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Wendy’s New York Journal, March-April 2011
Took off from LBA on time and in hazy weather. Had a smooth flight to Amsterdam. A short break in KLM lounge before heading for the departure gate for the onward flight to NY. Lucky enough to have paid for business class, so we have good seats downstairs at the front. The flight started well, but after app. three hours we encountered serious turbulence. This lasted 20 minutes or more and very uncomfortable. The pilot changed course and avoided further trouble until going down the coast of northern USA. Further slight turbulence. Arrived in NY JFK at 2:45 pm. Long queues at immigration. We arrived just after a flight from India. Progress was very slow. We got through and picked up bags by 4:45 pm.
Arrived in hotel around 5:30 pm. Went to bed early, as we were both worn out. Our room is on the executive floor this time, a short walk along the corridor to the lounge.
After a good sleep, woke early - 5.50 am. Took time to get going, but decided to walk the High Line. Caught a cab to 18th St. and 11th Ave. Terribly erratic cab driver, both glad to get out. Saw Frank Gehry building for Interactive Corp World HQ, the only completed Gehry building in New York. In white, with curved glass, looks a bit like a sailing ship. Accessed High Line up a stairway on 18th St. Very impressive walkway on old raised rail track. Volunteers have planted and tended this. The old rails are still visible in places. Art and photography students are up here to record new and appropriate items. The photo students are all taking pictures of each other! No imagination.
We walked from 18th St to 14th St and back, then sat and enjoyed the view. Section beyond 18th is still closed, but looks ready to be opened. A great project, it provides a little quiet green space in Manhattan. Down the stairs onto 18th St. Walked a zigzag path for a few blocks. John asked a female guard on 21st St where we could get a coffee. She directed us a block away. Turned into 9th Ave. and saw a cafe/restaurant on the corner. Another guard outside recommended the food and took us in. Instant iced water. John had coffee, I chose a smoothie. He had tiramisu and I had a Danish. Never seen a Danish this big, but it was good.
Continued walking up to Macy’s. Went in, attracted by advertised flower show. Some flowers were real, others not. John managed to find some long brown socks (rare in the UK). Proved more difficult to find the pay counter. Noticed Herald and Greeley squares outside Macy’s. Herald named after NY Herald newspaper, Greeley after Tribune editor Horace Greeley (1811-1872). Walked back past Bryant Park. Noticed daffodils coming into bloom. Lucky to have enjoyed a beautiful sunny morning. John stopped at Rockefeller Center for shoeshine. I returned to Hilton alone. Sat and read Blue Guide until John’s return. What a surprise - a bunch of a dozen red roses. Then I had to find a vase (pronounced ‘vayse‘ here). Nothing from the room maids, but John got one from customer services. Trimmed the rose stems and put them in water They look lovely, and make the room feel more like home. Lunch from Starbucks, okay. Then a lazy afternoon, reading Alice.
7.30 pm we walked to Columbus Circle. Passed filming on 54th St., which is commonplace here. Ate sushi in Time Warner Center. Then I browsed Dali copies and John went into Borders, exited with New Yorker mag. Walked back to Hilton. Another early night.
31st March, 2011.
Awake 6.10AM. It’s raining outside, and cooler, with a possibility of snow later. After breakfast in the executive lounge we decide to go to the Morgan Library and JJ Hats. We stop at Rockefeller Center for John to get a shine on another pair of shoes. I sit and watch. Very impressed by the technique and time taken by the workers, who do a beautiful job. Then I tempt John to look in Andrew’s Tie Shop. He buys two knitted ties, just what he has been looking for.
Kind young woman directs us to Cucina coffee bar. An Australian employee (from Sydney) helps us with serve-yourself coffee. We drink and watch as skaters emerge onto the Rockefeller ice rink.
Ability on skates very varied. Time to walk down to 37th and Madison (Morgan Library). As we are both seniors it costs only $10 each. We decide to stay for lunch of pea soup and a pressed toasted sandwich of ham and cheese, which is very good. We look at the only portrait of William Shakespeare painted from life. Interestingly, it is compared with four other portraits also on display. Shame that we have to come to NY to see these. Make our way upstairs to a fascinating exhibition of famous diaries. Beautiful handwriting. Many of the diaries are illustrated with excellent drawings and watercolours. Quick look at modernism exhibition, thence to the shop. I buy book in which to write this journal, John buys a DVD about the painter Roy Lichtenstein. Sadly, a Pierrpont Morgan DVD is only compatible with North American players.
We leave, to make our way to JJ Hats at 310 Fifth Avenue. A wonderful hat shop. The assistant first offers to steam and revive the hat J is wearing, and explains about storing on the crown NOT the brim. On John’s insistence he finds a replacement in thicker waterproof felt. There is a lot of performance in buying a hat here, but it’s great. Once hat is boxed and paid for, out into the street to hail a cab. Very sullen driver, but back to the Hilton in the dry. I buy some postcards, then to the room to rest. Went to the exec lounge for take-out tea and an apple. Then dressed for concert. I gave my new black velvet trouser suit its first outing, teamed with white frilly blouse and patent loafers. John wore his light blue jacket and new knitted tie (blue spot). Both wrapped up in coats (my black overcoat) then walked to the Lincoln Center, Alice Tully Hall. The weather forecast is probably correct - an icy chill to the wind. Just time for a quick snack before taking our seats. Security is greater than previously. My bag is checked. Seats are in the centre of the second tier. As the escalator is broken, it’s a long climb. First work, Prokofiev Overture in Bb. Not something either of us knows. Two basses, and no high strings. Then a new violin concerto by Sofia Gubaidulina (pictured), played flawlessly by Anne-Sophie Mutter.
After the interval, Tchaikovsky Symphony Number Two, a piece I know and have played. An enjoyable concert. No encore. Walk back to the Hilton, chill wind blowing.
The only April Fool’s joke today is the weather. It has been snowing. Fortunately, the snow hasn’t settled, and later changes to rain. Send some clothes to the hotel laundry, but make three attempts to get someone to collect it. Eventually the room maid chases up the laundry service. We decide to go to Barnes and Noble bookshop, in the rain, via the Rockefeller Center, where we stop for coffee. I make the mistake of adding ‘half-and-half’ to mine. Yuk! It’s horrible. From our table we can see the Met. Museum shop. We go in for a browse. I buy a silk glasses case.
Walk across to SAKS Fifth Avenue where I look for a chocolate-brown silk scarf.
No luck, but the assistant is very pleasant and helpful. At Barnes and Noble I buy a card. We have lunch in their very average cafe. Walk back to hotel. I finish reading Alice in Wonderland, have a rest, and write postcards. Later I discover that I have addressed one to the General Hospital. Jetlag, or age? Evening meal at Etrusca, the hotel’s own restaurant. The menu is full of bullshit items. We opt for linguine with lobster, which proves to be good. Against our better judgement we order dessert. John’s is a chestnut cream with ice cream. Mine a chocolate and orange tart with ice cream and pear. Mine is good, but too much. With the tip, the bill is $110 - plenty. Back to the room to read and sleep.
After breakfast we walk in Central Park. Sit by a pond in the sunshine. Speak to two women passing by, one taking an Italian Pointer for a walk. See squirrels and different birds. One bird appeared to be a cross between a jackdaw and a woodpecker.. Walked as far a the zoo. Stopped at the cafe, where the coffee was awful. Left the Park and walked across Fifth Avenue, then Fourth Avenue past Benny Goodman’s old apartment. This area remarkably quiet. Along 69th St., back towards the Park. Lots of lovely houses, one a superb Brownstone. John asked a woman about the houses. She was very chatty, said that even a small one-bed apartment would cost around the equivalent of £2,000 per month.
Then to the left down Fifth Avenue, looking in shop windows. Many beautiful clothes on display. Call at the Apple Cube, which is extremely full, and smells of farts. I buy a new case for my iPhone. We watch a group being shown how to make best use of an iPad. All are women, save for one boy. No men!
Call at Bergdorf Goodman. John buys another knitted tie. We lunch in the Trump Grill, adjacent to Tiffany’s. Okay, but rather stodgy.
Back to the hotel to rest, then take a walk to Times Square, which is tacky, and very busy. We are glad to walk north, away from the crowds. Buy a Starbucks take-out, watch telly and write cards. I’m so glad we don’t have TV at home. It’s a real time-waster. Most of the programmes are awful.
Awake at 7.am. I think I am adjusting my body clock now. The sky is clear and blue, so looks like a good day. We decide to walk to Grand Central. I notice a police march to the Hilton, accompanied by a pipe band. This seems to be a regular feature in NY. We set off past MoMA. The sun is shining along the street, very pleasant walking. On our way we stop at the Waldorf=Astoria for a mooch around the ground floor. A brunch is laid out, and standards seem higher than at our last visit. In one of the side corridors there is a slide show of the old and new Waldorf. The present building opened in 1931, and looks very slick compared with the ornate old one. The Empire State building now occupies the site of the old Waldorf. We carry on towards Grand Central, taking in the lobby of the Marriott. We walk under the Helmsley and enter Grand Central via the MetLife building.
The concourse of these big offices is big, shiny, expensive and well-kept. In Grand Central we stand and admire the Grand Hall, then downstairs for an awful coffee. See Outreach For The Homeless contacting those in need.
Go out via 42nd Street exit and walk to Madison Ave. Walk on sunny side of Madison as far as the Rockefeller Center. Stop here for a Cucina take-out. Modest by American standards. Then walk back to the hotel for a rest. Encounter successful participants from women’s half marathon. Every Sunday morning there seems to be some sort of an event. After lunch we walk to the Lincoln Center. We are seated in the centre right of the first tier. Next to me are five very old Jewish women, obviously regular concert-goers. Excellent concert: Beethoven Trio, Penderecki duo for violin and double-bass, Rihm Duo (ditto) and Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings. Encore of Air on a G String, dedicated to the Japanese earthquake victims. Everything played immaculately. It’s so nice to hear chamber music, and a real treat to hear the double-bass featured. Preferred the Penderecki to the Rihm. Anne Sophie Mutter, violin, Roman Patkoló, bass. Stopped on way back to have Swedish meatballs at Columbus Circle - very good.
Tomorrow will be our 41st wedding anniversary.
We decide to walk right round Central Park.
THIRTEEN Series Olmsted and America's Urban Parks (video opens in a new window)
The day is overcast and cool - good for walking. We walk to the Park along the Avenue of the Americas, then turn left along the south side of the Park, to walk north up Central Park West. There are beautiful apartment buildings along here, with detailed ornamentation. Two or three buildings are undergoing renovation work because the corners are crumbling. A few individual houses remain between the apartment blocks. Queues wait for the Nat. Hist. Mus. to open. In the Park we spot a black squirrel. Is this unusual here? We stop at 108th St., at a Turkish Deli, for baklava and good coffee.
There is much evidence of gentrification towards the north of the Park and along 110th, on which street there is a correction centre between the apartments on the edge of Harlem. Pass Duke Ellington’s statue and head south within the Park at Harlem Meer, parallel to Central Park East. The Park here has been cleaned up and improved. Plenty of good playgrounds for children, and banks of daffodils. We leave the Park around 102nd St, to go into the Cooper-Hewitt Museum for lunch. Other people in the small cafe seem to be employees. The special exhibition is of Van Cleef & Arpel’s jewellery (not one of John’s great interests!). However, he borrows an i-Tablet with a museum catalogue. But it proves to be not very wieldy. The paper catalogue is easier to use. Some of the jewellery is eye-catching, beautifully made, sparkles and is very well displayed.
After leaving the museum we return to the hotel. Then set off for Columbus Circle. We have sushi. Look in Samsung, whose TV screens are fantastically high-definition. Their domestic appliances are enormous compared with what’s available at home. Next to Borders, where Eva Longoria is signing her new book. We find an article in the National Geographic, about the Highline.
This morning is raining and miserable. We catch a cab to the Metropolitan Museum. Even at 10.00 am there is a queue (line) for the coat check, and a shorter queue for admission. We have specifically come to see the guitar makers’ exhibition. John rents an iPad. This time it is a success, with examples of the guitars being played. The exhibition is not large, but covers the history of guitar-making, particularly in the USA. See a film of guitar making. Similar to making a bass. The workmanship is beautiful.
We wait for the cafe to open at 11.30. After coffee and cake we look at some impressionist paintings. Then to musical instrument gallery where John finds one of Benny Goodman’s clarinets. We browse the shop, buy a guitar book and postcards for guitar friends, and a DVD for us. Back to the Hilton for lunch in the coffee shop. I have lentil soup, which is good, John has a Reuben, which is huge.
At 4.30 I sneak out to the lounge for a cup of tea. Irritating children look over other guests’ shoulders as they use the computers.
At 6.30 we set out for the Lincoln Center. Across the road from the hotel there are spotlights and a plastic shelter outside the Ziegfield Theater, for the premiere of the movie Arthur. Helen Mirren and Russell Brand are to attend. Limousines are parked down West 54th Street. At the Lincoln Center, most of the audience appears to be Jewish; the show is about Yiddish theatre. People take so long to get seated that the performance is late starting. More people arrive after the first ten minutes.
The show is well performed, but we find it slightly boring, and leave at the interval. Walk back to the hotel, stopping to buy flowers. On TV, Piers Morgan interviews Simon Cowell.
After breakfast in the lounge we walk down to the Rockefeller Center. John to queue for a shoe-shine, I go in search of the Maison du Chocolat, located on the first floor. When I open the door there is a delicious smell of high-quality chocolate. I browse, and select a bag of milk and plain fish shapes, for my friend Mandy. I am offered a dark ganache chocolate, delicious. Then I go to search for the Japanese sweet shop on 49th St. I try to leave the Rockefeller Plaza on the lower lever and find myself on the walkway to the station. When I get above ground I discover I am on the opposite side of the road from the Rockefeller Center. Had I gone out of the front door of the chocolate shop I would have been only a few yards from the Japanese shop! This sweet shop has goods beautifully displayed. While I’m deciding what to buy two women come in to take a photograph of the displays. I buy presents for neighbours, and also two bean curd pies for us. Total cost, $58. Rest back at the hotel, then walk across to Bloomingdale's. We pass an atrium where there is a cafe. We have been here before, and I remembered that sparrows flew around.
When we open the door, there are indeed sparrows flying indoors, between the trees. Here there are lots of office workers eating salads, but the salads are enormous. To Bloomingdale's, passing many well-know designer shops. No success with the brown scarf. Take the escalator to the café. The store seems a lot less special than I remember. On return cab ride the streets are being shut off in anticipation of Obama's visit. We leave the cab before Avenue of the Americas - just as well, as there is no access to the hotel by road. From our 44th floor room we watch progress. Several very large trucks, full of sand or gravel, block 53rd Street. Police vehicles block 6th Avenue. There is a tent at the side of the Sheraton, with a large entrance flap to accommodate a vehicle. We guess that this hides the President leaving his car and entering the building, a ‘Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility’, being a tent designed to keep communications secure when the President is out and about. There is a succession of motorcycle outriders, police cars and ambulances. At last a vehicle leaves the motorcade and stops in the tent. Police and vehicles continue to hang around. A helicopter circles overhead. We later hear that Obama had been in Philadelphia in the morning and was back in Washington at night.
After tea we set off to walk to ‘Don’t Tell Mama’ on W46th St, as Daryl Sherman is appearing there. Eventually we find the venue, which is a small bar about half a mile west of Times Square. The piano bar is at the back, and very cramped. The entrance is $10, plus two drinks. (Total after one hour is $45). Daryl looks good, and responds to all her supporters. She invites another pianist, Ronnie Whyte, to join her, to play, sing solos and duets. Much of the music is by Cole Porter. The piano is out of tune, which doesn’t help. I sit next to an American fan, keen to press on me his familiarity with Daryl and Ronnie. Afterwards we greet Daryl and agree to contact her soon.
Back in the hotel room we watch Piers Morgan interview Russell Brand on TV. I change my opinion of Brand a little. We also see a Japanese TV programme about red-crested cranes, which can live for 30-60 years. They mate for life. Such long-lived partnerships make them into a Japanese symbol for successful marriage and business. The population has been rescued from near extinction. I much prefer Japanese TV programmes. They are more sedate. You actually learn something.
After breakfast we walk to Rockefeller Center. I wear boots so that I can have them cleaned. There are five people in front of me at the shoe-shine. I’m not sure if the guys will clean my boots. The manager agrees to do so. Eventually it’s my turn and I climb up to sit on the shoe-shine chair. On the TV there is a report of a further 7.4 grade earthquake in NE Japan. Poor people. The shoe-shine man makes a superb job of my boots. He uses at least four different types of polish, and even cleans the edges of the soles. Outside the shop window, tourists take pictures of the shoe shine parlour. It costs me $3 plus tip. Excellent value. We then walk to MoMA. John qualifies as a senior, I still have to pay full price - $36 in total. Go straight to second-floor café, and both choose grilled salmon salad, which is very good. On my right an old lady waits for her friend. She eats her own bread roll, drinks her own water. Her friend arrives, grumbling about the service system in the café. The pair could have come straight out of a Woody Allen movie.
Look at an exhibition of kitchen design, which includes Tupperware and a Dyson cleaner. Also a collection of black-and-white stills from old movies that show kitchen scenes.
Back at the hotel the TV carries an interview with Eva Longoria, who had been in Borders when we there.
Later, at the Lincoln Center the show Company is a gala night, with many well-dressed people about. Our seats are a first-tier box, where we have to sit sideways. Not very comfortable for $275 each! The large orchestra includes saxophones and electric bass. Unfortunately we both find the show boring! The orchestra is excellent, the singers professional, but we don’t feel engaged. At the interval we decide to leave. In the lobby we are stopped by a man who would like a ticket for the second half. I give him mine. Then John is stopped for his ticket. This is incredible.
I phone the Plaza Hotel and book tea for 2.15pm. I also phone and book a car (not a taxi) to take us to the airport tomorrow, and arrange for a late hotel check-out. After breakfast, and making all these arrangements, we walk to the Frick through Central Park. A lovely sunny though chilly day, so the weather is just right for a walk. We exit the Park at 69th St., walk a block north and turn along 70th St. Admission is $15 for John and $20 for me. Qualification for a senior differs. It was 62 for this gallery. In others it is 60 years. The Frick is a pleasure. There is a bonus of a Rembrandt exhibition. We take time to sit quietly in the courtyard and watch the fountains, which is welcome after the walk.
Back to the hotel, to enjoy tea and fruit from the lounge. After a short rest we change before walking to the Plaza. We arrive early and sit outside for a few minutes. Then we ascended the red-carpeted steps and walked through to the Palm Court. Having told the maitre d’ that we had a booking, she shows us to our table immediately. As she takes our coats she says how much she likes my jacket. Our waiter is very proper, but attentive and helpful. We choose the Classic Tea, which consists of tiny sandwiches (beef, lobster, cucumber and ham), two small scones and a selection of beautiful, tiny, cakes. We can’t manage all of the cakes, so our waiter kindly packs them for us to take away. The cost: $110:00 plus tip, but worth it. The Plaza was built in 1907. The Palm Court has a Tiffany Glass roof. For many years it was covered, but recently the roof was renovated. The glass is visible again, in all its glory.
The rain is spitting at 16.30 when we set off on a zig-zag route to Alice’s Tea Cup on E64th St. and Lexington. When we arrive, Daryl Sherman is waiting for the waitress to clear a table for three. To English minds they have a eccentric idea about afternoon tea: enormous salads, sandwiches and cakes, scones which would each be sufficient for two, and tea brought to the table after the food. The china is an assortment of old stuff, as is the furniture. However, the upstairs is light and pleasant, with Lewis Carroll quotations painted on the wall. We have a good chat to Daryl, and enjoy simple tea and toast. Very generously, this kindly-natured woman treats us.
After breakfast we try to check in online for our return flight, but fail! At 11.00 am we walk towards Central Park. Take an early lunch at the AQ Cafe at Columbus Circle and Broadway. Swedish meatballs, as usual. Behind us are two large women tucking into generous platefuls of food. Our waitress says she loves our English accents. On departure towards the Park we notice a shoe-repairers with shoe shine. Make a note for next time. The Park is busy, with many tricycle rickshaws about. Also many dog walkers, couples and joggers.
I hate the next few hours, when one has no home base. Fortunately we have the room until 2:00 pm. The car is due to pick us up; we won’t have to wait around the hotel with cases. The Avenue of the Americas is blocked for a Scottish parade, complete with kilts and bagpipes by the hundred. Traffic is at a standstill, cabs are few, with a long queue for taxis. Our car arrives fifteen minutes late. Slow progress until we are clear of 6th Ave, when we move out of Manhattan rapidly. Reach JFK by 3.15 pm. At Terminal 4 by 3.30, and go to the head of the business check-in. During the journey I notice that John is frequently addressed as ‘Mr Brown’. Often I don’t get a name.
After 6hrs 20 minutes we make a smooth landing in Amsterdam, at 6.30 am local time. On the Cityhopper up to Leeds our seats are at the front, we are offered newspapers, and breakfast is offered as soon as the seat belt sign is off. Out of the window we gaze down on the Humber Estuary, which we crossed in the opposite direction about two hours ago. Withernsea is covered by low cloud, but we spot the Humber Bridge and Goole. A beautiful sunny day, the flight is smooth and actually enjoyable. We land at 8.30 am. To our surprise, the luggage has arrived with us. At the Arrow taxi office the £18 pre-paid fare is expensive. Home by 9:15 am. The weather is so warm that we sit outside our front door for half an hour. We are home.