a few slices. We walked around Times Square a bit, and turned in for the night.
Saturday was another lovely day, and we decided to go back to Museum mile and take in a few more museums. We tried the Guggenheim again, but the installation work was still going on and most of it remained closed. We headed for Photography museum, the Jewish museum and then headed to the subway to head to Grand Central Station. Grand Central station truly is beautiful; they put in tons of work on it. After grand Central, we headed for the UN. The UN tour is great, I highly suggest you take it. You get to see all the rooms you see on TV as well as learn the inner workings of the UN process. Saturday night, we went to dinner and then headed for the 8:00 PM show of Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theater. It was a great show. After the show, we went over to the Stage Deli for a late night meal. I had the potato knish with gravy and my wife the Pastrami in Rye. Yummy!
Sunday, it was time to fly back. Our Super Shuttle picked us up at 11:10 and then went up to 110th street to pick up 2 more passengers. The trip to Newark took about 45 minutes, so we were at the airport quite early.
UA Flight 75
Scheduled departure: 14:35
There was no one in line at the ticket counter, so check in went smoothly. We boarded about 14:10 and found our seats, 1C & D. Pre departure beverage of OJ, water or champagne was offered. The 757 pushed back from the gate about ten minutes late, but quickly taxied to the runway. As with the flight to EWR, channel 9 was not available. Climb out was a bit bumpy, as was most of the flight. Dinner was offered:
Chilled Parma ham with artichokes and ravigote sauce
Spinach salad with mozzerella and croutons. Roasted garlic vinaigrette or ranch dessing.
Pork charcuterie with white wine, tomato and cornichon sauce. Mashed turnips and potatoes, sauteed bok choy with peppers and pearl onions with raisins.
Grilled breast of chicken with sunflower coriander sauce. Potato dumplings with sun dried tomatoes and an asparagus, carrot and jicama medly.
Crab cakes with a fire-roasted red pepper sauce. Asparagus and Spanish rice.
Cheese tortellini a la Nicole. Pesto sauce with white sine and spinach, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and a rosemary breadstick.
Ben and Jerry’s vanilla and strawberry ice cream, hot fudge sauce, wafer and whipped cream.
Prior to arrival:
Mrs. Fields warm cookie and a glass of milk.
I had the pork, my wife the crab cakes. Both were great.
There were 2 movies, “A league of their own” and “Field of Dreams”, followed by an episode of “Frashier”. Due to strong headwinds, we were looking at a slightly delayed arrival. We touched down at SFO about 15 minutes late and taxied to the gate.
It was a great trip to a great city. Looking forward to going back.