Thursday, February 18, 2010

Taking our Own Slice Out of the Big Apple: New York City, NY

Destination: The City so nice they named it twice - New York, New York
Number of Days Spent:   3 days
Where we stayed:  With our friends Peter and Nina.  Thank you guys again so much for everything!    
Best restaurant:  Had an excellent Italian meal at a local joint in Morristown, New Jersey, with even better company!  In the city itself - we had Thai in Chinatown that was excellent (Thai spicy!) and, of course, the pizza!
Best of:  The "anything's possible" attitude of New Yorkers, Rockefeller Center all alight for the holidays, Bright lights of Times Square, Backstage at Madison Square Garden (MSG) 
Worst of:    It was cool to actually get to put up a shot in Madison Square Garden, but Tracy air-balled it and I barely skimmed the rim.  Perhaps taking off our jackets would have helped a little.
Most Memorable:  Seeing the inner workings of a camera crew thanks to Peter.  I didn't realize there were so many people working behind the scenes on even the simplest formats of a show.

Useful Tip:  Not that big of a "secret" but the Staten Island Ferry is free and offers one of the best views of the Statue of Liberty   
One of the most iconic cities in the world let alone the US, New York City is a microcosm of every walk of life.  Simply put, there is not other place on Earth that can compare.  Within her borders lies nearly every ethnicity, nationality and religious (or lack of) preference known.  Over one third of the people living here are not even from the United States originally, but perhaps that is what makes it arguably the most American city.   If your ethnicity is anything European chances are your ancestors came through here with the first taste of American soil being Ellis Island. 
Beyond its historical significance, New York City also plays a vital role in shaping the cultural scene of the nation.  It's the largest city in the US with the largest media market so getting its fair share of attention is not a problem.  Countless, books, movies and songs use the Big Apple as a backdrop.  With only three days, we had to pick and choose and plan on returning one day to take in the rest.  In reality, you could never possibly see everything, but hey, one can dream. 
We started by taking the regional train in from Newark which ends in Penn Station underneath Madison Square Garden.  Peter was taping the Knick's game that night so after setting up he had time to show is around Midtown.  Below are some of the photos that we took, but the more interesting parts of our walk had no photos.  Peter hooked us up with passes and we were able to walk down to the court at Madison Square Garden, take a shot and check out a little of the inner workings.  From Madison Square Garden we walked over to NBC and saw the sets of CNBC, the Evening News with Brian Williams, and a couple of others.  Peter also tried to get us into Radio City but they were getting ready for a show.  It was still pretty neat to see all the control rooms and just how many people it takes to produce one thirty minute show. 
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Tracy wished we had carved out more time for shopping as NYC is arguably the best place in the world to shop.  Here we are outside of Cartier and Saks 5th Avenue.  If there is a recession in the US, someone forgot to tell this segment of our population as every high end store was packed with people. 
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A little known church's magnificent alter piece.
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The Rockette's were performing that night so Radio City was off limits to non ticket holders.
Times Square with a rare sighting - the taxi cab :-).  
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Rockefeller Center all light up for the holidays. 
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Inside "The Rock" is NBC studios.  The set of Saturday Night Live was closed unfortunately, but there is a wall with signed photos of every host.
The sign outside the Charmin station read, "Best seats on Broadway."  Shame we didn't have to go to test that theory.
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That night, Peter was able to get us in to see the Knicks vs. Trailblazers.  Sitting in the space where the massive cameras are located isn't exactly courtside, but Tracy got to play around with her new DSLR with the 200mm lens attached while I got to try my hand at shooting the game with something a little more significant.  Ok, so it was the little kids halftime show, and the shot wasn't used, but it was fun to play with for a couple of minutes.
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The Knicks are, well...bad, so it's a good thing the celebrities come out in full force on a nightly basis. In attendance this night was Rihanna, Celine Dion, Chris Rock & the Knicks most famous fan of them all, Spike Lee who attends every game.
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The next morning we started out at the sobering World Trade Center site, or Ground Zero.  Few events in the past couple of decades have changed our lives more than the events of 9-11.  The site will soon be a memorial and there is not much to "see" at the moment.  There is a small memorial museum (there is one free one and one that you have to pay for) there that has a moving video collection of personal stories of lives effected by this horrific act.    
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Standing at the edge of a small park near Wall Street sits the famous Bull.  How it got here is a bit of a mystery, but we couldn't resist grabbing the Bull by the balls...errr...Horns. 
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One easy, free and scenic thing to do is take the Staten Island Ferry.  The ferry passes by the Statue of Liberty every half hour or so coming and going from Staten Island.  When the boat docked, we just got off and right back on again.  It's also a good way to get a shot of the massive skyscrapers of Manhattan.  Have a car GPS along with to aid in finding places, we couldn't help taking the shot of the screen where the car was in the middle of a body of water.  Don't see that everyday...hopefully.  Word of advise though on the GPS - don't count on it working so well with all the tall buildings getting in the way.    
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Arguably the most colorful of Manhattan's neighborhoods, China Town was next on our list.  Due to a police raid earlier that morning, the area was more subdued than we had anticipated.  Black Market vendors aside, Chinatown is packed to the gills with small knickknack shops with varying degrees of quality.  Makeshift produce stands are common place and generally specialize in one or two types of fruits or vegetables.
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In a few short blocks, we move from the questionable quality found in Chinatown to the slightly more upscale boutique stores of the Lower East Side and Greenich Village.  Manhattan's neighborhoods butt up against one another with very little transition space.  The contrast can often times be achieved by just walking across the street which is what makes New York City so fascinating.  In less than ten blocks, one can wander from the business sector of Wall Street to the colorful streets of Chinatown and then over to the yuppie laden streets of "The Village."   
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Back in midtown, we checked out St. Patrick's Cathedral and its impressive vaulted ceilings.
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A night out on the town in New York during the holidays takes on a new meaning.  Virtually every major store gets in on the action.  Saks 5th Avenue decorates the side of the building with huge snow flakes that flash along with music.  Below the snow flakes are the famed window displays.  In what has become a tradition, Saks, Macy's and several others around town redecorate their window displays in a Christmas theme.  Macys this year had an interactive display where you could write Santa a letter.
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Since we moved so fast with Peter the day before through Times Square, we decided to walk back through there one more time...once again taking pause to check out the Charmin "store".  Commercialism appears in the from of oversized, lighted billboards flashing to draw your attention.  Below all the neon signs, rallies and protests are often staged.  On this particular night, they were protesting the health care bill (or lack there-of).
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The following day we opted to wander around town a bit more rather than see the famed Met Art museum...partly due to timing, but mostly due to costs.  Looking for something to do that was entertaining and yet light on the wallet, we set out for Central Park.
Central Park was one of our more pleasantly surprising stops.  Before heading into the park, we needed to pick up a few provisions for our picnic in the park.  Zabars and Fairway are institutions in New York for upscale, natural and organic groceries. Located a short walk away from the park, they both served as an excellent place to grab a quick sandwich.  They even have $1000 an ounce caviar if you feel the need for such things.
The rest of our time we spent meandering down Park Avenue, home of some fairly swanky (i.e. super expensive)  digs, checking out Grand Central Station, a must see for anyone and racing back to the Garden to catch our train home...

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With our time up in the Big Apple, we packed up and headed out to Niagara Falls.  Thank you to Peter and Nina once again for being such gracious hosts.  Perhaps one day we will be able to return the favor!
To see more photos of New York City click here!

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