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Win Two CityPasses to New York

A couple of weeks ago, I contacted CityPass asking if they would be kind enough to sponsor a couple of CityPasses to New York that I could give away to readers of this blog. I was pleasantly surprised that they replied and told me that they would love to do that. So, here it is … chowtimes’s first contest.

THE PRIZE

CityPass had agreed to sponsor TWO CityPasses to New York. These CityPasses is their Winter Special where it is valid until Marh 15th (their normal CityPasses is only valid for 9 days from first use). You may find out more from the link to their Winter Special here.

This CityPass will make a great gift and would especially useful for people who live in or around New York City. Imagine … you don’t have to rush from one attraction to another … just take your own sweet time to properly explore the museums and other sights all through Winter to Spring.

HOW TO WIN THE PRIZE

It is simple. You just need to answer correctly 5 questions posted below. You answer by clicking on the comment link at the bottom of this entry and submit your answers. The first entry with the most correct answer will win the tickets. I will announce the winning entry on December 30th which means a two day period for you to participate.

Oh yeah, you need to leave your email address when you submit your entry so that I know how to contact you. For the winner, I will forward your email address to CityPass who will then contact you to deliver the CityPass.

THE QUESTIONS

A tip here … answers are found throughout my New York series.

  1. What is the name of the apartment building that John Lennon lived last?
  2. How much does it cost for a CityPass to New York?
  3. How many floors does the Empire State Building have?
  4. Name at least two types of Jewish cuisine/food that I had tried in NYC.
  5. What is the name of the theater where the Late Show with David Letterman is shot?

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New York: Going Home

This is my last posting on the series on New York. I actually had only five full days in the city but did managed to squeeze in quite a lot within that short span of time. And to think of it, this had resulted in 27 individual blog entries. Frankly, I had as much time blogging about it and sharing my vacation with you as I did on the vacation.

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My route back to Vancouver was not without drama. Since I was traveling on staff pass, I had very little choice when it comes to the routing. I had to fly from Newark to Houston to Vancouver. That will take me the entire day traveling alone.

I knew it would be a challenge getting on a standby flight. So, without taking any chances, I attempted to get on a 2PM flight from Newark to Houston. I figured that if I could not get on this flight, there are two other hourly flights.

Guess what … the flight was full and it appears that there are more people trying to get on standby than I could imagine. There were 45 names on the standby list … and me being on what they call a SA5 (space available priority 5), that means that, well, my name is #43 on the list. Moreover, they only have 20 seats available for this flight … that sounds like real trouble to me.

I waited for the flight the next hour, and it was not much better … there were over 30 names on the standby list and as a SA5, I am always at the bottom. My last option was the 4PM flight. If I could not get on the flight, I would miss the connecting flight to Vancouver. I went to customer service for help and as much as they tried all possibilities, it appears that my only real option is to try to get on the 4PM flight and land in Houston with only SEVEN minutes to get to the connecting flight gate!

Well, I guess, I might as well take the chance since the worst thing that could happen is that I either stay one more day in New York or one more day on Houston.

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I finally got on to a half empty fight from Newark to Houston … it’s weird to think that just two flights earlier, the flights were absolutely full.

While on the flight, I took the time to do some research for “Plan B” … a day trip in Houston in case I missed the connecting flight.

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The inflight meals is good … much better than most other American domestic flights I had ever been to. They had hot burgers … real meal and not just packets of peanuts.

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I could not believe my ears when the captain announced the landing in Houston … we were (GOSH!) 30 minutes ahead of schedule. That had never happened to me before — flights are more likely late than early and once in a blue moon, I’ll be something like 5-10 minutes early … but never 30 minutes. Apparently there was (divine?) tail wind during the flight.

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The plane took off on schedule and I made it back to Vancouver on schedule as originally planned.

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OK … there it is … my solo vacation to New York. I hope you enjoyed reading of my adventure. This is certainly one of my most memorable vacations ever.

BTW, if you want to read the entire New York series, it is all in this link: New York 2007.

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New York: Tick Tock Diner and Grill

This was my last meal in New York City. Looking back, it had been a really eventful vacation for me, especially so, when I had not really finished planning for this until I was on the plane. If there is one thing I gained most from my job, it’s the experience in traveling.

So, for this last lunch before I head off to the Newark Airport, it was nothing fancy. I just chose a diner close to the Penn Station where I am due to catch a airport shuttle bus. One last thing, I wanted to try … it’s that illusive Egg Cream … this time with chocolate syrup.

The place I went to is the Tick Tock Diner and Grille.

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I had Egg Cream in Katz but it was with vanilla syrup. I later read that the real deal with Egg Cream is with chocolate syrup. I like it a lot but I do also think that this is very very fattening. It’s a fizzy drink. Despite its name, there is no eggs nor cream … it is made milk. carbonated soda water and of course, chocolate syrup.

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The Tick Tock Diner seems like just any diner you find. It’s located in a very very busy section of midtown. I like the service. As a matter of fact, I find that the generally table service in Manhattan was really good … very fast, accommodating, and friendly. I was a bit early into midtown and as such had about an hour and a half to burn here.

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The menu was nothing special. I just got an item from the Tuesday Specials. It started with a cup of onion soup.

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The main dish is the Broiled Filet Flounder. You know what flounders are, right? It’s one of those weird flat fish where they have both eyes on one side of their head. The fish was alright … although a bit tasteless. The mashed potato was alright … and tasteless. And the vegetables … well, they are alright … and tasteless.

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$11.95 for this and the cup of soup. It was alright … and … oh never mind.

Tick Tock Diner on Urbanspoon

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New York: Lindy’s World Famous Cheesecake

This is one place I know Suanne would absolutely love if she is with me in NYC. Being a cheesecake addict, I bet she will want to visit this place more than once.

There are many types of cheesecakes in the world. However, when people think about cheesecakes, they invariably think of the New York-style cheesecake. In New York, that would either mean Lindy’s or Junior’s. Each of them have a rather similar tagline. For Lindy’s, it is the “world famous cheesecake” … while, Junior’s is the “most fabulous cheesecake”. I thought I won’t go wrong with the World’s Most Famous Cheesecakes.

Lindy’s is a deli/restaurant located in Time Square. I heard they have a few other outlets too in Manhattan.

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When does one normally have cheesecakes anyway? I guess it’s supposed to be dessert for dinner and maybe lunch. I had it for breakfast. That kind of work for me.

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According to my guidebook, the NY-style cheesecake is actually made famous by both Lindy’s and Junior’s. This style of cheesecake is sometimes referred to as the Jewish-style cheesecake.

After that somewhat disappointing experience with the fancy pizza in Lombardi’s, this time I ordered the safest item and the 1st item list listed on the menu … the Lindy’s Famous Original NY Cheesecake with Strawberry. $8.29 per slice below. There are other flavours like Cherry, Blueberry, Pineapple and Brownie and of course, the plain cheesecake. Strawberry is good … brownie, I am not sure.

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I am not particularly fond of cheesecakes but I had never seen a more sinfully delicious looking cheesecake than this. This looked so nice that I hesitated a while to contemplate how I should attack this. Start at the edge? How to equally apply the glaze and whipped cream in perfect proportion to fork-chunk of cheesecake? LOL!

What I like the best about this is two things. One, it is tall for a cheesecake. It is about 1.5 inch tall. and the best part is that there is no crusty graham biscuit at the bottom — it is 100% complete cheesecake.

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It was not as rich as it seems but really perfectly balance of sweetness and richness. You really got to taste it to know how consistently smooth this actually is.

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I am going to measure all cheesecakes against this one I had in Lindy’s. Absolutely marvelous!

I wanted to buy some back at least on the last day of my trip and bring a box home for Suanne. A box costs $45. I don’t mind carrying it but while they had the foam boxes that day, they could not make the ice that will keep it cold to last about 12 hours from Lindy’s in NY to home in Richmond. Guess I gotta take Suanne here someday …

Lindy's on Urbanspoon

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New York: Wanna Go?

Hey All:

Hope you’ve enjoyed the series on my trip to New York City. I am not quite done yet but wanted to ask you to stay tuned for the next few days. Here is the chance to follow on my footsteps … I have a couple of CityPasses (worth $130) to New York to give out just before Christmas, sponsored by none other CityPass. I am going to run a simple contest and the winner will get a Christmas present from chowtimes and CityPass!

AtrPass_10th_logo_RGB.jpgCityPass had announced that they now have Valid All Winter Special passes. Instead of the normal validity of just 9 days from first use, this one will be valid all winter long. I think this will especially be useful for people living in and around New York and will undoubtedly make a great gift too. I’ll tell you more about it in the next few days.

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New York: Strawberry Fields … Forever

There is this something special about a building called The Dakota. If not because of an event that happened here 27 years ago, The Dakota would not have been that famous. The Dakota is a luxury apartment building and is over 120 years old. As a matter of fact, The Dakota is the first luxury apartment ever built in NYC.

The Dakota had attracted the rich and famous over the century. Famous residents have included Judy Garland, Roberta Flack, Rudolf Nureyev, Neil Sedaka, Leonard Bernstein, Lauren Bacall, Carson McCullers, Boris Karloff, Connie Chung, and Paul Simon.

But I guess the most famous tenant of all was … John Lennon.

It happened almost 30 years ago … even to this day, this apartment building remains a place of pilgrimage to many.

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John Lennon was just 40 years old when he was shot and killed … at this entrance below. John and Yoko Ono had just returned from the studio one winter night … they got off their limousine and while walking into the gated apartment, four shots rang out and hit John. John Lennon, along with the dreams of a Beatles reunion, died that day.

I was just barely into my teens when John Lennon died. Even at that age, I was a fan of the Beatles. My dad was a fan of the Beatles too because I very distinctively remember that his favourite LP was the Beatles (which he refused to let me touch!).

I remembered too the moment when I found out that John Lennon was killed. I was in a church youth camp in Port Dickson. I woke up early and read about it just before breakfast.

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The Dakota is located just across the street from Central Park. John and Yoko enjoyed the walks in this park and their walks had been quite documented.

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This section of Central Park is called Strawberry Fields. It is dedicated to the memory of John Lennon and is named after his song … “Strawberry Fields Forever”. If you look at the map, it’s shaped in the form of a teardrop.

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It’s a shady part of the park. Right in the middle of Strawberry Fields, is the memorial mosaic bearing the word “Imagine”. Flowers are arranged in the symbol of peace around the memorial mosaic.

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This is perhaps the most visited part of Central Park, even though this is a small area. As expected, people were respectfully quiet here … this is after all, hallow grounds to many.

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I would have expected that most visitors would be people in their 40s and older. The Beatles belong to that era.

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I love the Beatles … here are a collection of Beatles songs I found on youtube. Hope you enjoy this tribute to John Lennon and the Beatles:

REMEMBERING JOHN LENNON

YESTERDAY

LET IT BE

AND I LOVE HER

HEY JUDE

MICHELLE

PLEASE MR POSTMAN

LOVE ME DO

STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS

TICKET TO RIDE

CAN’T BUY ME LOVE

EIGHT DAYS A WEEK

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

PENNY LANE

PLEASE PLEASE ME

GIRL

HELLO GOODBYE

SHE LOVES YOU

ALL MY LOVING

I SAW HER STANDING THERE

OBLADI OBLADA

I WANNA HOLD YOUR HANDS

ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE

SOMETHING

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New York: Ghost Town Movie Shoot

I got myself a role as an extra in a movie while I was in Central Park. I can’t believe my luck! I was walking in a section call the Literary Walk. The Literary Walk is sort of like the formal side of the park where there are rows of tall elm trees which provides a cathedral like ceiling high over the wide walkway.

I was walking around that area and came across a group of people milling around two large white reflector screens. I knew it was some movie going on and decided to walk closer and have a look.

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I hung around just next to the screens for a few minutes. I think they were checking and re-checking the lightings. No one bothered with me. I don’t know … perhaps they think that I am a pro-photographer … he he he. They allowed me to get real close.

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Then I saw “him” … Ricky Gervais. That was Ricky Gervais, isn’t it … the guy in the brown jacket?

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At that time I did not know what was really going on. Before I knew it, there were instructions shouted over the bullhorn but I could not make out what was said. It appears to me that everyone was getting into position. At first, I thought of retreating away but I saw that the ends of the Literary Walk was blocked off. Oh man … I was stuck right in the middle of a movie shoot!

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So, I decided to put my stuff down and discretely put away my camera which would have been obvious. I decided to be part of the movie shoot since it appears they allow me there as long as play the part of the crowd. I had a good time chatting with the extras while in between shoots … particularly with this lady who was pushing a fake baby. She was the one who told me the name of the show … it’s Ghost Town.

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I pulled out my pack of jerky which was my favourite snack while travelling. I also took out my travel guide and pretend to be someone just out reading in the park on a nice day.

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I stayed for five takes and then decided I had enough. I believe Ghost Town will be in the theatres in summer or spring 2008. If you do catch the movie, remember the scene from the park … there is this guy sitting on one of the benches reading a book, munching some jerkies … and just right next to the fake hotdog stand … yep … that’s me!

I can even picture it now … Ghost Town … starring Ricky Gervais … also introducing Ben from Chowtimes.com!

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I had a great time! And will be sure to buy the DVD when this movie comes out.

I scoured youtube and found the following of Ricky Gervais talking about the movie:

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New York: Central Park

A large part of my day was spent mainly in Central Park. It was a lot of ground to cover. The entire Central park covers a rectangular area of 2.5 miles by 1/2 mile. Compared to Vancouver’s Stanley Park (which to me is the most beautiful urban park in the world), it is just slightly smaller. For all intents and purposes, the Central Park is the backyard of New York City.

The area around Central Park is known for it’s expensive real estate.

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I started off from the Central Park South and 5th Ave. From this entrance to the park, I saw that Apple Store … the famous glass cube store on 5th Ave. I remember seeing this store on the TV when Apple launched the iPhone. Not an Apple user myself, I decided to walk over and check it out.

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The store was very busy with a lot of people. What I enjoyed was all the various Apple equipments put out in the open for people to try. I spent sometime with the iPhone (or was it iPod Touch?), never having handled one before. I like it … flipping over pictures with a flick of the finger and pinching to resize it. Nice. I felt like just buying one … but sanity prevailed … I think I’ll get bored with flicking and pinching once the novelty wears off in a couple of days.

I like the cylindrical elevator they had that takes the visitors to the underground store. It is so basic and bare. Pay attention to where the door is or else you might just walk into the glass.

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The entrance to the Central Park from this south east corner is really busy and colourful. This seems to be like the official entrance to the park.

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There are a lot … and I mean A LOT … of horse carriages for hire. They are lined through out the outside streets of the Central Park. I walked through the south perimeter of the park and they are virtually lined up half way through the block. The horses stinks.

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Did you know that the Central Park is 150 years old? When it was being built, 10,000,000 cartloads of stone and earth turned it into a lush park as it is today.

Of all the urban parks in the world, Central Park is perhaps the most well known. I like it when cities carve out a large of their urban area for parks. In summer, Central Park is actually several degrees cooler than the streets around the park. So, this place offers respite to the summer heat and is a popular retreat for families in Manhattan.

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A good place to start your tour of the Central Park is The Dairy. This used to be a real dairy where people actually come to buy their milk. Today, this refurbished Victorian Gothic building houses the Visitor Center. This is the place to pick up a park guide, map and events calendar. It was closed for some reason when I was there.

I so needed a map because it could be confusing walking around the huge park. Instead, I took pictures of the park map boards and check the map on my camera LCD display. Neat trick, huh?

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There were a few people down at the skating rink. It was late October when I was in New York. It was hardly skating season as it was not cold enough. Rather, I think it’s too warm to maintain ice outdoors. Anyone knows if this opens all year round?

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As I walked around the middle part of the park, I saw that some parts of the park were closed and there were a lot of broadcasting equipment, seat terraces being setup. It later dawned on me that they are setting up for the New York Marathon the following weekend.

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There are about 30 bridges and arches in Central Park with no two alike. The most photographed one is the Bow Bridge which is a cast iron bridge with a graceful arch. It is called the Bow Bridge because it is like a big bow tying together two large sections of the park.

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BTW, in NYC, you will see a lot of building like the ones below where the upper half of the buildings are tapered off. It is because there is a building law that says that all tall building have to be designed such a way to allow more sunlight at the street level.

I enjoyed the walk around the park. There are lots of places for good shots.

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I sort of got myself into a movie while I was in Central Park … more about it tomorrow.

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