New York Minute

I recently took my son to NYC to visit his godmother (lil’ sis came too), and one thing I really enjoyed was seeing the city from a child’s perspective.  We’ve learned that when traveling with kids, what works for us is to try to do only one big thing a day.  Since my son was reading Hugo, I thought it would be fun for them to see Grand Central Terminal, so I booked a 75 minute-long tour on a Saturday.

Originally conceived and built in 1871 by Cornelius Vanderbilt, the building went through a couple of different iterations before being torn down, in phases, and completely rebuilt and reopened in 1913.  Celebrating its 100th anniversary, it is said to be the sixth top tourist attraction in the world according to Travel + Leisure.

The ceiling design of the constellations was created by a Frenchman, Paul Cesar Helleu.  It wasn’t until after completion that a workman pointed out that it was actually backwards.  That’s alright, the Vanderbilt family declared, because it is a view of the sky from the perspective of God looking down onto Earth.  A couple of fun things to look for in the ceiling: there is a small hole that was left from a 1957 display of an American Redstone missile.  Also, above the Michael Jordan Steakhouse, you will see a small, dark rectangular patch that is in its original condition to remind all of the dirt and filth that covered everything prior to the twelve year restoration by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects of the terminal from 1987-99.

It took a year to restore the gold-plated light fixtures

Also in the restoration, the architect found plans for matching staircases, said to be modeled after the stairs of the Paris Opera.  Symmetrical, they were built almost 100 years after the original construction of the terminal.  The kids recognized them from the “Madagascar” movie.

Restored and renovated in 1999, the Campbell Apartment is a cocktail lounge and bar.  In the 20’3 and 30’s, it was the office of John W. Campbell, who served on New York Central’s Board of Directors.  The office was known to have, at the time, the largest Persian rug in possession (wouldn’t you love to see that!).  It was said to have cost $300,000 back then, or approximately $3.5 million today.

One thing we did not see, but being an avid tennis player, might be on my bucket list: the Vanderbilt Tennis Club, located above Vanderbilt Hall.  It is the old CBS broadcasting station.  It costs $225 to play, but what a view!

The food court of the terminal is a great place to stop for a bite to eat with kids…quick and easy.  Adorned with wooden benches from the original waiting room of the terminal, you can find about 35 options for food, with the Shake Shake set to open in fall of 2013.  My son ate a NY hotdog and a Parisian crepe served to him by an Ecuadorian.  My daughter opted for some Two Boots Pizza, known for their delicious cornmeal crust.  And what did I have?  Texas chili from the Manhattan Chili Company.  Claiming they are the world’s first all-natural chili bar, they have over 10 chilis from which to choose, vegetarian to turkey to meat made with Niman Ranch beef.  My only “beef” with them is that I tried to tell the server that true Texas chili does not have beans in it…especially not kidney beans!  I realize some may say this statement is debatable, but my mother drilled it into me from the day I was born, so it must be true if Frances says so.  Anyways, he brushed me off, and in the end I didn’t really mind too much.  Served with corn bread and flavored with chipotle chiles, kidney beans and all, it was actually quite tasty (and thankfully spicy).

The chili bar at Manhattan Chili Co
For dessert, Magnolia Bakery is a must
I’m gonna say it…better than Sprinkles
Also pop into Grand Central Market for un petit peu du fromage…
…or some flowers

Our Sunday activity included a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Egypt wing.  While we were there, I had to pop in to see two exhibits: Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity (very child-appropriate) and Punk: Chaos to Couture (not child-appropriate at all…I wish someone had told me beforehand about the mannequin flipping you off…that was a tough one to explain to two kids under 9).  I managed to snap a couple pics before I was caught…

Many of the works of art are from the Musee d’Orsday
Right next to the Impressionism exhibit was Punk: Chaos to Couture
I remember when Elizabeth Hurley wore this to the premiere of Four Weddings and a Funeral
Back in AZ, with temperatures of 105-110 all week, I will end on a photo I snapped of a Mint Julep from the NoMad bar.  Cool and refreshing, it reminds me of my father’s Mississippi roots, y’all.

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