Index – USA / Canada 2018

WordPress lists things in “newest first” order – it makes sense while on the holiday, but not when you’re looking at blog after the holiday is done.

Here’s the whole trip,  in order from start to finish.

AUCKLAND

SYDNEY

SAN FRANCISCO

SEATTLE

ANCHORAGE

ALASKA CRUISE

VANCOUVER

KAMLOOPS

BANFF

CALGARY

TORONTO

NEW YORK CITY

INCHEON AIRPORT

SYDNEY

All good things…

Our time in the Asiana business lounge passed quickly – probably coz I ended up sleeping through some of it. I’d hit the wall by that stage, or maybe hit the wall, bounced off it, and hit it a few more times. I’d been awake nearly 24 hours by that stage so my body was all “nope, not doing hat any more”. I knew as soon as I got on the plane I could sleep to my heart’s content, so all good

Model plane in the Asiana lounge

Our 777-200 looked so little compared to the A380 we’d just travelled in – but inside it was basically the same. Spacious and comfy enough. Service was again excellent. I skipped dinner (except for a drink) and went to sleep. Slept like a log – it felt like a short flight. The lie-flat seating was pretty good – had bit of a lump at about calf-level where the seat meets the footrest but seems churlish to complain since I slept so much.

Two hours before landing it was time for brekky – it was the only meal From Asiana that I wouldn’t regard as spectacular. It wasn’t bad, just scrambled eggs, veges and a sausage all crammed in to the one dish where it all gets heated together and takes on the same flavour. However it was also served with coffee and a choice from a basket of pastries. Everything’s better with pastries!

The sunlight breaking over the horizon was very pretty.

We also had a free tour of Sydney is we flew past, chucked a u-turn and came back north again to land – and here I’ve gotta give Asiana some credit – both flights had perhaps the smoothest landings ever.

Perry’s awesome photo of Sydney

One small wrinkle – here we were in Sydney, but also in limbo. We had to wait about 25 minutes on the tarmac because our gate was busy. Basically, the larger version of circling the car park waiting for a spot.

Once we were parked, the most problematic part after that was figuring out what to buy from the duty free shop, and before we knew it, we were here. Home.

The cat, of course, did her best effort to be indifferent about the whole thing. But after half an hour she warmed up and decided she did know us after all, before curling up for a nap.

We’re so incredibly grateful to come home to a perfectly clean, and even improved, home thanks to the efforts of Perry’s parents. And thanks also to Perry’s niece for her help keeping the cat fed and entertained.

Reality was upon us – clothes to wash, suitcases to empty, and no musical to see in the evening.

The holiday is over. It was brilliant, and experiencing it with the incomparable Perry. makes it all the better.


And I still remember the five types of salmon. 🖐

Start spreading the news…

…we’re leaving today. Or rather, we’ve already left. Greetings from Incheon, Korea!

There’s not much to write about for today – we had brekky in the Café attached to the hotel, where I was surprised by really good coffee – 8/10. It was accompanied by “eggs with style”… and bacon. Bacon never goes out of style.

Then it was back to the room to do the very last bits of packing we had finished the night before. We left home with two half-empty bags … suddenly we find ourselves returning with four very full ones. We also left our standard koala calling card upon checking out …

This time, I overpacked. You know how the rough guide is “pack your bag then take half of the stuff out” … it’s sound advice, which I didn’t really follow. I packed a pair of pants, a pair of shoes and a shirt that just spend six weeks in a suitcase.

We used good old “dial7” car service to get us to the airport. So called as their phone number is basically keep hitting 7 until someone answers. Leaving New York… well, I know I’ll sound like a spoiled brat here, but leaving … it sucks. There are more shows to see, more places to go, things to do … but I guess pretty much everyone on a holiday kinda wishes it could go on forever.

It took about an hour to get the airport – the first half of that was just getting off Manhattan. Our driver, like all in New York, use the horn as a kind of local language. Go, stop, wait, move you idiot!, there are beeps galore but it all seems to mostly work.

Check in at the Asiana desk was great. Very friendly, and they suggested moving us up a row as the seats had “better privacy”. They also noted that there would be a baby at the back of business class, “just so you are aware”. I can’t get upset at crying babies on planes – there’s not much anyone can do about it, but interesting that they went to the trouble of pointing out.

We hung out in the Swiss Air lounge which was ok, the only thing it really lacked was power outlets. It had nice cookies, and the machine-made cappuccino wasn’t horrible either.

A few hours passed by and eventually it was time to board our big A380. It’s always nice to “turn left” on boarding – but I junk that’s mostly because the upper deck boarding door is not quite up the front of the plane.

The seats are big enough and comfy enough, and we finally realise that the aforementioned “privacy” meant “from each other” – there’s a metre or so of desk/storage between our seats in the middle part of the plane. But not to worry, we can still smile and wave 🙂

There’s a reasonable size tv screen, a nice big fold down table, and fun stuff like a pair of slippers and a little amenities kit. The headphones are comfy, but not noise-cancelling – i guess it doesn’t matter as much in an A380. Maybe it’s because we’re sitting in the middle but this time I noticed that the A380 does seem quieter than most planes – previously I’d always thought it about the same.

The cabin crew are all very polite and professional, and the food is really impressive. Fancy appetisers, and a really flavoursome Korean bibimbap for mains. It was delicious. Note to self: have bibimbap more often.

There’s no wifi which is a bit of a bummer but I’ll live 🙂

The first leg of the flight is 13 hours, the second one around 10 hours. I’ll try and stay awake on this first leg, then sleep through the second one as it arrives in Sydney around 7:30am. It kinda feels like we’re being cheated to leave New York on Friday morning then boom it’ll be Sunday morning when we get home – but guess we had to pay back our 36-odd hour long July 4 eventually.

At the time of writing, there’s still quite a few hours of his first leg left, so time to watch a few more movies – there’s plenty on the plane, haven’t even had to dig out the iPad yet.

The hours passed and eventually we landed – a very nice, uneventful flight. Very happy with Asiana Airlines so far.

Just a few hours to wait in the Asiana lounge at Incheon, then we’re off, the fi al leg … next stop, Sydney!

Stop trying to make Fetch happen! (Thursday, Part 2)

Tonight’s show is the last one we get to see on this (pretty extraordinary) trip. It’s time for Mean Girls.

Surely you know the story – it was a movie, released in 2004, starring Lindsay Lohan, about a new arrival to a High School and all the shenanigans that happen with the various cliques.

Now, some 14 years later, it’s finally been turned into the musical it was always probably just dying to be. It works so well as a musical.  Snappy, hilariously funny, and really brought up to date.  Social Media wasn’t (much of) a thing in 2004, but the story has been tweaked to bring the selfie generation on board, with a few brilliantly pointed comments that received thunderous applause from the audience.  Like, “Maybe we should just teach  our boys not to do that rather than telling our girls to be more careful”.  It follows the plot of the movie, with these embellishments, and did a great job.  Perry and I didn’t really agree on the staging – most of the sets were just video projects across the whole stage.  I thought that was, dare I say a tiny bit cheap and a bit lazy, where Perry thought it was a brilliant idea as this show really is about today’s screen-addicted generation. At least it did allow for super-fast changes of scenery to keep the story moving at a good speed.  It wasn’t just screens, there were a  props and furniture and the like, maybe I’m just being old-fashioned.

The woman playing Regina was great – her Mum was two rows in front of us, she must have been feeling super-proud … which is probably why everyone within a couple of rows of where she was sitting, knew that she was the Mum of the star of the show 🙂

The actors playing Janis (‘art freak’) and Damian (‘too gay to function’) were just brilliant, they really helped carry the show. All the iconic moments from the film where there too of course – “Stop trying to make fetch happen”, “on Wednesday’s we wear pink” and of course … “she doesn’t even go here!!”. Oh go on, watch the movie, it’ll make sense then.

At the end, there was a full-theatre standing ovation, tons of riotous applause – the crowd really got into it, it’s fair to say.  A very good show, well worth a look if you have the chance.

After it finished, the usual things happened.  It took forever to get out of the theatre, there were dozens of bicycle-rickshaw riders all lined up and ringing their bells trying to get anyone’s attention for a $3.90/minute ride somewhere.  There was that dumb person who stops in the middle of the footpath for no reason  (Is it not the case, everywhere, every time, be it a musical, a sports event, or just at the mall  …there is always at least one).  Slowly but surely, the happy crowd dispersed in to the New York night.  We did the same, but it was a bit different know that the show’s pretty much over, holiday-wise.  A bit sad to have that last walk back to the hotel, through the bustling streets, the honking taxis, the sirens, the heat, the crowds … and people still trying to sell you hop-on-hop-off bus tickets.

Tomorrow, well, it’s time to go home.

The Bronx Zoo. (Thursday, Part 1)

Today we escaped Manhattan – we managed to leave the place that you’d kinda never want to leave, and head north, to the renowned Bronx Zoo.

It wasn’t too tricky to get to – though every time we’d ask Apple or Google we’d get different instructions every 5 minutes, depending on which train had left which station at which time. Not to worry, we took the suggestions, and they worked a treat.  Jumped on the 5 train uptown, which went up , up, (but not away), past central park, through Harlem, all the way to 185th st.  Then it was a quick matter of figuring our how to turn a train ticket into a bus ticket (create a ‘transfer’ ticket at the bus stop – easy once you know how), then all aboard the bus for a short trip that stops very close to the Zoo itself.  Again, no drama on the subway, all pretty clean and quiet.

Ah, the Zoo.  You know what zoos are, what they do, why they’re there.  Bronx Zoo is a huge one, established in the late 1800s, covering around 169 acres I think they said.  It’s never something you’d be able to cover in a day – but here’s some of the things we managed to see – I’ll let the pictures do the talking. (Sorry they’re in random order, they upload that way and I’ve been too lazy to reorganise)

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Who knew the Bin Chicken has a flamboyant cousin – the Scarlet Ibis

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Nearby train station had rows of stained glass

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Monorail (bona-fide, electrified!) through part of the zoo.

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We exited the zoo at a different place that was close to a subway station. Was kinda amusing to see hat the subway was more super-way – it was elevated high above the street rather than running underground. Again it was pretty easy – took the 5 train to 59 St, then caught he N train to 49.

The tickets are still old fashioned magnetic stripe things that aren’t too reliable – but could be worse.

Yeah I guess I’m a public transport nerd – this boring stuff has to be interesting to someone, right? 🙂

Anyway – Bronx Zoo – well worth visiting.

Hello, Dolly? You Bette!

We started the day with breakfast at a different branch of Juniors. I started the day without cinnamon on my coffee. Winning! And when I ordered French toast, our waiter handily educated me about what Canadian Bacon is in the US. Ham. So I dodged a ham-shaped bullet there I guess, and enjoyed my French toast with normal (well, normal-American) bacon. Delish!

After breakfast we jumped on the hop-on-hop-off bus to travel way downtown.  Except with the traffic it was just crazy-slow, just we hopped off the bus, and hopped on the subway to get there a heck of a lot faster.  Even with delays on the subway I’d say we easily saved a good 30-45 minutes.  Just like Sydney, the platforms were stupidly hot but the trains were nice and cool inside.

Longest train ever??

We visited the September 11 memorial / museum.  On out last visit five years ago the memorial was complete but the museum wasn’t.  There’s not really too much that can be said about the whole thing that hasn’t said before, over and over and over.  It was one of rare places in New York where you could a find a lot of people, but all being very quiet, and sombre.  It didn’t really feel right to take photos – indeed, they were a number of sections where it was not permitted.

Next on the agenda was the nearby Century 21 store … a great big clothes shop full of crazy bargains, and absolutely nothing that would have any chance of fitting either of us :-/ … except for shoes.  So we ended up three pairs of shoes richer from the experience, all  at crazy-cheap prices.  So at least my feet still fit into something! 🙂

We jumped on the Subway (or to pretend that I sound like I know what I’m talking about, we caught the W train uptown to 49th and 7th) to visit another clothing shop with a good reputation, where Perry picked up some stuff.

We wandered in and out of other shops, had a bit of a meander, and had a late lunch of frozen yoghourt, because, you know, why not. Holidays!

Dinner was at ‘Smiths’ – which had a menu exactly the same as ‘Roxy’s’, where we had dinner last night.  I wonder just how much of that goes on – maybe there are like three or four restaurants in the whole city and that’s it 🙂 Whatever, dinner was still delicious – good old fashioned meat loaf.  I was going to race through it like a Bat Out Of Hell … but I Won’t Do That.

And then it was time for the show.  Something I’ve been stupidly excited about for months – talk about antici……..(wait for it)…….pation!  No, not Rocky Horror, but rather, Hello Dolly.  Starring Better Midler.  In New York City. On Broadway.  So, basically, died-and-gone-to-heaven stuff for anyone that likes the occasional musical.   And thanks to Perry waiting up until the very second tickets went on sale after the return of Bette Midler was announced, we had perfect seats.  A few rows back from the front, and dead-centre.  Could not have asked for a better spot. As for the show itself, of course I could just sit here gushing about it for the next thousand words or so, but will try to contain myself.  It’s a bit different to the movie version – but I think a lot of design is loosely based on that 1969 production.  New York of the 1870’s had at times a distinct of 1960’s flavour.  Not that I’m complaining, it was all fantastic.  Great sets, beautiful costumes – and I still can’t figured out how they got a near-as-dammit life size steam train and carriage into the theatre – that was a real surprise.

Bette Midler of course was just brilliant – still all singing and dancing, and by the looks of it having an absolute ball.  I guess when you have a theatre full of 1500-odd people all giving you a standing ovation and it’s still only part way through the show, you’d definitely be feeling the love.  She was great – and looked like she took plenty of time to kinda slip out of Dolly Gallagher Levi’s character and just be Better Midler – throwing food to the orchestra, throwing salt all over co-stat David Hyde Pierce, generally having a whale of a time – as were we.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much joy contained in a room – now I know what it means when they say “the crowd were eating out of her hand”, so to speak.  The entire rest of the cast were also great – excellent dancing, singing, you name it.  It was all really really well done, and unsurprisingly, we loved it.  Definitely a highlight of the whole trip.  Never mind why the tickets cost (no seriously I’m trying not to think about it), it was worth every penny.  I guess it’s something we’ll never see the likes of again, definitely a moment to remember.

The view from our seats. Just perfect.

Certainly something to help distract us from tomorrow – our last full day in New York, our last proper day of this whole entire trip..eek!

Top of the Rock, Top of the Temperatures (Tuesday Part 2)

The most surprising thing about the Radio City Music Hall tour was that you didn’t exit through the gift shop … mind you it was just next door.  And they sold cold bottled water – hooray! (yes single use plastic water bottles are terrible but it’s still feeling like 35 freakin’ degrees, sorry. We are at least putting them in the recycling)

It was time for the next part of our Rockefeller adventure – ‘Top of the Rock’ – the high observation point that isn’t the Empire State Building, basically (we did that last time).  For Top of the Rock, Im glad we splashed out a little extra for the ‘VIP’ tickets that get you past the queues, else we would have waited at least an hour. It was worth it just for the time saved.  The lift ride to the stop starts interestingly.  The lights close, and suddenly the whole lift goes pitch black, before the disco lights come on in the ceiling and give you something to watch as you climb about 76 storeys into the air.

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Before long, normality is more or less restored and you’re on the 76th floor – ready to take in some amazing view of New York City on this hot, humid, and hazy day.

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A city and its tourists (kinda fond of this pic if I do say so myself)

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Two more tourists

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Loved the crazy mirroring on this building

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..especially when viewed through a … batman mask?

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There are worse views to have from your window

It was a bit surprising that even this far up, there wasn’t much of a breeze for the most part – it was just scorching, another “Feels like 37” day.   Wondering if the floor was going to melt beneath our feet, we didn’t stay up there for all that long. Just long enough to gaze at the lovely Empire State Building again, and get a glimpse of the lovely Chrysler Building as well. In the distant haze you could just make out the not-sydney-harbour-bridge Hell Gate Bridge, too.

When it came time to descend (with the lift doing it’s same pitch-black-then-disco-lights trick), we found the nearest Starbucks to sit in the aircon and cool off with a huge cup of their really-quite-lovely lemonade.

For old times’ sake, we headed a few blocks up to Central Park, to see how it was going.  Saw a few sights on the way.

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Subway riders are into what now?

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We reached Central Park and quickly reached a conclusion. It’s toooo darn hot.

But we saw a squirrel 🙂

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Looks lovely – but was just o-pressingly hot, humid, and still.

We didn’t adventure on much further – even the squirrels had lost their seemingly boundless playful energy.  They were just walking from place to place rather than flitting about at 100 miles an hour.  We definitely we not capable of any flitting. Just sitting.  With an ice cream. In the shade.  We declared it an “at least we tried” – then turned around to get back to the hotel and it’s marvellous aircon.

We reached the hotel just in time for room service to come and make up the room :-/  But, not to worry, we’d put in some washing that we had to pick up so it was as good a time as any to do that.  On the way there, is a place proclaiming it had good coffee.  Can this happen in New York? I was determined to find out.

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First good sign: it had Flat White on the menu.  Second good sign: Just look at the coffee!

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It was a proper, good, flat white – with no cinnamon on top. I’d give it an 8/10.

After the little detour, we got back to hotel and just let the aircon bring us back to some degree of humanity.  Maybe it was with a degree of irony that the show we went to see tonight was Disney’s Frozen – The Musical.  Perry kinda bought tickets on a whim because they were cheap, and because hey yeah why not?  The seats were off on the edge with partially restricted vision, but that’s OK … just like the show.  I guess maybe if I were a kid it’d totally blow my socks off when Elsa comes on, but the big ‘Let it Go’ number somehow didn’t have the massive impact and gravity I thought it would.  The sub-second costume change was pretty nifty part way through the song, though.  If nothing else, at least I now know what happens in Frozen – it’s more than just one song.  All the cast performed really well and it was visually impressive and all that…just, I dunno, left me a bit cold (haha).

Sorry if those notes on the show are a bit short, but it’s late.  If I can think of anything to add, I’ll do it tomorrow.  More adventures in holy-crap-its-hot-here-in-New-York-City await!

Art Deco Overload (Tuesday, part 1)

Who am I kidding, as if you can ever get too much Art Deco.  More on that in just a second.  I’m splitting this day up in to more than one post as it’s getting way too long already, and this only describes events up to mid-day.

First the important stuff – breakfast.  Junior’s Cheesecake was the destination today – a nice big place doing much more than just cheesecake.  I had a huge plated of Corn Beef Hash, Perry had Eggs Benedict.  I also had a cappuccino. It arrived with a generous dusting of … cinnamon.  Lucky I noticed before I stirred it in.  The coffee itself wasn’t even too good – but they win a point for serving it with a sugar stick.  So, maybe 5/10 on the iScott Coffee Scale.  Probably a zero if I hadn’t noticed the cinnamon first.  New York does almost everything – except making good coffee easy to find.

Cappuccino ✅ Sugar Stick ✅ Cinnamon 🤮[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[

We were well organised enough today to have two things going on in more or less the same place – at the Rockefeller Centre.  Mind you, the Rockefeller Centre is I think two full city blocks, so that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily close together.

First, was a tour of the Radio City Music Hall.  We ordered it on a whim the other day, after wondering if it was possible to see inside at all.  Sure enough, they do tours of the building, so this morning, off we went.  It’s yet another one of those iconic New York places (the poor city has so damn many of them!) – Radio City, the Rockettes, countless awards ceremonies, concerts, etc – so I was really keen to check it out.

It was good to get a bit of the history of the place, to help interpret the features within.  When it opened, in 1932, you bought a ticket for entry, and once you were in there were live shows, there was food, there were movies – you just entered the building, saw what you wanted to see, and off you went.  This helped explain why the Grand Foyer was so grand – as it would have people milling about in it pretty much all the time, not just for a scheduled performance.  But wow, Grand is sure the word.

The next area we were lead to was very much behind the scenes – the hydraulics room.  Almost the entire area of the stage is hydraulically operated – there are multiple sections, including the orchestra pit, and each can be raised or lowered over a range of about 40 feet.  There’s also another mechanism where some can also be rotated.  It’s pretty cutting edge stuff, for 1932.  The surprising thing is that all of the equipment there now, is the same stuff that was installed in 1932.  It works so well, to this day, that there’s still no need to replace it.  This technology wasn’t just for theatregoers, though.  In the second world war, the navy took an interest in this exciting new hydraulic lift platform technology – and adopted exactly the same system to lift planes up to the decks of the aircraft carriers, including the USS Intrepid that we recently visited.  Our tour guide even said that, during the war, there were soldiers permanently stationed around the theatre’s hydraulics room to ensure that no spies would get themselves in and work out how it was all done.  Pretty unexpected that something for the theatre would then go on to be used in the theatre of war.

We were then lead to the lounge area – another place for patrons to hang out between shows.  Since the theatre seats nearly 6,000 people, even back in 1932 they were playing close attention to crowd control.  From the stairs out of the main auditorium they added a few extra large diamond-shaped pillars to the lounge, to ensure customers wouldn’t all go the same way.  They called them ‘silent ushers’ – to split the flow of people and ensure they were more evenly distributed among the lower lounge area.

The lounge area face another challenge – being quite close the the auditorium, there was a risk that people in the lounge would disturb the shows going on in the auditorium if they were too noisy.  Instead of just trying soundproofing, they used design as a tool.  The whole area was decorated with dark paint and dark fabrics, and the lighting was kept relatively low, to create a relaxed, hushed atmosphere.  At the time, diamond shapes were said to induce calm and quietness in people – so the massive pillars, the lights, the carpets … everything had diamonds patterns on it.  An interesting approach – I guess it must’ve worked, it’s all much the same as it was back on day 1.

Regarding the authenticity – for a place built in 1932, that sees more than a million people through it a year, you can be quite sure not everything in the theatre is original.  However, as it’s a Landmark building (like being Heritage Listed I guess), everything that is replaced, is made using the same techniques as when it was done originally.  The carpet is still manufactured in the same way, the gold-leaf-look walls are still done in the same way (it’s just aluminium foil and shellac – clever!) – there’s enough work and material required to keep the supplying businesses in business, so everything stays as true as it can to how it was back in 1932.

There was even something here pre-dating 1932.  The original working scale model of the theatre, built for presenting to the Rockefeller before the design was approved.  It was a fully working model – the stages moved, the lights worked, a pretty good demo version.

And then the exciting part – seeing the main auditorium itself.  It really was a bit of a ‘wow’ moment, walking through those doors.  I’ll let the pictures do some talking.

The design is based on a sunrise – hence the red chairs, the golden tiers of the roof and walls.  It’s grad and it’s glorious, and it’s hard to believe now that such things were even possible on this scale in 1932.  No pillars, no supports, all just good solid engineering and stunning design.   They were setting up for the MTV awards, so there was plenty happening at stage level.  We were even there at the right time to see the orchestra pit section get lowered by the hydraulic system.  No creaking or groaning, still a quiet efficient system after all these years, running happily at about 1 foot per second.

The tour was much more comprehensive than I though it would be – there was still a bit to go.  We were ushered in to a small room – populated with some of the remaining original 1932 seats (surprisingly large and comfy) – to watch a small presentation about the theatre’s history.  The scary part of the the story was in 1978, where, due to the onslaught of TV over the decades, and more and more local picture shows, patronage kept declining until the whole operation was no longer commercially viable.  The theatre was shut down, and demolition plans were drawn up, and moves were underway to determine what would replace it.  Fortunately, it was rescued primarily due to people power, petitioning the Rockefeller and the local government – which is when it was made a Landmark building to keep it safe, just a few weeks before the wrecking ball was due to move in.  So incredibly lucky.  From that point, the Rockefellers tipped in a bunch of money to help restore and renovated, and the venue has been on the up and up ever since – destined to hang around for quite some time yet, I’d think.   The christmas shows have become quiet legendary, with the equally legendary Rockettes performing – up to six shows a day in the busy November / December period.  Lucky there are two teams of Rockettes to help manage the workload.

Another bonus in the tour – we got to meet one of the Rockettes.  She’s been a Rockette for 6 years, and told a whole bunch of stuff about life as as Rockette.  They have to re-audition every single year, there’s no guarantees that once you get in, you’ll stay in.  They have to be between 5 foot 6, and 5 foot 10 and-a-half.  They’re basically a team of incredibly capable athletes – training at least 6 hours a day, six days a week, in the leads to the christmas shows.  Elite, at the top of their game, in an extremely demanding position, fully committed, not allowed to put a foot wrong, performing time after time after time.

Much of the choreography for the Rockette shows is still based on works by the original choreographer, Russell Markert.  Fun Fact:  The Rockettes actually pre-date Radio City Music Hall.  They started in Missouri as the ‘Missouri Rockets’ – but when they toured to New York, showman ‘Roxy’ Rothafel ‘discovered’ them, and moved them to New York, where before long they found a new home in Radio City Music Hall, as the “Roxyettes”, until their change to the Rockettes in 1934.  Would you believe, Russell Markert stayed on as their choreographer, all the way up to 1971.

After the ‘meet and greet’ – and obligatory souvenir photo opportunity (I swear I would not be surprised if we walked in to a convenience store and were ushered over to a green screen to get a souvenir photo taken…), it was on to ‘Roxy’s Apartment’.  But first – the touristy souvenir pic!

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Roxy Rothafel was instrumental in the design and ultimate success of Radio City – one the ways his thanks was shown, was that he was gifted a quite substantial apartment with the theatre complex itself.  With 20 foot high ceilings (covered in genuine gold leaf – no foil and shellac for this guy!), and luxurious fittings, it’s pretty striking even today.  The dining room is very smart – a perfectly domed roof, so even when a who is playing below, the acoustics ensure each dinner guest can be plainly heard.  The apartment has had plenty of famous visitors – Olivia de Havilland, Judy Garland, Walt Disney, even Liberace.  Now, it is of course not lives in – but is rented out for (very fancy, I would imagine) private functions.

Next thing you know we were thrown from the 1930s directly in to the present, as the tour somewhat abruptly ended.  But what an amazing experience – I was only hoping to see the main auditorium, but ended up seeing and learning so much more.  It was a real treat – can’t recommend it highly enough if you’re at least even vaguely interested in this type of thing.

That’s it for part 1…

Feels like 37

We’ve seen some of the city on foot.  We’ve seen some of the city by bus.  So why not see the city by boat?

That was this morning’s plan as we headed off for a Circle Line boat tour around all of  Manhattan island – after a quick stop off at a corner deli for a cream cheese bagel. I’m not trying to fit in some cliche, but new york cream cheese bagels are the best I’ve ever had.  Simple, fresh, and delicious, a perfect breakfast-on-the-go for all the people we saw heading to work this morning… but that’ll also be us soon enough.

As luck would have it, the pier we needed to be at was on 46th street, and we’re on 47th, so that made it very easy to get to.  Just make sure the avenues are increasing instead of decreasing, and you know you’re on the right track – just stop before you fall in the Hudson.

Glad we had plenty of sunscreen on today. (yes Michaela, we’ve been extremely responsible in this regard 🙂 ) We were a little early for the boat, so had to queue for while before the ticket booth opened, in the full sun, where it was already 29 degreed by 8:30.  We survived, got our tickets, boarded the boat and sat in a partially shaded area, so all good.

It was an interesting 2.5 hour trip (not a three hour tour, a three hour tour…) all around the island, with plenty to see on both sides. Well, as  much the this very hazy day would allow us to see.  The heat was kind-of a killer, but when it’s a choice between seeing stuff or going inside and not seeing stuff.. .we opted to see stuff.

I learnt a few things here and there – the Freedom Tower (replacement for the World Trade Centre) is shaped like it is, so it effectively has 8 sides, to represent both World Trade Centre towers.

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We learnt a bit about Ellis Island, New Jersey, Hoboken, and of course, Lady Liberty.  I still remember 5 years ago I was feeling like crap on the day we took the Staten Island Ferry to sail past, so happy I could appreciate her a lot more this time around. So here are approximately a gajillion photos…

At this point our tour guide did make some rather pointed comments about remembering how modern America was founded on immigrants and the opportunities they seek – and that we should not lose sight of that.

Something I didn’t expect – stacks of people JetSki-ing on the Hudson.

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Also funny to finally see this bridge in person (if hiding behind another one) – but it’s so little!

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Speaking of bridges – New York has so many that are pretty…

And here’s a bunch of things we saw…

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Tour guide suggested the architect was a fan of Kinky Boots. He has a point…
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If you call this pyramid looking building a pyramid, apparently the architect gets quite upset. It’s a trapezoid!

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Apartment block from the first Ghostbusters movie

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I call this building “Jenga”

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Unexpected so close to manhattan!

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Still waiting for my ice tea…

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Really surprising to think this is manhattan

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I’ll always love the Chrysler building.

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Since the pier for the cruise was pretty much right next door to the USS Intrepid museum, it was a bit of a no-brained to drop in there.  It’s a great place to be, on the top of an aircraft carrier, on a 33 degree day with clear skies … our phones weren’t lying when they said ‘feels like 37’ – if not more.  The things we went to see were decided more by ‘which has shade / aircon’ rather than ‘what is most interesting’.  Honestly don’t think we had a choice in the matter, it was just too hot.  We did see a bunch of cool stuff though. Plenty of aircraft up on the deck, which, with my great knowledge of military history, could effectively identify as ‘that’s a place’ and also ‘that’s a helicopter’.  Yup, I have the skills…

The USS Intrepid is celebrating its 75th year – now i don’t know much at all about warships, but it seems to carry its age well and doesn’t look that old…even though it was decommissioned back in 1974.  The crew’s quarters didn’t look quite so comfy as our room on the Westerdam, and try as we might we couldn’t seem to find the Lido deck 🙂

The museum also houses the Space Shuttle Endeavour – kinda the ‘trial’ one that never made it to space, but still, pretty cool to get up close and personal with a Space Shuttle.  So close, it was really difficult to take photos of.

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Not only that, the museum also has a Concorde, probably the main reason I wanted to go visit (with the Space Shuttle a close second).  Walking up to it, I was surprised just how little it is.  And how big the engines are – but I guess to beat the speed of sound you’d need big engines.  The windows however looked absolutely tiny – I just found this like which gives you some idea: https://www.reddit.com/r/aviation/comments/2rr4y6/concorde_passenger_window_size/

Even though they don’t fly anymore, they’re still a beautiful, if perhaps a little impractical, aircraft.

After all that we just had to get out of the sun and chill (literally!) back at the hotel.  Perry had a quick nap, I went out and got myself a haircut nearby.  It’s always the sign of a good long holiday when you’re on your second haircut since you started! It was in the Hell’s Kitchen district, where I passed some amusing restaurants  – ‘Fresh from Hell’, and ‘Bottoms up’ …

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What was next?  Just for a change … yep, dinner and a show. Dinner was at ‘5 Napkins’ burgers – amazing.  But you’ve all seen pictures of burgers  before.

Tonight’s show was a real treat – we’re so lucky its 15 week season coincided with the time were going to be here.  The Boys in the Band.  Apparently a bit of a classic, it debuted 50 years ago – and was pretty groundbreaking for its time considering it was play about a bunch of gay men daring to live relatively normal lives. Reviving the play for 2018 is cool enough in itself, but I guess what makes it really special is the cast.  Jim Parsons (yep the guy from Big Bang Theory), Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannels, Zachary Quinto, to start with.  Star power or not, it was an incredible play, at times hilarious and at others, devastating.  What starts as a fun party gets darker, and darker and people get drunker and drunker, and internalised homophobia comes to surface in damaging ways.  Indeed, one of the pivotal lines at the end of the play “Why can’t we just stop hating ourselves…” must have been achingly appropriate in 1968 – but for people who still have reasons to be afraid of coming out,  it can still ring very true today.  The play ran for a bit under two hours, straight through, no interval.  The performances were excellent – Jim Parsons isn’t just the guy from Big Bang Theory.  It was a great play – very glad we had the opportunity to see it.

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After leaving the theatre, sure enough, it was still really hot and humid outside – but we’re so fortunate to be staying where we are as it was again only a few minutes walk home, mercifully avoiding Times Square this time.  All these tourists just get in the way sometimes, hahahaha 🙂

So that’s it for another day.  I’m totally in denial about that fact that slowly, but surely, this holiday will be drawing to a close.  But for now, still having the Best. Time. Ever.  Feeling like the luckiest kid in the world.

Summer in the city

It’s a hot town, this New York City.  This time, in the literal sense. I guess it could be worse, it only reached 33 degrees.  But at ground level, in the middle of a throng of people, you kinda start to feel it.  I don’t know people cope that aren’t used to this kind of thing.

We didn’t have a real early start – but I think we’re finally recovered from the mostly sleepless bus trip. One thing about the city that never sleeps, is that it’s not too difficult to find somewhere to get brekky.  Today it was Trattoria Daniela – http://www.danielarestaurant.com/home .

They had everything pretty well planned for tourist trade – all breakfasts $16 – and all the favourites covered,  Eggs Benedict, French Toast, Pancakes, etc.  All with Coffee/Tea, and Juice. French toast was great, with bacon, and maple syrup.  And fried eggs, which was a bit of an odd combination but hey all good.

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It gave us the energy we needed to sit down for two hours and do nothing 🙂  Naturally we just can’t get enough of buses now (lol), so we jumped on the Hop On Hop Off bus today, since we knew it’d be a bit less than 12 hours this time.  I gotta say, there could be more people on street corners trying to sell Hop On tickets in New York, than there are people in Vegas trying to sell visits to titty-bars, or people in Thailand yelling out “massaaaaaage?!”.  Anywhere near any of the bus stops there are two or three or more people along the one block trying to sell you tickets.  I want to get a badge or a t-shirt that says “We already have Hop On Hop Off tickets thanks”. :).  And so, we Hopped On and braved the full sun upstairs.

On days like these one great thing about all of New York’s tall buildings is that they afford a lot of shade.  I was bit hesitant to go the top of the bus at first but it wasn’t often at all we were in the full sun, so it was OK, if still a bit hot and humid.  Once we able to grab to seats right at the front, I took approximately too many photos, some of which are below.  They were pretty much taken all while on the move, and the front window was really dirty, so don’t expect greatness 😀

It was interesting to see how, even just on Manhattan, the landscape is so changeable.  It’s not just buildings buildings buildings – once you get toward the ‘bottom’ end, to the lower west side, it really opens up a bit along the river – a number of parks, lots of people jogging, it was kinda unexpected.

After doing a big loop (about 2 hours worth) we jumped off and popped in to Schnippers for a drink – a restaurant (ok, fast food chain)  that we grew very fond of last time we were here, so it was nice to pop in again even if it was just for a (wonderfully cold, and infinitely refillable) drink.

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Ah, Schnippers, how we missed you 😀

Then we just kinda wandered.  Over to Bryant Park, for a moment to sit in the shade, then over to the city-block-sized Macy’s on 34th street.  A huge place, all of which was air-conditioned, so  very good place to spend some time walking around looking at stuff.

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As part of the bus tour we were informed that Manhattan has no WalMart.  But it does have a K-Mart!  I don’t think it’s at all related to the Australia one, but it has a similar kinda vibe – cheap clothes and other stuff.  Not bad cheap clothes either, so we picked up some shirts.  Before this trip is over we’re buying another bag, we’ve got a good luggage limit on the flight home so dang it, let’s make the most of it! 🙂

We took an early dinner at a bit of a US institution, if every second TV show is to be believed:  Olive Garden.  It all begin a little strangely – you’re greeted downstairs, given one of the food-pager things like a pub bistro, then sent upstairs to a small lobby to wait. Then once your buzzer buzzes, someone will lead you to a table.  Even though we went for dinner at 5PM, the place was already lost completely full. Around Times Square there is no place that is lacking for people – so it’s understandable everyone tries to do things at weird times to avoid all the other tourists.  So waiting 5 minutes was no biggie.

I didn’t have great expectations just coz it’s a massive chain restaurant – now I’m no gourmet  restaurant reviewer but I was really really impressed with the food. Right after you sit down a basket of bread sticks appear, and, perplexingly, a huge bowl of salad.  Can’t complain – it’s all tasty – and those bits come free!  We skipped entree (sorry, ‘appetiser’), I had a delicious ‘entree’ (argh that’s so annoying how they call the main dish the entree) of  ‘Chicken Piccata’ – chicken with lots of garlic and capers and peppers and lemon, and some sliced of crumbed zucchini.  Really flavoursome!

Perry’s meal was a sight to behold – the ‘Tour of Italy’ – why serve you one Italian dish when they can serve you three at once?  Chicken Parmy, Fettucine, and a Lasagne, all on the one plate.  Genius! Perfect if every you’re feeling indecisive 🙂  So there you go – Olive Garden, pretty good!

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Tastier than it looks, trust me

 

And we even had time to scope out more souvenirs – this was amusing, no, neither of us bought one…

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Also saw a nice old Corvette Stingray, so had to take a photo of course.

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Tonight’s show – another old favourite – The Book of Mormon.  We first saw it five years ago in this same theatre – the Eugene O’Neil.  This is the 5th time we’ve seen the show, and of course, it’s still awesome.  They had a great cast, but, to be nit-picky, this is the first time the show hadn’t been end-to-end perfect.  Their sound people missed a few cues so microphones weren’t turned on in time, and half the band seemed to have issues for a moment during one of the big numbers.  But like I said, nit picky.  Still a great show, and I think a little different to when we saw it last – some of the songs seem to have been expanded a bit by a few bars here and there.  Kinda of like the differences we noticed over the years with Kinky Boots, but on a smaller scale.  It’s all good – thoroughly enjoyed it.  But it makes me realise I am turning into a crank old “you damn kids get off my lawn” type of guy.  There were quite a few people around who didn’t seem to realise that you do not talk while you’re at the theatre.  You. Do. Not. Talk. Especially when you’re that close to the front.  You’re not at home watching something on the telly, you’re in a theatre where you’re distracting the audience and maybe even the cast.  Have some respect. Grr!  A person in the front row was even playing games on their phone even after the second act started. Yes,  #firstworldproblems and all that, its true.   Anyway, many worse things happen in life – and the show did go on 🙂  I felt sorry for the cast at times – it was a bloody hot day and the theatre was also really really warm inside, they did a hell of a job wearing all those costumes, plus all the performing, in that heat.   Hasa Diga Eebowai! (see the show, people!)

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It was kind surprising to find, once the show finished, that outside was even hotter.  Still around 30 degrees and close to 10pm.  We fought our way through the crowd , and stopped at Starbucks for a lemonade

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Questionable coffee, but groovy signage…

(… yep, Starbucks does great lemonade, if only they had nice coffee haha), then back to the joy that is a well air-conditioned room at the hotel.  Phew!  Ready for more adventures tomorrow. And, you’ll be shocked to learn, another show 🙂