New York. The grand diva of all the cities in the US. From the chaotic hustle and bustle of her Manhattan to the more muffled rustle of her ethnic neighborhoods of the boroughs. I will never exchange her for any US city (San Francisco is close second). Every year I will come back and a year will never be complete without even a peek of this lady’s hemlines. I have to visit New York, even just for a weekend. New York is my quick elixir from the humdrum of life that catches me once in a while.
My first visit this year was a long-planned three-day vacation due to my husband’s college grand reunion. The FEU Institute of Nursing had its 2018 Grand Reunion held at the Crowne Plaza right-smack at Time Square. We were with another couple – hubbie’s best bud, Benji, and his wife, my good friend, Rose.
Rose and I planned the hotel to stay at, the Megabus trip from Baltimore to New York City, plus the broadway show, places to eat for the both of us and her daughter, JoAnn, who met up with us there. We left the guys to enjoy their reunion with their classmates for most of the time and us girls were left to revel the city all to ourselves. With the treks to Chinatown, Soho, Broadway, Greenwich – we didn’t waste time. Despite the on and off rain the whole weekend, it was a glorious visit. We planned to leave early Saturday morning to get to New York by breakfast and stay till Monday at afternoon to get back to Baltimore at around 7pm.
The highlight of our New York visit this year was watching the broadway musical “Waitress” with Katharine McPhee top billing the play. It was showing at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, which suprisingly, was just around the corner from the hotel we were at. I didn’t attempt to read anything about it to give me a fresh perspective while watching. I trusted JoAnn that she picked a good one and we were not disappointed! It was hilariously funny and I was actually even giggling at some parts of it. My only comment is that Sara Barreilles’ song melodies seemed to not be as variated as I wanted it to be. (Or maybe I’ve been listening to so much of her music that I actually know her style too much.). But overall the play was exceptional.
After our funny date with the Waitress we went out for dinner at Bea restaurant near the Theatre District. It was a hip place and packed on a Saturday night with what seems like a good yuppie crowd. It was cozy. We had a couple of drinks from the bar while we waited for our table. After about 10 minutes we were sat by their indoor brick-walled patio. I had their Steak and Tomatoes. According to their menu, the steak is a 7oz certified organic 100% grass-fed filet mignon. It had a side of sliced tomatoes and french green beans. The steak was also drizzled with “spicy onion sauce”. There was also an abundance of fries.
The steak was cooked to perfection – I always prefer my steaks medium rare and they did it with excellence. It was mouth-watering and it was tender. The grilled and smokey taste was something that I enjoyed. Their sides were also grilled, but they came out juicy. I had so much fun having my dinner plus the company of my girlies made the whole Bea experience unforgettable. We were entertained by the movie they were showing on their blank wall.
After dinner we headed out to New York’s Greenwich town because I wanted to show Rose and JoAnn the The Duplex Piano Bar and Cabaret Theater. Unfortunately, it was full that night and we couldn’t wait for empty seats. So we went out and ended at The Groove where we got to watch the 2nd act, Li’Nard’s Many Moods. They were outstanding and brought the house down! Looking him up, I discovered that Li’Nard Jackson is a veteran in the music scene and considered a legend. He wowed the crowd with his voice and his renditions of Prince’s songs blew my mind. Their sets were made of soul, r&b and funk songs. JoAnn and I were singing along with the band. We definitely had a blast!
The next day, before we could do anything else, attending mass was top priority. We had to go to church first before we went our separate ways for the day. There’s a good thing about staying in a hotel in the middle of the action – every other place was just a hop, or a skip away from you. Located on West 49th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, Saint Malachy’s Church (better known as the Actor’s Chapel – I kid you not) was 2 blocks from where our hotel was. This is the same church where Douglas Fairbanks and Joan Crawford was married at and where Rudolph Valentino’s remains were last blessed.
The church was intimate and it was delightful to hear the lector deliver the readings with expressive narration. One would say St. Malachy’s church is truly fitting of it’s nickname.
That day was Soho and Chinatown day. While at Soho, the only shop we spent all our shopping time in was at Top Shop. After 3 hours, each with a shopping bag on hand, it was enough for us. We had our fill of New York shopping altho I was telling Rose that someday I will muster enough courage to ride the Megabus, sans anyone with me, and spend a whole day shopping at Soho then ride the bus back home that night. I think I have some guts in me to do it.
But a visit to New York will neither be complete without a dinner or lunch at iconic Hop Kee at 21 Mott St. known also as Chinatown Two Bridges. So us girls left the men to have lunch with their college friends and we met up with JoAnn’s boyfriend, Jordan. We had the Pan Fried Flounder and the Snails Cantonese Style together with our House Fried Rice. It was Yummy with a capital “Y”! I will always choose seafood over meat anytime. After lunch Rose and I headed back to the hotel while Joann and Jordan went off to watch a movie.
That night I went with my husband and Benji to their reunion party at the Crown Plaza in Time Square. It was a huge event with some attendees from graduating batches 55 years ago. The ballroom was full and the dance floor was fuller! After about 2 hours of revelry, I bade the hubbie goodbye so that he can enjoy the party with his friends and I headed back to our hotel which was just a block or two away from the Crowne Plaza.
The next morning was Queens Day! Too bad JoAnn couldn’t be with us anymore because she had to work, so she missed this. Jollibee and Red Ribbon will always be a part of any Filipino’s New York trip and so off we went that morning after checking out. We decided to take a subway to Queens and walked a few blocks to Jollibee. I had to have their Burger Steak (that the Philippines, suprisingly doesn’t offer… or was it just in Bacolod?) Hubbie had the every famous Jolly Spagetti and Chicken Joy combo. At Red Ribbon, I bought cakes and breads that would last us weeks of not running to the supermarket for any American pseudo-counterpart. I was happy!
And then just lke that, it was time to go back to Baltimore. We waited for a while at the Megabus depot for our bus. The tiny raindrops were a relief, if you consider that, at least, it wasn’t a massive downpour. I can live with that. After a quiet 4 hour ride, we were back home. Rose and Benji drove back to Silver Spring but this was before Rose and I agreed we needed to go back one more time before old man winter comes in. So yes, we will. Hopefully, we do.
Yes, my trip was a blast. Altho there was something that maybe we won’t be doing ever again. Our hotel experience was not the best. We book our stay at the Hilton Garden Inn at 790 8th Ave. Rose and I checked in without hubby and Benji. They went off early to meet their friends a few hours after we arrived in New York. It wasn’t so much of the wait before the Hilton staff were able to give us a room. Altho they were kind enough to keep our baggage for us while we went around the city.
That wait was understandable since check in was really at 3pm and we were just appealing that maybe there was a room available before our matinee of 2pm so we can freshen up. (Altho we did see more people they allowed to check in who came after us, but who’s to say how they got that privilege.) Thus when they called us about our rooms, we were already inside the theater. But that was nothing.
What turned us off was the incident that involved the guys. That first night, the boys were waiting for us at the lobby while we hurried back from our dinner. A guy, who identified himself as security, asked if they were guests. They said yes but couldn’t tell the guy what room number they were supposed to be in. He then insisted on them to leave the premise without giving them the benefit of the doubt that they were real guests. You’d think he would lead them to the front desk and confirm their claim with the receptionist. But he didn’t do that and just asked them, not nicely, mind you, to leave. He actually treated them like vagrants. When we arrived both guys were already complaining to the front desk. It was a good thing we came before any heated argument happened further.
Being a first class hotel, I would expect the staff to be more courteous and genial. I’m pretty sure they’ve had their bad experiences in that area, but still. After all, you don’t judge someone by their appearance, I thought that went without saying in the hospitality industry. Even the whole total experience of the place was far from what I could believe was a Hilton experience.
I know that they’re building the Garden Inn brand to be an upscale space (considering what we paid for the room) it didn’t measure up to it, tho, except for the fact that it was in premium Time Square. And because of that, we’ve made a promise, we will be going back to staying at the Marriott from now on. I am pretty sure that other Hilton hotels would be better, and this might just be a unique incident, but we think we’ll just go back to the reliable Marriot chain.
But other than that, our trip was good and it was what I needed for a break these days.
Till next time, my loves!
The once named “godmother of the Philippine Blogosphere”, Gigi Manaloto-Refugia, known by her pen name “Ate Sienna” has been blogging since 2002 in her old pansitan.net community where she housed famous bloggers. She now writes about being 50-something and shares her tips on fashion, makeup, skincare, travel, food and thrift-store diving.
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