New York: Going Home to Vancouver

I am not going to ask you guys what you thought of our series of our summer vacation. I am afraid … I am afraid some of you will say this went on and on for too long. 🙂


So we finally left New York for Vancouver after 2 fun filled weeks traveling through Washington, Philadelphia, Lancaster and Manhattan. I know Suanne enjoyed it a lot especially when it is just the two of us without the boys. In many ways, we are glad to finally heading home. Two weeks is just about right and we were beginning to start missing the boys. For me, I felt recharged and coming away having seen and done a lot of stuff I had always wanted to do … he he he … and a lot of lines checked off from my “Been There, Done That” list.


The flight back were uneventful. There were plenty of seats available and so there were no risk of us not getting on board. Tiredness set in the moment we got on the flight. It was like we were running on fumes the past few days and our body finally gave in!

BTW, the Continental breakfast was pretty good. For sure you cannot compare inflight breakfast with what you get in restaurants but for airline food, it was pretty palatable and tastes quite good too. The fruit was freshly cut, the muffin was moist and I like the Omelet particularly … served warm.


As always I had the Bloody Mary Mix. I just love this. (more…)

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New York: American Museum of Natural History

We had another early start on the 2nd last day of our 2 week vacation. The highlight of the day was going to the museum, one that I sort of missed the last time I was in NYC.


We had breakfast in heavens knows where! There are so many of these types of eating places in NYC and they all sort of look alike … with a long counter and a number of cooks. And quite the same service too … very rushed and impatient!


So, this time, instead of ordering from the counter, we had something from their buffet spread which they charges by weight. Suanne and I just needed good old Chinese style carbs — we missed rice and noodles!


Then it was off to the American Museum of Natural History. In all my travels, I find that this one in New York is the best of the best museum of natural history. Although some of the exhibits are obviously dated, it is very well presented.


Being of Chinese descent but never been educated in the Chinese language and history, Suanne and I had special interest in the exhibits of the Chinese culture. (more…)

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New York: Top of the Rock Observation Deck

We had a few hours before the Broadway show starts. I wanted to show Suanne the view of the New York skyline from the Empire State Building but she did not want to because I had already been there before. Instead, we settled for the next best place … the “Top of the Rock”.


The Top of the Rock is the nickname for the top of the highest building (the GE Building) in the Rockefeller Center. The Rockefeller Center is actually a complex of 17 buildings built during the height of the 1930s Depression. The GE Building, being the tallest in the entire Rockefeller Center, is 70 stories high. It’s most famous tenant is NBC.


In the center of the Rockefeller Center is the world famous sculpture of Prometheus in front of the equally world famous skating rink.


We bought the “Rock Pass” tickets which included not only access to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck but it also included two tours: The Radio City Stage Door Tour and the NBC Studio Tour. It was quite expensive at $45 per person. The Top of the Rock Observation Deck entrance alone costs $20.


The NBC Studio Tour was interesting to say the least. If you watch NBC shows and programs, you will enjoy this very much. Since we were not allowed to take pictures during the NBC Studio Tour, I have nothing much to share with you here (sorry!). I was warned that I can take my camera along the tour but if I take any pictures inside the studios, they will have to slap me with a copyright infringement lawsuit!

And no … we did not bump into any stars during the tour. I was hoping to bump onto Conan O’Brien during the visit to his stage and crack a joke and see if he finds my joke funny. At the end of the tour, we were given the chance to play the role of the weather man or a news reader. You can take home a video of that if you want.


We did not get to the Radio City Stage Door Tour at all because we simply ran out of time in New York. Oh well, we’ll be back some day I’m sure.


Off we went to the lobby where the elevators are to bring us up to the Top of the Rock.


We first watched a short video on the history behind the Rockefeller Center before they let us up. It was quite boring if you ask me.


As I was told, the Top of the Rock is far, far, far less crowded than the Empire State Building. (more…)

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New York: Junior’s Cheesecake

I once read somewhere that the best New York Style Cheesecakes are from Lindy’s and Junior’s. Suanne is a fan of cheesecake and so we just had to go to a cheesecake place while we’re here. Since I had already been to Lindy’s, we decided to go to Junior’s.


It was so coincidental that there is a Junior’s restaurant just at the place where we queued up at TKTS to buy tickets to a Broadway show.


I like Junior’s bright interior better than Lindy’s. It is more of a restaurant than a cheesecake joint although Junior’s claim to fame is their “Most Fabulous Cheesecakes”. Service was good but we found it kind of strange that the young waiter who waited on us admitted to us right up front he had just started working … and he does look very nervous. LOL!


Suanne ordered the Fresh Strawberry Cheese Pie over their “Our Famous No 1 Original Cheesecake”. (more…)

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New York: Catching a Broadway Show

One of the touristy thing to do in New York is to watch a Broadway Show. However, what really puts us off watching these shows are the atrocious cost of tickets. These tickets could easily run to over $100 per person.


Suanne and I decided we do the touristy thingy by attending a show. Just like many of the people here, we had no clear idea what we wanted to watch — we just wanted to watch a show. We are cheap people you see … and like cheap people, we went to the TKTS booth to buy “same-day” tickets. TKTS sells tickets just hours before showtime at a discount (about 25% to 50%) so that they can fill the seats which will otherwise be left empty.

When I was in London, I caught a West End theater show through TKTS too. It was just like any ticket booth with a wait of just a few minutes. But over here in NYC, the queue is total madness. I had never been in such a long queue before.


We thought we do the smart thing by being there 15 minutes before the TKTS box office opens. It was not so smart after all because there were already HUNDREDS of people already on the queue. The queue was so bloody long that it snaked from outside of one end of the the building to the other end … SEVEN TIMES! And that was 15 minutes before the ticket booth opened. By the time the queue started to move, I was right in the middle of the maze that I had no idea how big the queue was.

The queue moved quite fast but even that it took us like over 30 minutes to get to the front. It was simply madness. (more…)

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New York: David’s Bagel on 1st Ave

We had wanted to go to Luzzo’s for brunch. Luzzo’s was supposedly considered as one of the best pizza places in New York City. We made it all the way to there only to find out that they won’t be opened for another hour. Not wanting to waste time waiting for an hour, we decided to just pop over a bagel place across the street.


We just randomly went into this place called David’s Bagel. From the outside it looked very promising because they have piles of delicious looking, sweet smelling, freshly made bagels. Also, I wanted Suanne to try real New York bagels.


We decided to just share a bagel between the two of us. The plan was to eat a little here and there but in a few places. The choice was excellent … (more…)

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New York: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

There is a tourist site in New York City that not only is that it’s exclusive but free … but also that they give you money to visit them. I am not kidding … not at all … and I mean American Dollars, the greenback. Not every Tom, Dick and Harry who wants to visit this place can just walk in here.


The place is the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Over a month before we left for this vacation, we sent in an application to visit the Federal Reserve Bank. They came back a few weeks later with a very impressive formal letter authorizing our visit at a given date and time which they enforce very strictly. If you are late by just 1 minute, sorry dude. So, we woke up early, skipped breakfast and went straight to the entrance of the fortress like Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

There are actually a total of 12 Federal Reserve Banks in the US but the one here in New York is the most important of them all and the largest in terms of assets.

Security was darn tight. They only clear one person at a time. First they check our IDs and official invitation at the door. Once checked OK, they shout our names to the next security level who cross check their list before they let us through to the secondary security check. Only when one is cleared the secondary check does the next visitor is processed. Granted too, photography is strictly prohibited. So, sorry, no pictures of the insides.


The interior is simply beautiful. It was so sparkling clean that even the lockers where we were to stash our bags looked many times classier than those you find in a 5-star hotel. We learned a lot about money, money and money. The exhibition area were very comprehensive and even include one of the remaining dozen $20 Double Eagle coins in the world. It last changed hands for $8 million dollars. (more…)

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New York: Bubba Gump Shrimp Co in Times Square

After the trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, it was a bit of rush as we were quite behind our schedule. We had to return the rental car to JFK and managed to return it in the nick of time before we were charged an extra day. Then we had to figure out how to get from JFK to Manhattan the fastest and cheapest (which was quite impossible!).


Another reason I wanted to get to Manhattan ASAP was I wanted to get to B&H before they closes for the Sabbath. My trusty Rebel XT time was about up and since I am here, I thought I might as well pick up a new camera. It is always cheaper buying cameras in the US compared to Canada. Coupled with the strong Canadian Dollar (then!), it was a no brainer. Also, it just happened that B&H had $200 off the Canon 40D which was about to be replaced with a newer model (the Canon 50D). The 40D was miles apart from the Rebel XT. I love this new camera.


We next went to Times Square because I wanted to show Suanne the excitement of this place. There is no better place to start the tour of NYC from Times Square. We were quite hungry because we had only snacked since the BK breakfast in the morning. There is no lack of choices of food here, no siree. We decided to go to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co because it seems like a fun place.


We were quite taken aback to see such a large number of people waiting for a table. There must have been something like 30 people waiting for a table. We were told it will be at least 30-45 minutes wait … we said OK. Turned out that it took lesser time than that because they move the people upstairs pretty fast.


I am a fan of Forrest Gump movie. I absolutely love it. I must have watched it 5 times in all and never quite get bored with it. I bet many of you can remember the scenes and dialog in the show. (more…)

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New York: Statue of Liberty

In my trip to New York City last year, I did not manage to visit the Statue of Liberty. I like New York City so much that I knew I would return one day and visit this place together with Suanne. So, this summer, we managed to get here. For me, this is the high point of our summer vacation.


The Statue of Liberty is perhaps the most symbolic icon that best describes the United States of America. It is very much a beacon of hope standing in the middle of the harbour where millions of immigrants passes through with their first glimpse of the new world.

The Statue of Liberty is a gift from the people of France to the Americans for centenary of the founding of the US. What I don’t understand is why France of all countries who would present such a symbolic gift to the US … I mean, why not the British? He he he … this is MY theory … the last thing the Brits wanted to do is to help celebrate the unilateral declaration on independence by the US 100 years ago. The French, being eternal rivals to the Brits, saw it fit to celebrate in the grandest manner.


The Statue of Liberty stands on the Liberty Island. Liberty Island is surprisingly huge. If not for the hordes of people, it is actually a very beautiful park.

Here is another plus point (I think!) for visiting Ellis Island and the Status of Liberty from New Jersey. Not only is it less crowded getting to the islands but the itinerary goes first to Ellis Island and then the Statue of Liberty. Personally, I prefer to visit the “lesser” sight before hitting the big one.


We went straight to the Statue when we landed on Liberty Island. (more…)

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