For the past 25 years Karen has joined me on much of my work travel, tagging along as my “mistress” (her words) and doing as she pleases while I attended conferences or meetings. She now has a job that demands a fair bit of travel (much more than my work does). I was able to tag along on her most recent trip, a travel media marketplace in NYC with her colleague Holly, who had never been to the city. I have to say, having the freedom to do as I pleased while they worked was a great way to experience the Big Apple — here is what I crammed into my 72 hours:
Wednesday evening: Check in to our hotel, the wonderfully restored InterContinental New York Barclay in Upper Midtown, where Hemingway stayed after returning from Spain to work on the final revisions to “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. Pass the imposing temples of commerce on Wall Street, designed to make those inside feel important and those outside to feel intimidated, on our way to Delmonico’s, the oldest fine-dining restaurant in the country and a New York institution since 1837. Head down historic Stone Street, the first paved street in New Amsterdam, with its Dutch revival architecture (not too long ago it was a dangerous crack alley, but is now home to a thriving restaurant and bar scene). Pause at Fraunces Tavern, George Washington’s headquarters during the American Revolution, and dating back to 1719 perhaps the oldest building in the city. Arrive at Battery Park and admire the view of the Statue of Liberty.
Thursday morning: Tour the United Nations headquarters. View the disturbing exhibit about Rape in Conflict, stories of women (and some men) systematically raped by ISIS in Iraq or Boko Haram in Nigeria. Tour the Conference Building (Security Council chamber and other rooms) and the General Assembly Building. I was inspired by what the UN works to achieve (world peace and prosperity), but disheartened to think that realistically those aims will never be achieved.
Thursday afternoon: Head over to Grand Central Station, close a business deal on the phone in the subway station (I love technology!), and catch a subway to SoHo. Wander around SoHo, taking in the exquisitely restored cast-iron buildings, and walk to Union Square.
Thursday evening: Arrive at Times Square. Purchase discounted ticket for A Bronx Tale at the TKTS booth. Dinner next to the theatre. A Bronx Tale was fantastic. Stroll back to the hotel, passing Rockefeller Centre and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Karen and Holly were at a reception at the Empire State Building. As I was about to go to bed Karen called and asked me to join her and her colleagues for a drink at The Plaza, which I couldn’t resist. The Plaza’s Champagne Bar was closed for the filming of “Ocean’s 8” (June 2018 release) but The Palm Court was just fine.
Friday: I love being a tour guide, so while Karen attended the New York Times Travel Show, I was happy to take Holly to some of my favourite sites. We started at The High Line, an elevated linear park on an abandoned rail line (similar to the Promenade Plantée in Paris). By the time we arrived at the historic Chelsea Market we were freezing, so we warmed up with a cup of tea and a treat at one of the amazing bakeries. Next stop was Greenwich Village, starting on Carmine Street where we checked out the collection of rare vinyl at the House of Oldies record store, across the street from the “Unoppressive, Non-imperialist Bookstore”. We explored the quiet residential area southwest of Christopher Street and 7th Ave, then watched the filming of a scene from The Blacklist: Redemption in Washington Square. Subway to the Oculus, the World Trade Center transit station and mall, to view the sobering and always very moving 9/11 Memorial.
Ryan Eggold (Tom Keen) and Terry O’Quinn (from “Lost”) film a scene for The Blacklist: Redemption. Terry O’Quinn plays the role of Tom Keen’s father.
Friday evening: We all had dinner at Sardi’s, the legendary Broadway restaurant, before seeing Kinky Boots, a fantastic show with a great message to accept others, despite their differences.
Saturday: While Karen slept in I got up early and took the subway to Madison Square to see the Flatiron Building, one of the city’s oldest and most famous skyscrapers, built in 1902. Later we met our friend Judy for brunch at the iconic Tavern on the Green in Central Park, reopened in 2014. Five years earlier we did a house exchange with Judy and her late husband Sam, both retired from CBS Television. We lived in their brownstone on the Upper West Side for three weeks while they lived in our house on Vancouver Island. After a great visit and delicious brunch we strolled across Central Park on our way to The Frick Collection, the art museum housed in the Gilded Age mansion of industrialist Henry Clay Frick on 5th Avenue. In his Will, Mr. Frick directed his trustees to “cause to be incorporated… an institution to be known as “The Frick Collection” for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a gallery of art” in his mansion. For both Karen and I, our favourite undergraduate class in university was Art History and we were blown away by the number of masterpieces in such an intimate space: paintings by Bellini, Titian, van Dyck, van Eyck, Rembrandt, Vermeer, El Greco, Goya, Constable, Gainsborough, Whistler, Turner, Degas, Renoir, Money, Manet and others, a who’s who of European masters. After a stroll in the Upper East Side we returned to our hotel for tea before catching a cab to the airport. I suppose we were fortunate not to fly out of JFK, which was the site of a large protest over refugees detained there in the wake of President Trump’s executive order made the day before.
I was thrilled with how much I was able to see and do on this short trip, but also aware of how much more I still want to see in this amazing city. I’m hopeful for another opportunity to come back soon.