An April 2005 trip
to New York by BawBaw
Quote: New York is the ultimate cosmopolitan center. Filling the eye and the mind, it’s a world in and of itself. It challenges preconceptions and defies stereotypes. Our latest escape to this amazing city was defined by the need for both excitement and calm--and true to form, it provided both.
Of course, our days in New York weren’t quite on a par with the locals. We had a schedule and an agenda—and our agenda required relaxation at a pace only slightly less harried than that of the typical tourist. It helped that we had already "seen" the Empire State Building and Central Park, FAO Schwartz and Macy’s, Rockefeller Center, and the Statue of Liberty, not to mention St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Central Synagogue. Having been there before gave us our bearings and encouraged us to explore a bit more freely. The frenzy of first contact was past, and we could pick and choose with less fear that we might miss something—and it helped to have learned firsthand that missing things was inevitable.
So, this trip was about sampling—indulging in food, treating ourselves to carefully selected experiences, and exploring various aspects of the mysterious daily routine that epitomizes this exciting city. It was about staring up at towering buildings that disappeared into the clouds on one day and sparkled against a cloud-bedecked blue sky on the next. It was about returning to the neighborhood of the World Trade Center and remembering how the world itself has changed. It was about roaming the galleries of the Museum of Modern Art and taking a fast-paced tour of the United Nations. It was about late afternoon walks in Central Park, Battery Park, and the East Village. And it was about discovering Disney New York simply because we turned the corner at 55th and Fifth. In New York, discovery is everywhere!
Aside from our absent hosts, our single best source of information, including maps of bus and subway routes, came in the form of a small but powerful book titled Not for Tourists Guide to New York City. Available via Amazon.com or bookstores and museum shops throughout the city, this is a great quick reference on points of interest—and it offers that oh-so-important moral superiority of being somewhat more in-the-know than your average tourist (right!). Lacking such an elitist tool, grab a New York Quick Guide. It’s free and widely available, includes city transit maps, and is chockfull of useful tips.
Recommended preparation would include a tour of the NYC Transit website for detailed information on bus and subway schedules. The more comfortable you are with mass transit, the freer you’ll be to explore this marvelous city.
We took Amtrak (reserved couch) from D.C. to New York’s Penn Station (just over 3 hours each way). Our roundtrip tickets cost about each. On arrival, we bought two MetroCards ( each), which were good for a week of unlimited travel on both bus and subway. From Penn Station, we took a cab to our address in Midtown, saving us from wrestling our bags on and off the bus. The cab cost (just under for the actual fare, rounding up and adding another for the tip)—ditto for the return to Penn Station.
All other transportation needs throughout our stay were managed effectively (and usually efficiently) either on foot—walking the neighborhoods can be a pleasure—or aboard buses and subways. Both buses and trains run often. Schedules for individual lines are posted at bus stops throughout the city. Information placards, maps, and often actual human beings are positioned near the entrance of each subway station. Enjoy!
The Mermaid’s kitchen is managed by Chef Mike Price. Trained at the Culinary Institute of America, Price challenges the Mermaid’s clientele to reach a bit and try dishes that are simple yet out of the ordinary—rather like the restaurant itself.
The decor has a weather-worn New England feel, featuring dark wainscoting against white walls that are covered with mariners’ charts, harbor maps, and vintage prints mounted in dark wooden frames. Simple shaded sconces mounted near the top of the wainscoting provide most of the lighting. The polished 10-seat bar is home base for a lively collection of spirits and an impressive variety of raw bar appetizers. Two dining rooms can accommodate about 80 dinner guests. In fine weather, seating capacity is expanded by tables in the small back garden and along the sidewalk in front.
Overall, the mood of the Mermaid is one of relaxed quality—a theme that extends to the "dress code" of the wait staff. The uniform consists of a black T-shirt bearing the Mermaid motif worn over casual pants. Don’t be fooled by the informal attire. This is a professional staff that knows its stuff and has the ability to be both attentive and unobtrusive.
We planned a long, leisurely meal with a bottle of good wine. By special arrangement, Chef Price selected our appetizers, served serially, and we selected the entrées. The wine list is impressive, and the restaurant’s policy of a marginal markup over retail is an added bonus. We chose an Italian Vitovska bottled by Kante, a white wine boasts a tart citrus twang and a floral bouquet. It was perfect for our meal.
Our first course was a beautiful pea soup accented with fresh asparagus and crab. Then came an endive salad with roasted walnuts, dates, crumbles of Roquefort, and a light vinaigrette. Course number three was an upscale hush puppy—deep fried and spicy with bits of rock shrimp and the chef’s own tomato butter. For contrast, the fourth course consisted of sautéed skate wing over fresh greens and white grapes and complimented by a mild sauce.
As an entree, Himself chose grilled dorade, a white-fleshed fish served over a bed of scallions and escarole with golden raisins and a lemon sauce. I selected the lobster sandwich, consisting of huge chunks of luscious lobster is a mild sauce and, yes, served on a grilled bun, plus fries seasoned with Old Bay.
As the final touch, we ordered a rich, strong coffee, and Chef Price sent out a simple but delicious chocolate pudding topped with whipped cream. The Mermaid doesn’t offer a dessert menu, but it does provide a complimentary dessert prepared on a daily basis at the chef’s discretion.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 12, 2005
The Mermaid Inn
96 Second Ave.
New York, New York 10003
Attraction | "World of Disney New York"
Disney New York was decidedly not on our preplanned agenda, and we found it purely by chance. Having arrived in the city early on a Friday afternoon, we took a late lunch and wandered off to shed a few of the resulting calories. Suddenly, there it was, right in our path. I attribute its discovery to our conversation of the moment—how we wouldn’t be headed home with armloads of goodies to spoil the grandchildren.
Lured through the doors against our will by the World of Disney logo arched above the entrance, the attractive window displays, and a doorman to prevent last-second flight, we found ourselves standing smack on the edge of Goofy’s Candy Company, complete with a life-sized statue of Goofy himself—and all that beckoned temptingly beyond.
True to both its Fifth Avenue address and Disney heritage, the store is at once elegant and whimsical. Merchandise is displayed on three floors, the second and third levels being mezzanines. The large, soaring space left near the entrance has encouraged Disney artisans to work their magic. Columns with ornately fanciful capitals and featuring representatives from the rich menagerie of Disney characters rise majestically from the first floor to support the mezzanine above. Plush draperies hang in strategic locations to transform mere shelving into displays that resemble puppet theaters. The escalator is designed as part transport and part scenic tour, and the elevator might serve as a doorway into a Disney film.
The merchandise offered includes both the expected and the unexpected. In addition to the Disney-branded clothing, toys, and novelties that one expects at any Disney location, there are a few that are New York exclusives—including collectors pins, Daisy Duck arrayed in Lady Liberty splendor, and Mickey wearing the uniforms of New York cops and firefighters. And in a handful of "build-your-own" centers (e.g., for Mr. Potato Heads, princess crowns, and bracelets bedecked with Disney babbles), young shoppers are encouraged to indulge both their creative talents and their inclination toward consumerism.
Special events for youngsters are also part of the Disney New York experience. Periodic Magical Meetings with Disney characters feature autographs and photos, giving children an opportunity to snuggle with favorite fictional friends. And little girls giggle happily as they spend an hour in Cinderella’s Court, where they pursue the "four sparkling jewels" of Wisdom, Honesty, Kindness, and Grace—then join the royal court itself.
Himself and Yours Truly spent about 90 minutes inside Disney New York, leaving with big smiles, feeling years younger, and having dropped only about $100 in hard-earned currency—a bargain by any calculation!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 12, 2005
711 Fifth Ave
New York, New York 10022
+1 212 702 0702
The United Nations Headquarters compound was high on the agenda for Himself and Yours Truly during our most recent trip to New York. We’d never been, and the political symbolism of the UN is important to us. We may be many nations, but we are one world. Like most Americans, we believe in the central ethic of the UN, a body that aspires to bringing peace, justice, and prosperity to all the peoples of the Earth. It’s a noble purpose, and while we humans may quibble with many of the details, the goals themselves are easy to embrace.
We visited the United Nations on a cool, overcast day in late April. The intermittent rain meant that the flags lining the perimeter were not out, which was a small disappointment. Security was clearly evident, given prominence by those familiar barriers we all come to expect with equal measures of dread and relief. Behind the barrier stood the familiar outline of the UN—the tall, slender Secretariat building (39 floors); the General Assembly building with its low, curving roofline; and the Dag Hammarskjold Library with its pagoda-like penthouse. The fourth main structure, the UN Conference building, is tucked quietly out of sight behind the Secretariat building. After being motioned through a gate in the security fence, we stepped from the United States in the international territory of UN enclave—no passports required, perhaps because it belongs to the citizens of all member states.
Before entering the Public Lobby, we wandered about the Plaza inspecting the symbolic sculptures nearest the building. Here we gasped over Carl Fredrik Reutersward’s sculpture Non-Violence, a giant revolver with the barrel twisted into a knot and the barrel tip pointing upward. Just as eye-catching, if less startling, is Arnaldo Pomodoro’s Sphere within a Sphere, with highly polished reflective surfaces that (if one pays attention) quite literally place the viewer within the piece being viewed—hardly a happy coincidence, I should think.
The Public Lobby is a multi-function area that serves as an information center and an exhibit space. When we visited, "Empower Women: 30 Years of the United Nations Efforts to promote Gender Equality" was the featured in the main exhibition area, and "Water for Life: An Exhibition by Students from the High of School of Art and Design New York" occupied a corner of the lobby reserved for assembling tour group. Both themes focus attention toward ongoing campaigns sponsored by the UN.
Important work or art contributed to the UN by member states and individuals are also showcased in the lobby. Be looking for these, but the area is large, and it’s easy to overlook even such impressive pieces are Chagall’s Peace and Humankind, the Foucault Pendulum, and series of portraits of the Secretaries General, past and present.
The information center and ticket desk for tour groups are also located in the lobby. Visitors taking the tour should plan 45 minutes to an hour at intervals assigned at the time of purchase. Groups are kept small, with English-speaking tours offered daily from 9:30am to 4:45pm. (There are a few exceptions to this, so be sure to check ahead of time to accommodate your particular itinerary.) Each visitor taking the tour is issued a badge to wear for the duration and is advised that security concerns require that they stay with their group and not wander. Badges are counted and collected as visitors return to the public area.
Our tour occurred late in the day, and unfortunately, our guide was in a hurry. Although she seemed to make all the required stops, including the chambers used by the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Trusteeship Council, and the Economic and Social Council, she began each station with an instruction that "time will be allowed later for photos" and ended each with a flourish, the briefest of photo ops, and a push toward the next stop. Despite the rush, her presentations were interesting and informative. Visitors approaching the tour cold, with little knowledge of the United Nations and how it works, will find wonderful nuggets of information to carry away. Still, too little time was provided to appreciate the drama of our surroundings—much less to acquire those treasured photos.
Other than the chambers themselves, highlights of the tour included information about various pieces of artwork on display, including The Golden Rule, a mosaic based on a Norman Rockwell painting and presented by the United States; Chengtu-Kunming Railway, an elaborate ivory carving present by the People’s Republic of China; and a 20m-long mural by Jose Zola Zanetti on humanity’s struggle to build a lasting peace, donated by the Guggenheim Foundation. Perhaps the most moving artifact shown during the tour was a stone statue of Saint Agnes that survived the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. The statue was found in the ruins of a Roman Catholic cathedral located about a quarter mile from Ground Zero. The back of the statue is still blackened and shows signs of melting caused by the intense heat of the bomb, whereas the front side presents a serene face to the world, with St. Agnes gently holding her lamb.
Leaving the tour, visitors may opt to return to the public lobby or descend to the basement, where the coffee shop, bookstore, and gift centers are located. Vending machines and restrooms are also found on this level. Tucked into a corner of this basement level is the UN post office, where one can purchase stamps and other philatelic collectables. Cards and letters posted here will carry UN stamps and be franked with the UN postmark—another indication of the UN’s extraterritorial status.
Exiting the General Assembly building, we took a bit more time to wander the plaza to its maximum permissible limits, noting the river walk from a distance, taking in a pink cloud of spring-blossoming ornamentals and spying the far-off outlines of a handful of the statues set in the UN gardens—including the well-known Statue of Peace. It would seem that Peace, like the gardens themselves, is temporarily off limits. With the help a good zoom lens, however, one might still catch a glimpse.
Wherefores and By-the-Ways for Visiting the UN
For tour information, call 212/963-8687. Special group tours and tours in languages other than English must be arranged ahead of time.
1st Avenue at E. 46 St., New York, NY
M-F – 9:30 to 4:45
S-S – 10 to 4:30
During January and February, tours are available on Monday through Friday only.
Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.
Students (HS/college) $7.50
Students (grades 1-8) $6.50
Children under 5 not admitted.
The manmade landscape of Lower Manhattan consists of a wondrously eclectic assemblage of intriguing structures. In the midst of this landscape, a carefully roving eye will detect an unnatural hole—unnatural, in that it is devoid of a skyline. That hole, of course, is the space where the World Trade Center once stood and where a kind of frenzied, reverent construction process is now the order of the day.
Just a few hundred yards away—indeed, right across the street—is another Manhattan anomaly, St. Paul’s Chapel. As one of the few remaining colonial structures in Lower Manhattan, it is the area’s oldest continuously used public building, not to mention its only remaining colonial church. St. Paul’s is an exceedingly rare reminder that this corner of Manhattan Island was once regarded as a rural retreat. Built between 1764 and 1766, its original Anglican parishioners were farmers located on the northern fringes of the colonial port of New York. Today, the chapel with its churchyard forms a small green oasis of the past amidst the hustle and bustle of modern New York City’s financial district.
Some would claim that on September 11, 2001, the fact that an ancient sycamore tree stood between the small church and the World Trade Center—and took the brunt of the forces released by the collapsing buildings—was no accident. The tree fell with spreading branches that acted as a shield to preserve the church from what should have been certain destruction. Since that time, those caught up in the events that followed 9-11 at Ground Zero have bonded with St. Paul’s to form a remarkable model for humanitarian conduct during a time of tragedy.
History and Architecture
Before 9-11, St. Paul’s was already imbued with an impressive history. George Washington worshiped there during the 2 years that the port city of New York served as the Nation’s capital, as did George Clinton, the State of New York’s first governor. The two Georges had pews on opposite sides of the sanctuary, which means that modern visitors will find the Great Seal of the United States and the Coat of Arms of the State of New York facing each other from opposite walls of the chapel. Other presidents and dignitaries who have worshiped there include Britain’s King William IV, who served as an officer in the Royal Navy during the American Revolution; Lords Cornwallis and Howe, who lead British forces against the American rebels; and Presidents Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, and George Bush (the elder).
The chapel’s architecture and interior decoration are as historically evocative as its former congregants. Built in the Georgian Classic-Revival style using local stone, St. Paul’s resembles a smaller version of St. Martin’s-in-the-Field near London’s Trafalgar Square—although St. Martin’s appears pristinely white whereas St. Paul’s is constructed of local mica-schist and brownstone. Pierre L'Enfant, best known for his pioneering city plan for Washington, D.C., designed St. Paul’s dramatic alter piece, "Glory," which depicts the tablets of the Ten Commandments at the foot of Mt. Sinai.
St. Paul’s Today
St. Paul’s today is an integral part of the Episcopal parish served by nearby Trinity Church. In many respects, it has a typically urban ministry—multilingual outreach, programs for families and for the homeless, plus a series of lectures and concerts. In other ways, however, St. Paul’s is not typical. It was and is "The Little Chapel That Stood" on the threshold of Ground Zero, a place that for so many served as a source of hope and help during the frenzy that immediately followed September 11, 2001. It was an on-the-spot base of operations for rescue and recovery personnel during those long weeks of searching through the rubble. At St. Paul’s, the fireman, rescuers, and other workers found food, water, and a place to escape for a few minutes of quite or prayer—or sleep. St. Paul’s became a symbol of hospitality and meaningful support, of courage and constancy in the face of tragedy.
Our Visit to St. Paul’s
When Himself and Yours Truly visited St. Paul’s Chapel in April of this year, we found it by chance. We had deboarded our Battery Park-bound bus to pay our respects at the site of the World Trade Center. Spying the old church across the street, we noticed a fair amount of activity, with people coming and going. We entered as most of the rescue workers would have done, through the churchyard doors at the rear of the chapel. To our surprise, we found that we already knew this place. This was little church we’d heard about and seen on so many news reports during the weeks after 9-11.
Inside St. Paul’s, we found a moving exhibit titled Unwavering Spirit: Hope and Healing at Ground Zero. We found handmade banners and posters hanging from the balcony, a selection from the many sent to St. Paul’s from all over the country, and indeed from around the world. One that particularly caught my eye was apparently made by a child. It depicted a large red heart with a zigzag down the middle. Above the broken heart was the word "Hope" and across the zigzag was a band-aide.
We saw impromptu shrines of the type that appeared all over New York during that time—poignant reminders of lives lost and grief endured by families who had too few answers about their missing loved one. We saw offerings of mementos of all kinds left for the workers: teddy bears and t-shirts, notes of thanks and support, flags of all sizes from many nations. We saw a manikin draped in a liturgical garment entirely covered with dozens of colorful policy, fire, and rescue patches that hung loosely like the feathers on King Kamehameha’s robes. We saw a cross fashioned from two sections of a heavy chain, the links welded to hold bar of the cross firmly in place. And under a window, we saw a simply cot covered with stuffed animals, a telling reminder of the comfort offered at St. Paul’s.
Across the sanctuary, I noticed Himself lingering here and there, his eyes scanning one display, then another. After a few minutes, he came to my side and said, "Take all the time you want, but I need to go back outside." The emotions he was experiencing were etched quietly on his face. As I left the chapel, I found him beside a bell that had been presented to St. Paul’s by the mayor of London. Cast in bronze at Whitechapel Bell Foundry (the same foundry that created Big Ben and the Liberty Bell), the Bell of Hope was presented to the chapel by the mayor of London on September 11, 2002, and is inscribed with words— "To the greater glory of God and in recognition of the enduring links between the City of London and the City of New York. Forged in adversity – September 11, 2001."
On July 8, 2005, the bell rang in tribute to the victims of a new and similarly senseless tragedy in London. It tolled four times in memory of each of the four blasts that shook London on July 7, 2005. Then it tolled steadily for a minute, a memorial to these more recent victims of terror.
Location, Hours, and Loose Ends
St. Paul’s Chapel is located at Broadway and Fulton Street (or on the opposite side, at Church Street and Fulton) in Lower Manhattan. It is open to visitors 7 days a week from 10 am through 6 pm (4 pm on Sundays).
Services include a daily Prayer for Peace at 12:30 pm; morning and evening prayers conducted Monday through Friday at 10:15 am and 5 pm, respectively; and eucharist services on Wednesday (12:30 pm) and Sunday (8 am).
As for the felled sycamore, the tree that shielded the church against the worst of the debris from collapsing buildings on 9-11, it will be memorialized at the chapel by a sculpture that is actually molded from the tree’s stump and root system. A new tree, a 21-foot-high Norway spruce christened the Tree of Hope, has taken the place of the sycamore in the northwest corner of the churchyard.
St. Paul's Chapel
New York, New York 10006
+1 212 602 0747
West Virginia, West Virginia