Patricia was born in Brooklyn and was brought to California
kicking and screaming at the age of 13. She loved New
York and didn’t want to leave. Now that she’s
a “big girl” she goes back as often as she
can. I was in New York once on business in 1973, long
before Patricia and I met, but I’d stayed only
two days and saw nothing but the Waldorf Astoria and
the “21 Club” where, I was told, “everyone
who is anyone” goes to transact business. I remember
being stunned to see a $21 Hamburger on the menu at
the time; it’s probably $100 today.
Patricia and I met 20 years ago she’s taken me
numerous times and I’ve grown to love “The
City” as much as she does. Several of my previous
“travelogues” have been about stays in New
York including “A Big Apple Christmas” and
“A Fall Color Cruise,” so, for those who
read my stuff I’ll try not to include too much
glad to know so many of our friends read these little
essays on our trips. Just last week our friend Gordon
Bowley told me that when he and his wife Carol went
to New York before Christmas they visited my favorite
Italian Restaurant, Giambelli’s as suggested in
my last travelogue. The same day my dentist, Jon Workman,
told me he’d used one of my travelogues when he
and wife Jane went to Italy. So, I realize I now have
a responsibility not just to entertain, (although I’ve
always had the feeling that I am mostly just entertaining
myself), but to help you enjoy your own trip more should
you, dear reader, follow in our footsteps.
YORK AT THANKSGIVING We have been to New York several
times over Christmas Week and have found it a delightful
experience. For one thing we’ve always been able
to get a terrific discount on the room rate at the Waldorf
Astoria over Christmas Week. Because there are no conventions
or business travelers and few tourists staying over
Christmas Day, we’ve seldom paid more than $225
this year our friends Dennis and Judy Sisto, who live
in Napa, suggested we go to New York over Thanksgiving.
We jumped at the idea because I’ve always wanted
to see the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I figured
that, being a holiday, we’d get the same kind
of discounted room as over Christmas. WRONG!! The Waldorf
wanted over $450 a night for a regular room. I almost
had a recurrence of my Atrial Fibrillation.
between 49th and 50th Sts. and covering the block from
Park Avenue to Lexington, the Waldorf is in “Midtown
East.” We’ve become familiar with the neighborhood
and have several favorite restaurants nearby, so we
looked for another hotel in the area. Using the expedia.com
website we located the San Carlos Hotel on 50th between
Lexington and 3rd Ave. only a half block from the Waldorf.
At $275 a night we booked a suite for the week –
Tuesday to Tuesday (to avoid the worst travel days)
over the Thanksgiving holiday. The Sistos couldn’t
leave Napa until Thanksgiving Day, but they also booked
at the San Carlos.
YOUR NEW YORK TRIP While I’m really a computer
neophyte, I’m learning how to use the internet
to plan our trips.
mentioned expedia.com which has good data on hotels
and cruise ships. But, you need to be careful using
expedia.com to book your hotel room because once you
book it you often won’t be able to cancel it.
I learned the hard way, better to book directly with
the hotel because you can cancel if your plans change.
Most hotels, including the San Carlos, have their own
website on which you can get all the details about amenities
as well as the 800 number to book it yourself. If they
quote you a price above the Expedia price, just tell
them you were quoted a lower price and they will often
you’re going to New York over the Holidays you
will want to see the Christmas Show at Radio City Music
Hall starring the Rockettes. It’s a “Must
See.” It premiers around November 15th and runs
several shows daily through New Year’s Day. There
are Road Show versions of the Rockettes Christmas Show
at venues like the Long Beach Civic Auditorium, but
they pale in comparison to the real thing at Radio City.
You can book your tickets on line at radiocity.com and
even print out your tickets so you won’t have
to stand in line. One word of caution, if you aren’t
traveling with children, book one of the show-times
that will be unpopular with children and their parents.
The website will indicate which are the “most
popular” times – TRANSLATION- “The
times when there will most likely be 10,000 screaming
you have particular restaurants you want to visit, check
out opentable.com. They will make reservations for you
and you can even accumulate “frequent diner”
points. Advance reservations are definitely required
for Thanksgiving dinner. Nearly all New Yorkers, who
are still in town, eat out on Thanksgiving and so do
the million or so tourists who come to town to see the
parade. We used opentable.com to book our Thanksgiving
reservation at Brasserie as well as our River Café
“Farewell to New York” dinner.
to check out is broadway.com. You’ll want to book
your Broadway shows in advance and broadway.com will
give you all the details on the shows (including which
ones are rated “G”) and then allow you to
book your tickets on line.
can also book tickets to the opera at Lincoln Center
you’ll find the New York Times website nytimes.com
invaluable. Check out the links to “Dining and
Wine,” “Arts” and “Theater.”
final word of advice, you can usually trust the suggestions
of your Hotel’s Concierge. Yes, they get a kickback
for referring hotel guests to certain restaurants, but
if they weren’t good restaurants the Concierge
wouldn’t get tips.
SAN CARLOS HOTEL We arrived on Tuesday evening via United
at JFK and traveled by limo to the San Carlos. Many
people take a taxi into town, and there is a fixed price
from JFK to Midtown, but we prefer to have a driver
waiting for us for a few dollars more.
older hotel completely remodeled in 1999, the San Carlos
boasts a lot of amenities you’ll find only in
“Suites” hotels elsewhere. Your room has
a sofa, a refrigerator (you can make your own ice cubes)
and a Microwave Oven. There is no restaurant at the
hotel (although we were told one is planned for 2005)
but a complimentary continental breakfast is served
every morning off the lobby. There is also a “Room
Service Menu” containing selections from nearby
restaurants that will deliver to your room at half the
cost of a similar meal delivered by Room Service in
a major hotel and faster, too.
the San Carlos has a compact workout room and a bank
of four computers on which you can access the Internet.
All of this is at no charge, which can save you another
hundred bucks a day.
liked the San Carlos. The staff is friendly and helpful,
and because they have only about 150 guests, they remember
MEDICATION CRISIS Our first morning we discovered we
hadn’t brought all of our medications. When you’re
my age, your medications are pretty much all that’s
keeping you upright. One particularly critical prescription
was missing so we had to try to fill it in Manhattan.
Lucky for us we remembered the phone number of our local
pharmacy in Sierra Madre and were able to get a “refill”
at a nearby Rite-Aid. It was pouring down rain and windy
enough to turn your umbrella inside out, but we made
it to the pharmacy only moderately drenched.
pharmacist was extremely helpful, he called our local
pharmacist and held our hand while getting the necessary
approvals from Blue Cross so we owed only our “co-pay,”
but we lost some of our planned shopping time. DRAT!!
TRAVEL TIP Your prescription bottles have your pharmacist’s
phone number on the label. If you carry one of those
fancy pill travel cases into which you dump your pills,
be sure you’re also carrying your home drug store’s
NEW YORKERS RUDE? The answer to that question, often
asked, is a resounding “No.” Nearly every
encounter we had with New Yorkers was a pleasant experience.
Many go out of their way to help you, from the pharmacist
at Rite Aide to the waiter at your restaurant. But,
they are “brusque.” New Yorkers are universally
in a hurry. They have to deal with a lot of people and
they don’t have a lot of time to do it in, so
they “hurry you up.” A few stories will
likes to tell about the evening at “Sardi’s,’
the famous Broadway Restaurant, when she overheard a
tourist say to her waiter, “we’re in a hurry,
we’re attending the theater.” The waiter
responded, “Lady, everybody in here is going to
the theater.” – TRANSLATION- “Save
the chitchat lady, and give me your order so we can
both be out of here on time.”
Patricia and Daughter Julie came to New York a couple
of years ago they wanted to bring home some “F.D.N.Y.”
tee shirts. Someone suggested they buy them at a local
firehouse so the proceeds would benefit the “Widows
and Orphans Fund.” They found the nearest firehouse
and a young fireman was happy to help them showing off
a selection of shirts. One shirt titled “In the
Arms of the Angels” listed the names of the eight
members of their company who died in the World Trade
Center on 9/11. How could they pass it up? They decided
to buy several to take back as gifts but as they were
trying to decide what sizes to buy, the fire alarm went
off. The fireman began to shift from one foot to the
other and clapped his hands together saying, “Now,
let’s move it along ladies.” – TRANSLATION-
“Lady that fire truck is about to leave and I
have to be on it.”
Patricia and Julie made their choices as the fireman
was putting on his rubber trousers and they waved at
him as he leaped on the fire truck in motion as it left
the firehouse. All the firemen on the truck smiled and
returned their wave.
all the eating places have lines of people waiting to
get their orders taken at lunchtime. The lines do move
along swiftly, but when you get to the counter you’d
better have made your decision. If you stand there and
gawk at the “menu,” the order taker is likely
to say something like, “Talk to me, lady, talk
to me.” – TRANSLATION – “Lady,
the guy behind you has a 30 minute lunch break and if
you don’t give me your order right now, he’s
going to clobber you.”
we were standing in front of the San Carlos one day
a bread truck pulled up and double-parked across the
street. The driver got out and dumped about a half a
loaf of white bread on the sidewalk. Then he shouldered
his big breadbasket and was on his way to the nearby
restaurant when he saw us watching him. He said “Pigeons,
it won’t be there long.” And he was right;
he was hardly 3 steps away when a cloud of pigeons and
a few other smaller birds swooped in for a feast.
Yorkers are a unique breed of people. They went through
9/11 together and they all lost a friend or loved one.
None of them will ever forget that day. They are all
grateful to tourists for coming to their town and helping
their economy. They look out for each other, even their
all love Rudy Guliani, but when asked about Michael
Bloomberg they almost all mention the smoking ban in
bars and restaurants. Not that they’re all smokers,
far from it, it’s just they hate to see anyone
disrespected. While smokers have been forced to the
sidewalks, no one has provided any ash trays, so now
the once spotlessly clean city is littered with cigarette
butts - “Hall’s Law of Unintended Consequences,”
people went out of their way to be helpful to us. At
the Thanksgiving Parade Patricia met two sisters from
Long Island who invited us to their home for Thanksgiving
dinner. We would have gone, too, except that our dinner
plans had already been made. I just don’t see
that happening at the Rose Parade.
METROPOLITAN OPERA I have a list of “Things to
do before I check out.” Many of these things are
in New York and every time we go I check off one or
more. This time, I fulfilled a life long dream by attending
the Metropolitan Opera at the Lincoln Center. As it
happened, “La Boheme” was being performed
on the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving. The tickets
weren’t cheap ($150 or more), but it’s a
are seven balconies in the Lincoln Center and there
wasn’t an empty seat. We were in the 3rd Row (not
a preferred seat because it’s “too close”),
but the seat directly in front of us was occupied by
Italian singing star Andrea Bocelli. The 2nd act of
La Boheme involves more than 200 people on stage, all
in costume and all singing. Boceli’s wife sat
next to him and whispered in his ear the whole time
– presumably describing the action on stage as,
I think everyone knows, Bocelli is blind. When the 2nd
act concluded Bocelli and his wife left their seats
and the lady sitting next to me asked if I had a pen
because she intended to ask Bocelli for his autograph
when he returned for the 3rd act. But, to her dismay
Bocelli didn’t return. I was glad, though, as
I wasn’t anxious to be around when someone asked
a blind man for his autograph.
Opera was the best I had ever seen. Fabulous!!
MACY’S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE Rain was forecast
for New York on Thanksgiving, but while it was cold
and blustery the rain held off until the afternoon.
This parade is unique because of the huge helium filled
balloons representing different cartoon and childhood
book characters. So, the biggest concern for the planners
isn’t rain, it’s wind. Each balloon is prevented
from escaping by dozens of tether-holders marching underneath.
Parade Route goes down Broadway from 54th Street to
34th Street so we thought we’d simply walk down
50th to Broadway. It was to start at 10 AM and we arrived
a few minutes late to find the street packed with people,
7 to 10 people deep. We did have a good view of the
balloons going by overhead, but didn’t see much
else. Even a very tall person would have had difficulty
because nearly everyone in the front three rows had
a child on their shoulders. I can report that the most
popular balloon with kids was “Sponge Bob”
and the loudest adult cheers went to the NYPD Marching
learned later that more than 2.5 million people line
the Parade Route. I think if we had it to do over again,
I would have prearranged a decent vantage-point.
there. Done that.
FAMOUS WALKING TOUR OF MANHATTAN The Sistos first full
day in New York was the Friday after Thanksgiving. Patricia
took us on a walking tour that included Grand Central
Station at 42nd and Madison Ave. When you walk in the
place you have a feeling you’ve been there, and
of course, you have - in a hundred movies. We also toured
the Grand Central Market where more varieties of fresh
foods can be purchased than in just about any other
place on earth.
there we walked to the New York Public Library on 5th
Ave. It’s a great place to visit, not like your
library back home. A tour of the reference section,
named after Designer Bill Blass, will awe you as hundreds
of people work at computers as far as the eye can see.
As a fundraiser, I’m particularly interested in
the “donor recognition” displays, mostly
chiseled in marble including names like Astor, Vanderbilt,
Carnegie and J. P. Morgan.
on our way to lunch, we walked by Fox News at 48th and
7th Avenue where we peeked through the window to see
“Fox and Friends” being televised live.
Dennis said later the best part of the whole day was
getting to see “The Fox” in person.
lunch we took a cab to lower Manhattan to “Ground
Zero” where much of the emphasis has been changed
from the tragedy of the World Trade Center to the new
structure to be erected in it’s place. We crossed
the street to St. Paul’s Church, which miraculously
survived the attack. Grim reminders in the cemetery
are the ancient gravestones now blackened by the force
of the blast on that awful day.
walked the few blocks to Wall Street and were amazed
by the security precautions there. The New York Stock
Exchange itself is closed to all but those who work
there enforced by New York Police officers in full “riot
gear” carrying assault rifles.
asked my friend Steve Garrett why security was so tight
and he said, “If you were a terrorist and wanted
to hit ‘America’s Heart’ outside of
the Capitol or the White House, what would you hit?
– It would be the symbol of our prosperity, Wall
the street from the NYSE stands a statue of George Washington
on the spot where he was sworn in as first President
of the United States. Many people don’t know that
New York was our first Capitol.
few blocks south of Wall Street is Battery Park with
the best views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
It was a nice day, but cold. Still there were hundreds
of people waiting patiently in line to get a ticket
for the tour boat. There’s also a shrine at Battery
Park where the huge metal sculpture that once graced
the lobby of the World Trade Center now stands broken
and battered. Around the sculpture people have put little
flags, flowers and photos of loved ones lost in the
attack. It’s very moving.
is “Patricia’s Walking Tour.” It’s
a full day and, except for the cab rides, it is absolutely
free. Who says you have to spend a lot of money in New
MIA When in New York you must see at least one Broadway
Show. Even though Patricia and I had seen it in L. A.,
we decided to see Mama Mia. We weren’t disappointed.
Dennis and Judy loved it and so did we.
when you’ve seen a show elsewhere, it’s
like you’re seeing it for the first time on Broadway.
The singing and dancing are better, the sets are better,
the theaters are more intimate and the audiences more
star of Mamma Mia, Carolee Carmello, is fabulous and
everything about the show was superb. Most people know
it was written to showcase the work of the 70s Disco
group “Abba.” Their promo boasts “They’re
dancing in the aisles” and we can assure you,
it’s true. Don’t miss it.
CENTER: Located off 51st Street and 5th Ave is the world
famous Rockefeller Center. We stopped there on the way
back from the theater to the hotel. There’s always
a line of people waiting for a brief skate on the Ice
Rink. I think they’re limited to 20 minutes. Young
people dressed in red are “Monitors” and
they are all good skaters. While we watched one “Girl
in Red” was showing a younger girl how to make
figure skating moves. Several “Moms” were
leading their little ones around the rink and some were
none to steady on skates themselves. It’s a fun
and heartwarming place to spend a little time.
famous Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center was being
decorated, but it wasn’t lit until November 30th,
the day we left. If you want to see the tree lighting
ceremony you’ll have to have tickets in advance.
NBC headquartered at Rockefeller Center makes a “T.V.
Special” out of it.
AVENUE AND CENTRAL PARK On Saturday we walked down 5th
Avenue to Central Park. Naturally we peered in the windows
of famous stores like Tiffany’s and Chanel. St.
John Knits has a big store on 5th Avenue and we did
some browsing. We walked into Central Park past the
ice-skating Rink and sauntered over to the Plaza Hotel.
We walked into the Trump Tower, just so we could say
we’d been there, and had lunch at Mickey Mantle’s
on Central Park West.
IN NEW YORK: New York is one of the largest cities in
the World, but it’s also a city of neighborhoods.
No matter where you stay there will be a restaurant
on the corner and two down the block. There are more
than 10,000 restaurants on Manhattan Island alone. That’s
a lot of competition and if you don’t serve great
food you don’t last very long.
When you go to New York, you can fight for tables at
the “In” places reviewed in the Times or
mentioned in gossip columns – or – you can
get really excellent food in whatever neighborhood you’re
in. In Midtown East, where we like to hang out, there
are many great restaurants we try to visit every time
is our favorite Italian Restaurant, Giambelli’s
on 50th between Park and Madison presided over by Mr.
Giambelli himself at age 90. The same all male waiters
have been waiting tables for Mr. Giambelli for 20 and
30 years, many of them are related to him.
Christmas in New York we walked by the NBC Studio three
blocks away and there was a picketer with a sign, “Giambelli’s
unfair to female waitpersons.” The picketer was
featured on the Today Show, but much to her surprise,
Mr. Giambelli loved every minute of it. ”It’s
the best publicity I’ve ever had,” he said.
“Female waitpersons, indeed.”
have a favorite French Restaurant, too, Montparnasse
on 51st between 2nd and 3rd; as well as a favorite Spanish
Restaurant, San Martin on 49th between Lexington and
also went to Oscar’s, the Waldorf Astoria’s
Restaurant, to have breakfast with our friends Bob and
Patty Misen of Irvine who were in town to see a friend
perform at Carnegie Hall. Bob and I had what Oscar’s
bills as “The City’s best Rueben.”
They’re not going to get an argument from me on
won’t find any of these reviewed in the Times,
mentioned in People Magazine or featured on the Forbes
list of “Best Restaurants.
also always try to go to the River Café, which
you will find on everybody’s list of “Best
Restaurants in New York.” Located in Brooklyn
at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, the River Café
has the undisputed best view of “The City”
We had reservations at 7 PM and arrived a half-hour
early because traffic wasn’t as bad as we anticipated.
The Matre D’ rewarded us for being early with
a window table and the most spectacular view. Our food
was wonderful, but expensive.
had Thanksgiving dinner at “Brasserie” located
in the Seagram Building on 53rd Street between Park
and Lexington. A long time Manhattan fixture, Brasserie
was remodeled in the last couple of years and is a bit
“mod” for my taste, but the food was spectacular.
Patricia said our Thanksgiving turkey dinner was about
the best she’d ever had. It may be that having
someone else cook for her on Thanksgiving made it particularly
tasty. The service was first rate and while not cheap,
the $50 Prix Fixe price was among the least expensive
dinners we had all week.
had said that if he did nothing else in New York he
wanted to go to the best Pizza place. Patricia said,
“That would be Ray’s.” Located on
8th Avenue and 52nd Street, Ray’s is a Manhattan
fixture. It’s a “hole in the wall,”
and there was a line waiting outside the door when we
arrived. But, in best New York fashion the line moved
swiftly, we found a table and enjoyed truly terrific
was a “dark and stormy” day when we left
the Rite Aide headed for “Bloomies” at
59th and “Lex” for a brief shopping stint.
As we dashed from awning to awning, we remembered we
hadn’t eaten lunch and darted into “Fresh
Basil’s,” an Italian Restaurant on Lexington
between 55th and 56th, as much to get out of the rain
as anything else. Patricia had “Eggplant Parmesan”
and I had “Pasta Fagioli” along with “Linguini
Fruta di Mare.” It was terrific; we’ll go
back when next we’re in the “Big Apple.”
Mantle’s is a great place for sports lovers. Now
a sports bar, it is a busy place, but we were ushered
to a table right away. The hamburgers were good and
the French Fries terrific. The service could have been
better, but, then, they were swamped on a Saturday afternoon.
“The Mick’s” memorabilia decorates
O’Neill’s Steakhouse on 50th across from
the San Carlos was another “find.” We stopped
for lunch and immediately loved it. It has that “old
red leather feel” that restaurants used to have
when you wanted a quiet lunch. Patricia and our waiter
became fast friends as she gave him directions on decorating
their Christmas Tree. She had a “Portobello Rueben”
sandwich and I had Onion Soup “to die for”
wonder I gained 5 pounds in 7 days in spite of all that
TIME NEXT YEAR? Actually, we are already planning our
next trip to the Big Apple, probably in September for
the “Book Fair”