Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

NYC: Day 4 Stats


 

Activities:
- ALL the walking ;)
- Catacombs tour
- West side, less touristy travel
- Fun photography games
- High Line
- Stairs to nowhere
- Nightime Milkshake run

Impressions:
- I really enjoyed the high line, but found it surprisingly poorly signed to locate or to navigate the closed sections

Surprising moment:
- Decision fatigue kicked in at the same time as hangry; all the restaurants in the world, and we went back to one we already knew!


Our last afternoon and evening in NYC

So we wanted to go on the high line, but part of it was closed during the day so we saved it for when we could do in the afternoon.  Except when we got there, that section was definitely still not open for real.  Fail.   

But let’s back up.  The highline is essentially similar to a rail trail, but think a mono-rail-trail in that it’s elevated.  The starting point was a ways from the hotel and I quite enjoyed the hike there since it was far less touristy (which I completely ruined by having a blast w my camera; but to be fair, I do that in Toronto too lol).   


Chris made a new friend!


We eventually found one end of the trail and admittedly got a little turned around but eventually sorted ourselves out (yeah finding a map with “you are here” lol - there’s a surprising shortage of those in NYC anywhere!  Subways, tourist areas, shopping malls…. Surprisingly few of them tell you where you’re starting when you’re trying to figure out where to go; if they exist at all!)


I'm not sure I loved the tree itself, but I did enjoy this photo


Anyways we got there and it really was gorgeous and very well designed, with some calm spaces, some history spaces, some kid spaces, and some 'just enjoy fewer cars and more tress' spaces, but when we got to where we had to skip a few blocks for constructionwe weren’t really sure where to pick it up again and tbh, my hips were *not* happy with me.  This is the first time ever I haven’t been able to walk as long and as far as I want for endless days in a row with no issue and I was *not* impressed.  


Pausing to take a break is never a bad thing;
*needing to* can be humbling


So I wasn’t super into wandering aimlessly without knowing where we were going even though I very much wanted to do the whole tour.  So when we accidentally saw something else really random, we abandoned the rest of the high line and went to visit it.


If nothing else, it made for a good photo


What was “it”?  Well we really weren’t sure but looked kinda like the most random staircase in the world.   That was closed indefinitely lol.  Classic.   There was a screen set up w relaxing chairs for an outdoor viewing of some sort.  And a mall nearby for those with more disposable income than we have lol.  We went in there partially for a few moments of AC and partially to use the facilities before returning to tourist-central.


On the way back we picked up a few souvenirs - went to see if there were any more cheap broadway tickets, but nothing in our price range we were interested in seeing and, well, three days in a row seemed excessive ;-P.   


This was the closest we got to Broadway shows today ;)


By this point we were tired and hangry and had failed to find food that appealed so we ended up going to the same place as before - lots of beers for C to choose from and slushies available both alcoholic and non.   We went back and vegged at the hotel for a bit, packed and generally got ready to go home tomorrow before one last milkshake run (walk!) 


Not a bad way to wrap out a lovely long summer day of walking


Overall I'm really glad we came, and incredibly ready to go home.

Did you know NYC has catacombs?

This church was stunning;
Alas, it was not the one with the catacomb tour ;)

So we had planned to go on a catacomb tour this am; the challenge is we didn’t realize when we booked it that we needed the OLD St Patrick’s not the current one.  The one that’s a good 55 min walk away.  When I was tired and very sore.   Ugh.  We made it of course but not super how I wanted to spend the morning.  Plus side - it was a really nice walk w some gorgeous architecture and a couple parks, so that was awesome.  

Also, being NYC, some random chaos ;)

The tour itself was good - the guide knew her stuff and was highly passionate yet also respectful that her audience might have different religious views than her.  So her spiel was routed in history - facts about gangs and what happened when between the religions and the various iterations of their church as a result.  She spoke of people from the 1800’s as though she’d known them personally, which is the kind of passion you want in a guide.   The photographer in me also appreciates the opportunity for some unique photos in the garden, the cemetery, the church, the catacombs, and of nearby architecture.   


One of the calmer places we saw on our trip ;)


Being not a church type person, my interest is more artistic and historical than religious, although I will admit I was fascinated to find 2023 dates on some of the spaces in the catacombs.  So clearly it is still actively being used if you either belong to one of the two families who have founding crypts that still have living and interested members or pay enough to the church for the honour πŸ˜‚.  Also learned about some tombstones that signal - at least here - underground family crypts (or maybe vaults?   Memory blank and I acknowledge my knowledge of catholic burial vocabulary is exceptionally limited lol).  But the idea of a whole family under one stone is sort of interesting.  Those ones in Manhattan cannot be added too - no more bodies in the ground (legally) since about a century ago. (give or take a bit - I didn't write down the details!)


The church had a wall around it for protection
when being Catholic wasn't socially acceptable


So after the graveyard spiel we went into the church.  There was a “no tank top” rule stated - as per most churches - so I’d hauled a sweater w me the whole way (35-ish deg), and then the guide was wearing thinner straps than mine.  So fair enough - it was hot! - but I wouldn’t have carried that sweater all the way if I’d known my comparatively conservative sundress would be acceptable.   The only rule was “anyone identifying as male need to remove their hat indoors” lol no idea why women wouldn’t need to but okay.   None of the women were wearing hats so moderately irrelevant in this case.


The original entrance to the catacombs;
Now sealed but with glass to allow light in.


We explored the church a bit and went down to the catacombs.  Since they’re all sealed there was no visible evidence of human remains - I’d had in mind something like the Paris catacombs and it was nothing like that.  This was more a cross between an indoor graveyard and a bank vault.  The display they’ve set up was well done though - battery powered candles at every vault and for most of them a tablet with a screen giving some of the key things about that person’s life (who decided what to tell?!?!   I have no idea, but most of them focused on church related stuff or doing good in the community etc).   They were all respectfully written to position the person in a good light.


Inside the catacombs;
The light you see is from the original entrance


There was an end spiel but C and I left before that (our guide had said there would be but that often people preferred to leave before and no issue).


Chris breaking us out of... church ;)


NYC Stats

 


Activities:

- Walking away from Times Square
- Several parks
- Merchant House
- Katz'
- NY Pizza
- NY NY
- Night Tour

Impressions:
- A good day for education, helpful strangers, through the right lens, the lights of NYC are magical

Surprising moment:
- The number of smaller parks around outside of the primary tourist area

A different experience by night

So I've always wanted to do a Hop On / Hop Off tour -- they seem to exist in many major cities (incl Toronto) and yet never quite the *top* option for things to do.  Partially cause they tend to be prohibitively expensive; partially cause part of the fun is the top of the bus but that has a very limited weather range that is truly enjoyably; and partially because I'm not sure waiting for people to hop on and off would appeal to me -- most tourists aren't known for being fast moving or decisive ;).  So the end result is I've never done one.

However, tonight gave me the perfect storm to experience a "close enough" tour ;).  The Hop On / Hop Off buses do a night tour that is NOT an on/off tour (nicely solving the last issue) lol.   They use the same buses and the same general concept, but being night and NYC, perhaps dropping tourists in strange locations isn't the *safest* idea.   So they do a route - about 2h give or take a bit.   The cost was not expensive (comparatively!  It is still NYC), the weather was perfect for it (lovely summer night - dark so no beating sun, not too hot, not too cool, no rain), we'd hiked a LOT over the next few days so a passive activity was welcome, and lastly - there was nothing else we particularly wanted to do that was an option at 11ish at night (I aged out of clubbing in my early 20s lol).

Buying the tickets was quick and painless - buses come ever 15 mins or so.   The LINE we found AFTER buying the tickets was less fun, but still not horrible.  Given the perfect weather they were being smart and only loading the top of each bus (I mean, unless somebody *wanted* to be inside of course, but not trying to fill the inside).  We got on the second bus to arrive after we got in line.   They were well organised but not particularly efficient and the people manning the lines were super snarky.

Loved the effect of this image

Fortunately, once we got ON the bus, the guide was lovely, positive, and energetic.  It can't be fun to give the same spiel over and over and over multiple times a night, every night (up / down anybody?), but she made it seem like she was enjoying her life, she interacted well with the crowd, and she gained engagement by handing out candy for participation ;-P.  πŸ˜‚   Maybe not MY engagement given my take on US candy (and Chris used his entire bank of engagement participating with the buskers our first afternoon), but enough other engagement to make the trip fun to listen to.  Little things in life.  She also made a bit point about warning her if she was going to be killed by a tree -- hard to imagine in Times Square, but once we were farther away from the chaos, it was a very real risk and a job-hazard that would never have occurred to me.   

On the bus, waiting for the tour to start;
Red ear buds were incl so we could hear our guide.

Where we actually went - 🀷‍♀️ - I have a list but it's in my bag that's very far away on the other side of this tiny room.   Lol may scan it later (*edited after to add - I still have the list, it's now in my home office - on the other side of my house.  Spoiler alert, it still hasn't been scanned*).   But we DID get to go across the Brooklyn bridge; we got to "sing on Broadway" - ie while driving down the street Broadway; it was 100% the closest we got to the Statue of Liberty - as in we could see it in the distance ;); we got a LOT of information, about a lot of different buildings.  Some of which was interesting, very little of which I actually absorbed.  Other than the *only* washroom available to the public anywhere near Times Square is in Bryant Park.  AND apparently it's super-swanky (lol think classical music and snacks?!?!).    But seriously - lack of washrooms is a pretty serious issue there.

This was one of my favourite shots of the night
with both our driver and an iconic NYC street and building

I'm a big fan of night, esp summer nights, and I'm a big fan of lights, so I really enjoyed just being with Chris, outside, at night, being driven around to see some stuff.   To give an idea of traffic - we were on the upper portion of an open-top bus, my hair was down, and it wasn't in 8-million knots at the end lol.   Suffice to say, NYC traffic is its own adventure.   However, it was perfect for a tour!   The only "down side" was my complete inability to take consistently good pictures given moving vehicle and archaic iPhone was frustrating to me (lol I'm pretty sure I'll use the only ones I liked in this blog.  However, since I wasn't in a position to take great photos (moving bus and archaic iPhone), I just settled in to enjoy the night and the ride.   And when it was over, I was ready for it to be over, and am happy that I no longer feel I've missed out in not having done one of those upper-deck bus tours before ;)

Lovely way to close out the night :)

OTOH, sometimes "errors" actually better reflect reality;
This whole trip has been a bright, brilliant, blur.


New York, New York

So we decided on pizza for dinner - finding pizza that has somewhere you can sit down is more of a challenge than one would expect lol.  We were successful- more from luck than anything ;). The place we had happened to have 3 picnic tables outside and we got one.  Unrelated - Mexican Fanta is *way* better than Canadian.  For the win.  Both Mexican and Canadian pop are better than US for love of real sugar.  But I was quite pleased to accidentally end up w Mexican Fanta w dinner.

Bonus points for picnic-table ambiance


Standing in line for NY NY now.  Random stranger took a pic of C and I for us.  I’m actually amazed at how often that seems to happen where it’s not a trade.   It’s all fair if they also want a pic but often just “hey would you like?!?!”  And quite honestly, our phones are so old they’re not worth stealing so we can take advantage of the generosity of strangers.


Advantage of ancient technology:
can get lots of low-risk memories for posterity ;)

So our tickets are paper?!?  We bought them from the day-of retailer (legit, not street based) but it’s amazing how quaint and also inconvenient paper tickets are lol. Esp as they still have QR codes on them for scanning.  But yeah - carrying around more paper is both stressful, cause if I lose one, we’re F’d, and it’s environmentally unfriendly.   Amazing how fast times change.  Once upon a time those things were keepsakes!   I know - I still have some ;).  Now, I have blog posts ;)


Tonight's Entertainment


In the theatre now - our seats are amazing.  We’re in the balcony this time but a newer theatre (or feels so anyways) so stadium seating means less challenge of heads in the way.  Orchestra is in the more traditional location for this one lol which means prob no highly entertaining conductor.   We have seats 1 and 3 - which are together?  Lol not sure where the even numbers went but all good.


View from our seats before the show started


Also - the washrooms here are more suitable for the size of crowd.  Lol I haven’t been this aware of toilet facilities since Kerri and I were in Cuba together a lifetime ago.  πŸ˜‚ I think pre-blog days even!   But we had a scale something about 5* has TP, a seat, flushable toilets, and a door that locks.  πŸ˜‚ NYC isn’t quite that bad but looking for available, clean, TP.  Also a surprising number of the auto taps have only hot OR cold water?  At home they’re kinda a net neutral.  Cold I get but the hot ones tend to be too hot for me to wash my hands properly.  So odd.


People watching fun again - the lovely woman behind us who speaks very little English who was posing for almost the same pic C took of me who was *so* excited when I asked her photographer if he’d like one of both of them.  I’m not sure *he* was as thrilled but he played along and made her day.  I couldn’t figure out the non apple phone fast enough so C took pics for them.   Less delightful is the loud, very heavyset, woman sitting on the aisle behind us who complains anytime someone needs to get in our out.  Like I understand it’s a pain but they literally have no choice….  And unless, like us, you took the tickets leftover at the last minute, maybe don’t choose an aisle?  Then there are the older ladies in the side balcony who are waving very excitedly at some random person somewhere else and posing for more pics selfies than I try to convince C to be in πŸ˜‚.  Absolutely love seeing people really enjoying life.  This one overall has a much younger audience than last night.  Not sure why but all good :).  Harry Potter or Wicked I would’ve understood.  This one?  Not as much.


Balcony this time, but still good seats!


So the show was very well done but a little too real for what I look for in theatre (or movies for that matter).   Excellent sets and some fabulous costumes.  Those who know me will understand my new appreciation of twirly skirts πŸ˜‚ 


The story according to my phone


Our excellent seats were slightly less excellent due to the incredibly loud gentleman behind us.  When the lights came on at intermission we realized he was likely well into the autism scale, and I struggle between feeling empathy for the challenges he and his caregivers face and relief that C had managed to find us other seats farther away from the overly enthusiastic person that were also better?!?!   Lol front row of the balcony and had the opportunity to chat w my new neighbour for a bit.  A local who goes to a lot of Broadway so that was a fun conversation.  He moved here from LA and loves it so was a great chance for me to learn more about what draws people.


Afterwards we weren't quite as wired as after Chicago but the night was so perfect we couldn't just go home in the city that never sleeps.  Instead, we found a night tour - for the next blog post :) 

NYC - The opposite direction of Times Square

I am losing track of days lol.

Headed the opposite direction today - as far from Time Square as our feet would take us!  πŸ˜‚ not exactly true - C had found a museum he wanted to visit - Merchant House - so we signed up for a tour.  But we left ages before we had to so we could take our time and explore on the way.   Definitely a more appealing experience outside of tourist central - lots of smaller green spaces and some gorgeous architecture.   


As good a place as any to write a blog post


We’re sitting in Washington Park rn - C commented that he liked it better than Central Park cause fewer people.  Usually that would be a driver for me too so it took me a second to realize that the reason I don’t like it as much is the noise.  Part of my love for parks is quiet, and here there’s still all the normal big city noise but compounded w competing jazz bands at top volume, v loud people, and few to no nature sounds (shocking).  Central Park was big enough that if you made your way in far enough you wouldn’t hear much if anything of the city, there were a ton of birds and little critters, and no extraneous sounds.


There were some lovely places to escape for a few minutes


I’ve also come to realize locals in NYC don’t seem to know headphones exist?!?!  This one isn’t the tourists - every time I’ve seen someone with something obnoxiously loud on speakerphone it’s been - to the best I can ascertain based on attire, intent, behaviour, etc - a local.  And let’s be honest, I’m usually pretty good at that game ;).  So maybe those who love NY love noise and do their best to contribute to it ;).  Fair enough - pick your thing and own it.


Fewer obvious street sleepers than I’d expected to see.  I’d be curious to know if they’re doing something useful to help people experiencing homelessness that we could learn from or if they just make it so miserable that those people have located to be homeless somewhere else.  Worse traffic and driving than I was expecting - and since I was expecting pretty bad, that is saying something.


I’m becoming the queen of traffic composition - by that I mean, the ideal photo location is in the middle of the road, so I have to snag it from the crosswalk when the walk sign is on.  Which means I’m composing what I hope will work from the corner and then basically trying to point and click and hope for the best when I get to about the right spot.


Kind local saw C and I looking for an address and stopped to help us out.   We would’ve managed eventually but I still loved that he went out of his way to assist.   Also - I continue to love university vibes.  The area around NYU is the most comfortable I’ve felt yet πŸ˜‚.  Same as in Toronto - UofT campus is amazing. 


The garden of Merchant House;
The inside was pretty much like every house museum ;)


We found our way to the house and had an almost-private tour.  Not quite what C had been targeting but good and interesting for sure.  The house was bought by one person and then on his death passed to his daughter while NYC grew up around them.  On her death a cousin bought it and turned it into a museum - complete with all furniture and artefacts as is.   And in so doing, captured 100 years of NY’s history.  


Not shockingly, the place was packed


Lunch we found Katz’s for smoked meat sandwiches.  The line was v long but moving super fast.  Unusual setup - they give you a ticket on the way in, any food you get is written down on it, pay before leaving, show tag on exit.  Many lines depending what you wanted - about 6?!?!  were just sandwiches, 1 for non alcoholic drinks, 1 or 2 for appetizers, 1 for all non appetizer food that wasn’t a meat sandwich. 2 for paying w cc, 1 for cash, etc. With 2 people this was fabulous - C stood in line for sandwiches while I got drinks and table.   Alone it would’ve been a very long process.  Food was expensive and huge but tasty.  And, well, expensive and huge is pretty quintessential NYC ;)


We subwayed our way back to time square and secured tickets for a show tonight: New York New York.  Know nothing about it πŸ˜‚.  But none of our top choices had availability so this seemed a good one given the trip ;)


Hydration stop then back to the hotel to refresh before dinner and show.   High line is closed till 4:00 every day for construction so either before dinner today or tomorrow - since it’s after 3 now, I’m assuming tomorrow…
















NYC Day 2 Stats

 *note - I'll screen shot the actual day stats when I get home :)

This would end up being our 2nd longest amount of walking;
And first night in a new place meant very little sleep

Activities:
- Giant shopping centre
- Central Park
- Scooter Rental
- Castles, and Obelisks and Rain Storms oh my...
- CHICAGO!!!!
- yummy desert wrap up

Impressions:
- for the city that never sleeps, things are closed at inconvenient times more often than I'd have expected

Surprising moment:
- Chicago was SO MUCH BETTER than I'd even hoped.

What are you going to do in NYC? Go see Chicago.

One of my favourite things about our NYC trip was Chicago

lol so the above conversation happened more than once with a very puzzled look each time.  Of course the clarification is "go see the musical Chicago", but that's not nearly as amusing.   I *really* wanted to go to a Broadway show while we were in NYC.  Billy Joel was C's bday gift; broadway was my Xmas one (thanks Mum and Dad!).   I debated for a long time about one I'd seen before (Wicked is a favourite of mine) or seeing something new, and on brand, I went with new.  There was one playing when I started planning all this called Bad Cinderella -- it was Andrew Lloyd Webber (think Phantom of the Opera or Evita) and obviously a fairy-tale retelling, which has always been a thing of mine (at one point I wrote a thesis on variations of Beauty and the Beast lol -- I don't even remember anymore what the point was, but the art of retelling a known story in a new way has always fascinated me).

Anyways - unfortunately (or maybe not), the show closed in June.   My awesome tickets were refunded but now I was Broadway-less :(.  Boooo.   I waited a while partially cause I was very disappointed and partially cause I was super-busy.  But eventually I decided I needed to pick something new.  I seriously considered Wicked again, but both A - I'd still already seen it, and B - I really didn't think C would like it (not that he would've liked BC either, but I had decided something I really wanted for my gift might be worth him sucking up, but if I wasn't passionate about it, I should prob target something we would both enjoy).  So anyways - in the end I decided on Chicago.  I was super excited to go to the theatre, but ambivalent about the actual musical.  I'd never seen it live, only the movie version, and was kinda meh on it.

Well let me tell you -- not meh anymore!   The show was absolutely amazing.  I'm not convinced I can explain in words just how good it was, but I'll try to give some of the highlights:

- all costumes were all black.  There was almost no set decoration (ladders on either side and a door).  No extras.  Which meant everything was reliant on the performer's skill. And they nailed it!

- the orchestra was onstage (arguably they were the set decoration?). One violinist and the piano player were below the conductor; the piano player could still see him, but the violinist definitely could not.  The violinist interacted/reacted/added some colour to the performers' performance, but if the leads hadn't been SUPER strong, the conductor would've stolen the show.   He was a riot and often interacted directly with the woman who was playing Roxy.

No photos during the show obviously,
but before and after were fair game :)

- Roxy definitely felt free to break the fourth wall occasionally and also to interact with the conductor.  Until she engaged the audience, I would've assumed all the conductor portions were scripted, but now - while I still suspect they mostly are, I'm not 100% convinced.   The audience portion in one case involved pausing a highly sexual song to acknowledge a child in the 3rd row who was potentially too young to be listening to this ;-P.  When they figured out he was 12, she deemed it acceptable and moved on lol.   She had also invited him onstage though -- part of me wonders what would've happened if he'd accepted!   Given that anywhere she chose to play were either parts with no song or parts with an easily repeatable phrase, my guess is they give her some leeway to play as long as it doesn't disrupt the rest of the show.  She was also the only one doing it -- the other performers were very much in their story as one would expect.

- the other lead, Val, stayed more on script but was super impressive with it.  And side note: omg am I ever envious of her muscle tone.  Wow - shoulders and arms to dream of - fitness goals.  I know it shouldn't matter, but wow.  More importantly, I loved how the two women played off each other; parallel routines vs partner routines depending on where we were in the story and whether or not they theoretically knew each other.   And facial expressions - our seats were close enough to see clearly and wow, they nailed every nuance of every reaction.   And when it was appropriate, made it seem like they were having a blast out there.   Real or good acting?  If you can't tell, does it matter?

- as you probably ascertained from above, our seats were *amazing*.   Fourth row from the stage, reasonably close to centre.  And luckily nobody super tall in front!  It was an older theatre so no such thing as stadium seating and the seats were definitely packed in, but the view was good, the AC effective, so all good.  

View from our seats before the performance started

It was So. Much. Fun.  So much more than the film version.  Am super energized now :)

After Chicago we hit up an open late restaurant with ridiculously giant sized deserts just cause we could :)

*edited after to add:* so apparently our giant desert place is a pretty standard tourist thing πŸ˜‚. When we went to NY NY later, there were signs for how to get there from other theatres ;)

Giant and tasty post-show deserts