Date of Trip: December 2015
My first time to New York City was almost 25 years ago. It was so exciting and exactly everything I expected it to be and more. I love when that happens. Each time I am back it’s just as exciting as there is always something “new” to do in New York City.My flight on Tuesday Nov 24th was into Newark, NJ and I pre-booked Super Shuttle for $20 to take me to Hostel Int’l on the Upper West Side. This historic landmark Victorian style building is the largest hostel in America with 672 beds and is just 2 blocks from Central Park and a block walk to the #1 Metro line making it easy to go everywhere. I am a member of Hostel Int’l and had a coupon for a free night so I only paid $155 for 4 nights in a 12 bed room. I appreciated The BIg Apple Cafe located right in the hostel.
The next morning I took the metro to the Times Square Studio to see Robin, George, Amy, Lara and Ginger live on Good Morning America. The last time I was in NYC I saw the Today Show at Rockefeller Center and Matt Lauer, Katie Couric and Al Roker spent much time outside, but this morning altho Robin did come out to talk to us outside the viewing window, Ginger did not come out to do the weather as we all had hoped she would. It was the day after the Dancing With The Stars finale and they were having a dance party with the Mirror Ball winners Derek and Bindi inside.
After some hot coffee to warm up I headed down to the Macy’s store on 34th Street to see their Christmas decorations. It’s a bit chilly in the shadow of the tall buildings, but the weather is like a brisk fall day. The “new” in New York City is the High Line Park that runs from W 34th St & 10th Ave south 1 1/2 miles. It was built along a historic freight line elevated above the streets and features a boardwalk, plantings, benches and views of the Hudson River. It is pure brilliance and altho many people have not even heard of it, there were many of us out there enjoying walking in
the sunshine. Then I went for a stroll down Bleecker Street thru Greenwich Village and had to make a stop at Bantam Bagels for a mini stuffed bagel ball made famous by Oprah and Shark Tank. Continuing on to Houston Street my plan was to have lunch at Katz Deli. This very popular place has been around a long time and their pastrami sandwiches are said to be NYC’s best. It is also the site of Meg Ryan’s famous scene in the movie “When Harry Met Sally” and I was hoping to “have what she had”, but there was a line over a block long just to get in. So I continued my walk
back up to mid town and had a street vendor hot dog instead.
Back at the hostel I joined a group to go to the inflation of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloons taking place nearby. We joined the procession that circled all the way around the Museum of Natural History about 5pm and it took a couple of hours to make the loop. It was so crowded and our group separated as we made our way past dozens of the giant balloons that are held down by nets as they are inflated. Once I got out of this craziness I was only hoping to find a bar on the way back to the hostel. Luckily I found a place called Blockhead’s and the bartender and locals were so
friendly as I bellied up to the bar. The special was called a Classic Bulldog which they encouraged me to try. It’s 1/2 of a glass of frozen Margarita into which a small bottle of Bud LIght Lime beer was inserted upside down, as I sipped it thru the straw the beer went down into the drink. I was skeptical but it was really good and just what I needed.
The next morning was the 89th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and 3 1/2 million people line this 2 1/2 mile parade route. After the night before I wanted no part of that crowd. A group from the hostel left at 6 am to get a good spot for the 9am start. I left at 8am stopping by Cafe Lalo hoping to have a cup of coffee, but it was closed for Thanksgiving. This cute place was in the movie “You’ve Got Mail”. So I walked past Columbus Circle to 56th Street and stood about 1/2 block back from 6th Ave. I got there just as the beginning of the parade was coming by and from this slightly elevated street I saw the bands and some of the balloons. My favorite was Dino, the green Sinclair mascot dinosaur. About an hour was enough for me as I really wasn’t that interested in seeing this whole parade anyway. So I got to McGee’s Pub close by just as it was opening and got a place at the bar for lunch. This place was called McLaren’s Pub in the TV series “How I Met Your Mother”. (The last time I was in NYC I went to Tom’s Restaurant know as Monk’s in the Seinfeld TV series).
The true highlight of my Thanksgiving Day was going to the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular at the amazing Radio City Music Hall. This puts joy into Christmas to be sure and the living Nativity scene brought tears to my eyes. My first trip to NYC I saw “Cats” on Broadway, but this performance was truly magical. By going to the matinee show I was able walk along Fifth Avenue and see all the store windows afterwards. Altho the Rockefeller Center tree was up it wasn’t
scheduled be lit until the next week.
The Friday following Thanksgiving I had a 9am pre-booked ticket for the 9/11 Museum. The Freedom Tower shines in the sunlight but the time in this area was solemn and somber for me. When I was in NYC in Feb of 1991 the US was involved in Operation Desert Storm in the Gulf War. Seeing the sights of NYC at that time was all the usual tourist attractions which included taking the elevator to the 110th floor observation deck atop the South Tower of the World Trade Center. I remember it well. The last time I was in NYC was Sep 12, 2002, one year and one day after the 9/11 attacks. There was such a hole in the skyline and such a hole in the ground where the Twin Towers had stood but an even bigger hole in so many people’s hearts. I remember that visit to Ground Zero very well too. Today the Memorial pools sit in the footprints where the Twin Towers once stood surrounded by the names of the nearly 3,000 who died. It is such a powerful reminder. There were many of us wiping tears in the Museum as it took us back to that day. Afterwards I again visited St Paul’s Chapel just as I did in 2002. Built in 1766 it not only survived the Great Fire of 1776, but when the Twin Towers collapsed right next to it not even a window was broken. For almost a year following, this Chapel was manned by volunteers to serve the recovery workers with support, meals and shelter. Also notably, President George Washington worshipped here. A block away is St Peter’s Church, the oldest Catholic Church in N.Y. On Sep 10, 2001 Fr Mychal, chaplain for the New York Fire Dept, gave a sermon here for the fire fighters. The next day on 9/11 a portion of the landing gear of a plane damaged the roof and debris from the towers killed Fr Mychal. He was the first identified casualty and surviving firemen carried him from the towers site to lay his body before the altar. This church too was used for rescue and recovery operations.
To collect my thoughts I walked to the Federal Hall National Memorial on Wall Street, the site of the First U.S. Capitol where a large bronze statue of George Washington signifies his inauguration here in 1789. Then I had a beer at the Mudville Saloon as I waited for a friend to join me for a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. We had a late start and did some zigging & zagging, but as we made our way back across the bridge through crowds of people, there was an amazing sunset highlighting the Statue of Liberty.
The following day I took a 10am bus for $38 from Port Authority up to Boston 4 hours away. I’ve been there a few times before but never at this time of year. The bus came into South Station and I was able to just walk to the Hostel Int’l where my rate is $43 a night. I’m immediately off to see the huge 90 ft Christmas tree at Faneuil Hall Marketplace which is even taller than Rockefeller Center’s tree and 350,000 lights were set to perform to recorded Holiday Pops music. There is a 7 minute show every hour. I couldn’t decide between Lobster Bisque or Clam Chowda at the Quincey Market stall so the server gave me 1/2 of a small container of each and both were delicious. Walking past Boston Common, the oldest park in the U.S., the trees were rather gaudily covered in colored lights.
The next day the weather was so glorious and I joined the Hostel’s walking tour thru Boston Common to Beacon Hill where we saw Secretary of State John Kerry’s home. We walked down Commonwealth Avenue and over to Newbury Street, the Rodeo Drive of Boston and finished in the Back Bay area at Copley Place. I took looks into the big museum-like Public Library, the Old South Church and the 5 star Fairmont Copley Place Hotel where Presidents, Royalty and Celebrities stay. I then made the walk back thru the city to the Sea Port District at the Boston Harbor. Locals hands down recommended The Barking Crab Restaurant over Legal Seafood. Years ago I remember eating lobster in Boston for about $10, but those days are long gone and it is just too expensive now so I had the yummy crab cakes instead. That night a group of us from the Hostel went to Jacob Wirth’s which looks like an Irish Pub from the outside but actually is a German Beer Hall inside with a long history dating back to 1868. I had a late flight out the next day so I again joined a Hostel group, this time going to the Harpoon Brewery for some free tastings. Afterwards there was
still time for me to get a fish taco at Pedro’s Tacos as it was close to the Hostel. This place is owned by a friend of mine and decorated in the same surfer theme as their taco places of the same name around Oceanside, California.
Back at the Hostel, it was time to pick up my backpack and walk back to South Station to catch the Silver Line to the Airport.
The main reason I came to Boston was because I had flights booked from here to Iceland and then to The Azores.
The weather in NYC and Boston was wonderful and being here at this time of year was so festive. I love these walkable cities and I had such a good time visiting them again.