This quick trip to New York was courtesy of Telus, a result of a lot of years of hard work by Larry and his team. The top 15 Telus dealers in Canada were awarded with a 4 day all expenses paid trip to New York City. We were originally supposed to go on April 25th however we were on our cruise then. Larry asked if we could have a raincheck and they allowed it. The package included airfare, hotel accommodation at the W on Lexington, and $1500 spending money. As we are currently in Vernon, we left from Kelowna with a stop in Calgary.
Since we had been to New York just a couple of years ago, we did not go to many of the tourist attractions we had seen before. As before, Larry rented a scooter from Scootaround and Maureen walked (many miles). Scootaround is great - the scooter is waiting at the hotel when you arrive and you just leave it there when you are finished.
We arrived at about 7 pm EDT on Monday, September 15 and got settled. A word of advice - NEVER carry carbonated beverages in your suitcase. Getting settled meant washing a number of our clothes in the bathtub to get the Pepsi out (it had leaked out of a pin-sized hole) and hanging them everywhere! Then the safe didn't work. A really nice lady, named Montana, came up from security. She couldn't make it work. She offered us a free breakfast, either room service or in the restaurant, for our trouble. We eventually went to a good little eating spot for dinner, recommended by the doorman and reasonably priced. It was called the New York Luncheonette. Meals were quite large, as is common in the US. The place was run by Mexicans who were really nice. It was quite busy and the service was excellent. An empty table does not sit for long before it is cleaned for the next guests.
Tuesday - We are not currently known for early rising so we slept in. Then we started walking, and walked for several hours. Breakfast at the Luncheonette, browsing in stores, stopping for lunch, stopping at Bloomingdales to replace underwear that had been ruined by the Pepsi, from Central Park down to Times Square and back to our hotel. En route we picked up a map so we actually knew where we were going. While in Times Square the Naked Cowboy was playing in the centre of the street, Pix #4 as well as Elvis, Pix #5. Elvis was a little over weight. For dinner we went to Red Stone Pizza - a buffet of pizza of sorts - you choose your slice(s), they heat them in the oven, then you eat. They're huge slices of pizza too. Also there you can select a small or large bowl of lettuce (or spinach) and add toppings for $.50 each. We sat at the front window and did some people watching.
Wednesday - Today we had our free breakfast at the hotel ($57 worth). Then we took a cab to the Museum of Natural History at 81st and Central Park West. They have special cabs in New York City for the handicapped. All you have to do is dial 311 and they send a special cabs that you can just drive your scotter right into. This museum is an incredible place with collections of all sorts of things from mammals, birds, insects, fish, forests, native art and utensils, space, history of the human race, etc. We only covered three of the five floors. Then we decided to walk back to our hotel which is at 49th and Lexington (about 30 blocks south and 8 blocks east of Central Park West). We cut through Central Park and actually went further and down to Times Square again. We had a snack and coffee at Starbucks on Park Avenue and headed back to our hotel for a rest (at least for Maureen - Larry wasn't tired at all). While sitting in a square enjoying our Starbucks,Larry got asked by a guy from Sirius Radio to record a Happy 59th Birthday message for Bruce Springsteen. You had to give your first name, where you were from and a happy birthday message. Only in New York!!
The last time we were in New York, we went to BLT Prime for dinner, which had been recommended to us by Nick from the Pearl in White Rock. It was wonderful and we found that another of their restaurants, BLT Steak, was, you guessed it, within walking distance from our hotel. We decided to stop by and see if we could get a reservation. Much to our disappointment we could not get a same-day reservation. As we were leaving, we saw a number of the staff outside. We stopped to talk to a guy named Joseph. Turns out he is the Executive Sous Chef there (he will become Executive Chef in January). We talked about where we were from and the Pearl and the fact that BLT's reputation had reached White Rock. Joseph offered to get us a reservation for the next night, which he did.
From there we decided to go for a drink to the Bull & Bear in the Waldorf Astoria (right across from our hotel). Every evening between 5 and 6 they film a live segment for Fox Business re the day on the stock exchange. Maureen had a G&T and Larry had a beer. We were asked to participate in the Quick Stock Picks portion of the show - we didn't have to do anything, just hang around the three stars. The bartender brought the bill and before we looked at it, he asked if we wanted another drink. We said sure. Maureen had another G&T and Larry had a rum. Then he brought the final bill - $65!!!! Maureen's G&T's were $18 each. No wonder the bartender wasn't really concerned with measuring the drinks. Then we walked to the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station for dinner. If you want to see an amazing menu, check out www.oysterbarny.com. Even though we had checked out the menu before we left the hotel, we still had a hard time deciding what to have. Again, huge portions and seats totally full. It's been around since 1913 and is actually below sea level.
Thursday - This was bus tour day - Maureen gets to rest her feet! This is an incredible offer. The guys from Gray Line hang around on the street corners. For $51 you get on/off privileges on three different loops and as an added "Summer Special" you can choose some kind of a harbour cruise. We started at our hotel which is on the Downtown Loop. We got off at Times Square, walked a block and got on the Harlem Loop. Each loop is approximately 2 hours depending upon traffic. The guides are very knowledgeable and local and often they live or have lived in the areas where the tours take place. We had taken these tours last time but the routes were varied a bit this time. Photos #19 to #63 were all taken on some part of the bus/boat tour. We sat as much as possible on the top of the double decker bus. We got off the Harlem Loop at Central Park. We went over to Bergdorf's (Rich Snobsville Shopping) to use the washroom. Boy, is that a different world! Very few people in shorts and tennis shoes there. We finally found the washrooms and then got the heck out of there! We boarded the Downtown Loop bus from there. It goes all the way through town down as far as Wall Street and Pier 16. We got off at Pier 16 and boarded the Zephyr for an hour tour of the harbour. Here we saw the four waterfalls that have been constructed by an artist this summer. These waterfalls cost $15 million dollars and they're really nothing special. Unfortunately, the salt water from the spray has killed a number of trees to the sides so therefore the waterfalls are shut off for part of the day every day. They will run until October 13. We started in the East River which is not really a river just a tidal estuary. Then we turned and headed for the Hudson River, which really is a river and gets its start in the Great Lakes. After leaving the boat, we boarded the bus for the remainder of the Downtown Loop, which took us past the UN and back to our hotel where we started.
We arrived at BLT Steak for our 8:00 reservation. The lounge at the front was full, the whole restaurant was full. It continued to be full the whole time we were there and until we left. Apparently it's like that every night! We ordered our dinner, which we knew from experience, would be huge. We ordered a 12 oz filet, a 3 lb lobster and stuffed mushroom caps to share, with a wedge salad (wedges of iceberg lettuce covered with blue cheese, bacon and croutons) each. Much to our surprise, compliments of the Sous Chef Joseph, arrived a tray with homemade salamis, toast with foie gras, and grilled bread with melted cheese. Then the waiter brought another appetizer which was ravioli stuffed with short rib in a horseradish sauce. Now we knew we had ordered too much dinner! Oh, and added to that were two of their signature popovers (recipe provided) which are about 4 inches in diameter and 8 inches long. Yikes! When our dinner arrived, again compliments of the sous chef, came a dish of creamed polenta with local corn au gratin, their famous onion rings (about 1 inch thick each, and about 8 of them), and stuffing for the lobster. Did we ever mention that we've been calorie counting for the past month and a half? Now we're really in trouble. We ate as much as we could and then the waiter offered to bring dessert. We declined of course but he brought two very decadent little meringues filled with dark chocolate mousse. We then asked if Joseph could come out so we could thank him. He was very busy but he did come out and we told him how pleased we were. If you want to know more about these restaurants check out www.bltrestaurants.com. They have several locations.
Friday - We had to get up at 5 am EDT to get our flight at 7:55. The taxi ride was wild because there wasn't much traffic to slow him down, but we got there in one piece. The flights to and from were excellent - Maureen's favourite! As always Larry sets of the alarm bells when he goes through security and it usually takes 5 minutes or more as they scan his body for metal which they always find in both his legs. Sometimes we wonder if they think his incision marks are zippers.
"Amazing" best describes New York City. The sheer numbers of people, the traffic, the size of the food portions, the smells, the opulence, the miles of walking, the consideration given to handicapped people, the taxis, the horns, the diversity (180 languages spoken here and according to one of the tour guides, Pig Latin is included). We think a lot could be learned about customer service in this city. The numbers of customers that service staff are constantly dealing with (24/7) would dictate that they might get grumpy sometimes or give less than their customers expect, but we've never encountered them in New York. A wonderful trip!