Room and airfare courtesy of the downtown Toronto Intercontinental Hotel and lady luck for winning a door prize at the re-opening of the hotel's main ballroom earlier this year. CityPass coupons were a promotional gift. Meals were on our own dime.
After a few false starts, Lis and I settled on Halloween as our best date.
So waddyagonnadoo in 3 days? As much as possible.
We had a plan, if the weather would just cooperate. Our neighbour's cat "Charlie" hurried across the street to wish us well in the wee hours of our morning departure.
Porter's shuttle bus was waiting at the corner of Front and University, we zipped through the new pedestrian tunnel to the Billy Bishop island airport named after the Canadian WW I flying ace, flew through security and settled into the lounge.
Porter treats customers to a variety of coffees, cookies and newspapers in a comfortable lounge — all of which made continuing U.S. election news somewhat easier to digest.
The 1-hour flight was a breeze as we passed over woodlands, then industrial New Jersey before landing at Newark Liberty Airport. New Jersey Transit delivered us to Penn Central Station, Manhattan in 30 minutes. We could see the skyline just 10 miles away.
With Penn Station being so close to my fav NY photo mecca, B+H Photo, I popped in to get a few goodies not available elsewhere. B+H is always packed, a well-oiled machine dispensing items for customers like a just-in-time car production plant. Wondrous and almost intimidating.
Having only carry-on roller bags, we easily walked the 12 short blocks from Penn Stn to the Intercontinental Times Square Hotel, situated near 8th Ave and 44th St. close to everything. A mural and elevator car park across the street caught my eye. Nik at the front desk kindly gave us a corner room so we could check in early and keep tabs on the world.
After a quick refresh, we set off for the 9/11 Memorial & Museum. A woman helped us through visitor confusion to get a subway Metropass. She and the hotel staff were the first to show us how friendly New Yorkers are. It's been said the cataclysmic events of 9/11 changed people. Whether or not this is true, we experienced a genuine friendliness everywhere we went.
The former World Trade complex consists of One World Trade Center (a.k.a. Freedom Tower) and subterranean retail and office space, while the footprints of the twin towers have been given over to a sobering memorial of black stone squares surrounding two inverted pools. The names of almost 2,800 victims are carved into the stone. A white carnation adorns the name of each person on their birth date.
Our CityPasses allowed us to skip the ticket line for the museum. The brochure and map summarize its purpose: '...the Museum attests to the triumph of human dignity over depravity and affirms an unwavering commitment to the fundamental value of human life.'
It was dark by the time we exited. Three of the staff at the door recommended O'Hara's Pub, a block away, as a place to eat with a special connection to the museum. Rescue workers, firefighters and police would congregate there and began stapling their embroidered badges to the walls which are now covered with units from around the globe. And as we were told, "the food's not bad, either." If you go, ask to see 'the book'.
We took the subway to Greenwich Village to see the annual Halloween parade. Two women (ghoulish goils?) were getting into the spirit of things on the way. The rest was Village fantasy.
The Empire State Building, another attraction in our CityPass books, is a touch of class, a prime example of art deco architecture inside and out. The view's not bad, either.
We hoofed it uptown through the old garment district and Times Square to breakfast (late) at the 5th Ave Carnegie Deli because that location was due to close on Dec 31, 2016. "It's very together," said one customer. Seated elbow close, we had great conversations with other visitors from the U.S. and Europe. It was a fun tourist trap. A 2022 note: Surprise! Carnegie hasn't gone away. It's gone franchise, sells online and has a Madison Square Garden location.
A meander through Central Park (and a wedding in progress) brought us to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. ( 2017 Feb. update: The Met has just put over 375,000 images of its art collection into the public domain.)
The New York Times has an excellent web guide. The cavernous Met holds more art than anyone can take in one go. But we did our best, concentrating on the Greek and Roman periods, then departing mid afternoon for the Top of the Rock, as Rockefeller Center has been cleverly named.
On the way we passed a mobile political commentary.
We booked an evening view for the Rock (required 2 hours in advance), window shopped, then decided to reset our booking while sipping hot chocolate at Saks 5th Ave cafe, which incidentally, has a grand view of Rockefeller Plaza.
New York is street art. Anything from signs to designs can pop up. Some side street sleuthing revealed via brasil, an affordable and cozy restaurant with authentic Brazilian cuisine and cordial staff. Best food find we had in New York. Must get back there!
Walking back to our hotel we passed through Times Square, testing all of our senses once again. There's always something interesting, but man, those lights are bright.
Back at the Intercontinental...
CityPass discounts include 3 attractions plus 3 more out of a choice of 6 for a total of 6 within 9 days. We only had 3 days, so it was a tough decision. The Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Cruise was one of these: a quintessential NY experience. (Note: there is more than one cruise line in town.) Like many tourist sites, airport-type screening is now in place — a sad post - 9/11 legacy.
Not all Canadians take the ferry.
Ellis Island Immigration Museum explains the nation's history and takes you through the process which 12 million immigrants endured from 1892 to 1954 — including those who didn't make it.
"Where's the observation deck? On top of the building." We had rebooked Top of the Rock for 3:00 PM, ending up running through the streets to make it on time after a subway line from downtown Battery Park was closed. Whew!
Long lines snaked through the building going up and coming down. We had a plane to catch, so could only give ourselves 30 minutes on top. Wonderful views! I thought a hazy sky looked better as a special effect with a Watercolor Art Filter in my Olympus camera.
Finally, we raced back to the hotel for our bags (thankful for its central location!) and made a brisk walk through rush hour crowds to Penn Station for our airport train, exhausted and satisfied with all we had savoured in the Big Apple.
Hard hats off to the many ironworkers, including hundreds of native Mohawks from Canada and the USA who helped create the New York skyline, notably the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, Rockefeller Plaza, Twin Trade Towers and Freedom Tower.