Living in the lights of Broadway.
Trip Start Dec 26, 2012
49Trip End Jan 15, 2013
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Where I stayed
Edison Hotel Times Square New York City
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Read my review - 4/5 stars
What I did
Times Square New York City
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Read my review - 5/5 stars
I left Boston at 9:45 am, and as far as the heat and accommodation was concerned, not an hour too soon. (Wouldn't you know it, the heat wave was due to calm down over the next few days!) The train journey from Boston took very close to four hours
We arrived at Penn Station, 34th street before 2pm, and I navigated my way though a seeming maze of corridors and thousands of pushing, on a mission people, to the city I've been so looking forward to coming back to : New York.
Taxiing it to 47th street, I had a driver who didn't hesitate to dash for gaps in traffic, and there were precious few of those! Once again I was enveloped into the sights, sounds and smells of New York.
I hadn't been here in summer before, so I knew it would be busier than ever. I got dropped off on the Times Square end of 48th street, as of course traffic is impossible in this area, and it was much quicker to just walk the short distance to 47th. When I rounded the corner, I couldn't believe how close the hotel was to Times Square, I mean, you may as well say it is IN Times Square! I'd known when it was booked that it was close, but less than 100 metres, wow! My next thought was maybe that's a little too close, but only my first nights sleep would tell. I was more than pleasantly surprised when I walked into the foyer, here was an Art Deco classic! Staff were friendly and helpful, and in no time I'd had my passport locked safely away and was headed up to the 16th floor. In a cool elevator.... My room was in the eastern corner, so I had windows looking in two directions, one right out to the east river, and another downtown toward Central Park
Venturing outside, I headed straight to Times Square. If I'd been worried that I wouldn't find it as exciting as I did the first time, I needn't have worried. It was more like a feeling of coming back to a place you had amazing memories of, and finding it the same in all the ways you hoped it would be, and seeing lots of new and exciting things to discover...such as the Broadway shows! Spinning slowly around, my mind began calculating which ones I'd love to see, and how many I could manage to fit in the four short nights that I had. I was hoping to see at least two, three would be wonderful, I had no idea then that I would get to experience FIVE
After this, I went and checked at the booth for full price shows. I found out that "Let It Be" (a celebration of 40 of their most well known songs) was showing that evening, in only 40 minutes! Now, I have virtually every song the Beatles ever recorded and have listened to them often, but nothing else that was showing and available appealed to me, so I decided to risk it...boy was I glad I did! I didn't really have time to go back to the hotel and change, but the theatre was only a couple of streets away
Day two saw me hunting out more theatre ticket opportunities before heading down to Central Park area. I went straight to the box offices this time, and got tickets to Spider-Man on Wednesday, at 1:30 PM, and decided to try out a musical comedy called " First Date" with Zachary Levi and Krysta Rodriguez. I'd seen the big bill board in Times Square advertising it, and didn't know anything about it, but took a bit of a risk and took the good seats I was offered, I guess "Let It Be" had spoiled me for good seats and now I didn't want to be stuck up in the balcony miles away from the stage! All I knew about the actors was that Zachary is the guy who did the voice for Flynn Rider in the Disney movie "Tangled", and since I loved that, and his singing in it, then this show would be a chance to hear him sing, what's not to like about that? Krysta I recognized from somewhere but couldn't actually place it
I had spent quite a bit of time the night before trying to catch up on my blog, and wasn't in a hurry to get up the next morning after another late night. I hadn't had a decent lie in for weeks, and it was too hot and horrible to bother in Boston!
So, now that I had another two shows to look forward to, I continued walking down to Columbus Circle. First stop was the Northwest corner of Central Park, to visit the Apple Store. My iPad has had a few adventures over the last few months, and the cover was looking a little the worse for wear. I totally confess that I could have bought one in any number of places, but wanted to be able to say where I bought it if ever asked, how consumeristic and name drop tragic does that sound! So feel free to punish my shallowness by not asking me if you happen to see it, ha ha
I then went only a few metres away to another one of my favourite places from last time I was here, F.A.O Schwarz. It's this incredible toy store and I'll let the pictures most of the talking. Lets just say that I didn't leave it empty handed, nor did I buy half of what I wished to! It's mainly a case of not being able to fit everything in my case. As it was I posted off most of what I bought, as well as a few other souvenirs I picked up along the way, later that day.
After this I took a walk through part of Central Park, thoroughly explored a number of times I was last there, to see the differences summer bring. You really need to allow a whole day for the place, if you want to begin to fully appreciate it. I walked all the way back to Times Square again, checking shows and seeing if there was one I could squeeze in, a choice between Mamma Mia and Rock Of Ages was before me. Since I'd already seen the first in London several years ago, I opted for the second. I then treated myself to a leisurely dinner at Olive Garden. I had to sit at the bar, but that was fine, I had a great view out of the windows in both directions, and got to chatting for ages with a girl who'd just come down from Boston for the day for a job interview. Everyone I've met in Canada, and especially in America, is fascinated by either my accent, or the fact that I'm on an exchange for a whole year, or both
Rock of Ages was great fun, and you could tell the actors were having at least as much fun as the audience. The plot was all a bit contrived, but funny dialogue made up for any gaps in that, and the music was classic 80's rock. It took me right back to high school, which was a good thing, apart from serving to remind me of my age! Once again they were unfailing strict about use of photography, with the number of smart phones around it keeps the ushers on their toes.
I slowly walked back to the hotel, and determined that I'd go downtown the next day to see the 911 memorial site, and the new skyscraper that now stands where there was only a massive construction site going on in 2008. The Square was swarming with tourists once again, but not quite as crazy as it was on the Sunday night, when locals were also Broadway bound and making the most of their weekend. There seemed to be triple or more the number of people dressed in costumes, to five years ago. I'd seen one person dressed in an Elmo costume then, now it seemed there was one every direction you turned
At one intersection there were almost more "characters" than "normal"people, and it was a bit comical to see one Minny Mouse pull out a cell phone and begin chatting away! Kids were loving it of course. Then there were the weird and wonderful shock value "buck hustlers", as I like to call them. Just outside the Rock Of Ages theatre, and rather appropriately in front of the "Ripleys Believe It Or Not" attraction, stood two guys who wouldn't look out of place at a bikers convention. They had blue and pink dyed rats on their shoulders and were offering to put them on other people's shoulders, for a price, but not too many were taking them up on the offer! More scream worthy for other people at my hotel corner was a guy with an enormous python, also offering to place it around people's shoulders. In fact I saw him walk right up to a number of people, often women, and virtually shove the poor snake right in front of their faces. You had no trouble spotting him, for if you happened to miss the snake, the screams emanating from the immediate area soon drew attention
A Starbucks just on the corner saw me visit most nights, as I used the free Wi Fi, and even received a Skype call from my best pal (shout out to Rose!) one night. I could have used it at the hotel but it wasn't free, as is the case with most places in America. I decided I'd rather spend my hard earned cash on Broadway!
Parts of the streets are pretty dirty, and bags of garbage and cardboard boxes pile up rapidly on the curbs come nightfall, waiting for pick up. I did notice the pavements being hosed down with a high pressure hose in places, but while this served to make them look clean, a smell something not unlike wet chickens rose up, and it was enough to cure any appetite! Food stands on most corners added a more pleasant smell to the air, but if you like hot dogs most locals will warn you against trying the "dirt water dogs" as they are referred to. Which means they've been swimming around in the hot water of those carts for who knows how long...eat at your own risk
Tuesday dawned, my second full day, and I decided it was time to do something a bit more meaningful than scout out Broadway shows, besides, with tickets to three future ones already purchased, I didn't have time to see more!
Catching the subway downtown, I ended up getting off a bit too early, but exercise is a good thing, so it was a chance to see more of Lower Manhattan. The weather was warm and sunny, but not humid like Boston. I kept glimpsing the freedom tower through gaps in the buildings, a dark blue shard rising up and looking starkly new in its surroundings. It certainly is much more aesthetically pleasing to look at compared to the twin towers.
Eventually I found it rising up in front of me, with a huge gap still where the twin towers once stood, of course it was not built on their foundation, as doing do would be akin to disturbing a graveyard of hundreds of people, and to many families that is exactly what this place has become
It was all deeply moving and sad to see, but I'm glad that the effort is being made to remember those who died and those who sacrificed their lives trying to save others. I only saw all of this over an hour after I arrived at the site, however, as the whole area is still surrounded by high construction fencing. You have to buy entrance tickets on one side of the block, and then walk up several streets that are not clearly signposted, to get into the memorial area itself. Not buying tickets beforehand sees you waiting in an even longer line when you finally get there, pre-bought ones get you slightly faster passage through the maze of lines, an x-ray screening area, and more security and police officers than I've seen in one place in my life!
After getting through all this, it's another long walk around the boundary fence before you're finally in sight of the memorial fountains
One of the things that really amazed me was this "survivors tree" that kept being referenced. I didn't realize exactly what it was until I came across it. The tree stands right in the middle of the space between the two towers, and somehow miraculously wasn't totally destroyed when they fell. Burned, broken and smouldering, the pear tree still stood, when all else around it was ruin. The tree became a symbol of survival and resilience in the midst of all that horror. It was removed by the city and began to recover, while the site was slowly excavated. It was only a number of years later that it was returned to the spot from whence it came, new limbs had sprouted from smouldering stumps, and it thrives once more. They have lots of souvenirs based upon it, even a book! I bought a pair of earrings with the pear blossom, all proceeds go toward recovery of the site and building the memorial. I'm happy to support that.
Before walking to the site I'd also spent time in the nearby St Paul's chapel, the oldest public building in Manhattan in continuous use since 1766. It's a beautiful building only a stones throw from ground zero, that also stood when most around it crumbled and burned. It became a place where rescuers and everyone else came to rest, eat, pray, sleep, or seek comfort, counselling and an escape from the horrors, heat and heartbreaking work at the site
After this sobering experience it was well into the evening, and time to head back into the heart of Manhattan for the musical "Annie". You could hardly fail to cheer up watching this! The music is just toe tappingly, infectiously happy, and it was just the perfect way to end the day.
The young girl who played Annie, Lilla Crawford, was only twelve years old, and she was the only one playing the lead role. It wasn't as if there were a few kids that they rotated, as often happens with other shows with children in the main roles. She had an understudy, of course, but eight shows a week, that's demanding for even a seasoned adult. She was a revelation, and played the role with just the right combination of charm and spunk, and had a fantastic singing voice to boot
Another full day in New York, city of excitement, and only my last full day was ahead, how had it gone so fast? Why didn't I spring for another couple of nights? And how much could I pack into my last day tomorrow? Only time would tell.
Day four saw me decide to stay around the general area since I had a matinee show at 1:30, "Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark". Meanwhile, I slept in again, a bit, then walked a couple of streets to Madame Tussauds. I hadn't been that impressed with the one in London when I went years ago, to be honest, but I went by the models of Morgan Freeman and Justin Timberlake that they had out the front. I thought if they were anything to go by then it was worth a look. Since it was also just across the road from Fox Theatre, where Spider-Man was performing, it was also pretty convenient, so I went for it
A New York cut steak was next on the agenda at an Applebee's restaurant, then it was Spider-Man time. This was my big theatre show day, and the two shows I'd chosen couldn't have been more different. Spider-Man is in its third year on Broadway, and is an extravaganza of a production in every sense of the word. It involved the most amazing sets and ariel stunt work, with times when the namesake was literally flying over the top of the audience, to gasps and cries of amazement from those below. One moment he was flying on cables up to the balcony, the next hanging upside down above the stage. It truly was amazing! At the end it was revealed that in fact eight different men besides the lead actor had performed the stunts, and it was the only way it was possible for the lead to appear to change almost instantly from Peter Parker to his alter-ego. At the height of the greatest action sequence, Spider Man and his nemisis The Green Goblin, were zooming around, duelling above our heads, and streams of webbing rained down on the audience, talk about being caught up in the action
I spent what remained of the afternoon store hopping in Times Square, finding some cool stuff in the Disney store for my niece, and browsing the Hard Rock Cafe and Hershey's. The number of souvenir stores in the area has to be seen to be believed. On top of this are the stalls that crowd all along the main sidewalks hawking everything from prints to t-shirts to handbags. It makes me wonder how they can possibly make a profit with the amount of competition. Dozens of sketch artists are plying their trade, and one group of artists were creating amazing landscapes using nothing but spray paint and a few cleverly placed lids and strips of cardboard.
I went back to the Edison and got ready for my final show, having very little idea of what to expect
The story unfolds in an excruciatingly hilarious series of conversations, flashbacks and songs, which reveal all the things the characters are thinking about each other to the audience. The other five cast members, two other couples in the bar where they meet, and the bartender, alternatively play multiple roles. This is done very cleverly and simply by adding a wig, scarf or other simple prop. Such was the talent of the supporting cast that it was easy to believe they could be three different people, an ex girlfriend/boyfriend, their future son, therapist, pushy sister, an irate Jewish grandmother or a "bailout buddy", just in case it all goes pear shaped
At first when Zachary Levi spoke, I kept picturing Flynn Rider, the character he voiced in Tangled! The cast got the best and longest standing ovation of all the shows I saw, and it was well deserved. Outside of the theatre afterwards, a huge crowd of show goers milled around, and I wondered why they were not dispersing faster, as is usually the case. Then I realized that the stage door was right next to the front of the theatre, and they were waiting for the cast to come out, armed with programs and ready for autographs. I decided to hang around, even though I could see very little with seven rows of people in front of me. Zachary Levi was the last one to emerge, to the loudest cheers and clapping, and I could actually see him over the crowd, hardly surprising as it turns out he's 6 "3
What a great way to end my experiences of Broadway and New York! As is often the way, it's the things you don't plan or have no idea are going to happen that turn out to be the most memorable.
One last stroll around Times Square, taking it all in, buying some cool personalized posters for my niece and nephew, and it was time to head back and pack up my gear
My time in New York was over, and it had been like returning to see an old friend, one you didn't necessarily want to live with, but had a ball hanging out with! I guess it's better to leave a place wishing you could have stayed longer, than feeling you can't wait to get out of there.
Until next time...farewell to the lights of Broadway
My Reviews Of The Places I Stayed