Boy did we ever have an action packed weekend in NYC…the US Open, a nice dinner, the Book of Mormon, the Cloisters, the Moma, visiting friends, interesting subway rides and more!
Both Deb and I had uneventful trips into the City which is always nice when traveling from different parts of the country. It was so fun to see each other again after a several year hiatus. We opted to spend our weekend in NYC at the Sofitel Hotel on 44th between 5th and 6th, mostly due to its location to the main events we had planned…the theatre and tennis. It was perfect. Only 3 blocks from Grand Central, it was an easy subway ride on the 7 train to Flushing Meadows. It was also only three blocks from Times Square, thus an easy walk to dinner and the theatre, but also out of the noisy riff raff.
Our Weekend in NYC
After freshening up, we started our weekend in NYC with a drink at the hotel bar before heading uptown to Debby’s cousin’s bar…Draught 55. Here, we met Debby’s cousin Emelie and her friend Trish for a fun girl’s night out. The bar offers a variety of beers and tasty food. The night of laughs included a shock to see SMU playing on national TV in a NY bar on Friday night. Somehow I think they made it on ESPN because they were playing Texas Tech, but it’s a step in the right direction since the death penalty in the 1980’s.
The US Open Tennis Championships
While we could have turned the night into something wild and crazy, we wrapped up at a reasonable time because our main reason to spend a weekend in NYC over Labor Day was to see the tennis, and we had a full day of it ahead. The gates opened at 10 and the tennis started at 11, so we left the hotel around 9 to plan for the 37 minute subway ride, walk and any challenges we may face with public transportation.
How to Get to Flushing Meadows
While I’ve visited NYC several times, and I’ve learned the neighborhoods by mostly walking, thus my expertise in the public transportation system was limited. Not mention, Grand Central Station wasn’t too conducive to learning it! We walked into the train station and couldn’t find a kiosk to buy subway tickets. Finally, we asked someone where to get subway tickets, and he replied, “In the subway station” and pointed around to the left.
Once we found the kiosk, we slowly pecked through the screens to get a single ride instead of investing in a metro card, and wandered toward platform 7. We just missed the train, but one comes every 5 minutes. I was happy to wait in order to give myself a second to get my bearings. We passed several stops on the way to Flushing Meadows, hopped off the train, crossed the bridge, stopped at the security check and then enjoyed the venue…first stopping for a few pictures and then grabbing a banana and nutella crepe!
We strolled through the winners alley marked by flags decorated with the players’ pictures and the year they won the US Open. We window shopped at the merchandise stores and purchased a $5 guide listing the players matches and times. It’s not like golf, they don’t hand out a free pairings at the entrance, but later we did learn we could look everything up on our phone.
We held grounds passes for the day, so we could go to all outside courts and get into all the stadiums except Arthur Ashe. We decided to start at an outside court to watch a few players practice and to be very close to the action. When the tennis started at 11, we selected seats about five rows up from the court, and we watched 27 seed Kuznetsova play Pennetta from Italy.
They ripped ground strokes back and forth so fast that sometimes it was dizzying to watch from so close. I expected Kuznetsova to run away with the match, but Pennetta was the one who moved on to the next round after overcoming a wrist injury from early in the year.
Louis Armstrong Stadium
From the outside court we ventured to the food stands and paid for some over-priced lunch which we enjoyed in the shade. Soon, we filtered into the Louis Armstrong Stadium to watch the number 2 seed Azarenka play Cornet. We watched from a much higher level which kept us from having to move our head from side to side.
We ended up camping out in Louis Armstrong for the rest of the afternoon as Isner vs. Kohlschreiber competed next. I was curious to see if the crowd would cheer for Isner in this match since they cheered for the French Monfils in his previous round. All the matches were competitive, with some extended rallies and a few exciting volleys. For our first experience at the Open, we felt like we picked some good tennis and couldn’t wait for the night matches at Arthur Ashe tomorrow…our next round to see!
For our next adventure, we were hopping the subway back to midtown for dinner and show, and luckily only blessed with mariachi music for one stop. On a side note, we weren’t sure as to when the day session ended for tennis and asked one of the Open volunteers who said, “If you stay in one of the stadiums and don’t move, they won’t check your tickets and you can stay all night.” Funny, we were actually trying to leave early, and he was telling us how to cheat the system. We’ll know for our next weekend in NYC!
Our dinner was at Becco, a Midtown Westside Italian restaurant. Joe Bastianich, a judge on Masterchef was behind the bar, which thrilled Debby. The restaurant looked small at first, but after weaving through an obstacle course in a narrow hallway, we came to two more rooms, one lit by a large sky light. Tables were fit into every nook like a jigsaw puzzle. Debby ordered the veal parmesan and I had chicken limone. Though we had a miscommunication on our order and trouble with our waiter, our food was delicious and the outcome was smoothed over on our bill!
The Book of Mormon
We continued on to the Book of Mormon, created by the writers of the TV comedy Southpark. Anyone familiar with Southpark humor knew what was about to play on stage…a raunchy, sacri-religious, sometimes over-the-top, occasionally offensive, funny musical. Through all the fun poking at fantasy land Orlando, liars, Mormons and their beliefs, the musical still offered a good overall message that anyone can make a difference in somebody else’s life, and everyone needs to believe in something.
My three favorite scenes had to be the opening with the doorbells, Hasa Diga Eebowai, and the ending play. I definitely could have used the Hasa Diga Eebowai phrase recently when I got my money clip stolen and came a few hours away from putting Petey down before he miraculously recovered. Overall, we enjoyed a spectacular day to begin our weekend in NYC!
Second Day of Our Weekend in NYC
Sunday, we headed toward Times Square to take the subway up to the Cloisters. We stumbled across Brooklyn Diner. The original is on 57th which I have been to several times. Their food servings are enormous and they are known for their pies. Their booths include brass name plates etched with famous people’s names who have dined at the table. We detoured in for breakfast. Despite slow service and over-priced food, we enjoyed a tasty breakfast.
We finally made it to the subway as we passed by a stage being set-up for Brazilian days. Last night’s busy Times Square, now quiet. The subway dropped us at Fort Tyron Park in Washington Heights. We strolled through the Heather Gardens in a light rain. After stopping to admire some glass structures, we weaved our way around to the Cloisters. Here, we met my niece Connally, who is studying engineering in her third year at Columbia.
The Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was built in the 1930s and resembles several European medieval abbeys. Sitting in the lovely park and overlooking the Hudson, it was hard to believe we were still in Manhattan. I personally enjoyed the architecture of the Cloisters more than the Medieval Art and the famous Unicorn Tapestries, but all of it was really neat.
One World Trade Center
From the Cloisters, we headed all the way downtown to see One World Trade Center, the new high rise…1,776 feet tall…signifying the year the United States declared its independence. We had hoped to see the 911 Memorial, but despite our online research, we failed to advance reservations are required. We also visited St. Paul’s Chapel, a small church located next to the World Trade Center that survived the 9/11 blasts. The Chapel is Manhattan’s oldest public building in continuous use. It surviced the great fire of 1776 and hosted to George Washington on Inauguration Day.
The US Open Tennis Championship
The US Open night matches called our name, so we returned to midtown (now experts on the subway and having enjoyed another show…this time dancing to techno rap music , freshened up at the hotel, grabbed a delicious burger at Annie Moore’s, a pub next to Grand Central, and then headed out to Flushing Meadows.
First Night Match
After strolling around the grounds a bit, watching a few points of a doubles match, and browsing in the Wilson store, we found our loge seats in Arthur Ashe. Surprised by the half-empty the stadium at the start of the Djokovic vs. Sousa match, given all the players and TV announcers talk about the electric atmosphere, we sat to watch them play.
The stadium slowly filled up, but anyone who was expecting to see a long match was sorely disappointed. World number 1 Djokovic absolutely destroyed Sousa. We cheered Sousa when he would win a point on his serve. A part of me thought, that had to feel demoralizing to poor Sousa. But at the same time, we tried our best to give him a burst of energy. Sousa is a young, up and coming player from Portugal who was playing the biggest match of his life. Though a sorrowful outcome, it was apparent to the novice eye, he never stopped trying.
Second Night Match
The next night match, while we thought would be more competitive between number 9 seed Jankovic vs number 5 seed Li Na, was more of the same. Li Na blew Jankovic off the court after taking six weeks off mid-season to improve her strength…something tennis players rarely do in the middle of the season. It will be fun to see if any of these players make it to the finals.
Li Na is in the same draw as Williams, so she will face a strong force in the semis should they both make it that far. In addition to seeing famous tennis players, we spotted a few stars in the crowd…Kelsey Grammer’s and Kevin Spacey’s faces lit up the big screen.
When the match was over, we didn’t feel like following the mass exodus of people to the subway. As such, we spent some more time browsing shops and visiting the hall of fame before we boarded the local train vs the express. We found this to be acceptable because the express was packed like sardines while the local allowed us a seat. Ten more minutes and a lot more comfort was fine for us vacationers.
Final Day of Our Weekend in NYC
Monday was our final day of our weekend in NYC. We meandered up Fifth Ave to see the beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Unfortunately scaffolding took away from its beauty during the current renovation. While visiting the church, I lit a candle to help my dog-sitter find Petey who escaped from the backyard Sunday night and had been lost for over 12 hours…Hasa Diga Eebowai.
From the church, we ventured to Rockefeller Center. We arrived a little too late to see the Today Show production, but soon enough to see the stage come down. After a light breakfast, we admired the art in the MoMA for a few hours. The fifth floor was peppered with paintings by all the artists we both studied in school…Picasso, Dali, Miro, Monet, Manet and the list continues. Andy Warhols lined the 4th floor hallways, while architecture photography exhibits decorated other floors. We stayed until 12:30 until we had to make our 1pm check out at the Sofitel.
After bidding farewell to Debby, I took a taxi to the Upper East Side where I met my long-time friend Carroll. She introduced me to her 9 month old baby Amelia. It was a fun way to cap off an action packed weekend in NYC! To make matters better, the rain held off until Monday, so we got to see the tennis. Though travel delays ensued. Oh well, if that was the worst of it, then I’m on board to see the Open again!