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Getting lost in NYC

Caramie Schnellcschnell@vaildaily.comVail CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyEscape the crowded New York City streets and get lost in Central Park. The 843-acre park is also the best place to see the fall foliage if you happen to visit the city during autumn.
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Editor’s note: This is the third and final story in a three-part series about New York City. Visit http://www.vaildaily.com to read the first two installments. With a day and a half left to explore New York City, a place where you could spend your whole life and still not “see” everything, we decided to head over to Central Park. One of my fondest memories from my last trip to New York, a decade ago, was of wandering through Central Park in the rain in early December. I remember the gray day well, thanks in part to a series of black-and-white photos. My brother, sister-in-law and I ran into Steven Tyler (yes, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith acclaim) coming out of a restaurant on the periphery of the park. He graciously smiled big and posed for a picture with us. Afterward, with umbrellas erected overhead, we wandered through the park for awhile, getting lost in the maze-like labyrinth. This time around, it was a beautiful sunny autumn day and my friend Brian and I walked around aimlessly. We didn’t bother to open a map, or check the signs, something we’d gotten used to doing while navigating the city the previous days. Instead, we simply wandered, enjoying the bright orange and yellow leaves, and the sweet smell their slow decay left in the air. Since stepping out of Grand Central Station a few days before, I’d found myself unconsciously walking faster and faster each day. In the quiet park, I made myself settle back into a stroll. We came upon Delacorte Theatre, where the ever-popular Shakespeare in the Park performances take place each summer. We sat on the steps and watched a few turtles swim around what turned out to be fittingly called Turtle Pond.

After a few hours, we headed for our hotel, the Casablanca Hotel (147 W. 43rd St.), located less than a block east of the Times Square storm. Stepping off the busy street into the quiet, calming hotel was a welcome relief. The 48-room boutique hotel has a distinct Moroccan decor ala the classic 1942 Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman film of the same name. After chatting with the friendly concierge for a bit about where to eat dinner, we decided on The Glass House Tavern (252 West 47th Street), which turned out to be right next door to The Brooks Atkinson Theatre, where we’d be heading next. The restaurant offers a three-course prix fixe menu perfect for theater goers. We shared the mushroom strudel appetizer, a very tender salmon with cream corn risotto entree and molten chocolate cake for dessert before heading to the theater to see “Rock of Ages.” I wasn’t sure if I’d really like the rock musical, especially after they handed us cheesy black plastic “lighters” – mini flashlights – when we walked in. But I was pleasantly surprised. The show is built around classic rock hits by glam bands from the ’80s – think Journey, Whitesnake, Styx, Bon Jovi and the like. For the second time, I got to see Dee Snider of Twisted Sister acclaim, on stage, though he was slightly more subdued then when he killed it as a surprise guest at the Yukon Kornelius show at the 2009 Spring Back to Vail. Snider, who penned the songs “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” (both of which are performed in the play) plays the role of Dennis. It’s hard not to sing along to at least some of the feel good songs. In all, the show was funny, if not a little over the top with sexual innuendo. This is not a show to take the kids too. After the show, we walked to midtown, to check out Rockefeller Center and listened to a soulful musician wail on the saxophone nearby before heading back to the hotel. We watched the dramatic rescue of the Chilean miners in the lounge before calling it a night. The next morning we caught the subway south, to SoHo so I could sneak in a little shopping while my friend Brian holed up in a coffee shop to work on his thesis. SoHo is known as one of the best shopping ‘hoods in the city and it was easy to see why. There’s tons of stores – everything from high end boutiques, to chain retail stores like H&M, to street vendors hawking silk scarves and cool, cheap jewelry from rickety tables on the sidewalk. My first stop was Japanese clothing store Uniqlo (546 Broadway/Spring St.), which is the only North American location. The three-story store is chock full of stylish basics – sweaters, jackets, and jeans, all reasonably priced. The style reminded me of a cross between Gap and H&M. I ducked into a few other boutiques, including a jewelry store where I could have dropped a thousand bucks easily, but alas, my credit card got away (mostly) unscathed.

We decided to walk, luggage and all, to the financial district, and to our last stop on our tour of New York City – Ground Zero. It was a shock to see the empty space where the towers stood and I stopped and stared for a few minutes from the graveyard in front of St. Paul’s Chapel. Despite being across the street from the World Trade Center buildings, the chapel miraculously escaped damage on Sept. 11, 2001. In the days following the attacks, the church opened its doors to firefighters, construction workers, police officers and others for meals, beds and prayer. Today, hundreds of the cards, photos, drawings and other items sent to encourage rescue workers are still on display in the church. Next we crossed the street to the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site where we learned about the plans and progress of the memorial and museum being built at the World Trade Center site. I stared up at the 9/11 timeline of events on the wall, and like everyone likely does, thought back to my college apartment, where I was when my sister-in-law called to tell me to turn on the television and watch as the tower we’d posed in front of just more than a year earlier collapsed.It was the first time I’d seen three-dimensional renderings of what the memorial will look like: two nearly one-acre pools set within the footprints of the twin towers with the largest man-made waterfalls in the country cascading down their sides. Each of the nearly 3,000 victims names will be inscribed around the edges of the pools and upwards of 400 trees will be planted in the eight-acre plaza surrounding the pools. A fitting tribute to the men and women who lost their lives nine years ago. High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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