Saturday, November 22, 2014

Big Apple Birthday Bash

My mother and I have birthdays three months apart, and this year we are both getting a zero. So when she stated a desire to see New York City on her birthday, I suggested we make it a joint birthday celebration and got the ball rolling.

We took our trip this past weekend and stayed three nights at the Martha Washington Hotel in midtown Manhattan. Friday, we started off with a bus tour that took us south past Ground Zero and the new One World tower and then north past Grant's tomb, St. Patricks Cathedral and Harlem. Early evening, we stopped for a light dinner and hot drink in Bryant Park which has been turned into a Winter Village for the season, complete with ice skating rink and restaurant.
One of the holiday display windows of Lord & Taylor
Afterwards, we headed to the Empire State Building and passed the Christmas displays in the windows of the Lord & Taylor Department store on the way. The view from the Empire State Building was amazing. We made it to our room by 10 p.m. which is early by Manhattan standards. Considering that we started our day at 3 a.m. and more than 1,000 miles away, who could blame us?
View of Times Square from the Empire State Bldg
Saturday, we had a leisurely breakfast at Murray Hill Diner before taking the subway to 59th. Our first stop was Tiffany & Company, before taking a ride around central park in a horse drawn carriage. The day was chilly but sunny, and the trees in the park still held their fall color.
The view from our carriage  
Trying to stay warm 
Upper West side with other carriages in foreground
For lunch, we only had to step across the street to the Food Hall of the Plaza Hotel where we found the best lobster roll on earth. We then took a tour bus to Rockefeller Center and then the subway back to the hotel to rest our feet before our scheduled Broadway show.
First NYC subway ride
After relaxing for a couple of hours, we again took the subway to Broadway and Times Square and picked up our tickets for "You Can't Take It with You" at the Longacre Theatre. There was a cozy restaurant right next door called Hurley's where we had a good, relaxing dinner, before taking our seats in the historic theater. I saw some familiar faces among the performers like Mark Linn-Baker from Perfect Strangers. My sister and I loved that show when it aired in the 1980's, and we still occasionally give reference to "the Happy Dance" when something particularly good happens in life. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Fran Kranz from Dollhouse and Cabin in the Woods was one of the lead actors in the show. The participation of renowned actor James Earl Jones was very well marketed, however. I thought this comedic production was excellent. I was riveted by the acting and the elaborate rotating stage, not to mention the occasional pyrotechnic display. Without a doubt, this was the best bit of theater that I have ever had the pleasure to experience, although, I must confess, my repertoire does not include many adult performances.
The Set of "You Can't Take It with You"
Upon exiting the theater, we saw a waiting limousine and haphazardly placed aluminum barricades. Only then did it occur to me that we could get a few autographs if we were willing to wait. I was so excited at the possibility of getting to meet Fran Kranz; I felt like a giddy school girl. (He exited the building through the door just like a normal human being.) Despite being a bit star struck, I did manage to mention a few words of accolade to him on the evenings performance and that both my husband and I enjoyed his role in Dollhouse. I couldn't wait to report back about this unexpected turn of events. My hastily snapped photo and his autograph were proof enough. Silly me - being new to this celebrity stuff, I didn't even think to get my picture with him. I think Mom enjoyed seeing me so excited. We were both pleasantly surprised by the quality of the experience.

I assumed James Earl Jones would be a long-shot and I was right. After waiting some time, old man winter was nipping at our toes so we decided to forego Darth Vader's autograph and console ourselves with a slice of cheesecake from Junior's. This meant a midnight return to our room, and a much later repose.

After a very full two days, both my mom and I were tuckered out come Sunday morning. We managed to stir and go get some New York Pizza for lunch. Then, we decided to limit our ambitions for the day and just go back to the room for more R&R. I did manage to get up enough energy to go explore by myself for a couple of hours in the afternoon and ended up walking the Highline - a cutting edge rails-to-trails project on the west side of Manhattan.
On the Highline
I made it back to the hotel for another respite before taking a taxi to the 7 o'clock showing of Radio City Music Hall's Christmas Spectacular. After yet another memorable experience, we had a late, fast food style dinner in our room and called it a night.

Monday, we packed up our suitcases and checked out of the hotel. They were kind enough to hold our bags while we made the best of our last day. We decided to breakfast at the Murray Hill Diner once again. Then, we rode a crowded subway train to 83rd Street and walked a few blocks to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We enjoyed several hours there while a winter front dumped rain outside. There is more than one eatery at the MET, so it makes for a perfect place of refuge on a rainy day in the city. While this was my second visit to the MET, it was nice to be there with my mom - someone who could truly share in the wonder of it all. We strolled through the Egyptian exhibit and perused the walls in the American and European galleries. Before departing, we made a point of seeing the restored Lombardi sculpture of Adam and Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire.

Tullio Lombardi's Adam
We ended our last day by taking the subway back to the hotel, collecting our bags and getting a wild taxi ride to LaGuardia during rush hour. Our 9 o'clock flight was delayed until nearly 11 due to storms in other parts of the country, but we made it back to Orlando safe and sound by 3 a.m. on my mom's actual birthday. Thus concluded our 96-hour Big Apple Birthday Bash. 

I, for one, had an awesome time, and I know for a fact that my mom checked several things off her bucket list. I'm so glad we got to have this once in a lifetime experience together. There were more than a few unforgettable moments that would not have happened with anyone else. We are both still recovering and trying to get back to normal life, but that's to be expected after a trip like this - especially one that involves New York City. There is so much to do that you go, go, go trying to see and do it all. Perhaps that is where the term "Take a bite out of the Big Apple" comes from, because who could possibly take it all in. Instead, take one big bite at a time.  I'll be savoring this trip for a while yet, but I'll eventually be ready for another piece.

Once again, Happy Birthday Mom! I so enjoyed our Big Apple Birthday Bash. We may just have to do it again sometime.
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