Sunday, 24 February 2013

Our last day in the “Big Apple”

Yesterday evening we took the very smart advice from Linzie and Bernie, who we had lunch with earlier, to take the Staten Island ferry after dark to enjoy the views……..
…. but before we left to catch the ferry James needed to get his priorities right and finish the blog for the day!
The ferry trip was all it promised to be.  It was a clear dry night and this was our view as we left the terminal building – “wow” was not enough!  The brightly lit building is ‘1 World Trade’ which is just being “topped out” with its mast to make it 1776 feet high – the year of American Independence. 
Just another photo for posterity! (On the rear deck of the Staten Island Ferry)
Today is our last day and this morning we went on a guided tour of the hotel. We had wet weather for the first time this week so, apart from keeping us in the dry, we got a fascinating insight into the history and architecture of the Waldorf Astoria.
This is the Grand Ball Room which has been used for so many great occasions in American history. 
During the tour we were incredibly lucky to get the chance to visit the “Royal Suite” on the top floor of the the Waldorf Towers – something even our guide had not done very often.  The suite was used regularly by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (Edward and Wallace Simpson) and can now be hired for $23,ooo a night………………
The Sitting Room- where we were invited to sit where we liked!
Dreams of grandeur?
The Dining Room – which is the only room in the hotel to have a barrel–vaulted ceiling due to it being on the top floor.
One of the bedrooms (which, surprisingly, was not much bigger than our room – although the bathroom was just a wee bit better!)
This week we’ve had a ball!  James feels as though he’s been put through a mincing machine and pushed out as sausage meat!  We’ve found the people of New York  to be so friendly and helpful to us wherever we’ve been.  We’ve now started to get the hang of the street system which can easily have you walking in the opposite direction to the one you want go in but we’ve still not “gotten” used to the size of the meals!  We have learnt to say “cworfee” but it’s been another thing to keep up with the pace of the decision making needed when ordering food.  A great, great week – Doug has really enjoyed his birthday treat and he says a big “thank you” to everyone who has sent him messages via text, email and blog comments and he still can’t believe he’s seen Barry Manilow!
Tonight we fly out at 8’o clock – we don’t want to go!!!!!!!
We will be back!

Friday, 22 February 2013

A School Reunion in New York!


Yesterday evening we had birthday cocktails (compliments of the Waldorf) before leaving for a brilliant night on the town – which ended at midnight with the best Chinese meal we’ve ever had.

Today we did our third and final Red Bus tour – this time around Uptown Manhattan, Central Park and Harlem.


Just round the corner from the hotel this morning we came across the current filming of “Smash” – the amount of equipment they need was amazing, and this was a fraction of it! the trailers for the stars took up half the road in the next block.


James on the Red Bus (which was thoroughly enjoyable but bitterly cold). The tower block where Ricky Martin lives is right behind.


Further along the route we passed the place where John Lennon was shot.  Each side of the archway there are four flames which continuously burn.


Love it or hate it – the Guggenheim Museum on 5th Avenue.


Heading down towards Times Square – a very iconic view of a New York street scene.

At midday we had arranged to meet Linzie and her husband Bernie who live in New York.  Linzie was one of Doug’s school friends who lived in the same village as him as a child, and he hasn’t seen her for 28 years.  We had the most fantastic time with them over lunch at Lillies on Union Square.  Linzie is an actress and her husband Bernie is a New York city fire fighter.  It was a great privilege, and a fantastic opportunity, to meet and talk to him about his involvement in 9/11.  It was also amazing to hear about so many film stars that Linzie has met and worked with.  We had a great few hours laughing and chatting as Doug and Linzie remembered all the events from their childhood.  Thanks so much both of you for your great company and Doug was so delighted for the chance to meet up with Linzie again after so many years.


Doug, Linzie, James and Bernie.


“The Happy Couple”.


Later in the afternoon we took the metro back  to Grand Central Station.   We visited this superb place the first evening we got to the Big Apple but we were too tired to really appreciate it’s beauty.  An amazing and vast place as you can see.

Tonight, as it’s our last evening, we intend to take the Staten Island ferry after dark to see the lights of Lower Manhattan.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Happy Birthday Doug!

As an extra birthday present for Doug, yesterday evening we went to see Barry Manilow at St James’s Theatre on Broadway as we managed to get half price tickets at Times Square ticket booth, we couldn’t believe the seats we had only 11 rows from the stage!  It turned out to be an absolutely fantastic show.  Even at his age he can still get the crowd going!


We were all up, standing in the isles dancing and singing and waving our glow sticks! and, although we are not huge fans, it was a great opportunity to see a world star in his home town and we were very glad we got the tickets.


Doug in Times Square after the performance.

Today we spent the most part on conducted Red Bus tours around Manhattan and Brooklyn.  It was great to listen to all the incredible fact and figures as we went past various famous landmarks.IMG_1286

Times Square on the bus tour.


Doug outside the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street.


A view of Downtown Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge as we crossed the East River.


At the end of the Brooklyn Tour we chose to get off the bus and walk across Brooklyn Bridge back to Manhattan.

This evening our celebrations continue with complimentary cocktails from the Waldorf, as a Birthday Gift to Doug, after which we will then go out for a meal and hit the club scene later!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Empire State

We didn’t start quite so early this morning as we inadvertently caught up with our lost hours.  After another good breakfast we walked west towards the Rockefeller Centre to have a look at the shopping facilities.


The ice rink in the Rockefeller Plaza.


Doug got his shoes polished in the Rockefeller Centre ($2.50 plus tip!).


We took a bus ride down 6th Avenue and walked one block down East 33rd Street (we can talk American almost!) and we were at the Empire State Building (our destination for today).

It was a long way up to the 86th floor! We didn’t go any higher as it seemed too far to fall.  We got the most astonishing views – more than we could ever have imagined.  The temperature at ground level today was just below freezing but at the top of this building and with the wind chill factor it “fair took your breath away!”


Looking north east across to the East River – the beautiful Chrysler Building is centre, middle distance (pointy top).  The pigeons are quite friendly up this high too!


Looking straight down with the East River behind.


Looking north – Chrysler Building far right.


North West towards the Hudson River.


Looking south towards Downtown and the Financial District.  The new 1 World Trade Center is the tallest building.


Looking straight down (southwards). So many yellow taxis!


Just to prove we were there! (Looking south again)


A semi - streaker being apprehended by the security staff!

This evening we are going to see Barry Manilow on Broadway as we managed to get half price tickets in Times Square this afternoon!

Ground Zero

We rose early this morning and after having a great breakfast (pancakes and bacon!) we took to the bus and made our way to to southernmost part of Manhattan Island to catch the Staten Island ferry.


(Just thought we’d slip in a pic. of the magnificent front lobby of the hotel!)


Catching the Staten Island ferry was our only chance of seeing the Statue of Liberty as the the landing stages on Liberty Island were badly damaged in hurricane ‘Sandy’ last year.  It was a great pity as we were looking forward to going inside the statue.


After getting the return ferry back from Staten Island we took a walk around Battery Park before heading to our main location for the day, which was Ground Zero and the 9/11 Memorial Park.


This fifty foot long bronze plaque, attached to the wall of the fire station (which was specifically built for the servicing of the World Trade Center), remembers the 344 city firemen who lost their lives in the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers.


Photos of each firemen lost.


Before joining a guided tour of the Memorial Park we looked around the temporary museum.  Among other amazing exhibits there were three walls covered with photos of all 2,977 people who died in the collapse of the towers.

IMG_1219Our tour of the memorial park was taken by Bonnie – on the right(a CBS reporter at the time and helper to the survivors) and Frank (who lost his sister in the North Tower who was on the 94th floor and which took the main impact from the plane).  It was a most moving experience to hear their stories.


We took many photos of the Memorial but this one of the South Pool, which covers the exact footprint of the South Tower, shows just how enormous it was.  We were not prepared for how emotional the visit would be and it really does need a personal visit to appreciate just how much 9/11 changed both New York and the world. 



All around the edges of the North and South Pools the names of all the victims are inscribed in the bronze parapets - and behind us stands the base of 1 World Trade Center which is now nearing completion.


1 World Trade Center, which at 1,777 feet will be the tallest building in the United States.  It’s the first of 7 planned buildings in the new complex.

We enjoyed a wonderful, and very moving, day.  And the forecasted rain arrived at exactly the moment they said it would!

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

New York this week!

After a very good plane flight (courtesy of British Airways) we arrived in New York at midday today (Presidents Day of all things!).  We’re staying at the Waldorf Astoria and they have, very kindly, upgraded us to a suite as it’s Doug’s birthday this week. 
So we now have our very own entrance hallway (!) and lounge area - and the rest of the hotel is fabulous as expected.
After settling in we took a little walk around the area – this is the ice rink at the Rockefeller Center – as its Presidents Day there are extra flags everywhere! It’s a pity we Brits don’t fly ours more often. 
Doug in Times Square – the police were involved with someone else!
James in Grand Central Station.
Our home for this week.
As we are tired tonight due to getting up this morning at 4am! as well as the 5 hour time difference, we made our way back to the hotel for cocktails in the hotel bar before having an early night.