Saturday, September 15, 2007

Wall Street & The New York Stock Exchange

Our 6/30/07 journey of lower Manhattan took us to the narrow stretch called Wall Street and the New York Stock Exchange. Wall Street is located a couple of blocks southeast from the Church Street side Ground Zero.

The NYSE was founded in 1792 and is America’s most sacred hall of money-making. About 3000 companies are listed on the exchange, trading nearly 314 billion shares valued at about $16 trillion.

Before September 11, 2001, one of the few free attractions in the city was a visit to the Stock Exchange. Free tickets were distributed on Wall Street and if you got there before the 9:15 opening, you could witness the opening of trading that day from a glass-lined, mezzanine level observation gallery. The visit included a tour of an interactive museum and NYSE logo gift shop.

The NYSE is no longer open for public tours (except for special educational tour groups). Most visitors to Wall Street take a break on the steps of Federal Hall (pictured below) opposite the Stock Exchange.

Federal Hall National Memorial, 26 Wall St ( was built in 1842. The memorial, with the 1883-built statue of George Washington on the steps, was erected on the site of New York's first City Hall. This site is where George Washington took the oath of office as our first President, and was the home to the first Congress, Supreme Court, and Executive Branch offices. The current building, a Customs House, later served as part of the US Sub-Treasury. The building now serves as a museum and memorial to our first President and the beginnings of the United States of America.

The infrastructure of the memorial suffered from the massive shock of the nearby attack on the World Trade Center; as a result, the memorial was undergoing a $16-million rehabilitation.

Visit and for information about the area.

Friday, September 14, 2007

World Financial Center & Winter Garden

Bordering the east side of Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan is the World Financial Center. Most visitors walking the perimeter of Ground Zero wonder almost by accident into the WFC. The WFC is a modern complex of office towers (tallest at 51 stories), shopping plaza, dining complex and a marina overlooking the Hudson River. The WFC sustained major damage when the twin towers were destroyed by terrorists on September 11, 2001 and became one of the first major structures to be completely restored after the attacks. Built on a former landfill and designed by architect Cesar Pelli, it first opened in 1988.

A number of corporations are headquartered here, most notably American Express. One striking feature of the center is the Winter Garden, a 10-story glass-vaulted pavilion with towering palm trees, which also serves as a venue for arts exhibits, music and shows. The only structure of the WFC not re-built after 9/11, was the 400-foot pedestrian that connected it to the World Trade Center.

In 2003 an exhibit was installed to display the recovery process of the World Trade Center in the Winter Garden.

Visiting the center and marina provides a nice escape from the bustle of the area and weather extremes. The plaza and marina provides a view of New Jersey beyond the Hudson River and a distant sight of the Statue of Liberty.

The map below shows the location of the WFC in lower Manhattan. Above are pictures from my visit on June 30, 2007. More info at

Photos from top: WFC Plaza, Winter Garden facing East, Winter Garden facing West, Statue of Liberty viewed from WFC Plaza, view of New Jersey from WFC Plaza, 9/11 Display at Winter Garden.

Note: 7/5/08 - The 9/11 Display is longer on view at the WFC Winter Garden.

Ground Zero - June 2007

The morning on June 30, 2007 was spent with my fellow blogger, Pencilpantz, with a return to Ground Zero. It is always moving to walk the perimeter and view the site again as well as progress of construction. With the building of the foundation of the new structure that will replace the World Trade Center towers underway, places to view the below ground portions of the area will become few. If taking the subway to Ground Zero, be sure the stations (such as Cortland St) are not blocked by construction. The site is best viewed during the daylight hours and from the second floor of the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center and along the South Bridge that connects the WFC to Liberty Street. More info at

Top photo: looking east from the WFC Winter Garden. The Millennium Hilton Hotel stands in the background center.
Lower photo: looking north from the South Bridge. The recently completed World Trade Center 7 tower is on the right, the first completed building in the rebuilding of Ground Zero.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"Curtains" rises at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre - The Production

On 6/29/07, “Curtains” is the first of the plays during my latest visit to the Big Apple. The show is set in 1959 in Boston during the pre-Broadway tryout of a new musical. When the leading lady mysteriously dies onstage at the end of the show, the entire company and creative team are possible suspects. Their various motives must be sorted out by a local detective played by David Hyde Pierce (“Frasier”) who happens to be a musical theatre fan and holds everyone captive within the theatre until the mystery is solved.

This musical-within-a-musical mystery has music and lyrics by the legendary team of composer John Kander and the late lyricist Fred Ebb (“Chicago”, “Cabaret). The production as a whole is a return to old-fashioned musical comedy. It boasts a top cast of Broadway veterans (Debra Monk, Karen Ziemba, Jason Daniely, Ernie Sabella and Edward Hibbert), rousing production numbers, and a story that is actually cute and sweet at its core.

As the detective obsessed with fixing the show rather than finding the killer, Pierce is hilarious. Jill Paice proves to be a surprising comedienne as the theatre inegenue. This is in contrast to the dark role she delivered a season ago in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Woman in White”. Monk commands the stage as the tough and weary producer.

In the 1999-2000 season, a revival of “Kiss Me, Kate” played this same theatre. That show used a musical version of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew” as the show within a musical. With equality both the onstage musical and behind the scenes shenanigans proved equally enjoyable. The show within “Curtains” is called “Robbin’ Hood”, a musical of the old west, and only halts the immediate task at hand: solving the murder.

“Curtains” tries to recall a Broadway of days gone by. In that respect it partially succeeds. But with the pros on stage, the proceedings is made that more enjoyable. It is Pierce’s show in the end and he literally rides off into the sunset (well, into the wings of the stage) on a white stallion.

Nominated for 8 Tony Awards including Best Musical. The show received one win for David Hyde Pierce for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play.

‘Curtains’ plays at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre (running times: 2hrs 30min with intermission). Current performance times are Tues-Sat 8pm, Wed & Sat 2pm and Sun 3pm. Tickets top at $110. Book tickets at The Original Broadway Cast Recording available on iTunes or on CD from Broadway Angel records. More information at Production photographs used for illustration purposes only.

NOTE: 3/19/08 - "Curtains" plays its last performance on June 29, 2008 (after 511 performances and 26 previews).

"Curtains" Preview - The Choreography

Preview of "Curtains" musical on Broadway with choreographer Rob Ashford.

Monday, September 10, 2007

"Curtains" rises at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre - The Venue

This theatre opened in 1924 as the Martin Beck Theatre, named after a vaudevillian personality of the time. Designed with Byzantine details inside and out, this theatre is one of the most unique looking among Broadway theatres. In 2003, the theatre was renamed the Al Hirschfeld for the famous caricaturist best known for his simple black and white satirical portraits of celebrities and Broadway theatre stars. More people recognize his work for the challenge of locating how many times the name “Nina” (Hirschfeld’s daughter) appears hidden within his drawing. His own self-caricature is captured in blazing neon as part of the theatre’s current marquee. This theatre is the only one of the Broadway theatres that is west of 8th Avenue. Approximate seating is 1,437.
Recent popular productions at this theatre include the musical adaptation of the film “The Wedding Singer" (2006); a revival of “Sweet Charity” (2005) starring Christina Applegate; and “Wonderful Town” (2003) which featured Brook Shields in a later cast.

The $1,000 Golden Opulence Sundae

Incidentally Serendipity 3 is also home to the world's most expensive sundae. For $1,000 and 48-hours notice, you can truly get one of these creations made in celebration of the restaurant's 50th anniversary. The sundae is made of five scoops of the richest Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream infused with Madagascar vanilla and covered in 23K edible gold leaf. It is then drizzled with the world's most expensive chocolate, Amedei Porceleana, and covered with chunks of rare Chuao chocolate, which is from cocoa beans harvested by the Caribbean Sea on Venezuela's coast. The masterpiece is suffused with exotic candied fruits from Paris, gold dragets, truffles and Marzipan Cherries. It is topped with a tiny glass bowl of Grand Passion Caviar, an exclusive dessert caviar, made of salt-free American Golden caviar, known for its sparkling golden color. It's sweetened and infused with fresh passion fruit, orange and Armagnac. The sundae is served in a baccarat Harcourt crystal goblet with an 18K gold spoon to partake in the indulgence served with a petite mother of pearl spoon and topped with a gilded sugar flower.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Serendipity: Destiny With Frozen Hot Chocolate

Serendipity 3, located in the Upper East Side, is a popular place for both residents and visitors. This delightful restaurant and sweet shop, begun in 1952, is tucked into a cozy brownstone a few steps away from Bloomingdale’s. The shop fills two floors and is uniquely decorated with Tiffany lamps, black-and-white floors, Victorian posters and other peculiar adornments. The intimate size of the restaurant means there may be a wait during meal times.

Luckily my fellow blogger and Hawaii transplant, Pencilpantz, had made reservations. We were immediately seated despite the line of people inside the shop. Pencilpantz has been in NYC gaining worldly experience during the past year all the while focusing on her next goal of going to graduate school at Berkeley on the West Coast next year.

For my entrée I opted for the Shepherd’s Pie ($16.50). The minced meat and vegetable dish smothered in mashed potatoes was not spectacular but definitely good to finish and left enough room for the main event: dessert. The names of some menu items are cutesy and adds to the fun of just reading the menu. Try the Steak Char Char, Chicken Not So Little Soup or the Bi-Sensual Burger.
To top off the meal was the shop’s signature Frozen Hot Chocolate ($8.50, pictured). It is a massive slushy version of the warm drink generously topped with whipped cream. Note to Pencilpantz, next time I'm gonna order two. The concoction is irresistible for those with a sweet tooth. Other dessert items such as the celestial carrot cake, dark double devil mousse and lemon icebox pie sounded equally delectable. Check out for a home version of the Frozen Hot Chocolate and other Serendipity 3 products

The restaurant is perhaps more known to non-New Yorkers as a setting for the movie “Serendipity” (2002). Therefore I was thoroughly disappointed that Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack were nowhere to be found. I’m guessing that maybe they were dining upstairs. Nevertheless it is an engaging romantic film worth discussing in a future post for its use of NYC locations.

The restaurant is a fun place to eat for the family. Prices are reasonable but plan ahead by making reservations and be sure to save room for dessert. Before or afterwards, head over to Dylan’s Candy Bar (Lexington and 60th) to choose from their huge inventory for more sweets that you can take home. For us, Pencilpantz and I wished each other good night as I would begin my first night of marathon play going.

Serendipity 3 is opened Sun-Thu 11:30am-12midnight; Fri 11:30am-2am. The restaurant is located at 225 East 60th Street between 2nd and 3rd Ave in the Upper East Site. Reservations accepted. Main courses run about $7-$18; and the sweet stuff $5-$17. More info including a complete menu at or calling 212-838-3531.

Sweets Galore at Dylan's Candy Bar

Co-owned by Dylan (daughter of Ralph) Lauren, this two-level sweet shop is a treat for young and old. The ground floor is meant to resemble a world made out of candy. You’ll see a lollipop tree, a huge chocolate bunny column and a candy encrusted staircase leading to more treasures below. While upstairs you’ll find the signature chocolates and candies of Dylan’s and their ice cream bar.

Downstairs you’ll find the candies you may have thought were long gone from Necco wafers, strips of candy buttons, Bit-O-Honey and Idaho Spuds. You’ll also find current favorites like Jelly Belly jellybeans and candy inspired from the Harry Potter films. Yes, I am a fan of the Harry Potter books and picked up some chocolate frogs, jelly slugs and blood pops during my last visit.
Dylan's can be a fun place to visit. But during times it can get busy among narrow aisles. With the noise and laughter of the crowd, you may find more peace outside on 3rd Ave. But since we were running early, we took a quick tour inside before heading to Serendipity.

Check out for more information and other locations. The shop is located across the street from Bloomingdale’s at 1011 Third Ave & 60th Street. Open Mon-Thu 10am-9pm, Fri-Sat 10am-11pm and Sun 11am-8pm.

Apple Calls Across America, Windows Hangs Up

It just so happen that the day (Friday 6/29/07) of arriving in NYC was the same day as the launch of the Apple iPhone. With the buzz that Apple and Steve Jobs had built from the intial announcement back in January, there was no doubt the anticipation was going to be big. It was just a matter of how big it was going to be on this first day of release.

Since my dinner plans for that evening took me along Fifth Avenue, I decided to check out the Apple Store to check out the crowd lining up.Surprising and yet unexpected, the line at the Apple Store snaked from the huge glass cube that is the store’s grand entrance on 5th Avenue then east along 58th Street and then around the block north on Madison Avenue. I could not guess the number of people in line and as a matter of fact, I didn't see the end of the line. It is a wonder if the store would have enough phones. Pictured above is the line at the corner of 58th and Madison.

Like many stores in Manhattan, the Apple Store is an example of shopping attractions. You may not really want to buy anything but you still go and see it. The striking entrance and the store itself has helped to bring crowds to this end of 5th Avenue near Central Park. No doubt the F.A.O. Schwarz toy store is a beneficiary of those crowds. Prior to the Apple Store, this was largely a barren plaza except for the lunch crowd. The area is now buzzing all the time with the Apple Store open 24 hours 365 days a year.
The store itself is reached via a circular glass staircase or the glass elevator. Downstairs is the second largest Apple Store in area (behind London’s Regent Street store). Vast and populated by many salespeople, all your Apple computer, iPod and now iPhone needs are to be met here.

Across the street from the store is the landmark 100-year-old French-chateau style Plaza Hotel. The hotel is currently undergoing a $400 million renovation after it which it will reopen as a luxury Fairmont property and boast both hotel rooms and condos. Also adjacent to the store is Central Park South. At the 5th Ave corner is Grand Army Plaza which commemorates the Union Army in the Civil War. A portion of Grand Army Plaza fronts the Plaza hotel.

Check out for more information. The 5th Ave Apple Store is one of two locations in Manhattan. The other is located in Soho at 103 Prince Street which is only open during normal shopping hours.

Doubletree Suites Times Square New York

It appears this is my present hotel of choice when visiting NYC since my latest stay will be my fifth. Being my purpose is to enjoy the latest stage offerings on Broadway, this hotel is conveniently located on the corner of 47th Street and Broadway (actually 7th Ave) at the north end of Times Square (actually Duffy Square) and a few minutes walk to about a dozen theatres. One could leave the hotel fifteen minutes prior to an 8pm curtain and still arrive at the theatre with minutes to spare. In fact one theatre, the Palace, is located right below the hotel.

I usually request for a room on a high floor mainly to avoid the noise from the street below and for a better view. I also request for a room away from the elevator for the lack of foot traffic passing by my door. Remember this is a family-friendly hotel and noisy families can be a distraction.

The hotel is situated across the street from the TKTS half-price ticket booth (currently under re-construction) and next door to the Times Square Visitor Center and a 24-hour McDonalds. More about these spots will be discussed in a later post.

Unlike other hotels that bound Times Square, the Doubletree is an all-suite hotel soaring 45 floors. Although the room size is on par with, for example, rooms in the Marriott Marquis or Renaissance Times Square, the two-room set up makes the room feel more spacious. The living room area offers a second television, pull-out sofa bed, coffee table, desk and second mirrored sink area where below in a cabinet are stored a mini-refrigerator, microwave and safe. Free in-room coffee service is standard for all rooms. A USA Today newspaper is delivered to each room on weekdays and turndown service can be requested. To conserve energy, towels that you would like changed must be placed on the floor so housekeeping will know to replace them.
The living area makes the room useful for guests to host a little get together with family or friends in the city; business travelers for informal meetings; or for any hotel guest to enjoy a quiet in-room meal. So in a way it does matter that the bathroom in standard rooms do have separate doors to enter into, one from the bedroom and one from the living room.

This set-up helps to save time for parties of four especially when getting ready in the morning. No doubt the second sink makes the difference.

Although the hotel is friendly for families, singles and couples should feel welcome as well. The ground floor entrance is very unassuming with a security guard posted to be sure all entering have a hotel key card. The lobby is actually reached by taking the elevators to the third floor sky lobby. At check-in expect to receive a warm and delicious Doubletree signature chocolate chip cookie.

Due to the architecture set-up of the hotel, only three rooms on each floor actually face Broadway, but all other rooms still offer views of either Times Square South or Times Square North made even more striking from higher floors. Corner rooms offer a panoramic view of Broadway and Times Square North but feel a little tighter area wise than the hotel’s standard room layout.
The hotel has only one dining option. The Center Stage Café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner daily with the Cabaret Lounge (a small bar) on the same floor. The fare is standard but the buffet breakfast has all egg dishes, waffles, pancakes and toast to order.

Rates at the Doubletree are on par with the brand hotels that bound Times Square. Expect room rates to start at about $250 during a low period to the outrageous during a peak month. Exepect some sticker shock when booking in a busy month like November. Try for mid-summer or January/February for more favorable rates. In all the Doubletree is a safe, secure and comfortable hotel with an often too hefty price for the location. A net direct rate offered on the hotel’s website requires full payment at booking and saves twenty dollars per night compared to the hotel’s current internet best rate. Not much but something substantial when considering the hotel taxes that are added to the bill.

One more note regarding sky lobbies. Several NYC hotels have this feature and getting in and out of the hotel can be a chore and a wait. Just ask the folks staying at the 50-story 1,800 room Marriott Marquis. However the Doubletree has 460 suites so even before and after the theatre, you can quickly return to refresh yourself and change or drop off your shopping finds and be back out enjoying the city in a jiffy. The size of the hotel probably allows the staff to be a little more attentive during your stay as well.

Check out for more informaton. The hotel is a part of the Hilton chain and members of the Hilton rewards program earns points with stays at the Doubletree. The hotel is located at 1568 Broadway, New York, New York 10036. Tel 1-212-719-1600.
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