2012: New York

Circle Line Cruise

Oct. 16


I was reeeeally excited to be returning to New York City. My last visit was in 2008, when I had the greatest experience of my life -- appearing as a walk-on in "Spamalot" at the Shubert Theater. Well, actually, the great part was getting to meet some cast members and hang out backstage for the ENTIRE show! What a thrill!

But (as usual) I digress. This would be Mike's first trip to NYC, and I was hoping against hope that I could convince this California mountain boy that the big city had something even he could appreciate.

We had spent the night about an hour north of Manhattan. The plan for the day was to drive into Midtown, drop off our luggage at the hotel (we couldn't check in until 3 p.m.), turn in the rental car, and catch a Circle Line Cruise around the harbor. It had rained the previous day, and it looked to be a wonderful clear day for views of the city skyline.

Our drive down the west side highway was mostly a breeze, although we did encounter a little traffic a few miles from our turnoff. It gave us time to appreciate the views of the George Washington Bridge.

Mike dropped me off with the luggage at our hotel, the Millenium Broadway, where I had stayed with a friend on a previous trip. I stowed the luggage with the bellman, and set off in search of a taxi to get down to the Circle Line pier, to the west on the Hudson. The plan was, I would get there before Mike, get in line, and Mike would walk down from the car rental drop-off office to meet me.

So much for plans. Something to know about NYC taxis: they like to go north-south, downtown or uptown. They are really not that interested in picking up a fare heading west. And so it was that I ended up walking -- well, jogging -- the 1.3 miles from the hotel to Pier 83 at the end of 42nd Street, trying to get in line in time for the next cruise. Of course, Mike beat me there and was already in line, puzzling over my absence. Ah well. Got my exercise for the week, heh.

At least on my way I got a nice shot of the NYPD mounties hanging around Times Square.

Ready to go! U.S.S. Intrepid.

I knew from internet tips that the best place for photography on this cruise was at the center back, so we hustled onto the boat and secured our (uncomfortable) chairs in the back. As we slowly pulled away from the dock, one of the first sights was the U.S.S. Intrepid docked next door, with the new pavilion holding the space shuttle Enterprise ballooning over the rear of the ship. Already we could tell that the weather gods had blessed us; it was going to be a spectacular day in the harbor.

As we got under way, we saw a beautiful yacht on the Manhattan side, docked in front of a large, strange, net-like structure. The boat's announcer identified it as -- of all things -- a golf driving range! I guess you really can find just about anything here.

Before we got to the more impressive skyline of downtown, we enjoyed the sights on the Jersey shore, including the 2007-restoration of the Erie Lackawanna clock tower perched atop the old railway station.

Golf in Manhattan. Lackawanna clock tower. Jersey has skyscrapers?! A sister Circle Line ship.

Almost immediately, we got our first (and best) view of the Empire State Building. Looking closely, we could just see the top of the Chrysler Building peeking up over the shorter buildings in the foreground.

Before we knew it, we were struck by another spectacular sight: the still-unfinished Freedom Tower, rising near the site of the fallen twin towers and nestled behind the World Financial Center buildings, with their recognizable domed tops and geometric architecture. After a slow turn to allow all the tourists to snap plenty of photos, our boat started to speed away from the shore, giving us a complete view of the tip of Manhattan.

Ellis Island. Lookit where I am!

As the New York skyline receded in the distance, we turned forward to see the ultimate NYC icon growing larger in front of us. We were not going to be able to visit Lady Liberty at close range -- both the statue AND the pedestal were closed for renovations -- so we were pleased that the Circle Line boat took us close for photos.

Forgive me for posting too many shots, but seriously, you should see how many I discarded. And if you think a photo of her is as good as seeing the real thing, well -- get thee to NYC.

Our craft finally turned away from Liberty Island after a nice long viewing interval. As we plowed toward the East River, we had another shot at the Freedom Tower and the tip of Manhattan. We even got a quick cruise-by from the Staten Island Ferry!

The cruise boat reached the mouth of the East River and quickly advanced on our last big landmark, the Brooklyn Bridge.

Much too soon, we were past both the Brooklyn Bridge and its close neighbor, the Manhattan Bridge, and were looking back past both bridges at the eastern city skyline.

We'd seen all the best sights already; now it was time to backtrack for one more look. One interesting new sight on the Brooklyn riverbank was the old Domino sugar factory, built in 1882 and decommissioned in 2004.

The trip back downriver gave us another shot at viewing (and snapping) both the Empire State and the Chrysler buildings from some new and interesting angles. These buildings are amazingly visible from both the Hudson River side and the East River, making it obvious how narrow Manhattan Island really is -- only 2.3 miles. Just a brisk morning walk!

Our return to the Circle Line dock gave us a final opportunity to gawk and shoot at the many beautiful buildings on the tip of Manhattan, including the Freedom Tower. It made me a bit sad, though -- I still feel the absence of the huge, missing twin towers of the WTC.

We'd had a beautiful first afternoon in NYC. We found a taxi to take us back to our hotel, where we retrieved our bags and checked in. I was a bit dismayed at our room, which was dark, a bit shabby, and not at all like the one I shared with a friend several years ago; but then I remembered she is a frequent traveler who may have had an upgrade available. Guess we should have paid the deluxe price.

We got settled, found a spot for a bite to eat, and fought our way across Times Square for the six-block walk to the August Wilson Theater and a performance of Jersey Boys -- my second time seeing the show, and Mike's first. While I'd enjoyed my show four years ago, this one was even better; both the lead actors, playing Frankie Valli and Tommy DiVito, were far superior to the ones I'd seen in 2008.

Our week in the Big Apple was off to a smashing start.