When we stepped off the plane in Palm Beach, we were excited about starting our luxury vacation. Our anticipation was based on our excellent experience at Club Med Punta Cana. We were going to be disappointed!
In Punta Cana, Club Med had provided us with the name of the transportation vendor and other contact information, but we didn’t even need it, because the pick up area was clearly marked and someone was there to greet us.
In Palm Beach, there was nothing. I started going through the paperwork and found a number to call. Suddenly, their absence was my fault. They had texted me and I didn’t reply. There had been no text, but it magically appeared a few moments after I got off the phone with them. I was assured a car was on its way and someone did show up pretty quickly, but that panic after we had picked up our luggage dulled our excitement.
In Punta Cana, the airport is a short drive from the resort and the scenery along the way gets you very excited about where you are headed. The entrance to the property is well-marked and inviting. Getting there was part of the fun.
In Palm Beach, that’s not the case. You are about an hour away from the resort and we had the joy of adding time to that, because we were in rush hour traffic. You’re stuck on a freeway that looks pretty much like any freeway and as you near the property, you start wandering through residential areas. When you finally arrive at the gate, it looks a little bit like the entry to a run down mansion that might be in a horror film.
In Punta Cana, our driver pulled into a drive and right by the van was a man standing at the podium to greet us. Everywhere we looked was lush greenery and attractive buildings. We were ushered from the van to a shaded seating area where we given refreshments.
At Sandpiper Bay, the driver dumped us off on the sidewalk and we made our way into a glassed-in lobby marked as “Registration.” The harried clerk raised a finger at us to let us know we’d need to wait. We stood there and no one offered us any refreshment. In front of the registration office was a rock garden with dead plants in it. Everywhere we looked resembled the dormitories of a second, maybe third rate, college.
After we’d been registered at Punta Cana, one of the GM’s walked with us to our building and let us into our room. She showed us around our accommodations while we waited for our luggage to be delivered. The room, while not luxurious, was very nice and attractive.
After we’d been registered at Sandpiper Bay, the clerk pointed at our building, which was nearby and told us we were on the third floor. The elevator was at the other end of the building from our room. The room, while not exactly awful, resembled my dorm in college with the exception that we did have our own bathroom.
The first thing we said to each other was, “Sandpiper Bay ain’t no Punta Cana,” and that pretty much sums up the entire adventure. On the ride to the resort, I’d used my phone to handle transferring the day’s shoots to our editors. I always feel nervous when I do it that way, certain something is going to go wrong, because it is a very truncated process via phone, but I was ready to start enjoying our vacation.
We’d arrived after happy hour, which was always one of our favorite times on Punta Cana, but I changed into an fresh outfit, touched up my make-up and headed out to have fun. So far, we were less than impressed with Sandpiper Bay, but hopeful things would get better.
Come back next week and join us for dinner. Then you’ll find out if our beach vacation was getting any better.
Dressing up and going to the Opera had been one of the things Deb and I had fantasized about most as we looked forward to this trip. When we made it back from our trial run for Penn station, I was still raring to go. Deb was done in. She laid on the bed and said she was going to wear what she had on.
Now if you recall, her feet were in serious pain and had been ever since Tuesday night, yet we’d been walking all day, every day. The only shoes she could wear at this point was a pair of kitten printed canvas slippers. She was a little rung out from the train station episode and I’m not sure how much fun it would be to get all dressed up and finish the look with kitten shoes.
Here’s what’s so great about our friendship, I still wanted to get dressed up, so I did and she thought that was great. I pulled out all my finery and as I did, I also started prepping for the next morning, when we’d be going to the christening. That’s when I figured out I had no hosiery for the next day. In Dallas in May, that would be OK. In New York, I figured I would freeze to death.
So, I finished up getting cute and had time to spare to go to our drug store. I have no idea what we would have done without it. We’d gotten foot remedies, new skin for my finger, super glue for my sunglasses, late night snacks, numerous Diet Dr Peppers and now I was going for nude colored hose and something to treat a fever blister. Yep, it’s always something.
We were such pros on the subway now, that we probably could have made it just fine to Lincoln Center, but just to be sure we used Lyft. I could get used to this. Our driver dropped us off right in front and we didn’t even have to think about parking.
I do not have enough superlatives in my vocabulary to describe how wonderful it was to see the Franco Zeffirelli production and sets for Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera House. It is one of my favorite operas of all time and I have seen it a number of times at my beloved Dallas Opera, but there’s a reason The Met is The Met.
Turandot was the Ukranian, Luidmyla Ariltato and she did a remarkable job, but her Calaf was a South Korean, Yonghoon Lee. It was so fitting to see an Asian in this role and he knocked it out of the park, vocally. It really was special in my mind. Deb kept talking about how amazing the entire chorus was. “They were actually moving and acting,” she said, “not just standing around singing.”
Then there were the costumes. They were the perfect compliment to the outrageously wonderful sets created for each scene. If there is perfection in this world, short of heaven, then this production of Turandot is it. I can die happy.
Remember the grand nephew we visited across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Well, we made plans to join him for a bite after the show. We had a little difficulty finding his favorite sushi restaurant, even though it was close by. Lyft let us off at Columbus Circle and it was supposed to be right there, only we couldn’t find it. They were just about to quit serving when we finally got there, but we weren’t all that hungry after our feast at the Tavern on the Green earlier in the day.
Then he escorted us to the right subway station and sent us on our way. We made it back to the hotel just fine and felt very New Yorkish to be trotting around so late at night. I know horrible things happen to people on the streets of New York, but we never had a moment’s trouble.
The fun is almost over, but we have one more big event. Come back next week and we’ll take a little train ride.
My mom left me with a long list of travel must-do’s. Never mind I’d managed to go places she never saw. She wanted me to be sure and see the things she had seen or things she had wanted to see, but never made it. Like the Tower of London. She went to England twice and never made it to the Tower to see the Crown Jewels. I’ve done that. She loved Windsor Castle. I still haven’t been there. The list goes on.
Last year I knocked off a biggie – the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Now I was in New York, ticking more things off her list. Certainly, the Metropolitan Museum of Art was high on her list, but so was Tavern on the Green. For many years I despaired of ever getting to Tavern on the Green, because it closed down for a while. Not as in a pandemic casualty, but long before that. Various New Yorkers and the City of New York were squabbling over everything from trademarks to vendor’s licenses. According to Wikipedia, Trump (yes, that Trump) came in and made the necessary renovation happen and now the Tavern is back in all its glory.
While I wanted to tick as many items off Mom’s New York list as I could, I also had my own preferences to consider. So, I chose the Frick over the Guggenheim or MOMA and I had the Tavern on the Green as a possibility, instead of a must. Part of me wanted to go ahead and make reservations for that Saturday afternoon, but the other part didn’t want the pressure of rushing through the Frick.
So, with the Frick behind me, we strolled across Central Park (a treat in itself) and made our way to the Tavern. Something I had read told me to go ask for a seat in the bar. Reservations are hard to come by and expensive if you don’t show up, but apparently you could always just ask to sit at the bar.
When the girl looked up and said, “Do you have reservations?”, with a smirk that said, “You out of towners never have a reservation,” I smiled and said, “We’d like to sit in the bar.” We were seated immediately.
I’d like to say we were waited on immediately, also, but that did not happen. We were virtually there forever. I ordered a burger, the most expensive one I’ve ever had and proceeded to enjoy our time in the Tavern.
As we sat there, waiting first for a drink, then for a menu, then for another drink, then to place our order and then the decade to get our food, we watched the entire bar area fill up. The patio outside had been full when we got there and stayed full the whole time. The rest of the restaurant was full, also.
When I finally got the most expensive hamburger I’d ever ordered, it was delicious. I wouldn’t say the best I’d ever had, but certainly a good one. Deborah also liked whatever it was that she ordered, but we agreed the price was prohibitive. Maybe if Mr. Trump invited me to be his guest, I’d go back, but probably, I won’t be back.
The Subway Challenges Us
We had tickets to the other Met this evening – The Metropolitan Opera – but the next day we would be venturing into New Jersey via the train. Deborah was a little anxious about how all that was going to come down, so we decided to make a trial run.
For once, the Subway and its app were not our friends. Apparently, a lot of maintenance happens on Saturdays, when the traffic on the subway is lighter than weekdays. When we’d visited Grand Central Station the day before, Deborah had gotten some information that should have helped us find our way, but that information did not take into account the Saturday maintenance and the app, wasn’t really helpful.
With a little difficulty, Deborah was able to find Penn Station, which is where we needed to catch the train. She found a very helpful agent that walked her through the whole process and relieved her mind. Then we tried to return to our hotel. That did not go as well.
The Metro app and the construction signs were taking us around in circles. We finally left the underground and hit the sidewalk to figure out where we were. That’s when my handy dandy analog maps came in very handily. I’d been referring to them all week, but when electronics failed us, what a blessing those little books were. They helped us get to another part of the subway system not being worked on and then back to our hotel.
It was time to go to the Opera. Come back next week and enjoy the highlight of our trip. We did save the best for last!!
While it would have been very easy to spend every waking hour of my New York week at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, I didn’t, because I want to feel as if I know any city I visit, not just hit the top site. That’s why we stomped all over Mid-Town and Lower Manhattan, as well as taking advantage of the subway. Hopefully, some day, I will get back to The Met, but I needed more than one museum to know New York.
You could museum into perpetuity in New York. They have a little of everything. Museums like MOMA and Guggenheim are better known, but once I’d read about the Frick Mansion overlooking Central Park, I knew it was the choice for me. My choice was tested when I discovered they were renovating the mansion and a selection of the best items had been moved to a temporary home called Frick Madison, but reading through a list of items in the collection, I kept the Frick on my list.
While the Frick was no further away than our stroll to the Met, at this point of the vacation, less steps are better. As we ate meal bars in our hotel room (we were dead tired of their breakfasts and I could not face another egg) Deb pulled out her handy dandy Metro app and discovered we’d need bus service to get close to the Frick. So with the help of the app, we took the bus. It dropped us into a completely different world a few blocks from our destination.
This was residential New York, the Upper East Side and plenty swanky I will let you know. This was a quiet Saturday morning. We saw a few joggers. There were mommies and daddies out with the latest style of preambulars. We were on hallowed ground.
Coming to Madison Avenue, we made a left and continued to enjoy our surroundings. We arrived on the doorstep of the Frick with time to kill, so I backtracked to a small convenience store I’d seen along the way. You know those movies where someone steps into a small crowded bodega and is suddenly swept up in a robbery or a mugging? Yeah, well this wasn’t that place. The proprietors were oriental. Everything was neat, nothing was crowded and yet the space seemed to have a little of anything you might need.
I was in dire need of caffeine and I was ready to take it in whatever form I could get it, but to my absolute delight, they had my beloved Diet Dr Pepper in a screw top bottle. I could drink what I needed and save the rest for later. I was jubilant. I don’t think anyone had ever been jubilant in their store. They smiled and nodded, but I could tell they wanted the crazy person to leave and return them to their previously quiet and neat atmosphere.
Then it was Frick time. The first floor is a functional floor with offices, ticket sales and a store. We walked into the first gallery on the second floor. Holbiens, Hals and other fabulous painters from Holland and the Netherlands. Then BAM, the Rembrandt self portrait we all know. We may not even know it is a Rembrandt self portrait, but we’ve all seen the guy with a mustache in a funny hat, washed in golden light. A roomful of Van Dykes and three of the only 34 Vermeers which exist in the world today. We’re only in the first set of galleries and we’ve already seem more Old Master paintings than most bigger museums have in their entire collection!
The third floor has many of the decorative arts, which many of you will recall is my absolute favorite thing in a museum. Carpets, porcelain (so much Meissan) and of all things, clocks. There was a lot of Italian art of all varieties and in the Spanish section, several El Greco’s, which I love.
The decorative arts also filled the fourth floor and these were French – oooh la la! Not in necessarily in manufacture, but taste – think Sèvres and Meissan. Continuing on the fourth floor was a gallery filled with Frangonard’s Progress of Love. Like the Rembrandt self-portrait, these are paintings you’ve seen reproductions of all your life. To see them in person and all together was stunning.
Then, as if you are not already gob-smocked from all you’ve seen, there is a room of Impressionist paintings, finishes out the floor. Not a comprehensive collection, but stunning nonetheless. At that point, I just wanted to go back to the second floor and do it all over, but other entertainments beckoned and we were hungry!
If I went back to New York tomorrow, I would first go to The Met and then back to the Frick – and hopefully, the renovation of the mansion would be over and I could see these masterworks in their usual venue, placed in his gorgeous home, just as Mr. Frick thought they should be. Then I would go to the Guggenheim and MOMA. The Frick is just that good.
But it’s lunch time! Come back next week and we’ll cross Central Park to the Tavern on the Green.
Traveling is my thing and every year, when the Travel & Adventure Show comes to town, I feed that passion. I remember the first year I happened into it with my hubby at the Dallas Convention Center. He was more excited about the Belly Dancers on the Global Beats Stage and I didn’t worry him by picking up every brochure in sight, like I do these days, but I knew I’d found something.
The next year, bestie went with me and a tradition was born. We schedule our day around various speakers, grab every brochure that even slightly interests us and get our picture made at the photo booth. It’s a good time.
This year she had a dance lesson and we met afterwards. Confession, the last few times we’d been, it want’s the marvelous hit it had been in those first few years and we couldn’t even blame it on Covid. Somewhere along the way they’d moved to Dallas Market Hall and it just wasn’t what it had been. So, bestie and I decided we didn’t need to rush over there. We could have lunch first. I mean we’re not about to miss it, it had just fallen short in helpfulness since it first came along.
So, we grabbed lunch at Torchy’s Tacos, near one of her dance studios. We have one in Rockwall, but I rarely get there. In truth, I think it’s a little pricey for street tacos, but that’s me. This time it was well over $20, basically for fast food, but I did splurge and get a specialty margarita. It was bigger than the standard margarita and while Deb complained her regular margarita was a tad tart, mine was awesome.
Then it was on to Dallas Market Center. This year did not feature some of the big name travel types we’d seen in the past, but I thought it was an improvement over the last few years. The first time it was at DMC it was pathetic and the Covid years were tough, but we’ve hung in there and this year it really was worth the effort. It’s easy to be worth the price, because it was only $10. What else can you do for $10.
We started off with “How to Travel Solo, from the Experts” in the Savvy Traveler Theater, for Deb, who is contemplating a test drive in the world of Solo Travel. There had been a similar seminar last year, but it had been a total waste of time. This year was better – marginally so, but better. Deb was encouraged to discover more and more companies are doing away with an upcharge for solo travelers, but disappointed the cruise industry is slowest on the uptake.
The next seminar was right back in the same place, but it was Gabe Saglie of Travel Zoo talking about “How to Prioritize Travel in Uncertain Economic Times. He talked a lot about trends and offered up travel tips, but his goal in life was to get us to sign up for Travel Zoo. He made it sound good enough, that I actually just did so.
We immediately went to “”The Insider’s Guide to Visiting Arizona Parks,” but the seminar was misnamed. It should have been, “Look What I Did.” Some lady who worked for the Arizona Office of Tourism spent the time showing videos which are on the National Parks’ websites. Apparently, she had been tasked with making the National Parks websites more accessible and she was very proud of her videos. Thank you, I know how to use the internet. You have wasted my time. She got away with showing one. We left when she started showing the second one. She may have made the websites more accessible to the general public, but she made her presentation a real snorefest.
Next up was “Cruise Tips, Trends and Personal Stories from Our Adventures at Sea,” in the big Travel Theater. This seminar was also misnamed. It was an advertisement for Princess cruises to Alaska. The MC for this talk was Alanna Zingano, a social media travel influencer (No, thank you!) and Jeff Corwin. I confess, he looked a lot like Steve Irwin, the Australian Nature Dude who got killed by a stingray, so I thought he was that guy’s son. Not so. Somehow Jeff Corwin has gotten a job as the Nature & Adventure Ambassador, probably because I’m not the only one who thinks he’s Steve Irwin’s son. Anyway, Alaska is not at the top of my travel list and Deb has been four times, so that was a loser.
The final seminar of the day was probably the best. Someone named David McGuffin did a talk titled, “Exploring Europe: Top Destinations, Attractions and Experiences.” Of course, he was advertising his European travel company.
David and our friend from Travel Zoo were the most informative guys at the travel show, but I wish that wasn’t giving them more credit than they deserve. In the past, we’ve seen Samantha Brown, Rick Steves and other travel luminaires behind the podium. So, it was not a star-studded event. However, they have ramped up the quality of their vendors and I felt as if it was more worth the trip than it had been in recent years.
David Solomon at the Biblical Arts Museum
The other big event for the weekend was an opening reception for a new exhibition at the Biblical Arts Museum. I’m not sure how I get on these lists, but the museum invited me to opening of the “Flowers of the Holy Land” Exhibit. A little honesty here. I’m not really fond of this museum. It’s mostly a warehouse for copies of various religious art – including Thomas Kinkade prints. They also cram entirely to much stuff into the space they have, so actually enjoying one of their oversized look-alikes is difficult to do.
I can’t say I walked away from this exhibit with much more respect for what they are doing. Bill and I both thought an exhibit of my own photographs from the Dallas ARboretum would offer better photography and certainly FOREVER would have done a better job printing the large format photos. The refreshments offered were bad wine and bagels – a little odd, but the jazz band which played was actually pretty good.
Glad I went, so I know what’s up. I wonder if the exhibit will be there later this month when the Crowley Chamber Concert will be. While I’m not crazy about the museum, I do love the Crowley Chamber Concert Series.
For now, I must run! See you next week for travel, memory keeping and another weekend report.
Travel There – Libraries, a Cathedral, an Architectural Tour and The Top of the Rock
There was only one thing wrong with our plan for the day and that was Deborah’s feet. Her shoes tore them up on that first afternoon, when we strolled Broadway and since then, all we’d done was walk – all over Liberty Island, Ellis Island, Lower Manhattan, Central Park and The Met, as well as a trip back up and down Broadway. Still, she is a trooper. She medicated her blisters, put on bandages, wore thick socks, pulled on shoes and kept on walking. I don’t know if I would have been so tough. I’ve had days ruined by a paper cut.
The Morgan Library
We had breakfast at the hotel since it was included, took a quick subway ride to save Deb’s feet a few steps and made our way to the Morgan Library. Our admission time was 10:30 and that’s all you get, admission. I sort of assumed someone would take us around and point out the highlights. I was wrong. They pinned a tag on each of us and set us free.
There is an audio tour available on their website and we did listen to some of that, but I like people. Yes, I know I am a dinosaur, but it is what it is. In the absence of a tour guide, it is still an amazing place. They were very serious about masks and overtly politically correct, but I can ignore almost anything.
There is the historical building from JP Morgan’s time, standing as a testimony to his taste and erudition, with a very, very modern building added as a sign they are keeping up with the times. By far, my favorite things were those in the historical part of the museum complex. Several interesting exhibitions were on view in the newer part when we visited – Hans Holbein, Gwendolyn Brooks and Woody Guthie. Of the three, I found Woody Guthrie’s the most compelling. I had known of him, but little about him until I saw this exhibit.
Then we went inside got our tickets for the Rose Main Reading Room, which is the main attraction for tourists. We had an hour to kill, oooohing and aaaaaahing at all there was to see, while we waited to get into their very special space. It was totally worth it. Gorgeous. My photos are awful, so browse the websites I’ve linked to.
From there we checked out Grand Central Station. First, because it is a landmark everyone should see, but also we thought that’s where we’d catch the train to New Jersey for the christening, but it wasn’t.
I’d seen several hints that I should go to The Lott New York Palace which was once the Villard Mansion. It’s located right behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral, so I didn’t see any reason not to check it out. Totally worth the side trip, even if you wouldn’t have guessed it from the outside. Serious construction was going on, but inside, yes, it was worth the side trip. Several really amazing things to see, including the Gold Room, which all by itself was worth the visit. You’ve seen it in so many movies!
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Next up, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where the travel gods once again smiled on me. A wedding was going on which included an ethereal voice singing Ave Maria. It meant I could not walk up close to the famous altar and such, but it was a great trade off!
We surprised Deb’s great nephew who was working at a store across the street, which I will not mention, because he no longer works there. That’s when we decided to be spontaneous and have a little break, because resting our dogs while sipping a little wine sounded like just the thing. NYC did not cooperate.
I thought standing right next to Rockefeller’s famous rink, darling little wine bars would be all over the place, but in spite of further irritating Deb’s feet by walking all over the place, the only thing we could find was fast food. Saks had a coffee bar, but it was not an inviting place to rest, there was no alcohol and I don’t do coffee. We killed all the time we had stomping around to find a place to relax, instead of relaxing.
Architectural Tour and Top of the Rock
Having used up all our break time trying to find a place to take a break, it was time to go on the Architectural WALKING Tour of Rockefeller Center. I heartily recommend this to anyone. On the tour, we were introduced to many beautiful works of art we’d passed in oblivion in our search for a glass of wine. We learned a lot about Rockefeller himself and were pleased to learn he was a little rebel, purchasing and displaying works of art thought scandalous at the time, in part because the artists weren’t nice white people, but also because they displayed hitherto covered parts of the body.
After the walking tour we finally found an outdoor wine bar, which was exactly what we’d wanted before the tour. The area was shaded by the surrounding buildings, so it was a little chilly and the wine was downright bad, but we didn’t sweat it. We chatted with some eccentric old woman who would have us believe she was the antique maven of the entire city, and she might have been, but mostly what we liked was not walking for a while and taking an edge off the stress of walking around NYC via maps and our wits.
While it would be nice to say we could have spent more time there, the wine really was bad and it was entirely too chilly to be comfortable, so when it came time for our Top of the Rock tour, we were ready to go. We walked a couple of blocks back to the elevator, took a couple of escalators and there we were at the Top of the Rock.
Deborah told me the Top of the Rock tour had been her sons’ favorite thing about their visit to New York. I am glad I went, but I did not have that kind of enthusiasm for it. It was one of the most expensive things we did (except for the shows we went to) and I thought all of them were more my cup of tea.
I did the Hancock Building in Chicago and I have to say I thought that was a better experience. They have decals on the window to let you know what you’re looking at. There are more exhibits explaining the city and the building to you. I also felt less like a member of a cattle herd. To boot, Chicago is one beautiful city, while New York is overwhelmingly big.
But wait! The day is not over!! Come back next week and we’ll have dinner at Carmine’s a famous and much recommended Italian restaurant in Times Square.
It was supposed to be Joe Allen’s and Moulin Rouge, but I had a little planning hiccup, so we ate at Sardi’s instead. All of my life I’d heard of Sardi’s, so I wasn’t too upset, until I got there. BORING!! There is no longer any sizzle, only a very tired restaurant, mediocre food and a zombie waitstaff. Let’s move on to more exciting things.
So, while Sardi’s was a real disappointment, Moulin Rouge was not. There was frisson in the air as we approached the Al Hirshfield Theater. Everything was under construction along the street, which added it’s own chaos to the gathering crowd, wearing their masks and whipping out their phones for entrance into the theater. Apparently, actual paper tickets are a thing of the past.
Once inside the theater, we were all Bohemians, but you’d better not be carefree enough to take off your mask. All around me I heard stories of a show being stopped while an usher beamed a light at unmasked people. Someone else said they’d seen people thrown out of the theater for taking off their masks. A flyer warned us of all the things we were not supposed to do and just in case we missed it, an usher explained the seriousness of the crime of masklessness.
The musical was everything you’d want a Broadway production to be. The set, as you can see above, was amazing. The costumes were great. And the voices? WOW!! We were in the balcony, but we could see and hear everything with ease. We loved it.
I’ll be honest though, I did not love the music of the musical as much as I did the music of the movie. It wasn’t the singers. It was the songs. What I didn’t know is that the show was written in a way to include current music in the story. I’d especially loved some of the songs in the movie and was waiting eagerly to hear them. One of the first songs belted out was Lourde’s Royals. It fit in perfectly and it’s a song I like, but it was my first clue that I’d be hearing different music that night than I had anticipated.
It’s a great show and very much like the movie, but not exactly like the movie, even beyond the music. Logistics was part of it. You just can’t fit the movie set of Moulin Rough into a Broadway theater, so you saw only the inside of Satine’s dressing room, not the huge elephant it was on. While absinthe, the dangerous green spirit, plays a role in the live show, it is somewhat different than the movie. In the movie it was almost exalted, while in the show it is more clearly a villain.
Should you go? Absolutely! It was one of the highlights of the trip, but don’t eat at Sardi’s. All in all this was a red letter day. To go to the Met and a spectacular Broadway show, all in one day, was pretty amazing.
We trotted back up Broadway to our hotel, doctored our various ailments and got ready for the next day. Getting old really does suck, but it is better than the alternative.
Next up, a walking tour of Mid-Town, so be sure to come back next week for the Morgan Library, the New York Public Library, St. Patrick’s and Top of the Rock.
So far in NYC, our days have started with a long list of attractions. On this day the list narrowed down to the one thing I’d been wanting to do for as long as I could remember – visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. No aimless wandering for this Museum Girl. I’d read everything I could get my hands on. I had my tickets in hand. I had also printed out a map from the internet, highlighting the most important areas and numbering the order we should see them in.
I know sometimes you look forward to something for a long, long time and when you get there it is a disappointment. That was not the case in this situation. I loved every minute of it and would go back again tomorrow – but my map would look different.
Getting There was Part of the Fun
I’ve mentioned before how perfect the Sheraton New York Times Square hotel was as the headquarters of this vacation, but I’m going to say it again. If I ever get back, I’ll stay there again.
Excited about the day to come I woke up at 1:30, 3 and 5. At six I finally got out of bed and made myself ready for the day. We had our breakfast and set out on the sidewalk towards Central Park.
It was a glorious day, crisp and clear. Other tourists and New Yorkers went about their business. Something that surprised me about the city it was the lack of crowds. I thought the sidewalks would be shoulder to shoulder and the streets, bumper to bumper, but it was oddly sedate. Since I’d never been there before, I can’t tell you whether this was the result of the pandemic or I’d just over-imagined it.
I cannot tell you the joy I felt strolling through Central Park. It’s a beautiful place and the city is so lucky to have it. Even though I’d never been there, it felt familiar, because so many movies and TV shows are filmed here. I kept saying to myself, “I’m here! I’m really here!”
We took a turn to the east at the famous Bethesda Fountain and made our way to the Met. If I’d been wanting a crowd, here it was. A line snaked around the front of the building and down the sidewalk. Unfortunately, those were the people with tickets. It really didn’t take long, because it was just a security check and then we were in. We’d entered on some lower level and I’d planned my tour to begin on the main floor, so getting oriented was a bit disorienting, but soon I was gawking at all the things I’d dreamed of.
Galleries of Heaven
Our day at the Met began with European Sculpture and Decorative Arts. We saw the Robert Lehman Collection and visited the European Paintings. I was in heaven. I love it all. I really couldn’t believe I was really there.
We took a lunch break at The Eatery. Like the café on Ellis Island, everything is prepped and wrapped in cellophane, but the fare is a notch above. The atmosphere is much tonier also. Everything is modern, white and accented with blonde wood. If you’re going to be at the museum all day, like we were, then it was the perfect spot for lunch.
We enjoyed the break and headed towards the American Wing. Those Europeans might have been around longer than us, but we caught up fast. I wandered around just as amazed in this wing as I had been during the morning. As much as I love paintings and sculpture, decorative arts are my passion. I can look at vases, cups and spoons until the cows come home. The Met delivered. Deb and I wandered into a section which held case after case after case of humble items made beautiful. These are not the showstoppers of the museums, more like the pantry, but I loved them.
It was time for another break, so we went to the American Wing Café for a glass of wine. This is such a great space. You are actually in the American Wing Gallery, not hidden away like The Eatery. Table space is at a bit of a premium and I suppose the abandoned glasses, cups and plates were a sign they were a bit understaffed, but it was a break we needed.
I’d saved ancient history for the end of the day and we saw as much as we could, but we were pooped. I wish I’d had time to go back the next day and start filling in the blanks, because I know there were many, but there’s just so much that a brain can digest on a single day. We walked across Central Park to catch the subway, which delivered our weary bodies almost at the doorstep of our hotel.
But the day is not yet over! Come back next week for a taste of Broadway. We’ll go to the All Hirshfield Theater for Moulin Rouge.
Get ready for a wild ride! It’s my birthday weekend!
My favorite restaurant in Dallas is Javier’s, has been forever and it was my top choice for celebrating my birthday, this year and every year, but on Tuesday the earliest reservation possible on Friday night was 9:00. That wasn’t going to roll.
Bestie suggested the new Sear Steakhouse here in Rockwall and I was really glad, because I have been wanting to visit. I just can’t think past Javier’s on my birthday. We made reservations for hubby, bestie and me at 7:30. Here’s how it went.
Let me say first the food is AMAZING. I loved every bite and so did everyone else at our table. I started out with Lobster Bisque to die for, moved on the the perfect porkchop and topped it off with creamed corn better than my mother used to make. Bill stuck with a Wedge Salad and Deb did have a steak.
Let me also say the service was impeccable. Brandon guided us through a wonderful meal and fielded every complaint with grace. Complaint? Yes, there were a few.
The décor has a cool, hip edge we really enjoyed and the chairs were even comfortable, something some restaurants seem to think is no longer necessary. So what’s the beef? Sometimes, the closer something is to perfection, the more the flaws stick out.
The first jarring detail was the fake red rose in the cheap vase on the table. Had there been no floral offering, we wouldn’t even have noticed. Even the cheap vase would have been alright. What wasn’t right was the cheap fake rose. Any fake flower would have been a disappointment, but this was one of those tightly rolled numbers Amazon offers in bunches of 24 for $12.99. It didn’t even pretend like it wanted to look like a rose. It just looked fake. Don’t want to pay for real roses? I get it. Carnations and lilies are nice. In fact, a more convincing fake carnation would have been passable. What they chose was awful.
So in a critical mood we looked around at the fake roses on all the tables and that’s when we noticed the big bouquet of fake tulips. I will admit these were a better quality silk flower than the rose, but they still looked fake. If they hadn’t been there, we would have had a better view of the lovely fireplace they must have spent a fortune on. And that’s my point. In this case, less is more. Give the fake flowers and cheap vases to a nursing home or something. Just don’t leave them in the restaurant to spoil what is otherwise a very delightful décor vibe.
Other complaints? Seven dollars for sauces. A good steak doesn’t need a sauce, but if you are going to offer sauces with your steaks, just add it to the price of the entrée or if you have to charge something (I looked at other steakhouses, like Lawry’s, and they do have an upcharge, but it’s $4, not $7). My creamed corn was $7. Why would a sauce be that price? We wondered if it was the size, but the corn was a generous serving and when our server showed us the size of the sauce plate, it was about the size of half a business card.
Bread was the final faux pas. They had bread and it was good, but we didn’t get any until we were almost to the main course. As we sat, enjoying our drinks, we asked if they had bread. The answer was yes and he’d bring it as soon as it was ready. We asked for it again when the appetizers were served. Then I got down right ornery about it when they started trying to remove my soup bowl. At that point it was a matter of principle. We had a reservation at 7:30 on a Friday night. If a restaurant is going to have hot bread, that seems the right time to put it on the table. When the bread finally arrived, I scooped of the last vestiges of the best lobster bisque I ever had and then I let them take my soup bowl.
We did have dessert. We shared some carrot cake and it was really good, but it wasn’t chocolate. They had chocolate bread pudding, but I don’t like bread pudding, and they had a flourless chocolate cake, but it was about as generous as the sauce servings and I wanted to share. The carrot cake slice was so big, we actually had enough to take some home, but I forgot the box on the table.
Super Sized Saturday
My birthday weekend was only beginning. I had a very busy Saturday. It started with some early morning scrapbooking and coffee with Mr. Bill in the sunroom. Then Deb and I headed across town. First stop was Sam Moon’s. Deb has a dance competition in a couple of weeks and nothing in her jewelry collection did justice to her Latin dress, which has flames sewn around the skirt. She also wanted brightly colors long gloves to go with her shimmery grey smooth dress. We found both and I managed to get out of there without buying anything. Sure I wanted to buy the very big white Easter hat which looked lovely on me, but Easter Sunday is not what it used to be. I’d need to have tickets to the Kentucky Derby or Ascot to justify it.
Next up was the Dallas Contemporary where her son Gino is the Director of Development. They were having an art book fair for the Dallas Library and Gino had a table selling some of his zines and such, with his girlfriend, who is also an artist.
Along with buying a surprise envelope from Gino’s old fashioned vending machine, we walked about the other tables, lingering at the Deep Vellum Bookstore offerings, where Deb showed me a t-shirt Gino had designed. When the girl behind the table started trying to tell us how talented the artist was, Deb said, “I’m his mom.” The girl got all flustered and excited like Deb was a celebrity.
The envelope is Gino’s work, the yellow lady was by another artist at the fair. I would have paid a quarter to get the envelope. I am a big fan of Gino’s work. I’m also a big fan of Shepard Fairey who is currently on exhibition is the galleries. Mr. Fairey’s beautiful and interesting work will be on display through late July and you should go see it. Those are his murals on the collage at the top.
So, for lunch, we stayed in the Design District and ate atEl Bolero. Now, this is a restaurant I can recommend with vigor. Is it perfect? No, but they also aren’t claiming to be Rockwall’s “local high end steakhouse” either. It’s just a funky Design District Mexican restaurant with great food and a really enjoyable patio. I had something called the Texas Peach Margarita. That’s reason enough to visit, right there. OMG good!! But then we shared the Nachos de Tejas and they are worth a visit, too. Just go, you’ll love it. We finished off the meal by sharing a Snickerdoodle Bundtlet from Nothing But Bundt Cakes, who had sent me a birthday coupon.
But my Super Saturday is not over! Then I left Deb at a dance lesson and picked up hubby for bowling. I don’t bowl. I hate bowling, but I love my Dots.Polka Dot Powerhouse is an international networking group for women. I belong to the Plano/North Dallas Chapter and I’ve got to tell you, it’s the bomb! Is there great business networking? Of course, take Sarah Head of Sarah K Photography. She and I connected, because Spot On Images does not do head shots and she doesn’t do real estate photography. Our meeting was just a couple of weeks ago and we’re already sharing leads.
However, what’s more important is that Sarah is a new friend. We don’t just see each other at lunch meetings, we also go bowling and we’re both looking forward to the pool party in July. And the same is true for a wonderful group of women I have met since November and have already begun to call friends. Want to visit? I’d love to host you one lunch or dinner meeting. You’ll be hooked!
Slow Down Sunday
After such a busy weekend, we were ready for a quiet Sunday. We visited another church. It was Church of Christ. While it was a good sermon and there were nice friendly people, the acapella music and the uber-plain sanctuary did not fit the model church in our head. We were going to try Lakepointe’s Classic Service, but it’s an 8 AM service. The goal is to get Bill to go with me more frequently and he was never going to attend at 8 AM. So, the search continues. We’re going Lutheran next week. Trying to find a mix that fits a born Baptist and a raised Coptic pair is not easy.
After church, a quick trip to In & Out, because we had a coupon. Because it was a coupon kind of day, we decided to visit a few of the stores who offered me birthday coupons. We picked up some stuff for the house at Target and At Home, but I saved the DSW, Chico’s and WHBM for shopping with my bestie. Mr. Bill was on the sofa for his nap by 3 PM. I read a little bit and started organizing photos for next album, but ended up just playing my favorite game on my phone.
And that’s it! Come and visit me next week when we’ll enjoy a little more Travel Talk about NYC and some Memory Keeping 101, before the next Weekend Report.
Travel There – Happy Hour and Dinner in Lower Manhattan
What a day Deb and I had! It was just the kind of day we love, running from early until late and seeing things we’ve never seen before. We rode the New York subway from Mid-Town to Downtown. We visited the sculptures around Battery Park. We island hopped on ferries. We climbed to the crown of the Statue of Liberty and connected with our ancestors. We saw museums, historical gravesites, a church and a famous sculpture.
Now it was time to slow down. Deb, my co-conspirator and best bestie ever, thought we should find The Dead Rabbit. The same person who suggested Fraunces Tavern ( a real winner in our book) had also said his friends and family enjoyed The Dead Rabbit. So, out came the phones and we googled it up. (See, I’m flexible. I don’t always have to have a map.)
If you googled it up today, it says it is “The World’s Most Awarded Pub.” Last year it said the bar was Manhattan’s best kept secret. Personally, I’m glad I was there when it was a secret. The name of the pub is loosely related to a historical Irish gang that ran in the area back in the days when Ellis Island was busy. Personally, I think the founders of the pub heard about the gang and decided it would be cool to name the pub after it.
The founders also couldn’t quite decide what kind of establishment they wanted to have, so they have three – The Taproom, The Parlor and The Occasional Room. Though all three are part of the same place, they are three distinct destinations with three different audiences.
Deb and I just wanted a drink, so we went to The Taproom. Deb does cocktails. She loves to browse the drink menu, discuss things like bitters and ryes and then try new things. My cocktail is a Margarita and the rest of the time I drink white wine. I love red wine, but the histamines make me miserable, so I stick to white.
I think she either had an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan and I had either a Margarita or a Pinot Grigio – or we both had one of each. I don’t think it matters. Deb struck up one of her conversations about bitters and ryes with the bartendress which resulted in some ideas she wanted to try as soon as she got home. I mainly stared off into space and was so happy to be there. I was not working and it was blissful.
If you remember, we’d made dinner reservations at Fraunces while we were there and we were still just around the corner from it. Lower Manhattan is actually a pretty small place. After our two drinks at The Dead Rabbit Taproom, whatever they were, we struck out to follow up on our dinner plans.
The place was virtually empty, which was a crying shame. Not only do I want the restaurant to support the museum upstairs, but oh my goodness, did they ever have good food. We shared a ginormous porkchop with mac & cheese. It was time to get back to Mid-Town, so we headed to the subway and did a fine job of getting back to our hotel.
After our very active day, we needed a little patching up. Deb’s heels had been rubbed raw. I’d broken my prescription sunglasses and a finger I’d banged up back in Dallas needed further attention. We found a Walgreen’s and bought up what we needed to keep going – moleskin, super glue and New Skin. Oh, and they had Diet Dr Pepper!! Happy day!!
One might think we couldn’t top a day like we’d had, but that one wouldn’t know we had the Metropolitan Museum of Art on our schedule, something I’d been wanting to see my whole life – even more than I’d wanted to see the Statue of Liberty. The only reason we didn’t go to it on this day, the first full day in NYC, was because it was closed on Wednesdays.