Explore. Experience. Engage.

Powered by our sister site, Family Vacation Critic

A "Revolutionary" Journey Part III (New York City)

Author: Host Ciao (More Trip Reviews by Host Ciao)
Date of Trip: December 2008

Our final stop was in Little Italy, where we had a bit of time to wander around. I don't remember if I bought food or not, but it was an interesting and brightly lit area. Of course, through the whole evening, the guide explained where we were and what we were seeing. He also told stories about the areas and some history. Pictures even out the window would have helped me remember this better. He was a much more informal guide than some, but very interesting. The tour company is On Board Tours http://www.newyorkpartyshuttle.com/christmas-lights-in-new-york-city/

I ate dinner at Saigon, the restaurant right next to the hotel. The beef and vegetable dish was good, but I had to add soy sauce for more flavor. This was not too expensive. And until Friday night this was my one "normal" dinner.

Monday Morning I didn't get started quite as early as I had planned. Then, though I had directions on how to reach my destination by Metro, I had to ask a policeman where the entrance was. I knew the cross streets, but some times the entrances are not easy to see and also some times there might be two entrances across from each other and you have to know whether you want uptown or downtown and which entrance is which. There are signs. I worked on the trip planner from the MTA. I found it by clicking on the link on the right side of this page http://www.mta.info/metrocard/ One warning about this trip planner. The names of the trains given do not always agree with what MTA staffers will tell you. One finally gave me a map, which probably helped me more than the online directions though those at least gave me an idea and helped me know what station to start from and where to get off.

brooklyn bridge manhattan view new york cityI took the subway to the Brooklyn Bridge / City Hall exit so I could walk out onto the bridge at least for a ways. If I hadn't been running a bit late, I would have gone farther. The view back to Manhattan is worth the walk. I wandered around the City Hall area and found the African Burial Ground that I had read about. However, the office wasn't open yet so I headed back to the subway. I took a wrong turn on the way to the subway and wandered a bit before finding Police Plaza which I had seen. I found a subway entrance heading uptown. I asked the staff member using the directions I had with the names of trains. He just looked at me and finally gave me a map with subway routes marked with letters rather than names of train. From then on I used the Trip Planner info for the station entrance and then the map for the train letters/numbers.

I had no more trouble using the subway, and I recommend it. However, I only used it once in the evening and that was to go to Lincoln Center so there were a lot of people around. If I wanted to go somewhere at night I would probably make sure of the area I was heading to. I headed to the Essex Street Market to meet a tour. I wanted to sit for a while, but the small booth area was full so I went out to the Roma Pizza and sat there to have a coffee.

Back at the market I met the tour leader and the other person on the tour, a lady from Australia. The tour was really excellent. I had read about several food tours in Manhattan, and I really liked the offerings of the Melting Pot tour offered by the Enthusiastic Gourmet http://www.enthusiasticgourmet.com/Tours.htm The three hour tour cost $50 and was worth every penny. We tasted hand made chocolates at Roni-Sue's in the market including Pig Candy (yes chocolate covered bacon and delicious). Her shop was only one year old and she was expanding. www.roni-sue.com is worth a look just to see what she does. Her candy is not inexpensive, but oh so good.

Before I go on with the tour I am going to make another recommendation. The lady from Australia and I had both bought the same map of New York City, "The New York Mapguide," This breaks the city up into 30 page segments, which makes the maps very easy to read. It is a handy size about 5 x 7. The author listed is Michael Middleditch, and it is published by Penguin. I really liked this map/guide a lot.

While still in the Essex Market we also visited a cheese shop and had tastes there. This tour is in the Lower East Side of the city, where there are many immigrant shops, and we visited a variety. We went to a Kosher bialy bakery, where bialys are the only item they make. At the Pickle Guys we sampled sour dill pickles with three different lengths of pickling. We liked the ones with the longest time in the barrel. I can't begin to remember all the different vegetables that were happily pickling away in their barrels. Our next stop was a Chinese bakery, Lucky King Bakery, where we sampled a couple of dumplings. And finally we stopped at Ferrara's Bakery and were treated with mini cannolis.

This stop ended the tour so after asking directions to the next area I wanted to visit, I stayed there and had a big dish of gelato for lunch. There are many foodie type tours available to be found online for New York City, but I certainly recommend this one. It was great fun.

christopher park new york city gay couple statuesMy plan for the afternoon was to walk around Greenwich Village. Susan, the tour guide had told me how to get to Washington Square, which proved to be about a 20 minute walk. A major disappointment of the walk was that the famous Memorial Arch in the square was surrounded by lots of scaffolding. I followed parts of walks from three different guide books I had read and saw the twisty streets I had read about, many students from New York University, and Christopher Park with its statue of General Sherman and the probably better known, or more pictured in the guide books anyway, statues of gay couples talking in the park. I also went to Father Demo Square and Our Lady of Pompeii Church with many beautiful murals -- in my lost pictures, of course.

I had tickets for the 8 p.m. Christmas Show at Radio City, and it was spectacular. Santa Claus led us on many different adventures. The Rockettes performed as the toy soldiers, Raggedy Ann dolls, reindeer, tourists, and Christmas glitter. As tourists they rode onto stage in a Gray Line tour bus which moved across the stage and around the "square" before the dancers got off to dance with photos of them appearing on the lighted signs like those in Times Square. Other dancers performed as skaters, the toys in a ballerina's dream, and more tourists. Santa also helped two boys, one of whom didn't believe in him, find a Christmas present for their sister. He also took us on a 3D sleigh ride over and around the city. The children read the Christmas story as a Living Nativity was presented.

As I said the show was great, and I'm sure some of the allowed without flash pictures I took would have been presentable -- maybe. Anyway I bought the program and the DVD of the show, which is excellent. On the way "home" I stopped at Smiley's, a combo grocery, deli, and hot food store. I bought some sweet and sour pork, fried rice and vegetable. I ate back at the hotel, and, while the food wasn't very warm any more, it was tasty.

Tuesday morning I thought I was following the directions I had found in one of my guide books, and I know I got off at the correct subway stop, but I couldn't find Balducci's coffee shop. However, I did find Chelsea Market, which was disappointingly not at all like the Essex Market. It is full of coffee shops (so I did get breakfast) wine bars and restaurants. And no restrooms unless they were hiding in the restaurants that weren't open yet or upstairs in offices.

My first stop on a serious day mostly devoted to the 9/11 tragedy was the Ground Zero Museum Workshop on 14th Street. I ran into this on the Internet; it was not in the editions of the two guide books I used. The museum is on the second floor of a building and consists of many photographs taken by Gary Marion Suson, who was the official photographer for the Uniformed Firefighters Association, the city's main firefighters union.

The self-guided tour I took began at 11 a.m., and luckily it wasn't too cold because no one was admitted until 11 sharp and I had arrived about 10 minutes early. There is a guide who answers questions after a 20 minute video. Then an audio guide is used for individuals to listen to personal stories and explanations of pictures and artifacts. Suson spent eight months with Ground Zero crews and was inspired to create this museum by a visit to Anne Frank's home in Amsterdam. He calls this a museum workshop because of its interactive nature. There are several artifacts that visitors are able to hold.

This visit was very affecting, and I would not hesitate to recommend it. The tour costs $25 and lasts about two hours. Proceeds go to charities linked to September 11. I recognized some of the pictures and found that I had already purchased the first book he published after he was allowed to use his photos. Books and photos are for sale there and fairly expensive. You can find information at http://www.groundzeromuseumworkshop.com/

st paul's church new york cityI took the subway to the World Trade Center and came out right at St. Paul's Church so visited there first. This very pretty little church some how survived the destruction across the street and served as a center for helping workers at Ground Zero. The church contains several displays about activities there after 9/11 and stories from volunteers who worked there then. There were also volunteer chiropractors, podiatrists, and masseuse who worked there. George Washington's pew was used by the podiatrists, and the pew of the governor of New York was used for supplies.

Books, videos, and other items are for sale in the church, which is situated on Church Street between Fulton and Vesey streets. The exhibit is called "Unwavering Spirit: Hope and Healing at Ground Zero. I would highly recommend a visit. There is also a very old cemetery to wander through. http://www.saintpaulschapel.org/

Related Trip Reviews
New York City Trip Reviews
Mid-Atlantic Trip Reviews
Send Us Your Trip Review!

Thank You For Signing Up!

Please Note: To ensure delivery of your free e-letters, please add news@independenttraveler.com to your address book.

We're committed to protecting your privacy and will not rent or sell your e-mail address. By proceeding, you agree to our privacy policy and Terms of Use.