One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Day 1 – Manhattan Midtown

Today was a big day and we still ended up in the hotel by 6:30pm tonight! I was not too upset about that because after the miles we walked today (10+ miles), our feet were screaming at us. We don’t walk this much usually. Even Kegan said his hips were hurting. My ankles were what was yelling at me. ha

We got up at 5am to be out of our hotel by 5:30. Norah wasn’t ready to vacation yet.

We got to the airport, I couldn’t check in online, I kept getting an error… so we got there and the line is wrapped around waiting to use the self-serve kiosks… finally get up there and the kiosk tells me the same thing- see an agent. Finally got boarding passes to head to security and they said “seat unassigned”… so I was pretty sure we must not have seats on the flight and we likely wouldn’t get on the flight anyway after the debacle getting on this flight to begin with. So, we get to the gate and I go to the gate agent… who looks in the system….. and then… promptly sits us in first class. ha

NOT the outcome I was expecting. So, Norah and Kegan got to fly first class for the first flight of their lives. and likely only the 4th or 5th or mine honestly… Now, the flight was only 1.5 hours… and they don’t really have beverage service…and they weren’t serving booze at 7:30am… hahaha so, really, it was just the bigger seat this flight…. but still, very cool when I was expecting to be sitting in Indy waiting on a noon flight. ha In our hotel tonight, we watched the news and saw that the next flight out from Indianapolis to LaGuardia today had a “security incident” and as they were landing, a passenger was making threats about having a bomb and the people on the plane freaked out and deployed the slides and evacuated the plane on the tarmac! supposedly people were shoving other people out. Good lord. and to think, if we wouldn’t have gotten the first class seats, that would have been us! LOL would have been an interesting start to “slide” into NYC. ha

Getting an Uber was super easy from LaGuardia airport, so that’s what we did. Had him drop us at our hotel near Times Square so we could have them hold our bags in storage until this evening as it was still before 10am at this point. We tried to grab a slice of pizza across the street before setting out, but they had only baked the sicilian deep dish so far…and Kegan was really looking for thin crust new york pizza. So, we carried on.

Our first stop walking south was the New Yorker hotel. This was truly where I wanted to stay…but its hard to beat free… so the Holiday Inn with points, it was. I love the history of this hotel. It’s been a New York landmark since 1930. Very art deco hotel. Famous for its huge Red roof sign on the skyline.

The hotel was outdated before it opened in 1930, really -months after the great wall street crash and right at the beginning of the depression. It had 2500 rooms, 3 ballrooms, and indoor ice rink, restaurants, etc… and it opened in the worst economic period in US history….

Because it was designed and built in the 1920s, it was built top of the line to coincide with the era, the era of big building and skyscraper competition, opulence, and excess – built with a private power plant in its basement and an underground tunnel to Penn Station. The tunnel remained open until the 1960s when they demolished Penn Station- supposedly the most ornate and amazing train station in the world- to build Madison Square Garden, making the original Penn Station the most glorious landmark you can no longer see but is historically significant because the backlash over demolishing that station led to the creation of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has saved hundreds of other landmarks since- including Grand Central which we’ll be seeing in a bit.

Anyway, the New Yorker! Nikola Tesla lived here the last 10 years of his life, living in rooms 3327 and 3328.

A historical photo exhibit in the basement had multiple media items on Tesla. He seemed to have really went off the deep end at the end of his life. He ventured out to Bryant Park to the same corner to feed pigeons every day, carting back injured and sick birds to his hotel suite…and actually falling madly in love with a white pigeon… saying “I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.” 

Consipiracy theories abound about a “death ray” energy beam Tesla was shopping around to governments and private business near the end of his life. When he died, his notebooks in a safe in his suite were never located… some speculate that the government “collected” them to ensure no one else could build his ideas, including potentially his death ray.

In the 30s and 40s, NBC broadcast Big Bands from the Terrace Room of the New Yorker, including Benny Goodman and other big names. This was a GI Station for departing WWII troops before departing for overseas, so small town boys shipping out spent a couple days in this huge city in this building. In 1971 – Muhammad Ali rested here after his famous Joe Frazier fight that he lost and in 2016, Hiilary Clinton gave her presidential concession speech at the ballroom.

The lobby is still very similar to the 1930s original, although the ceiling murals are all tiled over and they’ve added some white woodwork in front of the green marble pillars

Photo from 1939

When it opened, the New Yorker Hotel equipped every hotel room with a radio. In 1948, the hotel had the most televisions within a single building in the world.

They were also ready for 2021 back in 1941, using “Protecto-Ray UV lights” in the bathrooms for sanitization starting in 1941 – with the added benefit of having all treated bathrooms sealed with cellophane!

Let’s bring that back! Our hotel last night had handprints on the headboard (yeah….disgusting) and tonight there were M&Ms on the floor and we don’t have M&Ms. ha I hate what passes for clean in hotels these days.

Next we walked past Madison Square Garden- the world’s most famous arena. Named for our 4th president, James Madison. Its the home of the New York Knicks since 1968, Ali fought Frazier here in 1971, the Pope John Paul II visited here in 1979, Pope Francis in 2015, 3 democratic conventions, 1 republican convention, Marilyn Monroe sang her famous birthday serenade to JFK here in 1962 and countless artists have performed here. Elvis, John Lennon, Dylan, Stones, Elton John, The Who, U2, Springsteen… currently Billy Joel does one show per month in a first ever residency at Madison Square.

Our next destination was a bit East on 34th Street to the original flagship Macy’s store. This is the Macy’s from Miracle on 34th Street in 1947, was the first department store to have a store Santa Claus and was the first major retailer to promote women to the executive level. Macy’s was opened in 1902 by Rowland Hussey Macy. By 1924 they were the top employer in New York. They started the Macy’s day parade, which eventually became the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Macy’s got the red star logo that is still their symbol because the founder used to work on whaling ships and got a star tattoo… so he used that for his store’s logo, too.

We were here for the escalators, though… this 9 story department store still has the 1920 wooden Otis escalators on its upper floors. So cool.

Norah needed some sugar at this point. She was already tired and got up too early. ha

Found a juice vendor and that perked her right up.

We got our own sugar juice at Starbucks next door, too.

New spelling of my name. lol But, I did get my first pumpkin spice item for Fall. I absolutely love their pumpkin creme cold brew.

We turned north up 7th Avenue to see a couple statues dedicated to Jewish garment workers (as we were in the garment district)

Now it was time to get some food for us. We stopped into Empanada Mama’s for some lovely cuban empanadas.

We walked on along until we got to Uncle Tetsu for a Japanese cheesecake. Tetsushi Mizokami founded his bakery in Japan in 1985 and these jiggly fluffly japanese cheesecakes are baked fresh daily.

Ours was still warm from the oven.

We popped a seat nearby and shared it. It was good…but almost a little eggy tasting. I was a bit underwhelmed, but still ate every bit of my 1/3. lol

As we were sitting there, Norah asked me to do a panoramic shot of her in front of a cool building, so I did….

Then, she wanted to do one of me. Fine…. mine didnt turn out as well. hahaha

What happened to my face??? hahaha

We headed to Bryant Park next. Its a great green space with a putting green, some patio tables and food vendors. There is a small section of tables with free board games to borrow and play. We went to Nikola Tesla corner to see the spot he fed pigeons and then visited the carousel.

We walked to the other end of Bryant Park to go inside the New York Public Library. The building is insanely gorgeous. There are two lions out front Patience and Fortitude. The names of benefactors on the walls was impressive- John Jacob Astor, Andrew Carnegie, Alexander Hamilton, John D Rockefeller, Jr.

This branch specifically houses 1st edition Shakespeare works, the 1st Native American language bible, a Guttenburg bible and the original stuffed dolls that inspired Winnie the Pooh.

We then headed for the Chrysler building. This is Kegan’s favorite building, along with about 90% of all architects in the world.

I’d have more photos but the second we got through the revolving doors, the security guy said the lobby was closed and we routed right back out. So no photos of the super cool art deco lobby.

This building was briefly the tallest building in the world for 11 months before the Empire State Building was completed. Apparently, Mr. Chrysler asked for his toilet to be the highest in Manhattan so he “could look down and shit on Henry Ford and the rest of the world”. The building has the most ornate and expensive lobby in the city. a ceiling mural, African marble, gargoyles that are the same design as the 1929 Plymouth hood ornaments and the 31st floor corners look 1929 Plymouth radiator caps. The 1920’s was definitely the age of the skyscraper with multiple competitions and one-upmanship happening. The Chrysler building’s spire was actually a secret architectural change, assembled inside the building and then pushed upwards and attached to the top at the last minute after another rival building completed construction and declared itself the tallest in the world. Immediately, the Chrysler building erected its secret spire to ruin their claim. ha Sounds about right from banking, car and railroad magnates. Replace skyscrapers with trips to space and our billionaires are still doing the same thing today.

Next up was Grand Central Terminal, the most famous train station in the world. 250,000 people a day go through Grand Central.

This side of Grand Central features 3 greek gods, representing qualities of the railroad. Mercury- for speed. Hercules-for strength and Minerva- for intellect. It also features an 18 foot diameter Tiffany glass clock face. The largest piece of Tiffany Glass in the world.

The Main concourse is really the star of the show with its Zodiac ceiling and amazing windows. The ceiling was painted like this in 1914 when Grand Central opened, but by the 20s, it was leaky and people joked there was a “mildew way” along with the stars. In the 1940s, they fixed the leaks, put up asbestos panels over it and repainted the mural. During a cleaning and restoration of this 1940s ceiling, they left one brick uncleaned to show the tar and nicotine that had built up on the ceiling from decades of indoor smoking.

This Opal face information clock is estimated to be worth 20 million dollars. It is accurate to within 1 second every 20 billion years!

We walked around the dining concourse and to the whisper galley – an arched ceiling area underground where you can hear your whisper in one corner all the way on the other side.

We purchased our 7 day unlimited Metro cards here. $33 a person gets you unlimited rides on all the buses and subways in the city for an entire week. We may have been cheaper to just pay per ride… but I didn’t feel like dealing with that all week. Laziness and easiness wins when we’re talking about a 10-15 dollar difference. ha

We made our way over to the subway concourse and rode north on the 4/6 line to the 51st street station. Saved us 9 blocks or walking or so and tested out our subway cards.

A few cool buildings along the way

We walked south a block to see the front of the Waldorf-Astoria. We couldn’t stay here or even see the inside lobby because the entire building is shut down for remodeling until 2023. The original Astor hotel was on the site of what is now the Empire State Building. It was built in 1893 by John Jacob Astor. John Jacob Astor’s cousin, William Waldorf Astor, built a competing hotel right next door called the Waldorf. Basically, they were so rich, this is what they did to annoy each other.

Eventually, the rivalry ended- they connected the two hotels via Peacock Alley, a walkway between them and it became the Waldorf-Astoria. This was the first hotel with electricity on every floor, all of the rooms had ensuite bathrooms and the first 24 hour room service, including the famous Waldorf salad- apples, celery, grapes, walnuts, and a mayo based dressing

This current building was built in 1931 with 1416 rooms, no two the same. It had a hidden train track underneath the building that connected to Grand Central known as Track 61- it was used by FDR during his presidency

Marilyn Monroe lived here after her divorce from Joe DiMaggio (more in just a sec on that!), Cole Porter lived here for 30 years, from 1934-1964 and his famous piano that the hotel gifted to him remains in the building, Prince Rainier III of Monaco and Grace Kelly held their engagement party here, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor lived here when he abdicated the throne- there is still a Royal suite decorated to Wallis Simpson’s tastes as it was when they resided in the hotel. Queen Elizabeth gave a speech here in 1957. Frank Sinatra lived here in the 1980s, Paris Hilton in the 2000s. Would have been cool to see, but I can’t wait to see the restoration when it reopens. I hope it still retains the history.

Walking towards Rockefeller Center and St Patrick’s cathedral, we passed a famous landmark that wasn’t really a landmark. The subway grate at 52nd and Lexington is from the 1952 Marilyn Monroe film The 7 Year Itch where her skirt famously flies up and it became a worldwide symbol. This scene actually led to Marilyn’s divorce from Joe Dimaggio as he thought this risque act was crossing a line. (You married a 1950’s Hollywood sex symbol, dude… what did you expect? ha)

We walked past St Bart’s church- neat facade

We went inside St Patrick’s Cathedral. It definitely seems to be the most famous cathedral in the United States. Pope John Paul II even gave mass there in 1979 on his visit to the US. It is the largest gothic revival church in the United States, I see why it’s such a must-see, especially in the US because we don’t have these huge cathedrals stateside- but it seems we should have seen this first to be super impressed, because after seeing a couple of the cathedrals in Europe we were a little underwhelmed…and that sounds so snotty haha I promise I don’t mean it that way! Ha its still an impressive structure but I just don’t think it’s as good as Rouen or a few others we’ve seen. The size wasn’t as big, the woodwork wasn’t as intricate… but I still appreciated it. And it did have a great vault. I am a sucker for a cathedral arched vaulted ceiling.

Next we walked to Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall- the showplace of the nation!

Radio City is the largest indoor theater in the world. Saturday Night Live (SNL) films here, as does the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, the Late Show with Seth Meyers, the Today show and others. It’s also the home of The Rockettes.

Norah is obsessed with SNL- the girl has watched so many older classic SNL episodes and she hardly misses a new episode. I tried to get tickets to watch a filming but you have to be 18 years old to attend and if I remember right, you had to apply for seats for the whole season and then they tell you which taping to show up for. Obviously that wasn’t an option for us.

Right then and there when I told her SNL filmed there she was ready to stop touring New York and just sit and wait for the actors to arrive for the evening. (It was 3pm ha) we managed to talk her into just watching SNL live from a few blocks away at our hotel later that night. Luckily. Ha and we did! Kim Kardashian was the guest host, Halsey the musical guest… and she stayed up until 1am watching it, commenting the whole time “I cant believe that they are just a couple streets away right now doing this!”

Really cool mosaic tile art on the Tonight Show entrance of Radio City Music Hall

We waited in the queue outside of Magnolia Bakery which is famous for their banana pudding.

We got our treats and walked the block to the Prometheus Statue and where the Rockefeller Christmas Tree usually stands. It seems they are prepping it for winter and the ice rink. It was all torn up and blocked off

The future winter ice rink under construction
This statue is currently standing where the Christmas Tree will soon be installed for the season.
30 Rockefeller Center – better known as 30 Rock or the Comcast Building

We ate our banana puddings- which objectively were very good, but nothing we couldn’t make at home. Vanilla wafers, southern style banana pudding with chunks of bananas and very vanilla’y thick whipped cream. BUT… I can see why southern style banana pudding could become a hot commodity this far north. They don’t know every good church going woman worth her salt can make this for you for the Sunday pitch in where we’re from! ha

It was getting close to our last reservation of the day- our tickets to The Top of the Rock. We purchased CityPass tickets for the week and it paid for entrance admission to quite a few sites we would be visiting anyway and saved a lot of money. One of the sites was the observation at the 67th-70th floors of 30 Rock.

We had our passes verified and our vaccination status verified (yes, in New York City, almost every place is requesting or requiring a mask regardless of vaccination status.. and you must be vaccinated and show proof to enter or eat anywhere inside.)

The lobby of 30 Rock on this side held the Joie Chandelier made by Swarovski with over 14,000 crystals in the shape of upside down 30 rock

You could see for quite a while from the deck! Even on this overcast and gray day.

A view north- the green space straight ahead is Central Park.
View to the south- Empire State building straight ahead, One World Trade Center in the very back distance just to the right of Empire. Chrysler Building way left edge behind MetLife and thousands of others! I friggin’ love this place!

The Comcast Building/30 Rock construction site was the site of the famous construction worker photo of some guys hanging out on a beam in the sky eating lunch.

So, as a tourist trap, they make you take green screen photos on the beam… and then ask you to act like you’re falling off the beam for the last one. Norah really liked this one, so we got suckered into buying a $27 stupid photo because I’m a pushover and it made her really happy. haha

After this, that wrapped up our itinerary for the day and we were way ahead of schedule due to arriving much earlier than I had planned. We decided to walk back to the hotel all along Times Square and the Broadway Theater district

Spotted the famous naked cowboy
The NASDAQ stock exchange building

We arrived at our hotel, our bags were still sitting in the lobby from 10am. Even though I specifically said “those are going into the storage room, right?” “oh yeah, of course”… and there they sat at 6pm. Luckily everything was still inside… but I had my laptop in there, an iPhone, Norah’s iPad, Airpods, etc… like, a LOT of expensive electronics! But… I wasn’t a jerk. ha They did give us a room on the very top floor. I’m not sure if that’s desired or not. Your view is better, but you also have to wait a very long time on the elevator… I was happy enough.

The room is very small, just enough room for the 2 beds, with a sliding pocket style door for the bathroom. No closet, no microwave… but again, you just cant beat the price. ha

Can’t beat our view from the 36th floor- Empire State Building is lit up in Red, White and Blue.

We got a pizza from across the street at Upside Pizza for dinner and called it a night, watching TV and lounging.

Tomorrow is supposed to rain all day off an on, so we’ll see what kind of trouble we can get ourselves into.

1 Comment

  1. Patricia L Woodward

    I just read that many of the first responders went to St Patrick’s and would rest and nap on the pews in the days after 9/11. Though I do not have a desire to ever visit New York (I do live among the Amish) you are seeing some really neat things. Keep posting. Looking forward to the next days adventures.

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