This morning we woke to rainy skies but for the first time in forever it wasn’t foggy and humid. We headed to our 9 am time at 30 Rock. Being there super early we were able to ride right up (while Justine finished a latte in record time). The views from the top were amazing, even through the clouds. Central Park was clearly visible as the massive green space it is. The Empire State rises massively in front of you. The top of the Rock is considered the best view in NYC because you can actually see the Empire State Building. We snapped lots of pictures before the rain finally forced us back inside and down the funky space-age light-show elevator.
After our 9am appointment, we had 10:30 tickets at Discovery Times Square. The exhibition space is currently hosting the best show ever…and by that we mean that this was not a show. In our minds this was all completely real 😉
Top Secret information…for Authorized Eyes Only!
After entering a non-descript door tucked away off Times Square (an obviously labelled door on the edge of the tourist center) we were ushered to identification kiosks. Here we were issued our official identification as members of SHIELD. SHIELD is the Strategic Hazard Intervention Enforcement & Logistics Division. Basically they keep the world safe from supernatural, alien, super human, mutant and super villain threats. With our probationary member status we entered SHIELD STATION, the training center meant to whip us into shape so we could one day join the elite agents in the Avengers. After an initial briefing we performed physical tests while surrounded by real artifacts from the life of Captain America (movie props). Next we brushed up on our mad science skills in Bruce Banner’s (aka the Hulk) lab. We learned of Norse mythology so we would better communicate with Thor (and Loki…love Loki!). And finally we tried out operating a super suit while looking at an actual Ironman suit! In the end we received certificates giving us official initiation into SHIELD as full agents.
In reality…it was really cool to see the actual movie props from the various Marvel films. The Ironman suit was a highlight, as well as Loki’s helmet & staff. But on everything the intricate details were mind blowing. You have not idea how many compartments & patches & zippers, etc there are on Hawkeyes pants. Or the cool design that actual exists in the fabric of Agent Hill’s jumpsuit. We just wish we’d been allowed photos 😦
We went for lunch at a little Italian restaurant in SoHo. It was called Il Corallo Trattoria at 176 Prince St. Kris ordered goat cheese ravioli in a tomato basil sauce while Justine had fettuccini and salmon in an asparagus cream sauce. It was delicious. Very classic Italian; it threw us back to our time in Tuscany with Mamma + Papa P.
We weren’t just randomly in SoHo, this was the starting point for our next walking tour: SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown. We knew our guide wasn’t going to live up to the standard set by the last two right from the start; he never emailed us a picture of himself or told us what he’d be wearing.
SoHo is a culturally rich neighbourhood with a sorted history. Today it houses the rich and famous, the trendy and fashionable, the people we all want to be. Originally it was built for the same: the wealthy trying to escape the squalor of the lower city. As the elite moved out to more open spaces it progressed into the local of houses of ill-repute and the base for Irish gangs. Next came the industrial age of cast iron buildings (literally molded of cast iron & made-to-order from a catalogue of choices) and child labor sweat shops. As labor laws changed artists & shops moved in, shaping the culture of the area today.
Next the tour led us into Little Italy. Here you’ll find an assortment of Italian restaurants and shops but surprisingly little to no Italians living here. Actually, there hasn’t been for awhile. Fewer tourists are visiting the area, rent is too expensive and many businesses are closing. Our guide predicted Little Italy will be gone in our lifetime. Here’s to hoping someone can save these adorable streets and eateries.
The tour concluded in Chinatown. There are over 300,000 Chinese in New York and over 1/3 of them live here. It is home to the largest enclave of Chinese in the Western Hemisphere. Walking down the main streets you can see a wide array of Chinese cuisine delights. We spotted dried sea cucumber, fresh eel and a number of other things we’ll likely never try (or identify). It was amazing to learn the number of people living here who do not speak English. How are they able to live in this metropolis without it?
After the tour we headed to Central Park once again. This time we saw the very popular lower east corner. This is the area you always see on movies and tv shows. We were, like yesterday, interested in one show in particular: Doctor Who. In the Angels take Manhattan episode Amy, Rory and the Doctor perch on multiple rocks with scenic backgrounds while they eat a picnic, read and relax. We thought it might be nice to do some relaxing (and photo taking) at these same rocks. The first was difficult to locate. There are two locations we found that had very similar scenery, although not exactly. Perhaps the trees have grown in a bit differently in the last 3 years? Either way it was a beautiful spot that provided fun pics, no matter what their original inspiration was.
The second boulder has The Pond as a recognizable backdrop (funny because the Doctor is sitting by it with The Ponds). This is also possibly the entrance to Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments Seelie Court. At first we were disturbed by the lack of rocky outcrops by the water’s edge, but soon figured out that the boulder is actually up the hill and clever camera angles make it look water front. We are very proud of the photos that followed! One in particular ended up pretty perfect! Also Kris was very excited to lay exactly where Arthur Darvill (aka Rory, who you might remember mentioned in last posts as her favorite,) had once laid.
Coming out at 5th Avenue we had a nice view of The Plaza. It looked quite extravagent. There were all of the high end shops they frequented on Gossip Girl and more stores that are fancy but we can find back home. The highlight was standing in front of Tiffanys. Now all we needed was a croissant for breakfast.
We wandered back towards Times Square to grab a quick supper. Tonight we happened upon a cafeteria style Italian restaurant, Bocca. Justine had a parmesan chicken sandwich and Kris had a meatball parmesan hero. They were fast and tasty, plus the staff was much more competent that the night before.
Our evening entertainment was another Broadway musical; tonight it was Aladdin! We were very excited for this one. First, we had heard great things from Kris’ sister and brother-in-law. Second, we are huge Disney fans. And third, the Genie had just won a Tony Award three days ago!
The show did not disappoint! The songs were amazing, the acting was fabulous and the set design & costumes were outstanding. Seriously, there were almost tears of joy during “Friend like Me” because it was so elaborate but seamless and could not have been more perfect. We both highly recommend this show. We couldn’t even be disappointed we had an understudy as Aladdin. Our Aladdin was in his Broadway debut but easily kept up with the rest. We were both big fans.
If this show taught us anything it was that James Monroe Iglehart deserved his Tony. Right at the beginning he even pulled the award out of a pocket instead of the magic lamp. “Oops! This is just a trinket I picked up last Sunday.” The crowd went absolutely mental for him. Super cool.
During the first half we both noticed a familiar voice in the cast. It turns out the actor playing Jafar did the voice for the same character in the 1992 movie. We fangirled over this fact.
After the show we once again waited for the cast to emerge. More autographed Playbills to frame on our walls! We also took a selfie with our
favorite Genie. He was just as charismatic in person as he seems on stage.
Again we took part in a post-show activity, and again it wasn’t even slightly deviant. Any day that starts up high should end up high too, so we went up the Empire State Building. This may seem repetitive but scaling the Empire State Building (lets call it the ESB from now on) is an iconic attraction all of its own…plus we got to see the city both in daylight and as a mass of twinkling lights. We were able to walk right up to the elevator, which Kris is certain she couldn’t do on her last visit. She remebers quite a bit of waiting. Her memory is probably correct considering the amont of zig-zagging velvet ropes directing lines we got to skip by doing an evening visit. Do the ESB at night!
The city looked amazing from this height. Like a zillion little lights somehow connecting to make structures. We were able to get clear views in each direction at one point or another. We were also able to watch the fog roll over the expanse of buildings in a thoroughly apocalyptic fashion.
Our walk back to the hostel (yes we walked…that’s what we do) was unintentionally eventful. First we happened upon Macy’s Herald Square, the largest department store in the world. Then we were approaching the Flatiron Building. When it was completed in 1902 it was one of the tallest buildings in the city. Known for its triangle shape, it has become an icon of the city. Lastly we passed Kleinfelds. This store is known for having the largest and finest selection of designer wedding dresses in the world and for being featured of TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress.
WHAT WE LEARNED TODAY:
– We need a Genie, not just for the wishes but for the entertainment value.
– It is pretty much impossible to destroy the new World Trade building. It is bomb proof at the bottom. It can last 6 days with jet fuel burning inside it before the heat starts to compromise the structural integrity of the metal. You can aslo evacuate people via the roof by helicopter. It has a million back-up exit strategies.
Love, Luck & Lights,
Justine & Kris