New York City: Day Two – From the Bird’s Nest
I’m really not one to sleep late. Not that I wouldn’t like to, sometimes.
Besides, who wants to sleep when you’re in New York?
David and I got up early Friday morning. I had heard a lot about the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn and how it was one of the “up and coming” areas of that borough. We decided coffee and a pastry to start our morning there would be apropos.
I’m glad we went.
Exiting the subway, we immediately felt a much different vibe than we did in Manhattan. As we walked a few blocks we saw a slower pace, lots of young people and LOTS of bicycles.
We found a place called Toby’s Estate. We ordered coffee and banana nut bread and there was room for us to sit. We enjoyed the atmosphere and the coffee was really good. I love Starbucks as much as the next person, but if I’m traveling and I can find a local coffee shop I always try it and I’m rarely disappointed. We walked around a bit and checked out Bedford Ave, the busiest street in the area. It wasn’t all that busy. I liked Brooklyn a lot and would have loved to have spent more time there.
Next was a trip to Grand Central Station. You’ve heard the term “man, it was like Grand Central Station here, it was so busy.”
Well, one visit and you’ll know why people say that.
It’s a huge facility, with both above and below ground trains running. It’s a high energy atmosphere. There’s a lower level with plenty of food choices so if you want to go there for lunch or dinner, there’s no problem. Unless you’re there at rush hour.
Now, when my twelve year old daughters found out I was going to NYC, they (after getting mad at me because I wasn’t bringing them) said I needed to go to the “One Direction” Store and buy them something. Now, for those who don’t know, One Direction is a very popular boy band. And, the twins are REALLY into them. They went online and got the address for me.
When we walked out of Grand Central Station I checked to see how far it would be to the store. I estimated a little over a mile, which isn’t a big deal in New York. So we started on foot. Not far from Grand Central we saw a Yankees shop and David, who is a Yankees fan, wanted to go in. It just so happened they had a couple of tee shirts with “Guidry 49″ on the back. I bought one.
I make no secret about the fact I’m a Dodgers fan, and not a Yankees fan. But I always rooted for the Yankees when Ron was pitching, except for the couple of times he pitched against the Dodgers in the World Series, when he proceeded to break my heart. In his career he was 3-1 against the Dodgers in the World Series with an ERA under 2.00. His only loss came in 1981, 2-1. There’s a reason why I’m telling you this story. More on that in a bit.
During our walk we went right by the Empire State Building. I had visited there when I was a teenager and it really wasn’t on our itinerary. A bit of advice, if you’re going to tour that, buy tickets in advance. There was a huge crowd outside waiting to buy tickets and I bet they had to wait an hour or more. No such problem if you plan ahead. We also got to see Madison Square Garden as well. The only place open to the public at the time was the merchandise store, but neither one of us needed Rangers or Knicks gear.
Finally we reached the intersection where the store would be. Except it wasn’t there. We found the address. Nothing. Someone finally asked us what we were looking for and we told him. He said that store was a seasonal one and closed after the Christmas Holidays.
Great. Oh well, at least we got some good exercise.
Back on the subway to head to Wall Street. There wasn’t going to be a ton of things to see there, but during the day, there’s incredible energy in that area. We walked around (no you just can’t walk into the New York Stock Exchange) and found the famous bull, where, of course, we acted like tourists and had our picture taken. It was pretty funny that there were just as many people on the other end, kneeling down for a picture. After all, it was a bull, not a steer.
We walked some more and decided to eat at an Irish pub. Yes, we had another Yuengling. Actually, we had two. Then we walked back to the hotel to take a break and change clothes for our evening plans.
Back in the room, David turned on the television and found the YES Network. And, guess what they were airing?
Yep. Game three of the 1978 World Series…as Ron Guidry pitched a complete game against the Dodgers which was the catalyst of the Yankees comeback from two games to none en route to the World Series win.
Before we left on the trip I looked to see what was playing on Broadway and found three shows that I would like to see. I asked David if there was anything he wanted to see and he asked if the Jersey Boys were still on Broadway. I said yes. It was one of the three on my list. I bought the tickets on line the next day.
I had also read a lot about a place called Ellen’s Stardust Diner, which was just around the corner from the theater. (website: www.ellensstardustdiner.com). Ellen’s is the place where many aspiring Broadway stars work while waiting for their big break. The entire waitstaff is made up of really, really, really good singers. Really good. All of the staff take turns singing, some of them while waiting on your table. The highlight for me was a young woman with an operatic voice who sang “I Could Have Danced All Night.” She got a huge ovation from the patrons.
It’s a pretty good sized place with a retro ’50s feel. The food is traditional diner fare, complete with ice cream sodas and milk shakes. The food is quite good, but the draw is the staff. We got there early before the pre-show rush and got a table right away. By the time we left an hour later, there were at least 30-40 people waiting for a table. If you’re going to do a Broadway show, do your best to make this a pre or post show stop.
We still had more than an hour before the doors to the August Wilson Theater opened for the 8pm show. Across the street from the theater was the Cuba Restaurant. Now, after eating at Ellen’s, dinner wasn’t even on our mind. But the bar was. And they made perhaps the best mojito I’ve ever tasted. We had a good conversation with the bartender, who was originally from Miami. He said the Cuban food there was easily the best in New York.
Finally we saw the doors were open at the theater and we walked across the street to find our seats. Even though we were in the mezzanine, the theater was pretty small and I thought our seats were great. The show was phenomenal. I grew up on listening to the Four Seasons and that made it that much more special of an experience. I haven’t seen the movie, but I will. It’s going to have to be awfully good to beat Broadway.
After the show we headed to Times Square, because, well, you just gotta. I thought it was Bourbon Street on steroids. Sidewalk performers, artists and lots and lots of lights. I mean, LOTS of lights. We mostly people watched, although David came awfully close to buying a four pound Hershey Bar. I got a tee shirt at the Hard Rock Cafe. But we saw lots of sights, some of them a bit strange…but sights nonetheless.
New York may be the city that never sleeps, but we needed to get some. We took a subway back to the hotel We had to wait about fifteen minutes for a train and got into a good conversation with a couple from Minnesota. The man didn’t have a smart phone and was trying to figure out what train to take to get back to their hotel. As it turned out, they were staying just a couple of blocks away from where we were so we rode the train together. It was after one by the time we reached the hotel. We had walked a bunch during the day and we were ready to get some sleep. Saturday promised to be another full day.
(Tomorrow: The House That Jeter Built)