Frank R. Hall and Associates
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   Sierra Madre, Ca 91024







A Big Apple Thanksgiving

My 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.

Since 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 duplicate material.

I’m 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.

NEW 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 a night.

Earlier 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.

Located 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 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.

PLANNING YOUR NEW YORK TRIP While I’m really a computer neophyte, I’m learning how to use the internet to plan our trips.

I mentioned which has good data on hotels and cruise ships. But, you need to be careful using 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 reduce it.

If 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 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 urchins.”

If you have particular restaurants you want to visit, check out 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 to book our Thanksgiving reservation at Brasserie as well as our River Café “Farewell to New York” dinner.

Another to check out is You’ll want to book your Broadway shows in advance and 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.

You can also book tickets to the opera at Lincoln Center at

Finally, you’ll find the New York Times website invaluable. Check out the links to “Dining and Wine,” “Arts” and “Theater.”

One 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.

THE 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.

An 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.

Finally 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.

We liked the San Carlos. The staff is friendly and helpful, and because they have only about 150 guests, they remember you.

THE 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.

The 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!!

OUR 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 phone number.

ARE 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 illustrate.

Pat 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.”

When 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.”

So, 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.

Nearly 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.”

As 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.

New 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 pigeons.

They 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,” unheeded.

Numerous 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.

THE 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 “Must Do”

There 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.

The Opera was the best I had ever seen. Fabulous!!

THE 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.

The 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 Band.

I 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.

Been there. Done that.

PATRICIA’S 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.

From 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.

Next, 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.

After 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.

We 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.

I 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 Street."

Across 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.

A 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.

This 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 York?

MAMA 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.

Even 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 sophisticated.

The 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.

ROCKEFELLER 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.

The 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.

FIFTH 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.

EATING 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 we go.

There 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.

One 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.”

We 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 3rd.

We 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 that claim.

You won’t find any of these reviewed in the Times, mentioned in People Magazine or featured on the Forbes list of “Best Restaurants.

We 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.

We 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.

Dennis 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 Pizza.

It 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.”

Mickey 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 the walls.

George 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”

No wonder I gained 5 pounds in 7 days in spite of all that walking.

SAME TIME NEXT YEAR? Actually, we are already planning our next trip to the Big Apple, probably in September for the “Book Fair”

Stay tuned.



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