New York, 13-Apr-2018


We had a busy Friday the 13th. The United Nations in the morning, an East Midtown walk in the afternoon, and a musical in the evening. Fortunately, we had room in the schedule for downtime.

United Nations

Having pre-purchased tickets, we headed to the United Nations with plenty of time to spare in case getting visitor passes or going through security had long lines.

The first step was getting the visitor passes. Since our tickets were in Melody's name, she went in alone, got her credentials checked, photo taken, and was given a sticker, a wristband for me (the wristband number was printed on her sticker, too), and she was on her way.

Next was going across the street to get to security. There was a mass of people all around the steps, so it wasn't clear where the line was (even though a sign indicated it should go along the fence). The guards finally indicated that visitors should be along the fence and cleared the rest of the steps. They were trying to reduce crowding at the screening area, but we were soon through and out onto the plaza in front of the General Assembly building.

After looking at the views and sculptures on the plaza, we made our way inside the building, and I had flashbacks of watching movies in that entry hall. Since we more than a half hour before our tour, we looked around the areas open to the public. After that, we exchanged our tickets for stickers and gathered for the tour.

When you do a tour of the UN it's luck which if any of the meeting rooms you'll be able to see due to scheduling. Our guide warned us right away that we wouldn't be able to see everything, but that we should be able to at least walk through the General Assembly room.

The first thing the guide showed us were several gifts from various countries. There were tapestries, sculptures, and other pieces of art. He also gave an overview of the United Nations' history, structure, and mission.

The first room we went into was the Trustee Council Chamber, where a group of people was preparing for a memorial service in honor of Winnie Mandela. We also got to walk through was the General Council Chamber, but since there was a meeting (albeit small) going on, we had to keep moving and couldn't take photos.

Lunch, Midtown walking tour

It was time for lunch. We split a rice bowl, then set off to our next stop.

The walking tour we did was for Midtown's Best Architecture and started out at the New York Public Library. We went through the main lobby then went up to the third floor. The first room we entered there was the McGraw Rotunda, then proceeded through the catalog room to the reading room, taking in all two city blocks of it.

The Chrysler Building was next, but we took a look at the main façade of Grand Central Terminal on the way. The Chrysler Building has some automotive-specific details, such as winged radiator caps and hood ornaments for gargoyles. In the lobby is the mural Transport and Human Endeavor by Edward Trumbull.

Next up was Grand Central Terminal. We entered through the Grand Central Market, then made a beeline to the food level below. We saw the Magnolia Bakery kiosk but decided to go wait in line for ice cream. After being refreshed, we went upstairs.

The Main Concourse is known to all, but not everyone looks up at the zodiac depicted in the green ceiling.

Exiting to the north, we walked under the Helmsley Building, through a bunch of scaffolding, and then up at the building's façade. The Waldorf-Astoria was closed for renovation, so we couldn't go inside but did glance up at the exterior.

We quickly stepped into St. Bartholomew's Church, sat for a bit in the plaza at the Seagram Building, and explored the plaza of the Lever House. We weren't able to go into the Central Synagogue, so went on, taking a quick look at the Tower Fifty Seven, which isn't on the tour. The last building was the Ritz Tower, but being a residential building, we weren't able to take a peek inside.

Times Square, dinner

We had quite a bit of time before dinner, so we decided to check out Times Square then find a place to hunker down for a couple hours. There were a lot of people around, easily the most we've seen in the city. We worked our way to the huge set of steps on top of the Half Price Tickets kiosk, found a seat at the top and took a look around.

Once we were done, we found a Starbucks (since the wifi is a known quantity) and found a booth. When Celeste arrived, we went off to get some dinner at a taco stand. The line was out the door, but didn't look too long (especially considering we were in the Theater District) and was moving pretty quickly. We ordered a bunch of food, making sure not to lose our tickets (“No Ticket, No Taco”) and while Celeste and Melody grabbed a place to eat, I waited for the tacos. There was a woman towards the back of the kitchen who was cranking out corn tortillas as quickly as she could through a press and grilling them. The guy who assembled our tacos would slap a tortilla onto a square of parchment, quickly fill with meat and cheese, then flip (complete with contents flying towards the taco) salsa and guacamole in, fold the taco, and arrange on a plate. Very efficient, and they were very good.

We still had a bit of time to kill, so we headed back towards Times Square, which had a lot more people than before. Since it was just before showtime in a lot of theaters, there were people dressed in various ways (as superheroes, etc.) luring people in for photos.

Hello, Dolly!

It was time to go to the Shubert Theater to see Hello, Dolly! We found the attendant for our tickets (we purchased them ahead of time through a service) then walked into the theater. There was no lobby; we went into the door, had our tickets scanned, and we were immediately at the top of the orchestra section. Our seats were in the upper balcony, so we started our way up. Settling into our seats, we scoped it out. Ends up I had a pole a few rows in front of me, and Melody and Celeste had a tall person in front of them (enough so that their view was partially blocked, even though the seats were tiered very steeply).

I've seen Hello, Dolly! a couple times before, once with Melody, but this was Celeste's first time. Dolly was played by Bernadette Peters, and Horace by Victor Garber. Both of them, as well as the rest of the cast, were well-cast. The choreography was complex, and everyone in the audience was having a great time. The action was such that the three of us didn't have much problem with our various view blockers since either the action itself wasn't blocked or we were able to lean over enough to see what was going on.

After the final bow, Bernadette Peters and Victor Garber mentioned various items which were for sale with proceeds going to charity. They included a lot of items autographed by Peters, as well as various items she wore during the Hello, Dolly! number.

Everything done, we headed out. By the time we got back to our hostel, it was quite late, and it didn't take us long to get to sleep.