Two Views of NYC | New York

Posted by on June 27, 2003

I’ve told you there are many faces of New York City. You probably know a few. I’ve recently seen three incredibly different versions. The Upper East Side and Forty-Second Street are poles apart, and Queens is a world away.

Why would anyone go to 42nd Street, you may well ask. For the theater, I would reply, to catch a bus, or to get to the other side of town.

My recent trip was to the American Airlines Theater, where a friend and I have been subscribers to Roundabout Theatre for several years, and where some of the productions now appear.

We went to see A DAY IN THE DEATH OF JOE EGG, which was just fabulous. It was an excellent script, and very well acted. Although I am not a theater critic, I can highly recommend the Roundabout Theatre subscription series. You might look into that on the web.

When I was a naïve young woman living in Manhattan, my husband-to-be actually got me to go to a flea circus on Forty-Second St. My only recollection of it is that I actually went. Oh, yes, I also remember that we watched this whole thing through some sort of magnifying glass.

For most of the years between then and now, I have avoided Forty-Second Street and Times Square like the plague. It was messy, unsafe, full of traffic, and had no redeeming features, except for the theaters.

Lately though, I’ve been surprised by the area. Several years ago, the Marriott Marquis Hotel was built right on Times Square. It was at first an oasis in the midst of squalor.

While I wasn’t looking, the squalor around it has metamorphosed into some practical and exciting destinations. Several new hotels, including the European based Novotel, and the trendy “W” Hotel have been built. W Hotels are definitely the cutting edge. This one has the unthinkable, a really good restaurant, called Blue Fin, right in Times Square. I recently had a marvelous meal in this trendy spot, and got a look at the “in” crowd in the hotel lobby. (Woops! The “living room”, where I would hang out if I were half a century younger.)

For an elegant “pit stop,” try the Renaissance Hotel on Seventh Avenue just below 49th, take the elevator to the second floor, and take a left. They also have a nice looking restaurant, with views down toward Times Square.

One great destination is, of course, THE LION KING, which is performed in an elegantly restored theater now owned by Disney. This remarkable theater piece is in a class by itself and will probably go on fora long time.

Most of you know that there are plenty of pre-theater restaurants a little north and west of this area, on “Restaurant Row”, (aka W. 46th Street between 8th and 9th Streets.) Indeed there are good ones there, notably ORSO, which is hard to book.

However, we thought that 42nd Street was limited to McDonalds and its ilk. Imagine my delight when I followed the advice of the Roundabout Theatre brochure to try a restaurant called ABOVE, at 234West 42nd Street. I must confess I looked for it once and missed it altogether. I finally asked at the American Airlines box office and was directed to the Hilton Times Square. Take a word of advice; the Hilton Times Square is very difficult to spot. It is, in fact, just a doorway. We persevered and took the elevator to the promised “beautiful Sky Lobby, alongside the Pinnacle Bar” where we found an oasis of calm and “notable American cuisine fused with an Asian accent.” The hotel starts 21 floors above the street; the view from the Restaurant Above is high up, sunny and fascinating.(We were looking in one direction at the backside of Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. We could tell by the giant golden hand perched on the roof.) Our lunch was delicious, well served, and quiet. It was also across the street from our theater, which gave us an extra few minutes of relaxation before the theater.

The Upper East Side is a different planet, but only a bus, subway or taxi ride away.

Following a recent doctor’s appointment on Park Avenue at 85th Street, I decided that a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Manet-Velasquez Show was in order. There is something so very American about the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I always feel proud to be an American when I walk up the stairs to enter this wonderful giant of a place. I hope that I am seeing lots of foreign visitors sitting in the sun as I weave my way in. I have been so grateful for the magnificent museums that I have seen in Europe, and other parts of the world, that I am happy we can offer the Met in return.

The Manet-Velasquez did not disappoint, although it was crowded. This is the second blockbuster duet in New York at the moment, the other being the Matisse-Picasso. That show, however, is on yet another planet, called Queens. More about that next time. The Met is also a great place to shop, so I took advantage of its wares.

In order to entice my husband to accompany me on this Manhattan adventure, I promised a nice lunch. Thanks to the help of a friend who lives in the area, we made a reservation at Centolire, on Madison Avenue between 85th and 86th. It was a very good choice, since they had one of New York’s best “come-ons” – a three course lunch for $20.03. It is a contemporary Italian bistro, with a very solid menu and friendly, swift service. On good days, all the front windows open to the sun and mild tempo of Madison Avenue.

The people watching differs enormously from Times Square to Upper Madison Avenue, but is always a welcome distraction.

What is your favorite part of New York City? Do you have a special area, to which you return again and again? Or a special restaurant, which you might deign to reveal? I’d love to know.

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