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

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

After lunch nearby I headed to the Tribute WTC Visitor Center. This is on Liberty Street across from the WTC site. Several galleries are set up for visitors to walk through. Memories and personal photos tell the story of "World Trade Center Community Remembered." "Passage through Time: September 11" is an interactive timeline of personal experiences and pictures of that day including events at the Pentagon and Shanksville, PA. "Aftermath: Rescue and Recovery" includes more images and artifacts portraying work that lasted for months. "Tribute" is a collage of photographs and symbolic objects shared by families. The continuous scroll of names commemorates those lost. This brings home the numbers of the dead. There is also a gallery called "Voices of Promise," where visitors from around the world write response cards.

I did not know enough ahead of time about the walking tours that go around the perimeter of the WTC site so I hadn't planned to arrive in time for the last one. I will do this when I get back to NYC again. The center is the work of the September 11th Families Association. Its purpose is to connect and educate visitors with experiences of people directly affected by the tragedy. Information is available at http://www.tributewtc.org/index.php

I walked up to Trinity Church on Broadway at Wall Street. This is another fine old church though much bigger than St. Paul's. It is definitely worth a visit. Since all my pictures from the inside are gone, I can't remember more about it than the fact I liked it and would visit it again. http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/welcome/ I took the subway from the Rector Street station uptown toward "home." As usual when I came up out of the subway I was confused about directions and had to use the small compass I had purchased at a sporting goods store before I left home -- handy to have.

After a rather heavy day, I had a ticket for a very laugh-filled evening. I went to see "Spamalot." What a great time! There were no horses, but the king and his knights trotted around the stage most of the time as though they were riding. The show started with a scene in Finland with much dancing and singing about that country; then the historian who had introduced the show came out and shouted, "I said England!" The people and the trees of Finland ran off stage, and England appeared.

When I saw the show, Clay Aiken had taken over the part of "Sir Robin, the not-quite-so brave-as Sir Lancelot" knight. Except for the king and the Lady of the Lake, the leads played several different parts. Nothing was immune from being spoofed, including Broadway musicals such as "Phantom of the Opera' and "West Side Story." Other zingers went after long songs, gays in the theater, among whom we find Lancelot in this show, and religion. God even speaks from on high to the king and his knights. I read in the Play Bill that this is a recording of John Cleese, one of the original Monty Python people as well as a star in other comedies.

I thoroughly enjoyed the show and I had many good laughs. Given the opportunity I would see it again. However, it closed in New York in January. After I returned home from my trip I did see an ad in the Chicago "Tribune" that "Spamalot" would play Chicago for two weeks in January and February starring Richard Chamberlain as the king. I wasn't able to go during that time frame, and I consoled myself by saying I couldn't really see a much older Dr. Kildare prancing around the stage like he was riding a horse. Maybe I missed something!

UN building united nations new york cityWednesday my first stop was the United Nations. I had not visited this for quite a long time. I took a bus across 42nd St. to reach the UN in time for the first tour. I thoroughly enjoyed the hour-long tour. I had read all the necessary information on this page http://www.un.org/tours/index.htm . I walked back on 42nd toward 5th Ave. My first stop was the Ford building, which has a beautiful garden/atrium well worth visiting and wandering in. I had planned to stop in at the Chrysler Building to see its lobby, but I missed it. I must have walked right by its corner.

When I reached Grand Central Station, I did not have a lot of time to wander, but I was there in time to watch its Christmas light show on the ceiling and upper walls. It was really something to see. When I am back in New York I intend to spend some time in Grand Central Station. There is certainly a lot to see -- stores, restaurants, architecture, people! Excuse me -- Grand Central Terminal! http://www.grandcentralterminal.com/

Wednesday afternoon I went to the matinee performance of "Equus" starring Richard Griffiths and Daniel Radcliffe -- excellent! It is not an easy play to see, but I am glad I did. I tend to prefer musicals, but I had read reviews of this play and knew it was a hit in London so I decided to see it. Both leads were marvelous as was the whole cast. The following happening is hard to believe after very emphatic announcements before both acts about turning off cell phones. But in a very tense scene, a cell phone went off in the audience and wasn't turned off immediately. Griffiths stopped in the middle of his speech, turned toward the sound and just glared. Finally when the phone stopped, he turned and went on with the scene as though nothing had happened. Wow!

That evening I went to see "Billy Elliott," another wow! The story takes place in northern England during a coal miners strike as Margaret Thatcher was planning to close down the state-owned coal mines. Billy is 11 or 12 and hates his boxing class. When he sees a ballet class in the same gym, he is much more interested in that. Eventually he realizes he has to dance. The ballet teacher works with him, and, of course, his father and older brother, both miners are appalled. It is quite a show with music by Elton John. The London production won the Olivier award, Britain's top theater award. The part of Billy is so strenuous that three different boys play the part in alternate shows. There is also a fun group of young girl dancers who add to the show.

Just recently I watched the movie of "Billy Elliott," the original version of the story. It was very good but there was much less humor in it than in the musical. However, it is worth watching.

statue of liberty ellis island new york cityThursday I had a will-call ticket for Liberty Island and Ellis Island that I had to pick up at Castle Clinton. I had also paid for the audio guide that added a lot of information. I was on the first boat that sailed to the Statue of Liberty. The National Park Service estimates that the time needed for both islands with the audio guide is four hours; with the reservation to go to the statue's observation deck the estimate was five hours, and, of course, I had a list of other places to go so I skipped that. I made it through both islands in a bit under four hours by going through the audio guide fast and not looking at the displays at Ellis Island as much as I could have. Information about the islands can be found here http://www.nps.gov/stli/ and here http://www.statuecruises.com/ .

Both the islands are well worth a visit, and I would plan for more time there if I went back. Once you arrive at the island, you can take any boat leaving for the other island or back to Castle Clinton. If you decide to get a City Pass, which I did because I knew I was not going to have enough time to spend in the major museums I wanted to visit for the full price to make sense, you can use it for Liberty Island too, but unless you buy it from the boat office, you cannot make a reservation for Liberty island. I did not know this, but because I wanted a specific time, I paid for the boat I wanted without using the City Pass. There are several different companies offering these, but this is the one I chose because it doesn't cover too many and did include the ones I wanted. http://www.citypass.com/city/ny.html .

statue of liberty impersonators castle clinton new york citySince I had already wandered around Castle Clinton and its area, I went to explore Battery Park a bit. There are several memorials and statues there including two human "statues" of Lady Liberty. All dressed in green they were trying to get people to take pictures of them for a donation. I must admit I cheated and zoomed in on them from a distance. These "statues" and their cohorts were at just about every entrance to Batter Park.

fraunces tavern new york cityFrom there I went to see the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American-born saint of the Catholic Church. A Mass was just starting at 1 p.m. so I stayed for that. Then I wandered toward the Financial District and found Fraunces Tavern, which is part of a several-building historical block. The tavern dates from 1719. Washington dined here and said farewell to his army officers. I decided to eat lunch here. The restaurant is very atmospheric, and I ate lunch in the bar room. I ate weiswurst, German potato salad, and sauerkraut. It was very good, but I don't know how Colonial it was. There is also a museum there, but I didn't have time to visit it. http://www.frauncestavernmuseum.org/index.html

I walked on and saw Federal Hall with the statue of George Washington. This is where he took his oath of office. I also saw the New York Stock Exchange. After finding the Wall Street Bull and taking some pictures, I returned to Trinity Church and took some more pictures. Then I took the subway to the hotel.

Later I took the subway to Lincoln Center. Because of the renovation going on it wasn't too easy to find the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, but I had given myself plenty of time. I really enjoyed "South Pacific," and to betray my age I could have easily sung along with just about every song. This revival was great fun -- a Tony winner -- and presented in a smaller, more intimate theater than most I had gone to.

Yes, I did go to a lot of theater presentations, and no I did not stand in line at the TKTS kiosks. I decided which shows I wanted to see mostly by doing research on Theater Mania http://www.theatermania.com/new-york/ . There are summaries of all the shows and more information about them. The Radio City Music Hall show info is here http://www.radiocitychristmas.com/tickets/index.html Once I decided what shows I wanted to see, I started buying tickets in May since I figured I could afford one or two every month. For me, this is money well spent. I ordered the tickets from Theater Mania, Ticketmaster, and Radio City.

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