Macy’s, Journey, and Westway

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Two months ago, I had the pleasure of taking a whirlwind trip to the Big Apple with four of my favorite people. From this experience, I was reminded that it’s not possible to do even a tenth of what you want to do in an overnight trip. I also learned that talk is cheap. Some people yak and yak and then yak some more about how they want to travel and that they’d LOVE to go to New York at Christmas to see the huge tree in Rockefeller Center, and the next year finds them saying the same thing. And the next year too. You just have to DO IT and stop talking about doing it. Here’s hoping that if I write some of my memories, you’ll be encouraged to “go for it” next year.

On the plane ride home from NYC that Sunday night, I re-read parts of a book entitled The Writer’s Book of Days by Judith Reeves. Towards the end of the book, she urges her readers to use “I remember” as writing prompt. While this is a simple idea, and certainly not a new one, it’s hard to put into practice sometimes. It’s easier to say, “Hey, I remember the summer morning when my oldest child was born” than to actually write about the event itself.

That night after reading Ms. Reeves’ suggestion, I challenged my sister travelers to go home and jot down some of the things they remembered. Although they looked at me as though I’d had too much eggnog or something, I hope that they followed through. I did.

I remember:

  • Watching the cab dispatcher at LaGuardia and admiring his ability to keep everything moving. I also remember seeing a yellow Highlander and wondering if we’d get to ride in it. We didn’t.
  • The wild taxi ride into the city. We were so close to other vehicles that, to Katherine’s delight, we could see their lunch and the books they were reading. When one person gets excited and happy about something, it’s contagious, and before we arrived at our hotel, we were all laughing.
  • Dancing to Christmas music in the lobby with Charles, a bellman at the Hilton Garden Inn, and knowing that this was going to be a wonderful trip. He later danced with Katherine and tried his best to get her to sing.
  • Eating lunch at the Westway Diner, something that’s become a tradition ever since the day Otis and I spied Brooke Shields in a booth there one May day. On the Saturday in December, we had sandwiches and fries, and Elizabeth and I pronounced the fries to be the best we’ve ever tasted.
  • Not being able to locate the Gray Line tour bus and settling for “the other one.” It was okay, but the plastic cover on the top of the bus was old and opaque. We couldn’t see the sights clearly; nor could we hear our tour guide unless we used ear buds. Using ear buds, however, cut out the city noises. It was a trade-off: savoring the sounds of the city or listening to the tour guide’s spiel. I did a little of both.
  • The hundreds and hundreds of Santas and elves doing a pub crawl. I’m still not certain about how and why this event was taking place, but wherever we went, we saw Santas and elves merrily walking up and down the streets and in an out of pubs and restaurants. We were told that they were taking part in an official pub crawl to raise money for Hurricane Sandy victims. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know. I just know it was huge fun to watch them.
  • Katherine and Jeanita wheeling and dealing over scarves and pocketbooks in China Town. Elizabeth later got into the act and bought scarves for the Core 4, a group of work friends.
  • Dinner at La Mela in Little Italy, a high energy establishment with an “interesting” ceiling decoration. We all dined on something different, but I can remember only my choice, clam linguine with clams still in the shells.
  • Joining thousands of other people in Time’s Square after getting back to the city that night. We visited the Hershey store, gawked at the billboards, and bought scarves from what looked like a festive downtown city market, complete with Christmas lights outlining the red roofs.
  • Enjoying a scrumptious breakfast with Elizabeth in the hotel dining room the next morning as we watched the gray and overcast city come alive.
  • Walking briskly to Radio City Music Hall in the misting rain. Drinking in the sights along the way, especially the gigantic red balls and lights.
  • Standing in line at Radio City and enjoying the sights, including a man wearing a red corduroy hat and lots of little girls wearing their winter coats.
  • The moment when Ann realized that our Rockettes tickets were for the 23rd instead of the 16th. No problem. The staff arranged for other seats, even better than the ones we had purchased.
  • The Rockettes and Santa! Marvelous show! Later I told Elizabeth that witnessing such remarkable talent was almost a spiritual experience and that I thought I was going to cry. Trying to hide a smile, she said, “Mom, you did cry.”
  • Touring Rockefeller Plaza and having our picture made in front of the Christmas tree. I also offered to take pictures of other people, something I often do when walking on the beach. We oohed and ahed over the ice skaters and then hustled towards the M & M store. Loved it! Three stories high and fun.
  • Subway ride to and from Macy’s. A nice experience that made me feel that we were in a movie. The next time I go to New York, I’m going to learn how to navigate this system because it’s so much less expensive than paying for a taxi or riding a tour bus. However, I highly recommend the latter for people who are visiting for the first time. If it weren’t for the things I’ve learned on busses, I’d think Battery Park was in Times Square!
  • Buying a chicken shish kabob and roasted chestnuts from a street vendor. Yummy! We had seen the roasted chestnut signs from the taxi on our way into the city, and I remarked that I wanted to sample this treat that I’d sung about for decades—“chestnuts roasting on an open fire….”
  • Doing the Macy’s thing. Jeanita and I have this landmark on our Must-Do List every year, but this is the first time we had ever visited the shoe floor. We asked about Uggs and were directed to the second (if I recall correctly) floor. It was amazing! Shoes, shoes everywhere and not an Ugg in sight. No problem. We were sent to a store called Journey on the corner of 34th and Broadway where we were assisted by a peppy young man. Unfortunately, we spent so much time deliberating over shoes that we didn’t have time to visit the Museum of Modern Art, my favorite museum. Alas.
  • Eating at Z Deli across from the hotel after realizing it was too late to go to the MoMA. Great (tasty and substantive) pizza and interesting ambience. There were a couple of picnic tables in the front of the market/deli, and that’s where we ate as we watched the drizzling rain and enjoyed being together.
  • Riding back to airport through Queens and thinking of how dismal the sky was, yet how the little trees and lighted decorations glimpsed inside of apartment windows gave pause for thought.
  • Enjoying airport snacks while waiting at the gate. The Dunkin Donuts flatbread sandwiches taste better there than anywhere else.

In about an hour and 20 minutes, we landed in Myrtle Beach with memories of street vendors and China Town and Rocketttes and little girls in their winter coats. From start to finish, our adventure lasted less than 36 hours, but the time together and the experiences we shared will last a lifetime.

Okay, Ladies, what do you remember? And what about someone else who went to New York during the holiday season? Do you have a special memory to share?

A Day in Manhattan

Sometimes a girl just needs to have fun, and if it’s in New York City with good friends, that’s even better!

“How long were you there? A week?” That was Tim’s question when he overheard me telling Lisa about the things we did in New York City a few weeks ago. We were only there from Thursday about noon until Saturday around 3:00 p.m., but we managed to make use of every moment. If you want to read a travelogue of six women’s experiences in the Big Apple, read on. You might get some good ideas about what to do when you visit the City.

Here’s a rundown of our first day:

We flew out of Myrtle Beach on Spirit Airlines, an experience that was grand in every way. Well, almost every way. If you want a soft drink, juice, or coffee, you have to pay for it. Gone are the days when those frills are free, at least with Spirit. At the same time, Spirit is more affordable than the giant airlines, and it’s virtually hassle-free. The ride was smooth, and the people were friendly.

Upon arrival at LaGuardia, we easily found the baggage claim area where we retrieved our bags and then went outside to hail a taxi. Fortunately for us, we quickly found a little yellow station wagon that carried all of us. We oohed and aahed our way into the city as our small-town eyes drank in the sights around us, and if I recall correctly, we especially loved the bridges and tunnel.

We checked in at the Staybridge on 34th Street (high recommend this establishment) and rendezvoused with Mary, a friend of Jeanita’s who lives in New Jersey. After checking with the Staybridge staff for directions, we headed out in search of the Westway Diner. My husband and I had spied Brooke Shields while eating  there in May, and we were halfway hoping for another celebrity sighting. If that didn’t happen, I knew the food would be good…and it was. I love the ambience of Westway. From the black and white tiled floors to the magnificent service, it’s a grand place to eat.

Tummies full, we walked to Macy’s for a little touristy-type behavior. We gawked at the window displays, enjoyed the sights of Herald Square, and did a little shopping for hats and gloves. While in Macy’s, I inquired about Tiffany’s location in relation to where we were, and since it was going to be open until 8, we decided to ride the Subway there. With Mary’s help, we made it there and back.

The area around Tiffany’s is far different from that around Times Square, not better but different. Connie and Tilara took numerous pictures of the beautiful street decorations, and then we went inside. Although they were incredibly busy that afternoon, there was still an almost formal feeling in the air. We loved the pale blue carpeting and uniformed “guards,” one of whom agreed to take our picture. We spent most of our time on the third floor drooling over sterling silver, and after making our tiny purchases, we rode the subway back to the Staybridge.

After a little primping and preening, we headed out to the Rockefeller Center area to see the famous Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. In a word, fabulous. I fell in love with Santa and felt like a kid mesmerized by his laughter and rich voice. Anyone who could sit through such a delightful performance and not be in the Christmas spirit would have to be a first-rate Scrooge.

All our walking and sightseeing left us hungry so after leaving Radio City, we walked to one of my favorite Manhattan restaurants, Junior’s. I’m not sure what it is that I like about that place, but well, maybe it’s the generous portions of good food. Or it could be that the staff is friendly and helpful. It’s a busy, buzzy place with a lot of energy and a big city feel. That night, we were there until 12:30 a.m., and as the restaurant was nearing closing time, the employees presented the hostess with a birthday cake and a song. Nice way to end a perfect evening.

The next day was even better. Stay tuned.