Sunday, May 14, 2017

NYC Vacation

Walking the High Line through Chelsea
We love New York City, but hadn't visited since 2009 and so jumped at the chance to go on a Broadway tour with the South Coast Rep, a theater group in Orange County. The tour provided tickets to four Tony-nominated plays—War Paint, about the rivalry between cosmetics mavens Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, Oslo, about the short-lived Palestinian peace accords negotiated in the early 1990s in Norway, Noel Coward's Present Laughter, and Hello, Dolly! starring Bette Midler—plus we saw A Doll's House, Pt. 2 on our own. We also visited the Rockefeller family estate Kykuit, the 9/11 memorial and museum, mid-town Manhattan, and the NY Transit Museum—all of which you can read about in separate posts below.

We rode the subway, saw friends, ate lots of good food, and walked our feet off. It was a wonderful, and much needed, vacation! 

Relatively cheap breakfast at the deli across the street from our hotel

New York cheesecake at 11PM—we're on vacation!!

Dirty water dog on 43rd & 8Th Ave. I prefered
eating at Chirping Chicken, a great NYC chain.

Much finer dining at Mario Batali's Eataly at Four World Trade Center 

Trying to decide what to eat at Eataly


And, of course, dressing up for the theater 

World Trade Center

Photo of Lower Manhattan, taken moments before the first plane
crashed into WTC on 9/11
The most moving—and difficult—part of our stay in NYC was visiting the World Trade Center and 9/11 Museum. Tim and I had seen the Twin Towers on previous trips to New York and had witnessed, firsthand, the cleanup efforts soon after the destruction of 9/11. So we were familiar with the area. I was not prepared, however, for the emotional impact of a revitalized "ground zero."

Though never a big fan of the architectural style of the Twin Towers, they, of course, have since transcended any criticism of how they once looked. The new One World Trade Center is much taller and shinier than the original, but it will never loom as large, in my mind and heart, as the towers. Instead, my eyes looked downward to the two reflecting pools marking the footprints of the demolished Center buildings. The pools were somber but beautiful and rimmed with the names of the people who died on 9/11. A simple but powerful tribute.

One World Trade Center

Detail at top

Reflecting Absence reflecting pool, memorializing the former
footprint of one of the Twin Towers

Flowers are placed on the victims' names on their birthdate

Looking at the south pool from above
There are two museums commemorating the events of 9/11: one created by the victims' families and one located in the underground bowels of the former towers. We visited the latter, which was enough for me. I was not the only person openly crying as we passed the few surviving remnants of the buildings. In an interior room—signs warning parents of graphic images—were artifacts and television footage of the destruction. I lasted five minutes before telling Tim I'd meet him outside after he was done. Far too emotionally painful to experience all over again.

The first thing you see when you descend the stairs into the
museum are two of the massive tridents that decorated the foot 
of the Twin Towers

Several stories tall

Trident base looking very much like a cross

Photo of the remaining tridents (click on image
to enlarge)

Remaining underground wall

Remaining column with firefighter messages

"Survivors' Staircase," which over 200 people used to
escape the collapsing building

Part of the TV/radio antenna on the North Tower—six engineers
died trying to keep the antenna operating as long as possible

Elevator part

Ladder 3 firetruck, destroyed by falling debris

 "No Day Shall Erase You From the Memory of Time"—the
blue tiles try to capture the color of the 9/11 morning sky
After emerging from the museum, we made our way over to the Oculus, an incredibly spectacular structure that houses an indoor mall. To me it looks like an eagle crossed with Statue of Liberty's crown. It also reminded me of the few tridents that remained standing after the towers fell. In the end, I decided the Oculus was a cathedral to commerce—a grand F.U. to all terrorists who think they can destroy the American way of life. What do you see when you look at it?

The Oculus: an eagle in flight?

The Oculus across the street from the 9/11 museum (lower 
righthand corner)

Inside the Oculus

Shoppers and tourists

Looking upward at the spine of the Oculus

Backside of the Oculus, with One World Trade Center behind

Kykuit: the Rockefeller Estate

Kykuit mansion
John D. Rockefeller, who founded the Standard Oil Company in 1870, is widely considered the richest American of all time. And yet his 40-room residence, located in Sleepy Hollow, 20 miles north of New York City, is relatively understated compared to other historic mansions, like Hearst’s Castle.

Kykuit, from the Dutch word for “lookout,” was home to four generations of Rockefellers, until the death of former U.S. vice president Nelson Rockefeller in 1979. Today the estate is a National Trust for Historical Preservation site maintained by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and operated by Historic Hudson Valley.

The six-story home sits atop 250 spectacular acres overlooking the Hudson River. The grounds, landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Manhattan’s Central Park, are fabulously lush and punctuated by sculptures, old and new. We were not allowed to snap pictures inside the house, but the outside provided plenty to photograph.

Entryway with wisteria climbing up the front wall

View from the front of the house

Side colonades

Bathhouse still stands, though the pools are now gone


Hudson River

The backyard!

More Hudson River 

Spring blooms

Tour tickets are available at the Philipsburg Manor visitor center,
a short bus ride from Kykuit 

Next time, we'll spend more time here

Tulips in bloom 

Mid-Town Manhattan

One and only Chrysler Building
The disadvantage of touring with any group, of course, is finding time to see the sights others may not want to see. As much as we enjoyed our group, we missed not spending time in our favorite part of the city: mid-town Manhattan. And so when we had a chance to break-away, we did!

On our last day altogether, we began the morning by taking an insider's tour of Lincoln Center, home to the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, and the New York City Ballet—all world-famous performing arts organizations. But I was most impressed to learn that the Center is located on the site of the former housing projects featured in the opening scenes of West Side Story, one of my all-time favorite movie musicals. Who knew? The high point, though, was seeing Plácido Domingo strolling through the lobby of the Met. We burst into spontaneous applause as several women in our group practically swooned.

Waiting for our tour to begin

 Lincoln Center

From here, the tour split-up into three smaller groups. We followed the guide going to mid-town. First stop: Grand Central Terminal to eat lunch and admire the architecture. The busiest train station in the U.S., Grand Central was a horror until its renovation in the 1990s. Today it remains absolutely spectacular and is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world. By the way, there's an excellent food court below the main floor, but good luck finding a seat during lunch hour!

Mercury atop Grand Central Terminal

Main concourse, where constellations look down from
the beautiful green ceiling


Main concourse clock

We then headed over to Fifth Avenue, where many of NYC's most famous buildings are located, including Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick's cathedral, site of Robert Kennedy's funeral in 1968. We were home . . .

30 Rock at Rockefeller Center 

Detail of Atlas, outside Rock Center

Across the street from Rockefeller Center: St. Patrick's cathedral

Inside St. Patrick's—magnificent