Friday, January 26, 2018

Winter Escape to the Big Apple

Hub and I walked out of the Port Authority bus terminal onto the streets of Manhattan, the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps, 22.8 square miles crammed with museums, restaurants, theaters, tacky souvenir and gift shops, cafes, take-out food shops, a Starbucks on every other corner, inexpensive as well as exclusive shopping, skyscrapers, pubs, stop-and-barely-moving traffic, belching cars and trucks, bistros, and people. Lots and lots of people. Tourists, boomers and seniors, working people, people in Sesame Street, Star War and super hero costumes.

We hailed a cab. The mile-and-a-half ride ended over a half hour later at our hotel. Walking would have brought us to our destination sooner, but dragging a suitcase that distance through crowded streets and cold weather offered no appeal.

And while on the subject of crowds, they were everywhere. A few minutes after 5:00 p.m. the worst invasion occurred. Hordes of humans descended on the sidewalk, emerging from every building, everyone moving quickly as they headed home from work, making it difficult to maneuver between, around, and through the multitudes.

The impetus for our trip was a Travelzoo deal, a $99 a night (plus tax) offer too good to pass up. Our hotel room turned out to be impressively expansive for a Manhattan space. Except for the bathroom. A disclaimer should be posted: Individuals over a certain size cannot be accommodated.



We tried taking Lyft to the Lower East Side, but the mix of packed sidewalks, wide streets and traffic prevented car and customers from finding each other. We learned to order Lyft pickup on a side street.  

Our first stop - Russ & Daughters deli/restaurant. Over one hundred years ago newly arrived immigrant Joel Russ earned a few dollars hauling sacks of mushrooms on his back. He graduated to a pushcart, then opened a hole-in-the-wall retail store in 1914 selling appetizer-type foods (e.g.-smoked fish, herring, cheeses, salads). With no sons to take over the business, his three daughters stepped up. The store survives today. In 2014 the company (still family owned) opened the restaurant, stylish in a New York trendy way. Big bill, small plates.
My Russ & Daughters lunch. The green stuff between
the sprouts and the whitefish is wasabi-infused fish roe.
I did not like the fish roe.
Next stop the Tenement Museum. The 5-story building, built 1863, has been partially reconstructed, but part of the dwelling remains as it was when the apartments were abandoned in 1935. A tour (no wandering around on your own) offers a credible peek into the lives of generations of immigrants.

Before leaving the Lower East Side neighborhood we walked over to 192 Stanton Street, my mother-in-law’s home for the first ten years of her life. The picture of her building illustrates the redevelopment of old tenement buildings, today inhabited by the well-heeled.
192 Stanton Street, redeveloped and
gentrified.
We ventured further uptown and strolled through Eataly, a food hall chock full of Italian groceries, prepared foods and eateries. Pasta specials at $1 a box compete with specialty pastas selling for as much as $28 a box (not a mistype). We ate dinner at one restaurant. We shared a salad, hub ordered a glass of wine while I sipped tap water, and we each ordered a personal size pizza. The bill - $86. Yummy, but not that scrumptious…

The next morning we hiked two miles in cold, windy conditions, the objective the Times Square TKTS booth. We purchased tickets for a matinee performance of The Band’s Visit, about an Egyptian band arriving in a remote Israeli desert village by mistake.

The evening remained free. Friends gave high marks to the Broadway show Come from Away. We walked a couple of blocks to the theater box office to try our luck.

Hub and I entertain different ideas of what constitutes a reasonable price. He was willing to spend $79 a ticket. Plus tax. I was willing to pay more.

I started conversing with the man in front of me in the box office line. He clued me in to rush tickets, $38 tickets offered before show time. Unfortunately, no rush tickets were available for the evening performance. Or $79 tickets. Or $89, $99, or $100 tickets. At that moment hub prepared to depart ticket-less. I, however, did not want to leave. I handed over my credit card, received two tickets and walked out. Hub trailed behind, moping. How could I spend so much money? I calmly stated I wanted to see the show and since we were here, in the Big Apple, the heart and soul of theater, we might as well go. But it didn’t take hub long to cool down – it was quite cold outside.

Come from Away, a powerful viewing experience, deserves its own blog post. More...next post.