It’s the Most Wonderful… well… it’s the holidays and New York
Bob and Terry on Tour with The Family 2013
The Daily Journal

It was the most ambitious family trip since heading to Florida in 2005…

And while that isn’t completely true… the concept was simple enough. A short trip… Bob and Terry, Mom and Dad, Kris, Kerri, Nick, Naya, Tamsin and Ky united for the journey and on the way to New York City the weekend before New Year’s.

It was intended to be fun, with only a few musts packed around a fairly open schedule. And in the end, a lot of ground was covered… by van… by ferry… by subway… and by foot. Let’s get to the City and start the journal…

Day One -- Friday, December 27, 2013

Because the idea of bringing the ten of us into Midtown on a Friday afternoon wasn’t stunningly funny enough, we decided to add challenges.

Kerri and Nick are already at the hotel. Nick needed to do some work in the city, and they left on Thursday.

Kris has to do some work, and she’s been dropped off early at the train station so she can use a consistent WiFi signal during the trip and effectively deliver from a mobile office.

This leaves Terry and I in a van, with the grandparents and the grandchildren. And if you know Terry and I, this means the grandparents are in trouble because we expect to have fun and enjoy the ride.

We’re heading in to West 36th… most definitely Midtown… and a stay at the Hyatt Plaza. The GPS is set and we’re following it all the way.

As most people know, I tend to trust our Mi Luv U unit a bit too much. It’s not a blind faith approach though. I almost always have a road atlas on hand, or a familiarity with the driving ahead. And in this case, I fully recognize that once we hit Manhattan all hell is going to break loose. Or, more accurately, be recalculated… and recalculated… and lost satellite reception… and recalculated… and lost satellite reception… and recalculated. So I’ve set up the destination on the GPS for my phone as well, with “start navigation” not engaged but ready to go if I ask Terry to hit it.

We’re getting some messages from Kerri and Kris along the way. Apparently Kris is struggling with the WiFi plan… or more specifically, the consistent part of the consistent WiFi. Amazingly (sarcasm alert), the train is having troubles with delivering the service, and it isn’t quite measuring up as the anticipated office on the go.

In the car… we’re doing amazingly well. Everyone is smiling and laughing, happy and entertained, and the miles are ticking off. The only thing we’re bracing for is the potential of headaches that might be triggered within the city on a Friday afternoon… on dates falling between holidays… with traffic expected and towering buildings ready to freeze GPS signals.

And we do hit a bit of traffic… mainly running slow between the lights… but nothing worth inducing headaches. We’re staying at the Hyatt Place on West 36th Street. And… hold on, let’s start fresh and with a positive approach (and see how long it will last)…

In general, this Hyatt has virtually everything you would want from a hotel in New York City.


Let’s check some things off in the optimistic and upbeat column…

Location -- Let’s face it, just about any place on the island is going to be located near something cool. A museum… a national monument… a beautiful park… an entertainment venue… an incredible deli… and so on. But this Hyatt… two blocks to the Empire State Building… roughly five blocks to Times Square… almost nudged up against 5th Avenue… it’s five blocks to the New York Public Library… just about a dozen blocks to Rockefeller Plaza… its spot is darn near perfect. Heck, you could slide off of 5th after the library and be staring at the Grand Central Terminal. Location? Big check plus.

Food -- Ok… I’m not about to suggest that hotel food is an amazing perk you should be looking at too closely. It’s New York City. Great food is all over the place. When in New York City, depending on your schedule, group and plans, there are plenty of other options you should be checking out for food before ever thinking of any hotel buffet. But a free breakfast, with hot items, is worth mentioning. Turned out it wasn’t exactly delicious… wasn’t exactly memorable… but one description does work very well, and that would be convenient.

Price -- Trust me, the cost is below what you’re expecting.

Impression -- Clean property and a friendly staff greeted us. (It did continue as clean… and a good portion of the staff remained friendly. This can stay.)

I would, without hesitation, return to this hotel. In fact, if I was heading to New York, and depending on my needs (location, location, location), I would probably check out this hotel before investigating others. I want you to know that as we’re arriving and before the stories begin. Because this travel diary is going to be critical of the place. Very critical. Elevators that frankly might have been faster if they were locked in place and out of service critical… a couple of staff members that failed at absurd levels when called upon critical… I can’t tell you that the Hyatt impressed when offered the chance to shine.

We wait in the lobby forever after checking in. We’re staying on different floors, mainly because Nick and Kerri had checked in the day before, and partly because we have four rooms. The arrival right now includes seven members of our complete group and their luggage. And the elevator isn’t slow. Slow implies a speed of movement. There were definitely times that elevator could not possibly have been moving… and I do not mean occasional stops on floors. I mean frozen in place stopped. Toss in that luggage with small elevator cars, and suddenly we’re looking to climb on top of each other to avoid waiting for more than two trips. As we wait for our lift, Kerri explains that darn things have been driving her batty since she arrived.

We get in our rooms and manage to bring together two of our groups. Nick got out of work a bit earlier than expected, so he and Kerri have joined up with Mom and Dad, Ky, Naya, Tamsin, Terry and I. (Krissie is in transit, and as such represents the third group.) We’re thinking about lunch. Not in any special way… rather more of a “if we eat too late we won’t be hungry for dinner, so let’s get something now” kind of way. A few thoughts are floated around, and eventually things completely separate from food settle the decision.

We aren’t certain when Kris will be arriving… and even after she does, we aren’t sure when she’ll be ready to move. So we’re going to walk a few blocks into Times Square, check out a few restaurant options and get something to eat, then maybe some sightseeing with Broadway and chocolate stores on the agenda.

Times Square is packed. To give the idea some perspective, the ball is actually in place… ready for New Year’s Eve. We’ve come between Christmas and New Year’s, and arrived at one of the most recognizable and visited tourist spots in the world. So… yeah… duh.

We stop to watch a dance troupe perform, and not only are they pretty good, they also manage to draw one of the larger crowds I’ve seen for a street performance in the City.

People is beginning to become a theme… it’s not that it’s so packed right now that we can’t get around. Actually, when we came before near Christmas in 2009 we had significantly more troubles with people as individuals and as groups. Funny thing though… in 2009 we had no wait for a restaurant when we arrived for lunch. In 2013 though, each restaurant we step inside is telling us there will be more than an hour wait for a table before we can even mention to them we want seating for nine.

Eventually the three kids present an offering… and Maccas it is.

I’ve eaten in a few McDonald’s over the years. Catch it right… hot fries would be the definition of catching it right… and McDonald’s is fine. I never… ever… need to get back to the Maccas in Times Square, thank you very much. Packed, dirty, disorganized, and… just guessing, the order of severity may differ, but would bet money there really isn’t a time of day or season of the year where those three descriptions wouldn’t apply to this establishment.

And yet… once we finished eating… we get back out into Times Square and were about to set off on one of those stretches of time where magic happens.

The first stop is at M&M’s World. The last time Terry and I were here, we had Ellen and Richard along in that 2009 adventure. And, it’s a bit better than that visit. Far less crowded, and you don’t feel like a corralled herd slowly being led from entrance to the escalator back downstairs past the register and out the doors. This time we had the chance to look around a bit, while not being swept away by people.

Across the street and into Hershey’s Chocolate World.

I have zero clue why… but I like Hershey’s store better. There is NO reason for this to really be the case. There seems to be more in M&M’s World. It’s actually harder to navigate the floor at Hershey’s, with rows that don’t seem to have as much space and a weird flow. And yet, in general, the candy and merchandise and atmosphere seem to appeal to me more. Strange.

Both stores are fun… both worth a stop… and in general it’s hard not to feel a bit cheerier after a bit of chocolate.

Around this time Terry begins asking about our location. She recalls our 2009 trip, some of our walking, and thinks we’re close to Rockefeller Plaza. I confirm her hunch, and point out that we’re just a couple of blocks away.

Depending on your timing, tolerance for crowds, and desire to see some Christmas decorations in New York City, there are a few things that really need to be on your must list. Something like Central Park would probably be in your sights, with thoughts of a carriage ride. Different shopping options and restaurants might be debated. Perhaps a show at Radio City Music Hall will be the centerpiece of your visit. Almost certainly though, if it’s Christmas decorations you want, you are going to be kicking around Rockefeller Plaza while branching out to Times Square and 5th Avenue.

We had been. Because… of course. Rockefeller around the holidays? Duh. It just wasn’t something we had placed into the first afternoon. With Kris still on the way though… and us moving in the right direction… we discuss it for a bit. We decide we can stop back if Kris wants to (maybe catching it again at night), and we break off of Broadway onto 49th Street in the direction of the big tree.

The walk itself turned out perfectly. While there were people still massively swamping the Plaza and the tree, we were able to get some pictures, and see all we wanted to check out. From there it was easy enough to turn down 5th Avenue, see sights like the New York Public Library and several window displays such as at Lord & Taylor. Only thing really missing that we likely would have considered attempting on any other trip is the Top of the Rock. However, we hadn’t really thought much about heading to Rockefeller Plaza on this afternoon so testing the lines doesn’t seem like a good idea, plus our plan is to see the Empire State Building tomorrow.

We’ve got about a dozen blocks to walk on the way back to our hotel, which means Kris is closing in on her arrival and we’re actually starting to get hungry again as we reach the lobby.

We’re waiting for the elevator and talking, acknowledge we’re tired… the early start and drive, along with a good afternoon walk… and with Kris now safely part of the group, we take aim across the street for dinner.

The Keg Room is a pretty decent place. Prices were good… food was good… atmosphere was great. In fact, I believe Ky may still be in The Keg Room, watching the televisions that were broadcasting every sporting event you might consider for a December evening, from local hockey and basketball to an international rugby match. And when you consider we were trying to fit in ten people on a Friday evening, they actually should get a few extra stars in the rating.

Back to the hotel after our meal, for a quiet night ahead of a busy day.

Day Two -- Saturday, December 28, 2013

I don’t enjoy admitting this, but we ate breakfast at the Hyatt today. But first, we had to get there.

Did you ever wonder about magic tricks with disappearing cabinets? I’m starting to believe that’s what the Hyatt had installed instead of elevators.

Because we’re on different floors, we haven’t all been meeting in a hallway to venture to the elevators as a group. It’s been phone calls, meet here or there arrangements, get the people in motion toward an assembly area sort of goal.

Not only have the elevators been slow, they’ve been a source of entertainment. Arrive in the lobby first and you can set up camp with a view of the elevators, watch the display indicate a car’s arrival, and wait to see if the opening doors reveal anyone you know.

In line for breakfast we compare notes with a few people and we’ve decided that an elevator car takes about 20 minutes, minimum, to travel a circuit of lobby to the top and back again. They have two cars and clear just about 180 rooms. While I can’t confirm how many floors have hotel rooms compared to any other amenities or offerings, I can tell you the building is more than 20 floors. So… think about that… basically saying 10 rooms per floor would be a decent estimate. Also means two small elevator cars with the majority of the guests more than ten stories above street level.

A couple of funny thoughts that will explain everything without a need to try and pick on the food.

Tamsin asked us about getting some hot cocoa. Seemed easy enough. You know the routine in a hotel breakfast serve-yourself kind of situation. Find the coffee station, look for the hot water, and then grab a mug and a packet of hot chocolate. Combine, stir, sit, enjoy.

Well… for us it quickly became a quest. (I know… I know… just ask. And we should have. But honestly, you’ve been there… you start on something so basic that once you begin and encounter troubles, you’re convinced you have to be missing something and feel compelled to look for the answer.) No matter how hard we looked, we couldn’t find a combination that would end with a cup of hot chocolate.

And then there was Ky. Now… I can’t blame him officially, since I didn’t notice it at that exact moment. But, the kids had been borrowing our phones. They knew the passwords, knew the games we had on them, and since we were in our home country they didn’t need to worry about all sorts of ridiculous international travel charges if they selected one that needed some data usage.

Well, the next time I used my phone I discovered it was awfully sticky. Syrup. Syrup that stayed on it for a few days, no matter how much I tried to clean it. Ky’s response when asked was to laugh and walk away.

Before we leave the hotel and start on our day… one more quick aside involving the phones.

Tamsin had taken mine at one point, and I noticed she was handing it to Naya or Ky for a few minutes and then taking it back. A few minutes later, it would get handed off again. LOTS of giggling. When I asked her what was going on, she explained that they were playing all of the games I had. She also said she was making sure that between the three of them they were resetting the high scores and challenges and such to levels I would never reach.

Ah… yes… children. And probably the worst part of this is that I knew she was right. I almost without question never would top their scores. (Which probably explains why a few weeks later, after they had left to return to Australia, I was thrilled to find options such as profile resets to clear things out and return them back to a simpler time. Just don’t tell the kids. Ok? Cool. Let’s head for the subway…)

We’re walking roughly a block, maybe two (and possibly three) to get to the right subway station for our ride out to Battery Park. I think it was Kris and Kerri that reserved our ferry tickets for the ride out to Liberty Island already, so things are set up for a smooth trip. Which I almost screw up.

I’m not really paying as much attention to the different routes and connections as I should be, and I point us toward the wrong platform at first. By the time Kris catches it, we are running right up against the worst-case-scenario timing for arriving at the terminal to get our tickets and join the ferry line.

And yet… wow.

10am tickets for our group. And the people here… well… wow. Unreal. As near as I can tell, every time you would be faced with a decision… Do you have your tickets yet? Do you have a reserved time for a ferry?… we seem to be answering by moving in the direction of the shorter lines. Miraculously, we are on a boat and headed to Liberty Island while the lines at the docks seem to have remained virtually unchanged.

On the boat I’m trying to keep my camera hidden. Kei warned me about the three kids. Evidently they aren’t known for asking about cameras when it stays out of sight. But make one visible, and suddenly all of them think they need to take a shot at that moment to capture the setting forever or lose the memory entirely. According to my sister you will end up getting your camera back, but it’s usually sticky.

Ok… that was a joke related to my phone after letting Ky use it. But Kei did warn me that her camera almost without fail comes back to her with the settings messed up in ways that normally take her at least an hour to sort out, even the best charged of batteries will somehow be dead, and, while she has plenty of selfies of Naya making faces, she does not end up with many that reflect the surroundings and capture where the picture was taken.

Nick has encountered a surprise… he’s talking to someone from Australia that he works with. Roughly ten thousand miles away from the job and they meet near the border between New York and New Jersey on a ferry circling Liberty Island.

We get off the ferry and make a few decisions about our visit. To my knowledge, when we made our reservations the tickets for going inside the monument were sold out. So we’re going to take the walking tour around the island. We’ve also taken advantage of the included audio tour option for our visit. (Ky, Tamsin and I debated asking for different languages, but it doesn’t happen and we all use English.)

This is my third visit to Liberty Island. As a kid, Mom and Dad brought the three of us (that being Kris, Kerri and I). Just over fifteen years ago, I was with Terry, Justin and Jay on a trip that included a stop here. (For the day in New York on that trip we were joined by a good friend, Dave.) In both of the previous stops, we went inside and used the stairs to climb to the crown. Amazingly… maybe it’s because it’s the most recent trip… this one seems to have been the most informative.

The audio tour around the island… and yeah, the narrative is wordy and dry in places… on the whole is incredibly well done. Amazing views of the city are presented, along with some fantastic angles of the Statue of Liberty. Throughout the walk, you think you’ve seen the best opportunity for a group picture, only to be calling everyone together a few minutes later for another shot. Different displays, postings, and more are offered as checkpoints, and the audio tour does a really good job weaving the history of the island and the Statue with the stroll.

Don’t pass on it… the audio tour is available as part of the ticket granting you access to the national park grounds. (Yes… national monument… Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty are combined as the Statue of Liberty National Monument.) And while we all found something different from the content, all ten of us enjoyed the audio part.

The ferry heads back toward Battery Park via Ellis Island. Never made a stop here and stepped onto the island that I can recall. In general, the ferry provides not only a service to get you to the Statue, it also offers some terrific sightseeing opportunities during the voyage.

We get off the ferry and things begin to swirl a bit. Our only specific destination remaining is the Empire State Building, which we plan to visit later in the afternoon. We haven’t really considered any plans for lunch or dinner. We haven’t exchanged notes on places we want to check out. All of us have a desire to meander over to the Freedom Tower area. But there is no set idea of how Battery Park might progress to One World Trade Center and ultimately on to 34th Street.

Kris has taken the lead and is bringing us toward Freedom Tower and the 9/11 memorials. The trick is… well, three tricks…

First, no plan has been made for lunch. None of us are really mentioning being hungry, but, it is a subject that each of us seems quite aware of.

Second, Kris has a friend… Hi Greta!… and she thinks Greta should be in the area. While she would like to see her friend, right now she is also thinking Greta would be a great help in navigating our journey and making some decisions about places to see and where to eat.

Third, perspective and walking distances. I plan to expand on this in the Best of New York 2013 column, in the discussion about biggest surprises. The main thing to understand here is that New York is amazingly deceptive when it comes to walking distances. Incredibly deceptive. And I think part of that is based on the walk-subway-taxi approach that comes from getting around.

Everything in general is sort of within walking distance, at least when you speak in generic terms. Wherever you are in New York City, there is pretty much a fill-in-the-blank within a handful of blocks. (Blank fillers could include great restaurants, thrilling attractions, fantastic art/architecture/historical landmarks, and so on.)

When you get to specifics though, walking distance shifts. People use mass transit, such as the subway, and that does mean you can cover substantial distances by foot with ease. When you aren’t truly familiar with the city though, it’s easy to be lost even though you’re not. You look at a map, consider the you-are-here mark and the I-am-going-here destination, and it sure as hell appears that you are only three or four blocks away from where you want to be. Once you set off though, those three blocks may seem to take a lifetime to cover. Get more than a handful of blocks involved in any walk, and you may find yourself getting depressed when you stroll forever and suddenly realize you’re only about halfway to where you want to be. (This is a concept which will come up again in a moment, when Terry and I are back at the hotel.)

Ok… so… there we are, leaving Battery Park, and we are on the edge of being hungry, looking for Greta, and moving roughly toward the Freedom Tower area. On a map, the edges of Battery Park that border Battery Place (we’re more or less near Greenwich Street to give you an idea if you want to follow us and our progress) create a journey of roughly a mile. Not too bad. A nice walk. But we range from children to grandparents, are stepping fresh off the ferry and have a walk we already completed around Liberty Island. We’ve basically been on our feet since leaving the hotel that morning. And if you’re familiar with that little section of the city, you know this isn’t a straight corner-to-corner, block-by-block, one-mile journey.

I’ll sum it up by saying that all of us were feeling a bit jittery as it progressed.

A highlight of this portion of our day was seeing station 10 of the FDNY. I’ve often seen it referred to as the Ten House, and is the home of engine company 10 and ladder company 10 of the New York City Fire Department. Each company claims roughly 150-years of history and service on behalf of New York City, and was (and is) the closest station to the World Trade Center.

After looking around a bit, including swinging over to St. Paul’s Chapel, some quick deliberations have us headed toward a subway station. We aren’t certain how far we’ll use it, but we are looking to get started on the trip out to the Empire State Building. We end up in Grand Central Station, which places us in quite stunning surroundings.

I can’t say it enough… New York City is a breathtaking collection of everything. From residences like apartments and hotels to landmarks like museums and churches… from entertainment to dining, Central Park to Times Square… and on and on, it is just a ridiculous collection of riches on all levels. And there we are, stepping out of Grand Central Station, in a territory that includes Park, Madison and 5th avenues. In short, you say “wow, look at that” only to walk a block or two and say it again. Skyscrapers appear and disappear from view.

And once again… from where we rejoined the city streets to our arrival at West 34th… we add almost another mile of walking. We did spot a Duane Reade, and I jumped in to grab a bottle of water and some snacks (which quickly turned into everyone deciding that sounded like a good idea).

Terry and I were toast when we arrived at the Empire State Building. Toast. And so, once we spotted the line and began getting estimates of wait times approaching two hours, we bowed out and left the group to head back to the hotel and relax a bit before a planned meeting again for dinner.

After a few phone calls, we managed to touch base with everyone again, confirm that they had a fantastic time and enjoyed the Empire State Building, and learned that the dinner meeting point had been arranged. We grabbed our things and set off to find the others at Don Giovanni Ristorante near Times Square.

Now… we’ve covered enough ground and offered enough nods to express that New York is a very strange city. A GREAT city. Frustrating city. Strange city. At time it is much, much easier to get around by foot than by virtually any other kind of transportation. And… when foot doesn’t work… you usually go to things like the subway or a taxi before you would ever think about taking a car. (If you even own a car… if you even brought a car.)

Our hotel was in a simply phenomenal location… on West 36th Street, between 5th Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas. Don Giovanni Ristorante is located on West 44th, between 8th and 9th. (Check out a map if you wish… locals are already nodding. It’s not an overwhelming distance. (Yeah… you guessed it… the trip is about a mile.) It does however border against being a significant distance, especially for where we had been on that day.

Tigg and I left our room and went to the front desk of the hotel. We wanted some information about getting a cab and thought they might be able to call one for us, or at least give us a tip on the quickest way to flag one down outside. A girl at the desk pointed to a gentleman emerging from an office a few feet away and said he could assist us with a car.

Turns out she was mistaken.

Instead of assistance, he apparently thought the New Yorkerly thing we would be expecting as a guest of the hotel was stubborn ignorance with a side of argumentative debate.

He started out by offering us a geography lesson. After we briefly explained we were looking for a ride—which included a gesture over our shoulder and specifically saying “she said you could help us in getting from here to Don Giovanni’s on West 44th”—he offered the enlightenment that we, the two tourists, obviously didn’t understand it was walking distance from the hotel to the restaurant.

Our response was that we knew it was only a few blocks, but we didn’t want to walk it that night. So, naturally, he repeated himself.

This time he added emphasis on his insistence that we should want to walk, which from the eye rolling involved he appeared to be offering instead of his actual thoughts… likely based on telling us we were silly, stupid, and bothering him. (Terry also believed that the car the other hotel representative had noted was driven by him, and his stubbornness was based in not wanting to go out on the road. And once explained, yeah, I’d support that thought.)

We may well have been both silly and stupid. He may have had a point. Because thinking we could get through to him that we didn’t want to walk, we kept trying and even shifted to specifically asking how to get a cab… and he kept telling us to walk, walk, walk.

Where can we get a cab?

Times Square is right there, and the restaurant is two blocks away from Times Square, and you can walk it as quickly as a ride will take.

Sure. But we don’t want to walk. Where can we get a cab?

Wet hair, lather, rinse, repeat.

“Times Square is right there, and the restaurant is two blocks away from Times Square, and you can walk it as quickly as a ride will take” were his words the first time.

And the second time.

And the third.

And he repeated it, raising his frustration level but perfectly maintaining the message content with a consistency allowing me to capture it as a quote for you.

The more we stuck with our request that we simply didn’t want to walk, the more he dug in with his defense by repeating how close it was, and perhaps modifying the finish. It began with being so convenient and moved on to not having to go through the trouble of flagging down a cab before eventually leading to an explanation that it was so close it wasn’t worth the money. At one point he even debated how much he would need to charge us for a car from the hotel.

It didn’t matter what we said, as each time his response involved us walking.

So we did.

We walked away from him and caught a cab at the corner of 36th and the Avenue of the Americas. Did we encounter traffic that slowed us down a bit? Yes. Did Nick and Ky prove by walking back after dinner that the trip wasn’t that far and took roughly the same amount of time? Yes.

It was the best money we spent all day. It was so good, we did it again after dinner to get back.

Kris and Greta were already at the restaurant. They had put in our name for a table, and basically once all of us arrived we were seated. The meal was brilliant. Great food… outstanding service… and, it bears mentioning again, delicious food. We ordered a really wide range of drinks, appetizers and meals, and everyone spoke in glowing terms about what they were served.

All of us were exhausted at this point, and plans were quickly decided to head back to the hotel. Nick and Ky elected to walk and took off on their own. It was a few minutes before our taxis arrived… leading those of us riding to worry about how embarrassing it might be if the duo beat us to the lobby. (Didn’t happen.)

Day Three -- Sunday, December 29, 2013

The elevator is broken.

Really. One of the cars is broken.

A couple waiting for the elevator has up pressed as well as down, and they tell us we’ll want to ride it up when we can. Apparently they’ve been waiting an hour. Two previous times the car arrived while headed down and was packed… no room. They’ve basically decided to catch it heading up when there is a bit of space and just go for the full ride since they know there likely won’t be any room once people on the top floors fill it again.

(Three chances to get on headed down in an hour? Hmm… I asked them. They said the car was arriving every 15 minutes, alternating up and down. This was the fifth time the doors would open… the car should be headed up… and they explained it had been an hour for them since seeing the doors open the first time. So even if we allow a bit for it stopping at virtually every floor, estimates of 15-20 minutes in the best of times seem about right.)

And yeah… broken. We did learn the second car was being worked on and marked as out of service in the lobby. I mean, wow, I don’t think there is much else that could happen as far as elevator stories over just a two-night stay.

It was taking long enough to get us downstairs that we’ve decided to eat the hotel’s breakfast again. In line we discussed the elevators with some people and someone mentioned that he stayed here before and knew the elevators would be slow, soon this visit he asked for a lower floor. (He also said they call it a room with no view when being booked, but since I didn’t book the rooms for us I’m not certain exactly how this would work.)

Anyway… he was greeted with a lower floor for his room, which has worked for him to use the stairs. But, the noise from street traffic has been horrendous. And yet, he pointed out, for him the combination of location, room quality and price made it likely he would return.

So here’s our review, based on our experience:

  • Rooms are great. They were clean. And, considering the location of the hotel on West 36th Street, the price was fantastic. I would stay here again without a problem because all things considered the room was quite easily worth the cost. And yet…
  • Elevators were awful during our stay. Judging from people we spoke with, no one had good experiences with the elevators and a few had stayed on property at other times with similar results.
  • Staff was hit or miss. Most people were fine. A few, such as our friend the taxi whisperer, were downright insulting. Ironically, at the breakfast we didn’t like, the staff there were all friendly and tried hard to assist us.

To give you a bit more on the breakfast, basically the food is just not good. At its best, it’s bland and has little flavor. Things like pancakes seem more like assembly line toasted Frisbees than pancakes. Danish looked fancy and pretty, but all of the quality points were put into looking upscale and not into tasting fresh. Expand that idea to the full assortment of offerings and you’ll capture our opinions.

Having waited for the elevators though, in order to get all ten of us together we decided that between cereal and pastries we probably could come up with something palatable. I suppose we did… barely.

Bryant Park is… sure it is… about four blocks away, near the New York Public Library. Mom has been mentioning a French bakery she wants to try. Although more accurately, she keeps saying French patisserie near Bryant Park. The funniest part of this have been the grandchildren. They often tune out most of what us adults are saying unless we’re having a direct conversation. So there’s mémère, and they miss most of what she’s saying until she’s halfway through the word patisserie, and each time that word catches just enough of their attention that they look at her and ask what she’s talking about.

She’s looking for volunteers to join her for a walk to see if they can find it. She gets a few, and we divide into some heading out with her, and a few heading up to our rooms to get packed to go.

As we check out of the Hyatt and prepare to leave, the grandparents are with Terry and I, along with Tamsin and Ky. We get separated in traffic, and a quick phone call confirms that we’re all fine in getting home and that there isn’t a need to try and connect again. Having heard a radio spot discussing some traffic on interstate 95, Terry and I decided to slide over to another route we used when Justin was in school. And from that, we realized that there might just be a great place to stop to get something to eat.

Five Guys in Brookfield, Connecticut.

It’s a perfect stop to wrap up a great trip.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at